Peter Sellars has set the challenge. "We're calling it an 'invitation to exploration,' " he says, "and it will take an intrepid explorer or somebody with a real interest in uncharted (arts) territory to get through it."
Believe it or not, Sellars isn't talking about programming for his own Pacific-themed L.A. Festival, in which many of the performers, films and visual art shows will be unknown to L.A. audiences.
Instead, he is talking about the 600-or-so mostly locally based events confirmed for presentation in conjunction with September's L.A. Festival through the connected Open Festival.
While the final list of activities will not be announced until Aug. 7, a preliminary list has been compiled for The Times. Much of the work is, indeed, uncharted territory, since anyone willing to produce their own event is welcome and no curatorial standards whatsoever are imposed.
"The Open Festival will definitely be different for most people in that it's not curated," said coordinator Aaron Paley, who also organized the 1987 Fringe Festival, precursor to the Open Festival. "Nobody sat back and made the decisions for you. Because of that (individuals) have to make their own decisions."
For many, those decisions may not be easy. The Open Festival's preliminary list includes everything from a traditional presentation of the ballet "Giselle," with principal dancers from the Bolshoi to perform with Palos Verdes Ballet, to the Southwest Museum's music and dance party "Fandango," to the performance "Urbanites Evolve!" in which an "earth carnival" is created in an abandoned mortar-shell bunker at San Pedro's Angels Gate Park.
But according to the L.A. Festival's Sellars, creating such a hodgepodge of events was exactly the intent.
"The goal of the L.A. Festival is to make the point of what the arts are doing in L.A. and that we are at a critical, historical time," Sellars said. "The only way that could be done was through sheer density--just utter critical mass. But needless to say, we couldn't pay for everything, so the Open Festival is wonderful, because it allows these people to be a part of the scene."
Paley said that he feels his preliminary program list--which includes 600 events by 750 artists and groups at an estimated 400 sites--really captures that "L.A. scene." While critics of the curated festival have noted its dance-heavy program leaves little room for events in such categories as music and traditional theater, for instance, Paley noted that both categories are well represented in the Open Festival, which has 110 music programs and 143 traditional theater events scheduled so far.
In addition, while Sellars has maintained for more than a year that "absolutely no European programming" would be included in his curated festival, the Open Festival includes plays by Bertolt Brecht and Shakespeare, as well as several music programs featuring works by Mozart, Brahms and Liszt.
Other works cover topics from AIDS to racial discrimination to gay/lesbian issues, and projects include science fiction murals and international dance programs.
While Paley said the Open Festival will produce a brochure listing all its events (to be available in late August) and will also have information on all programs via a festival hot line ((213) 688-ARTS, beginning Aug. 13), Sellars noted that selecting highlights from the mammoth Open Festival lineup may still be difficult.
"You may have to get through five dreadful things to find one wonderful thing, but it's worth it to go through the bad to find that one wonderful treasure," he said.
Here is a selection of potential highlights from the preliminary list:
In the 161-event visual arts category, which Paley noted had grown dramatically from 1987's Fringe Festival: Guillermo Bert's "Altar / Temple Project, Recycling Social Images" at Los Angeles Theater Center; Self-Help Graphics' "Fire Show VIII" featuring 12 artists; and "Humanitas," a video installation created by high-school students under the direction of controversial artist Cheri Gaulke.
Also grouped under the visual arts umbrella: a two-hour walking tour of historic movie theaters on downtown's Broadway; Rika Ohara's interdisciplinary installation depicting a nuclear bomb shelter at downtown's Zenshuji Soto Mission; a multilocation show by the metaphysically oriented group "Shamanart"; an exhibition of ikebana flower arrangements at San Marino's Church of World Messianity.
In the theater category, which represents the second-largest body of programming next to the visual arts: Odyssey Theatre Ensemble's world premiere of Steven Berkoff's comedy "Acapulco"; the All Saints Theatre Company's "Madame Mao's Memories," in which Mao Tse-tung's widow reminisces about her life from a prison cell; and UC Irvine's one-act play "The Death of Elizabeth," in which an artist decides to destroy her work rather than let her patron interfere with its content.
Other theater programs: Sierra Puppet Theater's "Coyote Tales," featuring stories from American Indian tribes, at the Santa Monica Public Library; LATC's new American play "August 29," about the death of Times reporter Ruben Salazar; Michael Kearns and Dale Raoul in the AIDS benefit "Forget Me Not" at the Chapel of St. Francis; the Mean Street Ensemble Theatre's "Tracers," dealing with eight men's experiences in the Vietnam War; and Melanie Jones' one-woman comedy "Loud Mouth Chowder," about a struggling actress' journey home to her parents' funeral, at Angels' Gate Cultural Center.
In the music category: the L.A. Baroque Orchestra's program "The Splendor of the Baroque" at St. Victor's Church; a Pacific Asia Museum performance of pieces by Beethoven, Brahms, Chopin and Liszt by pianist Michael Sellers; "Exultate!" featuring selections by Mozart, Kraft, Wagner, Offenbach and Bellini at the Pacific Design Center; and "Alternative Jazz and Chamber Music: The Learning Curve," in which former Oingo Boingo keyboardist Michael Basich will attempt to bridge the gap between contemporary jazz fusion, New Age and experimental jazz, at Long Beach's System M Gallery.
In the 62-event performance art category: "Dissections: Anatomy of Rage," in which a seven-member cast engages the audience in discussions about rape, AIDS and incest, at the World Stage; Keith Antar Mason's "The Body Within: Confrontation," exploring the line between belonging to one culture and living in exile from another, at Barnsdall Park's Gallery Theatre; and Sheila Gordon's "New York: Sex, Killing and Shopping," at Santa Monica's Rayello.
In the 46-event dance category: "Second Annual East L.A. Choreographer's Showcase" and "Dance Kaleidoscope Awards Performance," both at Cal State L.A.; "Korean Folk Arts Festival" at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre; and the Iguana Cafe's "Pas d'ASL," in which American Sign Language for the deaf is adapted into poetry and expressive dance.
In the 33-event media arts category: a historic film on the California missions narrated by Martin Sheen at the Southwest Museum; and "Profiles of California Artists," a one-hour video compilation profiling California artists, to be screened on local cable stations by the Fellows of Contemporary Art.
In the 24-program family events category: an artist-designed miniature-golf course at Highland Park's new Arroyo Arts Collective; the martial spectacles of the Shanghai Acrobats and the Imperial Warriors of the Peking Opera at the Warner Grand Theatre; and "Youth Tour for Peace in El Salvador," presented by young Salvadorans and North Americans at Exposition Park.