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PANG! dan froot's triptych of live radio plays about families hungering for change

Pang! is an evening of three short plays based on the oral histories of families hungering for change in Los Angeles, Miami and Cedar Rapids. We perform the plays as if we are a radio theater company performing a live broadcast, amidst a forest of microphones, sound effects props and musical instruments. Pang! aims to raise awareness, decrease stigma, and promote cross-class dialogue around circumstances faced by families living below the poverty line.

Pang! Performances

Pang!’s scenarios

  1. A single mom and nine children are swindled into foreclosure on their Los Angeles family home of 65 years.
  2. A family makes a harrowing escape from war-torn Burundi and resettles as refugees in Eastern Iowa, which proves traumatic in its own ways.
  3. A 7 year-old boy sews seeds of hope as he fantasizes his way out of a Miami neighborhood besieged by violence and beset by racist politics.

Artist Statement

I decided to write live radio plays because I want our audiences to feel as if they are “between the ears” of our family narrators. Performing the plays live in theaters allows us to expose the storytelling process, engaging the audience on a deeper level. I am fascinated by old-fashioned live sound effects, which often involve actions and objects that don’t correspond visually with their aural effect. These sensory dislocations present rich opportunities for jarring and poetic associations.

Creating performances that focus on sound brings me back to my history as a composer and musician. All the performers will sing, play instruments, perform dialogue, and produce live sound effects. I am excited to choreograph this whorl of multidisciplinary activities into a cohesive whole – something I’m uniquely qualified to do. Through my interdisciplinary collaborations with choreographer David Dorfman, and the many other music/dance/theater pieces I have made over the past three decades, I have created a body of work that defies both expectation and categorization.

I believe life-stories have the power to dispel fear, challenge one’s values, and inspire compassion. I want to understand, from street-level, forces that come between the world’s abundance and so many of the people in our midst. There is urgency in the impulse to tell these particular stories. Bringing diverse groups of people together to listen to each others’ stories is surely an end in itself.

“I realize there’s so many out there that are hungry and on the streets and if they get that person like Dan who just reaches out to say, “Who are you, where have you been? What are you going through? Tell me your story.” He gave me the opportunity to see my life out in front of me from a whole different perspective and I was able to pick up a few of those pieces and start putting it all back together.” That quote, from a recent post-performance discussion, is from Angel, whose life story is one of five portrayed in Who’s Hungry (2012), a puppet-theater piece created in collaboration with acclaimed puppet artist Dan Hurlin. Responses like Angel’s have inspired a new project, a new format of art-making, and a deeper level of community engagement to bring the arts into the center of our civic lives.

Who’s Hungry taught me about the power of artists and arts organizations working in partnership with local social service organizations. Together we have been able to address food justice in unique and vital ways. Our performances and engagement work help reduce stigma surrounding food insecurity by promoting empathy. We affirm the efforts of those who work on behalf of food-insecure constituents, and we facilitate conversations among diverse populations – from policy makers to subscription-level theatergoers to low-income families. The new project, Pang!, deepens these local impacts and does so on a national scale.

The Company

Dan Froot (producer, playwright, performer) is a producer, writer, composer, monologist, dancer and saxophonist. He received a Bessie Award for his music/theater work Seventeen Kilos of Garlic, and a City of Los Angeles Individual Artist Fellowship and National Foundation for Jewish Culture playwriting fellowship for his gangster-vaudeville, Shlammer (2005). Dan’s music concerts, theater pieces, and performance events have been presented by leading art centers across the U.S., and in Europe, Africa and South America. He has composed numerous scores for dance and theater companies, has created an ongoing series of collaborative interdisciplinary duets with choreographer David Dorfman, and has danced, acted and played music nationally and internationally with the likes of Victoria Marks, Ralph Lemon, Yoshiko Chuma & The School of Hard Knocks, Mabou Mines, David Cale, Ping Chong & Co., and Dan Hurlin. Dan teaches at UCLA’s Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance. danfroot.com

Robert Een (composer) is a composer, singer, cellist, and performing artist known for his unique orchestrations and use of extended techniques for voice and cello. His work has been presented worldwide and has received an Obie Award for music composition, as well as two New York Dance and Performance “Bessie” Awards for music composition and sustained achievement. Een has recorded sixteen albums of genre-defying original music. He composes for film, theatre, dance and the concert stage. roberteen.com

Cricket Myers (sound design) In 2011, Cricket received a Drama Desk Award and a Tony Nomination for her design of Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo. She has been nominated for 20 Ovation Awards between 2007 and 2016. Cricket has been named Sound Designer of the Year multiple times by StageSceneLA and won the LADCC Kinetic Award for Outstanding Achievement in Theatrical Design in 2015. cricketsmyers.com

Christopher Kuhl (lighting design) is a lighting, scenic, installation and conceptual designer for new performance, theatre, dance and opera. Recent work includes Straight White Men (Young Jean Lee’s Theatre Company, The Public Theatre, Wexner Center); This Was The End (Mallory Catlett, The Chocolate Factory). In 2011 Chris was the recipient of the Sherwood, Drammy, Horton, and Ovation Awards.

Natalie Camunas (actor, on leave) Natalie Camunas is a Los Angeles native, USC graduate, and queer identified artist. As a writer, Natalie’s plays have been produced in Los Angeles, NYC, and Ireland. TV Credits: Speechless (ABC), Major Crimes (TNT), Nicky, Ricky, Dicky & Dawn (Nickelodeon). Feature Films: Bright (David Ayer), Hara-Kiri (Henry Alberto), Bruising for Besos (Adelina Anthony). Natalie writes and performs to empower and celebrate her communities. She is endlessly grateful to share her voice and use stories as tools to heal. nataliecamunas.com

Cristina Fernandez (actor, Miami) is a sassy Puerto Rican/Cuban actor and storyteller. She has worked alongside Conan O’Brien, Christopher Guest & James Franco. Recent work: Powerless, with Vanessa Hudgens (NBC), Last Night Tonight With John Oliver (HBO), A Streetcar Named Desire, (Los Angeles) and numerous national commercials. Even more recent work: catch her talking about being a first-time mom/long-time baby at open mics or anywhere there’s a microphone. She is tickled to join the cast of Pang! in Miami. Namaste to Dan, Donna, Natalie, Chris & Crew. So much love to my baby Lulu & husband. cristinafernandez.net

Donna Simone Johnson (actor) is a LA-based actress and choreographer. Most recently, she can be seen in the national Nike campaign with NFL player Dayvon Ross, and as a multi-task extraordinaire in a Walmart spot. Her stage credits include numerous regional theatre roles and national tours of High School Musical and The Lion King. Donna holds a MA in Dance Education from NYU and a MFA in Acting from CalArts. Work like Pang! feeds her soul (no pun intended), and she is grateful to Dan Froot & Company, as well as the brave families who share their stories. donnasimonejohnson.com

Christopher Rivas (actor) is an award-winning international storyteller, passionate artivist, published writer, film/television (Grey's Anatomy, Shameless, Rizzoli & Isles, 2 Broke Girls, Rosewood) and theatre actor. His artistic mission is to create and share stories that move us forward, blend boundaries, and encourage dialogue. He is the proud founder of Lifestyledezine, a community dedicated to exploring and realizing the power of compassionate storytelling. christopherrivas.com

Bobby Gordon (Dramaturge) - Bobby is a poet, performance maker, and Theatre of the Oppressed practitioner with an M.A. in Applied Theatre Arts from the University of Southern California (USC). He is a co-founder of the Melrose Poetry Bureau, teaches at UCLA in the Department of World Arts and Cultures/Dance, is the Assistant Director of UCLA’s Art and Global Health Center, and has created work with ensembles across the Americas and in South Africa.

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