Ford Theatres

Fund: $46,000

Artist Edgar Arceneaux will be in residence for five months at the Ford Theatres to develop his latest project, Boney Manilli. The Ford Theatre Foundation serves the community of Los Angeles through its support of the historic Ford Theatres. Each year, with the Foundation’s support, the Ford Theatres presents an eclectic season of culturally diverse music, dance, theatre, film, and family events. Boney Manilli’s unlikely protagonist is Rob Pilatus, one half of the 1990s pop duo Milli Vanilli, who, at the peak of their fame, were outed for lip-syncing. Pilatus and his partner Fab Morvan were stripped of their awards and unable to overcome the shame and infamy; Pilatus eventually died of a drug overdose in 1998. Hidden behind Milli Vanilli was an obscure German music producer named Frank Farian with a track record of creating—and destroying—bands with black avatars. In 1976, Farian created the disco group Boney M., comprising three backup singers and a charismatic front man, Aruban male exotic dancer Bobby Farrel. Boney M. became bestsellers, and their global popularity continued well after Farian was revealed to be Farrell’s actual singing voice. Today, Farian is still a prolific producer, while Milli Vanilli is remembered as an object of ridicule. Arceneaux’s production will take audiences on a surreal journey as Rob Pilatus, in the throes of his overdose, dreams of his own redemption. Part church revival, discotheque, burial ceremony, and puppet show, with performers and audience sharing an immersive stage, Boney Manilli will examine how artists of color have systematically been exploited by the white establishment, while also exploring the relationships between identity and image, appropriation and fame, reality and farce, and our collective participation in historic events. Part of the 2019 Artist-in-Residence program, Boney Manilli will receive a work-in-progress showing at the Ford Theatres on August 8, 2019.