Peace opens Sept. 10; plays Thurs.-Sat., 8 pm; until Oct. 3. Tickets: $36-$42. Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater at the Getty Villa in Malibu. 310.440.7300 or getty.edu. (Note: this play contains humor not suitable for children.)
The usually irrepressible trio of Latino zanies-Richard Montoya, Ric Salinas and Herbert Siguenza–collectively known as Culture Clash, are much more reflective as they contemplate taking on the work of Aristophanes, an irreverent and bawdy playwright from ancient Greece. “Bawdy?Â The guy invented bawdy,” chuckles Montoya. “I know it will be hard for audiences to believe this but we actually had to tone him down.”
Written in 421 B.C., Aristophanes’ Peace is a ribald and scathing theatrical assault on the entrenched military-industrial complex of Athens. For this production, the Getty Villa will be transformed into the Olympian Palace of Zeus where the brutish god of War has imprisoned the goddess Peace while imposing his militant will over all of Greece.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, a trio of rustic patriots (the boys of Culture Clash) hatches a plot to fly to the heavens, rescue the goddess and restore Peace to the land. “As is our bent, we will make some subtle illusions to this country’s current military involvements but it will be in good taste,” Montoya affirms. “We will never mention the US directly. Everything takes place in Athens, a long time ago.”
Celebrating its 25th anniversary, Culture Clash has made its mark with nearly two dozen original works that both highlight and skewer the vast panorama of Latino experiences in America. “When we are adapting another playwright’s work, we like to think of it as collaboration,” says Salinas. “We try to follow their intention but with our sensibility.”
Helping Culture Clash navigate through the intention of a comedic genius who just happened to live 1500 years ago is co-scripter John Glore, an award-winning playwright who also collaborated with the trio in the 2007 staging of Aristophanes’ The Birds for the Getty’s Villa Theater Lab series. Montoya explains, “Just like The Birds, John is taking the original text of Peace and creating a simplified, easy to follow translation which makes it more accessible for us to take and Culture Clash it. In fact, in order to better tell Aristophanes’ story, we had to beef up some of the material and add some scenes.”
“Once these guys are on their feet, they are constantly re-writing as they perform,” adds Glore. “I am just happy to provide the guideposts for them to work their magic.”
For all the liberties Culture Clash may take with the work, they are quick to express their admiration for the ideals and the socio-political vision of Aristophanes. “This guy was 27 when he wrote Peace,” says Salinas. “He didn’t care who the politicians were or who he offended. He was constantly challenging the status quo. And the people he was judging were usually sitting in the audience while he was doing it. He was imprisoned for what he said and what he wrote but he didn’t care. He just kept on sticking it to them.
“Like Aristophanes, most of our work is based in social commentary and satire. We were especially drawn to Peace because we felt it was pertinent for our time and, as one of Aristophanes’ rarely performed works, it gives us a chance to bring this play to the attention of a larger audience.”
John Fleck and Amy Hill, two highly acclaimed LA area comedic actors, will share the stage of the Villa’s Barbara and Lawrence Fleischman Theater. The production is being directed by Bill Rauch, Artistic Director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Live music will be provided by an onstage trio of singer/musicians led by Suzanne Garcia of the Grammy winning Mariachi Divas.
“We are really happy to have pulled a coup and get to work with John and Amy,” says Salinas. “This is the first time we have had the opportunity to work with them.”
An acclaimed performance artist, Fleck has won numerous grants and awards, among them two NEAs, a Getty Fellowship and a Rockefeller/NEA Interarts grant. He has won three LA Critics Circle Awards, eight Drama-Logue, six LA Weekly and two BackStage West awards, all for outstanding performance.
Hill is also a respected performance artist, having written and performed a number of one-woman shows including the autobiographical trilogy of Tokyo Bound, Reunion and Beside Myself. Film and television appearances include a featured role in the film 50 First Dates, the grandmother on the landmark TV series All American Girl and Frank Constanza’s Korean girlfriend on Seinfeld.
Peace will mark the first time Culture will be performing on the Getty Villa’s outdoor amphitheatre space. “When we did The Birds, we were indoors in the auditorium,” Siguenza recalls. “It is going to be a challenge working outdoors in the evening but it should be a lot of fun.”
Salinas adds, “And lest anyone not notice the ethnic flavor of the evening, we got three hot Latina mariachi performers on stage who will more than bring it on.”
All of the images of Bill Rauch, Amy Hill, Herbert Siquenza, John Fleck, Richard Montoya, John Glore, and Ric Salinas are courtesy of and copyright by J. Paul Getty Trust.
Article by Julio Martinez