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The Art of Pulling Strings

Susan Simpson Premieres “Concrete Folk Variations,” a tale of homosexuality in McCarthy era Los Angeles



Ladies, you haven’t seen anything like this. With surprising realism, eerie and striking emotion, and an overall sense of genius and art, Susan Simpson has created a play and an experience like no other.


Set in the lesbian bars, cop shops and streetcars 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 the play 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 from susansimpson on Vimeo.

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. 

“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.”

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.


Simpson has received grants from the Creative Capital, Multi-Arts Performing Fund, the Durfee Foundation, The California Community Foundation, and she was the 2002 recipient of Center Theater Group's Richard E. Sherwood Award. Susan Simpson is a member of Los Angeles Performance Practice, a producing organization and artists’ network dedicated to supporting Los Angeles’ unique contemporary performance community.She teaches puppetry in the CalArts School of Theater, and is the Co-Artistic director of Automata, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the preservation and presentation of puppet theater, experimental film and other lost and neglected art forms. 


Concrete Folk Variations runs Thursday and Fridays at 8 pm, and Saturdays at 3 pm and 8 pm, May 2 though 11 atAutomata, 504 Chung King Court in Chinatown. Tickets are $18.00; Students and Seniors are $15.00.  For reservations and information, visit http://www.automata-la.org


Info: www.susanwsimpson.com

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