Arts + Culture

Erik Sanko’s ‘The Fortune Teller’ Makes Its West Coast Premiere at UCLA Live’s International Theatre Festival Oct. 18–28


UCLALive presents the West Coast premiere of"The Fortune Teller," a macabreEdward Gorey-meets-Tim Burton marionettespectacle created and directed by former Lounge Lizards bassist and New York City puppet-makerErik Sanko, with Irish vocalist Gavin Friday narrating and a score bySanko and Grammy-winning composer DannyElfman.

Featuring a grotesque arrayof 15 artfully handcrafted figures, this darkly comic tale unfolds in afantastic Victorian world as characters representing the seven deadly sins conveneat a dead millionaire's estate to claim their inheritance as forecast by amysterious fortune-teller.

Presented as part of the UCLA Live Sixth International TheatreFestival, "The Fortune Teller"will run for 17 performances only, from Thursday, Oct. 18, through Sunday, Oct. 28, at Freud Playhouse onthe UCLA campus. The sinister puppet play presents ideal pre-Halloweenentertainment, offering an intimate performance experience with seating for 105per show. Performances run approximately 60 minutes with no intermission. Fortickets, visit,call (310) 825-2101 or contactTicketmaster.

Avant-garde musician-composerSanko's first feature-length puppet theater work, "The Fortune Teller" is a perverse, gleeful morality fable forgrown-ups that takes a twisted look at fortune and fate. One-by-one, each ofthe seven strangers is delivered what they have coming to them, but perhaps notwhat they are expecting — a brutal but suitable demise (Gluttony, a fat, smellycook, chokes to death).

Friday, the founder of thelegendary post-punk group Virgin Prunes, recorded the voice of narrator SilasLeech, an attorney represented as a besuited crocodile. The eerie, atmosphericscore was created as a collaboration between Sanko and the AcademyAward-nominated Elfman, one of Hollywood'sleading film composers.

Featuring grizzledpapier-mch faces and measuring one-third human scale (approximately 18-inchestall), the stringed cast is costumed in period garments made from worn vintageclothing, with the dapper butler wearing Sanko's old tuxedo. Their constructionis also unique and includes one of Sanko's radical innovations — athumb-controlled lever that lets the marionettes walk without the aid of twohands.

"Very few puppet theaterstake advantage of their creepy factor," Sanko told The New York Times. "I'minto how potentially creepy puppets can be. They can say things that peoplewould be uncomfortable saying."

The set, an exquisitely detailed Edwardian mansion, is actually amarionette itself, devised with strings and moving parts controlled by thepuppeteers that opens up to reveal new images and dioramas. The production wascarefully art-directed by Sanko and his wife, Jessica Grindstaff, inspired byEdward Gorey's illustrations, images of vintage eye charts and sepia-tonedpostcards. The authentically aged setting includes a room for a hunter fittedwith a wingback chair upholstered in fur and bone, pelt carpet, miniaturetrophy heads, and wallpaper that includes muskets in an intricate fleur-de-lis.

Although Erik Sanko hasbeen making puppets as a hobby since childhood, he went public as a puppeteerover the course of the last three years and has had several gallery showingsand custom-makes for eclectic art collectors. He is the recipient of a JimHenson Foundation grant, a LMCC Swing Space grant, and is a member of the HEREArtist Residency Program. In addition to his long tenure with the LoungeLizards, Sanko has performed regular gigs with John Cale and Yoko Ono and hasfronted his own band, the Grammy-nominated Skeleton Key. Sanko has beencommissioned by the Kronos Quartet to create a musical puppet piece, "DearMme.," which will premiere at the opening of the Brooklyn Academy of Music's25th anniversary Next Wave Festival in October.

Dublin-born Gavin Fridayis a prolific musician, actor and composer whose film work includes a 1993collaboration with U2's Bono on the score for Jim Sheridan's acclaimed "In theName of the Father." In 2005, Friday and longtime collaborator Maurice Seezerteamed with producer Quincy Jones to score Sheridan's 50 Cent biopic, "Get Richor Die Tryin'," and Friday played Billy Hatchet in Neil Jordan's film"Breakfast on Pluto." Friday contributed three tracks to a CD collectionproduced by Hal Willner, "Rogues Gallery: Pirate Ballads, Sea Songs andShanteys" (2006), and also worked with Willner in 2007, appearing in the concert "Forest of NoReturn — the Vintage Disney Songbook" as part of the Meltdown Festivalpresented at London's newly reopened Royal Festival Hall.

Over the last 20 years, LosAngeles native Danny Elfman has written nearly 50 film scores for majormotion pictures, including "Spider-Man," "Charlotte's Web," "Men in Black,""Good Will Hunting," "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Batman" and hascreated the infectious themes to "The Simpsons" and "Desperate Housewives." Hiswork has garnered a Grammy, an Emmy and three Academy Award nominations. For 17years, he wrote and performed with the rock band Oingo Boingo, producing suchhits as "Weird Science" and "Dead Man's Party." In 2006, Elfman released hisfirst concert piece, "Serenda Schizophrana," which premiered at Carnegie Halland has also been featured in the IMAX film "Deep Sea3D."

Performances of "The Fortune Teller" begin at 8 p.m.on Thursday and Friday, Oct. 18 and 19; 5, 7 and 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 20;3, 5 and 7 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 21; 8 p.m. from Tuesday to Friday, Oct. 23–26;5, 7 and 9 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 27; and 3 and 5 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 28.There will be no late seating due to the stage configuration.

Tickets for "The Fortune Teller" are $32. Tickets may be purchased online at,by phone at (310)825-2101, in person at the UCLA Central Ticket Office at thesouthwest corner of the James West Alumni Center and at allTicketmaster outlets. Series and choose-your-own subscription packages consistof multiple events sold at a discount, when applicable, and are on sale nowthrough Sept. 17 for $317. UCLAstudents may purchase tickets in advance for $15. Student rush tickets, subject to availability, are offered atthe same price to all students with a valid ID one hour prior to showtime.

UCLA Live's 2007–08 Sixth International TheatreFestival


        Sept. 18–Oct. 14: The National Theatre ofScotland debuts in the U.S. with the exclusiveWest Coast engagement of "Black Watch," the most talked about production onthe international theater circuit and the hit of the 2006 Edinburgh Festival."Black Watch" delivers an explosive, uncompromising look at Scotland's legendary 300-year-old Black Watchregiment after deployment to one of the bloodiest areas in Iraq. (Freud Playhouse)

        Sept. 19–23: Amsterdam's trailblazing Dood Paard (Dead Horse)presents the West Coast premiere of "medEia," an inspiredpostmodern take on the ancient Greek tragedy of Medea's love and horrifyingrevenge. (Macgowan Little Theater)

        Oct. 19–28: The celebratedRoyal Shakespeare Company, inan exclusive West Coast engagement, presents Sir Ian McKellen in newproductions of "King Lear" and "The Seagull," directed by thevisionary Trevor Nunn. (Royce Hall)

        Nov. 27–Dec. 2: Poland's meditative Teatr Zar, in its U.S.debut, performs an exclusive U.S.engagement of its transformative "Gospels of Childhood," blending acting, chanting andmovement with millennia-old polyphonic funeral songs and texts from mythology.(Freud Playhouse)

        April 9–12, 2008: "Aurlia's Oratorio," in its West Coast premiere,is an intoxicating family-oriented display of physical theater, circusacrobatics and dazzling stage invention by Aurlia Thierre and herdirector-designer mother, Victoria Thierre Chaplin. The performance is part ofUCLA Live's Design for Sharing Family Series. (Freud Playhouse)

The UCLA Live International Theatre Festival issupported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts, whichbelieves that a great nation deserves great art.


UCLA Live is aninternationally acclaimed producer and presenter of music, dance, theater andspoken word, bringing hundreds of outstanding and provocative artists to Los Angeles each year.From the ancient to the modern, the local to the global, and the underground tothe world-renowned, UCLA Live is committed to supporting the development of newand existing work by both major and emerging artists. Lectures, residencies andextensive outreach programs expand the impact of its unparalleled performances.



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