Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Anaheim's Chance Theater likes Costa Mesa--a lot!

Just one year after South Coast Repertory brought in The Chance Theater's production, Jesus Hates Me (right photo), to its Costa Mesa theatre complex, the Orange County Performing Arts Center will bring in Chance's production of The Who's Tommy (left photo) into its facility across the street, according to this story in BroadwayWorld.

Both SCR & OCPAC are to be lauded for partnering with this small-but-ambitious company, and I hope they'll consider inviting some other intrepid small performing organizations, too.

Anaheim would do well to take care of The Chance and its other cultural resources lest they get poached by rival Costa Mesa! (:-)
UPDATE: See Paul Hodgins' article in the Orange County Register about this news.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Ardor for Arden: Helena Modjeska's Return to OC

The renowned turn-of-the-century Polish actress known for chewing up the scenery in Shakespearean productions throughout Europe and the United States, Helena Modjeska, ultimately made her home in the canyon and beneath the peak that were named for her in Orange County.

She made a brief re-appearance this past weekend in three sold-out performances at the Camino Real Playhouse in San Juan Capistrano inhabited by Ewa Boryczko, a Polish-born American actress, in Modjeska! An Artist's Dream, a solo performance piece being developed by the actress/writer, director Jon Kellam and producer Kris Cieply of the Helena Modjeska Society.

This is not the first time the tale of Modjeska's life has been brought to life on stage in Orange County: South Coast Repertory premiered Richard Hellesen's full-length drama Once in Arden 20 years ago, with the late Nan Martin in the title role.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Sierra Leone Refugees All Stars

Popped over to The Coach House on Wednesday night to see this band in response to seeing their concert listed in the Goldstar events newsletter I received on Tuesday. The description of this group of refugees from the west African nation of Sierra Leone who spent years in a refugee camp in Guinea was intriguing enough, but the fact that they play a blend of African, Afro-pop and reggae music incited me to take the leap. They didn't come on stage until almost 10 pm after two (presumably local) warm-up bands, and they were still playing non-stop when we finally left at 11:30 (after all, it was a work night). Their matching print costumes (pajama-like) were as colorful as their stage presence: one young member of the band engaged in some wild gyrations in about a 5 square foot space between his fellow musicians, teetering on disaster from time to time but always regaining his balance. The same man (who also played bongos) came into the audience & grabbed my hand to get me and my fellow concertgoers off our duffs and into some dance gyrations of our own. Most of the band's members (generally middle aged) are far more low-key, simply exercising their virtuosity on keyboard, drums, guitars, bass, and vocals. The musician pictured here took the prize for the best hair--the photo doesn't quite do it justice, as his hair is down to his waist.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

"Digging Up the Dirt" at Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble

Breath of Fire Latina Theatre Ensemble has teamed up with See-what Productions to present this World Premiere play by Cherrie Moraga.

The subtitle "An Old Story of Loving to Death," sets up two parallel tales, one of which echoes closely the well-documented murder of Selena, the "Queen of Tejano music," by the president of her fan club. The other is the murder of a woman by her son, for reasons that are not completely clear, but may relate to her relationship to "The Poet," a woman she loved who narrates much of the play.

Author Moraga suggests that the death of Sirena (Selena) is also related to lesbian love for her by her friend and admirer Josefa, and the complexities of lesbian relationships comprise the central theme of the play--for better and for worse.

I say that because the excellent cast have brought to life Moraga's knack for capturing tender and awkward moments between lovers with sensitivity and humor. Yet on a few occasions the author seems to lack the confidence to allow her characters and their story to stand on their own, opting to comment, through the mouthpiece of The Poet, about the difficulty of living life as a Latina lesbian.

Nevertheless, this is the strongest production I've seen so far at the seven year old Breath of Fire company, marked by a standout performance by Adelina Anthony (The Poet) who also co-directed with the author and an equally fine cast across the board. It was also great to see they had a full house and a really diverse audience.

e.impulse at OC Center for Contemporary Art

Three widely dissimilar styles are on exhibit in the latest show at OCCCA in the Santa Ana Artists Village, entitled "e.impulse".

Kim Ye takes us to another galaxy, it seems, with rubbery constructions that look like aliens or their body parts, all in flesh tones, some illuminated from within. There is a bit of the tongue-in-cheek about it all, with a couple of the large sculptures sporting white mannequin human feet.

Evalynn Alu's abstract paintings may not break new ground but are skillfully executed explorations of geometric shapes with vivid contrasts of color and brushstroke. Many are indeed beautiful to gaze upon, leading me to believe they would be highly suitable decorative elements in a home or office.

To me, Jeff Alu's works were the most inspired in this three-person exhibition. One series of his black and white photographs dwelt upon derelict electric poles, transformers and wires--an eerie landscape of desolation. He leaves it to the observer to determine if he's captured the stark beauty of these elements or if they are making a statement--either will suffice.

But Jeff Alu is also a filmmaker (the OCCCA back gallery has seats arranged to view one of his videos) and a tinkerer with technology (a computer screen & headphones is available for visitors to play with a soundscape that can be manipulated--listen to solo tones or a cacophony, it's your choice).

The exhibition runs through August 29th, and admission is free.

Spark-e has returned

I've been in and out of town, owing to the decline in health and passing of my mother back east. Thanks to the many who have expressed their sympathy.
Glad to be back on the circuit, and eager to report on two OC arts events I attended last night.
Read on!