By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Mezzo Soprano Hai-Ting Chinn says she landed the leading role of Dido in La Didone through an audition — though she admits she had been referred to the company by a mutual friend.
“We started by playing the movie [Planet of the Vampires], and we sang the opera at the same time, just to see what would happen. We did a lot of rehearsing in full costume and lights with all the tech going, because Liz throws a lot of things onto the stage to see what happens. Nothing was in any order at the beginning. We put them in some kind of order.”
Chinn says that the process of creating a Wooster show is so organic, it’s hard to track the origins of many of the ideas.
“At some point, we’re sitting around in Liz’s living room working in this way of playing it, and [actor Scott] Shepherd gets bored and picks up a ukulele from the wall, and suddenly he’s playing it. And now in the production, he’s in a silver space suit and still holding on to this ukulele the whole time.
“A lot of time, LeCompte doesn’t bother to decide, she just doesn’t forbid. Another time, she rages at how we’re not doing what she told us to do five minutes ago. She doesn’t even know if we’ve done something because we decided to, or she chose it. It’s like being in kindergarten all day.”
Not that the playground didn’t have its stresses.
“There were moments where we insisted we couldn’t do things while we were singing. Five-hour rehearsals are too much on the classical voice. Normally if we were in long rehearsals we would mark vocally; Liz had a lot of trouble because she was constantly working on sound, she needed to hear it full out. Some of the singers would admit they had a lot of trouble maybe understanding the theatrical language that Liz was speaking, and the Wooster Group thing — they work so closely together that they intuit what she means. We [the four recruited singers] didn’t have that. We had a lot of trouble trying to interpret what she was getting at when she said something. I think there were stresses from people trying to sing well, or act in a way, then being asked to do something entirely new every four minutes.”
LeCompte tries to articulate the underlying reason she does what she does: “What I want to try to do is make the theater space as vibrant and as three-dimensional as possible. I mean that socially, physically, psychologically. Most of all, I want to make it new, something I haven’t seen before, something that can’t be done in any other place.”
La Didone will be performed by the Wooster Group at REDCAT, located in the southwest corner of Disney Hall, downtown; opens Thurs., June 11, 8:30 p.m.; performances are Tues.-Sat., 8:30 p.m.; Sun., 7 p.m. (no performances June 15 & 18); through June 21. (213) 237-2800 or www.redcat.org.