Raven Chacon’s ‘Voiceless Mass,’ L.A. County tree lighting and more holiday happenings
The holiday season is here, and so are the festivities.
I’ve compiled a mix of cheery holiday treats and some nonholiday artistic ventures to make sure there’s a little something for everyone, no matter how festive (or not festive) you’re feeling. And don’t worry, none of these weekend finds involves Ticketmaster. Here’s what’s on our radar this week:
1. L.A. County tree lighting
Beat your Monday slump with a tree-lighting ceremony at the Music Center. The annual L.A. County event will take place at the Jerry Moss Plaza, where a 75-foot-tall tree will tower over downtown L.A. and brighten the night sky. Bring together your friends and family for the ceremony at 5 p.m. Monday. The lighting will be accompanied by a performance from Urban Voices Project, a collective of artists and performers from skid row. Added bonus: complimentary hot chocolate. The event is free and no RSVP is necessary.
2. “Phillip K. Smith III: Light + Change”
If you’re headed out to the desert for the long holiday weekend, this one is for you: Phillip K. Smith III’s “Light + Change” survey at the Palm Springs Art Museum covers two decades of his work experimenting with light and space, often creating ever-changing art that shifts with the sunlight. This recommendation comes to you from Times arts reporter Deborah Vankin, who previously wrote about Smith’s “Reflection Field” installation at Coachella in 2014. “I’d like people to perceive my work as they do the clouds — something that is looked at as universally beautiful,” Smith said at the time. “No one ever looks at the clouds and says, ‘That’s ugly.’ But also, everybody sees something different.” The four-gallery exhibition opens Friday, and tickets range from $8 to $16. The museum’s hours are noon to 8 p.m. Thursdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays through Sundays (closed on Thanksgiving Day).
Get your laughs in at Center Theatre Group’s latest show, “Clyde’s,” at the Mark Taper Forum in downtown L.A. The play, by two-time Pulitzer Prize-winner Lynn Nottage, follows the formerly incarcerated staff at a truck stop sandwich shop looking for a new beginning under the eye of an oppressive owner. “By turns hilarious and somber, the play playfully interrogates the reality of redemption,” Times theater critic Charles McNulty says. The show runs until Dec 18 and tickets are $35 to $120.
4. Raven Chacon’s “Voiceless Mass”
Take a step back from the hectic holiday rush for a meditation on the meaning of voicelessness. “Voiceless Mass” by Pulitzer Prize-winning Diné composer Raven Chacon is meant to be presented in churches or cathedrals, not only because the piece dissects power dynamics in grand spaces but also because it requires a pipe organ. Played around Thanksgiving, the piece comments on the voices of Native Americans, who have a complicated, irreconcilable perspective on the American holiday. The Los Angeles County Museum of Art celebrates the one-year-anniversary performance of “Voiceless Mass” at the First Congregational Church of Los Angeles tonight at 6. Experience the piece for free, with RSVP suggested on the museum’s website. If you’d like a peek at what’s to come, take a look at the video recording of the performance at Claremont United Church of Christ.
5. “Luis Sahagun: Riding the Three-Headed Serpent”
In Chinatown, Charlie James Gallery is hosting a solo exhibition by Chicago-based artist Luis Álvaro Sahagun Nuño. Sahagun’s work reframes contemporary portraiture to incorporate Mesoamerican Indigenous healing practices and create portraits out of mixed materials. The Times’ art and design columnist Carolina Miranda was drawn to Sahagun’s work over the summer when he was part of a group show at the same gallery. “Luis Sahagun: Riding the Three-Headed Serpent” is open until Dec. 17 and admission is free. RSVP on the gallery’s website.
Bonus round: ‘Invincible’
What happens when the music of Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo collides with Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”? Here in L.A., the combination has led to Bradley Bredeweg’s “Invincible — the Musical.” I’ve seen many iterations of the Shakespeare classic come around but none like this world premiere at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills. Its powerhouse team includes Bredeweg (the creator of “Good Trouble”), Benatar and Giraldo (who were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame this month) and choreographer Galen Hooks (known for her work with Camila Cabello and Justin Bieber). Previews begin Saturday, and the opening is Dec. 2. Tickets are $29 to $125 and can be found on the Wallis’ website.
Your L.A. weekend, all mapped out
For a more comprehensive roundup of exhibitions, concerts, screenings, festivals and other events, check out Matt Cooper’s “Culture Guide.” The mapped list is a go-to for those of you who make plans based on drive time, and it also can be filtered by type of event and by price. Matt updates it regularly, so check it out.
On my mind
On Friday, I attended a rehearsal of Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company’s “What Problem?” at the UCLA Center for the Art of Performance, where it had its L.A. premiere. The section I experienced was completely magnetic. As it began, Jones sat in front of the stage reading texts — lines from “Moby-Dick” and a deconstructed passage of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech — as dancers moved and reacted onstage. As he narrated his connection to “Moby-Dick,” Jones vocalized the realization that he didn’t remember Pip, the Black cabin boy on the ship. “I don’t remember, you don’t remember, they don’t remember, we don’t remember,” he repeated. Dancers depicted crashing waves, ships and the forgotten Pip — all of which, combined with the narration, were haunting.
The movement language was incredibly specific and translated smoothly as the piece hinted at how the forgotten character related to the injustices of today. Dancers waved and spun to gesture at the ground, as if they had found something but lost it. Yet still they searched. What made “What Problem?” most poignant was the use of voice, from singing and shouting dancers to Jones’ narration. At times, the voices of a live chorus jolted the choreography into a rambunctious groove, and one member of the chorus pined for Pip in a heart-wrenching solo that shook my core. Meanwhile, dancers moved in unison, diving, swinging their arms up and over, pulling themselves through the waves of song.
The following day, I went to Hollywood where Banjee Ball’s “Nine Lives Ball” brought together legends of the ballroom community. Co-produced by NeueHouse and the HIT app, the ball was part of “Caring Futures,” a six-month-long programming series saluting trans visibility.
The night was a celebration of self-expression, looking back to see how the ballroom community got to where it is today. The House of Balenciaga, the House of Basquiat and others surrounded a runway. The evening began with performances from Enyce Smith and Hanabi the K and led into LSS — legends, statements and stars walking the runway. Commentator and recording artist Kevin Jz Prodigy and drag queen Kevin Aviance, who are both featured on Beyoncé’s “Pure/Honey,” performed the intro together for the first time in person. As the crowd cheered, it felt like a revolutionary moment — a callback to their careers in music and ballroom, and a reminder to the community of how far it has come.
Ebony Lane, a pioneer in the LGBTQ+ community and West Coast ballroom scene, received a lifetime achievement award. She strutted in a yellow dress, and after taking a moment to compose herself, she went on to remind everyone of the purpose of ballroom and its dedication to creating a safe space for LGBTQ+ people. “When we are given the responsibility to be icons and leaders,” she said, “we are responsible for some mother’s child.”
And when the ballroom competition began, stunning looks, fearless voguing and elaborate theatrics got the audience roaring. To hear from some of the leaders in the room about the progression of ballroom, check out my latest story on the scene.
How to make the most of dance performance
In last week’s edition of L.A. Goes Out, I wrote about my experience seeing Volta Collective’s “Milk,” presented in collaboration with the Institute for Art and Olfaction. The show activated all the senses, including smell, and had me thinking about how we experience dance. I went back to speak with Volta Collective directors Mamie Green and Megan Paradowski about how to make the most out of any dance viewing experience. Here are some of the highlights:
- Pinpoint repeated gestures from the dancers. It could be something as pedestrian as pointing or as abstract as a full-body toss. The move provides insight into the themes or the story. “What I really look for when we’re making dance and working with dancers is how they can use gestures to describe states or feelings or stories through the body,” Green says.
- Think about textures. Texture can come in the form of speed, movement quality and level (leaps versus the floor). For Paradowski, those shifts add to the story and engage the viewer beyond the choreography itself.
- Pay attention to the surroundings. Is it site-specific work? How does the stage look? What colors are being used in the lighting and costumes? All these details should be intentional and help immerse the audience, Paradowski says. How is it translating to you?
- Talk with the performers after the show. Green encourages audience members to ask questions and connect to the work more directly.
In last week’s how-to section, I slipped up on the last-name spelling of Mel and Emir Yonzon, who work the front of the house at the Geffen Playhouse. So sorry, Mel and Emir.
Go-out speed round
Go out on a date: American Contemporary Ballet presents “The Nutcracker Suite” as you’ve probably never seen it before: 300 feet above the ground. The performance, held in a high-rise, is like stepping into a snow globe. The show opens Friday and tickets are $65 to $140. Find more details on ACB’s website.
Go out with the kids: It’s time for “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens at South Coast Repertory in Costa Mesa. Travel through time with Ebenezer Scrooge for SRC’s 42nd production of the holiday classic. Previews start Saturday, and regular performances start Dec. 2. Tickets are $35 to $89 and can be purchased on SRC’s website.
Go out and craft: The Gamble House in Pasadena will be having its annual Museum Store Sunday this weekend, bringing together a collection of handmade goods from local artists. The Gamble House also will host craft workshops with Remainders Pasadena and have espresso drinks from Café Santo, a live guitar performance by Shane Savala from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and Drag Story Hour readings at 11 a.m. Learn about all the activities running from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the Gamble House’s website.
Go out and wander: Starting Friday is Winter Fest OC. Activities include a North Pole journey, ice skating, a 150-foot-long ice tubing slide, snowboard simulators, food and drinks. The festival runs until Jan. 1 and tickets range from $25 to $36.95, not including add-ons. More details can be found on the Villa Park website.
Go out for free: NeueHouse’s trans-awareness series “Caring Futures” continues with a screening of “Uýra — the Rising Forest” in collaboration with Outfest. The free screening follows Uýra, a trans-Indigenous artist who travels through the Amazon forest to connect with youth and share ancestral knowledge along the way. “Uýra — the Rising Forest” starts at 7:30 p.m. Monday and is followed by a director Q&A. RSVP on this website.
Go out for a laugh: If you’re looking for some festive comedic improv, the Groundlings host “Cookin’ With Gas” on Friday and Saturday. The holiday version of their usual “all-improv explosion” will bring together the Groundlings’ main company, alumni and Sunday company for the communal improv session. The show will also feature a surprise guest. Tickets are $22 and can be found on the Groundlings’ website.
Go out before it closes: The “Dorothy Dandridge and Ruby Dee: A Shared Centennial” series closes Friday at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures. It’s presented in conjunction with “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1898-1971.” The series explores the careers of Dee and Dandridge, two Black women who overcame so much to become household names. The last screening in the series is “American Gangster” — for which Dee received an Oscar nomination for supporting actress — at 2 p.m. Saturday; tickets cost $5. Learn more about Dee, Dandridge and the “Regeneration” series on the Academy Museum’s website. And if you’re looking for an even deeper dive into the exhibition, check out The Times’ feature here.
Go out and support POC art: “The Brothers Paranormal” is making its Los Angeles premiere at East West Players. The play, written by Prince Gomolvilas, follows two Thai brothers with a ghost-hunting business investigating paranormal activity at the home of an African American couple displaced by Hurricane Katrina. It’s thrilling, humorous and eye-opening. Tickets range from $25 to $64 and can be found on EWP’s website.
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