CalArts, Bijou Theater
FILM/VIDEO: CalArts School of Critical Studies faculty member
Dear Comrade (2013) is a feature length, essay film inspired by a significant moment in California’s 'utopian' history: the creation of Llano del Rio, one of California’s most successful secular cooperative colonies. The community was founded by renowned socialist Job Harriman in 1914 and after 4 extraordinary years in the Mojave desert of California, only 75 miles from Los Angeles, colonists moved to New Llano in central Louisiana and flourished until 1937.
Dear Comrade documents this collective enterprise through a tour of the California ruins, photos and recollections of local historians and residents, voices of former colonists, and scholars of California history. However, the primary focus of the film resides not so much in the past as in the musings, questions, courage, frustrations, fantasies, and labors of many before and after Llano who have assumed comparable struggles—to forego economic and political security to craft an alternative society. Through the intersection of three different stories, a seemingly traditional documentary film morphs into a montage of parallel universes, historical re-enactments, clownery, political commentary, and a palpable desire—failings and disappointments notwithstanding—to give idealism and cooperation another try.
Mady Schutzman (Ph.D. Performance Studies, NYU) is a writer, scholar and theatre artist. She has published essays and performance texts in several journals including The Drama Review, Women and Performance, Theatre Topics, The Journal of Medical Humanities, American Communication Journal, Black Clock and Cargo, as well as in several critical anthologies. Her book The Real Thing: Performance, Hysteria, and Advertising (Wesleyan, 1999) is a feminist critique of the iconography of the female body in popular advertising. A renowned practitioner and scholar of the techniques of Augusto Boal’s Theatre of the Oppressed (TO), Schutzman is co-editor of Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism (Routledge, 1994) and A Boal Companion: Dialogues on Theatre and Cultural Politics (Routledge, 2006), and teaches the TO work at USC and Pacifica Graduate Institute, as well as at CalArts. She will be bringing her CalArts TO students to work with underprivileged youth in Santarém, Brazil, during the summer of 2012.
Schutzman has been a faculty advisor for MFA writers in CalArts’ Community Arts Partnership (CAP) since 1996. In collaboration with CAP, her play Upset! (written with the youth participants of Plaza de la Raza) received a Los Angeles Ovation Award in 2006 following its production at Plaza and REDCAT.
She recently completed a feature-length documentary essay film, Dear Comrade, inspired by one of California's most successful secular cooperative colonies, Llano del Rio. The film employs documentary conventions to tell the story of Llano, but also borrows heavily from Schutzman’s performance background: documentary subjects not only perform as themselves, but explicitly play and re-imagine themselves through improvisation and scripted scenes. Schutzman received a Dean’s Discretionary Fund Grant for Dear Comrade, which has screened in NYC, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston, Portland, OR and is headed to Toronto in February.