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Arts and Entertainment

Son of Semele Festival Kicks Off The L.A. Theater's New Year

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Two construction workers—one Nigerian, one African-American—bitterly vie for a single contract job to build a bunk bed. A couple of advertising-obsessed women in the Burbank Olive Garden wait desperately for a celebrity sighting. Three scarred characters seek reconciliation with their own pasts as they make their way to Coldwater Canyon. And a pair of lost souls try to find each other in the ethereal space where they're trapped together.

Emerging as a tradition on the Los Angeles theater scene, the Son of Semele Ensemble's fourth annual Company Creation Festival kicks off another new year with an eclectic quartet of full-length productions by outside theater artists and companies in rotation over the course of eight weeks. The shows start tonight and run through March 2 at SoSE's Silver Lake performance venue.

Every fall, the ensemble's artistic director Matthew McCray culls a thematically and stylistically mixed bag of four proposed theater and performance projects from a slew of submitted applications to participate in the festival. McCray and the company then provide the selected productions with a full range of technical, staffing and other support so that the participating artists can go ahead and prepare their shows for the festival run without the usual administrative challenges of renting a space, assembling a production team, and the like. Almost all they have to do is create their shows.

This year's lineup offers more traditional "plays" than past festivals, which have also featured dance performances and Psittacus Productions' hit rock opera "Cyclops," a national hit after its initial festival run. A novel wrinkle this year, though, is the inclusion of improv/sketch comedy duo Velvet Pile's "A Word From Our Sponsor," their first-ever production of a single, unified theater work.

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Opening the festival this evening is MaiM Theatre Company's "Bunk," directed by Nathan Singh, who also staged "Serpentine Pink," a very different show, in last year's CCF. Mar Gómez Glez's "Coldwater" is the debut production of the new Blue Cube Theater company. And Poor Dog Group's "S.M.S.I.W.O.O.F. (SaveMySoul In a WorldOfOddFoices) or 8 bottles of vodka," by Chris-Gerard, emulates Dylan Thomas's "Under Milk Wood" in a reinvented radio play for a multitude of voices, but only two on-stage actors representing "star-crossed souls striving to find each other through texted dreams."

Each of the four shows in Son of Semele Ensemble's Company Creation Festival plays 6-10 times between tonight and March 2. A four-show festival pass is $35, or individual performance tickets are available online for $18-$23 each.