Top Story: Arts
February 22, 2013
Last week’s Russian meteor strike may have been astonishing (not to mention hazardous to thousands of Siberians), but great balls of fire can land anywhere—even in greater Los Angeles.
Take the 30-pound Neenach meteorite—4.5 billion years old, give or take a few hundred million—that was turned up by a plow in 1948 by an Antelope Valley rancher. Or the 42-pound Littlerock meteorite, found on a farm in 1979 near Palmdale.
There are even a pair of rare Martian meteorites named for Los Angeles County, though technically the collector who discovered them said he can’t recall precisely where in the Mojave Desert he stumbled across them; the two lava chunks, weighing about a pound and a half-pound, respectively, languished for nearly two decades in a box of loose rocks at his home in Sunland, until he took them in 1999 to UCLA for testing.
Now, a thin slice of “Los Angeles 002,” as the smaller meteorite is now known, is behind glass at the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County, along with the other aforementioned local examples of primordial stardust.
“Meteorites are hitting the Earth constantly,” notes Alyssa R. Morgan, collections manager in the gems and minerals department of the Natural History Museum.
“Most of them are as tiny as dust or sand grains, but they make the Earth bigger every day.”
Like geologists the world over, Morgan’s mind has been on last Friday’s extraterrestrial fly-by as the museum has braced for Los Angeles’ usual response to meteor-related publicity. The meteorite, which is estimated to have been 55 feet in diameter, rained black and brown fragments for miles across the snow as it streaked across the Ural Mountains, shattering windows and injuring some 1,200 people. Though the bulk of it has yet to be recovered, it is believed to be the largest such object to have hurtled to Earth in more than 100 years.
“Usually after a newsworthy event like the one in Russia, we get lots of calls from people saying, ‘You know, I found this funky rock a while ago and I’ve been meaning to have it tested’,” says Morgan, who has been fascinated by meteorites since her childhood in Seattle, and who studied moon rocks as a graduate student at Brown University. “Ninety-nine times out of 100, they’re not meteorites.
“We have had some real ones come in, though. Last year, a guy who buys storage lockers at auctions brought in a box of rocks so carefully wrapped that he figured the person he’d bought them from had to have been a collector. It turned out he was right, although we never did hear what he decided to do with them.”
Meteorites are meteors—typically asteroids or fragments of asteroids, moons or planets—that have made it through the Earth’s atmosphere and landed.
Some meteorites, Morgan says, are remnants of planets shattered long ago in collisions; others are chunks of existing planets and moons that were chipped at extreme velocity by other meteorites.
No meteorite is believed to have ever killed a human being, though they’ve reportedly landed several times on houses, workplaces and, in at least one verified instance, a doctor’s office in Virginia. In 1911, the famous Nakhla meteorite allegedly killed a dog in Egypt (though that’s been disputed.)
But all meteorites, she says, are time capsules.
“They’re primitive pieces of what everything in our solar system, including our sun, is made of,” says Morgan. “That’s part of why meteorites give us tremendous insight.”
The Natural History Museum’s meteorite collection is modest compared to those, say, at the Smithsonian Institution or the research collection at the Institute of Geophysics and Planetary Physics at UCLA.
Morgan says the NHM collection currently has about 50 specimens. One, a piece of the Argentine Campo del Cielo meteorite, was purchased especially for the new Dinosaur Hall to help illustrate the ongoing debate over whether climate change or a catastrophic meteor strike cleared the way for the age of mammals.
But the most notable other specimens are on display in the museum’s Gem and Mineral Hall. They range from a coin-sized sliver of a rare lunar meteorite found in Libya in the late 1990s to a good-sized hunk of the Canyon Diablo meteorite, which fell in Arizona some 50,000 years ago, creating a massive crater. The latter was instrumental in the determination—by Caltech geochemist Clair Patterson in the 1950s—that the Earth is about 4.55 billion years old.
“Before that work, people knew the Earth was old, but had no way to calculate its age,” says Morgan, running her hand along the big, dark meteorite’s dented surface. “Through this rock, we learned something we now take for granted—how old we are.”
December 12, 2012
Twenty minutes before closing on a recent Monday, the rooms were swarming with patrons young enough to be the late director’s grandkids. Here was 17-year-old David Feinziner, in from La Mirada with his parents; there was 23-year-old aspiring producer Kelsey Baca, checking out the great man’s typewriter with her 28-year-old aspiring director boyfriend, Ian Lewis. There was Alexandria Sivak, 28, who works in communications at the Getty, back for the second time since the show’s preview. There was goateed Ben Lee, a 32-year-old musician, whose friend had heard about the show online and alerted him from South Korea.
“Just to be able to see Kubrick’s notes and his vision and his process, and to see the creativity behind the film is just so cool,” marveled Leah Yananton, a 32-year-old filmmaker in a magenta knit trapper hat who had come with a New York friend who had caught the buzz from a twentysomething on Facebook.
“I plan on coming again at least once more before the show is over,” Yananton said, modestly noting that she, too, has an upcoming movie project: “It’s a coming-of-age film in post-production called ‘Surviving Me’.”
Museum officials say it’s too soon to know how the Kubrick show’s demographics will shake out; some 47,000 visitors have seen it so far, but the exhibition, which opened November 1, has only been running about six weeks and won’t close until the end of June.
However, Brooke Fruchtman, associate vice president of public engagement at LACMA, said all signs are that the show is appealing to the same kind of crowd that mobbed last year’s Tim Burton exhibition. That show, which drew more than 363,000 visitors, many in costume, had an audience with an average age of 33, eight years younger than the average visitor that fiscal year to the museum.
“Our Kubrick app is on track to be LACMA’s most downloaded app ever,” she said. “In the first week alone, we had 6,517 downloads.” Meanwhile, pickup on social media “has been huge for Kubrick, with Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr being flooded with images from the exhibition.”
Fruchtman said that, aside from an innovative series of Kubrick-themed pop-up dinners, the marketing of the show has been about the same as for prior ticketed exhibitions. Still, she added: “Sometimes it resonates more than others, depending on the show. “
“Oh yeah, it’s a younger crowd—and they’re all into it, too,” chuckled gallery attendant Rickie Williams on Monday. “They’ve been taking lots of pictures, compared to the older people who come in during the week, who are more often other directors or people who were in the crew or acted in his movies.” (Show business people turned out in force for the show’s opening gala, and star sightings in the crowd since then have included Ben Stiller, who tweeted his admiration from the show, Ryan O’Neal, who starred in “Barry Lyndon,” and “Full Metal Jacket’s” Vincent D’Onofrio.
“I think it’s just that his work is timeless,” said Lewis, the young director, who had taken a break from the cooking show that employs him, and who, with his young friend, Baca, was among the last to leave. “Look!” she breathed on their way out. “There’s his director’s chair!”
Lee, the musician, said the draw for him was “Barry Lyndon.” “It’s my favorite film—it’s so lyrical and touching. I’ve watched that movie more than ten times and I still find something new.”
To Feinziner, the high school senior, the show was a glimpse at a possible future: “I’ve applied to Chapman University, USC and UCLA,” he confided. “I’m planning to go to film school next year.”
Whatever the motivation, Fruchtman welcomes the youthful cohort, which the museum has sought to attract with free “NexGen” membership for people under 18, student discounts, school programs, a hip hop series, teen dances and other youth-oriented programs and events.
But, as any 21st century Los Angeles kid can attest, a thing either captures the imagination or it doesn’t, and so far, it appears that the Kubrick show has broadened the demographic. That’s good news for LACMA.
“Bringing in a younger—and generally more diverse—audience,” Fruchtman said, “is extremely important to us.”
December 5, 2012
Talk about ending on a high note. LA Opera announced this week that it has fully repaid a $14 million loan that the county had guaranteed in 2009 in order to help the company through a financial crisis.
The loan’s final payment was announced by LA Opera’s general director Plácido Domingo. Nearly a year ago, Domingo appeared before the Board of Supervisors to thank them for guaranteeing the loan, from Banc of America, and to announce that the company had repaid the first half of the loan early.
On Wednesday, he announced that the payback was complete. “This is a direct testament to the generosity of our donors and the dedication of our ticket buyers,” Domingo said in a statement. “Thanks to their support and commitment to LA Opera, we will continue to grow and thrive. I am profoundly grateful to the Board of Supervisors for their longstanding trust and confidence in LA Opera, and for recognizing the important and prestigious role that a world-class opera company plays in the greater Los Angeles community.”
Christopher Koelsch, the opera’s president and chief executive officer, echoed that thanks, calling the supervisors’ action “an amazing leap of faith when one of their assets was in trouble.”
The opera was about to unveil an ambitious and long-planned staging of Wagner’s Ring Cycle just as the great recession hit—creating a “perfect storm” of fiscal strains that made the bridge loan necessary, Koelsch said.
While there are still challenges ahead, the outlook now is brighter, Koelsch said, noting that ticket sales revenues are $1 million ahead of where they were last year at this time, with a 21% increase in single-ticket sales and subscriptions up 8% to 10%.
The final performances of the current production, Madame Butterfly, are playing to sold out crowds (the opera ends with a matinee on Sunday, December 9.) But enthusiasts and passersby alike can enjoy two free holiday-themed Songs of the Season recital performances in Grand Park on Tuesday, December 11. The Opera’s also bringing its program to local hospitals and to two Salvation Army residences. (Details of the free performances are here.)
Meanwhile, Koelsch said the company, which will announce the lineup for its next season on January 8, is planning to ramp up its programming gradually as the economy improves.
Paying off the loan, he said, “is a wonderful opportunity for us…it allows us to build toward the future.”
October 18, 2012
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences today unveiled an initial public look at the architects’ vision for its new movie museum, billed as the first major institution of its kind in the United States.
One of the drawings, by architects Renzo Piano and Zoltan Pali, depicts a dramatic glass sphere that appears to float behind the museum, which will be located in the grand, 1938 May Co. building on Wilshire Boulevard at Fairfax. The museum, on the Los Angeles County Museum of Art campus, promises to have a “profound impact on the cultural landscape of Los Angeles,” Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky said in a statement.
In a news release, the Academy announced that $100 million has been raised so far to build the non-profit museum, which will be “dedicated exclusively to the history and ongoing development of motion pictures.” A capital campaign to raise the remaining $150 million is underway.
The nearly 300,000-square-foot museum is set to open in 2016.
Read the full release here.
Illustrations by Renzo Piano Building Workshop
October 11, 2012
So it won’t be The Rock. The access will be tighter and the pageantry slighter than when LACMA’s 340-ton boulder rolled through town.
Early reports had raised hopes that the move of the Space Shuttle Endeavour from LAX to the California Science Center would become a rolling parade like the one that accompanied the immense granite stone in Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass” at LACMA. But as logistical realities set in, it became clear that the Endeavour, which has a 78-foot wingspan, is about four times as wide, six times as long and twice as high as the “Levitated Mass” boulder.
Moreover, the spacecraft requires a 10-foot clearance on each side because it is covered in a special lightweight, silica-based, thermal insulation so fragile that raindrops can dent it. Its wings can’t be removed and replaced like an airplane’s. And to the chagrin of many, hundreds of trees had to be cut down to accommodate Endeavour’s massive silhouette.
“It’s so big that the street is barely wide enough in some places to accommodate the shuttle itself, let alone the crowd control on the sidewalk,” says LAPD Sgt. Rudy Lopez.
“It’s a safety issue,” agrees project director Marty Fabrick of the California Science Center Foundation, noting that the crews operating the shuttle’s special transporter will have their hands full just maneuvering it under power lines and around corners with scant clearance between the wheels and the curb. “They have to have 100% focus on what they’re doing. We don’t want them distracted by the worry that someone will fall off a curb and get hurt.”
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of chances to glimpse the cross-town progress of “Mission 26”, as it’s been dubbed. From organized events to wide spots on the 12-mile route, thousands are expected to witness the spacecraft’s road trip, which begins at about 12:01 a.m. Friday, October 12, when it pulls out of its United Airlines hangar en route to the Science Center, where it’s expected to touch down Saturday night. (Click here for a schedule and here for a route map.)
Updated 10/12/12: Endeavour’s last ride is underway. Check out this video posted at Curbed L.A. to see the craft crossing Sepulveda Boulevard.
Despite the disappointment that has arisen since the Los Angeles Police Department announced that sidewalks on much of the route would be closed for safety reasons, Fabrick promises that “people will have ample opportunity to see this historic move.”
Two planned celebrations are scheduled for Saturday, and at least two pit stops will offer a decent view of the shuttle, as will some parts of Crenshaw Boulevard for those lucky enough to live nearby. Locals along the route also will get a good look as the Endeavour passes homes, malls and markets, as well as landmarks such as Inglewood City Hall.
Some 700 LAPD cadets and volunteers will be doing crowd control and event security, and police have urged spectators to expect large crowds, heavy traffic and delays. And lots of street closures: Access to the south side of Los Angeles International Airport will be restricted during the move for security reasons, for example, and the shuttle’s planned 2:30 a.m. exit from LAX via Northside Parkway will be open to credentialed media only.
Also, the Friday night crossing of the 405 Freeway at the Manchester Bridge will be a tougher ticket than some might expect, given the location. The California Highway patrol will be closing ramps and running traffic stops to discourage gawking, and the crossing itself isn’t scheduled to take place until sometime between 10 p.m. and midnight.
And just as a side note: Though it might be tempting to try to catch the crossing at, say, Randy’s Donuts, the iconic shop with the giant doughnut just off the freeway, don’t bother. Larry Weintraub, the owner, had initially been expecting a large crowd of shuttle enthusiasts and had even added a mini-Endeavour to the hole of his famous doughnut.
But because of the many sidewalk closures, he ended up instead renting his lot to Toyota, which expects to bring in about 150 people to film the crossing.
The company —a longtime corporate supporter of the science center—agreed to tow the Endeavour across the overpass with a Toyota Tundra pickup truck and a specialized dolly. The maneuver is needed because Caltrans’ weight distribution requirements for the bridge called for a different tow mechanism than the Endeavour’s transportation system.
Even though Randy’s will be closed to everyone but Toyota guests on Friday after 2 p.m., the shuttle should be easily visible from several formal and informal venues. Among the better opportunities:
La Tijera Boulevard and Sepulveda Eastway in Westchester
A commercial lot, this will be the shuttle’s first layover, on Friday from about 4:15 a.m. until about 1:30 p.m. Donation of the space—look for the Citibank and the Quizno’s—was arranged by Westchester management company Drollinger Properties, which agreed to let the shuttle park there while crews move some power lines and make some adjustments to its customized carrier.
Inglewood Forum at 3900 W. Manchester Boulevard in Inglewood
Though the shuttle is scheduled to pass by Inglewood City Hall at about 8 a.m. on Saturday, space is limited and officials are encouraging the public to go straight to the party at the Forum, where the shuttle is expected to be parked briefly from about 9 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. “That will be the real public kickoff,” says Fabrick, noting that the city is anticipating a crowd of some 10,000 people and that Hollywood Park will be offering free parking starting at 4 a.m. (no overnight camping.) “There will be a formal program and astronauts and a band and color guard. And the shuttle is so big and high that you won’t need to be on the curb to have a great view of it.”
Crenshaw Boulevard between 54th Street and Leimert Boulevard
The shuttle is expected to pass by here between about 12:30 p.m. and 1:30 p.m. Saturday. Though outsiders are being discouraged due to a lack of parking, the area is expected to have one of the better vantage points for locals who can walk or bike there. “The shuttle is going to be completely on the north side of the center median, so the sidewalk on the south side will be open,” says Fabrick, “and locals should have a fantastic view.”
Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza, 3650 W. Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard
Saturday’s second big celebration is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. This one will have a special show produced and directed by choreographer Debbie Allen; seating will be limited, with seats distributed by mall officials. Police anticipate a standing room only crowd of several thousand and have urged spectators to arrive early. The program is expected to last about an hour, but after the shuttle’s 2 p.m. scheduled arrival, crews will be spending another hour or so at the site adjusting the shuttle carrier for the next leg of the trip.
Bill Robertson Lane at Exposition Park
This will be where the shuttle turns toward the California Science Center on Saturday at approximately 8:30 p.m., and probably the last, best place to see Endeavour before it is installed at the Samuel Oschin Space Shuttle Display Pavilion. Viewers will be encouraged to gather at four parking lots north of MLK between Bill Robertson Lane and Vermont Avenue. Public transportation is available by bus and via the Expo Line light rail.
Endeavour’s grand opening will be October 30, with early access for science center members. Admission to the science center and the shuttle is free, but viewers are encouraged to obtain time tickets to reserve a space. (Click here for membership information and here for time ticketing.)
It will be housed in a museum hangar pending completion of its permanent home at the Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center, which is aiming for completion by 2018.
August 28, 2012
Last summer, Southern Californians learned the art of dodging a 53-hour freeway shutdown. Now, as Los Angeles braces for a follow-up 405 Freeway closure, a collective of arts groups is offering an even more creative response.
As crews prepare to close ten miles of the 405 Freeway on September 29 and 30, more than 100 arts groups are planning a weekend-long celebration of local art and culture, highlighting thousands of offerings from mariachis at the Ford Theatres to organ recitals at Pomona College to flash mobs in Long Beach.
“People here drive across town to theaters and museums and movies,” says Diana Wyenn, marketing and media relations manager at REDCAT, a participant in the campaign. “But they often don’t even notice the local galleries or theaters just a few blocks away that put on incredible shows.”
Working with the online listings database Experience LA, Metro, the Los Angeles County Arts Commission and others, the consortium is inviting Southern Californians to help create “the biggest art pARTy of the year” by patronizing the arts in their communities or taking public transportation to an art event nearby.
An ARTmageddonLA.com web site, currently being constructed, will guide Carmageddon II refugees to performances, concerts, exhibitions and screenings that are accessible by Metro, or—better yet—down the street from their own homes.
“We live in an arts metropolis, and we rarely stop to pay attention to it,” says Ezra LeBank, a CSU Long Beach theater arts professor who conceived ARTmageddon with Wyenn. “This is the moment when we can move above the constant buzz of busyness in L.A. and embrace local arts.”
Wyenn and LeBank, who are both arts advocates and artists, say their idea rose from a discussion with friends last autumn about the difficulty artists have in promoting their work across Southern California’s sprawl.
“We’re so separated physically that it’s hard to feel community, as artists or audiences,” LeBank says. “We often don’t feel a sense of togetherness, and we started playing with that idea.”
LeBank says they discussed a collaboration that might draw from throughout the region, and timing it to coincide with “a moment or a day when people were all paying attention to one thing and united that way.”
Then they remembered how Carmageddon seized the public imagination last summer—and that Carmageddon II was coming.
“It was perfect because it’s going to be the central event in L.A. for that weekend—and it’s a moment that’s all about stopping,” he says.
The result is the latest effort—from CicLAvia to Pacific Standard Time to the Watts Village Theater Company’s Meet Me At Metro—to encourage Angelenos to think locally and to create a sense of community and human-scaled connection across L.A.’s vast geography. It’s low budget because the date for Carmageddon II wasn’t announced until July, Wyenn says, so they had no time to fundraise.
Nonetheless, so many L.A. artists and advocates quickly joined the effort, she says, that getting the word out via social media and word-of-mouth hasn’t been a problem. Volunteers from organizations such as the Circle X Theatre Company, the Center Theatre Group and Grand Performances are involved already, and the list has been growing daily. (Organizations, artists and businesses interested in being included when the web site goes live are encouraged to contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the ARTmageddon web site or Facebook page.)
LeBank, who teaches movement, says his students will be performing on campus that weekend at Cal State Long Beach State, and putting on “flash mob-type performances” around the community. Wyenn is excited about “Butoh Meadow::Meadow Butoh,” a piece in which more than 50 people covered in flour plan to cross Silverlake Meadow, and the final performance of “Rodney King” at the Bootleg Theatre that weekend. But surprises await in every neighborhood.
Topanga denizens may want to check out “The Women of Lockerbie” at the Will Geer Theatricum Botanicum that weekend. Mid-Wilshire types might want to stroll over to the Mimoda Studio Theater’s African dance show, “The Essence”. The New Short Fiction Series will be presenting short stories about the LA driving experience at the Federal Bar in NoHo.
“There are galleries everywhere, some of which I know are planning ARTmageddon parties, and people will be playing music in public spaces,” LeBank says. “There’s a lot more happening than people realize.”
August 8, 2012
Get ready, L.A., the space shuttle Endeavour will soon be rolling like a rock star.
On October 12, weather permitting, the decommissioned shuttle will begin a three-day, 12-mile journey from Los Angeles International Airport to the California Science Center in Exposition Park, the orbiter’s new retirement home.
Officials predict that the 2-m.p.h. urban journey will draw thousands of onlookers, reminiscent of the raucous crowds that turned out for The Rock’s four-county crawl to the Los Angeles Museum of Art, where it became the centerpiece of artist Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass.” The shuttle’s passage will mostly take place along Manchester Avenue, Crenshaw Boulevard and Martin Luther King Boulevard. (See map below.)
Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who joined Science Center and NASA officials to announce Endeavour’s itinerary, called the upcoming transport a “once-in-a-lifetime event” for the Los Angeles region, which he noted shares a long and storied history with aeronautics and space exploration. Just this week, scientists at JPL in Pasadena made history with the high-risk touch-down of the rover Curiosity on Mars.
In all, Endeavour completed 25 flights, totaling 4,671 Earth orbits. It was built to replace the Challenger, which exploded shortly after takeoff in 1986, claiming the lives of all 7 astronauts. Endeavour flew its final mission to the International Space Station in May of last year. Among the orbiter’s final crew was Commander Mike Kelly, whose wife, former Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was seriously wounded by a gunman last year.
With the 30-year shuttle program now over, Endeavour is one of three shuttles that will go on display around the country, and the first to travel along city streets. The others—Discovery at the Smithsonian outside Washington, D.C. and Atlantis in Florida—have already been delivered.
Endeavor is scheduled to arrive at LAX from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center on September 20, riding piggyback on a Boeing 747. That date, however, is dependent on weather conditions, said Stephanie Stilson of NASA, a key player in the transport. “Water drops can become like BB’s” on the fragile surface of the 170,000-pound craft, she said.
After the shuttle is removed from its carrier with a series of cranes and slings, it will be placed on the “Overland Transporter,” a frame built by NASA for “state of the art maneuverability and stability,” according to the agency.
And it’ll need it.
Some stretches of the passage to the Science Center are so narrow that some trees may need to be removed to accommodate the craft’s 78-foot wingspan. In those cases, two trees will be planted for each one that must be uprooted. Villaraigosa said that, like the shuttle itself, its earth-bound journey will be “a marvel of ingenuity and engineering.”
Along the way, on October 13, there’ll be an official ceremony at Inglewood City Hall in the morning and a curbside celebration that evening produced by dancer/choreographer Debbie Allen at the intersection of MLK and Crenshaw boulevards.
At the Science Center, the spacecraft initially will be housed in a cavernous temporary hangar, which is scheduled to be open to the public starting October 30 for the exhibition “Mission 26: The Big Endeavor.” Eventually, the shuttle will be the centerpiece of the new Samuel Oschin Air and Space Center. The $200 million price for the new center and Endeavour’s transport is being underwritten by private donors.
View Mission 26: The Big Endeavour in a larger map
July 3, 2012
Going to a concert or show may be a spectator sport most of the year, but when the temperatures start climbing, Los Angeles audiences like to get in on the act.
From sing-alongs to outdoor dancing, accordion playing to impromptu Shakespeare, this summer’s arts calendar is heavy on audience participation.
“The idea behind it is that audiences are trying to be artists themselves, rather than just sitting in a seat,” said Heather Rigby, General Manager of Productions at the John Anson Ford Theatre. “It’s also a really good community builder that helps people be able to express themselves.”
The Ford’s audience participation events, called “J.A.M. Sessions,” began in 2008. The sessions allow people to dance and try out new instruments while connecting with artists from diverse cultures. Already this year, crowds have tried their hands (and feet) at Afro-Cuban dance and Japanese Taiko drumming. This Monday, June 25, Otoño Luján and Gee Rabe will share their mastery of the accordion before leading a giant, novice accordion symphony. (Instruments will be provided.)
The J.A.M. Sessions have proven so successful that this year the Ford is taking its show on the road, courtesy of a grant from Metabolic Studios. Starting July 6, road sessions will be held in East L.A., Newhall, San Fernando, Whittier and Willowbrook.
Also at the Ford, the Big!World!Fun! series offers youngsters a chance to try dance and musical styles from cultures worldwide. The events take place Saturday mornings at 10 a.m., beginning July 7.
At the Hollywood Bowl, summer night sing-alongs turn the legendary amphitheatre into something of a karaoke-on-steroids experience, with some of the best-loved musicals of all time projected onto a huge screen with captioned lyrics.
“There is something very unique about a venue that seats 18,000 people and everyone is singing—it’s really loud,” said Arvind Manocha, the Bowl’s chief operating officer. “It is just primordially powerful to hear that many people singing the same thing in one space.”
The events, which began in 2001, bring out the dramatic attire as well as the wannabe Broadway divas. Thousands show up decked out in movie-specific costumes, and hundreds take part in the pre-show parade dressed as characters, objects or even ideas from the movies. A package of interactive props is handed out to enhance the fun, à la Rocky Horror Picture Show. And, because it’s Hollywood, said Minocha, special guests associated with the movie often show up, like the actors that portrayed the von Trapp children and Didi Conn, who played “Frenchy” in Grease. (This year, Grease will be performed July 14 and The Sound of Music on September 22.)
In downtown L.A., the Walt Disney Concert Hall hosts its own Friday Night Sing-Alongs, which are free to the public. They begin this Friday, June 22, with “Disney Favorites,” and continue later this summer with Motown hits and Broadway tunes.
Across the street at the Music Center, the courageous can trade their two left feet for new dance styles at Dance Downtown. Live bands and DJs provide rhythms for the outdoor dance lessons, which are held in the Music Center Plaza. Next Friday, June 29, Dance Downtown features Bollywood dancing. If that’s not your speed, the rest of the season has plenty of other options like disco, samba and “60s Night,” to name a few.
Over at the Annenberg Beach House in Santa Monica, the “Beach=Culture” series engages the community with its own participatory events. On Tuesday, June 26, enjoy some guerilla Shakespeare with the facility’s new resident artists from the Salty Shakespeare Company, who pride themselves on “Erupting, Interrupting, Disturbing the Peace.” Guests can try their hand at street theatre and learn the secrets of the group, which employs rap, Parkour (extreme freestyle, um, walking) and attention/diversion tactics to engage the public with their performances.
Aspiring non-performance art amateurs also have a few options, from LACMA’s free family art workshops to the UCLA Fowler Museum’s upcoming Afghan fighter kite-making workshop to the Getty Center’s Family Art Lab.
This Saturday, June 23, aspiring artists can practice and pitch in on a collaborative effort at Dockweiler State Beach that will use UV paint to create a mural that glows under black lights. The event, called “Nite-Write,” is presented by MobileMuralLab in cooperation with the L.A. County Department of Beaches and Harbors and the L.A. County Arts Commission.
With options like playing with glowing paint and belting out show tunes, there’s something for just about everyone. Don’t worry if you’re a newbie; you’ll be glad you left your armchair behind.
“The first time you go,” said the Hollywood Bowl’s Manocha, “you kind of need to figure it out, and then every other time you will be more involved in the fun.”
May 23, 2012
Even as movies shrink to fit onto our computers, tablets and smart phones, Tinseltown seems to be thinking big this season, with outdoor movie screens popping up all over greater Los Angeles. With Memorial Day weekend marking the unofficial start of summer, this might be a good time to turn off the iPad, stretch out on a picnic blanket and start making plans to share a little cinematic magic under the stars.
Perhaps the highest-profile al fresco offerings come from none other than the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The inaugural season of “Oscars Outdoors” debuts this June in a brand new open-air venue complete with a 40-foot by 20-foot screen. The Academy hopes the film series will give audiences a more social movie-going experience.
“The idea of having an outdoor screening facility, which could offer an ‘outside the box’ approach to our screenings and programs, seemed like a wonderful way to return the feeling of community to movie-going,” said Randy Haberkamp, Managing Director of Programming, Education and Preservation.
The season kicks off with the Casablanca on Friday, June 15, and goes on to feature other classics like Shane and A Star Is Born, in addition to more recent fare like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Dreamgirls and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal. The season concludes Saturday, August 18 with a “sing-along” screening of The Wizard of Oz. Tickets for non-members are $5.
Another new outdoor movie series is “Eat/See/Hear,” which takes its shows on the road using cutting edge technology, including a three-story inflatable screen (“the largest west of the Mississippi,” boasts its website). As the name implies, the shows offer more than movies.
“We have this amazing weather and we’re the city that started the food truck revolution, so we thought, ‘Let’s mash up food with the movies and throw in some of the best local bands,’ ” said Sharon Sperber, co-producer of the events, which are presented by the online movie ticketing company Fandango.
Eat/See/Hear’s 2012 program kicks off at Santa Monica High School this Saturday, May 26, with Anchorman, music from Islands and The Diamond Light and 10 different food trucks. From there, the show travels to Pasadena, Brentwood, North Hollywood, Beverly Hills and other locations in the area. General admission is $10.
Other ways to get your outdoor film fix this summer include free programs such as Movies on the Green at the Valley Cultural Center and the Old Pasadena Film Festival, which will screen classics and family-friendly films over four weekends in July.
Not all the outdoor movie programs are newcomers. For the past decade, Cinespia at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery has been showing vintage films and cult classics, projecting them onto the white marble wall of Rudolph Valentino’s tomb. Cinespia’s 2012 schedule is already underway, with Sabrina and Grease coming up this weekend, on Saturday, May 26, and Sunday, May 27, respectively. A $10 donation is requested.
Another quintessentially L.A. outdoor movie-going experience takes place at the Hollywood Bowl, where audience members, many of them in costume, can sing along as Grease and The Sound of Music are screened, on July 14 and Sept. 22 respectively. Tickets start at $9.
The world’s entertainment capital has never been mistaken for a small town, but as this summer’s outdoor film bonanza rolls out, it just might feel like one. See you at the movies!