THE QUEST FOR CUTTING EDGE CULTURE

Yes, I do tend to search out and favor idiosyncratic stage productions, rather than the more familiar cultural offerings, as I have commented on my arts and entertainment report for public radio 99.1 KBUU, and select websites everywhere.

It is not that I don’t appreciate the attractions at the Hollywood Bowl, Disney Concert Hall , and the Pantages theatre, among the more popular venues. And I do enjoy attending them on occasion.

But as I have observed an evolving Los Angeles has become increasingly open to the staging of individualistic and experimental productions. While they may be more challenging, if not at times off putting, they should be encouraged, and for me and other culture vultures, this makes L.A. the place to be, for feeling alive.

So it was last week it was to the Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre, where the Wayne McGregor Company performed a dance concert based on the choreographer’s genome sequence. It made each selection random and unique, and as exquisitely interpreted by the supple, accomplished dancers, mesmerizing and fascinating.

And this week it is back to the Ahmanson for an equally promising experience of the Diavolo company’s Architecture in Motion, which weaves contemporary dance with dare devil gymnastics and fearless acrobatics; in the words of the choreographer, using “dance to explore the relationship between the human body and its architectural environment.”

Expect is the unexpected. What fun, and thank you Gloyra Kaufman Dance, for its continuing support of the contemporary productions.

Then next week enthusiastically recommended is the Los Angeles Master Chorale as you never heard it before, in two performance of the a cappella Renaissance masterpiece by Orlando di Lasso, “Lagrime di San Pietro,” in English, the Tears of St. Peter.

As directed by the always inventive Peter Sellars, Twenty-one singers will perform the magnum opus consisting of a madrigal cycle depicting the seven stages of grief that St. Peter experienced after disavowing his knowledge of Jesus Christ on the day of his arrest and prior to his crucifixion. It is described as a contemporary allegory for our fractious times; think the recent Senate deliberations.

Making this production particularly attractive to Malibu and Westside residents, is that it is being presented at the inviting Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, in an accessible Beverly Hills.

And for the culturally adventurous, the venue known in brief as the Wallis deserves a shout out and support, for its cutting edge offerings, which the upcoming Master Chorale production next Saturday and Sunday most definitely promises to be, and no doubt a sell out too.

 

 

 

DANCE TAKES CENTER STAGE THIS FALL

Coming very much to center stage this Fall in Southern California ever-expanding cultural scene is dance, as I herald on public radio 99.1 KBUU and websites everywhere.

Yes, the L.A Phil’s 100th anniversary is being celebrated and a challenging array of theatrical production demand attention.

Also being promoted more than ever is the spoken word, one-on-one celebrity interviews , though frankly they are hard to compete with the cacophony echoing in the nation’s capitol as mid tern elections near.

But dance as a happening stage performance can be an escape.

Certainly it is uniquely challenging, combining as it does music and movement, a feast for the ears, and eyes, and being an aging mesomorph, I am always amazed seeing what the body can do. That the engaging offerings are most definitely are increasing, is a joy.

Of particular attention tonight and this weekend, October 5 thru 7th weekend, at the Music Center’s Ahmanson Theatre, is the Company Wayne McGregor performing what promises to be a unique dance experience, most definitely for the namesake choreographer, and the audience.

 

Talk about being contemporary. McGregor has had his genetic code transformed into a computer algorithm, which will select the order of his dance performances. This will make each performance unique, as, of course, also will be the accompanying electronic music. But the fun does not stop for the Glorya Kaufman Dance season at the Music Center.

In effect doubling down on new wave performances at the Ahmanson, featured next weekend, October 12 thru the 14th, will be the West Coast premier of Diavolo Company’s Voyage, which was inspired by space travel. Also being performed will be the company’s more grounded signature piece, Trajectorie.”

Expect the unexpected, given Diavolo’s style of using dance and acrobatics “to explore the relationship between the human body and its architectural environment.”

Also expect dance to be transported to new visions this weekend at the always cutting edge Redcat Theatre, tucked under Disney Hall downtown.

There having its world premiere is choreographer David Rousseve’s Halfway to Dawn. Against a background of video imagery, nine dances are to express the spirit of the late composer Billy, Sweet Pea, Strayhorn. It promises to be provocative.

 

 

L.A. CELEBRATES ITSELF WITH A BLOCK PARTY

The curtain has lifted on Southern California’s Fall cultural scene, with an engagin array of theater, dance, music, and museum offerings, and an ubiquitous film festival, too.

If you are a culture vulture, or just curious, you have to love the seasonal calendar, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites everywhere.

But all fade this Sunday, the 30th, for what is being billed as L.A.’s biggest block party ever, with a host of sponsors headed by the L.A. Philharmonic, to mark its 100th birthday, and organized by the CICla VIA as a premier pedestrian event.

Headlined Celebrate LA, it is an eight mile street festival featuring an estimated 1.800 local-based artists, musicians and performers, doing their thing, at six site specific hubs from downtown, through Koreatown, to Hollywood and the bowl.

And it is all free and open, to an audience encouraged to walk, bicycle, ride the Metro while being constantly surprised by strolling and pop up performances everywhere. Good shoes, comfortable clothes, and sun block are recommended, and also scoring a map and program of events.

Try culturela. org or ciclavia on the web or your luck at any of the hubs. Or just winging it, and let the sights, sounds and smells be your guide. They work for me.

Festivities begin at about 9 AM at all the venues, but some of the performers move around during the day, so if you miss them one place, there is another.

If there is a mother hub, it is Grand Avenue and two outdoor stages in front of Disney Hall, where the Philharmonic ‘s brass section and the Youth Orchestra are featured. And as the day progresses, there will be dance, and jazz and pop, and funk and punk performances.

The next nearby hub of note will be at MacArthur Park, where at the Levitt Pavilion performing, among others, will be an assemblage of 130 Oaxacan dancers and musicians, and later in the day, one of my favorite bands, Ozomatli.

And so it goes, at several more hubs, classical and contemporary sounds, and sights, and also along the streets connecting them,: small ensembles of Armenian and Thai dancers, Klezmer music, gameleans from Indonesia, and, of course, the USC Trojan marching band.

For me, it all adds up to a tasty L.A. gazpacho.

WEST L.A. CULTURAL SCENE ALIVE AND DIVERSE

I might have been on hiatus for several weeks, but the very varied cultural scene in west Los Angeles certainly was not, and is not, as I observe on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere

At the Broad Stage, tomorrow is percussion personified, as the renowned TAO troupe performs its latest production, entitled Drum Heart. Expect the auditorium in Santa Monica to reverberate, with the unique Japanese sound and style.

Then on Sunday the Broad Stage will be the scene of a very different sound and presence, a classic music concert. Wrapping up its multiyear Beethoven String Quartet cycle, the acclaimed Calder Quartet will be playing a program including two of the master’s compositions.

And for a little variation, the program also will feature a string quintet, by Mozart, with a guest musician on the additional instrument of a viola. That no doubt is a reminder by the quartet that is should not to be remembered for just Beethoven.

Nor I should add should the Broad Stage should only be known for music, having last week hosted the Dance Theatre of Harlem. Revolutionary when founded 50 years ago as a home for Afro American ballet dancers then being shunned, the group continues to be, simply and boldly, outstanding.

It brought the Broad Stage to life, and the audience to its feet applauding, in a limited appearance that featured an inspired program of neo-classical and contemporary ballet. Particularly moving was the ballet “Dancing on the Front Porch of Heaven”: subtitled Odes to Love and Loss. It was as the creator Ulysees Dove had hoped, “an experience in movement, a story without words” Beautiful.

Not to be, should I say, upstaged, The Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills continues with its rich tradition of diverse dance, music and theater offerings. On my must see list is “Blues In The Night,”

Conceived and directed by Sheldon Epps, the musical bears witness to sorrowful stories of three women, and the men who have done them wrong. Featuring 26, yes, that is two dozen plus two, for a very full evening of the sexy songs made famous by Bessie Smith, Duke Ellington, and a host of famed others.

It runs until May 20th. but it promises to be an evening that you just might want to see and hear several times.

 

And for something very different, at the Skirball Cultural Center, atop Brentwood, this Sunday, is a puppet festival. Featured in addition to live music and kid workshops, will be a performance by the Bob Baker Marionette Theatre’s famed Animal Cracker Conspiracy Puppet Company. We’re talking real art and entertainment here.

 

 

GEHRY GETS ANOTHER GO FOR DOWNTOWN L.A.

Putting on my old battered hat as an architecture critic, which I was for a decade for the L.A. Times, my focus this week is downtown Los Angeles. If the ageless renown Frank Gehry can emerge as the designer of the latest addition to the hill, certainly I can, as an abiding commentator.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere, Angelenos with a memory might recall the once grand residential topped hill was lobotomized a half century ago as an urban renewal project, with the hope of becoming a mixed-use district featuring the city’s cultural attractions.

Beginning with the sprawling Music Center, distinguished by the neo-classsic trio Chandler, Ahmanhson and Mark Taper theatres, built somewhat haphazardly over the years has been MOCA and Broad museums, the Colburn school and the Disney Concert Hall.

Despite providing photo ops for tourists, and designed by the preening Gehry, the glistening, curvaceous concert hall, frankly, has not as promised activated the area. Though promoted as L.A. ‘s Champs Elysees, the districts’ principal street, Grand Avenue, is not very grand.

But there is hope. At long last after much failed planning attempts, it appears a viable design has emerged for the critical central site across from the concert hall, known as parcels Q and w-2. and labeled Grand.

And grand, if ambitious, it will be, a $1 billion stacked conceit by Gehry featuring a 39 story residential tower, of condos and apartments. and a 20 story luxury hotel , with the base of the usual high end restaurants, retail and entertainment And yes, some of the apartments will designated as affordable.

Frankly, they appear boxy and functional in the renderings, though the project-friendly facades should lend it animation and interest, so says Gehry, who after decades has produced a design that makes both financial and urbane sense. That’s at least according to the developer, Related Companies ,in partnership with the China Communications Construction Group.

Most critically for the public is the frontage of the project, and the pedestrian plaza, facing a not distinctive or welcome entrance to the concert hall. To be sure, the hall works as an iconic work of sculpture, but not particularly well as architecture, providing a space and place for people to meet and mingle.

Gehry has explained that his original plan for the concert hall indicated a very public entrance, the building to serve as a “ living room for the city.”

I incidentally cited this is my original review recommending Gehry for the project. But it sadly was not in the final design, which Gehry subsequently claimed was compromised by the client.

It seems there has been a host of his other projects included in this blame game, which over the years have made one wary of Gehry’s presentations. Architects do have a way of saying one thing, what a client or the media want or likes to hear, and then designing another.

So while hoping the Grand as designed by Gehry will indeed revitalize Bunker Hill and that L.A. at last will get a grand boulevard, we at present have to be reserved and hold back judgment.

 

 

NEW HOPE FOR THE L.A. TIMES

So, the once robust but now sadly ailing Los Angeles Times is getting a new publisher, as I comment this on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites everywhere. He is fittingly a medical doctor, though to be sure with deep pockets.

But unlike the parade of noxious carpetbaggers from chilly Chicago who never seemed to warm to sunny Southern California, the new owner, Patrick Soon-Shiong, is a certified local, having been born in South Africa of Chinese parents, and now lives in and apparently likes L.A. so much has several homes here, including one on Broad Beach, Malibu.

Well, certainly he is as local as most of the other drivers of cars in the next lane clogging the very democratic freeways, but probably having the good luck of immigrating here whenever.

That is at least before the dotard in the White House painted the appropriation “immigrant” some sort of mark of Cain, and apparently no memory of the roots of his parents Fred and Mary. According to my memory, they were of proud immigrant stock, from Germany and Scotland, and for better and worse, embraced the America’s entrepreneurial ethic.

And in the interest of public disclosure, I must add that Fred Trump employed as an interior decorator for their residential projects, my father, an immigrant, from Soviet Russia via Paris.

As an immigrant who obviously also embraced the American dream, Soon-Shiong probably experienced the common rough road to success, and thus brings to the lofty perch as publisher a pocketful of prejudices. Hopefully among them is a respect for the First Amendment, essentially our Bill of Rights, guaranteeing the freedom of the press.

But realistically there is no guarantee that the publisher being local necessarily will translate into a needed better daily newspaper, certainly not if the bottom line does not pencil out.

We as the conscious class may view a newspaper as essential to an informed population, vital to the care and feeding of a democracy. Yes, but to an owner it is essentially a business, no matter how ego inflating, indeed seductive and possibly fun, it might seem in this celebrity crazed world. May Punch Sulzberger and Katherine Graham rest in peace.

There also are other problems at the LATimes, principally its staff, which when I was its indulged design critic in the 1980s topped 1,000. In a noble quest then to be one of the nation’s more prestigious papers, (A shout out here for the stalwart stewardship of Bill Thomas Tom Johnson.) The Times pursued select journalists. This immodestly included me, having been previously a reporter with the NY Times, briefly an editor of the NY Post, and the author of several best selling urban-oriented books.

After a dozen satisfying years there, I became bored and had the luck of timing to leave, in 1991. Purely coincidentally, soon after with the rise of the internet the newspaper business faltered, the paper was unfortunately sold and fell sway to questionable managers, who slashed and burned staff to a present flailing 400.

And further out of bad judgment most who were bought or forced out were the higher paid and more experienced, the type of “writers and editors who are passionate,” according to a quote of Soon-Shiong, and that the paper desperately needs. Sadly, I find the present paper poorly edited and written.

But ever hopeful, and acutely aware of the need for a discerning press, I have renewed our subscription to the LA.Times, at least for a few months. I suggest you might want to, also.