Elvis will be Artist in Residence for UCLA Performing Arts
LA Times, 2001-05-25
- Hugh Hart


News from Ucla in the Los Angeles Times

UCLA's Next Season Offers Quirkier, Edgier Fare
Performing Arts: Highlights include Sonic Youth, an Edgar Allan Poe tribute, Eric Bogosian, Nanci Griffith and Armistead Maupin.

By HUGH HART, Special to The Times

Elvis Costello has a new job: Starting next fall, the British songwriter will serve as Artist in Residence for UCLA Performing Arts. As part of UCLA's 2001-2002 arts season, announced today, Costello will direct four projects over the course of the season, including a collaboration with the Charles Mingus Orchestra in October.
     Other season highlights include a weekend gathering of experimental rock bands organized by New York quartet Sonic Youth; a Halloween tribute to Edgar Allan Poe; the West Coast premiere of John Cage's "James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, Erik Satie: An Alphabet"; and a concert by local hip-hop pioneers the Watts Prophets.
     The school also unveiled its first off-season performance package, UCLA Summer Live. The series culminates June 27-July 15 with "Charlie Victor Romeo," a theater piece based on "black box" recordings culled from plane crashes.
     UCLA Performing Arts' new director, David Sefton, planned to shake things up last fall when the 38-year-old Englishman took over programming chores from predecessor Michael Blachly. As expected, the new season reflects Sefton's passion for edgy fare and "one-off" collaborative events. "The idea that you draw a wide range of creative makers and doers and mix them up is an almost perfect fit with a university environment, which is entirely about the nature of development and research," Sefton said in an interview. "This program is about developing a future for art, rather than sitting back and hoping the past will be OK. Historical reference points are all well and good, but you need to go somewhere with them."
     Sefton said that Costello, noted for an unusually broad taste encompassing punk, country, classical and jazz music, is emblematic of his own programming vision. "Elvis is able to dip in and out of traditions at will. He has that kind of polymath ability to combine his own enthusiasms with all these areas of music, to move across all these different genres.
     "I don't expect everyone to be delighted that Sonic Youth will be on the premises," he said. "But there are certainly going to be a lot of people who maybe have never even been here before, or even students on our own campus who have never been to Royce Hall, who are going to be absolutely delighted that Sonic Youth is going to be in the building."
     If Sefton's emphasis on quirkier attractions has caused any grumbling, neither he nor his boss, Dan Newman, have heard about it.
     "We very consciously brought David in to stir things up, to bring a dramatic new vision to the position," said Newman, dean of UCLA School of Arts and Architecture.
     Referring to the Royce Center Circle, the group of donors that leads fund-raising efforts, Newman says: "I'm assuming there'll be some people who don't like the changes. It would be inevitable. I think they'll be a minority and I haven't heard from them. Although we're talking about people who are senior and well to do, the people I know in this group are very smart people who understand that they have an opportunity at UCLA to engage in the arts in ways that are unorthodox. I don't expect everybody to love everything equally, but I don't think them to say, 'Oh God, what have we gotten ourselves into?' "
     Alice Tolchin, president of the Royce Circle Center, points to the Harry Smith Project as "a very good omen." The two-day tribute to folklorist Smith, which sold out last month, marked Sefton's first booking for the school.
     "David's programming is clearly more contemporary than it has been in the past," Tolchin said, "but there still is traditional programming."
     She believes Sefton's programming will attract younger audiences. "The future of performing arts is going to depend on support from younger audiences, so if you have programs that appeal to younger people, they will come in and want to support the program not only by buying tickets but by providing greater funding."
     The 2001-02 UCLA Performing Arts season offers 61 shows packaged in seven subscriber series.
     Returning: Philip Glass, who will provide live music to accompany a series of film screenings; Musicians from Marlboro, classical players assembled from the Marlboro Music Festival; Spalding Gray; David Sedaris; and the Emerson Quartet, which will collaborate with Britain's Theater de Complicite on an original piece devoted to Dmitri Shostakovich.
     Gone: the Early Music Series and the Cabaret Series, which included Andrea Marcovicci and Dianne Reeves. Also absent is a family program aimed at children and the Folk Series, which presented Arlo Guthrie and neo-traditionalist country singer Nanci Griffith.
     The new Popular Music Series features gospel music from the Blind Boys of Alabama, Suzanne Vega and Mary Chapin Carpenter, who will appear in an exclusive pairing with novelist Ann Lamott.
     World Music artists include Ladysmith Black Mambazo as well as performers from Portugal, Senegal, Cuba, Madagascar, India, Germany, Cuba, Tibet and Ireland.
     Classical music concerts will be reduced. Sefton points out that classical groups typically need to be booked 18 months in advance. He plans to add more traditional ensembles for the 2002-2003 season. This season's performers include Audra McDonald and the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra in a program devoted to Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu.
     Dance highlights include Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company performing to Orion String Quartet.
     The Spoken Word Series includes "Tales of the City" author Armistead Maupin and novelist Annie Proulx.
     First-time guests, taking part in UCLA Live's Solo Festival in February, include Laurie Anderson, Eric Bogosian and avant-garde Canadian theater artist Robert Le Page.

Copyright 2001 Los Angeles Times