Home is where the art is
By Kevin Uhrich 08/26/2013
To paraphrase the great California historian Kevin Starr, if art had an actual home to go and relax after a hard day at the studio, that place would be the city of Pasadena.
Like few other American cities, even those many times its size, Pasadena enjoys a well-deserved reputation for not only the quantity of its outlets of expression but the quality of its artistic offerings — music, painting, theater, dance, literature — throughout the year.
From the Pasadena Playhouse, the Norton Simon Museum and Armory Center for the Arts to Art Center College of Design, Caltech and JPL, where scientists daily unleash their imaginations to map the unexplored boundaries of the universe, Pasadena remains on a par with such cultural Meccas as Los Angeles, New York, London and Paris.
No wonder so many stars of stage, screen and the national music scene have made Pasadena and Altadena their homes.
No wonder Mayor Bill Bogaard once referred to Pasadena as the “Paris of the Pacific.”
With that said, it should come as no surprise that each of our venerable artistic institutions is offering exciting lineups of original plays, musical performances, gallery showings and author readings during the next few months.
This week, we present our annual Fall Arts Issue, featuring stories and information on the very best shows, exhibits and other events being produced in Pasadena and its neighboring cities. Our hope is that you, like us, will come to see our fair city as the center of artistic freedom that it really is as you enjoy all the fall arts Greater Pasadena has to offer this season.
The word on Pasadena
David Sedaris appearance part of a full slate of writers pitching their latest works
By Rebecca Kuzins
During a reading a few years ago at Vroman’s Bookstore, USC Professor Kevin Starr, author of an ongoing multivolume history of California collectively titled “Americans and the California Dream,” surveyed the attendees and attributed the larger-than-usual size of his audience to the city where the event was being held.
“If a city could be a book,” Starr told the crowd, “that city would be Pasadena.”
Few communities are more receptive to literature than Pasadena and its surrounding cities, as evidenced by the large number of people who regularly attend literary events. The city that’s as interesting as any book — as well as a number of its neighbors — will host numerous author readings and book signings throughout the fall.
The biggest event of the season so far is a planned appearance by humorist David Sedaris at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium on Nov. 15. “An Evening with David Sedaris” is part of a national tour organized by his literary agency and will feature all-new readings. Sedaris has written several best-selling essay collections displaying his satiric wit and perceptive social criticism, including his latest release, “Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls.”
Tickets for the event range from $42 to $72 and are available at the box office or through Ticketmaster. The Civic Auditorium is at 300 E. Green St., Pasadena. For more information, call (626) 449-7360 or visit thepasadenacivic.com.
One of the more interesting literary events this fall features a lesser-known author, Tom Peak, who has written a 392-page, eight-pound, coffee table book about his late father, commercial artist Bob Peak. Known as “The Father of the Modern Movie Poster,” Bob Peak designed posters for numerous films, including “West Side Story,” “My Fair Lady,” “Superman” and the first “Star Trek” film. Tom Peak will discuss and sign his book, “The Art of Bob Peak,” at the South Pasadena Library, Community Room, 115 El Centro St., at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 19. The free event will also feature an exhibit of Bob Peak’s work and a PowerPoint presentation about his 40-year career.
Vroman’s, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena, has scheduled a number of author events for September and October, most notably an appearance by Australian author Thomas Keneally, whose Booker Prize-winning novel “Schindler’s Ark” was adapted for the film “Schindler’s List.” Keneally will discuss and sign his latest work, “The Daughters of Mars,” on Saturday, Sept. 28.
Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-seller “Eat, Pray, Love,” will sign her new work, “The Signature of All Things,” on Sunday, Oct. 13. This is a signing-only event, and attendees must purchase the new book in advance and receive a ticket at Vroman’s in order to attend.
Two poetry collections published by Pasadena-based Red Hen Press will be showcased on Thursday, Sept. 26: “The Ogre’s Wife” by Ron Koertge and “Slice of Moon” by Kim Dower.
Some of the other writers who will discuss their new works at Vroman’s include children’s author Jon Sciezka on Friday, Oct. 4; novelists Alice McDermott on Oct. 11, Terry McMillan on Oct. 29, and Mark Helperin on Oct. 31; and mystery writers Kathy Reichs today, Laurie King on Sept. 23 and Jeri Westerson on Oct. 19.
Westerson, the author of a medieval mystery series, will also appear at Mystery & Imagination Bookshop in Glendale, 238 N. Brand Blvd., on Nov. 3. In addition, the bookstore will host a Grand Launch party for E. E. King, a close friend of the late science-fiction master Ray Bradbury and author of a new book, “Happy Endings,” on Oct. 20. In August, more than 200 people turned out for a store benefit signing by Guillermo del Toro, the Mexican novelist, screenwriter, producer and the director of “Pacific Rim” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” among other films. Mystery & Imagination is arranging for del Toro to make another appearance later this fall, but at press time the event had not been finalized.
Book’em Mysteries, 1118 Mission St., in South Pasadena, will present two authors promoting their latest releases this month: Baron R. Birtcher on Sept. 13 and Hank Phillippi Ryan on Sept. 15.
Barnes & Noble at the Americana at Brand in Glendale, 201 Americana Way, has scheduled two book events in the next two months. Children’s author Elisabeth Wolf will discuss “Lulu in LA LA Land” on Sept. 7 and actress and food blogger Haylie Duff will present “The Real Girl’s Kitchen” on Oct. 18.
Canvas of the mind
Cultural offerings promise to ignite the autumn spirit dwelling in us all
By Sheila Mendes-Coleman
Poet William Cullen Bryant, author of the above quote, had it right; you’ll be beaming after visiting many of the outstanding museums, shows and art festivals in Pasadena and surrounding cities this fall, which are offering a little — or a lot — of something for every art and culture devotee.
Be sure to check out ArtNight Pasadena from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Oct. 11. Take advantage of this special yearly event in which 17 participating nonprofit arts and cultural institutions throw open their doors to the public and offer an evening of arts, culture and music, gratis to the public. Free Shuttle service is also available for attendees.
The Pasadena Museum of History’s curiously titled exhibition “I Do, I Do, Part II: Tour & Tea” offers an intriguing look at wedding fashions and trends as they’ve evolved throughout the years, beginning with the 1950s. View the spectacular bridal designs by noted dressmakers Vera Wang, Monique Lhuillier and many others through Nov. 3.
For those who’d prefer a more formal evening of culture and art, there’s the “2013 Contemporary History Makers Gala” at the Pasadena Museum of History on Sept. 28. Dine amid other art aficionados in the museum’s delightful garden and enjoy the festive cocktail reception, silent auction and exquisite three-course meal.
The month of September is devoted to Korean culture and customs at the Pacific Asia Museum. From 1 to 4 p.m. Sept. 15, the “Free Family Festival” is sure to be a crowd pleaser. Sept. 28 is the museum’s “Festival of the Autumn Moon,” an evening of fine dining featuring silent and live auctions and stimulating entertainment. The museum’s riveting exhibit “Constructed Visions: New Media from Korea” spotlights four notable present-day Korean artists and their insightful impressions and visions of the environment and landscape using digital media. The exhibit runs until Nov. 4.
The Offramp Gallery will be hosting its “Fifth Anniversary Group Exhibition,” from Sept. 8 through Oct. 13, featuring works by some of the best and brightest minds in the artistic community of Pasadena and surrounding cities.
Mark Dean Veca’s “Outdoor Mural” will be unveiled at the Gallery from 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 27, and Kirk Pedersen’s “The Urban Asia Series and the Evolution of Zero+Publishing” also debuts Oct. 27. Lovingly and conscientiously run by Director Jane Chafin, the critically acclaimed gallery provides important exposure to many talented contemporary artists.
Art Center College of Design presents “Architecture in LA: Pasadena Edition.” Presented by humorist Charles Phoenix on Nov. 24 at the Ahmanson Auditorium, this fascinating whimsical visual event features a look back at our most iconic and quirky establishments and architecture in Southern California — from mind-boggling futuristic drive-ins and unusual and noteworthy homes to theme parks and coffee shops of yesteryear.
Huntington Library’s “Junípero Serra and the Legacies of the California Missions” runs until Jan. 6 in the Virginia Steele Scott Galleries of American Art. This incomparable exhibit delves deeply beyond the more commonly known facts about the visionary Franciscan priest’s life, and his life’s work among Native Americans in California’s early days. Brilliantly timed to coincide with the 300th anniversary of Father Serra’s birth, it features more than 250 extraordinary works from the Huntington’s collection and from private lenders all over the world. In addition, the library’s “Face to Face: Flanders, Florence and Renaissance Painting” probes the synergistic relationship between Flemish artists and the Italian Renaissance in a fluid and transcendent presentation. It runs from Sept. 28 to Jan. 13 in the MaryLou and George Boone Gallery.
For those interested in Pasadena’s rich architectural heritage, there’s the Craftsman Weekend. Presented by Pasadena Heritage, an organization devoted to the preservation of these amazing homes, the events begin on Oct. 18 and conclude Oct. 20. Attendees will be treated to an assortment of walking tours, exhibits, lectures, workshops, open-air markets and even a silent auction to round out the festivities.
Coming soon to the Norton Simon Museum is “Breaking Ground: 20th Century Latin American Art at the Norton Simon Museum.” A comprehensive look at the ever-evolving landscape of art in Latin American society and culture, this exhibit offers a fresh perspective on the modernism movement. Timed to coincide with and honor the celebration of Hispanic and Latino Heritage Month, it runs from Sept. 13 to Nov. 4.
The Pasadena Museum of California Art is presently showing “Sam Francis: Five Decades of Abstract Expressionism from California Collections.” An in-depth study of renowned artist and California native Sam Francis, this exhibit includes a multitude of works by him over the course of his distinguished 40-year career. This exhibit runs until Jan. 5. Running concurrently at the PMCA is “Ignite! The Art of Sustainability,” providing an introspective look at the importance of museums and art in our environment from an ecological viewpoint. Thirteen acclaimed environmental artists collaborated to present this remarkable exhibit with a multidisciplinary approach that runs until Jan. 5.
Viewing now at Armory Center for the Arts is “The Armory Show and Tell.” A conglomeration of 35 separate events encompasses this group exhibition, which can be enjoyed in the Caldwell Gallery each Wednesday through Saturday until Saturday.
Also running at the Armory is “Jim Skuldt: Island Effects.” Comprised of topographical and environmental-based art, Skuldt’s work takes an interdisciplinary approach and incorporates paper, ceramic, casts and contrasting photographic imagery. It is available for viewing until Sept. 22.
With a diverse array of exhibitions, events and performances, the fall’s cultural offerings promise to ignite the autumn spirit dwelling in us all.
History on stage
Three great local theaters — and a cemetery — present a full slate of classic plays
By Carl Kozlowski
Pasadena is home to three renowned professional theaters, and that means that any season of the year will have plenty to offer fans of great stage productions. This fall has the Pasadena Playhouse, the Theatre @ Boston Court and A Noise Within all presenting schedules packed with revivals, while the innovative upstarts at Wicked Lit bring a new slate of terror-filled tales to life on the grounds of Altadena’s Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in time for Halloween.
First up, the Playhouse is sure to get attendees’ toes a-tapping with its revival of “Smokey Joe’s Café,” the longest-running musical revue in Broadway history. The tribute to the musical masterpieces of legendary pop songwriting team Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller was a Tony Award nominee and Grammy winner and features 39 of rock music’s greatest hits, from “Stand By Me” to “Yakety Yak,” from Sept. 17 through Oct. 13.
From Nov. 5 through Dec. 1 comes “12 Angry Men,” a revival of the classic drama by Reginald Rose about a group of jurors on a homicide trial who are ready to deliver a unanimous guilty verdict until a lone juror starts making them have reasonable doubts. This revival has yet to announce its cast and director, partly because it had to fill in as a schedule replacement for the play “Stoneface” when its star, French Stewart of “3rd Rock from the Sun” fame, had to drop out of his lead role as legendary movie comedian Buster Keaton when he scored a role in the new CBS sitcom “Moms.”
Over at The Theatre @ Boston Court, director Jessica Kubzansky will offer up her raw and daring new take on Shakespeare’s classic “Richard II.” Retitled “R II,” Kubzansky not only helms the production but also conceived the idea and adapted the time-honored text to reshape it for a cast of just three actors.
The cast of James Ortlieb, John Sloan and Paige White bring the story of King Richard struggling with an identity crisis after he is unexpectedly deposed by Bolingbroke. The production will run from Sept. 5 through Oct. 13, with the official opening night on Sept. 14.
In keeping with its tradition of presenting numerous plays in rotation in the same time frame, A Noise Within is offering three classics between September and November. Shakespeare’s “Pericles, Prince of Tyre” is a comically tinged hero’s quest filled with magic and adventures spanning decades and continents, and will run from Sept. 7 to Nov. 24.
Meanwhile, Ferenc Molnar’s “The Guardsman” follows a Hungarian stage star, terrified that his recent marriage is already on the rocks, who concocts a scheme meant to invigorate the passions of his starlet wife. His absurd plan — starting with disguising himself as a guardsman (with a thick accent, no less) — unleashes a series of hilariously unintended consequences in Molnar’s comic game of love and marriage. The play runs from Sept. 28 to Nov. 30.
Finally, Samuel Beckett’s “Endgame” is a surreal look at laughter and unhappiness and is considered by many to be an even greater work than Beckett’s all-time classic “Waiting for Godot.” According to Boston Court’s description, “it mixes beauty, vitality and wry humor in a devastating distillation of the human condition,” and runs from Oct. 19 to Nov. 23.
One big alternative to seeing theater indoors each fall is the Wicked Lit series of horror-themed plays, which are inventively produced by Unbound Productions on the grounds of the Mountain View Mausoleum and Cemetery in Altadena. This year’s productions are Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The New Catacomb,” Washington Irving’s “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “The Lurking Fear,” all performed after dark for maximum frightful effect — but with a special production of Edgar Allen Poe’s “Masque of the Red Death” at 7 p.m. each night.
Add it all up and theater fans have nothing to be frightened of and plenty of choices to be thankful for.
Stepping into life
History takes center stage in a number of interactive dance productions
By Jana J. Monji
This fall is full of opportunities for people to appreciate dance classics and even learn a little history in the process.
Sometimes what is old is made new again, especially with innovative choreographers like Great Britain’s Matthew Bourne, whose New Adventures company will be at the Ahmanson Theatre in November for his vision of the classic ballet “Sleeping Beauty.”
Pasadena’s own Lineage Dance Co. will present two works based on true stories: One about breast cancer survival and the other about mental illness and how even after death relationships can evolve.
This season, dancing isn’t just for watching. There are plenty of ways to get involved and shake your own groove thing. One can attend the last two Downtown Dance events at and around the Music Center in downtown Los Angeles.
And locally, those with a taste for big band sounds can still swing every Saturday night to a live band with Pasadena Ballroom Dance Association.
Sounds of the season
From the Pasadena POPS, ARTNight and the Eagle Rock Music Fest to an acoustic Ben Harper and Sinead O’Connor, fall features an eclectic array of music and art
By Bliss Bowen
We can all appreciate the familiar comforts of a local bar or coffeehouse, soaking up live music while hanging out with friends. But there’s a lot to be said for destination events, too. If you’re the kind who likes to plan ahead, grab your iPad or pen and start making notes, because there are a number of concerts worth saving up nickels and dimes to experience this fall.
Pasadena Symphony and POPS ease into autumn with a terrific program at the LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden (301 N. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia) on Sept. 7. “The Gershwins and Me” will feature superb jazz stylist Catherine Russell and actor/singer Tom Wopat, as well as Pasadena POPS’ tastemaking conductor Michael Feinstein, who has proclaimed Russell one of his favorite singers. And well he might. Like Feinstein, Russell is a masterful interpreter of the Great American Songbook, bringing sass, class and a hip sensibility to her renditions of jazz and pop standards. Come Nov. 2, violinist Anne Akiko Meyers will open the classical season with a performance of Bernstein’s “Serenade,” and Music Director David Lockington will lead the orchestra through Stravinsky’s groundbreaking “The Rite of Spring” at Ambassador Auditorium (169 S. St. John Ave., Pasadena). And on Dec. 14, the Pasadena Symphony’s Holiday Candlelight Event will once again be held at All Saints Church (132 N. Euclid Ave., Pasadena), with soprano Susan Egan joining the Christmastide festivities. For more information, visit pasadenasymphony-pops.org.
At Caltech (332 S. Michigan Ave., Pasadena), fall features music-and-dance troupes Mystic India (Oct. 5) and Flamenco Vivo Carlota Santana (Nov. 1), as well as six-string-slinging veteran Dan Crary and Thunderation (Nov. 1), acclaimed Scottish guitarist Tony McManus (Nov. 16), Motown-loving a cappella quintet Rockapella (Dec. 7) and Celtic harpist Patrick Ball performing “The Christmas Rose” (Dec. 14). For more information, visit caltech.edu.
The dynamic of constant change that defines Los Angeles’ cultural life has historically resulted in much genre-fusing and boundary-pushing — the focus of “Crossing Musical Borders” at the Autry Museum (4700 Western Heritage Way, Griffith Park) on Sept. 22, with performances by Japanese mariachi Junko Seki, Otto Granillo and their globe-embracing ensemble KoTolan. On Oct. 13, “Mostly Kosher” will examine klezmer music and the “history of the Jewish community in Los Angeles.” For more information, visit theautry.org
Los Angeles Philharmonic and conductor Gustavo Dudamel will open their season at Walt Disney Concert Hall (111 S. Grand Ave., downtown LA) on Sept. 30 with superstar cellist Yo-Yo Ma (who will likely be celebrating his “A Playlist Without Borders” release with the Silk Road Ensemble). On Oct. 23, the Green Umbrella Series presents the LA Phil, this time with conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Master Chorale, performing the world premiere of the score to Frank Zappa’s 1971 surrealist film “200 Motels.” Fado diva Mariza returns on Nov. 12, soulful folk-rocker Ben Harper makes his debut at the concert hall with an acoustic evening on Nov. 18, and Blind Boys of Alabama once again bring their Christmas gospel show to town on Dec. 10. For more information, visit laphil.com.
When the reliably controversial Sinead O’Connor takes the stage at Cal State LA’s Harriet & Charles Luckman Fine Arts Complex (5151 State University Drive, Los Angeles) on Nov. 24, one can only hope she will reprise at least some of the material from her recent “Gospel Sessions” concerts at Lincoln Center. Though her sociopolitical stances are often dissed, she still earns praise for her passionate conviction. For more information, visit luckmanarts.org.
Smaller-scale concerts in the offing are also worth noting. The South Pasadena Arts Council and the South Pasadena Public Library present a free concert by swampy blues-Cajun-gospel-rockers The Black Tongued Bells on Sept. 5 on the lawn in front of the Community Room in Library Park (1115 El Centro St., South Pasadena). For more information, visit theblacktonguedbells.com.
Critically respected San Gabriel Valley country songwriter Rick Shea celebrates “Sweet Bernardine” with a show at the Coffee Gallery Backstage (2029 N. Lake Ave., Altadena) on Sept. 12; the new album includes fan favorites like “Mariachi Hotel,” about musicians at an old hotel in East LA. And on Sept. 28, also at the Coffee Gallery Backstage, UK Americana band The Good Intentions return to perform songs from their new album “Travelling Companion,” which Shea produced. For more information, visit coffeegallery.com
On Oct. 5, the big kahuna of local fall festivals promises to be the 15th Annual Eagle Rock Music Festival, which is recruiting volunteers and firming up its slate of artists. Headquartered at the Center for the Arts Eagle Rock (2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock), the free, all-day event hosts more than 40 acts on stages up and down Colorado Boulevard, outside as well as inside traditional and nontraditional venues. Bands across the spectrum of genres as well as the map vie for a slot, though the focus is on artists that best represent the Eastside’s eclectic spirit. For more information, visit http://cfaer.org.
Across Pasadena, ARTNight will once again upend Pasadena’s staid reputation as it shuttles attendees to museums, galleries, schools, libraries, shops and other venues hosting performing artists and musicians on Friday, Oct. 11. It’s free to the public and an excellent opportunity to introduce yourself to what’s happening on the diverse local arts scene. For artist and venue updates, visit artnightpasadena.org.