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In L.A. arts this fall, tech adds style and substance

September 13, 2009 |  9:00 am

In the theater, as in life, technology has been around long enough for us to have learned two lessons: It works best when there's a point behind it and you can have too much of a good thing.

The trick, as with all matters of art -- especially new art -- is figuring out the difference between excess and inspiration.

This fall, we can see productions by three very different companies hoping to reach that delicate balance by using technology both wisely and well.

California Institute of the Arts, a hot spot for art-tech innovation, is presenting "AH!" -- "an interactive opera no-opera" -- which begins Wednesday at REDCAT, the college's downtown theater. An international cast that includes nearly a dozen composer-performers and a percussion-playing robot will explore the origins of language, music and culture. They also are trying to redefine the idea of what a performance is, including when it begins and ends. You can, for instance, visit the "AH!" website and start participating now, and get a sample of "AH!" in the video above.

The venerable Los Angeles Opera is spending $32 million to present Wagner's "Ring" -- much of it on technology to keep up with the wild imagination of auteur Achim Freyer. To bring Freyer's vivid visions to life, "Siegfried" -- which opens Sept. 26 -- will offer up plenty of new tricks as well as new uses for the light tubes and super-raked deck and turntable made famous last season by the first two installments of the gods-and-gold saga.

The tiny multimedia performance group Cloud Eye Control will put on its biggest show in L.A. when "Under Polaris" opens Oct. 14 at REDCAT. This fanciful tale about a scientist rushing her precious cargo to the North Pole is really about the magical, awkward ways in which everything in life -- notably people and technology -- come together. The show blends live performance, video projection, electronic music and animals (including a dancing polar bear and the Caribou God) created by actors, animation and puppetry.

For more about these shows click here to read my story in Sunday's Arts & Books. 

-- Karen Wada


The Times' Fall Arts Preview