It began as a theatre group in 2007 New York, but today the Vagrancy calls downtown Los Angeles home. Since moving here they’ve won multiple praises including several at the Hollywood Fringe Festival and the 2015 Ovation award. Their first classical production won accolades with audiences and critics. Macbeth, Shakespeare’s tragedy of human ambition and supernatural knowledge, just closed. Vagrancy’s Artistic Director sat down and answered some questions about their present, past and future.
“We came up with the name The Vagrancy,” says Caitlin Hart, artistic director and co-founder of the company, “because we are all homeless as artists, really, looking for a spiritual something in our work to make life bearable. Vagrants have been historically characterized as outsiders, and often these outsiders were the artists. In the UK in 1824, The Vagrancy Act 1824 was aimed to remove all undesirables from public view. In some East Asian and South Asian countries, the condition of vagrancy has long been historically associated with the religious life. So as Vagrants, we are a group of people who wander this city looking for a way to be inspired.”
Hart also directed the current production, Macbeth at the Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles on West First Street, an almost torturous process. “Yes it was difficult. A cast of 23 is not easy anywhere but in LA it’s especially difficult. I lost actors for various reasons, four left for film and/or regional theatre gigs. Four more left because their roles were small and had better opportunities arise. Aliyah, the fantastic actress who plays Macduff’s daughter had to leave for a weekend so we had to hire another actress for that weekend.”
Even the editing took time and cause a little controversy. “People have been using the word adaptation to describe the show,” she said. “I would consider it an aggressive cut…wanted it to be as short as possible without losing any of the plot points and I wanted it to be fast, violent and sexy. I work very intuitively so I made a Pinterest Board with a ton of images that spoke to me, found music and eras that felt right and put together a list of random ideas about scenes and characters. Then I worked with an amazing dramaturg, Amanda Padro, to make sense of it all.” In performance Macbeth ran approximately ninety minutes without an intermission.
“I think each audience member will have their own experience depending on their taste – our work tends to be polarizing – love it or hate it.”
What’s next for The Vagrancy?
“Our next production will be the world premiere of Horse by Cort Brinkerhoff. It’s a play about masculinity.” Four characters make up the cast. “Adam is a soldier recently home from his fourth tour of duty in Iraq. Weary from loneliness his wife, Kat, befriends an entrepreneurial prostitute who gets her hooked on heroin. Adam goes out drinking with his buddy and fellow soldier Jake, who had three kills in Iraq. Adam expresses regret for having zero kills. Jake persuades Adam to kill a horse as a human surrogate in order to know what killing feels like. As Adam and Kat attempt to mend their marriage, they find themselves being drawn together in ways they never intended.”
Intended for the 2017 Hollywood Fringe Festival, this fits into The Vagrancy’s artistic mission “We create visceral work that seeks to touch the human spirit. We embrace fear, vulnerability, and embarrassment – inviting the audience to experience a communion. We hope to spark a dialogue of questions and compassion, exposing a shared universal truth. We also have a focus on ‘duende’. It is a Spanish term, coined by Federico García Lorca in a lecture he gave in Buenos Aires in 1933. In reference to art, when one says something ‘tiene duende,’ it means that it has soul, and this sensibility is often attributed to flamenco music and the style of magical realism. We want our work to have that ineffable, magical, poetic quality.”
Other than Horse, The Vagrancy is still in the process of choosing plays for their next season. Hart even said “If you know of any edgy, new plays with duende – send them my way!”