Photo courtesy of The Wallis
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Theatre, dance, music, experimental design, found objects, and more come together for a modern adaptation of the classic story of Frankenstein this week at The Wallis in Beverly Hills.
The world premiere production comes from the acclaimed LA-based experimental theatre company Four Larks, which co-founder Mat Sweeney describes as a junkyard opera company.
“The work that we make doesn’t necessarily privilege music—it’s one of the tools we use in the creation of the piece. So, that’s the ‘opera’ part. The ‘junkyard’ part is about the use of found materials and the way that we approach each piece as a collage or an assemblage of texts and specific performers and ideas and materials that we rummage and become a part of both the visual and musical world of each project.”
Sweeney created, staged, and composed the music for this Four Larks adaptation of Frankenstein. Company co-founder Sebastian Peters-Lazaro did the design and choreography. He explains how this story still has deep relevance today, more than 200 years after it was written.
“So, Frankenstein is often described as the first modern myth because it subsumes the role of a kind of mythic deity into this realm of science fiction. It was written by an 18-year-old woman who birthed an entire genre of literature. It’s a story that’s been in print basically since it was published [in 1818] in part, because each generation can look at something it has created—some new piece of technology or some new social movement—that comes up as possibly subceeding [sic] the status quo of society at that moment and shifting things in ways that are uncontrollable and unexpected and potentially dangerous and frightening.”
All of Four Larks productions feature the performers in multiple roles. Mat Sweeney says the actors are also musicians in this show.
“That’s always been the backbone of our practice. We work with performers who are multi-hyphenate. They are instrumentalists and singers and actors and dancers. So we have this incredible ensemble of 12 people who come from a pretty wide spectrum of backgrounds. We have musicians working as actors in ways they haven’t necessarily before and vice-versa. That ensemble is on stage the whole time. They are orchestra, they are a Greek chorus, they are shapeshifters, and they are facilitating the installation of the piece. So, we are with those dozen performers for the hour of this piece watching them shift and reimagine and invent the world aurally and visually and, in doing so, creating the narrative.
Mat Sweeney and Sebastian Peters-Lazaro run the experimental theatre company Four Larks. Their production of Frankenstein opens Wednesday at The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills with performances through March 1st. You can learn more at thewallis.org