“There is something about that real, hands-on, making it together art… that is so real.” O-Lan Jones
Photo Credit: lennyBruce Lee
You must see SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS. Counting tonight’s performance at 8pm, you have nine more opportunities to be a part of this incredible new work, seven years in the making.
The show opens with Tom and Sue visiting the Social Services Office. They have an appointment, but no ID. They cannot recall their identities. Our protagonists set forth on a journey through imaginary lands, taking part in their indigenous songs and dances, attempting to reawaken their sense of self; reclaiming their id, and then hopefully ego and super-ego.
The audience physically follows Tom and Sue as their adventure leads to new, distant lands, each a site specific set within the massive square footage of The Songs & Dances Warehouse, a re-purposed car dealership in Culver City. Depending on your ticket, each participant rides in a train car(t) from location to location, or carries their own chair while following the action.
Any seat is a good one, but allow me to recommend the train for those of you who have difficulty walking, and the chairs if you like to sit close to the action, or want to see all of the tremendous details of the sets and costumes. Bringing a pillow or cushion is also a good call; only the ‘luxury trains’ have cushioned seating.
The first act takes Tom and Sue to Jam, where the denizens don western wear, the daddies are drunk, everyone is over-consuming and drowning in debt, and the dance is a variation on the Virginia Reel.
We also visit the University of Alaska, where academia is skewered as nothing more than a 12 step rehabilitation program, where submission is mandatory, and signals one’s abandonment of the personal ability to actively participate in life’s outcome. The student body is encouraged to settle for a zombified state of semi-frozen consciousness by their counselor/ instructor.
By the end of the first act, Tom and Sue enter in to their marriage contract, allowing Sue to escape the mundane rituals of office drudgery, setting off a kinetic dance of office desks and revelers. Tom and Sue’s union transforms their denim duds in to the sparkle of satin-y finery as they transition form their workweeks in to a private familial bliss.
O-Lan Jones coordinated over twenty writers, scores of musicians and performers, impeccably skilled production teams of designers and builders, as well as the input and efforts of countless local community volunteers. So many people had a hand in the creation of the show that they could not fit in the program. As an addendum, an enormous chalkboard stretches across the lobby inscribed with the names of all of the contributors.
So many ideas- both big and small- are awakened by the unique collaboration that is SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS. Does socialization and engagement in society force us to strip away one’s sense of self? Is our coming water crisis to be worsened by the disappearance of fish and dance instructors? Are modern wars fought for the good of those engaging in the battle? Do our personal relationships merely provide us with escape from our daily grind, and how do we reconnect to the cosmic/ divine spark within us to reclaim our own sense of spiritual completion? How do we prepare for our departure from this existence; how do we let go when it is our time to die?
A conversation in the lobby after the performance juxtaposed the public monies spent on LA Opera’s recent Ring Cycle, and how many SONGS AND DANCES could have been funded for the same cost, even including living expenses for O-Lan Jones for the last seven years. How many other cities could get their hands on the magic that is this show? How many empty retail stores and economically devastated communities could come together to create this wondrous project in this time of need?
The retort was that there is not enough money or interest in experimental theater. But what does that moniker mean? This show is in many ways a grown up theme park attraction, full of moving people and parts, high tech trickery, stunning sets and costumes, and top notch musicianship and vocal prowess. It explores themes relevant to all people who live in our modern times. That sounds suspiciously like regular ‘old’ opera.
Of note are the performances of MJ Silva as Curf on Oldie Mountain, Michael Harris as the University of Alaska counselor, and Silvie Zamora, whose intense physicality throughout the show was a pleasure to behold. You will certainly walk out of the show dazed by its transformative ability, with your own precious favorites lingering in your head, haunting your return to the industrial Culver City streets that await you.
Thematic Content includes: Bring Kids, Redemption, Love, Violence, Puppets, Singing, Live Music, Dance/ Movement, Highbrow, Humor.
SONGS AND DANCES OF IMAGINARY LANDS
7/8 to 7/25 $25-$50