I on LA by Erika Schickel

Erika Schickel

Biased reporting from Los Angeles

HoopLA: Song, Story, Spectacle

Los Angeles is populated with art tribes. There are the actors-who-write, the writers-who-read, the musicians-who-paint, the-painters-who-jam. There are comedians who want to be taken seriously, and drama queens who want to sing opera. And of course, everybody is a writer. Los Angeles, in its sprawl, allows artists freedom to push boundaries, define art in new terms, or to blow off definition altogether. And yet, I have always noticed how the tribes kept to themselves. The actors-who-write are over at the Comedy Central Stage, and the writers-who-read are at Beyond Baroque. The singer/songwriters are at McCabe's and the poets are in the coffee houses. We keep to our own.

I arrived in Los Angeles in 1988 with little more than, “a dance belt and a tube of Chapstick” and a deep love of books and theater. Like Corky St. Clair in Waiting for Guffman, I was slammed down by New York and had dreams of finding artistic license and success in this promised land. I started out as an actress, but wandered into many different genres, disciplines and venues over the last twenty-five years. I have done performance art at Highways, radio for LA Theatre Works, standup comedy at Igby’s, literary readings at Skylight and Book Soup. I have staged talent shows and vaudeville acts, dangled from trapezes, marched in parades, and performed political theater on the capitol steps in Sacramento. I have worked in journalism, moderated literary panels, appeared in films, and voiced vampires and cartoon characters for television. I have also been an avid consumer of all this culture.

I’m not bragging, I’m just saying—I have done it all, Yo— and I have met them all, and along the way I have marveled at how separate these art tribes remain. There is no shortage of shows and reading series’, gigs, galleries, cabarets and events to attend, but where is the place that pulls it all together? Where is our local talent show?

So I have created HoopLA to bring together these tribes, these disparate groups of brilliant, talented, funny, deep humans—the artists of Los Angeles. HoopLA will be free-wheeling and tender-hearted, heady and slightly inane. I will merge old-schoolers with up-and-comers, bringing their audiences together to explore and cross-fertilize around a central idea. I want HoopLA to be a place where we can all meet each other and create new connections, both artistic and social.

My co-producer The Los Angeles Review of Books, does this every day, and very smartly, online, publishing essays and reviews on a variety of topics. Like the LA Review of Books, I want HoopLA to feel as edifying as a long form essay but also as iffy as an episode of The Gong Show. Moreover, I want it to feel as friendly and spontaneous as a potluck.

Our first show is this Saturday, May 11th, and as this is Mother’s Day weekend, our theme is “Mother.” We will offer you a smorgasbord of female fecundity. We have Amy Simon lecturing her kids, Gayle Brandeis belly dancing, Garretson & Gorodetsky singing about the animals of Los Angeles, Samantha Dunn on the maggots in her mother’s kitchen, and God alone knows what the ever-spontaneous and hilarious Sandra Tsing Loh will do. I believe a violin will be involved.

If you can’t make it out, never fear, we will do it again the second Saturday of every month at 6pm at Club Fais Do Do. Every installment has a different theme and different artists, but it will always be fun. As Corky would say, I will not deliver "a stinky product, but a beautifully packaged, glossy, sweet-smelling show."

“Hoopla” in English means “ballyhoo,” “jovial commotion,” or “excitement” – all words which I am happy to have associated with the spirit of this show. But I chose the title it for its etymology; Hoopla comes from the French phrase, “Houp La!” which means, “Get up!” It’s something a Parisian mother might bark at her truculent child. That is the spirit behind this endeavor. Let’s get up and go out and see something, do something, meet each other, make something together, have some fun. HoopLA!

Erika Schickel, The Doyenne of HoopLA


More by Erika Schickel:
Ladies of the canyon
HoopLA: Song, Story, Spectacle
The Sisterhood is Powerful
Sister Cities: A Letter to New York
Dear Sugar, teach me how to be you

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