Over the last year, new works originated by the Center for New Theater (CNT) at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts) have traveled from Los Angeles to venues around the world. In June, the CNT, which was established in 1999, will expand to become the Center for New Performance (CNP). The new CNP will be the CalArts-wide professional producing arm for original works in all of the performing arts.
The CNP will build on the mandate of its predecessor by providing a framework for the development of innovative music, dance and interdisciplinary performance in addition to (or in conjunction with) projects in theater. The mission is to develop the performance work of artists who are emerging, transgressive or dedicated to cross genre exploration.
The Center for New Performance (CNT) is not only a dedicated professional production arm of the college but an incubator for the development of challenging new work beyond the campus. CalArts provides the resource of its faculty of internationally recognized artists across the disciplines as well as their worldwide network of colleagues and collaborators, plus extended access to labs, workshops and performance facilities, thereby radically reducing the costs for developing new work.
The CNP will be launched in conjunction with the French premiere of September 11, 2001. This multi-media theatrical production is a collaboration between the Center and the Théâtre Dijon Bourgogne. It will embark on a three-city tour of France culminating performances in Paris at Theatre National de la Colline from June 7-17. September 11, 2001 is an elegy and requiem for the victims of 9/11. Written by acclaimed French playwright Michel Vinaver and directed by Robert Cantarella, September 11, 2001 was developed at CalArts and had its world premiere, in April 2005, at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles.
Also, in 2005-06, a radical re-imaging of Shakespeare's Macbeth was originated by the CNT, premiered at REDCAT and later staged to critical acclaim at the Almeida Theater in London, England and the Adelaide Festival in Australia. For this interpretation of Macbeth, CNT Artistic Director Travis Preston directed Tony Award-winning actor Stephen Dillane's solo performance. Preston will continue as Artistic Director of CNP.
"There is a crisis in American culture–commercial values have become progressively more important as funding for experimentation grows increasingly scarce," Preston says. "Given the times we live in, colleges are uniquely positioned to create innovative theater works. They are supported by larger training programs and have the security to take risks. We are creating an environment that can meet the needs of the artist and individual projects."
Like its earlier incarnation, the CNP will be a forum for the creation of groundbreaking theatrical performance. Working closely with CalArts students, seminal artists from around the world will partner with the CNP to develop work that expands the language, discourse, and boundaries of contemporary theater. The Center will support a producing model that is artist and project specific, giving priority to performance that cannot be easily produced in other circumstances.
The first CNP production will be the new opera, What To Wear. This coming August, writer/director Richard Foreman director of the Ontological-Hysteric Theater and composer Michael Gordon will be in residence at CalArts. Working with the CNP leadership, CalArts faculty, students and guest artists, they will develop What To Wear for a world premiere performance at REDCAT. The production will include a singing ensemble, movement ensemble and seven musicians conducted by David Rosenboom, Dean of the School of Music. The opening is scheduled for mid-September 2006.
CNP producing director Carol Bixler commented on developing multi-layered productions in the scope of What To Wear. "Great artists don't run patterns. Great art cannot happen without experimentation. It is a very cold world out there for people who are asking questions rather than coming up with easy answers. Artists need a place where grey is tolerated, where complexities and nuances are accepted. CNP can be that place, providing a sanctuary for risk taking and the creation of genuinely interesting work."
In addition to Preston and Bixler, members of the CNP leadership include Leslie Tamaribuchi, Managing Director, Erik Ehn, Dean, School of Theater, David Rosenboom, Dean, School of Music and Stephan Koplowitz, Dean, School of Dance.