CAGES: LIVE From DTLA, a groundbreaking theater experience based in Los Angeles, is now going to be available in a livestream format. Developed in partnership with Veeps, L-Acoustics and Live Nation, the streaming event launches Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. PT. Tickets can be purchased here.
A product of the creative team Woolf And The Wondershow, CAGES blurs lines between genres and fluidly bridges forms of media. The show interweaves its narrative through live song, animation, projected film and more. Along the way, the experience pushes the boundaries of musical theater, refusing to occupy boxes or follow neat templates.
The drama of CAGES is set in the universe of Anhedonia, a future setting where emotions have been outlawed. Forced to keep their hearts in “cages,” residents are put into prearranged marriages by an algorithm and live in constant fear of prosecution or death.
Viewers follow the saga of Woolf, who grew up in Anhedonia as an orphan and has become a reclusive musician. One day, Woolf encounters Madeline and is stunned by her beauty. After the pair connect through music, they fight to protect their love from the ills of their dystopian world.
CAGES was developed by the team of CJ Baran and Benjamin Romans, who released the 2016 EP We Need To Talk under the name Woolf And The Wondershow. Setting up shop in a gutted former Amazon warehouse, the team set about developing their unique project. The theatrical experience was initially launched as an in-person event in fall 2019.
In a February 2020 interview with the L.A. Times, Romans spoke about the vision for the show.
“It’s a musical for people who might not like musicals,” Romans says. “Essentially, this is storytelling through modern music, and we also dress it in some pretty crazy technology.”
In an exclusive Q&A with Alternative Press, the show’s creators expanded upon this vision.
“The medium of traditional theater that we all love dearly hasn’t changed much of its rulebook since it started, especially some of musical theater,” they say. “While much of it is very progressive and inspiring, we saw an opportunity to create the kind of ‘musical’ that we would love to see with some ‘facelifts.’ Future theater is the next generation of live theater where the lines between what’s CGI and what’s reality blur.”
Modern music is certainly the highlight of the show. The score incorporates many sounds not typically heard on the theatrical stage. Of the project, the team says they had a key question in mind: “Can a musical sound like Bon Iver and Tame Impala and all the things that we love to listen to?”
In 2021, viewers were greeted by the exciting news that the show would become available in a livestream format. A July Twitter post addressed the upcoming performance as well as the saga that CAGES faced during the pandemic.
“After six months of sold-out performances and outstanding reviews of this futuristic theatre production in Los Angeles, CAGES was forced to temporarily close due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” the post reads.
The post revealed the new livestream and also expressed hope for a return to an in-person format.
“We’re working on being able to welcome you back to Anhedonia but until then, keep your heart protected and stay safe out there,” the post concludes. “We’ll see you on the stream.”
— CAGES (@CagesDTLA) July 21, 2021
CAGES: LIVE From DTLA is set to premiere Aug. 11 at 7 p.m. PT. The show can be rewatched until Aug. 19, 2021 at 11:59 p.m. PT. Tickets are available here. You can read our Q&A with Romans and Baran below.
CAGES has been characterized as “future theater.” Can you say what that phrase means to you?
The medium of traditional theater that we all love dearly hasn’t changed much of its rulebook since it started, especially some of musical theater. While much of it is very progressive and inspiring, we saw an opportunity to create the kind of “musical” that we would love to see with some “facelifts.” Future theater is the next generation of live theater where the lines between what’s CGI and what’s reality blur. In our instance, that included combining film, multidimensional sets, concert, technology, modern music production and a new approach to an experiential space to tell the story to a whole new audience of theatergoers. CAGES particularly is a musical for people that… probably don’t like musicals… and that’s the point.
COVID-19 caused major disruptions to nearly every corner of live performance, including music and theater. What were the effects of the pandemic on the project?
It took us nearly six years to get CAGES staged. We had a six-month run of performances and then had to close due to the pandemic. It was a crushing blow. During the pandemic, we locked ourselves in the studio and produced the full soundtrack cast recording, which we can’t wait to release. We also were able to figure out ways to scale the show to new markets and have been in talks with several different markets.
If you could check every box of how to make a project that would experience every hurdle of a pandemic’s disruptions, consider us valedictorians. We will spare you those details for your own well-being and mental health, as it would require a long-form literary manifesto, and instead, we recommend seeing the show and interpreting the metaphorical irony as you wish.
Livestreams have been an invaluable asset for artists and fans alike during these times. Could you speak to the importance of this stream?
This stream gives us the opportunity to make CAGES a global show. Up until now, the only way to see this show was to score tickets in Los Angeles (and be 21+), but now a 17-year-old in Berlin can see this show and spread the word to friends. Ultimately, we always saw the show expanding around the world, but this just gives it a big jump-start.
Speaking for myself, where I grew up, it was far away from concerts, my favorite bands, musicals and events. Anytime I could catch a glimpse of this world, or someone’s creation, I was fascinated, and of course, [it] made it all the sweeter when I actually got to see any performance live after the initial curiosity and excitement.
Livestreams present challenges as well as advantages when it comes to capturing performances. What opportunities does this partnership present for the project?
The challenging part of filming this show was capturing the magic. The show is laden with 3D CGI and wizardry that has never been attempted on the live stage… In films, it’s far more common, so we were hesitant to translate it to a 2D medium. Though it is very difficult to recreate this experience on a screen for reasons of physics, geometry and just human experience, we couldn’t be more excited for the story of this show to travel outside of the space and outside of Los Angeles, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, as well as the nostalgic qualities for those that have.
Thankfully with the help of Veeps and Fortress, we are able to capture something close. Our theater is also equipped with a 19.1 sound system by L-Acoustics that can never fully translate on headphones or a TV speaker. On a positive note, the stream opens CAGES up to a whole new audience. We sincerely hope it resonates the same as the live show for people.