Staged Version of Gabriel Kahane's THE AMBASSADOR, Directed by John Tiffany, Opens Tonight at BAM
Die Hard and Blade Runner, race riots and natural disasters, urban blight and austere modernist architecture are all fodder for Gabriel Kahane's The Ambassador, a musical investigation of Los Angeles. Using street addresses as entry ways into characters as varied as James M. Cain's Mildred Pierce and the doorman at the long-defunct Ambassador Hotel, Kahane offers a dozen exquisite songs that seek to rewire our relationship to Southern California. The album, which is out now via Sony Music Masterworks, has been transformed into an evening-length stage show, currently touring the U.S.
With direction by Tony-award winner John Tiffany (Black Watch, Once) and set design by Tony-award winner Christine Jones (Spring Awakening, Queen of the Night), The Ambassador is a love letter, by turns droll and melancholic, to a city long misunderstood. It made its world premiere earlier this year at the Carolina Performing Arts, and opens tonight, December 10, at BAM for a run through December 13, 2014. The final staging will be in Los Angeles itself, at UCLA in February 2015.
Kahane was born in Los Angeles and raised on the East Coast and in Northern California. "Starting in my late teens," he writes, "I began to spend more time in LA. I found myself chasing its soul- its aspiration, its spirit, its sadness- and wanted to express that. I've always had a preoccupation with buildings, and the relationships we form with them. The songs on this album have varying narrative approaches: In 'Bradbury,' I take on the role of Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in the seminal neo-noir film Blade Runner, much of which was shot at the Bradbury Building. In 'Empire Liquor Mart,' I tell the tragic story of Latasha Harlins- a fifteen year old African-American girl shot and killed in 1991, just a year before the LA Riots- from the perspective of the deceased. It is my hope that in this multitude of voices, something new about Los Angeles is said."
Director John Tiffany began his career developing and directing new plays in Sctoland, which quickly brought him to international attention. In the National Theatre of Scotland's first season, he directed Black Watch, which won multiple Olivier and Critics Awards. For Once, which was created in the basement of a church, Tiffany won the Tony Award for Best Direction of a Musical. Recent projects include The Glass Menagerie on Broadway, which was nominated for seven Tonys. With this project, Tiffany is seeking to create a representation of the mythological LA and the vulnerable, physical LA, using film canisters, cassette tapes, piano rolls, and books to make an impressionistic topography on which Kahane and the band will perform the songs, while architectural videos are projected onto the building models. Brief recordings of text that will allow the audience to enter into new points of view will be discovered on stage.
The Ambassador is an extension of Kahane's creative trajectory in recent years. His musical, February House, which was commissioned and produced by the Public Theater in New York, devoted an entire evening to a short-lived World War II-era commune at 7 Middagh Street in Brooklyn. More generally, Kahane has found inspiration in sources as varied as Craigslist (Craigslistlieder) and the American Guide Series, published by the WPA during the Great Depression (Gabriel's Guide to the 48 States).
December 10-13, 2014 at 7:30
BAM Harvey Theater
Photo by Walter McBride.