Cast Set for Rogue Artists Ensemble's HAPPY FALL: A QUEER STUNT SPECTACULAR

appy Fall: A Queer Stunt Spectacular, written by Lisa Sanaye Dring and conceived and directed by Sean Cawelti, will premiere August 17.

By: Jul. 09, 2024
Cast Set for Rogue Artists Ensemble's HAPPY FALL: A QUEER STUNT SPECTACULAR
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Romance, stunts… and puppets. Rogue Artists Ensemble has revealed details for its summer co-production with the Los Angeles LGBT Center and Contemporary American Theater Festival. The world premiere of Rogue Artists Ensemble’s Happy Fall: A Queer Stunt Spectacular, written by Lisa Sanaye Dring and conceived and directed by Sean Cawelti, will premiere August 17 at the Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre in the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, where performances will continue through September 8. Four preview performances are set for August 10, August 11, August 15 and August 16.

David Ellard, Kurt Kanazawa and Amir Levi star in a story about the professional and romantic rise and fall of two queer, closeted stuntmen in the Hollywood world of faux masculinity. Placing the intoxication of film trickery and its toll on the body and psyche center stage through life-size and miniature puppetry, live video, cinematic illusions and heart-pumping physical acts, this exuberant production is a joyful tribute to the resiliency of the LGBTQIA+ community. Based on true-life stories and direct testimonies, Happy Fall illuminates issues of racial and cultural identity in the industry and uncovers the real price of a love story, unmasking the importance — and danger — of being true to oneself. Rounding out the cast are ensemble members Lucas Brahme, Carlos R. Chavez, Gabriel Croom, Kelsey Kato, Maia Luer, Candy Pain, Tiana Randall-Quant and Jerry Zou.

“As a lover of cinema and how movies are made, I’ve had a life-long fascination with stunt shows,” says Cawelti. “Their mix of humor, strong men and audience participation was a formative theatrical ingredient in my youth, perhaps one that also titillated my dormant queerness. As a young kid, I used to create mini stunt shows with special effects and puppets and tell wild stories. For me, the daring fearlessness of the stunt performer is akin to what it felt like when I was navigating coming out and understanding my own authenticity. This play has truly been a labor of love and is a very personal piece to me.”

As part of the play’s development, Cawelti interviewed over a dozen stunt performers, several closeted, who shared intimate stories about the challenges they faced in an industry that few know much about. The play has had readings sponsored by the City of West Hollywood and the City of Culver City among others, and was recently workshopped at the Skirball Cultural Center.

Coinciding with the production and sure to expand the experience, Advocate & Gochis Galleries, home to the visual arts at the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, will present a visual and mixed media art exhibit titled “Take/Action: Stunts, Spectacle and Queer History in Hollywood.” This exhibit examines the role of the action star through a distinctly queer lens, featuring interpretations of Hollywood and a look at the history of stunts by LGBTQIA+ artists. The gallery will open 45 minutes before each performance and will feature unique interactive photo opportunities, allowing you to place yourself in the movies.

Happy Fall features original music by composer Adrien Prevost, choreography by Cody Brunelle-Potter and fight direction by professional stunt performer Celina Lee Surniak, who also acts as intimacy director. The scenic design is by Keith Mitchell, and Cawelti; the latter also designs video alongside associate video designer Sam Lopez. Other members of the creative team include costume designer Andrew Jordan, lighting designer Soran Schwartz, sound designer Glenn Schuster, properties designer Lily Bartenstein, who also contributes additional scenic design, and pyrotechnician Eric Elias. Puppetry design is by Jack Pullman and Adrian Rose Leonard, with additional design and fabrication by Morgan Rebane, Greg Ballora and Kelsey Kato. Casting is by Jordan Bass, CSA. Camella Coopilton is the production manager, Matthew Richter is technical director, and Deena Tovar is the stage manager. The producer is Zach Davidson.

The production is made possible by the generosity of the Venturous Theater Fund, a fund of Tides Foundation; National Endowment for the Arts; Jim Henson Foundation; City of West Hollywood; City of Culver City; National Performance Network Creation & Development Fund; Perenchio Foundation; Skirball Cultural Center; and the LA New Play Project. Stunt equipment is provided in part by Action Factory, a one-stop action resource company providing equipment sales, rentals, and services to the entertainment industry. Audio and visual equipment are provided in part by Q-SYS. Truss was provided by Killswitch Inc., an ETCP-certified rigging company that specializes in staging supervision, production rigging and gear rental for the greater Los Angeles area. Decking provided by Accurate Staging, specializing in design and stage fabrication for every component in entertainment, production and touring, since 2001. Happy Fall’s cameras are powered by Blackmagic Design one of the world's leading innovators and manufacturers of creative video technology.

Rogue Artists Ensemble creates “hyper-theater”: original, immersive, multi-dimensional experiences that celebrate the complexity and diversity of Los Angeles. Since 2004, Rogue has differentiated itself through its dedication to creating original work responsive to the stories of its community, and by its commitment to creating design-forward theater incorporating puppetry and multimedia.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center's cultural arts department curates and produces an annual calendar of events at the Lily Tomlin/Jane Wagner Cultural Arts Center, home to the Renberg Theatre, Davidson/Valentini Theatre, and Advocate & Gochis Galleries. By engaging visual and performing arts to celebrate our community's stories, Cultural Arts creates moments of joy where LGBTQ+ people gather and thrive.

The Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, West Virginia was named one of the top theater festivals in the world by both The New York Times and American Theatre, and is shaping the future of American theater. Each summer, the Festival produces bold, new plays that spotlight daring and diverse stories in a truly fearless fashion.

Performances of Happy Fall: A Queer Stunt Spectacular take place August 17 through Sept. 8 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 p.m. Four preview performances take place on Saturday, Aug. 10 at 8 p.m., Sunday, Aug. 11 at 3 p.m., Thursday, Aug. 15 at 8 p.m.; and Friday, Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. A pay-what-you-can understudy performance will take place Sunday, Aug. 25 at 7 p.m.

Special events include: an Asian American and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander Affinity event on Sunday, Aug. 18, with a “Golden Hour” reception before the performance (2:15 p.m. start time); a pre-show reception (7:15 p.m.) and post-performance discussion hosted by the LA Guild of Puppetry on Thursday, Aug. 22; an interactive stunt demonstration with stunt coordinator Celina Lee Surniak following the 3 p.m. performance on Sunday, Aug. 25; a pre-show (7 p.m.) stunt puppet-making workshop at the Advocate & Gochis Galleries on Thursday, Aug. 29; a pre-show (7:15 p.m.) “Meet-the-Artists” celebration at the Advocate & Gochis Galleries on Friday, Aug. 30, to uplift the visual artists whose work is on display at the “Take/Action: Stunts, Spectacle and Queer History” exhibit; a pre-performance blessing from the Los Angeles chapter of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence followed by a post-show discussion on the history of drag on Saturday Aug. 31; a post-performance Rogue Artists Ensemble VIP Fundraiser celebrating 20 years of groundbreaking new work in Los Angeles on Sunday, Sept. 1 (ticketed event/separate admission; information at rogueartists.org); a post-performance conversation with Happy Fall composer Adrien Provost on Saturday, Sept. 7; and, finally, an Action Star Dress-Up event on Sunday, Sept. 8 — come dressed as your own action star and join Rogue Artists for a special fashion runway with prizes for selected winners.

The Los Angeles LGBT Center’s Renberg Theatre is located at The Village at Ed Gould Plaza, 1125 N McCadden Place, Los Angeles, CA 90038. Tickets start at $39. For more information and to purchase tickets, go to bit.ly/happyfall24.




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