What people are saying...
"LA Weekly Pick of the Week... Leads you on a voyage of self-discovery."
—Neal Weaver, LA Weekly
"Personal, funny and spellbinding."
—Jeff Smith, San Diego Reader
"Absolutely wonderful... an occasion to savor and certainly not to miss."
—Lyle Zimskind, LAist
"I was unprepared for the incredibleness that is Ceremony... this is a story that MUST be experienced."
—Bob Leggett, Examiner.com
"An authentic, beautiful and meaningful time at the theater."
"Will have you on the edge of your seat, leaning in, hanging on Kass' every word."
"Ceremony is about so many things, but what stands out is the delicacy, dark humor, ease, honesty, and pure artistry and technique with which Kass weaves his tale."
"Raw, engrossing and inspired... a kick ass storyteller."
By Lyle Zimskind
The L.A. theater calendar, both in and out of Fringe season, hardly suffers from a lack of one-person confessional shows. You know, the kind in which the performer recounts the story of their life leading up to this very moment when they're talking to you as kind of a spiritual journey, full of humor and poignancy, tough life lessons learned and hard-earned hope for a brighter future. We thought we'd be OK if we never saw another one of these again.
Michael Kass's Ceremony is a textbook specimen of just this genre of performance piece we've seen too many of in recent years. The difference is, though, that this one is absolutely wonderful.
Engaging, disarming really, from the moment he walks on stage and starts gently teasing the audience, Kass elevates the boilerplate refreshing honesty and self-deprecating humor that always characterizes these pieces with a sly charisma and sure-timed storytelling panache. Even as he's describing his younger self early in the show as an insecure loveless loser, the effect isn't to generate pity or sympathy, but rather to engage us in a fascination with his own personal universe. So that later when he ventures off to Peru to partake of the legendary drug-like tea Ayahusca under the guidance of a prominent local guru and his assistants (he'd heard the stuff does the work of twenty years of therapy in just three sessions over five days), we're really excited to be going there with him.
Director Diana Wyenn, an active young veteran of the L.A. theater scene, does a masterful job pacing and visually structuring Kass's tale with only a stack of multi-colored buckets as props and a few perfectly-timed sound and light cues. A worthy lineal descendant of Spalding Gray's Swimming to Cambodia, this Ceremony is an occasion to savor and certainly not to miss.
SAN DIEGO READER, CRITIC'S PICK
By Jeff Smith
“Michael,” she said, “it’s not going to work out.”
Michael Kass was a 35-year-old white male who, along with other “First World problems,” looked to go zero-for-eternity in relationships. He had a prestigious job and the trimmings. Then one day he up and quit. To change his ways forever he flew to Peru and partook in the mystical ayahuasca tea ceremony. He heard it would be like “20 years of therapy in six hours.”
Said to taste like rotting mold, Ayahuasca contains DMT (Dimethyltryptamine). The brownish liquid’s a “graduate level hallucinogen” that makes LSD “trips” look like cheap carnival rides. People vomit – their emotional baggage, some claim – and have visions of paths and maps and cosmic unity and, as Jeremy Narby says in his controversial book Intelligence inNature: An Inquiry into Knowledge, they see entwined spirals like the “double helix” of DNA.
“The zone of what we think of as uniquely human,” Narby writes, “is gradually shrinking.” He adds that “plant communication is likely to be as complex as within a brain.” These revelations have come, in part, from research with ayahuasca.
In a performance at once personal, funny, and spellbinding, Kass literally walks you through his tea ceremony: shaman guides, freaky expectations, the sights and sounds around the circle of 19 imbibers (screaming, blithering, vomiting), and the morbid fear of being shown “who I am” face to face.
Neon Tommy--Annenberg Digital News
By Amy Gonzales
Written and performed by Michael Kass and directed by Diana Wyenn, "Ceremony" is a funny, gratifying, and incredibly genuine look into the sense of belonging, community, and purpose that we seek throughout our lives.
Performed in the hidden gem that is the Bootleg Theater, Kass opens his show by asking everyone if they grabbed a brownie on the way in— he wanted to make sure he made enough for the whole audience. Then he invites us to close our eyes and take a few deep breaths before settling in to watch the performance.
With nothing more than a series of brightly-colored buckets to accompany his words, Kass shared the story of his experience with Ayahausca Tea in the Sacred Valley of Peru, and all the moments in his life that led him there.
For those who have never heard of Ayahuasca, it is a hallucinogenic tea prepared from the bark of the Ayahuasca vine that grows in the Amazonian regions of Peru. Typically led by Shamans, Ayahuasca Tea Ceremonies are intended to be a highly spiritual, healing, and awakening experience for everyone involved.
The show is casually conversational yet wonderfully theatrical at times, with lighting and sound that transport the audience from the humdrum repetitiveness of Kass’ daily life to the mystic ambience of the Sacred Valley of Peru.
Although alone on stage during the entire performance, Kass vividly recreated all the characters essential to his story, and at times, it seems as though the stage is full with the presence of all these characters. This is executed masterfully during the tea ceremony scenes, when the story switches back and forth between the colorful, sensory, and profound hallucinogen-induced thoughts in Kass’ head to the presence of the ceremony leaders, participants, and music that fill the space during the ceremony.
The show is an absolute delight to watch. Through it is a realistic and honest insight into someone else’s personal journey to find meaning and a sense of belonging in their own life, the audience becomes a part of that community; and through the shared experience of this performance, left to ponder the things, people, and experiences that bring meaning into our own lives.
By Neal Weaver
In writer-performer Michael Kass' solo show, Ceremony, he depicts himself as a pathetic, all-around loser, until a bizarre series of encounters seems to be telling him that he must try the Peruvian drug ayahuasca. When he's dumped by his current lady-love, he impulsively books a flight to Peru and arranges to participate in a shamanistic ceremony to imbibe the ayahuasca potion. After all, he thinks, with a drug that tastes foul, makes you throw up and disables your cerebral cortex, what's not to like -- if it leads you on a voyage of self-discovery. He's a curious blend of gullibility and skepticism -- and thus avoids an overly reverential attitude that might seem merely gaga. On a bare stage, assisted only by a healthy sense of humor and a collection of multicolored plastic pails, he shows us the frightening but ultimately enlightening ayahuasca ceremony. There's nothing more difficult than conveying a transcendental experience, but Kass approaches it with a feisty, bumptious charm and considerable narrative skill. He may not make you want to rush out and try his drug of choice, but at least he takes us on an interesting ride, deftly shaped by director Diana Wyenn (who, in full disclosure, has dealt with L.A. Weekly frequently in her public relations work for REDCAT).
By Bob Leggett
My first show of the day was chosen randonmly, but as it turned out, a choice made most wisely. I was unprepared for the incredibleness that is Ceremony. True storytellers like Michael Kass are a very rare breed indeed. Not knowing what to expect from the show, I simply sat back in my chair and listened to the story unfold.
Kass' storytelling reminded me of a tribal elder, standing in the center of a gathering of his tribe as he led them through the images of his journey and the lessons learned. The mental images his words created were crystal clear. I could feel his emotions, his fear and his ultimate victory.
It was obvious that the events leading up to and including his story were powerful and had made a profound change in his life, and I was happy to learn from his experience. I left the show a little lighter from my daily burdens and ready to tackle the world. This is a story that MUST be experienced. I highly recommend that you take the time to see Ceremony.
San Diego International Fringe
Outstanding Solo Show, Winner
Hollywood Fringe Festival 2013
Duende Distinction for Playwriting, Winner
Best of Fringe Extension, Winner
Best Solo Show, Nominee
Center for Cultural Innovation
ARC Grant, Recipient
Emilie R., San Francisco
It's been awhile since I've seen something so polished, personal and just. . .GOOD. . .this is the stuff of magic. It's why we go to the theater.
ABRIELLE ANDERSON · Washington, D.C.
I'm thrilled to be part of the group that has not simply watched, but experienced, "Ceremony". Never before have I left a show feeling utter appreciation for an actor's work. The vulnerability that Kass shares with the audience is a true gift. In a word, the show is masterful.
BILL RATNER · Los Angeles, CA
GO! Michael Kass is a master storyteller, and this is his meisterwerk. Ceremony is about so many things, but what stands out is the delicacy, dark humor, ease, honesty, and pure artistry and technique with which Kass weaves his tale. He is in complete control of his sometimes very personal material. He is eminently likable on stage while telling a story that is riveting, sometimes scary, strange as hell, and yet a universal tale. And kudos on the detailed and alluring sound design as well. I work in audio, and I kept wondering, how the hell are they doing that?!?
NATALIE BAACK · Los Angeles, CA
Michael's candid, open, intimate story is heartbreaking, funny, inspiring, and moving in way that I'm not sure I've seen before. Can anyone walk away from this show without going home and buying a ticket to Peru in search of your own quest for understanding and self-love? I doubt it. Go see it. You won't regret it.
ANASTASIA COON · Los Angeles, CA
"Ceremony" is a moving and fascinating story anchored by a strong, compelling performer who takes the audience on a ride with a sure hand. Michael Kass is warm, engaging and funny - a skilled actor the audience can trust. I didn't know anything about Ayahuasca before seeing "Ceremony" and didn't need to in order to connect with the deeply human themes of finding danger and joy while taking risks, discovering compassion for ourselves, and the sheer pleasure of adventure. Go see this show for a smart funny night in the theater.
SAM FEIRSTEIN · Los Angeles, CA
Exceptional show. Kass is fearless, engaging and brutally honest, freely admitting his filthy secrets in a quest for salvation. But more than anything, it's really funny. Must see!
DENISE ARONOW · Los Angeles, CA
Michael Kass carried me along with him on a journey that covered a lot of “ground” in a short time. I felt I was flying with him, experiencing in turns, transformative moments and plummets toward the rocky bottom of reality and our shared vulnerabilities. Brilliant.
TAYLOR WILKERSON · Los Angeles, CA
This is truly a beautiful show. You walk into it, sit down, and are, quite literally, transported to Peru through Michael Kass' expert and almost magical storytelling. Even though you may think you're sitting in a small 45 seat theater in Hollywood, this show makes you feel as if you are part of that coalescing tribe gathering in an ancient Peruvian temple, awaiting to discover some inner, universal truth. It is definitely a show not to be missed. It's funny, it's touching, it's insightful. Seriously, go see it. And then go see it a second time. Trust me, it's that good. Also, props to the tech crew, because those sound cues are as numerous as they are gorgeous.
TIFFANY PHILLIPS · Los Angeles, CA
Storytelling at it's best. The moment Michael steps on stage, he has an immediate connection with his audience. He invites you into his world and when you leave, you feel as if you actually lived it. I am not a big fan of solo shows...which is ironic because I am in a solo show. For me it's easier to perform it, rather than watch it. It just takes a lot for one person to hold my attention for longer that 20 minutes. Just being honest. That being said and not to sound too cliche but Michael had me at "Hello." I was mesmerized the entire show and I related on so many levels. Now I want to go to Peru and drink that...that..."stuff" that makes you puke. lol Ok, maybe not. Michael's "trip" was good enough for me. Great job and congrats!!
AVIGAIL SCHOTZ · Los Angeles, CA
This is edge-of-seat storytelling, captivating from beginning to end. As a writer, Kass has crafted a story that weaves past and present seamlessly - as a performer he dives in with bared teeth, ripping himself open and allowing us to witness a raw, genuine spiritual transformation. The result is very moving indeed.
KRISTIN MILES PALMER · Los Angeles, CA
Ceremony isn't as good as everyone says. It’s better. As a storyteller, Michael Kass is patient and sincere, guiding the audience through his tale with a natural ease while revealing moments of self-deprecating humor and touching vulnerability. Being in the audience for this show was like listening to an incredible story told by a good friend over a couple of beers. Remarkably well-executed and endearing, Ceremony is an experience not to be missed.