The Latino troupe Culture Clash and the British-German Gob Squad collective are on tap for world premieres.
La Jolla Playhouse has commissioned some of the world’s top immersive theater makers for three new pieces that will roll out over the next few months as part of its all-digital 2020 Without Walls Festival, the theater announced May 20.
In April, the playhouse announced that because of the coronavirus pandemic, it will move Without Walls (WOW) entirely online this year. Artistic director Christopher Ashley said the goal is to individually introduce a planned 10 pieces during the spring and summer and then bring them all together in a virtual festival in early October.
The first four pieces were announced in April, most of them created by San Diego-based theater artists. The first, a free video installation called “Ancient,” debuted last week.
Ashley said audience reaction to its new online programming has been strong: Since mid-March, the new content — which includes dance classes, composers singing songs cut from La Jolla Playhouse-born musicals and staff members recalling favorite memories — has attracted more than 500,000 views and more than 70,000 interactions.
Here’s a look at the three newly announced world premieres:
“Show Me A Good Time” by Gob Squad: Co-commissioned with the HAU (Hebbel am Ufer) theater in Berlin, this 12-hour livestreamed theater piece will feature nine actors performing in homes, theaters and on the streets of Berlin and London. Premiering on the summer solstice, June 20, “Show Me A Good Time” is about nine artists trying to diagnose why the world is in a perpetual pause and people are stuck in perpetual selfies on their phones.
The piece will be broadcast worldwide, but San Diegans will be able to tune in from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Ashley said the piece is written in a way that audience members can tune in periodically and not miss crucial details.
Gob Squad was previously featured at the 2017 WOW festival with a similar one-time-only, multiscreen video piece called “Super Night Shot.” Ashley said this piece was originally planned with actors livecasting inside and outside the theater, but it was adapted after the pandemic began. Tickets are $10.
“The Totally Fake Latino News” by The Culture Clash: The Latino comedy/theater troupe of Herbert Siguenza, Richard Montoya and Ric Salinas return to the playhouse for a series of six 10-minute broadcasts featuring comedy, poetics and clowning from their homes in San Diego and Los Angeles. The pieces will be rolled out gradually from June to October.
Ashley said he had been talking to the trio over Zoom about developing a new piece and found them so funny online that he asked them to develop a web series. “You can guarantee it will be irreverent,” Ashley said.
Release dates will be announced. Viewing the films will be free.
The Culture Clash’s past La Jolla Playhouse shows include “American Night” and “Zorro in Hell.”
“The Wizards of Oakwood Drive” by Tom Salamon: This will be New York-based immersive theater creator Salamon’s third WOW piece, following “The Grift” at the Lafayette Hotel in 2015 and “Accomplice: San Diego” in Little Italy in 2013.
“Wizards” will be aimed at grade-school-age children and their parents. Designed as a scavenger hunt in which parents will hide items around their home, the plot involves a pair of sibling wizards taking the children on a home treasure hunt.
Ashley said it’s partly inspired by the Disney Channel series “Wizards of Waverly Place” but with an interactive element. It will be presented as a live Zoom piece for groups of 10 children at a time. It premieres in July. Tickets are $25.
The three new pieces join “Ancient” and three other previously announced pieces: “Walks of Life,” a free, three-part walking audio tour by Blindspot Collective premiering May 26; “Binge,” a one-on-one Zoom-based TV binge-watching comedy created by Brian Lobel & Friends, which is $25 and premieres in June; and “Proyecto: Portaleza,” by David Israel Reynoso/Optika Moderna, which will be a multisensory virtual journey to unlock a secret portal. It premieres in July. Tickets are $25.
For more on the WOW Festival, visit lajollaplayhouse.org/the-staging-area. ◆