Sunday, September 26, 2010

Why Opera Is Not Elitist

I must share with you this extraordinary New York Times Op-Ed piece by New Yorker magazine music critic Alex Ross, which is one of the most persuasive arguments for opera being for everyone.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Survivor of "The Body Snatchers" Dead at 96

UPDATE: Photo at left of me and Alison with Kevin circa 1985 in Hartford, Connecticut.

Kevin McCarthy, best-known to many for the original film "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and to millions of television viewers for a famous episode of "The Twilight Zone," ("Long Live Walter Jameson," about a man who has never aged or died), has left us at 96.
I had the great pleasure of working with him once when I presented a week-long run of his solo act as Harry S. Truman in "Give 'em Hell, Harry!" (he took over the show after it was originated by James Whitmore) in Hartford, Connecticut 25 years ago. What a gentleman he was! One night, a followspot shorted out and left a smoky film wafting through the theatre. Kevin took a beat, said "I'm going on with the show," and never looked back. He came from a talented family: his sister, Mary McCarthy, wrote the critically-acclaimed best-seller, The Group, and was one of our nation's most prominent literary figures until her death in 1989. Somewhere, I have a picture of Kevin & me, which I'll have to dig up & post here.
What a great guy: his talent was much bigger than his ego. RIP

Saturday, September 11, 2010

"Quixotic" cuisine?

I split a gut when I read an ad for Anaheim's historic White House restaurant (I remember when it used to be called, quaintly, "Thee White House").

It described its cuisine as "quixotic" (as opposed to "chaotic"?).

I puzzled over what they were trying to convey.
Is their food a futile effort? Do they marinate windmills they believe to be baby back ribs? Must they bear with the unbearable sorrow of nobody coming to eat there? Do they whip up their omelettes in a grimy shaving bowl?

One hopes not.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Two Sides of Southern California in Adjacent Exhibitions

Two art openings last weekend in Santa Ana offered a stark contrast between "white bread" and "corn tortilla" culture in Southern California.

Santa Monica - The Art of Summer at the Orange County Center for Contemporary Art through September 25 offers an eclectic array of works inspired by SoCal beach culture and the beauty of Santa Monica and its historic pier. While not every work sings the Beach Boys, there is a quality of light in many of the paintings that suggests rose-colored glasses even when the subject matter is abstract, satirical or distinctly non-idyllic. The abundance of large canvases dominating OCCCA's expansive space (once an automotive repair shop) were impressive in their style and execution, curated expertly by Jeffrey Crussell. OCCCA is also hosting CAN Castle (riffing on the sand castle motif of its beach-inspired show), inviting visitors to participate by contributing canned food items destined for a local food bank.

Across the street at Grand Central Art Center's Gallery is Detras de las Cortinas (Behind the Curtain), an exhibition of works by SoCal Latino artists through October 17. Equally vivid colors await you here, while the subject matter ranges from more sobering reminders of barrio life to traditional Day of the Dead imagery to model "low rider" hot rods embellished with flames. You won't find abstracts here--real and surreal images dominate. This exhibition, too, has been curated with wisdom and panache.

The concurrence of these adjacent shows (admission is free to both) was certainly not coordinated by these independent organizations, yet it provides an exuberant contrast that makes them, in my view, a tandem must-see experience.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

News on the Pro-Am Divide

The Royal Shakespeare Company's artistic director Michael Boyd has announced a major initiative that will place amateur theatre practitioners front and center at Britain's large, prestitious theatre company.

"There’s been a sort of crucifix and garlic mutual relationship between the amateur sector and the professional sector for too long," said Boyd in an article in the UK publication The Stage.

This was brought to the attention of many in the US arts world through blogger Chloe Veltman on her blog lies like truth.

The Pro-Am Divide is a subject that is of immense interest to me--especially now, when the lines are being blurred by popular culture through such vehicles as American Idol. Interestingly, the Pacific Chorale has for the past two years produced a Choral Festival in which it selects local amateur choirs to sing with the professional Chorale in a free concert.

While audiences for established arts institutions continue to dwindle (with some notable exceptions), much has been made of the continued strength of the participatory arts--people are even more desirous of being arts practitioners than ever (perhaps as an offset to media overload?). What I see is a real opportunity for audience building for professional arts by engaging with--rather than negating--the amateur artist.

Photo: Pacific Chorale rehearses with community choruses its 2010 Choral Festival.