Founded in 1985, Critical Mass Performance Group is a Los Angeles-based collaborative ensemble that creates category-busting new works and adaptations of classic texts. Known for its exuberant theatricality and historical-poetical subject matter, the ensemble was named 2013's Best Theatre Company by the LA Weekly.
Nancy Keystone: Founding Artistic Director / Executive Producer
We are passionately committed to theatrical inventiveness in which movement, image and text have equal weight in telling the story, to discover the most theatrical and poetic expressions that work their way through the audience's nerves. We are compelled by surprising collisions of ideas, by material which reflects humanity’s struggle to navigate a difficult world, and by untold aspects of these stories and how they relate to the American experience. We aim for work that is historically aware, politically charged, deeply felt, rigorous, accessible, and wildly entertaining. We work for as long as it takes to finish a piece, and we perform the piece at various stages of development.
In 2016 CMPG premiered AMERYKA, which was honored with awards for Production of the Year and Best Ensemble by Stage Raw, nominated for 7 Ovation Awards, including Best New Play, Production, and Ensemble, and nominated for Best Ensemble by LA Drama Critics Circle. ALCESTIS (2013) was developed at the Getty Villa Theatre Lab and premiered at Theatre @ Boston Court in Pasadena. Named in 10 Best Plays by LA Weekly, the production won a Best Adaptation Award from the LA Drama Critics Circle, the LA Weekly, and Arts In LA, and was nominated for best direction, sound/score, production design, choreography. APOLLO (2002-2009), an epic trilogy exploring the US space program, its relationship with Nazi rocket scientists, and the surprising intersection with the Civil Rights Movement, premiered Parts 1 & 2 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2005, won a Garland Award for Best New Play, and was named in the Top 10 Plays by LA Alternative Press. Part 3 premiered with the full trilogy at Portland Center Stage (Oregon) in 2009. THE AKHMATOVA PROJECT (2000), a movement-theatre piece inspired by the life and work of Russian poet Anna Akhmatova, was named one of the 10 Best Productions by the LA Times, received four LA Weekly Award nominations including Best Production, and won for Best Choreography.
Other CMPG productions: BAD MEDICINE (2014), commissioned by Heretick Theatre Lab, live-streamed with the Noir Project; PARATAXES FROM THE NEAR SIDE OF THE HEART (2015), commissioned by Stage Raw Digital Play Festival/Polish Edition; BREAD (2011), site specific interactive performance-salon, Cornerstone Theater commission; 365 DAYS/365 PLAYS #47 by Suzan-Lori Parks (2007), site specific, Angels Gate Cultural Center; adaptation of ANTIGONE (2001), Portland Center Stage; SUN SONG & STORIES OF THE SUN (1990 & 1991) community-based, multi-media festival performances); Shakespeare's MEASURE FOR MEASURE (1991) one of 10 Best Productions by LA Reader, performed in alternative spaces; Aphra Behn's THE ROVER (1990, site specific in a house); Marlowe's DR. FAUSTUS (1988, site specific, performed in a bar); Brecht's BAAL(1985).
Nancy Keystone is a director, multi-disciplinary artist, and the artistic director of Critical Mass Performance Group. She is the company's chief investigator, writer, director, and scenic designer. As a freelance artist she has directed and designed dozens of award-winning theatre productions and opera around the country including at Portland Center Stage, Center Theatre Group, Georgia Shakespeare Festival, Long Beach Opera, Actors Express, San Francisco Shakespeare Festival. Among many honors, Keystone is the recipient of a 2014 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, a United States Artists Hoi Fellowship (2011), a Theatre Communications Group Alan Schneider Director Award (2003), and she has been named one of LA Times' "Faces To Watch." She holds a BA in theatre from U.C.L.A., and an MFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon. She is on visiting faculty at UCLA, and is a frequent university guest lecturer around the country.