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.

 

 

 

PLANNING IN MALIBU: HOPE OVER EXPERIENCE

Being observed in particular these days is the 18 acre so called Christmas tree lot at the southeast corner of Heathercliff and PCH, now that the city has purchased it and revealed, surprise, it does not have to be used for a Metro park-and-ride site.

That use originally disclosed by city manager Reva Feldman was suppose to be in return for the city receiving $2 million from Metro toward the total purchase price of $42 million for the lot and two other commercial zoned parcels in the city.

As I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, the purchase was ostensibly deemed a good deal, approved by our neophyte, undiscerning council; no one at least publicly wants to see more commercial development in Malibu.

But it was subsequently made clear that residents do not want it paved over for a not needed park-and-ride lot. And there are other considerations, dare I mention aesthetic in this age of philistines, for some sort of eco friendly project to serve as a focal point for public use and pride.

Beyond its seasonal use for the overpriced sale of forlorn fir trees, the lot has to be one of the non descript blights among many that mark the city’s fragmented PCH façade.

Yes, Malibu’s spectacular seacoast setting of sprawling beaches set beneath a backdrop of striking mountains distinguishes it as a singular rural seacoast village, arguably one of the prettiest and pricey settings in the world: as the city’s gateway signs proclaim: “21 miles of scene beauty.”

But by any architecture and landscape measures, most of meandering PCH through Malibu is sadly unsightly, studded with strip commercial, off-putting restaurants, bland housing, and vacant lots mooning its main street:

21 miles of schlock that if its wasn’t for glimpses of water would be not much different than most of Southern California’s inland sprawl,

So the central question is: whither the Christmas Tree Lot at the ignominious ugly entry to Pt. Dume? Will it be used for a community amenity or just as another political exercise for a paper shuffling bloated Malibu City Hall? And where is that “robust and transparent” community dialogue promised? Or is it just more bureaucratic b.s?.

It should be noted that some interesting ideas for the lot have been proffered in the social media and in response to KBUU commentaries. And some respected design locals have indicated they would volunteer their talents in an open planning effort, a welcomed gesture of hope over experience.

One does have to be wary, given the city’s nefarious history of subterfuge and obfuscation, hiring servile staff and consultants, yielding to special interests behind closed doors, and generally compromising the Malibu.

Governance in Malibu is clouded, and not a pretty picture, and as a result neither is the Malibu cityscape. Perhaps the promised planning of the three parcels will be an exception. Perhaps.

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

HOPE FOR A POINT DUME COMMUNITY PARK

A surprise out of our less than transparent City Hall: It appears that after all there is flexibility in the agreement with Metro to build a park-and-ride lot at the front door to Point Dume. We may not have to.

As originally announced by wily City Manager Reva Feldman and a braying council, the agreement was in exchange for $2 million to be used toward the total $42 million plus needed for the purchase of three prime commercial parcels. And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites, that includes the 18 acre so called Christmas Tree lot at Heathercliff and the PCH.

When first reported as a park-and-ride site the announcement prompted a wave of protests and several alternative proposals. These included mine for needed, well-designed affordable housing for seniors and those who serve the city, but most others were for community facilities and open space.

Well, according to the city attorney, it now seems those Metro funds CAN be used for more broadly defined transportation purposes, not necessarily park-and-ride. It seems a lazy and bloated City Hall just hadn’t pursued a more flexible MTA. So what else is new?

But now there’s word that the city motivated by the public protests will soon initiate a public outreach program, to come up with some alternatives for the lot, and others, and that the effort will be “transparent,” as promised.

There are a number of specific uses that come to mind, beyond my housing proposal, which for now is here being put on the back burner, given the tenor of the times fed by misinformed recalcitrant locals, and also that it might be better located elsewhere, say in the civic center. Hope springs eternal.

The other uses include the long sought playing fields, which I recall, from my Little League coach and Park Commissioner days, was once proposed for the site. Go Point Dume Dodgers.

A sensitive sitting of the fields also could allow room for a community garden, a demonstration landscape, protecting the ESHA there, and, if designed well, some flexible parking to satisfy Metro and serve park users. And there is the possibility also of a multi use facility and band shell.

Not incidentally, that also could take the local pressure off for more recreational facilities on the hallowed Bluffs Park.

The city should have the funds for this, and not be put off by lame duck Laura Rosenthal, who warned at the recent Council meeting that without the income from short term rentals the city may not be able to pursue the development of the sites.

As for her questionable argument allowing de facto hotels in residential zones, more on that in a later commentary.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

PT.DUME PARKING FIASCO; WILL THE CITY EVER LEARN?

So the supposedly solvent, financially canny, city of Malibu, to get a relatively modest $2 million from the MTA, needed to complete the $42 million plus purchase of three prominent parcels, has agreed to the questionable construction of a two acre park-and-ride lot at the entry to Point Dume.

There are so many things wrong about that decision: Unwise, not needed, and lazy are a few words that come to mind, though I feel sadly it is typical of a small town-and-minded Malibu, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBUU and select websites.

If it is any comfort, other cities across the country also are reported beset, our tenets of democracy everywhere facing a mounting wave of ignorance and incompetence.

And in Malibu, further burdened with a part time pampered and uninvolved population, so much for the promised “robust and transparent” discussion. That was to be pursued by the city with the community over the public use of the parcel at PCH and Heathercliff, known as the Christmas Tree lot.

What we can say is that if the city has its thumb in the pie it typically will yield design prerogatives to obsequious consultants and uncaring staff, whomever, with the probable result the egress and access of the lot will be eyesores, the landscaping poorly designed and planted, and the environmentally sensitive gulley there threatened.

To the backburner unfortunately goes my persistent hope for attractive, landscaped, affordable, planned unit development, sponsored by a local, morally motivated non profit consortium, not big government, to serve those who serve us.

We are not proposing stereotypical low income housing for a potential criminal element, as had been claimed by a few neighbors who should know better. We are talking local teachers and fireman here, maybe even a city employee, though frankly it would be nice to hear from them.

Meanwhile, a bloated bureaucracy and neophyte council again out of ignorance and laziness, or whatever, have compromised the public face and planning potential of the sadly fading rural seacoast village character of Malibu.

Don’t want to sound too dramatic, but these seemingly minor decisions affecting a few acres here and there, a parking lot, a structured garage, arbitrarily and most time behind closed doors, are what really shape our aesthetic experience, and pride in, and value of, our city.

It is an old, and true, adage that cities are shaped not by pricey master plans, but by one project at a time.

And incidentally, the $2 million the city said it needed to close the deal is about what Malibu has paid our State consultant California Strategies, for the last decade, and still now, apparently just to glad hand our councilpersons and city staff when boondoggling in Sacramento.

Certainly it does not seem to have gone to influence the MRCA, Coastal Commission, or MTA. As a former strategic planning consultant to MTA, I’m confident the agency would have been more accommodating, if the parties involved displayed more concern for the community and not just for the money. And the paper shuffling.

FOR SOMETHING DIFFERENT DOWNTOWN L.A.

Looking for something really different this weekend, check out the offering now until Sunday night at the always provocative Redcat theatre downtown L.A.

Tucked modestly as if an architectural after thought beneath the provocatively designed Disney Hall, the Redcat arguably is the premiere venue for cutting edge stage arts in L.A., and I would add presumptuously, also internationally, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and websites everywhere.

Indeed, this weekend stage production entitled “Kamp” by the Dutch theatrical group Hotel Modern just might be for some too provocative, perhaps numbing, but for me compelling. The Paris newspaper Le Monde, declared it “an extraordinary and overwhelming spectacle.”

As described in an advance from the Redcat, “Hotel Modern makes the unimaginable imaginable;” a handcrafted scale model of a city built for mass murder, Auschwitz, and a setting for a wordless object theatre acted out under a video projection of live footage.

And where else would one expect to see and experience such theater but at the Redcat. Founded by Cal Arts , the Santa Clarita based school describes Redcat as its downtown center for innovative visual, performing and media arts, a home for diverse artists and audiences.

Redcat’s Mark Murphy adds with pride that the center is a place where “artists can open the mind and soul to help us comprehend beauty as well as atrocity.” Quoted is the German philosopher, Goethe, “ art is a mediator of the unspeakable.”

As a member of the ever-curious audience, and In the interest of public disclosure as a public radio commentator, the production of Kamp it is on my must list for personal and political reasons.

Meanwhile, as promised some observations about the current offering of Euripides’ BACCHAE , I attended last week at the Getty Villa in Malibu.

First, I love attending the productions at the Roman styled amphitheater, and over the years have looked forward to seeing the Greek tragedies appropriately performed there, especially in a contemporary vaudevillian style that is more easily digested, and fun.

And sure enough, Euripides’ drama of 2,500 years ago is for the most part engaging, as directed by Anne Bogart. But when a principal character delivers her interminable critical speech in her native Japanese, no matter with how emotionally, it lost me, and apparently the audience, and the production crashed.

Giving actors the freedom to express themselves in their native language might be worthy, but ultimately theater is about primarily connecting with the audience. Bogart’s Bacchae did not.

 

AFFORDABLE HOUSING FOR THOSE WHO SERVE MALIBU

This week some thoughts prompted by Malibu’s purchase of three parcels of land, the development of which is promised by City Hall to be explored in a “robust and transparent process.”

Nice catch phrase, as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites. But looking over the deformed and unattractive development to date of Malibu, from the perspective of a former architecture and design critic, for the LATimes, among others, I have to be wary. And as a long time resident of Malibu, I have to sadly add, downright distrusting.

So before the usual suspect cast of commercial developers, rapacious, resident realtors, city hall would-be wheeler-dealers and neophyte planners start their back door discussions, an immodest suggestion:

My focus is on two of the three parcels, the nearly 10 acres in the fractured so-called civic center known as the chilli cook-off site, and 18 acres at the entry to Point Dume, at PCH and Heathercliff, know as the Christmas Tree sale site.

Maybe, just maybe, at long last, the timing might be right for Malibu to pursue the development on the sites of much needed, indeed desperately needed, affordable housing, for those who serve us well, and many of our long persevering, seniors.

Developed modestly and tastefully by a non-profit consortium, the parcels could yield several hundred plus low rise apartments in an attractive landscaped setting.

It is time in particular to provide housing options for our public school employees, some who commute several exhausting hours a day because they love working here, which is reflected in the quality of education. Nice.

And with Malibu hopefully soon to establish it own public school district, the housing could be a real bonus attracting the best teachers, some of whom have shied away from Malibu because of the prices here and the commute.

The same goes for our first responders, who would make great neighbors, especially given the disasters Malibu is so prone to, and the worrisome recent rise in petty crime. Schools could use their kids, too.

And Malibu definitely has a need for affordable senior housing. As heard in the debate over the Airbnbs recently, many elderly residents must rent out rooms regularly to make ends meet, and so be able to stay in the Malibu where they have lived most of their lives and love. And we love them!

With senior housing available, they will have the option to sell and still stay, which would be windfall for them and many of our realtors. They’ll also be in walking distance to shops, which will be good for our frail community-serving businesses. And there’ll be less commuter traffic.

Finally, pursuing affordable housing could begin to refute the city’s reputation as a selfish, spoiled community, which true or not, emboldens rogue bureaucracies like the MRCA and Coastal Commission to ignore legitimate local concerns.

Meanwhile, I wonder what the five city council candidates have to say. Keep tuned.

GREEK TRAGEDY AT GETTY VILLA

It’s September, the traditional launch time for the cultural calendar year , and in an ever challenging L.A. that means a diversity of offerings celebrating what’s new in dance, music, theatre and the visual arts.
 
And increasing it is, making it harder and harder to chose a weekly venue to attend, just as it is harder and harder to get to it on time, given the crush of traffic in the L.A. metropolitan area, especially if you live in Malibu, as I do.
 
So as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites. this weekend I chose something convenient, a theatrical performance, at the Getty Villa in Malibu premiering last night. But to say the least it was not something new by any measure of calendar. Indeed, it was ancient, and if you can trust Wikipedia was first performed in 405 B.C.
 
It was the Greek tragedy by the Athenian playwright Euripides, scripted in his final years while living in Macedonia. Entitled ‘The Bacchae,” it is considered a capstone to his career, winning first prize in a festival drama competition held in the City of Dionysia 2523 years ago.
 
Personally, when I think of it, that addendum of information just astounds me.
 
The play follows the revengeful ruses of the god of wine and madness, and not incidentally fertility, Dionysus, as he return to his birthplace in Greece. As described by the Getty, the play is “packed with striking scenes, frenzied emotion, and choral songs of great power and beauty.”
 
And where better to see it than at the Getty Villa sitting under a dark sky in an open Roman styled amphitheater. If you love theatre, history ad histrionics, you going to love the production, directed by Anne Bogart.
 
It runs Thursday, Friday or Saturday evening, for the next two weekends, closing on the 29th. As for my review, that will be next week.
 
If you live in Malibu and are culturally curious, as I am, but ever wary of PCH traffic and the want something even closer than the Getty Villa, opened this week is a Pop art exhibit at the Weisman Museum at Pepperdine. It runs until December 2.
 
With some 50 pieces including some by Claes Oldenburg and Keith Haring, curated by Billie Milam Weisman herself, the exhibit promises to be top-tier. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays, and it is free.
 
 

MALIBU NEEDS A GOOD COUNCIL LIKE IT NEEDS RAIN

To say that the attempts by the last several City Councils to lend some needed leadership to Malibu has been less than stellar is perhaps being too kind.

As the Mayor-for-the-moment Rick Mullen commented in a rare burst of candor about the recent cross walk calamity, it appears the city dropped the ball allowing the Malibu Beach Inn’s latest subterfuge involving a cretinous Cal Trans.

And as I comment on public radio 99.1 KBU and select websites, it really is sad to witness council members yield repeatedly to the prerogatives of local, regional and state bureaucracies.

Perhaps prerogatives is also too kind; machinations might be more apt, given the paper shuffling and payroll padding of Malibu’s city hall, the blatant hard balling of the Mountains Conservancy, the disdainful dismissals of the Coastal Commission, and the imperious plodding of Cal Trans.

Let’s face it: our local government just does not seem to be working well, despite its constant self congratulations. Not that the present council is any worse than others in the past, though I feel the Barofsky years were particularly shameful.

It is just that the challenges are becoming more pronounced: PCH, planning, pollution, parks, parking, party houses, the fear of fires and effects of climate change. The list just gets longer.

That is why the upcoming city election is so critical. To say we need some tough, transparent leadership is like saying we need some good rain.

Well, some clouds formed and there was a little moisture in the air last week at the first public forum between the five councilcandidates, hosted at the Red Ladder Gallery, that is a noble temporary addition to the civic center.

Hopefully it will be will be an engaging election campaign, but here in the interest of brevity are some first impressions, the emphasis on first and brief:

Karen Farrar: She was the most grounded and concerned for local control, based on her impressive leadership over many battling for a better Malibu public school system.

Mikke Pierson: The most open and affecting, based on his persevering on the planning commission and aiding the homeless.

Jim Palmer: The most disheartening, for all his sincere concerns and years on the public works commission admittedly being ignored by the city, and not doing or saying anything until now.

Olivia Damavandi: She was the most tentative. From a former city reporter and city hall flack, we got platitudes rather than policies.

Lance Simmons. To recommend building inland parking garages and bus shuttle to the beaches says a lot of his being in Malibu for just 3 questionable years.

And though he’s not running, a shout out for the moderator, an amiable and informed Eamon Harrington. That he has been a neighbor for the last 22 years is purely coincidental.