Villa Theater Lab invites performers to work in residence at the Getty Villa for two weeks, workshopping new theater pieces and presenting them in four performances over a single weekend. For the past two weeks, Rogue Artists Ensemble has been putting the final outrageous touches on Songs of Bilitis, inspired by one of the sexiest literary hoaxes in history.
They’re presenting the story though what they call “hypertheater,” which combines video, movement, and layered audio tracks—plus giant handmade masks, a tiny prop boat hidden in a fake baby, and a colorful wardrobe that comes progressively…off.
When they weren’t rehearsing these past two weeks, the group was making hyperprops with scissors, duct tape, cardboard, and fabric. The goal is experimentation and authenticity. “Our process has to begin in a less precious state,” Sean Cawelti, director of the play and one of the founders of Rogue Artists, told me.”When we’re creating things, we don’t feel bad if we have to start over or redo something.”
For the Rogues, theater is a dialogue. “Audiences are never expected to be passive viewers,” Sean said. “We want the act of viewing theater to be live, so there’s a roughness, there’s an unformed quality about the work sometimes that makes it really feel primal and kind of immediate.”
And immediate it is: the performances start this Friday.