Category: Long Beach

$300,000 grant funds Long Beach Opera's new series 'Outer Limits'

November 3, 2011 |  1:29 pm


Long Beach Opera has long prided itself on being an edgy, experimental company that isn't afraid of taking artistic risks. Now the organization is headed in an even edgier and more experimental direction with a new program that is scheduled to launch next year.

"Outer Limits" will be a new sidebar series of programs that, the company states, will "feature musical outliers that defy classification." The series will include a "broad spectrum of music styles, theatrical innovation and experimental storytelling," and will be staged in intimate, alternative venues accommodating 300 people, said the company.

The inaugural production of "Outer Limits" will be Gavin Bryars' "Paper Nautilus" at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach in September. The ocean-themed production is a dramatic cantata for soprano, mezzo-soprano, two pianos and six percussionists.

"Outer Limits" is being financed by a three-year, $300,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. The series will be comprised of at least one production in 2012 through 2015 and two productions starting in the 2016 fiscal year.

Long Beach Opera is led by artistic and general director Andreas Mitisek. The company said its budget stood at more than $1.2 million for the most recent fiscal year.


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Long Beach Opera to present works by Michael Nyman, Osvaldo Golijov

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-- David Ng

Photo: Andreas Mitisek, artistic and general director of Long Beach Opera. Credit: Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Theater review: 'Robber Bridegroom' at International City Theatre

October 20, 2011 |  7:00 pm

"The Robber Bridegroom"
Although the stylized quirks of "The Robber Bridegroom" run precociously high, so does the randy fun. That generally prevents the affable International City Theatre revival of Alfred Uhry and Robert Waldman's 1975 bluegrass take on Eudora Welty's novella from tripping over its own flying coattails.

Director-choreographer Todd Nielsen hits Joe Layton-goes-a-courtin' moves headlong, his cast and ace musical director Gerald Sternbach's festive band greeting us all over the house. Cue "Once Upon the Natchez Trace," and a bipolar Mississippi fable unfolds, as 1942-era citizens of Rodney's Landing recount storied events of 1795.

The talented ensemble sashays in and out of designer Stephen Gifford's skeletal-timbers set, Donna Ruzika's rich lighting and Kim DeShazo's costumes sparkle. Chad Doreck's charm as titular Jamie Lockhart, though somewhat soft-edged, certainly connects with versatile Jamison Lingle's pert, Emmylou Harris-voiced Rosamund.

Michael Stone Forrest as her wealthy father is correctly jovial, Michael Uribes' rapacious Little Harp and Tyler Ledon's disembodied Big Harp weirdly tickling. Adam Wylie's simpleton, Tatiana Mac as his sister (and a talking raven) and Teya Patt as their mom redefine over-the-top, while dryly wacky Sue Goodman absconds with the evening as villainess Salome (pronounced "Suh-LOW-mee").

That last should alert viewers allergic to outré Southern-fried whimsy, and Nielsen's corn-pone-commedia invention eventually doubles back on itself.  Nonetheless, this singular entertainment seems certain to steal the hearts of general audiences.  

-- David C. Nichols       

"The Robber Bridegroom," International City Theatre at Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. 8 pm. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends Nov. 6. $37-$44. (562) 436-4610 or Running time: 2 hours, 10 minutes.

Photo: Michael Stone Forrest, left, Jamison Lingle, Chad Doreck and Sue Goodman. Credit: Carlos Delgado

Stuart Ashman appointed head of Museum of Latin American Art

August 24, 2011 |  2:28 pm


The Museum of Latin American Art said that it has appointed Stuart Ashman as its new president and chief executive officer. His tenure is set to begin on Sept. 6.

Ashman assumes the museum's top post following the abrupt departure of Richard P. Townsend in January. Townsend had served as president of the museum for a little less than two years before announcing his resignation. Prior to Townsend, the position had been vacant for more than a year.

The museum received an endowment of $25 million in 2009 from the estate of its late founder, Dr. Robert Gumbiner.

Ashman has served as director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Museum of New Mexico. He was also founding director of the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art in Santa Fe. Ashman served as cabinet secretary for the New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs for more than seven years.

In the past year, Ashman served as an advisor for the U.S. Peace Corps, working on arts-related programs in a number of Latin American countries.


John Valadez mural says 'Welcome to Long Beach'

Gregorio Luke to talk about controversial murals

MoLAA gets $25-million endowment

-- David Ng

Photo: Stuart Ashman. Credit: Doug Svetnicka

John Valadez mural says 'Welcome to Long Beach'

August 15, 2011 |  2:00 pm


This post has been corrected. Please see note at the end. 

John Valadez acknowledges that his new mural in downtown Long Beach sends a very different message about urban living than some of the provocative paintings he made earlier in his career.

Back in the 1990s, an L.A. Times writer described Valadez as the author of "a body of work that reflects on racial conflict, sexual ambiguity and existential uncertainty."

Well, that was then. Valadez's latest mural, which adorns the new Gallery 421, an assertively upscale 291-unit apartment complex on West Broadway just north of Ocean Boulevard, is aglow with nostalgia and goodwill. It depicts a cheerfully idealized version of downtown Long Beach filled with a happy, rainbow-colored crowd and a radiant beauty queen waving under ochre-streaked skies, where both a blimp and the Spruce Goose cavort.

At the top of the two-panel mural, a flock of pelicans, rendered on laser-cut aluminum extensions, soar outward toward the viewer, approximately 6 to 18 inches from the wall, creating a 3-D effect. The mural's southward-facing panel depicts the now-vanished Rainbow Pier, a popular fishing and rendezvous spot in bygone days, which Valadez's fanciful re-creation populates with flapper-era strollers.

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Gregorio Luke to talk about controversial murals

July 29, 2011 | 10:00 am

Diego Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads"

The 12th annual "Mural Under the Stars," narrated by Mexican art expert Gregorio Luke, gets underway Sunday at the Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach.

This year's series features artists David Alfaro Siqueiros (on July 31), Diego Rivera (Aug. 7) and Jose Clemente Orozco (Aug. 14). The trio are regarded as the founders of the modern school of Mexican mural painting, all having created frescoes on structures and buildings throughout the world and California.

Siqueiros, the most controversial of the muralists, was a member of the Mexican Communist Party, and his art was reflective of a Marxist political ideology. In 1940, he participated in an unsuccessful attempt to assassinate Leon Trotsky.  After his expulsion from Mexico, he spent a brief time in California in 1932. This is when he painted his large-scale "Tropical America" on the exterior of Italian Hall on Olvera Street, which will be reopened to the public in 2012. The mural depicts an Indian peon, representing oppression by U.S. imperialism, crucified on a cross capped by an American eagle.

"America Tropical" David Alfaro Siqueiros

For the series, images of 10 to 15 murals are flashed on an 1,800-square-foot white wall in the museum's parking lot as Luke narrates, providing historical context and biographical background. The former director of the museum got the idea for "Murals Under the Stars" when working in Washington.  A planned Robert Mapplethorpe exhibit at Corcoran Galley was canceled because the content was thought to be obscene. Protesters projected the censored images on the side wall of the museum at night.

"This season, we are able to add a new interactive visual component of the lecture," Luke said. "We can zoom in and enlarge important details of the mural. In the Diego Rivera show, I talk about his Rockefeller Center mural, which was destroyed because it contained a portrait of Vladimir Lenin; I can now zero in on that part." 


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Murals Under the Stars, 7 p.m., Museum of Latin American Art, 628 Alamitos Ave., Long Beach, 562-437-1689, Tickets: $20 general seating, $30 priority, $10 students and seniors.

Upper image: Diego Rivera's "Man at the Crossroads." Credit: Museum of Latin American Art

Lower image: David Alfaro Siqueiros' "America Tropical." Credit: Museum of Latin American Art

Theater review: 'The Wedding Singer' at the Carpenter Performing Arts Center

July 14, 2011 |  1:43 pm

Wedding-Singer The '80s return in all their rad, gnarly 'tude to the Carpenter Performing Arts Center, where "The Wedding Singer" enjoys a pleasantly pro-forma regional premiere by Musical Theatre West.

As in the smash 1998 Adam Sandler/Drew Barrymore film, the title hero is Robbie Hart (energetic Ciarán McCarthy), his New Jersey band opening with "It's Your Wedding Day." This surefire barnburner proclaims the show's aims, its high-octane corps vaulting through choreographer Spencer Liff's retro moves like Billy Idol and the Go-Gos on Ecstasy.

With the introduction of waitress Julia (lovely-voiced Renée Brna), things grow gradually synthetic. Composer Matthew Sklar and librettists Chad Beguelin and Tim Herlihy (author of the screenplay) exhibit competent craft, the nods ranging from Michael Jackson's glove to the water-splashed "Flashdance" iconography. Yet marrying period riffs to movie scenario doesn't guarantee emotional connection, or theatrical purpose.

Robbie and Julia's Act 2 duet, "If I Told You," is first-rate, and there are other noteworthy numbers under David Lamoureux's music direction. But their net effect isn't terribly original, with many bits lacking a proper button.

Director Larry Raben's staging could be tighter at times, nevertheless it's sleekly appointed, particularly Jean-Yves Tessier's club-worthy lighting, and the charming McCarthy and Brna head up a talented cast. Derek Keeling digs into Julia's smarmy fiancé; Jenna Coker-Jones' fellow waitress and Nick Bernardi and Matthew J. Vargo's band colleagues ham with abandon.

The statuesque Kelli Provart incinerates the house as Robbie's ex, versatile Tracy Lore instantly becomes various moms, and wonderful Mary Jo Catlett invests Robbie's hip grandmother with old-school aplomb. "Wedding Singer" is hardly a classic tuner, but the film's fans and era survivors should find it festive.

-- David C. Nichols

"The Wedding Singer," Carpenter Performing Arts Center, 6200 E. Atherton St., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays; 7 p.m. show, July 17. Ends July 24. $30-$80. (562) 856-1999, x4 or Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes.

Photo: Ciarán McCarthy and Renée Brna. Credit: Alysa Brennan.

Long Beach Opera to present works by Michael Nyman, Osvaldo Golijov

July 13, 2011 |  3:45 pm

Nyman Long Beach Opera has long specialized in edgy, adventurous pieces that major houses tend to shy away from. On Wednesday, the small company announced that its new season will include productions of operas by Michael Nyman, Francis Poulenc, Bohuslav Martinu and more. It will also feature Osvaldo Golijov's "Ainadamar," which the company postponed in 2007 due to budget problems.

The 2012 season will comprise four individual productions, including a double bill. Performances will take place at venues around Long Beach and San Pedro.

"Maria de Buenos Aires" (Jan. 29 and Feb. 4) is a 1968 tango-opera by Astor Piazzolla that tells the story of a prostitute both before and after her death. Long Beach Opera produced the work in 2004 and will present a new staging at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro.

The following production (March 11 and 17) will be a double bill of Poulenc's "The Breasts of Tiresias" and  Martinu's "The Tears of a Knife," taking place at Long Beach's Center Theatre.

Golijov's "Ainadamar" (May 19 and 26) is a musically eclectic work that follows the final days of renowned writer Federico Garcia Lorca. Performances will be held at the Press-Telegram building in Long Beach. The company scrapped plans to stage the opera in 2007 due to budget constraints.

Nyman's "The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat" (June 16 and 24) is a 1986 opera based on the book by Oliver Sacks that includes the true story of a man suffering from a strange neurological condition. Performances will take place at the EXPO Building in Long Beach. As a composer, Nyman has become famous for his scores for movies including "The Piano," "Gattaca" and "The End of the Affair," as well as for films by Peter Greenaway.


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-- David Ng

Photo: Michael Nyman. Credit: Sashenka Gutierrez / EPA


Metro Blue Line is the route for `traveling circus' plays

July 1, 2011 |  6:30 am

William Shakespeare wrote plays in five acts; now comes Watts Village Theater Company, organizing a theater piece in five light-rail stops. Dubbed "Meet Me @Metro II," it'll be performed along the Metro Blue Line between Watts and downtown Long Beach over the coming two weekends.

Like last year's inaugural run, it's the brainchild of artistic director Guillermo Aviles-Rodriguez. Figuring that the previous show was a bit scattershot, he's added a unifying theme, "traveling circus," for the sequence of short new works by five theater companies and a large experimental jazz collaborative, Killsonic. An assortment of puppeteers and other performers will join in along the three-hour round-trip.
Aviles-Rodriguez makes no claim of originality in turning a railway into the spine of a theatrical event, citing New York City's "A Train Plays" and the San Diego Dance Theater's annual "Trolley Dances" as longstanding forerunners. The unique thing about "Meet Me @Metro," he says, is its goal of turning railway ties into ties that bind L.A.'s famously splintered and sequestered geographical communities, if only for the duration of a theatrical trek.

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Opera review: David Lang's 'The Difficulty of Crossing a Field' given Southern California premiere by Long Beach Opera

June 16, 2011 |  2:39 pm


Long Beach Opera on Wednesday night presented the Southern California premiere of David Lang’s opera “The Difficulty of Crossing a Field” at Terrace Theater.

This basic, if unimaginative, declarative sentence, is factual. And misleading, just like the imaginative work under question.

EntBlog_Photo330 “The Difficulty of Crossing a Field” is not about that difficulty but the difficulty of existence. The work is not exactly an opera (although, under current operatic law, anything can be an opera if it wants to call itself one) but a hybrid opera/play, unlike any other I know. And the Terrace Theater is not that Terrace Theater. The address hasn’t changed, but the audience sits, for this marvelous production, on the stage looking out into the auditorium. The performers ride up and down on the pit elevator and take over the seating area.

“Difficulty” was commissioned by the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco nine years ago. The idea was by Mac Wellman, the experimental playwright, who turned to a one-page story by Ambrose Bierce. In it, Mr. Williamson, a plantation owner in Selma, Ala., walks across a field in 1854 and vanishes into thin air, leaving his wife and daughter, his brother, his slaves and witnesses (of nothing rather than of something) mystified by an erasure.

San Franciscans were not amused by the piece or production in a small 250-seat theater (local reviews were scathing). The orchestra was the Kronos Quartet; the music is repetitive, hypnotic. The striking text has the quality of a latter-day Gertrude Stein (“the hole’s a who,” “the why’s a why not”), mesmerizing whether spoken as incantation or sung as aria.

Cary Perloff’s production was a traditional costume drama, which meant it was shocking. Slaves were slaves and an overseer, an overseer. We had to deal with history of what is and what is not. The slaves find a mystical explanation. A white judge hopes to settle a property dispute with reason, the most artificial justification under the circumstances. Mrs. Williamson loses her mind. The Williamson girl has an inkling of the parallel universes that physicists are now beginning to conjure up.

Continue reading »

Theater review: 'The Old Settler' at International City Theatre

June 9, 2011 |  5:00 pm


"The Old Settler" is slang for a never-married, middle-aged African American woman, a term that propels John Henry Redwood's bittersweet romantic comedy in its respectably entertaining International City Theatre production.

Welcome to Harlem in 1943, when wartime America permits blacks to serve in the military without the same rights as their white contemporaries, hardly the era's only racial inequity. Elizabeth Borny (understated Veralyn Jones) is the benign title spinster, Quilly McGrath (scene-stealing Karen Malina White), her epically cranky sister. Quilly, separated from her husband and living with Elizabeth, operates as Redwood's voice of comment.

Enter naive boarder Husband Witherspoon (Ryan Vincent Anderson), a South Carolina émigré searching for girlfriend Lou Bessie, alias Charmaine (Tarina Pouncy), whose gold-digging trek preceded his arrival. As mama's-boy Husband gravitates toward kindly Elizabeth, Quilly's assertions of Oedipal transference give way to long-standing grievances between the sisters.

Director caryn desai handles this mix of soap and sociology with unfussy simplicity, the ambiance assisted by designer Kurt Boetcher's detailed set, Bill Georges' lighting and sound and Kim DeShazo's period costumes. Jones and White are wholly credible, quite the equals of Phylicia Rashad and Debbie Allen in the 2001 television adaptation. Anderson and Pouncy, though proficient, have fewer opportunities for subtlety, given the broader, functional strokes of their characters.

The principal liability is a preordained narrative course.  From the early scenes of Husband and Elizabeth discovering their compatibility and the intimations of what's behind Quilly and Elizabeth's clashes, the outcome isn't exactly unforeseeable. That doesn't hinder its old-school appeal. Audiences will find much to appreciate here.

-- David C. Nichols

"The Old Settler," International City Theatre at the Long Beach Performing Arts Center, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach. 8 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays. Ends June 26. $37 and $44. (562) 436-4610 or Running time: 2 hours.

Photo: Veralyn Jones, left, Ryan Vincent Anderson and Karen Malina White. Credit: Carlos Delgado.


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