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L.A. Festival Finding Its Place in the Sun : Box office: Despite torrid heat and technical snafus, nearly 75% of performances have sold out, optimistic officials report.


Just how is the Los Angeles Festival doing?

With a week to go, festival officials say they have a hit on their hands. The optimistic forecast came 10 days into the multicultural event, following earlier fund-raising and other logistical problems.

Numerous programs at 70 locations across town, where more than 1,400 artists are performing, have sold out, said festival board chairwoman Maureen A. Kindel. The festival is gaining momentum as it heads toward its final weekend, she said.

"In our budget, we had forecast projections (of) 60% sellouts, but we're actually now at 73%," Kindel said. "We're way, way ahead. And the excitement seems to be building. That's typical of festivals."

Officials reported strong walk-up business at several performances, and large crowds have been turned away from packed shows by the Bread and Puppet Theatre and an all-night performance Saturday of the Wayang Kulit shadow puppets from Indonesia at the Los Angeles State and County Arboretum in Arcadia.

Kindel added that young people, from teens to college age, are attending: "We're really hitting the young audience, which is exciting for art in this city."

The more popular performers have been the Bread and Puppet Theater, which has sold out all of its performances at UCLA and the Santa Monica Airport Hangar; the Wooster Group, which sold out all five performances at the MOCA Temporary Contemporary, and performance artist Rachel Rosenthal, who has sold out her three-day performance of "Pangaean Dreams" at the Santa Monica Museum.

Also attracting large crowds was "Chinese Chess Piece," a look at oppression and revolution through the personification of Chinese and American-Chinese women at the Hollywood Methodist Church; the Los Angeles Poverty Department's production of "Jupiter 35," and "Ancient Dance of Oceania," which featured dances of the Woomera Mornington Island Culture Team from Australia and the Waiwhetu Maori Cultural Group from New Zealand at UCLA's Sunset Amphitheater.

Slightly smaller audiences have attended the Kun Opera from China at the Japan America Theatre and "Ignore the Dents," an urban opera at the Million Dollar Theatre.

At the other end of the spectrum, three jazz programs at the Japan America Theatre, the Classical Dance of India's "Mahabharata" and the festival's poetry series at Occidental College have drawn small audiences.

Attendance at the festival film screenings has been erratic. At times, only about 20 people have attended a free screening. However, the "Modern Masters of the Japanese Cinema" series has been nearly packed.

Audiences appeared to have been befuddled at some of the performances, but were generally appreciative. The crowd at the Sept. 2 Wayang Kulit opening at the Arboretum was small but enthusiastic, moving around the performers as instructed. Both families and young couples took in the performance.

Technical glitches have also marred several of the performances.

Audiences attending Sunday's performance of the Kun Opera had to make do without an English translation. The delivery person got lost on the way to the Japan America Theatre.

At Saturday's performance of "Ignore the Dents," Daniel Martinez's "urban opera," the amplification at the downtown Million Dollar Theatre made much of the proceedings unintelligible, and lighting mistakes also distinguished the performance. As actors Patrick Miller and Dana J. Nelson played out a scene between warring lovers, Miller, hoisting a flag, swung the flagpole around and tore the theater's curtain. The accident set off a loud buzz in the audience.

At Sunday's opening of "Chicano Art: Resistance and Affirmation (CARA) 1965-1985" at the Wight Art Gallery at UCLA, the crowd was forced to wait in 100-degree heat when organizers kept delaying the noon opening of the doors. The exhibit finally opened almost three hours later, after many in the irritated crowd had left.

Contributing to this article were Shauna Snow, Robert Koehler, John Henken, Ray Loynd and Times Music and Dance Critic Martin Bernheimer.

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