Set in the lesbian bars, cop shops and street-cars of McCarthy-era Los Angeles, Concrete Folk Variations is a puppet drama written, directed and designed by Susan Simpson. Initially presented as a three-part serial, the performance in its entirety will be presented by AUTOMATA in Chinatown May 2-11, 2014.
An emotionally gripping noir, Concrete Folk Variations is told through Simpson’s intricately crafted small-scale puppets, projections and a minimalist mid-century Los Angles cityscape. This cultural excavation of the moment just before the rise of the modern gay movement unearths secret codes, clandestine homosexual societies, flamboyant transgressions and soul crushing silence, all under the looming storm of police crack-downs and public shaming. Concrete Folk Variations is a hypnotic tale of the formidable times that sparked the first calls for liberation, mapping a rich and labyrinthine culture stretching from the docks of Long Beach to the dive bars of Silver Lake.
Concrete Folk Variations centers on the laconic butch detective, Loretta Salt. When a prominent society maven and philanthropist (who secretly slums at lesbian dives) is murdered, L.A.P.D. beat cop Loretta Salt turns reluctant investigator and steps into an infested swamp of corruption, brutality and subterfuge.
This work was originally presented as a three part serial in 2008 -2009 at The Manual Archives, a micro-theater in Silver Lake. The LA Weekly wrote of part one “a tone-perfect first installment hooks our attention with a killer mystery, moody narration and fascinating historicity.”
Susan Simpson, is a critically acclaimed experimental theater artist and filmmaker whose work often involves intricate marionettes and unusual film projection. Her puppet plays have been presented in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles including numerous times at The Museum of Jurassic Technology and The Velaslavasay Panorama. Frankenstein: Mortal Toys which Simpson co-directed and designed with Janie Geiser played in Los Angeles and New York and was hailed by the New York Times as “that happy thing: an inspired melding of material and medium… Frankenstein as it might have been conceived by Joseph Cornell.” The Los Angeles Times called Simpson’s marionette play Lead Feet and Nothing Upstairs “radically inventive [and] technically virtuosic” Stage and Cinema said of Simpson’s 2010 production “Equal parts history, science-fiction, and story-telling, Exhibit A remained true to avant-garde roots… Simpson seems to understand that storytelling, regardless of its form, is the one thing audiences are craving these days.”
Concrete Folk Variations runs Thursday and Fridays at 8 pm, and Saturdays ay 3 pm and 8 pm, May 2 though 11. Tickets are $18.00; Students and Seniors are $15.00. Automata is located at 504 Chung King Court in Chinatown (Los Angeles).