Category: News

Pasadena Symphony: Michael Stern takes baton for ailing DePreist

April 5, 2012 |  2:54 pm

Michael Stern conducts LACO in 2010
James DePreist, artistic advisor of the Pasadena Symphony, is recovering from heart bypass surgery and won’t be able to conduct its April 28 program at the Ambassador Auditorium, the orchestra announced Thursday.

Michael Stern, music director of the Kansas City Symphony -– and son of the late Isaac Stern -– will replace DePreist on the podium for the day’s two performances of Antonin Dvorak’s Symphony No. 8, the “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” sequence from Richard Wagner’s “Gotterdammerung,” and Richard Strauss’s “Four Last Songs,” featuring soprano Christine Brewer.

Stern has received good notices in past Southern California pinch-hitting appearances.

In 2010, substituting for an ailing Jeffrey Kahane, his performance with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra prompted Times critic Mark Swed to observe that Stern “is someone we should be seeing more of.”
He won a rave –- “stylish, unified, purposeful, balanced, transparent, nuanced and, in a word, musical”— from The Times while stepping in with the Pacific Symphony in 2001 for a Mostly Mozart program whose scheduled conductor, Jean-Jacques Kantorow, had visa problems.

Continue reading »

State arts council could lose the OK to raise money via tax forms

April 5, 2012 |  8:00 am

Filling out tax forms Gary Friedman LAT photo
The California Arts Council is in jeopardy of losing its recently won ability to solicit donations via state income tax forms.

Beginning last year, filers could donate to the state’s chronically underfunded arts grant-making agency by checking off a box on their tax return, then adding the amount they wanted to contribute to their payment or subtracting it from their refund.

The arts council received $164,298 that way during 2011 -– not a negligible amount for an agency with a budget of only $5.2 million. Donations came from 16,580 taxpayers, for an average contribution of $9.91.

But the 2010 legislation that gave the arts council its checkoff box says it will disappear from future tax forms unless it generates at least $250,000 this year, then rises each subsequent year by at least the rate of inflation.

The early returns for 2012 are not encouraging. According to data on the Franchise Tax Board’s website, checkoff contributions totaled $25,820 in January and February, down from $26,112 a year ago. To keep its box, the arts council needs at least a 52% increase, not a marginal decline.

Continue reading »

Pacific Symphony pops season: Gladys Knight, Kenny G, Jersey Boys

March 29, 2012 |  8:45 am

Richard Kaufman conducting Pacific Symphony pops credit PSO
Gladys Knight, Amy Grant and Kenny G are the leading stars of the Pacific Symphony’s 2012-13 pops season in Costa Mesa, with four members of the original Broadway cast of “Jersey Boys” and two former witches from the “Wicked” franchise also in the mix.

The season at the Segerstrom Center’s Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall, announced this week, also includes a multimedia tribute to George and Ira Gershwin, as well as a movie night (May 9-11, 2013) at which the orchestra will provide live accompaniment to Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor and Debbie Reynolds in a screening of “Singin’ in the Rain.”

“Wicked Divas – An Evening of Broadway Hits” (Nov. 15-17) stars the team of Alli Mauzey, who grew up in Anaheim Hills and went on to play Glinda in "Wicked" on Broadway, and Julia Murney, a former Elphaba from Broadway and touring companies of “Wicked.” They'll sing songs from hit musicals, among them both "Wicked" and “The Wizard of Oz.” Murney's credentials include surviving Broadway's critically pilloried “Lennon,” in which she was one of the nine actors who took turns playing John Lennon. Her reading of "Beautiful Boy" was one of the few moments that critics liked in the 2005 disaster.

Three of the “Jersey Boys” original Broadway cast veterans -- Christian Hoff, Daniel Reichard and J. Robert Spencer, who played Four Seasons Tommy DeVito, Bob Gaudio and Nick Massi, respectively -- perform June 13-15, 2013, as will Michael Longoria, who played several parts, including a young Joe Pesci, while understudying (and eventually succeeding) the original Frankie Valli, John Lloyd Young.

The Pacific Symphony’s announcement says that the show is “not a performance of, nor affiliated with the show 'Jersey Boys.'” Instead, the foursome, billed as the Midtown Men, will sing a repertoire of harmony-driven oldies, with the Beatles, Beach Boys, Temptations and Jackson 5 on the menu along with the Four Seasons.

Continue reading »

Opera designer Robert Israel's sculptures will cheer sick kids

March 24, 2012 |  8:03 am


TRobert Israel childrens hospital flying cow and moon phases sculptures John Dean photo

This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

Through more than 40 years as a set and costume designer, UCLA professor Robert Israel has often been called upon to help instill sorrow, tension and dread in opera-goers and theater and dance audiences.

But perhaps his biggest and most palpably enduring project, to be unveiled next month in Baltimore, aims for just the opposite effect. Returning to sculpture for the first time since 1968, Israel has created 11 giant, colorful pieces designed to cheer sick or injured children and their families.

The sculptures will debut April 12 at the dedication of the new $1.1-billion Johns Hopkins Hospital, where 500 artworks have been commissioned from more than 70 artists. Israel's are in the 205-bed pediatric wing, the Charlotte R. Bloomberg Children’s Center.

His past credits include Wagner’s “Ring” cycle, Mozart’s “Don Giovanni,” Verdi’s “Macbeth” and operas by Philip Glass. His previous creation in Baltimore was the set for a 2005 production of “King Lear” at Baltimore Center Stage.

Now comes his cow who jumped over the moon -– and other fanciful, brightly colored works. Hanging in the atrium of the children’s wing is Israel’s 22-foot-tall, muliticolored ostrich made of fiberlglass, its big blue egg deposited on a counter below. A school of yellow puffer fish (pictured) swims in air above a central staircase, and a 20-foot-high aluminum baby rhino grazes outside the building’s glass facade. The flying cow with the purple, Lego-like body, yellow head and nine-foot wing span (pictured) soars above an information desk, intent on vaulting a ring of 28 orange and brown moons.

Continue reading »

Getty gets NEH grant to organize huge contemporary art archive

March 22, 2012 |  7:01 am

Getty Research Institute curator Marcia Reed inspects Szeemann Archive in Switzerland before 2011 acquisition
The Getty Research Institute landed a huge (literally) prize last year when it bought the Harald Szeemann Archive and Library -- one of the world’s leading private collections of books, pictures and documents concerning modern and contemporary art.

But with the trove compiled by Szeemann, a Swiss museum director and independent curator who died in 2005, came the enormous headache of organizing and cataloging more than 1,000 boxes of stuff. Laid end to end, the Getty said, the photographs, papers, correspondence and books would span more than eight football fields (end zones not included).

Even the world’s richest visual art institution would need help with a job like that –- and Uncle Sam is pitching in with a $230,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The grant, announced Wednesday as part of a $17-million funding round from the NEH, will allow the Getty to hire two full-time staffers to work on the archive for two years, said Andra Darlington, head of special collections cataloging. They're expected to catalog and write descriptions for about three football fields’ worth of the “most significant” elements, she said, including files Szeemann created on all his projects and on artists he worked with or thought were important. The equivalent of a table of contents will be posted online, so scholars can see what’s available -– but digitizing the archive isn’t on the immediate agenda.

Darlington notes that the 1,000 containers in which Szeemann kept his archive were all wine boxes. “When we were packing, we asked [Szeemann’s] widow and daughter if he consumed all the wine. They assured us he did not, although he liked wine.”

Separate from the NEH grant is work on an estimated 36,000 photographs from the collection and Szeemann’s 30,000 volume library; Darlington said the pictures should be sorted out and available to researchers by fall, and the books are gradually being catalogued and making their way onto shelves.

Overall, the NEH announced 208 grants totaling $17 million -– an average of about $82,000 each. California’s share was 16 grants totaling $1.4 million (placing it third nationally behind Massachusetts’ $2.9 million and New York’s $2.6 million).

Continue reading »

Thomas Hart Benton and Hollywood show in works at LACMA

March 21, 2012 |  5:27 pm

Thomas Hart Benton The Wreck of the Ole 97
A major exhibition on the American painter Thomas Hart Benton is in the pipeline at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art -- one that would dovetail very nicely with the new movie museum that could be part of LACMA’s campus by fall 2015, when the Benton show is tentatively scheduled to open.

The news of the Benton exhibition came Wednesday when the National Endowment for the Humanities announced its latest round of grants, including $40,000 to LACMA for the show's planning. The grant was modest -– less than half the average of $82,000 in a round that totaled $17 million and included much bigger ones for the Getty Research Institute, UCLA, USC and UC Santa Barbara.

But the show whose planning it will support is a biggie: “Benton, Hollywood and History,” co-organized by LACMA and the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo., will feature about 100 works, including 75 paintings and murals and 25 preparatory studies and drawings, plus a selection of Benton’s historical prints, illustrated books and never-exhibited ephemera and photographs.

A written description LACMA released after The Times inquired about the grant says the show “will be the first exhibition to examine the visual strategies that Thomas Hart Benton (1889-1975) pursued to become the preeminent history painter of 20th century America, and the ways those strategies intersected… with the strategies of Hollywood, America’s paramount myth-making machine.”

Continue reading »

'Hunger Games' ' Stanley Tucci to go to bat for arts funding

March 20, 2012 |  3:17 pm

Caesar Flickerman (Stanley Tucci) and Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) in
Does star power matter on Capitol Hill?

Well, here’s something to ponder: Last April 5,  Alec Baldwin and Kevin Spacey were scheduled to address a House appropriations hearing as part of the annual Arts Advocacy Day organized by Americans for the Arts, which spearheads the arts-lobbying effort in Washington.

Their appearance got canceled, and congressional ears missed the two actors’ pitches for averting the 12.6% budget cut that President Obama was then proposing for the National Endowment for the Arts.

Three days later, congressional leaders struck a temporary budget deal that reduced NEA funding by 7.5%. Then, when Congress got around to passing the 2011-12 federal budget, it deepened the cut to 12.7%. The NEA was left with $146.2 million to spend, down from the $167.5 it had commanded when the year began.

It’s debatable whether star-powered oratory really would have helped --  2011, you’ll recall, was a year in which Washington was consumed by a near-impasse over how much to cut the federal deficit, prompting fears that the government might shut down entirely.

Now it’s time to deliberate on a budget for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, and Americans for the Arts is again bringing star power to bear, in hopes of securing a modest recovery for the nation's arts grantmaking agency. On Thursday, actor Stanley Tucci (pictured in "Hunger Games" with its star, Jennifer Lawrence) and Americans for the Arts President Robert Lynch are scheduled to address the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior. The goal, says Americans for the Arts, is to raise the NEA’s budget to $155 million -- a 6% increase that would be slightly more than the $154.3 million that Obama recently proposed.

Continue reading »

Stars to help fund state arts grants via license plate sales

March 15, 2012 |  9:12 am


This post has been corrected. Please see note at bottom for details.

What does California have less of than nearly every other state in the union? Per capita spending money for state-funded arts grants.

And what does it have more of? Cars and stars.

Now the California Arts Council, the grant-making agency whose funding (currently 13 cents per capita) had landed it in last place nationally for eight consecutive years before Kansas saved it from the cellar this year by stopping all arts spending, aims to harness the Golden State's bounty of celebrities and motorists in hopes of relieving its dearth of arts grants.

Continue reading »

John Malkovich's message to the theater world on its special day

March 9, 2012 |  3:16 pm

What would you tell the theater world if you had its collective attention for a few minutes on a special occasion?

John Malkovich will get the chance in Paris on March 22, at a gala kicking off activities for the 50th annual World Theatre Day, which is March 27.

The stage and screen star (pictured at a 2008 rehearsal in Santa Monica) will deliver this year's message at the headquarters of UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) and its theater wing, the International Theatre Institute.

Jean Cocteau delivered the first World Theatre Day message in 1962; Malkovich will be the first American to give the address since Edward Albee in 1993 (and the first American actor, period). The fact that the U.S. had withdrawn from the often-controversial UNESCO from 1984 to 2003 probably didn't help -- the reasons given when the Reagan administration canceled our membership were corrupt management and an anti-Western bias. Great Britain exited the organization from 1985 to 1997.

The list of past World Theatre Day messengers also includes Judi Dench, Vaclav Havel, Peter Brook (twice), Wole Soyinka, Eugene Ionesco, Ellen Stewart, Richard Burton, Luchino Visconti, Pablo Neruda, Laurence Olivier and Arthur Miller.

Here's Malkovich's address, released Friday by New York-based Theatre Communications Group, the service organization for American nonprofit theaters (and home of the U.S. branch of the International Theatre Institute).

Continue reading »

A big show in NYC, but little in LA for Japan quake benefit

March 8, 2012 |  5:43 pm

East West Players 1998 Pacific Overtures LAT
The New York City nonprofit theater world has come together for a star-studded benefit for Japanese theater companies on this Sunday’s anniversary of the massive northern Japan earthquake and tsunami.

The effort, Shinsai: Theaters for Japan ( “shinsai” means “great earthquake” in Japanese) is billed as a nationwide initiative, but it has gained little traction in Los Angeles, where leading companies say they weren’t approached until too late, if at all.

In Manhattan, Patti LuPone, Richard Thomas and Mary Beth Hurt will be among the performers in two shows at the Cooper Union Great Hall – the venerable venue where Abraham Lincoln delivered his 1859 Cooper Union Address.

In Los Angeles, the Loyola Marymount University department of theater arts and dance will stage a benefit Sunday at 8 p.m. in the campus’ 175-seat Strub Theatre, and the Cal State Los Angeles theater department will offer staged readings Sunday at 3 p.m. in the lobby of the Japanese American National Museum in downtown L.A. Playwright-actor Jeanne Sakata will recite a Shinsai-related poem as a curtain raiser for the Sunday matinee at the Theatre@Boston Court in Pasadena.

The New York performances, directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, will feature all 17 short works and songs written, revised or specifically authorized for the occasion by such eminences as Edward Albee, John Guare, Suzan-Lori Parks, Doug Wright, Richard Greenberg and the composer-librettist team of Stephen Sondheim and John Weidman, who updated and combined two songs from their musical, “Pacific Overtures,” (pictured) with a new narration focused on the 2011 disaster.

Seven of the plays are by Japanese writers, and two come from California-based Japanese-Americans, Berkeley playwright Philip Kan Gotanda and Naomi Iizuka, who heads the playwriting program at UC San Diego.

Continue reading »

Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.