Saturday, February 27, 2016

Stretching Art to the City Rooftops

Downtown Los Angeles . C. Coimbra photo
By Nicole Wallace
for Philanthropy Today

Great art transports audiences and helps them see the world in new ways. The Industry, a nonprofit, experimental opera company in Los Angeles, took that mandate literally in its most recent production, Hopscotch, which was performed in some unusual places.

Operagoers boarded limousines in groups of four, along with singers and musicians. Each group experienced eight of 24 chapters of the nonlinear performance, which chronicles the life, loves, and shifting identity of a woman named Lucha. Scenes took place in the vehicles, in parks, along the Los Angeles River, and in other locations.

"It was very transformative for people to experience music and theater outside of a traditional space," says Elizabeth Cline, executive director of The Industry. "With the city as a backdrop, all of a sudden the work really expanded for people."

The production presented technical challenges. In one scene, a singer and musicians performed on a downtown rooftop, with a trumpet player on a nearby water tower and a trombone player on another roof. The Industry had to figure out how to capture and amplify the performers so the audience members could hear them together.

The organization aims to both expand the boundaries of opera and make it more accessible to the public. So it streamed the far-flung performances to a central hub in Los Angeles’s arts district, where people could watch and listen for free. For the last performance each day, all the artists and audience members converged on the hub for a live finale.

Says Ms. Cline: "When you reduce the barriers to participation — whether that means making something free or doing something in public — you immediately are getting a different audience."

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