Lotus at the Luke
Back in the virtual world, the Marjorie Luke Theatre this weekend unveils its eighth video presentation in its virtual concert series spotlighting local musicians and others in highly produced digital productions shot with multiple cameras and professional sound on the stage of the historic venue.
All In For Love represents the live concert full-set debut for Dakota Lotus, the 16-year-old actor-musician who starred for three years on Disney Channel’s Coop and Cami Ask The World. But it’s not his first time performing at the Luke, as he was one of the soloists in the Emmy Award-winning Teens Sing for Santa Barbara post-Thomas Fire/Debris Flow concert at the theater in 2018, when he reprised belting out the Ed Sheeran song Thinking Out Loud that he’d used to audition for Disney that morning. He returned to the Luke in August 2019 as one of the Janet Adderley school alumni performing a concert version of the music from the film Footloose, with Kenny Loggins as musical director.
All In For Love, which begins on-demand streaming on the Luke’s website for free on May 21, features the young musician fronting an all-star band of Santa Barbara veteran artists, including Randy Tico (bass/arranger), Brian Mann (keyboards/accordion), Austin Beede (drums), Ray Pannell (guitar), and Lois Mahalia (vocals), all of whom developed and arrange Lotus’ original material that ranges from hard-driving pop to introspective ballads. The concert also represents the first show in the series to feature a live audience of invited guests (including Loggins) who can be heard whooping and hollering, marking a sort of soft transition back into the real world rather than the eerie silence that greeted song breaks in previous episodes.
Lotus answered a few questions via email to preview the 12-song concert.
Q. How did growing up with a mom who was part of Cirque du Soleil influence your own relationship with the arts and desire to be an artist? And how did your years with Janet Adderley shape you?
A. I was really lucky to have the opportunity to be brought up in an environment where there was a lot of storytelling expression through art. It helped me discover myself and I’ve always had a love for performing since I was very young. I started at the Adderley School when I was five years old and was so happy to be able to express myself through music and theater with people that also shared the love of music. Working with Janet really prepared me for working on Coop and Cami and I felt very comfortable on set.
The Luke show was your first full concert as a solo artist. How was the experience compared to what you might have imagined in advance?
I have always dreamed of writing songs that I can perform live, but this concert exceeded my expectations. I truly had a great time, and I was very blessed to have amazingly talented artists accompanying me. Everyone was so supportive, and I’ve known them for a while, so it was like a reunion. I love working with the crew at the Luke.
From what I saw you didn’t seem at all intimidated by working with the band of local luminaries who have been making music together and playing behind legends like Kenny Logginssince long before you were even born. Where do you get your confidence? And how did they influence the shaping of your songs?
Well, I’ve known the band since I was seven years old, so it was really great to get back together with them for my own solo concert. It felt very natural, and they are like family to me. They are all so talented and professional and made me feel very welcome. They all brought amazing ideas to each of my songs that made them all the better and really made them come to life.
You are just 16 but have written a bunch of original songs about love and relationships. With such relatively limited life experience, what do you draw on for inspiration?
I always try to incorporate my personal life experiences into my songwriting so writing about loving or losing someone is usually true to me. I’m very passionate about storytelling and music has always been an outlet for me to express myself.
You starred in the Disney Channel’s Coop and Cami Ask the World for three years. What do you have in common with your character, and how, if at all, does that experience show up in your music?
Cooper and I have much in common. We both care for our families and always try to do what’s right, even if it means getting stuck in a tough situation, and also go through similar teenage experiences.
Going forward, how do you plan to divide your time between acting and singing?
Moving forward I hope to be working on set again soon and I will also be writing more music that will hopefully come out in the near future.
Launch Pad: Navigating War — and Life — in WWII-era Shanghai
UCSB’s Theatre’s innovative Launch Pad program — which has supported newer playwrights and their plays on a journey from incubation to professional world premiere for more than 17 years — is ready to unleash its annual Preview Production for the 2020-2021 academic year. Given the ongoing pandemic, the production takes place over Zoom, so it won’t be as fully realized as previous years, when the writer gets to watch performances and audience reactions to inform re-writes throughout the run and beyond. Still, the unofficial premiere of a significant new work is something to celebrate.
Linda Alper’s Shanghai centers around a nearly forgotten piece of World War II history of the 20,000 European Jews who were refused entry to the United States, Canada, South America, Europe, and Australia between 1937 and 1947. Only Shanghai, the city that was both colorful and corrupt, and teeming with displaced persons from around the world, accepted them without visas. Originally allowed to roam free, the Jewish refugees were eventually forced into an impoverished ghetto covering just a square mile, which they shared with 100,000 Chinese citizens. The play follows Eva Broder, an adolescent girl who grows to maturity during that decade in Shanghai, discovering how her life is interwoven with that of her Chinese neighbors, and learning what kind of responsibilities, even under extreme adversity, she has the courage to embrace. Intertwining a coming-of-age story with historical exploration gives the work its edge.
Alper, a former actress that has previously co-written adaptations and translations of Great Expectations; The Three Musketeers; William Saroyan’s Tracy’s Tiger; Eduardo De Filippo’s Saturday, Sunday, Monday; and Napoli Milionaria!, all produced at The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, as well as Talk/No Talk, a play about cultural misunderstanding, which earned a Visiting Science and Artist Grant. In a press release, Alper said that she hopes audiences will see how a piece of history from 75 years ago can inform today’s world, saying, “It’s possible for two very different cultures, who are all under their own stresses and restrictions, to come together and live together and improve one another’s lives. Differences can make us stronger.”
Director Sara Rademacher, the co-founder and former artistic director of Elements Theatre Collective, co-creator of The Outlet Project, and producing director of On The Verge Reads SB and The Home Project, had the unenviable task of trying to convey actions, connections, dancing, and even lovemaking in the isolated world of Zoom. But the staging shenanigans don’t detract from the story, she said in a video.
“I was fascinated by the history and the scale that the play covered along with the simplicity of the story. It’s always important for us to hear stories that are about the really human relatable change that everybody who grows up goes through.”
Shanghai will be performed at 7 pm on May 19 and 21-22, plus 1 pm on May 23. Q&A sessions with the author, director and cast follows the May 21-22 shows. The viewing link is accessible at https://bit.ly/3bzGBSF. Visit www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu for more details.
Simpsons to Second City to Sleuthing Satire
Tune in later on May 23 for a Launch Pad-connected Pop Up, a one-off reading of a professional playwright’s newest play — in this case The Long Isolation, written and directed by Deb Lacusta and Dan Castellaneta, longtime writers for The Simpsons. (Yes, the same Dan Castellaneta who also voices Homer, Grampa Simpson, Krusty the Clown, Barney Gumble, Mayor Quimby, and others in the animated series.) The play finds Marlowe Phillips, private detective, setting out to solve the case of a missing man, only to encounter a duplicitous, dubious cast of characters — and murder. Classic noir collides with the remote technology and green screen of these socially distanced times to result in a deadpan homage to The Lady and the Lake, shot from the detective’s point of view. The piece will be performed by improvisational comedy company The Immediate Theater in L.A., whose members include alumni of The Second City, The Groundlings, and The Spolin Players. Music is by Laura Hall of Whose Line Is It Anyway? fame. A Q&A follows the 5 pm screening. Register at launchpad.theaterdance.ucsb.edu.