WORDS BY: DENNY CRISTALES
PHOTOS BY: ANDREW LEE & KENNY MATHIESON
From Long Beach to Scotland to New York and back again, the theatre performers of Curbside know a thing or two about moving from place to place — and their latest rendition of “Flight” harbors no exception.
Delivering performances internationally and along the east coast, Ezra LeBank, head of movement at the Department of Theatre Arts at CSULB and artistic director of theatre company Curbside, and his ensemble are bringing “Flight” full circle as its run in Long Beach concludes this Sunday, Oct. 23.
Curbside utilizes visual forms of storytelling through imagery created with the body.
"For me, there's something beautiful about this middle place of telling a story and sharing the story in a way that feels a little bit magical," LeBank said. "I think the acrobatics and the movement vocabulary creates a kind of fairy dust that allows us to share stories in a way that feels surreal."
“Flight,” written and directed by LeBank and developed by Curbside's Olivia Treviño, is a site-specific production that draws inspiration from and serves as a sequel to the classic story “The Little Prince.” This sequel focuses on acrobatics and movement to tell its story — emphasizing themes of courage and love.
Taylor Casas, CSULB alumna and Curbside performer in “Flight,” has been with the theatre group for two years after accepting an invitation from LeBank to tour Scotland for a few performances.
"There's a lot that goes into it, really," Casas said of the performance preparations. "It takes time to really develop a show. A really, really good show takes years to make, rather than a really quick amount of time. It might be something now, and then you can rehearse it for another few months and then create something more and add to it and cut it up. It's almost endless. There are endless possibilities to a show."
Last year, the theatre group toured the United Kingdom and took part in the Edinburgh festival Fringe, premiering its performance of “Flight” in Scotland. The crew also performed in the New York City Fringe Festival in August and Off-Broadway shows at the city's Barrow Street Theatre in September.
The show is rooted in Long Beach, however. Curbside delivered its first full tour of “Flight” in the area at the beginning of October, although there had been preview performances in years past.
“Flight” has transformed over time, Casas said. In Curbside's performance in the UK last year, LeBank primarily served as the narrator and the sole character that interacted with the audience, while Casas and fellow performer Cynthia Price essentially mimed and expressed LeBank's words through movement.
In its new version – one that Casas touts as the superior to previous incarnations – dialogue is also distributed between her and Price, which allowed for a "stronger connection." She hopes to have another run of performances in the UK in order to showcase the new iteration of the production.
As the show nears its run on Sunday, the group is already preparing for its future run of the production next summer and fall for five festivals, LeBank said. Auditions have already concluded for the show, and a replacement for LeBank, who has been a part of “Flight” since the beginning, has already been cast.
LeBank said the show has taken on a life of its own, and it's time to "step outside of it and continue the ensemble with a different person."
"Flight will continue to have a life, and, as we create a new show, we'll see what kind of life that has in store," he said. "It's just fun building a model group of people who are training and learning to work with each other and are developing a stronger base so that we are able to get the shows that we create and perform them in the Los Angeles area, in Long Beach, in New York and tour them and give them a broader life as we make more connections all over the country."
A new show is indeed already underway. “Elements,” an ensemble production that touches on themes of climate change and the elements of earth, air, water and fire, premieres at CSULB's University Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 12. It is directed by LeBank and CSULB alumna Rebecca Nakano.
"In a fun way, it's sort of an allegory for looking at climate change and the world we're in and the continuing isolation of the natural world that we face,” LeBank said, “But done in a really vibrant, adrenaline-packed kind of a thing... it's drawn in this walled-in world we are all used to in some way or another, and nature personified fighting back."
The group of Curbside performers have been rehearsing the “Elements” production on weeknights while producing Flight during weekends. LeBank and Casas will not be featured in “Elements,” but “Flight” performer Price will be included.
LeBank said the narrative of “Elements” is about bringing a whimsical feel to an important topic.
"It's not necessarily a way of telling people that climate change is a bad thing or anything like that," LeBank said, "But it's just a way of animating it and bringing it to life so we can experience it as though it were a relationship – as though how we might deal with a friend or with a foe and sort of figuring out a way of taking the human story of these themes that challenge us in our lives and in the world."
For Casas, as the production of “Flight” nears its conclusion Sunday – the 50th time that the group will perform the show – she can't help but ponder the bittersweet idea of LeBank leaving the program and the group having to “re-calibrate” the performance for next year.
She said the energy and enthusiasm that her team exerted for the audience makes it all a worthwhile endeavor.
"It's very nice that we formed to create such a large and touching and intimate story, but that almost came out of nothing in a way," she said. "Our connection has been very fulfilling. Just taking 50 minutes of our lives just to do this show is just great. I'm always looking forward to to it when we have it on the weekends."
Tickets for “Flight” are sold out. Curbside's next show, “Elements,” will show from Saturday, Nov. 12 to Saturday, Nov. 19 at the University Theatre. Visit http://web.csulb.edu/colleges/cota/theatre/on-stage-now/ for more information.