Art and life seamlessly merged a few weeks ago at Border X Brewery in Barrio Logan. It was the site of a launch party for Emmy award winning filmmaker Paul Espinosa’s latest project, a full length documentary about San Diego activist and musician Ramon “Chunky” Sanchez. It was a career milestone for both Espinosa, who is probably best known in San Diego for his critically acclaimed production of The Lemon Grove Incident and Chunky whose music has been a voice for social justice for over thirty years. [Read more…]
By Yuko Kurahashi
The world-premiere of Ayad Akhtar’s JUNK: The Golden Age of Debt, directed by Doug Hughes, is currently playing at La Jolla Playhouse.
JUNK’s pivotal character is Robert Merkin, a financier, loosely based on bond traders from the junk-bond era of the 1980s such as Michael Milken. Merkin helps Israel “Izzy” Peterman, a businessman, to wage a hostile takeover of a Dow Jones industrial steel company owned by Thomas Everson, the grandson of the founder. [Read more…]
It is probably a coincidence, but two very different theatre companies are showcasing the topics of fame and the price people are willing to pay to achieve it—specifically as it pertains to mothers and daughters. Ruthless! The Musical is playing at the Moxie and Gypsy is playing at the Cygnet. Though the topics are similar, greed, ego, and ambition—the treatment and the motivations are very different. [Read more…]
By Yuko Kurahashi
Hershey Felder’s Maestro (directed by Joel Zwick), one in a series of solo shows on famous composers, was staged at the San Diego Repertory Theatres’ Lyceum Stage from July 6-17, 2016. Capturing key moments in Leonard Bernstein’s life, Felder offers a truly memorable piece that humanizes the world-famous American conductor and composer. It gives voices to people who influenced Bernstein directly or indirectly, including his parents, George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Demitri Mitropoulos, Serge Koussevitzky, and his wife of 27 years Felicia Cohn Montealegre.
Highlighting key events in Bernstein’s life, Hershey focuses on: Bernstein’s Jewish heritage, his encounters and relationships with world-renowned composers and conductors; his marriage to Felicia and homosexuality, his ambitions and successes as a composer, and failures as a composer. He ties these all together to his love of music and life [Read more…]
By Yuko Kurahashi
The La Jolla Playhouse, in partnership with Berkeley Repertory Theatre, presents Jeff Augustin’s The Last Tiger in Haiti, a play about “restavek” (child slavery in Haiti), directed by Joshua Kahan Brody, at the Mandell Weiss Forum through July 24, 2016. The playwright Augustin, of Haitian descent, chose to use the traditions of Haitian storytelling as a vehicle not only to expose child slavery but also question traditional and contemporary “story-telling” and its power.
Augustin depicts child slaves making up stories about their lives in a competitive way, shaping the stories in response to the comments of the listeners. In Haiti, the tradition is that a storyteller says, “krik” if one has a story to tell. Then the “listener” says “krak” if they are willing to listen. Using this set of call and response the stories in the play are comingled with folktales and religious traditions, while they also introduce the audience to the tragic reality of child slavery. [Read more…]
Sunday July 3 Final Day!
Just to make the point that everything is represented at the 2016 San Diego International Fringe Festival and that nothing is censored, along comes a work described as “Deplorable,” “Irredeemable,” and “Misogynistic bullshit.”
These are not my words but could describe The Chronic Single’s Handbook by Randy Ross quite accurately. On the other hand, this man’s “global search for love goes astray in Greece, South Africa, Cambodia, and Boston” could also be described as intelligent adult humor that is well-acted. No one said that you have to agree with everything that comes your way at the Fringe. [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
The 2016 San Diego International Fringe Festival arrived a month earlier than last year. There must be good reason, but it wasn’t announced. Almost everything else remains the same. Bi-national shows (San Diego and Tijuana being so close to one another) are now a fact since last year. The venues are pretty similar to last year too. However, this year, there are essentially two “centers.” Downtown has always been a base. Diversionary Theatre in University Heights got added to the mix.
Worth mentioning—the emphasis on nurturing the next generation of artists continues in the form of Family Fringe (7/2/2016 at the City Heights Performance Annex). Emerging Fringe (Competition for grades 7-12) happens the next day—7/3/2016 on The READER’S Spreckels Mainstage. The burst of creativity known as “The Fringe” also means buskers and street performers downtown and in Seaport Village. Enough said about logistics. Now, the creative and imaginative side. [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
It is important that we nurture and encourage the next generation of artists. The Circus Collective of San Diego pools just that kind of talent (the next generation kind…). Their stated mission is to “blur the lines between circus and theater.” Given their background, that means that the physicality of the circus will prevail over the emotionality of theater, right? How does a circus troupe merge acrobatics, juggling, contortion, and aerial arts with the hyper theatricality of a “noir performance?” Can it be done successfully?
Initially, the set design of Circustantial Evidence: The Crimson Canary was on the sparse side. The music telegraphed a clear message—it was a mystery—a “whodunit…” This is a good time to give credit to the excellent musicians in the piece. Gina Granier (Piano), Aaron Pratts (Trumpet), and David Bramley (Drums/Guitar) gave a consistently great performance. They underlined the mood of the acts perfectly. The cast assembled at the base of a pole. We got a sampling of circus acts to come. And then, the sets were assembled. The dialogue and set up pointed to a noir mystery. [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
In 1922, a popular Hollywood director was murdered. His name was William Desmond Taylor. Most of us don’t recognize that name, but his murder ushered in a new era—the Hays Era.
The Hays Production Code changed the way business was done in Hollywood—what could be shown or not shown. Except, Taylor’s murder did not directly usher in the Hays Era. That’s known as “artistic license” and has happened since time immemorial.
Be that as it may, Hollywood written by Joe DiPietro and directed by Christopher Ashley is a smart and sexy “Theater Noir” with a true story at its core. Beside the murder, the play delves into censorship issues—and morality. What was Hollywood about and what is it now? [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
Now that we are at war with Afghanistan, we are bound to find out a lot more about their culture. It is a cynical commentary on our society, but we don’t tend to acknowledge countries and cultures until we are at war with them—take Vietnam, Korea, and Iraq for instance—for us, they didn’t “exist” until we bombed them.
The dark aspect fascinating us now about Afghan culture is a practice called Bacha Bazi (known as “boy play” – a centuries old tradition wherein older men engage younger boys as dancers, singers, and, sometimes, sexually…). Ask the men who follow the tradition and they will tell you about mentorship and the chance for a good life they provide the young boys. [Read more…]
I met a woman named Eleanor Ramrath Garner early in April at a nice party at a beautiful Del Mar home with a wonderful view on a warm inviting sunny day.
The gathering had everything I like: delicious food; refreshing drinks; interesting witty people, scholars all, practically, filled with colorful stories to tell and they didn’t mind telling them.
Some of them had written doctoral studies and books and essays for professional publications. Eleanor happened to mention that she was an author. She didn’t say what her book was about but something about her made me want to read it. So I looked for it on Amazon. [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
Whenever we get the feeling that the world is a bad place and our times are really bad, it is worth remembering that we have been down that road before. The early 90s (otherwise known as the “good Clinton years”) were not so good in other parts of the world—Bosnia and Rwanda being such places. Whereas we got entangled to some degree in Bosnia, Rwanda was a totally different story. We did as little as possible.
Both saw horrific acts of violence on a massive scale. Neighbor turned against neighbor. Atrocities that cannot be described were perpetrated. What happened in the early to mid-90s in Bosnia, happened in 1994 in Rwanda in a more concentrated manner. An estimated 800,000 Rwandans were killed between the months of April and July of that year. This genocide was aimed at the Tutsi population and it was carried out by the Hutus (two different ethnic groups that had sort-of coexisted in the “Switzerland of Africa,” as Rwandans liked to speak of their country). [Read more…]
On Mother’s Day, a group of about 30 women (and a couple men), some of the women mothers and some not, gathered at the Lyceum Theater to celebrate with champagne and listen to a panel of experts discuss “The (True) History of Feminism in San Diego”. The panel, assembled by the Women’s Museum of California, preceded a viewing of “Rapture, Blister, Burn”, a contemporary Pulitzer nominated play by Gina Gionfriddo – a funny and poignant feminist play running for another week that I highly recommend.
The panel, consisting of a politician, a research psychologist, both a professor and a masters student in women’s studies was moderated by Ashley Gardner, the Executive Director of the Women’s Museum. [Read more…]
Egan Has Brought Laughs to OB for 16 Years
By South OB Girl / OB Rag
Long time OBcean, Jesse Egan, can be found these days hosting the late night talk show, “Tonight in San Diego”. If you attend a taping, or if you watch the show on-line – you are guaranteed a night filled with a ton of laughs!
You may remember Jesse from running stand up comedy at Winstons. Or as the host of “Think and Drink” trivia night at Winstons. He has been bringing laughs to OB for 16 years. And now via the YouTube based show, those laughs will be coming from people city wide, nation wide, and world wide. [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
It isn’t often that we get to see films from Nicaragua. So, it makes sense to avail yourself of the opportunity to catch La Pantalla Desnuda (Nicaragua, 93 min. 2015) at the San Diego Latino Film Festival 2016. Part of the Viva Mujeres Showcase, this recent movie directed by Florence Jaugey, tells the story of Octavio and Alex (two friends from opposite ends of the social spectrum).
Octavio comes from a poor background. He is envious of his generous and charismatic friend Max, son of a landowner. The tension goes into drama when Max uses a cell phone to film himself making love to his girlfriend, Esperanza. The video gets leaked…
By Mukul Khurana
It didn’t rain on the first day of the San Diego Latino Film Festival (now in its 23rd year). It did, however, rain heavily and briefly on the second day, as forecasted. That didn’t affect attendance on either of the initial two days. Maybe word got around after 23 years that SDLFF 2016 was in town at Fashion Valley AMC again. Maybe the rain caused people to seek shelter…
On the first day, Tiempos Felices (Mexico, 80 min. 2015) turned out to be the first surprise of many. [Read more…]
An incident at San Diego’s historically black Lincoln High School on Friday involved students being tased and pepper sprayed by police from two agencies.
Students say police involvement was an overreaction to horseplay. The parent of a student who was jailed claims the arrest is revenge by the authorities. The ACLU says they are deeply concerned about what happened and are investigating.
The police say one officer suffered a concussion and has been placed on administrative leave. A cell-phone video shows the seemingly unharmed officer tasing a student laying face down on the ground. [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
Shah Jahan translates roughly into the English “King of the World.” As such, Shah Jahan was an impressive ruler. In the seventeenth century, that meant that wars of conquest and constant expansionism were the order of the day. That also meant that the spoils of war and all that made the fifth Mughal Emperor of India a very wealthy man.
Having access to beautiful things made Shah Jahan want to replicate that beauty and he did that with great abandon when it came to architectural structures—he wanted to leave legacies behind. Ironically, he isn’t mainly remembered for many of those things. He is remembered for the Taj Mahal, the tomb and resting place for his favorite wife—Mumtaz Mahal.
“Free universal health care, free university, free day care, taxing and policing hedge fund millionaires—have already happened in nearly every other industrialized country in the world! And I have the evidence—and the film—to prove it!”
By Lauren McCauley / CommonDreamsWhere to Invade Next, which is said to be both his happiest and “most subversive” movie yet.
In the film, Moore travels to countries throughout Europe and also Tunisia to “pry loose from them the tools they’ve been using to make their countries happy, shiny places,” he writes, with the goal of “show[ing] millions of Americans what these countries have been hiding from us.” Such tools range from eight weeks paid vacation in Italy, to a year of paid maternity leave in Scandinavia, to women with “true equality and power” in Tunisia, to trusting prisons in Norway.
Moore, who is known for such works as Bowling for Columbine and Capitalism: A Love Story, penned an open letter to supporters last week explaining how a recent bout of pneumonia and subsequent hospital stay forced him to cancel all television appearances promoting the film. [Read more…]
By Mukul Khurana
The 2016 Human Rights Watch Film Festival is in town and opened on Thursday, January 21 at the Museum of Photographic Arts in Balboa Park. This is not the first year for this kind of event, but the care taken in the selection of films and the scheduling seems to point to a well thought out experience. Credit goes to the collaboration between Paolo Zuniga of MOPA and Andrea Holley of Human Rights Watch (not to mention the excellent artists selected for the 2016 festival). [Read more…]
“I’m not a prophet or a stone aged man, just a mortal with potential of a superman,” Bowie once sang.
By Lauren McCauley / Common Dreams
The world on Monday mourned the death of David Bowie, the iconic rock star, record producer, artist, and performer whose influence spanned generations and whose ideas constantly pushed boundaries of creativity, sexuality, and custom.
Bowie’s death was confirmed by a post on his Facebook page, which said that the artist died peacefully in New York City on Sunday “surrounded by his family after a courageous 18 month battle with cancer.” He had just celebrated his 69th birthday on January 8.
Bowie, born David Robert Jones in Brixton, south London, was lauded as a performer who was always ahead of his time. [Read more…]
By Abby Zimet / Common Dreams
After decades of insisting on using “our art to reflect human values,” incomparable cinematographer and tireless activist Haskell Wexler died this weekend at 93. Wexler helped create some of the best films of our time — while unceasingly “giving his gifts to the revolution” by highlighting issues of war, racism, poverty and torture – and accumulating a 500-page FBI file for his trouble. Wexler was best known by mainstream audiences for his work on big-name and often Oscar-winning films – Bound for Glory, In the Heat of the Night, Matewan, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest and The Conversation until he fought with the directors. [Read more…]
By Brent E. Beltrán
Candles. Photos. Marigolds and other flowers. Some favorite foods. Maybe a beer or shot of tequila. We all remember differently our loved ones who have passed.
Some remember with regret, others with joy, sadness, longing. But we remember.
Death is but a natural part of life. We carry our dead with us in our hearts and some are hoisted upon the bony blades of their forbearers. But we remember. [Read more…]
Acknowledging the Playwright Project’s
“Deborah Salzer Excellence in Arts Education Award”
By Ernie McCray
for any contribution
I’ve made to the arts
is like being recognized
like being identified
for being myself –
as I was raised by a mother
and a grandfather
and a great-aunt
and a church
and more than a handful of neighbors
and a teacher or two
at a segregated school
in the spirit of the Golden Rule:
Express myself. [Read more…]