ODC to Premiere LAYLA MEANS NIGHT, 10/30-11/3
ODC Theater is proud to announce the world premiere of Layla Means Night, a provocative new dance theater work by Los Angeles-based company Rosanna Gamson/World Wide. Layla Means Night, loosely based on the frame tale of Scheherazade in One Thousand and One Nights, occupies the whole of ODC Theater as audiences are invited into performances on all three floors -- in the lobby, the studios, the hallways, as well as the B'Way Theater. Joining Gamson's company of seven dancers and two actors are Iranian-American poet and performer Niloufar Talebi, Bay Area dancers Farima Berenji and Shahrzad Khorsandi, members of ODC's teen company, the Dance Jam, and master Persian musiciansHouman Pourmehdi and Pirayeh Pourafar. With a run of 10 performances, two each night, from Wednesday, October 30 to Sunday, November 3, 2013, Layla Means Night offers audiences an immersive tour through a world of ritual violence and exquisite pleasure.
As its point of departure, Layla Means Night takes the Persian story of a king, maddened by his first wife's infidelity, who marries a virgin every night and beheads her the next morning in order to protect himself from further betrayal. His last bride, Scheherazade, saves herself and her people from the king's madness, by spinning fantastic stories night after night, proving both her fidelity and the life-saving power of a good story.
"The story of Scheherazade is about balancing on the knife's-edge between keeping your listener entertained, and transforming him through the power of your storytelling," says Gamson. "WithLayla this transformation is achieved by turning the spectator into an active participant." Upon entering the Theater members of the audience are sorted into small groups. The groups simultaneously travel different routes through the building, each partaking in a series of experiences designed to engage the five senses.
The action takes place in the king's palace where a wedding banquet is underway. Dance, live music and the recitation of poetry alternate with the activities of washing, eating and rest. Scenic elements, made of curtains, veils, screens, projections and shadows, present shifting points of view as scenes are glimpsed, interrupted and transformed. "At its core," says Gamson, "Layla is about the unreliability of perception and the degree to which it is influenced by our pre-existing beliefs."
Over the course of nearly two decades, the figure of Scheherazade has functioned as a kind of touchstone in Gamson's career. The legendary queen first appeared in a work she presented in New York in response to the 1993 truck bombing of the World Trade Center, and the fear and xenophobia that it sparked. In the years that followed, Gamson continued to collect ideas for a new work with Scheherazade. Last year an early version of Layla Means Night previewed at REDCAT in Los Angeles. It featured Gamson's then 16-year-old daughter as Scheherazade.
Composers and virtuosic improvisers, Houman Pourmehdi and Pirayeh Pourafar collaborated with Gamson on Layla Means Night from the start. Their live score features a mix of traditional and electronic instruments. Pourmehdi is a master percussionist and multi-instrumentalist known for his skill on the tonbak, a Persian goblet-shaped drum. Pourafar is a virtuoso on the tar, a form of the lute. Both artists have toured internationally and have extensive discographies.
Gamson's last performance in San Francisco was presented by ODC Theater in 2008. Titled Ravish, the work explores the cloistered world of the Brontë family.
Tickets for Layla Means Night, whichinclude food and beverages, are $35 if purchased before October 1, $45 after that, and $50 at the door. Ticket buyers should note that this is not a seated event. Layla Means Night is wheelchair accessible, but individuals who are unable to use stairs should contact the ODC Theater box office in advance for more information. Tickets may be purchased online at odcdance.org/buytickets.php or by calling 415-863-9834, Monday through Friday from 12 - 3pm.
Photo credit: Jose Diaz