Rogue Artists Ensemble announces its 2017 Season of Performances

Rogue Artists Ensemble announces its 2017 Season of Performances

Rogue Artists Ensemble Marks First Full Theatrical Season

Season begins in June, 2017 and Runs Through December 2017


MAY 3, 2017 –  LOS ANGELES, CA – The critically acclaimed and award-winning Rogue Artists Ensemble announces its first complete season of performances for 2017. The season includes one world premiere immersive production in association with East West Players, one workshop of an original site-specific adaptation commissioned by the City of West Hollywood, one reading of an original script, and a remount and reinvention of an all-ages production at the Pasadena Playhouse.

“This year will see Rogue Artists Ensemble begin what we hope will be an annual tradition of producing at least one new project per year, developing future works in open workshops and readings, and continuing our commitment to our all-ages productions and community work,” says Artistic Director Sean T. Cawelti. “Our mission is to ensure that puppet, mask, and media-infused Hyper-theater remains a vibrant component of the fabric of Los Angeles.”

The season begins in June with a new, revitalized production of one of Rogue Artists’ most enduring family performances, Zen Shorts, an adaptation of Jon J. Muth’s Caldecott-winning book, and is a co-production with the Pasadena Playhouse.

Zen Shorts  at the Tears of Joy Theatre, Portland.

Zen Shorts at the Tears of Joy Theatre, Portland.

Zen Shorts is special in that it is the only Rogue production that uses puppetry exclusively,” says Cawelti. “Audiences will get to see multiple types of puppets including Bunraku, Rod, Hand, and many others in the production.”

Following the three-week run in Pasadena, the Rogues will travel to the National Puppetry Festival in Minneapolis in July, where they have been invited to present Zen Shorts as a featured performance for a gathering of the nation’s leading puppet artists.

As an ensemble committed to developing new work, the Rogues will present two public readings in August of an in-development project penned by Ovation Award-winning playwright Meghan Brown. Cowboy Elektra, based on the classic Greek text and set against the backdrop of the old west, will feature music by Zach Lupetin of the LA-based American roots collective The Dustbowl Revival.

August will also bring a workshop production of Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta in Plummer Park in West Hollywood—a commissioned project by the City of West Hollywood as a part of The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time Los Angeles / Latin America (LA/LA) Festival, a city-wide celebration that explores the origins of Los Angeles taking place from August 2017 to January 2018.       

A loose adaptation of the book Señor Plummer: The Life and Laughter of an Old-Californian first published in 1942, which documents interviews with Eugene Plummer by writer John Preston Buschlen, the workshop will explore a site-specific and interactive theater experience in Plummer Park itself in preparation for the work's completed premiere in an upcoming season.

“Our vision for the final production is that it will transform Plummer Park into a memory map of Eugene Plummer, the park’s namesake, in an interactive experience reflecting on the changing nature of our city and residents,” says Cawelti. “The workshop will be a mixture of some fully-realized elements, as well as script-in-hand development.”

A puppet from "Hoichi the Earless" from the  Kaidan Project  workshop, December 2016.

A puppet from "Hoichi the Earless" from the Kaidan Project workshop, December 2016.

October brings the world premiere production of Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin, a multi-sensory, immersive experience based on traditional Japanese ghost stories. A co-production with East West Players, Walls Grow Thin invites small groups of 16 into a secret warehouse in Mid City, where they will experience these tales through a modern lens, up close and personal.

Walls Grow Thin has been many years in development, and co-producing with East West Players is an exciting partnership with the nation’s premier Asian American theatre organization who, like the Rogues, is dedicated to the nurturing of original work and boundary pushing stories,” says Cawelti. “The production will feature thrilling large-scale puppetry, effects, VR, and place audiences inside these stories in a way that only an immersive, site-specific piece can do. It will not be for the faint of heart."

This year Rogue Artists will once again host an annual Rogue Gala in July, with a Second Raucous Rogue honoree, as well as the annual Feed the Puppet Telethon in December, an annual holiday that spoofs retro holiday humor and 80’s telethons. Last year’s live web stream of the telethon has been seen by over 7,000 people.

Rogue Artists Ensemble’s Education Programs will continue to expand in 2017 as well, with performances of Zen Shorts and The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone in schools throughout Southern California, as well as a new roster of workshops for puppetry, mask, movement, Shakespeare, and intro to theatre.

Rogue Artists Ensemble differs from other theater companies in that it's run by a collective of multi-disciplinary artists and designers rather than by actors, writers or directors. By combining ancient storytelling techniques (music, dance, masks, puppetry) with modern technology (digital media, special effects and theatrical illusions), the Rogues cultivate a unique style of live performance unlike any other. They define the combined use of these and other underrepresented art forms as Hyper-theater. Since 2002, the Rogues have created over 20 original new works and collaborated with hundreds of artists and community members.

Past Rogue Artists Ensemble Hyper-theatrical productions include Zen Shorts, adapted from the book by Jon J. Muth, last seen in Tears of Joy Theater's 2015 season in Portland OR; Songs of Bilitis, commissioned by and work-shopped at the Getty Villa and later produced at South Coast Repertory and the Bootleg Theater; D is for Dog, designated one of the to-rated productions of 2011 by Bitter Lemons; Gogol Project, adapted by Kitty Felde from three Gogol short stories (Los Angeles Times “Critic's Choice”; Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards for adaptation and design; LA Weekly Award for design); The Tragical Comedy of Mr. Punch, adapted from the graphic novel by Neil Gaiman (recipient of 3 Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle Awards); The Victorian Hotel by Angus Oblong; and The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone, adapted from the book by Timothy Basil; and most recently Wood Boy Dog Fish adapted by Chelsea Sutton from the original The Adventures of Pinocchio (nominated for 6 stage raw awards and 3 Ovation Awards, winner of the Ovation Award Honor for Puppet Design).  

The Rogues' Artistic Director Sean T. Cawelti has won awards for his work as a designer, director and playwright and was honored with a UNIMA Citation of Excellence for directing the puppet-infused adaptation of Nicolai Gogol stories titled Gogol Project. In 2011 he was selected by the City of LA’s Cultural Affairs Department to travel to Brazil for two months to study woodcarving and Candomblé, a religion born of African and Catholic traditions. Sean was awarded the 2015 Sherwood Award by the Center Theater Group in Los Angeles for his work as a director. Sean's work has been seen at the Getty Villa, South Coast Repertory, Segerstrom Center for the Arts, Redcat, The Geffen Playhouse, New York City Opera, Chicago Opera Theater, Long Beach Opera, and the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta. He has designed puppets, masks, props and video for theater, music videos, museums, operas, concerts, and arena tours.

Rogue Artist Ensemble’s 2017 Season is made possible in part by grants from the City of Los Angeles, Department of Cultural Affairs, the Jim Henson Foundation, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, Venturous Theater Fund of Tides Foundation, the Japan Foundation, and the City of West Hollywood.


About the Productions

Presented in association with The Pasadena Playhouse

Zen Shorts

Based on Caldecott-winning book Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth
Adapted for the stage by Elizabeth Wong with Rogue Artists Ensemble
Directed by Sean T. Cawelti

Based on the Caldecott-winning book, Zen Shorts follows three siblings as they navigate the pressures of school, friendship, and the struggles of growing up. But everything changes once a Zen master panda named Stillwater moves into their neighborhood and shares three simple Zen tales that illuminate their world. Using Hyper-theatrical puppet performances, magical video projections, and original songs, Zen Shorts is an adventure filled with imagination, love, and panda philosophy.

John J. Muth is critically acclaimed author and illustrator of children’s books. He studied stone sculpture and calligraphy in Japan and studied art in Austria, Germany and England. He is also a comic book writer. His works include Zen Shorts, Zen Ghosts, and Stone Soup. His books have been translated into more than twelve languages.

Opening at the Pasadena Playhouse, Zen Shorts will have a three-week run starting June 10. Join us for a free post-show puppetry workshop in the courtyard at the Playhouse on June 10.

Celebrating its centennial this year, Pasadena Playhouse is one of the most prolific theater companies in America. Its legacy includes world premieres by beloved American playwrights Eugene O’Neil and Tennessee Williams and productions that have transferred to Broadway like Sister Act: The Musical.  In 1937, the Playhouse was officially recognized as the State Theater of California for its contribution and commitment to the dramatic arts. Today it continues that tradition of excellence under the helm of Producing Artistic Director, Danny Feldman. Dedicated to enriching lives through theater, community programs and learning, Pasadena Playhouse is a living force in the community.

Zen Shorts is made possible in part by the Los Angeles Guild of Puppetry.


Cowboy Elektra

Written by Meghan Brown with Rogue Artists Ensemble
Original Music by Zach Lupetin of The Dustbowl Revival
Directed by Sean T. Cawelti

A first look and reading of the script scheduled to premiere in 2019. Set against the backdrop of 1869 California when the railroad was on the verge of reaching the west coast, Cowboy Elektra takes place in The Palace Saloon, where Elektra’s investigation of her father’s death leads to a tragic revenge plot against her mother. The play is a fusion of Greek theater, Old West mythos, spaghetti and pulp westerns, and technology-fueled media integration.

Performed at Plummer Park’s Fiesta Hall in West Hollywood, Cowboy Elektra will have two public readings on August 5 and August 6 at 2 p.m. with live music.

Meghan Brown is an Ovation Award-winning playwright, screenwriter, and lyricist based in Los Angeles, where she is the resident playwright for Fugitive Kind Theater and a founding member of the Temblors. Her work has been described as “moving and dangerous” (John Patrick Shanley), “poetic and sensuous” (the Huffington Post), and "brilliantly crafted" (Stage Raw).

Zach Lupetin / The Dustbowl Revival has become known for their free-flowing and joyous live shows, combining their funk rhythm and brass section with a fast-picking stringband section. They have opened for bands as diverse as Lake Street Dive, Trombone Shorty and The Preservation Hall Jazz Band, toured China as a guest of the state department and headlined festivals like Delfest, Floydfest, Hardly Strictly Bluegrass, and recently Bergenfest (Norway) and Tonderfest (Denmark). 


Presented in association with WeHo Arts

Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta

Written by Diana Burbano, Tom Jacobson, and Chelsea Sutton
with Rogue Artists Ensemble
Directed by Sean T. Cawelti

A development workshop of a site-specific interactive theater experience in West Hollywood’s Plummer Park, Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta celebrates, illuminates, and magnifies the life of Eugene Plummer, the original resident of Hollywood. Told through a patchwork of tall-tales, large-scale puppets, masks, and music, Rogue Artists Ensemble electrifies Señor Plummer’s whimsical tales of early Los Angeles in a memory map of wild west duals, pirates, land-grabbing, shark-riding, epic court battles, and, of course, fiestas. Armed with only a treasure map of Señor Plummer’s mind, the adventures you’ll encounter are not always friendly, not always logical, but always exist in the vibrant, shifting ground for dreamers that is Los Angeles.

Performed in Plummer Park in West Hollywood, the workshop of Señor Plummer’s Final Fiesta will perform Thursday, August 24, Friday, August 25 and Saturday, August 26 at 7 p.m. Each performance will culminate in a fiesta featuring a local Mariachi band.

Diana Burbano, a Colombian immigrant, is an Equity actor, playwright, and teaching artist at South Coast Repertory and Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble. Full length plays: Fabulous Monsters about women in punk rock, Silueta (With Tom and Chris Shelton) about feminist artist Ana Mendieta. Policarpa which will have a Rough Draft Residency at the Drama League in May. Picture me Rollin’ was featured at the Hollywood InkFest, 2017, Other plays: Enemy|Flint, the TYA Shakespeare mash-up, Caliban’s Island, published by YouthPLAYS. Libertadoras, Vamping and Linda were written for the 365 Women a Year project and have been performed around the world. Rounds Per Second is featured in Smith and Kraus’s 5-minute play anthology.

Tom Jacobson’s Off-Broadway credits include: The Twentieth-Century Way, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre and The Theatre @ Boston Court (PEN Award for Drama). Los Angeles: The Orange Grove at Playwrights Arena, the award-winning Bunbury, Tainted Blood, Ouroboros and The Friendly Hour at The Road Theatre Company, Making Paradise:  The West Hollywood Musical at Cornerstone Theater Company, Sperm and The Chinese Massacre (Annotated) at Circle X, House of the Rising Son at Ensemble Studio Theatre-LA, Diet of Worms at Chalk Repertory, and Captain of the Bible Quiz Team at Rogue Machine Theatre Company. Film: Prairie Sonata (based on The Friendly Hour). Opera: Hopscotch, commissioned by The Industry.

(See below for bio for Chelsea Sutton.)

The City of West Hollywood delivers a broad array of arts programs through WeHo Arts—the City’s Arts Division and the City’s Arts & Cultural Affairs Commission—including: Art on the Outside/Public Art, Summer Sounds, Winter Sounds, WeHo Reads, Free Theatre in the Parks, arts grants for nonprofit arts organizations, library exhibits and programming, One City One Pride LGBTQ Arts Festival, artist opportunities, and more.


Rogue Artists Ensemble
In Association with East West Players
With Support from Venturous Theater Fund of Tides Foundation

Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin

Written by Lisa Dring, Rosie Narasaki and Chelsea Sutton

with Rogue Artists Ensemble
Directed by Sean T. Cawelti

A voice calls out through the darkness, drowning us in echoes of wells and engines and graveyards, in tangles of hair and snow, in sharp reflections of our darkest and most human moments. Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin is a multi-sensory, site specific experience refracting ancient Japanese ghost stories through a modern, multi-cultural lens, revealing the noise of our histories and the silences that haunt us. A small group enters a room alone, guided by a voice, each room a different story - will you complete the ritual?

Kaidan Project is a walking show in a secret six-story storage facility built in 1927. Audiences will travel through over 10,000 square feet of themed environments. The play is not recommended for audience members who are not comfortable with walking, ducking, navigating small spaces, standing for periods of time, loud noises, moments of complete darkness, or being alone.

Kaidan Project: Walls Grow Thin will have a four-week run with previews beginning October 5 and opening night on October 13. For more information about show dates and times, including special Halloween performances and wheelchair accessible performances, visit

Lisa Dring is a multi-disciplinary theatre artist. She has developed and written work with Circle X Theatre Co., Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Apprentice Company, One Year Lease, The Motor Company and SCF at Son of Semele. Additionally, she has performed with Humana Festival, Asolo Repertory Theater, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Rogue Artists Ensemble, Bread & Puppet, Bootleg and Theatre of NOTE. Lisa earned a BA from USC and is currently an MFA Candidate in Creative Writing at CalArts.

Rosie Narasaki is a Los Angeles-based playwright and actor. As an actor, recent highlights include a play called In Love and Warcraft, and a short film called Fish Bowl. As a writer, her play Visitation Rites is being produced by Becky & Baldwin, and her play Friend Request is currently in development with hereandnow theatre company. She can also be found extolling the many virtues of Kylie Jenner for Bustle.

Chelsea Sutton is a fiction writer, playwright, and a 2016 PEN Center USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her plays have been finalists for the O'Neill Playwrights, PlayPenn, and Seven Devils Conferences, the Ingram New Works Lab, and the Stanley Drama, Woodward/Newman Drama, and Reva Shiner Comedy awards. She was nominated for a Stage Raw Award for Wood Boy Dog Fish, an adaptation of The Adventures of Pinocchio written with Rogue Artists Ensemble. She is currently working on a short story collection entitled Curious Monsters and developing new plays with Skylight Theatre’s Playlab and Humanitas PlayLA.

Kaidan Project is supported by the Venturous Theater Fund of Tides Foundation, City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department, Los Angeles County Arts Commission, City of West Hollywood Arts Commission, the Japan Foundation, Japanese Garden in Van Nuys, the Jim Henson Foundation, and Macy's.

Founded in 1965, East West Players is the nation's longest-running professional theatre of color in the country and the largest producing organization of Asian American artistic work.

Chelsea Sutton