Interview With Berlin-Based Dancer Shade Théret
IN YOUR CLOSET, YOU HAVE CLOTHES THAT TELL A STORY
We wear clothes all our lives. They protect against cold and heat, they are loved and thrown away, replaced and gifted, swapped and collected. Clothes carry memories of people and places, define economic conditions, have historically dictated gender, reflect our manner of thinking about society and make life more enjoyable.
Please join us in an online workshop as we explore our relationship to clothes, their histories, limitations, the bodies they hold and wrap.
Workshop space is limited to 15 participants. Stories about our clothes will be shared and movements explored.
August 8th, 2021 from 11am to 1pm.
Register @ firstname.lastname@example.org
This project is sponsored in part by the Goethe-Institut Internationale Fund, deufert & plischke and the Odyssey Theatre Ensemble. To be continued LIVE in June/July of 2022 with workshops and a final performance celebration.
TRACERS – A Vietnam Veteran’s Odyssey
It was 1974. I’d completed four years in the USAF (including a year in Vietnam) as a security policeman and four years of college as a theatre major. I was ready to follow my dream wherever it took me. I hit the streets of LA in search of a theatre company. I auditioned for the prestigious Company Theatre. The director gave me an address and suggested I meet Ron Sossi, who had just rented a building in West LA. I was new to LA and it took me an entire afternoon to find the address (no GPS in the 70’s). A big square rundown structure with a faded sign that said, ”Used Office Furniture.” I walked into the gutted cavernous building and found Ron Sossi seated behind a desk with a lamp, a phone and some books scattered about. We had a lively chat about spirituality, theatre and his grand plans for the transformation of the space. It was to become the westside alternative to the downtown commercial theatres. All of us who’ve been involved with the Odyssey over the years would agree “Mission Accomplished.”
I joined the company and fervently threw myself into Ron’s workshops. I loved his whole concept of risk-taking and physicality in theatre. I made my professional debut in Ron’s sprawling, multi-cast production of PEER GYNT, and continued to appear in plays at the Odyssey over the next several years.
I was inspired by groups like The Open Theatre and The Living Theatre. Groups that created their own original work. In the mid-70’s Michael and Andy Griggs, from the PEER GYNT cast, formed a group called The Bear Republic Theatre. Through the group process, they created the play SIGNALS — a piece about the changing roles of men in a changing society. I joined the second cast and went on tour with them. This was the seed of TRACERS.
My Vietnam experience was always close to the surface, but I never talked about it. It was not a popular subject and I felt ‘different’ around my fellow actors because of it. I studied the creative process and began to think, “What if I could find a group of actors who were Vietnam vets? What a treasure trove of stories might come of it!”
In the Odyssey production of THE CAUCASIAN CHALK CIRCLE, I met the very talented Vincent (Vinnie) Caristi. In a backstage chat I told him my idea. He got excited. “I was drafted. I was in Vietnam. I’m in, man!” He was the first actor/Vietnam vet I met and the first actor in the original group. This gave me confidence in the idea and confidence that there might be more of us out there. The idea would not go away. In 1980, after losing my younger brother in a motorcycle accident, I had this flash about the fragility of life.
I ran an ad in the Drama-Logue (Backstage-West) for actors who were Vietnam vets to participate in a workshop leading to the creation of a play. I got about thirty pictures and resumes. Auditions were held and I selected six actors: Vincent Caristi, Richard Chaves, Rick Gallavan, Harry Stephens, Merlin Marston and Eric Emerson. Sheldon Lettich, a Vietnam vet writer, was also a member of the group. I conducted workshops in an abandoned dining hall at the old Sepulveda Veterans Administration. Material came fast. We did a work-in-progress performance at the Odyssey on July 4, 1980. I didn’t know if anyone would even be interested. Turns out, there was a rousing standing ovation and lots of positive feed-back. We went back into workshops , and three months later I directed the opening at the new Odyssey three-theatre space on Santa Monica Blvd and Bundy. The first few weeks we had to paper the house with Vietnam vet groups. Then we got LA Weekly’s ‘Pick of the Week’ and some really good reviews. The show caught on, and we ran for almost a year.
During that year a U.S. Vietnam vet movement sprang up and we found ourselves in the middle of it. Demonstrations were taking place all over, bringing more interest in TRACERS. Media coverage, stories in the press, and awards.
I met a lot of important people. There were promises made about the future. Eventually after we closed those promises waned except for one. Gary Sinise of the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago doggedly pursued me for about a year. I kept saying no because I wanted the cast to be veterans. I finally decided to give him the rights after he flew me in to see their production of BALM IN GILEAD. I agreed and was kept on board as the writer. I did re-writes with Gary’s cast. They were a hit and got a great deal of support from the local vets. Gary says the experience was what sparked his interest in veterans’ issues. He wanted to take the show to New York, but I said no, again citing the fact the I wanted the cast to be veterans.
I’d been communicating with Vietnam vet Tom Bird, who had a veterans’ theatre group in New York, VETCO. Vinnie and Richard from the original cast had moved to New York. I had a list of producers who’d said, ‘Look me up if you’re ever in New York.” I went to New York and started going through my list. When I contacted Tom Bird, he said he could try and get a meeting with Joseph Papp at The Public Theatre. We met and made a deal. Vinnie and Richard were in the production and the rest of the cast came from VETCO and open auditions.
I directed, re-wrote and re-structured, and in January 1984 we opened to rave reviews. The play ran for six months, garnered more awards, and was published in Ten Best Plays of 1984-1985. Subsequently I staged it in London, Australia and on numerous tours.
TRACERS continues to be produced nationally and internationally. It is the idea that took over my life and the lives of those who do it and those who experience it. I am ever grateful to Ron Sossi and the Odyssey Theatre for giving us our first shot.
I recently signed a deal to make a documentary about the whole TRACERS experience. Stay tuned.
We’re thrilled to welcome you back!
Dear Odyssey audiences,
After an extensive period of deep cleaning, painting and rebuilding, along with other Covid safety actions (some required and others as an optional extra measure of safety) we have reopened our doors and are ready to welcome you back to our beloved theatre. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has continued to support us during these challenging times.
Immediately, there will be live events: a music festival and a new John Fleck play, directed by his longtime collaborator David Schweizer, preceding the newly re-imagined THE SERPENT on September 4. (As you might remember, due to Covid, THE SERPENT was halted after its second performance in March 2020, despite receiving rave reviews. Consequently, we’re thrilled to get it back on the boards.)
Additionally we’ll present a 3-day online streaming event: a specially filmed version of Olivier award-winning SILENT by Pat Kinevane. SILENT was first seen at the Odyssey in 2016 in a co-production with Dublin’s Fishamble theatre company, when it was described in the Los Angeles Times as ‘Krapp’s Last Tape as re-imagined by Madonna.’
Then, before the year is over, we’ll see a new project by Odyssey favorite director Bart DeLorenzo and a January opening of William Inge’s PICNIC, in a loving reimagining set in the tumultuous 1960’s with an all-Black cast. Directed by John Farmanesh-Bocca.
Our box office and lobby will be open starting July 6, Wednesday – Friday, 12-5 pm. And of course, on show nights! You can feel confident and safe knowing that we are COVID-secure and following the latest local requirements and CDC recommendations that pertain to areas of public assembly.
So, check out our website for specifics, make some reservations, put on your theatre shoes and let’s get on with the show!!
Ron, Beth, Sally, Mark, and the Odyssey gang
We’ll Be Back!
In spite of the great ordeal that 2020 has presented to most of us, we at the Odyssey are chomping at the bit to get back into action, creating for you the best of LA theatre work.
Thanks to a PPP Small Business Association grant last May and to the generosity of our Board, subscribers and donors we’re caring for our spaces, big and small. From revamping the theatres, putting in hardwood floors rather than carpeting, painting, improving dressing rooms and greenroom, we want to provide as much comfort and care to make your experience as safe as possible.
I’d like to thank all our artists whose work was side-lined in March 2020 for their patience and understanding and our staff, some of whom have been volunteering, doing lots of play readings, writing of grants and strategizing provocative new productions.
Of course our plans for reopening are very much in flux, as we all continue to adapt our lives to the pandemic. But we expect to be back, as soon as it is safe, with a roar of creativity and stubbornness.
I do hope that you all survived these last many months with spirit, health and aplomb. All of us here at the Odyssey miss you and will be very excited to see you in the flesh once again!
Barbara Mueller-Wittmann, Odyssey Dance Festival curator/producer recommended LACDC video LOST MINDS
LOST MIND is a narrative dance film exploration of the psyche by director, writer, and choreographer Sara Silkin. The film recounts her inability to identify her father’s mental illness throughout her life. With her powerful application of surrealist movement imagery, she recreates the emotional physical highs experienced during a manic episode, followed by the endless spirals of depression caused by bipolar disorder.
Dancers: Hyosun Choi & JM Rodriguez
Narrator: Lori Dorfman
Producer: L.A. Contemporary Dance Company
Director & Choreographer: Sara Silkin
Song: Patrick Watson
DP: Iain Trimble
AC: Joe Ashi
Editor: Kevin Tadge
Colorist: New Gate Films
Costumes: Kelsey Vidic
Poster: Youthana Yuos
Filmed in 2020 as a part of LACDC’s Fall Commissions
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble, Los Angeles and deufert&plischke, Berlin in a co-production with the Goethe-Institut Los Angeles
Projected in 2022
The Eerie Atlas
As in “Just in Time” (Letters to Dance), a 2018 co-production with Los Angeles’ Goethe-Institut, Berlin’s deufert&plischke return to the Odyssey with The Eerie Atlas. Through community workshops, local personal stories will be collected to create a panorama exploring the complex and universal subject of fear. These stories will be shared with the public through a choreographed series of “walkable” audio drama performances where sound, movement and touch will be used to bring the stories to life.
More on the Los Angeles’ Goethe-Institut: https://www.goethe.de/ins/us/en/sta/los.html
Notes on The Chicago Conspiracy Trial by director/creator Frank Condon
A history of the Odyssey’s original production of The Chicago Conspiracy Trial that was used as source material for the feature film, Trial of the Chicago 7 written and directed by Aaron Sorkin.
I was walking through the student center at UC Santa Barbara one Friday in 1969,when I came upon a group of theatre students reading sections of transcripts out loud from the ongoing conspiracy trial in Chicago, as soon as they could get hold of them. I found it compelling, a crowd of about 100 people gathered and I said to myself, after about a decade that it would be an extremely powerful piece of theatre. It would document a key event in American history, and become a stunning piece of political theatre
Nearly a decade later, in 1978, I met with Ron Sossi about together creating a theatre piece from the transcripts of the Chicago Conspiracy Trial, which I would direct. Of course I said “yes.” And we immediately went to work obtaining and poring over transcripts. We soon had a storyboard set up in Ron’s office, and there were scenes spread out all over my living room carpet, Scotch tape everywhere.
For several months I immersed myself in the trial, not only the transcripts but also the many detailed written recounts, and the courtroom artists’ drawings, in an effort to find out what the trial was really like.
It was not televised, so for audiences it was the first time, in the theatre, they saw Bobby Seale bound and gagged.
One night Ron and I were in the theatre all night coming to terms with the style of the piece, we were in the theatre, with rehearsal and overall, it was more than 12 hours. We walked out of the theatre and the sun was shining. I hadn’t checked my pocket watch for the time.
I went into rehearsal while we were still working on sections of the script. I worked potential scenes with the actors to see if they would work or not, Leonard Weinglass, the lawyer for the Conspiracy and character in the play, was helping us in rehearsals, and he told me the original trial was boring, and the play was exciting. I told him Ron and I simply took out the boring parts.
I wanted to obliterate the sense of attending a play, as nothing would work against the potential impact of the event more than to allow the audience to distance themselves from it. To this end I tried to dispense with a clear-cut beginning, and had the audience enter the “courtroom” through a demonstration of Hippies and Yippies.(The Odyssey was then on Santa Monica Blvd and Bundy,and on a number of occasions we had to explain to police officers that what they were responding to was part of a theatrical event and not a dangerous public disturbance.) One Yippie actor was a Vietnam vet who pulled up his pant leg while addressing the audience to show his real wounds. Inside the theatre, “federal marshals,” instead of ushers, ensured that order and decorum were maintained. If anyone looked suspicious, they were searched against a wall. We also had shills who were roughed up. Once in their seats,a slideshow began,and it chronicled the event in the Chicago park that became a police riot and the savagery of the Chicago police. By the time the audience came to its feet on the clerk’s order to rise,it was the top of the show and it had already been in the world of the event for some time.
One night in the theatre when Bobby Seale was brought into the courtroom bound and gagged, a woman in the front row stood up and yelled,”kill the judge.” She then realized with embarrassment what she had done and slowly sat down. The actors incorporated her outburst into the action without skipping a beat.
We ran that original production for 14 months, several of the actual defendants came including Abbie Hoffman,in disguise because he was wanted by the FBI,Jerry Rubin, Bobbie Seale,Tom Hayden and John Froines and defense lawyer William Kunstler came with Lenny Weinglass. I was watching from the light booth and could see their white knuckles on the chair arms just below me. I met Orson Bean when he came with Paul Krassner, the political activist and defense witness, Anita Hoffman, Abbie’s wife. The production became the must see play in LA. We received numerous awards, including LA Drama Critics awards for Ron and I for playwriting, Ron for producing, and me for directing. The actor, Paul Leiber won for his portrayal of Abbie Hoffman and George Murdoch for his stunning performance as Judge,Julius Hoffman(no relation).
George came with me when we took the Odyssey production of the play to Chicago’s Remains Theatre in 1990. As we were driving together from the airport to our hotel, we were stopped at a light and a fellow crossing the street recognized George, who had a recurring role on the TV show Barney Miller. “Hey, Lieutenant. Scanlon!” George waved with a big smile. Some time later when I came back to Chicago to give notes on the production, George and I were in a car heading to the rehearsal, and someone yelled out, “Hey Judge Hoffman.” George turned to me and we both beamed.
Odyssey Theatre 1994
After the big earthquake that year, it took me 4 hours to get to the first rehearsal. Actor/ Director, Allan Miller played Kunstler, and the comic, Paul Provenza, was Abbie Hoffman.
River Stage (which I founded in 1994) 2001
In Sacramento, a political city.
Such a big hit people were sneaking in,and tried to bribe the woman in the box office. One night, we had to call the police when someone tried to walk off with tickets.
Odyssey Theatre 2007
The brilliant young actor, Darius Ever Truly, who was playing Bobby Seale, was tragically killed in Culver City during the third week of the run.
We went on, after a brief break, with his understudy.
Our The Chicago Conspiracy Trial has been published three times:
Plays in Process
Theatre Communications Group
West Coast Plays
The California Theatre Council
City Lights Books
Accompanying articles by Tom Hayden
Sound Recorded at Capital Records. Nick Venet, the producer for Dylan and other greats had a courtroom built for us and recorded two performances. One for radicals and the other for studio folk.
Before the first performance Nick led me in to meet a couple of people. We went into the empty set and I saw two of the largest Native Americans I’ve ever seen. One of them said to me, “don’t worry, we have a reservation.” They were being hunted by the FBI for murder. Kim, our Odyssey costume designer, brought Nick piles of towels from where she worked in a towel company and had them sent to the Native Americans who were occupying Alcatraz.
An HBO film production.
Conspiracy Trial of the Chicago 8
Ron and I were script consultants, and Ron was executive producer.
And now the hit feature film, Trial of the Chicago 7 written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Ron and I were development consultants, and the Odyssey Theatre received a “Special Thanks.”
The Chicago Conspiracy Trial, a remarkably powerful and important incident in our history, was originally witnessed only by a relatively limited number of spectators, but now, due to our original Odyssey production and those that followed, especially this outstanding feature film, it is becoming part of our collective political culture. As they chanted in the park, “America will remember!”