In Los Angeles, there’s a new opportunity to bring people to the stage … and to bring the stage to people.
The new theater on wheels could be coming soon a neighborhood near you.
It’s a performance art-mobile. It’s called the Pop Wagon.
“I think anyone in theater has been fascinated with the idea of being able to pick up and go," says actor Reza Safai who helped dream up the idea of LA's moving stage. “How to do we bring the arts to places where you can’t necessarily have them because people can’t necessarily travel to the theater. So it kind of made sense: 'Let’s have a mobile stage'.”
The theater group Trade City won an LA city grant to build the Pop Wagon art truck. It made its debut at the debut of another symbol of Los Angeles mobility: the new Expo commuter train line. The Pop Wagon pulled up by the downtown LA transit stop at 7th and Figueroa. With a crowd of curious Angelenos watching, children helped cut the hot pink and bright orange ribbons wrapped around the shiny white trailer.
Push a button, down comes the stage like a drawbridge. And out pops dancers, musicians, puppeteers and more.
“We are here today to celebrate crazy ideas that can be transformed into real entities. The idea to join art and transportation in Los Angeles seemed crazy at first. But this crazy idea has since grown wheels.”
It's like a circus with performers moving on and off the stage, in a mini variety show --dancers whirling with bright flowing scarves, horns blowing, musicians jamming. Toddlers jump and bob to the music with parents nearby.
Josh Worth is executive director for Trade City Productions.He says the idea is modeled after the food truck craze in Los Angeles. " We wanted to fulfill the need people have for things that can traverse the sprawl for them so they aren’t going to have to go battle the traffic to find something that’s fulfilling whether its food or entertainment," he says. So the art will come to them. "Yeah, we plan to do more presentations we can take to parks and locations that need some art." And he says its a little like flash mob theater.
He says the art truck will hit the road once a month at first and then several times a week by the fall. Organizers plan to use Twitter and other social media to give last minute notice of Pop Wagon events. It’s spontaneous, open air, interactive, low tech.
"So the idea that we’re not going to be stuck in one neighborhood puts us in a special place as a non-profit," says Paloma Parfrey, who is on the board of Trade City Productions."It can make us go into different neighborhoods and cultures and interact within in those different communities and not just sticking to one."
She says performers can bring art to underserved communities, right to their doorstep, right to their sidewalk.
"and hopefully they will want to borrow it and do their artwork," she says. "Yeah. Collaboration, man"
And it’s free. A moving venue for any artist to put on a show – rent-free.
“It’s just, ‘Contact us and here’s this pop wagon.’” Again, Reza Safai: "Use it for whatever: dance, performance art, do a concert," he says. I feel like mobile art is much more practical in this city.
And from here, the road is wide open. The Pop Wagon theater truck can go anywhere in Los Angeles that an artist – any artist - wants to take it. Just sign up at Trade-dash-City-dot-org. And watch for “tweets” to find out where the Pop Wagon will pop up next.