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New CalArts Class Explores the Wonderful World of Talent Shows

New CalArts Class Explores the Wonderful World of Talent Shows

CalArts student Naama Attias’ project, “Ain’t Nothing Wrong with Being Beautiful,” documents child beauty pageants in Texas. Photo credit: Naama Attias. Click here for high resolution photo

Investigating themes of amateurism, aspiration, awkwardness, and adolescence, the new course culminates with CalArts’ first-ever talent show at REDCAT on April 19 at 8:30 pm.

Valencia, Calif. (March 11, 2019) – This spring, the class Talent Show, at California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), invites students of all disciplines to embrace their most unprofessional and gawky instincts and explore hidden talents that lie beyond their artistic expertise.

Talent Show explores topics such as amateurism, aspiration, awkwardness, and adolescence. With an eye toward US and global entertainment, this course will interrogate the charged relationships between freak shows, circus, talent shows, and reality TV. Fieldwork will include attending local talent shows, and visiting artists’ studios and rehearsals–with students, ultimately, joining guest artists to participate in a talent show on April 19 at REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater) in downtown Los Angeles

The class is taught by School of Art faculty Sharon Lockhart and Ariel Osterweis, faculty of the Sharon Disney Lund School of Dance.

“If you can’t find talent at CalArts, you can’t find it anywhere,” said Osterweis. “CalArts is known for its progressive ethos, but this class is about experimenting outside the avant-garde. What you find in the talent show is sometimes virtuosity and sometimes amateurism. The goal for the class and REDCAT event is for students to think beyond their usual artistic practices and rediscover talents they’ve acquired socially or in their home culture. As we’ve found, you can reach a heightened sense of criticality about the culture and your own work through a practice of amateurism.”

From concert performance to clunky experimentalism, Talent Show unites high and low. While programs like “America’s Got Talent” and “The Voice” continue to top television ratings, a recent Hollywood Reporter poll reveals viewers’ conflicted feelings about this often irresistible and frequently embarrassing reality genre—a concept this new course seeks to explore.

Visiting artists, who embrace ideas of amateurism in their own practices, will address a range of topics including dancer/choreographer Miguel Gutierrez discussing queer politics and the disavowal of virtuosity; playwright, artist and CalArts alumnx Edgar Arceneaux describing his upcoming production Boney Manilli, inspired by the infamous lip syncing pop duo Milli Vanilli; guest scholar Sarah Kessler discussing her explorations of ventriloquism; and CalArts student TA Naama Attias presenting on Texas beauty pageants.

On April 19, students will expand even farther beyond their comfort zones as they join guest artists at REDCAT for CalArts first-ever talent show. Embracing both high and low, the show is MCed by writer, comedian and skateboarder Tara Jepson. Students showcase their talents with a skateboarding musical number, dog training and salad-making performances, a dramatic duet of Chinese folk songs, theremin and kazoo improvisation, a K-Pop cover dance performance, and more. Guest artists to the class will pitch in with a solo performance from Miguel Gutierrez and actors from Edgar Arceneaux’s Boney Manilli offering a sample of their lip-synching prowess. Not to be missed special guests: sixth grade rock band Overdrive


Talent Show


Friday, April 19, 2019 at 8:30 pm


REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater)

631 West 2nd Street, Los Angeles, CA 90012

For tickets, go to

California Institute of the Arts has set the pace for educating professional artists since 1970. Offering rigorous undergraduate and graduate degree programs through six schools—Art, Critical Studies, Dance, Film/Video, Music, and Theater—CalArts has championed creative excellence, critical reflection, and the development of new forms and expressions. As successive generations of faculty and alumni have helped shape the landscape of contemporary arts, the Institute first envisioned by Walt Disney encompasses a vibrant, eclectic community with global reach, inviting experimentation, independent inquiry, and active collaboration and exchange among artists, artistic disciplines and cultural traditions.