If the nebulousness of performance art has a great virtue, it is that it allows the artist complete freedom--especially the freedom to perfect.
That is to a great extent what San Francisco's George Coates, a creative pioneer in the field, believes he has done with his stunning "Rare Area," an extension of the George Coates Performance Works "How Trilogy" that includes "The Way of How," "Are Are" and "Seehear."
"Rare Area" (now subtitled "The New Music Theatre Spectacle") made a one-night appearance last October at Royce Hall, UCLA, when it was still spelled as one word: "RareArea." It returns as two ("Rare Area"), in a new, improved version, Aug. 5-24, at the Doolittle Theatre.
"I like to think that we've finished it," Coates said, Tuesday from San Francisco, "and made rather major alterations. We've put in a live floating band 16 feet off the floor. It appears and disappears throughout the performance.
"We're creating a different atmosphere for the 'Rare Area.' The music (by Paul Dresher) has been entirely reorchestrated for live performance. We've changed some of the language to create a more cohesive sociopolitical connection with the dream world and we actually have a speaking scene now between our mime (Hitomi Ikuma) and the Speaking Man."
The longer run at the Doolittle is a daring leap for a form not yet sure of its audience. The public at UCLA had loved the show, but will this theater of startling sounds and images, more evocative than provocative, find three weeks worth of mainstream aficionados?
"We'd love to consolidate the audience that we have in Los Angeles," Coates said, acknowledging some anxiety. And yet, if Martha Clarke's "Garden of Earthly Delights" gathered a following, why not "Rare Area"?
"NICK" NIXES HOT-TIX: Well, those half-price day-of-performance Hot Tix for "Nicholas Nickleby" announced here last Thursday seemed like a great idea.
Oh yeah? The policy lasted all of last Sunday. Ahmanson artistic director Robert Fryer said the switchboard was "flooded by phone calls from angry patrons" who had paid full admission and resented anyone else getting in for less, even though it was only the $50 and $30 seats that were being discounted.
We don't buy the excuse. Subscribers and patrons with reservations are not eligible for Hot-Tix anyway and it's unlikely many of them would have been standing in line on the day of performance to take their chances. The idea was to sell unsold seats. Too bad producers couldn't see it that way.
A letter from a wise friend, meanwhile, suggested that not everyone may be aware that ticket prices for "Nick/Nick" cover both halves of the performance. In other words, a $100 ticket breaks down to $50 for Part I and $50 for Part II.
Perhaps those who hadn't understood this will now feel that they're getting a bargain after all. The sad part is that "Nickleby" remains an unparalleled experience at any of those prices.
TO MOVE OR NOT TO MOVE: While "The Wonder Years" (which was not a Waiver production in the first place) moves into the Coronet Friday, three top Waiver musicals in town have decided to stay put--more or less.
"Nite Club Confidential," a send-up of '40s B movies, remains anchored at the Tiffany.
"The company may go to San Francisco in the fall, leaving another company to continue in L.A.," said producer Steve Gideon, "but, at the moment, we're not planning any other moves."
"Berlin to Broadway With Kurt Weill" closes Saturday at the Zephyr. "We're putting together a new company for San Francisco," said director Paul Hough, "but we gave up the idea of a move in town.
"After a year and a half, with so many people having already seen the show, we decided we might not be able to survive."
As for "Back Home" at the Cast, it continues there through Aug. 31.
"We're talking to a few people about moving," allowed composer/lyricist/performer Kirby Tepper, "but I don't think it would be productive to discuss it now."
Meanwhile, producers have approached a number of celebrities to do cameo appearances in the show--among them, Tommy Lasorda, Lu Leonard and Councilman Michael Woo.
"We're hoping audiences come," Tepper said, "to see who turns up."
SONDHEIM IN LONG BEACH: Associate producer Keith Stava said the president of the board had "seen it in New York and liked it" and producer Martin Wiviott had to do "a little extra negotiating" to get the rights, but it paid off in the end.
The Long Beach Civic Light Opera will be mounting Southern California's first production of Stephen Sondheim's complex "Sunday in the Park With George" at the Terrace Theatre Oct.16-Nov.2.
Robert Yacko and Pamela Myers will star as painter Georges Seurat and his girlfriend Marie on the original Broadway sets, wearing the original Broadway costumes, which, Stava said, "will be stored and returned (to Azenberg and Associates) in time for the London production next May."
How did Long Beach score this coup? With dogged perseverance.