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Bamboozled: A Night of Deception at Barnsdall Art Park
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Bamboozled: A Night of Deception at Barnsdall Art Park

Picture of Ani Mnatsakanyan
Updated: 24 April 2017
On June 25, Angelenos gathered in the beloved Barnsdall Art Park’s Gallery Theatre to enjoy a night of storytelling, art and deception in the second BAMBOOZLED: Fact. Fiction. Art? event. BAMBOOZLED is organized by the Barnsdall Art Park Foundation with a grant from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs to promote literary arts. All proceeds from the event support the Park.
Bamboozled (from left to right: Aaron Axelrod, J. Ryan Stradal, Naomi Hirahara, Gary Phillips, Jilian Lauren, and Rico Gagliano)
Bamboozled (from left to right: Aaron Axelrod, J. Ryan Stradal, Naomi Hirahara, Gary Phillips, Jilian Lauren, and Rico Gagliano) | Courtesy of the Author

Barnsdall Art Park has a longstanding dedication to serving the public. For both native and newcomer Angelenos, Barnsdall is an artistic oasis atop a hill where one finds tranquility away from the busy streets of Hollywood. Barnsdall Art Park has always promoted arts and culture; It is home to the only standing Municipal Art Gallery, offers art classes and hosts art and cultural events. In addition, it is most notably known for Frank Lloyd Wright’s famous Hollyhock House, which was recently reopened to the public this past year. Therefore, Barnsdall holds a personal significance for many people, as it provides a sense of community and friendship.

Walking through the Gallery Theatre doors on the night of June 25th, it did not take long to recognize the strong sense of community Barnsdall offers. Guests were mingling and enjoying wine and snacks. Locally beloved Skylight Books, which was present at the event, hosted a booth with books from every speaker. Since visual arts had been the predominant focus for the Park, Bamboozled was initiated to help direct some of the Park’s attention on the literary arts.

The rules of Bamboozled are quite simple: four Los Angeles-based authors each tell a story while an artist creates a live painting in the background based on the images with which the authors have provided him. At the end of the event, the audience decides which stories were factual, and which were not. Rico Gagliano, who hosted the event, kicked off the evening with a statement on Frank Lloyd Wright’s last project – the Gallery Theatre, which he later revealed was a fib. He proceeded to read the audience a list of helpful tips of how to detect a liar, which, was not completely factual either. 10 minutes into the event, the audience had already been bamboozled twice!

A live painting demonstration by artist Aaron Axelrod, who is interested in concepts of social interaction and public spaces, lasted through the live readings. The combination of Axelrod’s live painting and the speakers’ casual interactions with the audience broke down the traditional barriers that usually separate audience from performance.

Author Jillian Lauren spoke first. She recalled her first experience with boys, popularity and finding her true self through the help of the Ramones. Up next was writer Gary Phillips, who told us a story of a party he attended that was abruptly cut short due to gunshots being fired. As a result, he suddenly became a human shield for the girl he was dancing with. Mystery writer Naomi Hirahara and J. Ryan Stradal spoke after the intermission. Hirahara’s dramatic story about a murder seemed to be right out of the pages of a mystery novel, while Stradal’s heroic and heartwarming story recalled how he overcame bullying in elementary school. Both stories seem plausible, but doubt still lingered in the air.

All authors were so captivating, relatable and hilarious that, by the end of the night, it almost did not matter whether the stories were fact or fiction. However, Gagliano and the authors finally revealed the truth – all stories were true! The night concluded with three winners being chosen to take home a panel from Aaron Axelrod’s bright and beautiful artwork.

In a city as busy and fast-paced as Los Angeles, Barnsdall Art Park’s Bamboozled was a fantastic way to relax, laugh and remember to think twice about the stories people tell us.

Barnsdall Art Park, 4800 Hollywood Blvd, Los Angeles, CA, +1 323 644 6275