Boney Manilli, a dark musical comedy written and directed by CalArts alum Edgar Arceneaux (Art MFA 01), runs Thursday, Oct. 5 through Saturday, Oct. 7 at REDCAT in downtown Los Angeles.
Staged as a pop music video, puppet show, and burial ceremony, the play follows Edgar, a brooding artist who despairs at his inability to finish his script about the infamous pop music duo Milli Vanilli. Edgar’s freeloading brother Bro Bro also resolves to write his own play, adapting Disney’s controversial 1946 film Song of the South into a story of Black liberation. All the while, Momma, their mother and a once-aspiring pop singer, gradually succumbs to dementia. As their lives spiral from “pathetic to bizarre,” Edgar and Bro Bro—played by CalArts alums Alex Barlas (Theater MFA 20) and Terrence Wayne Jr. (Theater MFA 20), respectively—find their solitary searches for truth colliding with one another.
“My exploration of my mom’s dementia led me to discover its roots in various indigenous spiritual traditions, where elders who inhabit both this world and the next, are treated as shamans,” Arceneaux was quoted in the official REDCAT press release.
The development of Boney Manilli began in 2018 with a team of CalArtian cast and crew members, since evolving into several iterations. Initially a one-person performance at Hauser and Wirth, Los Angeles, and at the Lagos Theater Festival in Nigeria in 2019, the work most recently appeared as a work in progress at Vielmetter Los Angeles in 2022. The performance at REDCAT promises to be markedly different from the previous versions.
The three evenings of performances open with a disco- and 90s-themed karaoke party in the REDCAT lounge. The performance on Saturday, Oct. 7 includes a post-performance talk with Arceneaux, Barlas, and Wayne Jr. Also present will be members of the Boney Manilli creative team, of whom many are CalArtians:
- Dramaturgy: Douglas Kearney (Critical Studies MFA 04)
- Producer: Ratri Anindyajati (Theater MFA 17)
- Production Manager: Xiaoyue Zhang (Theater MFA 20)
- Assistant Production Manager: Gefei Liu (Theater MFA 24)
- Stage Manager: Macy E. Kunke (Theater MFA 24)
- Lighting Designer: Omar Madkour (Theater MFA 20)
- Costume Designer: Loren Weldon (Theater MFA 23)
- Scenic Design & Props: Yuki Ding (Theater-Art MFA 24)
- Video Designer: Kam Ying Lee (Theater-IM MFA 19)
- Puppet Artist: Miguel Ayala (Art BFA 17)
- Props Coordinator: Xiaoke Zhang (Theater BFA 25)
- Assistant Video Designer: Sedona Cruz (Film/Video BFA 24)
- Assistant Costume Designer: Raven O’Donnell (Theater BFA 25)