June 28th, 2012 | Live reviews

In a city where cultural happenings seem to pop up and disappear forever, it’s hard to believe that something as large-scale and labor-intensive as THE SERIES—the live event that brings together a massive cast of contemporary dancers, performance artists and musicians for a live show on the rooftop of The Standard hotel in downtown L.A.—is still going strong after nearly two years. But last week marked THE SERIES’ thirteenth show, and, with over seventy performers in all—including two orchestras, two dance troupes and an opera excerpt that included twenty performers—this was a SERIES for the record books.
As always, the evening was curated and produced by impresario Nicole Disson, and return director Zoe Aja Moore—who holds an MFA in directing from Cal Arts—did a spectacular job creating visual interest. The night’s seemingly endless list of contributors included singers Nicole Simone, Micky Adams and Coco Morier (who partnered with video artist Ana Rifa for the evening’s impressive finale). Poet Mathew Timmons and composer Geneva Skeen lead twenty-plus streamers-strewn performers—many carrying bullhorns—in an excerpt from a short opera they co-created, while SERIES newcomer Matt Kivel (of the band Princeton) conducted an orchestra of marimabas, toms and saxophones—six players in all—in performing a breathtaking piece of music he wrote to accompany a poem by SERIES writer-in-residence Mandy Kahn, who read the text while the musicians played.
On another part of the rooftop, composer Ali Helnwein conducted members of his Traction Avenue Chamber Orchestra while Boston Conservatory graduate Lydia Zimmer interpreted Helnwein’s music through improvisational dance. Choreographer Genevieve Carson (of the Los Angeles Contemporary Dance Company) set multiple remarkable pieces that popped up throughout the evening, including one that audiences watched through a plexiglass wall above the bar. Movie actress Tessa Thompson (For Colored Girls…) collaborated with Disson to help guide the audience through the events of the evening and performed a sweet rendition of an old jazz standard.
Sound design by John Zalewski helped glue the pieces together, while contributions by lighting designer Rachel Levy created a palpable mood. Actress and CalArts alum Gabriella Rhodeen lead a group of performers in a piece that started in the hotel’s mezzanine—including performance art on the escalator and an unforgettable sunbather stretched out on the floor of the elevator—and ended in the pool.  Artist/puppeteer Yelena Zhelezov contributed an enormously clever installation—she asked event-goers what sorts of institutions they thought should be represented downtown, and sketched new buildings onto acetate to house these institutions (the piece yielded such gems as The Diablo Center for International Cowboy Studies). Additional installations were contributed by the band Letters Vs. Numbers and the artist Future Eyes, and multiple fine artists contributed video art, which played throughout. Photos by Randal Coombs.