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Entertainment & Arts

Next for Yuval Sharon, the Industry: ‘Hopscotch,’ L.A. opera in 18 cars

From opera on headphones to opera on wheels: The next work from Yuval Sharon and the Industry will unfold in 18 cars cruising downtown L.A., Boyle Heights and the Arts District.

The 4-year-old opera company drew attention last year when it staged “Invisible Cities” at Union Station, which took place amid the real-life hustle and bustle of the historic building. Audience members heard the score through wireless headphones as they walked around, interacting with passengers and actors.

“Hopscotch: A Mobile Opera for 18 cars” will open in the fall of 2015, Sharon said.

“Invisible Cities” received four nominations this week for the LA Stage Alliance’s Ovation Awards. 

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Sharon said he remembers how nervous he and collaborator Jason H. Thompson were about that groundbreaking show before it opened.

“It looked so hard and I thought we weren’t going to be able to pull it off,” says Sharon. “So what could possibly be harder than ‘Invisible Cities,’ that will make ‘Invisible Cities’ look easy?”

Their answer? “Hopscotch.”

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The show will take place inside 18 cars as they drive around designated routes in Los Angeles. A different 10-minute scene will take place in each car, but related to the same story, which traces the lives of its characters through their 20s, 40s and 60s.

The plot will also be fueled by a disappearance, so there is a bit of mystery involved.

Audience members can buy tickets to ride in individual cars. They will know only where they will be picked up, not where they are going. The cars will drive past other performers on the streets and what the audience members see in each car will be beamed back to a central “hub” in a parking lot at downtown L.A.'s SCI-Arc campus.

Audience members at the hub will watch a live stream of what’s happening in all 18 cars. The show will culminate (if Sharon can pull off the technical aspects of it) when all the cars converge with the audience members at the hub, which will be its own architectural space with its own aesthetic values.

Actors will be riding in some cars and musicians in others. In some cases the music in the cars will come through the car stereos. The cars will also occasionally stop at certain sites where other performances are taking place.

Sharon is excited that it’s a “mash-up” of artistic disciplines, which is something he has always strived to achieve with the Industry.

“We want to stretch the idea of the typical classification of theatrical and music-driven work,” says Sharon.

If he succeeds, “Hopscotch” will certainly do that. By using art to illuminate the internal life within a car versus the external life of the city, audiences will be invited to take a closer look at the scenery.

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“Sometimes it’s about the car, sometimes it’s about the journey,” says Sharon. “It’s about how to go beyond the isolation of individual car rides and about noticing our city streets as we shuttle to our destinations.”

In order to create the most holistic L.A. driving experience, Sharon is employing six writers and six composers, all L.A.-based and already working together. The composers are Veronika Krausas, Marc Lowenstein, Andrew McIntosh, Andrew Norman, Ellen Reid, and David Rosenboom. 

“I want people to have that L.A. experience of moving through the city and knowing what that’s like,” says Sharon.

Traffic is of course a huge part of that experience and Sharon has given that tricky subject quite a bit of thought. The opera will only take place on Saturdays and Sundays for a month or two in the fall, along routes where traffic patterns are highly predictable.

The show will also address another of L.A.’s most persistent complaints about itself.

“L.A. is often blasted as a city that has no center,” says Sharon. “And in many ways, what is going to feel good is actually building a central hub that ties all of the car journeys together. I think that’s going to have enormous significance to the people that are there.”

Follow me on Twitter @jessicagelt 


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