Out of the dumpsters and onto the stage comes performance artist Paul Zaloom's "Theater of Trash," opening Thursday (for three performances only) at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions.
Eclectic props (toys, packaging materials, appliances, clothing and tools) are Zaloom's stock in trade, a collection he maintains by "riding around New York City on my bike and looking through people's trash. I go to cooking stores, dumpsters, odd-lots outlets. And garage sales are very big with me.
"Then I take those found objects and animate them: put them in my hands and move them so they take on a character. For instance, in this show, I manipulate a bottle of Ivory soap so that it moves like a puppet, a doll--has a life of its own."
Voila! The Ivory soap bottle is not really Ivory soap, but a schoolteacher for a classroom of youngsters (represented by childrens' shoes, with shoelaces that spring up and down, clamoring "ooh ooh ooh" for the teacher's attention).
Joining the fun are some adult-size shoe intruders ("We've been left back," they wail), a security guard (who menaces the unruly crowd with his golf-shoe cleats) and the secretary of education (a storm trooper boot), who stomps in and announces budget cuts.
"The shoes," Zaloom added merrily, "are just one part of the show: the 'In America' section." Beyond education, the segments include prisons, yuppie eating habits, mass communication, the CIA and KGB, and farming in America.
Also on the program: "Leonardo's Revenge" (a hand-puppet piece on an eccentric artist who improves neighborhoods) and "Basic Intelligence," a slide show/official description of nuclear weaponry and launch procedure. ("A nominal error is a nuclear detonation that does no damage to its intended target.")
"That section's a comedy, too," Zaloom noted. As for his seeming irreverence towards social issues: "Farming is a crisis, and it's not funny. I hope to liberate people from being depressed--and maybe to take some action. So perhaps there's a double meaning in some of these things, maybe a triple meaning. But a lot are just cheap gags."
From the oldies bin comes Harold Brighouse's "Hobson's Choice," opening Saturday at the Colony.
The plot, says director Andy Griggs, concerns "a shoemaker who is defied by his daughter and one of his workers: they get married. Hobson is left with two choices, accepting it or not accepting it--and going into financial ruin."
For Griggs (who spent the summer as an actor at the Grove Shakespeare Festival), "Hobson" represents quite a departure from the more socially oriented material he presented for 10 years at his Santa Cruz-based Bear Republic Theater. When that disbanded ("a combination of burnout and a lack of community support"), Griggs migrated south, acquired a master's degree at CalArts, and began his association with the Colony (where he assisted director Bob Benedetti in last year's staging of "A Midsummer's Night's Dream").
"As a director, I want to be able to do a variety of things," he said. "And this is something that entertains--which is just as important as something that instructs."
From Robert Schrock, whose "13 Down" (on the encounter of an accused rapist and his public defender "and the skeletons that start to come out of the closets") recently opened at the Cast:
"I was really influenced by Bill C. Davis' 'Wrestlers' (about feuding brothers, which played last year at the Cast)," the playwright-director continued. "There was an energy and excitement about that that really turned me on. And I also wanted the challenge of writing for two characters in a room--I like that minimalism. So it's just two chairs and a table."
For those who remember Schrock's equally minimalist--but far sunnier--previous project, the recently departed "Back Home," he says: "That happy face is part of me and my career, and I hope it continues. I'm also a song-and-dance man. But every song-and-dance man has his serious side, and it's nice to be able to explore it."
Simultaneously, he's also been shedding his actor's skin: "At this point, I've given the greasepaint away. I have no desire to do that again. I'm very involved with this new work--and fulfilled by it, although the financial rewards are yet to come. But that's the way it is with artists. Ted Schmitt (artistic director of the Cast) calls what we get 'psychic income.' So psychically, I'm very rich."
Just opened: John Godber's "Bouncers," an L.A. Theatre Works production at the Tiffany Theatre. Ron Link directs; starring are Jack Coleman, Dan Gerrity, Gerrit Graham and Andrew Stevens.
"Bouncers" was voted best comedy at the 1984 Edinburgh Festival and is still running on the West End. It's described as a rough-and-tumble comedy in the tradition of the Three Stooges. Except that here there are apparently four stooges, plus "deejays, rappers, giggling girls and blue-movie comedians," all providing "nightmare visions of Margaret Thatcher's England."
Playwright Godber is artistic director of England's Hull Truck Traveling Theatre. "I find a lot of poetry in the ordinary," he says.