Arts + Culture

"Monsters of Grace 4.0" By Philip Glass and Robert Wilson Returns to UCLA March 30 In New, Fully Animated Format

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Production includes never-before-seen 3-D computer animation.

"Exquisitely beautiful and as elusive as a dream, 'Monstersof Grace' offers what could be a glimpse of 21st-century music theater."-- San Francisco Chronicle

UCLA Performing Arts presents an encore performance of "Monstersof Grace 4.0" in its most complete, fully animated incarnation at8 p.m. Tuesday, March 30, at UCLA's Royce Hall. This digital opera in threedimensions by composer Philip Glass and designer/director Robert Wilsonincludes four never-before-seen computer-animated vignettes. "Monstersof Grace" has been co-commissioned, in part, by UCLA Performing Arts.

The production was originally presented by UCLA Performing Arts lastApril as "Monsters of Grace 1.0" during its world-premiere engagementlaunching its international tour. Since then, the production has evolvedfrom a mixed, live-action and animated work to a fully animated productionconsisting of 13 scenes which include images of deserts, rivers, junglesand cities. Running 73 minutes, "Monsters of Grace 4.0" is thelongest computer-generated stereoscopic film ever produced.

When "Monsters of Grace" premiered last April, The New YorkTimes called it "a work of mysterious possibilities; the mysteriesof this new opera are in the widening and deepening of the theatergoingexperience." The latest evolution of this work, with its completelyanimated format set to a score that connects classical music "to therest of the world," moves closer to fulfilling that promise.

Utilizing advanced digital technology developed by Silicon GraphicsInc. (originally brought to public awareness in "Jurassic Park"),"Monsters of Grace 4.0" melds high art and high technology. Accompaniedby Glass' full-length score, performed live by Glass and the Philip GlassEnsemble with vocal soloists, the work unfolds in three-dimensional, computergenerated images created by Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company and projectedonto a large screen in 70mm stereoscopic film format. Audience membersview "Monsters of Grace 4.0" through special polarized lenseswith frames designed by Gai Gherardi and Barbara McReynolds of l.a.Eyeworks.

"Monsters of Grace 4.0" is scored for amplified voices, woodwinds,keyboards, Macintosh computers, MIDI interface and custom-designed sampledPersian and other Middle-Eastern string and percussion instruments. Thelyrics for "Monsters of Grace 4.0" are based on the 13th-centurypoetry of Jalaluddin Rumi, one of the world's great poets and mystics whois credited to be the original whirling dervish.

"What interested me about Rumi's poetry is that it is really acollection of love songs," Glass said. "Devotional or romantic,they describe the transformation of the ordinary world into the realm ofthe spiritual."

"'Monsters of Grace' does what I want all theater to do,"said Jedediah Wheeler, the show's producer. "It challenges preconceptionsand subverts wisdom. The journey from inception to performance producednew ways of working that married the most advanced technology of our timewith the esthetic vision of Glass and Wilson. In a wonderful way, the Sufipoetry of Rumi, with its lessons of unfolding enlightenment, are well suitedto 'the process as performance' of our computer age. Who knew?"

"Monsters of Grace" changes the way the audience experienceslive performance, immersing them in a multi-sensory experience. "Insteadof inundating the viewer with sensational information, 'Monsters of Grace'gives the viewer the opportunity to explore and reflect through sight andsound perception," said film co-director Diana Walczak. "Addinga new dimension in theater-space is the most exciting aspect of this project;visual elements will at times appear to be within arm's reach of the viewerand at other times as far as the eye can see."

THE ANIMATION PROCESS

Every scene created for "Monsters of Grace" had a team ofat least three people working on it. Once the art department finalizedthe storyboards, a modeler was assigned to "build" the elementsof the scene using the computer software tools most suited for the task.The completed models were then handed over to an animator who choreographedand executed the desired action within the scene again within the parametersof computer technology. The final member of the team lit the scene as thoughit were a traditionally staged scene, with the added challenge of creatingthe depth, colors and textures which would occur naturally in the realworld. Depending on the complexity of the scene, the entire process tookanywhere from four to 12 weeks.

PROFILES

Philip Glass, an iconoclast among American composers, appliedhis research in India, North Africa and the Himalayas to his own work and,by 1974, had created a large body of work in a distinct idiom. Much ofhis early work was used by the Mabou Mines theater company, which he co-founded,and most of it was intended for his own performing group, the Philip GlassEnsemble. This period reached its apogee with "Einstein on the Beach."Glass' output since "Einstein" has ranged from opera, film scoresand dance music to symphonic work, string quartets and such unclassifiabletheater work as "The Photographer" and "1000 Airplanes onthe Roof." Recent work includes "Heroes," a ballet symphonyfor Twyla Tharp, which was presented by UCLA in the fall of 1996; "LesEnfants Terribles: Children of the Game," a dance opera spectacle,choreographed by Susan Marshall and presented by UCLA in the fall of 1997;"The Voyage," commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera; and theThird Symphony, premiered by the Stuttgart Chamber Orchestra. Glass' recentwork also includes two collaborations with Robert Wilson, "Monstersof Grace" and "White Raven"; a new composition for the RascherSaxophone Quartet; and "The Witches of Venice," a new balletcreated by Beni Montressor, commissioned by Teatro alla Scala. In 1995,Glass was made a Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres bythe French government.

Robert Wilson, a native of Waco, Texas, was acknowledged as oneof the leading figures in Manhattan's avant-garde theater world by thelate 1960s. Following the 1971 Paris debut of Wilson's breakthrough "DeafmanGlance," Louis Aragon wrote a posthumous letter to Andre Breton claimingthat "I have never seen anything more beautiful in the world."Following "Deafman Glance," Wilson presented a number of influentialproductions, including the seven-day play "KA MOUNTain and "GUARDeniaTerrace" (1972); "The Life and Times of Joseph Stalin,"a 12-hour silent opera performed in 1973; and his landmark "Einsteinon the Beach" (1976). After "Einstein," Wilson worked increasinglyin state-supported European theaters where he created a number of exemplaryproductions, including the multi-media epic "the CIVIL warS: a treeis best measured when it is down." Created in collaboration with aninternational group of artists and intended for inclusion in the 1984 OlympicArts Festival in Europe, the opera is considered Wilson's most ambitiousproject to date. In addition to adaptations of opera and other playwrights'works, recent projects include "Four Saints in Three Acts" (1996)and a solo adaptation of Shakespeare's "Hamlet," performed internationallyby Wilson himself. Wilson is the recipient of numerous awards and fellowships,including two Rockefeller and two Guggenheim fellowships, a Bessie Award,an Obie Award and a Drama Desk Award. In 1986, Wilson was the sole nomineefor the Pulitzer Prize in Drama for "The CIVIL warS."

Kleiser-Walczak Construction Company is a full-spectrum productioncompany specializing in high-end computer animation for feature films,TV commercials, theme park attractions, and educational and artistic projects.Under the direction of partners Jeff Kleiser and Walczak, KWCC has producedgroundbreaking animations and imagery for a multitude of high-profile projectsincluding the Columbia Pictures logo; the feature films "Stargate,""Clear & Present Danger" and "Judge Dredd"; andlocation-based entertainment ride films for Luxor Hotel in Las Vegas andthe much anticipated high-tech ride for Universal's Spiderman attraction,opening in Orlando, Fla. next year. The company specializes in the creationof life-like computer characters, which they call Synthespians T. Beginningwith the initial design work, then moving on to the sculpting and digitizingphases, these computer-generated characters are brought to life withinSilicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) workstations with state-of-the-art graphicssoftware.

Jalaluddin Rumi (1207-1273) lived in south central Anatolia (Konya,Turkey). He is one of the world's great poets and mystics and is creditedto be the original whirling dervish. Part of a long lineage of scholars,jurists and theologians, Rumi led a fairly normal life as a religious scholaruntil, at the age of 37, his life changed when he met a wandering dervish,Shams of Tabriz. "What I thought of before as God, I met today asa person," Rumi is reported to have said about his new friend. ThroughShams, Rumi discovered the inner Friend, the soul, the Beloved, a constantreminder of God's presence. Rumi began the transformation into a mysticalartist - writing poetry, listening to music, singing and whirling aroundhour after hour. Rumi's poetry was created as part of a constant, practicaland mysterious discourse with this dervish learning community. The focuschanged from stern to ecstatic, from everyday to esoteric, as the needsof the group arose. Poetry, music and movement were parts of that communaland secretly individual work of opening hearts and exploring the mysteryof union with the divine.

Jedediah Wheeler (producer) is president/CEO of InternationalProduction Associates Inc. (IPA), a management and production company formedin 1982, dedicated to the work of artists with singular vision includingGlass, Twyla Tharp, Diamanda Galás, Elizabeth Streb and Sankai Juku.In 1987, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts Inc. invited him to createSerious Fun! a festival of new performance works, which he produced forseven seasons winning an OBIE Award for Outstanding Achievement in 1993.Wheeler recently won a Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experiencefor "The Waste Land" by Fiona Shaw and Deborah Warner. In additionto "Monsters of Grace," IPA's current projects include "Tharp!""Malediction and Prayer" by Galás, "2.5 Minute Ride"by Lisa Kron, "A Huey P. Newton Story" by Roger Guenveur Smith,and "Furioso" by Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre. Wheeleris a member of the board of directors of the Association of PerformingArts Presenters, serving as co-chair of its 1998 annual conference.

Tickets for "Monsters of Grace 4.0" are available for $35and $16 (UCLA students with valid I.D.), and $75 for "premiere seats,"which include a post-concert reception with Glass to benefit UCLA PerformingArts. Tickets can be purchased at the UCLA Central Ticket Office at thesouthwest corner of the James West Alumni Center, online at <http://www.cto.ucla.edu>and at all Ticketmaster outlets. For more information or to charge by phone,call (310) 825-2101.

One phone number. Lots of entertainment options. The UCLA ArtsLine. Call (310) UCLA-ART. For more information on Center for the PerformingArts events, visit our Web site at http://www.performingarts.ucla.edu.

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