About this project
Boney Manilli is a performance, exhibition and film inspired by pop stars and mystical icons from the 90s whose rise and fall have become synonymous with infamy. Developed during Arceneaux's long term artist residency at the Ford Theatres in Los Angeles, Boney Manilli will receive a public showing during the Ford's 2019 season, and we need your help to finalize the performance and make this project a reality!
The unlikely protagonist is loosely based on Rob Pilatus, one half of the 1990s pop duo Milli Vanilli, who, at the peak of their fame, were outed for lip syncing their music. Pilatus and his partner Fab Morvan were stripped of their awards and had numerous lawsuits filed against them, while fans burned their albums in the street. Unable to overcome the shame and infamy, Pilatus eventually died of a drug overdose in a German hotel room in 1998.
Taking the shape of a church revival, discotheque, burial ceremony, and a puppet show, performers and audience interact to move the story. In this world of unexpected connections and conflicts, the audience goes on a disco-infused journey traversing 83 years of history and fantasy, encountering a German record producer with a desire to be born in a black body, silver-voiced singers performing live music on stage, a dancer from Aruba, and a life sized marionnette, swinging across time and space by the force of the maniacal Russian monk, Rasputin.
Boney Manilli is currently in its development phase: we were able to finish the script, work on building a few scenes out of the play, and create partial design aspects. With your support, we can finish creating this project by finishing our design and build process, which includes choreography, lighting, costumes, scenic and sound, as well as pay artist fees toward our team of talented designers and our amazing acting company for hours of rehearsals and time they are committing into this project.
While Milli Vanilli are remembered as objects of ridicule, their long braids and brown bodies are singular embodiments of fraud in a corrupt industry. The project refutes the cliche of the “found-dead-artist” as we cheer Rob Pilatus on in his search for redemption.
Boney Manilli holds a mirror to our current political reality by redeeming a character that’s been thrown away by society and invites audience to explore the relationships between identity and image, appropriation and fame, reality and farce, and to examine their collective participation in historic events. When entertainment becomes national politics, what are the consequences? The performance explores the dangerous power of Entertainment when the public trust feelings more than facts -- the conditions of our current political reality.
About the artist
I was born in South Central Los Angeles and grew up looking at both the Hollywood sign and the Hubble Telescope out of my bedroom window. Growing up, I wanted to know how things work -- how the TV worked, why the past was in black and white and why certain stories got told and others didn’t. I am an artist, filmmaker and playwright who looks deep into the background in search of hidden truths. I make work about the things I discover, so audiences can go on the journey with me and find themselves in it.
In 2015 Performa NYC commissioned me to create a theater piece, something I had never done before. Out of that invitation, my first play Until, Until, Until… was created, a project that is dear to my heart. It investigated Broadway legend Ben Vereen’s 1981 performance at President Ronald Reagan’s inaugural gala, in which Vereen performed in blackface on live national television. Intended as an homage to vaudevillian Bert Williams—America’s first mainstream black entertainer—the final five minutes of the performance were censored for television, causing Vereen’s biting commentary on the history of segregation and racist stereotypes to be lost on viewers at home.
The medium of performance has allowed me to expand my practice into new creative realms and engage new audiences. The creation of Until, Until, Until… has intrigued me to engage and create my work in three different mediums: art exhibition, live performance and film, which what has brought me to create Boney Manilli. With my company, I have been developing Boney Manilli in a long-term residency with the Ford Theatres in Los Angeles.
Our team of super talented creatives, theater production designers and actors we're a total of 22!) include:
Recipient of the 2018 Los Angeles Ovation Award and NAACP Theater Award, Frank Lawson, performs in the piece, along with Henita Telo, Morgan Danielle Day, Jasmine Gatewood, Alex Barlas, Gabriel Croom and Joana Knezevic as Rasputin.
Visual Dramaturg & Costume Designer Irina Kruzhilina, a Moscow native, is a New York based costume designer for the performing arts.
Sound Designer Everett-Asis Saunders, New Music USA grant winner, who produce, compose and write songs for theater, film and music entertainment.
Video Designer Hsuan-Kuang Hsieh is a multidisciplinary artist and video designer hailing from Taiwan, who collaborates with theater artists, musicians, choreographers and filmmakers.
Scenic Designer Melanie Waingarten is an international scenic designer, architect and visual artist from Argentina.
Lighting Designer Omar Madkour is from Cairo, Egypt; currently located in Los Angeles.
Choreographer Marissa Osato, Story Development Kurt Forman, Stage & Production Manager Toran Xavier Moore, Original Music Nick Goldston, Director of Photography Solomon Turner, Puppet Designer Miguel Ayala, Photographer Aydinaneth Ortiz, Production Associate Eve Thomas.
What will your contribution support?
Your support will go to paying artists and building the intricate world of the show. Our large creative team consist of seven cast members and fifteen artistic and design collaborators. With your support, we will not only be able to realize the project, we will also be able to pay artist fees to our amazingly talented team members for their creative investment, time and tremendous commitment into our project. We need materials to build costumes, massive back drops to build rooms of numerous environments, video projectors and camera and props that bring our story to life.
Your support can be tax-deductible (less market value of merchandise) through this Kickstarter campaign and our 501(c) Fiscal Sponsor, Fulcrum Arts.
Boney Manilli, a non profit production, is co-commissioned by the Ford Theatres.
So far we have been able to keep the project development afloat through the support of Edgar’s circle of collectors and various individual funds generously donated to us. But with the collaboration we’re building through Kickstarter, we will be able to widen our outreach and build a community around the project and the story we’re telling to the public. Kickstarter helps extending our project’s outreach and also spread the word about exhibitions and performances.
PostDisco Postcard "Wish You Were Here in 1985" Featuring Edgar Arceneaux's Boney Manilli limited edition print.
Bootleg Category: Rob and Fab Kayfabe Chocolates.
Limited Edition Digital Sketch; includes Edgar's limited edition sketches and a combination of any of these behind the scenes photographs (depending on which Limited Edition you choose) of Boney Manilli in the making:
Piracy Category: Crystalized Guttenburg Bible by Edgar Arceneaux. Original Sugar Crystal Book Artwork. Blasphemy wrapped in a gorgeous candy crust for the Executive Producer credit!
Risks and challenges
Risks and challenges
We’re a large company and creative team; 7 actors, 11 artists and theater designers across various discipline and 4 producers and production managers. Each bringing in their various disciplines, commitment and labor of passion into the project. Also, Frank Farian, along with Fab Morvan and 3 Boney M singers are still alive, although the project is loosely based on their characters, this poses a risk and more responsibility for our company.
- (31 days)