words and pictures by Andy Romanoff

Art at the Rendon, opening night

Let me give you a little taste of how crazy/wonderful Art At The Rendon — STORIES is. First imagine yourself at an abandoned hotel on the east edge of downtown, a neighborhood torn between the many new buildings going up, and the remains of hundred-year-old LA. Then imagine a crew of artists and visionaries given free rein to create an experience, making a happening for you in the hallways and rooms of the hotel. Finally, throw in video projections, an opera singer, and actors playing out the lives of residents past, and all this happening right in front of your face. Then you can begin to understand why this show is special. Last night’s opening was big city fun, a pandemonium of invited guests roaming the hallways, peering into rooms, seeing slices of the imagined lives of the inhabitants.

Jacob DeMonte-Finn and Samantha Abdala @jacobskinsuit

Art at The Rendon is big and sprawling. It covers all three floors of the hotel, from the speakeasy bar on the first floor to the tiny decaying rooms on the third. There are twenty-two scenes in all, drag queens preparing to perform, moms nursing babies, a sad mad woman talking to an urn of ashes, a crime scene, more. We gathered in the courtyard/parking lot before the show, milling, talking, waiting, till suddenly the show began with the dramatic appearance of opera singer Rachael Staples Guettler on the first-floor landing. Her powerful voice brought the crowd to attention and focused us on the experience about to begin. When she finished we were free to wander the hallways and explore the environment.

Rachael Staples Guettler practices in a bedroom @staplesguettler

The experience is not unlike wandering in a souk. There is the possibility of an unexpected story, a randomness at every turn. I planned to start on the top floor, walk through and then wander down to the bar. Instead, as we climbed to the second floor a woman beckoned us to enter a hallway on the far side of the landing. We did and found ourselves in a dingy narrow passage with rooms branching off on either side. In each room, a seeming ghost of history came alive. The souk feeling of the performance is enhanced by the audience, us, wandering through the space. Audience and performer are literally face to face, so often I found myself in a room looking at everyone, as much transfixed by the faces of the watchers as of the performers.
To add to that, in some rooms there is both a door and a window so sometimes you see life being played out in front of you but oblivious to you while behind the performers audience members peer in from windows beyond the performers and they have cameras in hand to capture … all of us.

There is no time to dally here. The performance runs for an hour, barely enough time to see all the rooms let alone stay and watch someones story for a while. I would have been happy to spend twice as long seeing it all.

There is also no time to dally if you want to see this spectacle. It closes this Sunday, so make your plans now!

Art at The Rendon Friday, November 9th — Sunday, November 11th

The Rendon Hotel 2055 E. 7th Street in Los Angeles Downtown Los Angeles, CA

Tickets to STORIES are available through Eventbrite Art At The Rendon: STORIES Friday, November 9th @ 7 pm — 10 pm Saturday, November 10th @ 7 pm — 10 pm Sunday, November 11th @ 6pm — 9 pm *The event is open to the public as a ticketed fundraiser, with 100% of proceeds benefiting the local arts organizations Inner City Arts and Cornerstone Theater Company. Venue Address: The Rendon Hotel 2055 E. 7th St Los Angeles, CA 90021

Here’s a few more pictures from the opening, and you can see even more here

Johnny Cubert White’s room, color everywhere @johnnycubert
The ORACLE’s performance was powerful and moving
Cherry Sur Bete @cherrysurbete

One part of me knows it doesn’t matter if you read these stories or not, the other part thinks it might be the reason I’m here. Thanks for reading.