You’re going to the 11th Annual Santa Monica ArtWalk at the SM Airport, aren’t you? Of course you are, why wouldn’t you? It’s a day of free entertainment and education about the arts of theatre, ceramics, photography, painting, sculpture, food trucks, music, crafts and more.

It all takes place on Saturday, March 18 with open access to the private spaces of artists who create their work at Santa Monica Art Studios, to the Ruskin Group Theatre conducting theatre improvisation workshops, to The Museum of Flying’s “Art of Flight” exhibition, to demonstrations of the many techniques of working with clay by the students of the Santa Monica College Ceramic Arts program, a history of the (writing) keyboard and a typing lesson, a tour of the airport’s demonstration gardens along with a planting and decorating demo including info about rebates and sustainable landscaping, plus a live band and a mobile DJ truck.

And while you’re there, do NOT miss the “Women Look Out” photo exhibition at Arena 1 Gallery; powerful images by six women artists engaged in projects that benefit from their photography, from global and national human rights to peace and social justice work. Curated by Sherry Frumkin, the photographers are Amy Elkins, Jona Frank, Barbara Grover, Marissa Roth, Irish Schneider and Stephanie Sinclair. http://arena1gallery.com/category/current/

Everything is free and open to the public. For more details, visit www.smgov.net/Portals/Culture/Events/Santa_Monica_Airport_Artwalk.aspx.

 

Translating Milton into Movement

Take a trip across town, time and space to the beginning of the Universe, the creation of Heaven and Earth and the underbelly of Hell. Not Man Apart at the Greenway Court Arts Alliance on Fairfax Avenue has created a unique wordless theatrical event that takes 10,000 lines of 17th century blind poet John Milton’s epic “Paradise Lost” and translates it into a one-hour spectacle of dance, acrobatics, and digital videography. It’s an immersive plunge into what feels like a 3-D video game with live-action performers.

Aptly described as “physical theatre,” Not Man Apart specializes in classic literature that can be made relevant to a contemporary world by means of dance, movement, music and special effects, and they’ve succeeded with this exceedingly ambitious and engaging interpretation they call “Paradise Lost: Reclaiming Destiny.”

The opening is a bit odd; just a very tall man in a white robe, with long hair and a beard, who picks up an object sitting on a small shoulder-shaped pedestal on stage, who walks in circles pointing with it at the blank wall behind him. I had the feeling he walked longer than usual in an effort to wait for a few badly behaved, childish audience members to settle down.

This is the introductory segment, cleverly done, in which the only voice we hear during this production says that the digital projections are being controlled by the performers themselves; along with a creative reminder to turn off all cellphones after posting an image to social media of the event you’re about to experience.

The man onstage turns out to be “the Father of God,” and what he holds in his hands is a wand of sorts, shaped somewhat like a large magnifying glass, one of the implements that activates the live onstage digital projections which will occupy the screen at the back of the stage.

The screen also doubles as a rock wall, used in conjunction with the action on stage and in those remarkable projections, such as climbing up the Tree of Knowledge and leaping between the planets as they’re being created.

The story in Paradise Lost is of the War Between Heaven and Hell; and what we see condensed on stage are God creating the Universe and Earth, Adam and Eve, Satan falling from Heaven to Hell as he undermines God’s creation on Earth. He embodies the serpent and the Fallen Angel who introduces sin and death into the Garden of Eden, where Adam and Eve have a choice to make: they can follow God’s instructions not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge or fall prey to Satan’s lure to eat it, be cast out of their perfect world, and face the pain and suffering that knowledge brings with it.

The director, Jones (Welsh) Talmadge is Satan and one of his props is a ten-foot long chain that’s pretty frightening to consider – one false toss and he could accidentally destroy a fellow performer. But that’s just the beginning: he hangs from this chain performing gymnastic feats that physicalize the state of his own imprisonment by his choice to disobey God and tempt Adam and Eve. As Milton wrote, “The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.”

But it’s not just Talmadge who performs so remarkably; the cast is chock full of dancers from acrobatic, aerial and rigorous dance backgrounds, and the impressive costuming and the sometimes loud and pounding, sometimes celestial and uplifting original music contribute to a fully atmospheric theatrical experience.

There are only nine more scheduled performances through April 2; and Not Man Apart is putting in a heroic effort to stage this. It’s a production that isn’t getting enough attention and should, so check it out online and get a ticket as soon as you can. www.greenwaycourttheatre.org or http://notmanapart.com.

 

Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at culturewatch@smdp.com

 

 

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