Arts & Cultural Vitality / 2013

RADAR L.A. International Theater Festival; A vital investment in L.A.Theater Artists

Idea submitted in the My LA2050 Maker Challenge by REDCAT (The Roy and Edna Disney CalArts Theater)

The RADAR L.A. Festival of Contemporary Theater brings some of the worlds most influential theater companies to downtown L.A., and invests in the future vitality of L.A.’s performing arts community with a unique residency program that creates infrastructure for L.A. ensembles to create their best work and put it in the global spotlight. REDCAT and CalArts, with a consortium of public and private partners, will contribute to the cultural vitality of L.A.’s evolving downtown, and create crucial infrastructure for local performing artists to create new work, with a two-part proposal: - To produce RADAR L.A. 2013, a major international festival of contemporary theater that activates varied downtown L.A. locations with adventurous performances by influential artists from L.A., Latin America, and the Pacific Rim, September 23 to October 6, 2013, and - To organize a series of extended artist residencies and related public events that expands the neighborhood impact of the festival’s artistic initiatives and allows diverse artists to create new contemporary performances, while also increasing their vital role in the planning process for revitalization of downtown L.A.. The festival and residency programs build on momentum from the inaugural 2011 RADAR L.A., which featured 90 performances of 15 productions, engaging over 200 artists. Over 11,000 diverse patrons wandered between ten locations, experiencing affordable theatrical presentations, site-specific events, social gatherings and symposia. The L.A. Times said the “revitalizing” festival fulfilled a “vision of downtown as a vibrant cultural nexus…a resounding success.” By expanding RADAR L.A. with increased artist commissions and residencies, artists receive a strategic investment that addresses the L.A. 2050 report’s call for policies that nurture the L.A. arts community so it can thrive. The experienced curatorial team’s provocative program includes: -Innovative artists who stretch the boundaries of traditional theater; -Community-based projects exploring urgent social justice issues that engage the voices of often overlooked residents; -Cultural influences that reflect L.A.’s demographics, presenting artists from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Japan, and Indonesia; -Interdisciplinary collaborations merging dance, theater, music and new media. The L.A. Times captured the essence of the first festival’s vibrancy, calling it “an invaluable addition to the city’s cultural ecology,” and stressing its impact on the neighborhood: “Because L.A.’s geography is so sprawling, that sense of urban density is hard to achieve. This is why a festival such as RADAR L.A.…situated within an easily commutable area, can be so revitalizing…I scurried from one theater to the next, bumping into acquaintances old and new along the way…”. The strategy behind the RADAR L.A. Festival is both local and global, recognizing that helping to create work is only one part of the solution—the plan must also include engaging the larger national/international field so that the impact is greatly enhanced, leading to vastly increased opportunities for artists and a significant shift in the perception of Los Angeles as a vital center for contemporary theater and dance. This strategy is proven and effective: as a result of the 2011 RADAR L.A. Festival, six of the eight L.A. productions toured as a result of the exposure.

What are some of your organization’s most important achievements to date?

REDCAT is currently celebrating ten years of bringing experimental and interdisciplinary performing and visual art to Los Angeles audiences. Each year REDCAT collaborates with local, national and international artists and organizations on the presentation of more than 200 events, ranging from concerts to lectures, to dance festivals and film series. Collaborating directly with a wide range of artists and ensembles in the creation and presentation of their work and in the design of REDCAT programming means REDCAT is a part of the ongoing conversation about the changing dynamic of the local and global arts fields, and is uniquely positioned to influence and also respond to changing needs and opportunities. REDCAT engages a young, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual, and economically diverse audience, welcoming more than 60,000 audience members annually to concerts, dance performances, theatrical productions and exhibitions.

Please identify any partners or collaborators who will work with you on this project.

A consortium of REDCAT and CalArts, Center Theatre Group, the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Public Theater (New York), the Los Angeles Stage Alliance, the Los Angeles Theater Center/Latino Theater Company, and Theater Communications Group is engaged in the planning for RADAR L.A.2013. These respected organizations have joined forces to provide greater voice and visibility to contemporary theater from Los Angeles and around the world with artists who are creating works that resist easy definitions, using dance, media and techniques from performance art, sport, and film.

Please explain how you will evaluate your project. How will you measure success?

Impact will be gauged not only by critical and audience response, but also by the extent to which RADAR L.A. successfully meets its objectives regarding the number of works to be supported and premiered, the co-commissioning relationships to be developed, and the audiences reached through performances and activities, including new audiences reached through the activation of public spaces. Results will be assessed via additional interviews with partners, audience surveys and evaluative sessions with community partners. An online survey was distributed to all RADAR L.A. Symposium attendees after the 2011 Festival, and follow-up conversations among organizers, artists and the producing consortium have taken place in both informal and structured settings, leading to program adjustments and clarifications. In addition, 2011 Festival surveys and conversations indicate significant change in the perceived vitality, quality and influence of L.A. performing artists by the field. The quality of the work is also measured by critical response from critics attending the festival, which The L.A. Times described as “a glorious convergence of contemporary performance” and “a resounding success” that demonstrated “a vision of downtown as a vibrant cultural nexus”.

How will your project benefit Los Angeles?

The RADAR L.A. Festival and the related programs to support L.A. performing artists will benefit Los Angeles in many ways. In addition to creating an exciting international cultural event for audiences, it also addresses two important civic issues:

-The unique festival and residency programming will contribute to larger, long-term strategies to utilize cultural activity as a key way to help revitalize transitional downtown neighborhoods that have been adversely affected by difficult economic conditions. Most public and private strategies for improving the quality of life downtown focus on capital construction and physical infrastructure, while the consortium’s proposal provides a burst of relatively immediate programmatic activity, serving as a possible model for how future cultural facilities currently in the planning stage might best be utilized. -The artist-centric programs are designed to help address the crucial need for performing artists to be supported in the creation of new work with infrastructure support, financial commissions, and exposure to national/international presenters and producers. The L.A. performing arts community has been severely under-resourced compared to other major cities, and the perceived vitality of the arts community suffers as a result. Increasing artistic capacity and enhancing the quality of the work created by L.A. artists is as essential as investing in cultural facilities, yet limited funding has stifled the creation of any comprehensive civic strategies to address that issue.

By giving diverse artists the resources and exposure they need, they become better equipped to participate in the transformation of a community. As the L.A. 2050 Report cites, there is a need for artists to be nurtured so that they can thrive. While the actual RADAR festival events are serving audiences and artists in many ways, it is the strategic investment in the artists themselves that produces the most enduring results for the artistic ecology of the neighborhood and the region. The consortium addresses challenges that hinder L.A. performing artists: -L.A performing artists are under-represented in the international performing arts touring field, limiting their ability to thrive. -Limited funding and infrastructure to create work and showcase it to leaders in the field, has kept L. A. artists under-recognized, with limited opportunities to tour or compete for national commissions vital to their careers. -Many playwrights, directors and choreographers believe they must leave L.A. to have a career. The vitality and reputation of the region’s artistic ecology suffers as a result. RADAR L.A. helps by commissioning diverse artists and featuring their work alongside international productions, for an audience that includes visiting producers, presenters and funders, and the international symposium prominently features L.A. artists. The success of the 2011 festival demonstrates the potential long-term positive impact that reducing thes

What would success look like in the year 2050 regarding your indicator?

The Los Angeles performing arts community can become more vibrant and have greater international influence if artists are given more opportunities to create work and gain exposure nationally and internationally. The L.A. 2050 Report cites a need to retain artists and nurture them so that they can contribute more fully to the cultural ecology. Having a dedicated festival that at its mission supports the local arts community and brings artists together with presenters, producers and creative colleagues is absolutely fundamental to developing our city’s arts and cultural vitality. Artists need encouragement, space and critical feedback to develop confident artistic identities. RADAR L.A. presents increased opportunities for cultural participation–for both local artists and audiences. A strong, well-respected performing arts festival will serve Los Angeles’ artistic and cultural vitality on many levels and has a spillover effect that enhances the quality of life for our greater community.