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Using puppets to get to `the truth' of L.A.

November 30, 2006|Scott Sandell

A marionette show about the effects of gentrification, set along the eastern portion of Sunset Boulevard, might seem a bit of a stretch. But that is precisely the point for the creators of "Sunset Chronicles" -- to flex their creativity and comment on the reality of living in Los Angeles by crafting a fantasy world.

"Puppetry lends a sense of alternate reality," says Jen Hofer, a member of the artists' collective called the Little Fakers, which is unveiling Episode 4 of the show Friday night at the Velaslavasay Panorama in L.A. "The further we go from reality, the closer we get to the truth of life in Los Angeles, if that makes sense."

The project began two years ago among a group of about half a dozen puppet theater artists, sound artists and writers. What emerged was a serial drama, set against three main sites undergoing change: the Sunset Pacific Motel on Sunset Boulevard, the Kim Sing Movie Theater at Alpine and Figueroa streets in Chinatown, and an empty lot-cum-community garden that, by coincidence more than anything, resembles the recently shut-down South-Central Urban Farm at 41st and Alameda streets.

"We were particularly inspired by a few real spots," says Susan Simpson, who teaches in CalArts' puppetry program. "They were vacant, and they seemed like windows of opportunity ... a way to look at gentrification and changes."

The marionettes, whose dialogue is prerecorded, include the Bandy-Legged Stranger (the motel owner), the lovers Eva and Bea, the ghost of a Chinese fortuneteller, Ronald Reagan and "the Silver Lake walker," a local legend known for his seemingly never-ending perambulation around that part of town.

The hourlong show also features live musical accompaniment.

"Our message is not simplistic," says Hofer, a poet and court interpreter by day. "We are trying to explore the relationship between people and the spaces around them, between what's come before and what's coming in the future."

"Sunset Chronicles," Episode 4, 8 p.m. Friday, Saturday, Dec. 8 and 9; 4 p.m. Dec. 9; 2 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 10. Velaslavasay Panorama, 1122 W. 24th St., L.A. $10, $5 seniors and children younger than 10. Reservations recommended. (323) 377-6049,

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