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UCLA Live to keep it eclectic

June 04, 2003|Scott Timberg | Times Staff Writer

At a news conference Tuesday, UCLA Live announced a 2003-04 season that will include theater, music, dance, talk and strange combinations of them all.

The series will feature roughly 170 performances, among them the U.S. tour debut of London's 6-year-old Shakespeare's Globe Theatre company, a solo appearance by Mikhail Baryshnikov in Freud Hall, the Los Angeles debut of the Balanchine-inspired Suzanne Farrell Ballet at Royce Hall, authors Alice Sebold ("The Lovely Bones") and Michael Cunningham ("The Hours"), and a commissioned event pairing comics artist Chris Ware with radio host Ira Glass.

Hal Willner, a Los Angeles music producer known for genre-bending projects, will be artist in residence.

"What I'm really trying to do is build on last year," UCLA Live director David Sefton said Tuesday, referring to the season that ended Sunday. The '02-03 season was dominated by an International Theater Festival featuring a number of avant-garde European groups that had never performed in Los Angeles. The theater offerings took up a lot of the season, drawing the majority of its media attention and consuming about a quarter of its budget. (The new season's operating budget is $7 million, down from $9.2 million in '02-03.)

Next season, Sefton said, the goal is what he called "an evenhandedness. I've put more emphasis on balancing out the quality across the board.

"It's not just new and weird for new and weird's sake," added the director, a 40-year old Liverpool native. "We're looking for great work too. That's why Shakespeare's Globe Theatre is here."

Sefton said he's especially proud of the year's classical and jazz series. The season also includes series devoted to dance, world music, spoken word, roots music, a Beethoven cycle series performed by the Takacs Quartet, vocal music, and two cross-genre series, Royce Choice and the left-field AWOL series.

The latter will offer examples of the unconventional productions that have become UCLA Live's trademark: the British cult band the Tiger Lillies and the Kronos Quartet in a project dedicated to the late illustrator Edward Gorey; the Willner-produced "Shock and Awe: The Music of Randy Newman"; an evening with performer Sandra Bernhard accompanied by piano and guitar; and the Argentine tango/dub band the Gotan Project with L.A.'s Dakah Hip-Hop Orchestra.

"The manager fell out of his chair when I told him I wanted to book the Gotan Project in Royce Hall," Sefton said. "They're still doing club gigs. But I think they're going to be huge."

Sefton chose Willner as artist in residence, he said, for the producer's ability to combine forms in unexpected ways, as in recordings re-imagining the music of Nino Rota, Kurt Weill and Charles Mingus.

"We've only announced two things so far," Sefton said, "but there will be more to come."

Besides the Randy Newman event, in which other artists will interpret the songwriter's music, Willner will build an evening around the audio plays of the comedy group Firesign Theatre.

Despite a lower budget, which Sefton attributed partly to belt-tightening by the UC system, Sefton said his overall aim was the same as it was in the season just ended: "Keeping the edge, keeping the quality and keeping the new."

"The season last year sold more tickets than any other UCLA season," he said. "When you bear in mind the nature of the economy and all the doom-and-gloom stories, it's worth noting. And we had the highest membership UCLA has ever had."

The upcoming season will also include events with playwright Tony Kushner, novelist Salman Rushdie, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore, pianist Murray Perahia, the St. Lawrence String Quarter performing the music of Osvaldo Golijov, and the Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique with Sir John Eliot Gardiner.

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