FOUR LARKS forges a path through the INDUSTRY'S WILDERNESS

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This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

There's something happening downtown and you need to know about it and support it!

Today, I'm talking about Four Larks remarkable, multi-disciplinary theater piece The Temptation of St. Antony." But I'm also talking about Annie Saunder's and her company Wilderness' The Day Shall Declare It or Yuval Sharon and Industry's Hopscotch and Invisible Cities. What's emerging downtown is a group of companies that are making sophisticated, multi-layered, works of art that are bending genres and enchanting audiences.

What unites these disparate works and companies?

For starters, they’re makes site specific work in and around downtown Los Angeles. They aren't working in traditional theaters and instead are using the city as their stage. Whether it's an abandoned storefront on Broadway or a 1920's warehouse off Santa Fe or the expanse of Union Station or the architecture of the Bradbury Building, these companies are eschewing the confines of theater architecture and creating their own public performance spaces. That doesn't mean there's no design, to the contrary it's some of the most vital design in LA theater. But through their work, they're connecting audiences to our city in unexpected and exciting ways.

Four Larks' THE TEMPTATION of ST ANTONY from FourLarks on Vimeo.

These companies are also playing with, or if you prefer embracing, multiple disciplines. That's a no-brainer for opera but even Yuval Sharon's works like Hopscotch are pressing against what we expect an opera to be and do. Four Larks' 'junkyard operas' are as much musical performances with beautifully orchestrated scores as their are plays. The Temptation of St. Antony and The Day Shall Declare It are as much movement pieces as they are journeys of theatrical text.

And the text, the stories, these companies are forging are far from simple linear narratives. These are stories with multiple layers and intriguing facets. Without judgement, it's the difference between MacBeth and Ulysses, both are masterpieces - just in very different ways. These companies are working more in the Joyce mold that rewards multiple viewings and resonances. The texts are both welcoming an audience on multiple levels and challenging the audience to experience a denser, fluid narrative.

Welcoming an audience, is key to all three companies. While their texts are challenging and their technique polished, their embrace of audience is refreshing. In a city like LA, where we are not accustomed to the communal public space of a subway or a walk to work, these artists recognize that putting on a show isn't enough. Our city's infrastructure demands that theater create it's own architectural prologue and epilogue for it's art. So these companies are creating spaces that welcome the individual into the collective. On the simplest level, Four Larks and Wilderness are creating places to have a drink before and after the show. On a deeper level, they’re offering an opportunity and a reward for audiences to go on their journey's. These are more than shows, they’re experiences.

So how can you experience the art these companies are creating?

Right now, buy a ticket for Four Larks' The Temptation of St. Antony before it sells out. It's a glorious remount of their show from last year and it's even better now than it was then.

Next? Keep an eye on all three of these companies. You won't be disappointed.

Four Larks' The Temptation of St. Antony plays at a secret location in downtown LA through October 2.

This is Anthony Byrnes Opening the Curtain on LA Theater for KCRW.

Running time: 75 minutes without an intermission.