Boney Manilli is a hallucinatory mash-up that takes the shape of a church revival, discotheque, burial ceremony and a puppet show loosely centered around ‘90s pop group Milli Vanilli. Los Angeles-based artist Edgar Arceneaux invites the audience on a journey from the tombs of pop infamy to the redemption of an infamous lip-syncer, exploring the consequences of entertainment and how it animates our contemporary political moment. In this world of unexpected connections and conflicts, we traverse 83 years of history and fantasy, encountering a German record producer with a desire to be born in a black body, silver-voiced singers, a dancer from Aruba, and a life-sized marionette swinging across time and space by the force of the maniacal Russian monk Rasputin. Developed in residency at the Ford Theatres, this fantastical retelling of Milli Vanilli’s legacy reevaluates them as martyrs, exposing the pop music industry’s mechanized abuse and disposal of black bodies.
Edgar Arceneaux is an artist working in the media of drawing, sculpture and performance, whose works often explore connections between historical events and present-day truths. He played a seminal role in the creation of the Watts House Project, a redevelopment initiative to remodel a series of houses around the Watts Towers, serving as director from 1999 to 2012. Arceneaux’s second theatrical work, Boney Manilli is a thematic follow up to his 2015 piece, Until, Until, Until. It investigates the 1981 performance of Broadway legend Ben Vereen in which Vereen performed in blackface on live national television as part of Ronald Reagan’s inaugural celebration. His work has been featured at the Hammer Museum, Los Angeles; the Whitney Biennial, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York; Performa 15, New York; and the MIT List Visual Arts Center, Cambridge, Massachusetts, among other venues.
This event is part of the Ford Theatres Artist-in-Residence program, which provides local artists the space and resources to develop new work. Proceeds benefit the Ford Theatre Foundation.
8 pm to 10 pm
John Anson Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Boulevard East