Behind the Scenes, Getty Villa

Unmasking Scandal at Villa Theater Lab

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.

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One Comment

  1. Carol
    Posted March 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

    I caught the last performance, and loved it. I hope the Getty decides to bring it back for a full run. The masks and puppets were great, and the acting terrific, and the whole show was entirely engaging. I drove up in the rain (from San Diego) to catch the last performance, and it did not disappoint. Wonderful, keep up the good work!

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      All Hail Tiberius, Least Media-Savvy of the Roman Emperors

      Tiberius was proclaimed Roman emperor on September 17 in AD 14, exactly 2,000 years ago.

      He was also a bit wacko. “He was the least media-savvy emperor you could imagine,” says curator David Saunders, who has been in charge of this bronze portrait of Tiberius which leaves us on September 22. He point to this description found in the writings of Cassius Dio:

      Tiberius was a patrician of good education, but he had a most peculiar nature. He never let what he desired appear in his conversation, and what he said he wanted he usually did not desire at all. On the contrary, his words indicated the exact opposite of his real purpose; he denied all interest in what he longed for, and urged the claims of what he hated. He would exhibit anger over matters that were far from arousing his wrath, and make a show of affability where he was most vexed…In short, he thought it bad policy for the sovereign to reveal his thoughts; this was often the cause, he said, of great failures, whereas by the opposite course, far more and greater successes were attained.

      Moreover, David tells us, “Tiberius’s accession itself was a farrago: Tiberius sort-of feigning reluctance, the Senate bullying him, he being all, ‘Well, if-I-have-to,’ and in the end—according to Suetonius—saying he’ll do it as long as he can retire.”

      Suetonius is full of great, albeit spurious, anecdotes about poor old Tiberius, David reports. “When someone addressed him as ‘My Lord,’ it is said, Tiberius gave warning that no such insult should ever again be thrown at him.”

      Happy accession, My Lord!

      Portrait Head of Tiberius (“The Lansdowne Tiberius”), early 1st century A.D., Roman. The J. Paul Getty Museum

      Statue of Tiberius (detail), Roman, A.D. 37, Soprintendenza Speciale per i Beni Archeologici di Napoli e Pompei – Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli, Laboratorio di Conservazione e Restauro. Currently on view at the Getty Villa following conservation and study.

      09/17/14

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