Essential Arts: What will theater be like post-COVID? 25 theater minds have answers


Hello, from Week 3,742 of the quarantine! Oh, it’s been only two months, you say? Well, what’s a few thousand weeks when you live in a timeless void. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with the week’s essential culture news and viral “Grease” lip-syncing.

Essential image

Rachel Hayes' "Land Lines" at Lowell Ryan Projects in Los Angeles.
An installation view of Rachel Hayes’ “Land Lines” at Lowell Ryan Projects in Los Angeles.
(Ruben Diaz / Rachel Hayes / Lowell Ryan Projects)

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, how ‘bout a little color and light, courtesy of Rachel Hayes, who recently had an appointment-only installation go on view at Lowell Ryan Projects in West Adams? The artist, who is based in Tulsa, Okla., creates large-scale fabric pieces (these are 13 feet tall) that feature bright geometric patterns. She often uses these in outdoor installations that offer plays on motion and light. In the gallery, the shifts are more subtle, with the movement of a visitor triggering gentle flutterings.


Note that face masks and appointments are required at Lowell Ryan. Hayes’ “Land Lines” is on view until June 27.

The post-pandemic stage

What will the theater of the future look like? Times theater critic Charles McNulty brought together 25 top minds to ponder that question, including playwrights Lynn Nottage and Luis Alfaro, artistic directors Kristy Edmunds of CAP UCLA and Yuval Sharon of the Industry.

Performers weigh in, too. Patti LuPone says a good start might be taking “a hose” to the “perpetually filthy environments” backstage.

“I crave theater made out of the rough-hewn stuff of our lives,” says Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Quiara Alegría Hudes. “A theater of junk and reclaimed nooks. A theater of secrecy and sacredness and participatory respect. A theater where we earn our experience by shedding complacency. A theater that no one in their right mind could label ‘content.’”

Quiara Alegria Hudes at the Mark Taper Forum in 2018.
Quiara Alegría Hudes at the Mark Taper Forum in 2018.
(Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

The arts and the coronavirus

Visiting art galleries in a pandemic is a complicated proposition, so the downtown artist-run space Durden and Ray put art in public places, including a chain-link fence, for a show titled “We Are Here / Here We Are.” All 97 works around Los Angeles County are viewable from the street or the sidewalk. It’s a show, writes Times art critic Christopher Knight, that “embraces L.A. sprawl.” One of the most appealing features, says Knight, is that “the serendipity of art encounters in public places is embedded in ordinary experience ... these works thrive beyond institutions or the marketplace.”

A wood installation by Rebecca Niederlander in Eagle Rock
Rebecca Niederlander’s “Central Sensitization” in Eagle Rock is part of “We Are Here / Here We Are.”
(Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)

Plus, The Times’ Jessica Gelt reports that Hector Guimarães’ “The Present,” produced for small audiences on Zoom by the Geffen Playhouse, has not only turned into a phenomenon — it proves that “virtual performances featuring socially distant audiences can, in fact, feel communal.” As Guimarães tells her: “If this social distance vanishes for a short time, I will have done my job.”

ICYMI, check out Charles McNulty’s review of the show. “The Present,” he writes, makes “the strange affectionately familiar.”

Since the pandemic began, commercial director AJ Bleyer has been shooting footage of L.A.’s empty streets. Now he has compiled the footage into a short video that serves as an archive of the early days of the pandemic, writes Makeda Easter. It was “this really special period of time,” he tells her. “Traffic really halted and everyone was just kind of staying inside.”

At Keck Hospital of USC, doctors, nurses and patients have taken to wearing bright green stickers to note that they have been screened for coronavirus and that they have sanitized their hands. The stickers became the site of an informal art project — featuring drawings of ice cream cones and smiley faces. Then, reports The Times’ Deborah Vankin, some of the stickers got political — and what began as an informal art project went haywire.

The nursing staff at Keck Medical Center of USC got creative about the coronavirus screening process, customizing the stickers visitors must wear with original art.
The nursing staff at Keck Medical Center of USC got creative about the coronavirus screening process, customizing the stickers visitors must wear with original art.
(Ricardo Carrasco III / Keck Medicine of USC)

Vankin also reports on a COVID-19 relief effort by the L.A.-based nonprofit group Red Carpet Advocacy and celebrity photographer Mark Seliger. Seliger has selected 25 limited-edition prints of figures such as Barack Obama, Billie Eilish and Lin-Manuel Miranda that will be auctioned at Christie’s. Each celebrity has chosen a charity that will receive funds from the sale of each work.

The Segerstrom Center for the Arts remains closed, but its website is a repository of classes for students and the public, including lessons on ballet, storytelling and even how to make your own marionette.

The L.A. City Council has approved a plan to turn arts fees paid by developers into small-dollar grants for artists and arts organizations devastated by the pandemic.

Dispatches from around the way

Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Hisham Matar on works of art — a painting by Thomas Gainsborough and photographs by Willi Ruge — that capture a moment in which “consequences are in question; a moment, in other words, not too dissimilar from where we find ourselves today.”

Things that we can only dream about in the U.S.: The United Kingdom has appointed a special Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal to get the culture sectors “back up and running.”

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U.S. museums are beginning to reopen. Among the first: the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, where you will have to submit to a temperature check and wear a mask in order to enter the galleries. New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, however, will not reopen until mid-August or later.

Related: Museums in Italy have also begun to reopen.

The Art Dealers Assn. of America issued a new report projecting a 73% loss in revenue as a result of the pandemic.

For nonprofit arts organizations, coronavirus-related losses could hit $6.8 billion, according to a report issued by SMU DataArts and TRG Arts.

Plus, New York‘s missing sounds.

The best arts online

Matt Cooper has been rounding up the best watches, listens and looks, including a staging of “A Streetcar Named Desire” featuring Gillian Anderson as Blanche DuBois, a celebration of African dance presented by the Brooklyn Academy of Music and a new website that serves as a chronicle of MOCA’s 2011 graffiti and street art show “Art in the Streets.”

The Cannes Film Festival has been canceled. Thankfully, Times film critic Justin Chang rounds up 28 of the festival’s best films to stream right now. Plus, Vulture asks almost two dozen figures from the film world what they’ve been watching during the pandemic, and it includes everything from Ingmar Bergman to “Notting Hill.”

Are you in need of a film that feels like a feverish quarantine dream? I heartily recommend David Lynch’s 16-minute short “What Did Jack Do?” from 2017. The plot: A detective, played by Lynch, questions a capuchin monkey named Jack Cruz about a murder. It’s hallucinatory and absurd, with some hilarious plays on the hard-boiled nature of cop-movie dialogue. Also, did I mention that the monkey is in love with a chicken? It’s streaming on Netflix.

A still from David Lynch's 2017 short "What Did Jack Do?"
Jack Cruz is a capuchin monkey in David Lynch’s “What Did Jack Do?”

Since we’re talking about movies: Here are 25 very short essays about 25 significant objects featured in film. For the series, Jonathan Lethem writes on the hammer carried by Burt Lancaster in “Earth Abides,” and Kio Stark considers the candle in the porn classic “Debbie Does Dallas.” As part of the series, I write about a haunted accordion.

Also, I very much enjoyed this 2019 performance of Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” that the L.A. Phil recently put online.


Emma Amos, an artist whose work tackled issues of racism and privilege, and who regarded the use of color as “a political statement,” has died at 83 in Bedford, N.H.

Susan Rothenberg, a painter whose great 1970s canvases of horses trembled with the presence of the human hand, helping to reintroduce figuration back into the mainstream art world at a time in which it was leaning abstract, has died at 75 in Galisteo, N.M. In a tribute, New Yorker critic Peter Schjeldahl says her work “seethed with motion — the isotope that had gone missing from the mandarin styles of the day.”

In other news

— A 1970 Philip Glass score was lost, then found. Now it has been recorded.
Long Beach Opera announced its 2021 season, curated by interim artistic advisor Yuval Sharon, who will be directing “Comet / Poppea,” a new work that brings together aspects of a Monteverdi opera with a sci-fi story by W.E.B. Du Bois.
“Smash,” NBC’s show about musicals, has inspired a real-deal Broadway musical.
— The Jean-François Millet painting that miraculously survived San Francisco’s great fire in 1906.
A video game inspired by Renaissance paintings, in which the aim is to kill a leader named “Heavenly Peter.”
— A story about Ray Eames looks at what it meant to be the female half of a famous design duo in the 20th century.
Mies van der Rohe‘s Farnsworth House is threatened by Chicago-area floods.
— How is L.A.’s very limited “Slow Streets” program — which is intended to provide more outdoor area to pedestrians and bike riders — going? Alissa Walker and Steve Chiotakis hit ... the streets.
— Architectural renderings were released of the new Taix restaurant and development in Echo Park, and the internet did its internet thing. Curbed’s Jenna Chandler helpfully rounds up the reactions.

And last but not least ...

You’re the one that I want.