Category: Karen Wada

The Spotlight: Alex Morris and A.K. Murtadha in 'All My Sons'

March 7, 2012 |  2:47 pm

In Arthur Miller’s “All My Sons,” self-made businessman Joe Keller doggedly denies accusations he sold defective airplane parts to the military during World War II. When the truth — and the true cost of his actions — is revealed, he risks losing everything, including the son who idolized him.

Alex Morris, who plays Joe in the current Matrix Theatre Company revival, says “I want people to see that he is a man. A family man who did what he thought was good for his family. It’s up to each of us to judge whether that was right or wrong.”

Morris’ and his cast mates’ ability to “hold a mirror up to humanity and show the humanness” — as A.K. Murtadha, who plays Joe’s son, Chris, puts it — earned acclaim when the production was first staged last fall and again during an encore engagement, which ends March 18.

The Matrix is presenting the ’40s drama with a multiracial cast — as part of a series of plays through which it is examining race in America. Thus, Joe is African American; his wife, Kate, is white; Chris is biracial and other characters are Asian American, Latino and white.

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Deaf West's Ed Waterstreet retires; new artistic director named

March 2, 2012 | 10:20 am

Deaf West
Deaf West Theatre is announcing Friday the retirement of its pioneering founder, Ed Waterstreet, and the appointment of his successor as artistic director, David J. Kurs.

During Waterstreet's two-decade tenure, Deaf West gained acclaim for its commitment to expanding opportunities for deaf artists and for developing a new kind of theater in which non-hearing and hearing performers express themselves through a combination of American Sign Language, spoken language and movement.

Since its founding in 1991, the company has gone from a borrowed space at the Fountain Theatre in Hollywood to its own home in North Hollywood. It has staged 40 plays and four musicals, including a revival of the '80s Broadway show "Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" that went from North Hollywood to the Mark Taper Forum in 2002 and to New York in 2003, earning two Tony nominations and a Tony honor for excellence in theater.

Waterstreet, 68, tells Culture Monster that his experiences at Deaf West represent "a wild and crazy dream that came true. To be honest, I never expected the success that came out of 'Big River.' I still can't believe it today."

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Tchaikovsky finalist Nigel Armstrong to play with L.A. Chamber Orchestra

January 19, 2012 | 11:20 am

Violinist Nigel Armstrong, who won fourth prize in last year's 14th International Tchaikovsky Competition, will make his debut with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra this weekend.

Armstrong, 21, a graduate of the Colburn School Conservatory of Music, will play Mozart's Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major in concerts Saturday at the Alex Theatre in Glendale and Sunday at UCLA's Royce Hall. The program, which will be conducted by principal cello Andrew Shulman, also includes Mozart's Symphony No. 29 in A major and Walton's Sonata for Strings.

LACO booked Armstrong before he gained attention at the Tchaikovsky, the prestigious quadrennial competition held in Russia. Music director Jeffrey Kahane says he first met Armstrong several years ago when Armstrong, who is from Sonoma, played for him at his home in nearby Santa Rosa. "I was enormously impressed," he recalls.

Last spring, Kahane asked a friend at Colburn if she knew any students who could perform a Mozart concerto with the orchestra. "She told me there was a young violinist named Nigel Armstrong and I said, 'Oh, I know Nigel!'" 

Kahane and concertmaster Margaret Batjer arranged to hear Armstrong play. "We were just knocked out," Kahane says. "Great Mozart playing is the most demanding kind of playing there is. Every single note is exposed and has to be perfect in so many ways, has to be felt and thought and cared for. He's one of many violinists with technique to burn ... but to find that depth of musicianship in a young person is very unusual."

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Kent Twitchell's L.A. Chamber Orchestra mural turns 20

December 8, 2011 | 11:03 am

Kent Twitchell, an artist known for thinking big, got the chance to think really big two decades ago when the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra asked him to paint a mega-mural to help raise its profile.

His 11,000-square-foot “Harbor Freeway Overture,” which overlooks the northbound 110 Freeway downtown, fills three parking-structure walls with a dozen figures in concert dress standing beneath a cloudy sky.

The eight-story "Overture" is the largest installed work by a man famous for his super-sized portraits, which has made it a cultural point of interest as well as a roadside landmark.

"The mural is an icon," says LACO's general manager Andrea Laguni, one that, he notes, has survived the years in good shape, having outlasted graffiti vandals, encroaching eucalyptus trees and attempts to replace it with billboards.

As LACO prepares to mark the artwork's 20th anniversary with a brief program at this weekend’s concerts, the three current ensemble members seen in the mural posed for a photograph (above) near their larger-than-life likenesses.

Julie Gigante, a first violin, is featured on the left wall. Principal oboe Allan Vogel and principal viola Roland Kato are part of the group in the middle. (On the right wall is Ralph Morrison, who was concertmaster from 1988 to 1996.)

"Kent did more than create a pretty picture," says Gigante. "It's an intriguing piece of art that makes people stop and look and think."

Click here to read the full story about “Harbor Freeway Overture.”


Jeffrey Kahane brings team spirit to L.A. Chamber Orchestra

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra musicians Julie Gigante, left, Allan Vogel and Roland Kato in front of Kent Twitchell's mural "Harbor Freeway Overture." Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times.

Olympia Dukakis and Charlayne Woodard talk theater

November 12, 2011 | 10:15 am

Olympia Dukakis and Charlayne Woodard
As soon as they sat down, Olympia Dukakis and Charlayne Woodard were laughing and swapping stories as if they'd known each other for years. In truth, the two had just met, brought together by The Times to discuss their latest shows, both of which are being presented by the Center Theatre Group.

Dukakis, an Oscar winner for "Moonstruck," is starring with Marco Barricelli in Morris Panych's dark comedy "Vigil," which runs through Dec. 18 at the Mark Taper Forum. Woodard, a Tony nominee for "Ain't Misbehavin,'" opens her one-woman play "The Night Watcher" on Nov. 20 at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

Over coffee in a downtown rehearsal room, the veteran performers compared notes on acting, audiences and the challenges of speaking (or not) for a whole show. In "The Night Watcher," Woodard talks for nearly two hours, sharing her heartfelt experiences as aunt and godmother. In "Vigil," Dukakis utters but 12 lines as an elderly recluse whose world is disrupted by a miserable motormouth.

Woodard on performing solo: "...nothing is as challenging for me as coming to work every night and my scene partner -- the audience -- changes. It's like a free-fall."

Dukakis on playing a character with 12 lines: "It turned out to be much harder than I expected because I am a language person. I enjoy language -- language is used to persuade, to incite, to move. So here I am without it..."

Read Dukakis' and Woodard's conversation in Sunday's Arts & Books.

-- Karen Wada

Photo credit: Don Bartletti, L.A. Times

A Noise Within sets open house for new Pasadena theater

October 20, 2011 |  3:30 pm

A Noise Within classical repertory company will introduce its new Pasadena theater to the public at an open house Sunday.

The event, which will run from 1-4 p.m., will feature tours as well as readings and presentations by the troupe's resident artists. Children's activities will be offered too.

The 33,000-square-foot complex — the result of a $13.5-million capital campaign — includes a 283-seat theater, scenery and costume shops, offices, rehearsal space and education and storage facilities. The three-story structure stands on the site of the Stuart Pharmaceutical Building, a Midcentury Modern edifice designed by Edward Durell Stone.

Previously, A Noise Within operated out of cramped quarters in a 1920s-era former Masonic temple in Glendale. "The old space just wasn't designed to be a theater," says Julia Rodriguez Elliott, who along with her husband, Geoff Elliott, is the company's co-founder and co-artistic director. "Now we have the artistic and physical freedom to tackle plays and projects we couldn't and to expand our audiences."

The open house is free, but reservations are required and available at (626) 356-3127.

A Noise Within, which is marking its 20th anniversary, will launch its 2011-12 season with Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night." The production, set in pre-revolutionary Cuba, will open Oct. 29 and run through Dec. 16.


A Noise Within announces its first season in its new home in Pasadena

A Noise Within sets groundbreaking for new Pasadena home; announces last season in Glendale digs

— Karen Wada

Photo: A Noise Within's new 283-seat theater in Pasadena. Credit: Michael Gutstadt

Huntington's renovated Japanese Garden to reopen in April

October 13, 2011 | 12:00 pm

In time to mark its centennial, the Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens will reopen April 11 after a yearlong $6.8-million renovation.

Among the highlights, officials said Thursday, will be the installation of a ceremonial teahouse that was built in Kyoto in the 1960s. It will be set in a traditionally landscaped tea garden on a ridge above a 19th-century Japanese house that is one of the Huntington's landmarks. The wooden house is being restored as part of the project, which also includes the creation of a waterfall connecting the tea garden and ponds below and repairs and upgrades to the ponds and to bridges, pathways and water system.

The Japanese Garden is "arguably the most popular spot at the Huntington," says James Folsom, director of botanical gardens at the San Marino institution. The 9-acre site "teaches us about Japan's unique landscape traditions, craftsmanship, horticulture and rituals," he says.

A century ago, Huntington founder Henry E. Huntington created the garden on his estate, relocating the house as well as plants and ornamental elements from a commercial tea garden in Pasadena. A moon bridge was built by a Japanese craftsman soon after the garden was established; a rock and sand garden and a bonsai exhibition area were added in 1968.

Teahouse_construction[1]After Huntington's estate was opened as the Huntington Library in 1928, the Japanese Garden became a favorite destination for visitors, although it was closed for several years surrounding World War II. The San Marino League, the garden's chief philanthropic group, has helped to support refurbishment of its buildings and its landscaping, which includes Japanese black pines, fruit trees and wisteria arbors.

With the 2012 centennial approaching and the garden showing its age, the Huntington formed a team including several Japanese experts and craftsmen to pursue the renovation. Funding mainly came from bequests and foundation and individual support.

The teahouse, a finely crafted structure that features native woods, was donated by the Pasadena Buddhist Temple in 2010. It was returned to Japan for restoration and is being reassembled in San Marino under the guidance of Kyoto-based architect and craftsman Yoshiaki Nakamura, whose father--in what Folsom calls "an amazing small-world moment"--turned out to be the teahouse's builder.


Huntington Library sets shows on American history, Chinese mirrors

--Karen Wada

Upper photo: The Japanese Garden at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens before it closed for renovation. Credit: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens.

Lower photo: This ceremonial teahouse, which was built in Kyoto in the 1960s, was restored in Japan and is being reassembled at the Huntington. Credit: Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. 


L.A. Opera's makeover, from 'Cosi' to 'Onegin' in 4 1/2 hours

September 27, 2011 |  9:00 am

Opera audiences are used to seeing performances awash in spectacle. But they rarely get to glimpse the magic that occurs between shows -- namely, “the changeover,” when one production is taken down and another takes its place. “It’s like working a huge jigsaw puzzle,” says Rupert Hemmings, director of production at Los Angeles Opera. “It may seem haphazard, but everything’s done in order.”

On this Times video by Tim French, you can watch the company make the switch between its current offerings -- Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte” and Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” which continue through Oct. 9.  Neither of the imported productions is “overly scenery-heavy,” says Hemmings, so “it's a medium-sized change.” Even so, the process requires 4 1/2 hours and 45 carpenters, electricians and sound and prop people.

In the video, after the Sunday (Sept. 18) matinee of “Cosi” ends, everything on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion stage is left untouched until the following Wednesday, when preparations begin for that evening’s “Onegin." At 1 p.m., the crew starts collecting props and dismantling scenery. An hour later,  “Cosi” is in storage -- awaiting its turn to be seen again -- and “Onegin"'s first piece of flooring is in position.

The rural set gradually takes shape. The orchestra pit is reconfigured. Lighting checks are underway. A large (albeit shallow) lake is created by laying down sheets of Plexiglas-covered plywood, surrounding them with a wooden barrier, smoothing out two rubber liners and then running a garden hose for 90 minutes to add 800 to 1,000 gallons of water. (During intermission, the water and liners are removed; later, the Plexiglas becomes a “frozen” surface for skaters.)

By 3:30, “a lot of the big stuff is in,” says technical director Jeff Kleeman. “But there’s lots of tweaking to do.”

At 5:30, the transition from Mozart's sunny Italy to Tchaikovsky's melancholy Russia is complete. Two hours later, the curtain rises.


Opera review: Los Angeles Opera's 'Cosi fan Tutte'

Opera review: Los Angeles Opera's 'Eugene Onegin'

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Stage hands assemble the grassy field on the LA Opera set of "Eugene Onegin."  Credit: Lawrence K. Ho/Los Angeles Times


Huntington Library features the art of Sam Maloof and friends

September 24, 2011 | 11:00 am

A Sam Maloof coffee table (1958) owned by painter Karl Benjamin with ceramics by Gertrud and Otto Natzler
In their sprawling redwood abode in Alta Loma, east of Los Angeles, Sam Maloof and his first wife, Alfreda, amassed an art collection rich with works produced by the community of painters, sculptors, ceramists, enamelists and weavers that blossomed around the college town of Claremont after World War II.

The master furniture-maker, who died at 93 in 2009, was a major figure in that community, says Hal Nelson, curator of American decorative arts at the Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens. And his home was such an important gathering place for art and artists that it has made "a wonderful central metaphor" for a new exhibition focusing on Maloof and his extended circle of friends.

"The House That Sam Built: Sam Maloof and Art in the Pomona Valley, 1945-1985,"  which opens Saturday, includes 35 pieces by Maloof and more than 80 by nearly three dozen others, including Millard Sheets, Karl Benjamin, Phil Dike, Harrison McIntosh, Albert Stewart and Jean and Arthur Ames.

The show, which is part of the Getty-sponsored Pacific Standard Time initiative, examines Maloof's "artistic evolution in the context of his community," says Nelson, who curated the exhibition. When the self-taught woodworker decided to design and build furniture as a career, his aspirations were buoyed by his Claremont colleagues, with whom he traded ideas and pieces of work. “The respect they had for craft supported Sam’s own vision throughout his life,” says Nelson. “Many of them also shared his dedication to hand workmanship, simplicity and natural materials.”

For more about "The House That Sam Built," please read this story in Sunday's Arts & Books.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: A Sam Maloof coffee table (1958) owned by painter Karl Benjamin with ceramics by Gertrud and Otto Natzler. Credit: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens

Cirque du Soleil's big-top show 'OVO' is coming to Santa Monica

September 15, 2011 | 10:00 am

As previews continue in advance of the world premiere of Cirque du Soleil's resident production of "Iris" at the Kodak Theatre, the troupe announced Thursday that it will raise its big-top for the touring show "OVO" at the Santa Monica Pier in January.

Juggling ants, soaring scarabs and a gravity-defying spider are among the fanciful creatures in "OVO,"  which uses a mix of movement, music and circus arts to tell tales of life and love in the insect world -- as well as what happens when a mysterious giant egg ("ovo" in Portuguese) pops up.

The show, given its premiere in Montreal in 2009, was directed, written and choreographed by Brazilian choreographer Deborah Colker and has a Brazilian-Cirque fusion score by Berna Ceppas.

"OVO" will open its limited engagement Jan. 20. Tickets will go on sale to the public Nov. 13 for dates through Feb. 26.

"Iris" -- Cirque's ode to cinema -- opens Sept. 25 at the Kodak in Hollywood.


Behind the scenes of Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris'

Creative minds behind Cirque du Soleil's 'Iris'

Hollywood stars align for Cirque du Soleil's Guy Laliberte

-- Karen Wada

Photo: A scene from "OVO." Credit: Benoit Fontaine / Cirque du Soleil


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