Interviews & Features

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Interview: Peter Lik - Photographer

Why set up a gallery in La Jolla? What drew you to the location? What can visitors expect?

Growing up in Australia, I loved watching California surfer films. I was practically mesmerized by palm trees and the rolling waves. The cool attitude that came through seemed to be so enchanting and fun. When I finally got to explore the West Coast firsthand, I was not disappointed. Especially in Southern California, where the climate is always warm and the feel is nice and laid back. The location was ultimately a no-brainer. Forget about the fact that there is a total art scene and other great attractions around La Jolla Cove – you’ve also got such amazing scenery.  On one side there’s the vast pacific that stretches out endlessly – we are only a few beats away from Scripps Pier where I have taken some of my memorable SoCal shots. On the other side, there are these beautiful national parks and elevated forestry that provide an incredible atmosphere for nature lovers like myself. The aesthetics of the surroundings are only second to the importance of the gallery’s interior. Like with all of my galleries, the experience is designed to be peaceful – serene. Beautiful hardwood floors and neutral toned walls set the stage for the vibrant images. It’s not just a place to sell art, but a tranquil escape from the noise of the outside world.

How did you start your relationship with photography? 

It was fate really. When I was eight, my parents bought me a Kodak Brownie camera and I took my first snapshot of a spider web in the family garden. At the time, I didn’t quite realize how affected I was by that event. The web just stood out – glistening with morning dew and that simply caught my eye. I was a kid fascinated by the mysteries of the world around me – an innocent way of looking at things I try to be mindful of even today. The image stuck with me and when I was old enough to pursue this as career I went full throttle and have never looked back. I truly have my parents to thank for that initial spark that captivated me.

What are you striving to capture in your images?

I am always striving to capture one thing – the true essence and raw beauty of Mother Nature. Since my first snapshot, I have been blown away by the power of landscape photography. Growing up in Australia, there was so much intense, rich scenery everywhere I turned – waterfalls, rivers, deserts, forests and the Great Barrier Reef. How could I not be inspired?! Being able to capture and share the most beautiful places on earth is all I have ever dreamed of.

How do you find your sceneries? Do you work with location scouts?

So many of my great discoveries have been somewhat organic. Take my project Spirit of America – the biggest challenge of my life. I absolutely knew I was destined to capture images from all 50 states, no matter how long or hard the road. So, I had a general sense of what I wanted to capture – Grand Canyon, Yosemite, New York’s skyline – but until I arrive at any location, I’m not 100% sure what will grab me. Sometimes I will get what I’ve envisioned, and other times I am extremely surprised by what I encounter. I have used many guides to help me find the hidden gems that only locals or natives know about, but I will often explore on my own – always an adventure.  That’s the nature of the beast, though. I love the surprises and unknowns of this job. 

You’ve sold four out of the 20 most expensive photographs ever sold – what do you think is the appeal/ what makes yours stand out from the crowd?

So much of it just comes from years of hard work. After over thirty years of doing this, I have been able to hone what I do and grow a nice collector base. Without that foundation, this wouldn’t be the case. I think that when someone connects with one of my pieces – to the point that they will pay a large price – it is because they are seeing what I saw when I took the shot. Incredible beauty. I guess that’s what I have become good at – getting across my vision and feeling about a particular scene in one frame. Sometimes it just translates so well that you can almost step into the image itself.  When a collector gets it, feels it, gets lost in it – it just becomes something they have to have. It’s like any other piece of fine art – to one person it has no meaning whereas to someone else it can be priceless.

What would be one piece of advice you would offer to early–career landscape photographers?

It wasn’t always like it is now. It was tough when I started out. Some nights it was a choice between a hotdog and film processing or a proper meal. There was no GPS, no YouTube, no Internet – nothing was digital and there was no instant gratification. I had to use old-fashioned paper road maps, read books and use my instinct. I guess you really had to know what you were doing. Take advantage of all the tools that are out there now, they will help you tremendously. However, without passion it all means nothing. That is number one. Find your passion and your own style - and try to have a little fun along the way.

Tags: Art, Photography

Interview: Paul Kennerson - Book Collector

by Nancy Bockoven
kennerson 1

First off, why don’t you describe your collection a bit – in addition to fiction there are other areas that you collect in as well, is that right?
My collection is lots of things, American and British fiction; biographies, especially presidential bios, and most especially Lincoln and Lincoln-related books and speeches;  history and politics; philosophy and some law collectibles.  My high spots are Hemingway, Dickenson, Frost, and Conrad, Lincoln, Greek and Latin texts.

How old were you when you began your collection? What was your first major purchase and where did you find it?
I think collectors have a gene others don't have, native to the soul, there from the start. So I would say I never threw a book away and so started collecting as a child. I once described finding a rare book to be like finding an arrowhead in the garden as a boy, so tracing the thrill to childhood is not entirely misplaced. 

I know you have many excellent books within your collection, but in terms of rarity, what are the top three titles – which ones are the show pieces? And what about your personal favorites, are they the same three or are they altogether different?
My top three rarest titles are first editions of the Sun Also Rises,  chance (by Conrad) and the Gettysburg Address, first ever pamphlet (book) publication.  My favorites are Lord Jim (Conrad), The Sun Also Rises, Lincoln’s second inaugural address, and Conrad’s own copy of the introduction to the Nigger of the Narcissus, which is his version of the writer's creed and an exceptional statement of the work, as he puts it, of "the worker in prose."

How has book collecting changed with the advent of the internet – do you feel that a serious collector can buy online or do you think it is imperative to examine the book first hand?
My habits haven't changed much because of the web. But for sure I want to see and feel the book.  You still can largely do this with web purchases but you have to pay first and then return the book for a refund if it isn't up to snuff.  Booksellers still sell high-end books mostly by catalogues, and with them one can usually get the book on approval and return it without the hassle of waiting for a refund.  Also you can generally get discounts off the sticker price from high reputable dealers, especially ones whom you become regular with.

Where do you look for pieces to add to your collection? What was your most surprising find?
I look for books mostly in catalogues.  But I am rarely at sea in a new town because they all still have used book stores, locatable on line or in the yellow pages, and an otherwise empty evening in a new place will likely find me browsing their shelves.  The most surprising find I ever had was in San Diego, at Wahrenbrocks before it closed, --  a very long story but a near miraculous find of an extinct issue of Conrad’s notes on life and letters published in1921.  This version had a hand correction to an earlier version which had contained a mistake, and only two or three of the hand-corrected ones were done.

What city/country would you say is the best destination for a rare book collector?"  Which museums house the best rare book collections in the United States or abroad?
New York is the capital of book collecting.  The Grolier Club in New York is the grandparental icon of all book-collecting clubs, and high-end shops abound.  London is great, Boston, L.A   The best museums are the standards:  the Huntington, Yale, especially the Beinecke Rare Book Library, Harvard, UCLA.  UC San Diego is good in a few very focused areas,  Dr. Seuss, cook, etc.  San Diego State has some high episodic collections.

What are the most important things to know when collecting books? What makes a book valuable? What is the ‘youngest’ rare book in your collection?
What counts in book collecting is knowledge of the field and good instincts about what will become collectible (if value is the objective).  To me the quality of the book is its most important characteristic, more important, all else equal, than the author's signature or inscription.  There are some current authors  --  Alan Furst comes to mind, or Jamie Lee Burke, a lot more  --  who are already highly valued as collectible authors.

For someone new to book collecting, are there any particular books, clubs or websites that you’ve found especially interesting or helpful?
There are lots of books and many websites helpfully available.  A good starter is Carter and Barker, ABC for Book Collectors, 8th ed. or google rare books, collectible books, books in any category or specific titles.  For collectors, start the search in reverse, i.e., the most expensive first.

Are you on the hunt for a particular book now – do you have any ‘the one that got away’ stories?
I am on the hunt for a stand-alone publication of an essay by Joseph Conrad called the Polish Question. Also I collect John D. MacDonald books and need  a first edition of the hardcover of one of the Travis McGee books, Darker than Amber

Lastly, what do you enjoy more – the hunt or the acquisition?
The hunt, of course, is never over; one has only to underfeed the addicting dragon so he doesn't lay waste the allotted space and the reasoned budget.  but finding the book that just fits the empty niche in a dear collection is a fine and thrilling thing, and I’d rather put my heart there than in stuff that wears out or down and has no value to anyone else once you get it home.  Besides which, books are our culture and collecting them is a small but happy help to keeping it.



Interview: Yasmin Levy -Singer, Musician

by Brian Schaefer

ArtPower! Program and Audience Development Manager Brian Schaefer catches up with Israeli singer Yasmin Levy.

You grew up in Jerusalem, a place steeped in history with the mark of many cultures. How did your surroundings influence your music?
Growing up in Jerusalem means so much to me.This holy city is very special, and yet it has a certain sadness attached to it. It seems like the stones here are sad, as they witnessed all the wars and the continuing fights between us all—Jews and Arabs, religious and non religious, Ashkenazi Jews and Oriental Jews, and more.
But on the other hand, you have also the beauty of Jerusalem where you can smell all kinds of food that Jews brought with them from all over the world; where you can hear the sound of music from all parts of the world, brought by Muslims, Jews
and Christians.
This mix, of good and bad influences has helped make me who I am, as it influences my soul, my creativity, and my music. Mostly, though, I think I sing with the pain. 

BS: What have you learned about your own heritage and exploration of Ladino music?
YL: When I realized that my musical mission would involve explaining the history of my culture to the world, I started to read books about Ladino music and culture. This is how I really learned about what my people had experienced back there in
Spain in the 15th century. It was very difficult for me to accept the hatred, the cruelty, the sorrow and the pain they suffered during the Expulsion (1492), but the survival of this heritage has helped me to forgive, and come with love and hope.
Those who were expelled did not want to let go of their heritage, language, music, memories, and somehow they have managed to keep it alive for more the 500 years. It is magic.

BS: Though he died when you were quite young, how did your father impact your music?
YL: People say that if my father, Yitzhak Levy [a composer, singer, and collector of Ladino songs], was alive, he wouldn’t let me be a singer. Sometimes I think I am a singer both thanks to him, but also perhaps in spite of him. I guess being a singer is my way to know my father; it is like making up for all the years I didn’t have him around as he died when I was only one year old.
Through his work, he made me sing and create with respect. He made me very serious about what I do, and dedicate my life, as he did, to the preservation of this beautiful Ladino music and culture.

BS: Your music often features influences from other styles, particularly Flamenco. What intrigues you about that music and what inspired you to incorporate it into your own?
YL: The traditional way of singing Ladino, is acapella. Even when people added instruments, they always treated the Ladino songs as a very old thing, like a baby, like something very fragile. 
But for me those songs are not old, not fragile they are young and kicking; they are alive, and passionate, and they want to fly. That is why I added the Flamenco influence, because Flamenco is nothing but passion. By doing so I hope to convince people all over the world, who have nothing to do with this tradition, to love and listen to these songs. 
Hopefully these songs will never die. They are the only things that can survive from a very old and beautiful culture that unfortunately is dying.

BS: Do you feel like you have responsibilities to the traditions you perform? How do you find balance between preservation and innovation?
YL: I feel both committed to the tradition, yet free to explore beyond its historical boundaries. I love creating new and interesting things. As long as I don’t change the lyrics and the melodies of the traditional songs, I feel I can be free to present this music in any way I like. This is what excites me about bringing together different styles, arrangements, and musicians from differing cultures – all in order to allow these traditional songs to take on a more current and exciting feel.
When I write my own songs, I feel the freedom to do whatever I want, to get wild, to even become crazy. But when I sing Ladino, I do so with great respect for the history and tradition.

BS: How have people responded to the new sounds you’ve brought to Ladino music?
YL: A few traditional Sephardi people were disappointed in the early days. They did not want me to change the sound they learned from their mothers. Some were sad, feeling that I had abandoned my tradition. 
But over the years, they have started to realize that I am doing a great service to their tradition, exposing it to the wider world. Since then, I have come to really appreciate the traditional style so I think that we kind of found a common language where we can share our heritage.

BS: Your band is composed of musicians from all over the world. What inspires you about having such an international team?
YL: My musicians make my world richer. Every person, every musician, comes with his own ideas, memories, tradition, music, and character. I see it, I learn from it, I explore it, I grow with it as a human being, and as an artist. 
Even more important is the opportunity to work with people from other religions and cultures. At first I had my fears as to what this would do to my musical heritage, but now I have learned that the world is big and beautiful, full of good and great people, so it is my privilege as a musician, through music, to just be with them and learn from them.

BS: As a woman, do you feel you relate to Ladino culture or the music in a special way?
YL: In every woman, there is motherhood, so I think this what makes me sing the way I do. I think this is what makes me sing the pain.

BS: What can Ladino culture teach us about our life and world today? What are your hopes for Ladino culture in the future?
YL: Don’t ever try to change someone; don’t think that you are the best, that you know best, that your way is the right way. Just accept people the way they are, and respect them. Live and let live.


Yasmin Levy performs as part of ArtPower!’s Global Music and Women’s Voices Series on Tuesday,
October 27, 2009 at 8pm at The Loft. Tickets are
$26 Regular and $10 Advance for UCSD Students.
Purchase online www.artpower.ucsd.edu or call
858.534.TIXS (M-F,10am-4pm).

This interview was originally published in Power Line performance magazine, ArtPower! at UC SanDiego


Interview: Peggy Hinaekian - Artist

by Nancy Bockoven
Red Desert Dawn

Red Desert Dawn 36" x 36" acrylic on canvas

Peggy Hinaekian is a graduate of the Italian Academy of Art "Leonardo da Vinci" and has also studied History of Art at McGill University in Montreal. Her work consists of oil and acrylic on canvas and etchings. She began a formal career as a fashion designer for Jackie Kennedy's wedding gown designer in New York.  Her award-winning art has been exhibited internationally and can be found in numerous corporate and private collections as well as in Museums all over the world. Her etchings are distributed by Christie's Contemporary Art of London and Editions Francony of France. She  works in Switzerland and in the United States.   

How would you describe your work?
I would describe my work as lyrical.  It is predominantly abstract and I have been told that it exudes an atmosphere of calm and joy. I try to guide the viewer towards a focal point, inviting him or her to wander within the paintings and be part of the emotions they provoke. I think some of my work has a nebula like quality suggesting infinite distances in atmospheric fields of color, whether small and whimsical or large and bathed in vast expanses of one color.

When did you first consider becoming an artist?
I have always considered myself an artist as of the age of 3. My father encouraged me in my childish drawings from as far as I can remember. However, as I did not make a living with my art, I held other jobs, secretarial, administrative, fashion designing, etc.

Do you have a formal art education or are you self-taught?
I did have a formal education in an Italian academy in Cairo, Egypt, where I was born, but it was not satisfactory to me. It was too academic. After that, when living in Montreal, I took some courses in history of art at McGill University.  I have not been taught technique or anything else. I just learned as I went along. I am always looking for new techniques. I just took a course at the Atheneum in La Jolla in monoprints and I produced 60 monoprints in four days, most of which I exhibited in Germany and in Switzerland this fall.

lost horizon

Losts Horizon 36" x 48" acrylic on canvas with collage

You’ve exhibited consistently since the early 1970s – what was it like in the beginning, was it hard to get your work shown, what was your process for getting into galleries?
In the beginning it was very hard to get my work shown. I had another style, a cubist/surrealistic couples theme and I had a lot of rejections. I had my first exhibition in Montreal, then went to New York and worked as a fashion designer for Jackie Kennedy’s wedding dress creator, all the time painting on the side. Then I went to Switzerland where I really started my career as an artist while working part time in one of the United Nations agencies. I also took up some courses in etching. Being able to work with print editors helped my career in getting known all over the world. When I visit a city I go to the galleries and look to see which one would be suitable to show my work. Then I try to talk to the manager and show that person my catalog.  In Europe it is done differently than in the U.S. In the U.S, I first call to find out if they are taking on new artists, then find out about their submissions procedure. I then submit my work and hope for the best. An artist has to persevere and never give up hope. It has to be a continuous process. Women often give up their careers while raising children. Luckily I was an artist and could paint with the children running around my studio.    

Along that same note, do you think artists today have to put an equal effort into the business/ marketing side of their artistic profession? How do you handle this aspect of your work?
I think that artists today have to put more time into the business/marketing side of their profession. Painting is easy – it requires two to three hours a day - but marketing is very time consuming.  Sometimes I spend days on the computer or on the telephone trying to get gallery representation or arranging for exhibitions. It is very frustrating.   

I know that you’ve traveled extensively, how have different places inspired you? Do you paint while you’re traveling or do you use the trips as a break and then return to painting when you’re back home?
Egypt has inspired me with its exotic atmosphere and its climate.  Montreal did not inspire me at all.  In fact in Montreal, I painted in warm colors in a room overlooking mounds of snow.  In Italy I was inspired by the vegetation and the sea and in New Mexico by the vibrant colors of the desert landscape. I never paint while travelling. I don’t even take a sketchbook with me. I sometimes make notes of color themes and shapes as I see them. I like painting in my own studio space, although once I painted in the main hall of a major Swiss bank. They had set up a podium for me and I went there everyday for a month. 

In your artist’s statement you mention you are foremost a colorist and often work with a color key – can you tell us more about this? What other elements or materials find their way into your work?
When I decide to do a painting, I decide on the color first.  I have an idea of where that color should go and what texture it should have.  Then I dissect this color field with another color.  I use the word dissect because often I have a line going through my painting or I have a small patch of another color floating in the atmosphere.  This other color is very important. The two colors should complement each other. I often use sand or collages. The color, shape  and placement of the collage are also very important. I spend quite a bit of time on deciding that. 

What is your studio or work space like?
I had three studios:  The major one was in Switzerland and it was a real studio with a gallery front (my own gallery).  However, I closed that one up as I cannot possibly have more than two workplaces.  I spend more time in the U.S. I don’t call them studios now.  My work space in Fort Lauderdale is a separated part of the very large living room and it is a corner space with very good light.  My work place in La Jolla is on the patio in the open air and part of it extends into my bedroom. I am not a neat artist.  I have pieces of interesting paper lying around in bins and different objects I gather from the beach. I also clip, clip clip from magazines. My husband says I am a dumpster diver. I gather things and clippings because they give me ideas. 

You’ve recently participated in the Albuquerque Art Museum Miniatures show, and you have two upcoming exhibits in Germany and Switzerland – it sounds as if you’ve been quite busy. Do you have any goals for the upcoming year?
I am always very busy.  People tell me to relax and retire.  How can I retire? If I retire I might as well die. Painting is my passion.  One does not retire from one’s passion. I will have an exhibition in a small lakeshore town in Switzerland in November and I am looking to get into a gallery in California. However, galleries are not doing well in California and they are not taking on new artists. The last thing people think of buying is art. Luckily I did very well in Europe this year.

At this time you divide your time between La Jolla and Europe, what made you take up residence in La Jolla?
Since my younger son went to college in San Diego I have visited La Jolla several times and my husband and I fell in love with the town and the climate. It is just the size of town we like. There is everything one needs in one town and it has a magnificent coastline. I also like the people and their friendliness especially after having lived in aggressive New York.   

Has La Jolla inspired any artwork yet?
Yes, the patio I paint in is surrounded by trees, plants and flowers. Although I do not paint vegetation I am energized by being surrounded by them and also by being so close to the coast and all that blue.

For more information visit : www.peggyhinaekian.artspan.com
Email: hinaekian@hotmail.com


Interview: Q & A with Jeff Calhoun, Director of Bonnie & Clyde playing at the La Jolla Playhouse Nov 10 -Dec 20.

calhoun 1

How did this project come about?
I’m an Associate Artist at Ford’s Theatre in Washington DC .  Ford’s Theatre Artistic Director Paul Tetreault was the Managing Director at the Alley Theatre in Houston , Texas for many years where Frank Wildhorn’s The Civil War was launched.  Paul introduced me to Frank when we began working on a new production of The Civil War, which was presented as part of The Ford’s Theatre Re-opening Season earlier in 2009, and as a concert version last year for The Presidential Gala honoring then President George W. Bush.  I immediately appreciated Frank’s generous spirit and unique talent.  Frank and I were looking for an opportunity to create a new show together, and he brought up a piece that he had been working on with award winning lyricist Don Black entitled Bonnie & Clyde.  I’d been working with playwright Ivan Menchell in recent years, and thought that this project would greatly benefit from Ivan’s skills as a book writer.

How would you characterize this musical’s “take” on Bonnie & Clyde?
First and foremost, we want Bonnie & Clyde to be an entertainment and a love story.  This piece looks at what happens when young people react violently to the gnawing sensation that the world is against them.  The physical barrenness of the Dust Bowl and drought of opportunity drove Bonnie and Clyde into each other’s arms and into a life of crime. These infamous figures extraordinary lives are portrayed through intimate and familial moments jarringly juxtaposed with the intense action of hold-ups, gun battles and ultimately death.  While Ivan Menchell’s book contains these more sobering moments, it is also filled with moments of humor and levity.  The creative team is trying not to celebrate Bonnie and 
Clyde ’s horrific deeds as much as it is trying to explore the sensational love story at the center of these legendary events.
 

Is the musical more about their relationship with each other than with the larger culture of celebrity crime?
This musical is more about star-crossed lovers than the exploitation of celebrity.  Bonnie and Clyde may not have survived so long or been so brazen without the fiery passion that has helped secure their place in the canon of classic love stories.  Bonnie and Clyde were as intensely loyal and connected to their families as they were to each other. We often forget that there are loving familial dynamics at the core of even the most ruthless sociopaths.  Bonnie and Clyde's parents are important characters in our show, as our Clyde’s brother and sister in-law, who later joined Bonnie and Clyde in their unlawful trade.

Is it based on the movie?
Bonnie & Clyde is solely based on historical research that we have dramatized for the stage.  It is not adapted from any prior work. We have, of course, employed theatrical license to help synthesize history into an entertainment.  I believe the result will be the most accurate portrayal of their story yet to be seen.  As well as the family dynamics I have already discussed, we have the addition of Bonnie's spurned lover Ted Hinton, who will serve as the show's moral compass.  Ted was a postal worker turned deputy who cared for Bonnie and tried to reform and save her from her imminent demise.  In an ironic and heartbreaking coda, Ted was among the posse of six who were responsible for killing Bonnie and Clyde on that fateful day in Texas .


Why did you choose La Jolla Playhouse for the world premiere?  
I met La Jolla Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley backstage at the closing performance of the CTG, Deaf West Theatre production of Pippin I directed and choreographed at the Mark Taper Forum.  After meeting, we thought that it would be wonderful to work together.  Christopher asked if I had any feelings on how that idea could be realized, so I sent him a script and demo of Bonnie & Clyde.  He looked at the material, and here we are a few months later! La Jolla Playhouse has a long and illustrious history of nurturing new work and helping artists develop their projects in a safe and supportive environment.  Under the guidance of Christopher Ashley , La Jolla Playhouse continues to cultivate singular work that both entertains and engages its audiences.  I think Bonnie & Clyde fits well into La Jolla Playhouse’s mission to present audacious and unsafe work that challenges theatrical, social and political conventions.

Photo caption: Stark Sands as “Clyde” and Laura Osnes as “Bonnie” in La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere production of BONNIE & CLYDE, book by Ivan Menchell, music by Frank Wildhorn, lyrics by Don Black, directed by Jeff Calhoun, playing in the Mandell Weiss Theatre November 10 -- December 20; photo by Craig Schwartz.

Bonnie & Clyde will be showing at the La Jolla Playhouse November 10 thru December 20th. For ticket information please click here.
This interview was provided by The La Jolla Playhouse


Interview: Christopher Beach, President and Artistic Director of the La Jolla Music Society

by Nancy Bockoven
ljms 1

Marc - André Hamelin, Shanghai Quartet, Joshua Bell, Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

How would you describe your role as the President and Artistic Director for La Jolla Music Society?
The buck, indeed every buck, stops with me.

In the past you’ve worked as Stage Director, Operations Manager, Administrator and Performing Arts Manager, how does your role as Artistic Director for La Jolla Music Society differ from these past positions?
Although several of those positions were early in my career and were focused specifically on production or facilities, my current job is exactly like my previous position as Director of The Performing Arts Center at the State University of New York in Purchase, except that it is a lot sunnier.  I spend my day planning with board members, negotiating with agents around the world, dreaming about future programs with artists and working with our staff who run our finance, fundraising, marketing, artistic, production and education departments. Evenings and weekends are spent raising the contributions necessary to make it all come together.

What attracted you to La Jolla and La Jolla Music Society? It seems it would be quite different from working in, say, New York City.
I had known of La Jolla Music Society’s reputation for presenting world-class performances for at least the last 15 years.  We are very well-known across the country in the music business.  What actually convinced me to take the job were the deeply caring, tight knit, and knowledgeable board members I met in the process.  They travel all around the world listening to artists and they share those experiences with me every time we meet.

Of course San Diego is different than Manhattan.  I have found that by-in-large people in California are happier and for the most part simply nicer than people on the East Coast.  At the same time I have noticed that New York has an edge of critical examination that I sometimes miss.  The most profound difference is in my audiences who, here, are always excited, knowledgeable, attentive, and deeply appreciative in a way that you might expect New Yorkers to be but on the contrary they seem to take the great wealth of performances that are available a bit for granted.

What are some of the plans you have for the La Jolla Music Society? Are there any projects in particular that you’re most excited about? 

  • No one else in America will be able to match our Chopin Bicentennial Celebration. La Jolla Music Society is partnering with our colleagues at the San Diego Symphony, the San Diego Youth Symphony and the California Ballet to present 18 concerts of the complete published works of Frederic Chopin, throughout 2010.
  • SummerFest will celebrate its 25th anniversary in 2011
  •  We plan to inaugurate America’s only International Piano Trio competition in 2013.

What is the process for deciding who and what performances LJMS will include in its upcoming calendar? How far in advance do you begin planning for the next season?
I have been in discussions for as much as four years with many artists and companies that I want to bring to San Diego.   As Artistic Director I have the final responsibility for every artist and program that we present.  I am the curator of six Winter Season series of Chamber Music, Dance, Orchestral concerts, Piano recitals, Jazz, and a Discovery series of young winners of international music competitions.   In addition, as the Artistic Director of our summer chamber music festival, SummerFest, I work closely with our Music Director, Cho-Liang Lin as well as our Artistic Administrator, Leah Rosenthal and our Director of Special Projects, Marcus Overton to assemble the festival each summer.  An important part of my job is to program concerts that our audience would like to hear and so I actively engage our board members, and subscribers in this discussion.

If someone were totally unfamiliar with La Jolla Music Society, how would you describe it to them? Does LJMS have something for everyone?
I tell people I have just met for the first time that “For 40 years La Jolla Music Society has brought the greatest classical musicians, dance companies and jazz artists from around the world to San Diego. We present approximately 50 concerts a year at eight different theatres all around San Diego.” 

I might also tell them that recently “We are the ones who brought artist like the London Symphony, the Israel Philharmonic with Gustavo Dudamel, the Kirov Orchestra, Alvin Ailey, Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma and Arturo Sandoval to San Diego.”

We don’t present theatre because there are several extraordinary theatre companies in San Diego, and likewise our mission does not focus on presenting children’s shows, although we have a large and very active education program.  Otherwise, between Classical Music in many forms, Jazz and Dance, (both Ballet and Modern Dance), we do indeed have something for everyone. 

In all your years in theatre and music, what have been the highlights in terms of performances that you have had a hand in putting together?

  • The Santa Fe Festival Theatre, the first fully professional LORT theatre in the great state of New Mexico, starring Madeline Kahn, Kelsey Grammer, Amy Irving, Michael York among many others.
  • The Mozart/Da Ponte operas (Nozze di Figaro, Cosi fan tutte and Don Giovanni) directed for PepsiCo SUMMERFARE by Peter Sellers.
  • “The weekend-long Beethoven Experience” conceived and conducted by Roger Norrington
  • The American premiere of Max Raabe and the Palast Orchestra
  • Ten years of performances by The Jacques Loussier Trio
  • The Chopin Cycle; six all-Chopin piano recitals by Garrick Ohlsson
  • The Greenleaf Chamber Players
  • Performances by Lang Lang and Evgeny Kissin as young teenagers.
  • A weekend exploration of Bach’s Goldberg Variations
  • The Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny at the Met
  • Parade at the Met, conceived and directed by John Dexter, designed by David Hockney and conducted my Manuel Rosenthal
  • Four Augusts filled with SummerFest

Do you play any instruments, dance or sing yourself? 
I used to do all of those things but there were so many other people who were so much better I found that my true talents lay in bringing them all together.

To view the La Jolla Music Society's upcoming Season, please visit their website at:
www.ljms.org


Interview: Joey Landwehr, Artistic Director of the J*Company Youth Theatre

by Nancy Bockoven

Joey Landwehr is the Artistic Director for J*Company Youth Theatre, he moved to San Diego after being a professional actor and director in New York City working on and off Broadway, national tours, regional theatre and directing and soloing at Carnegie Hall.
Currently Joey is directing the J*Company Youth Theatre Production of The King and I, running Dec 3rd - Dec 13th, 2009 atthe David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre, San Diego Center for Jewish Culture.

For those unfamiliar with J*Company Youth Theatre, can you give us a little background – when was it established? How many productions do you put together each year? That kind of thing.
This is J*Company Youth Theatre’s 17th Season, our glorious tribute to Rodgers & Hammerstein and the Golden Age of Musical Theatre, and it has most definitely grown to be San Diego’s premiere youth theatre companies. We produce at least four large scale productions each year in the David and Dorothea Garfield Theatre a 500 seat state-of-the-art theater. We attracted the best talent from across all of San Diego County receiving accolades and awards annually for our work in the community and the arts.

    • jl one

Outside of being youth oriented, what makes J*Company unique? 

J*Company is what I like to call a professional youth theatre. We challenge audiences and young artists alike by pushing the envelope while keeping everything we do youth oriented with things such as the award winning productions of Yours, Anne, Elton John & Tim Rice’s AIDA, and the world premiere of FIREFLIES: The Story of the Artists of Terezin, Featuring the Original Children’s Opera BRUNDIBAR. Teaching our youth annually about Arts Advocacy, conservation through the arts, and how the arts can be used to help charities and those less fortunate through our Artists Taking Action program. In particular, with our current production of Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King And I, the lead and myself are shaving our heads “Yul Brynner” style, who himself was a cancer victim, to raise awareness and money for kids with cancer. To donate to this worthy cause visit www.lfjcc.org/miracle.

To date, what has been J*Company's most challenging production and why?
Our most challenging production --my standard response would generally be that I like to challenge myself with every production. If my work had no challenges than I would want to stop doing it, but I have the best job in the world. Whether our challenges are volume: 101 young artists in Disney’s 101 Dalmatians; musical: we are the first youth theatre in San Diego to have a 20-piece orchestra in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King And I ;or content: producing a haunting musical production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” called Yours, Anne.  However, if you would like one particular show that was the most challenging it would be our final 2008-2009 production of FIREFLIES: The Story of the Artists of Terezin, Featuring the Original Children’s Opera BRUNDIBAR. I am very proud of this piece because its content of the incredible true story of the strength of young Jewish artists in Terezin, who were put on display by the Nazis during the holocaust as a model concentration camp and ordered to produce and perform this work entitled BRUNDIBAR for the International Red Cross. BRUNDIBAR is a short children’s opera that could and has stood on its own, but FIREFLIES brings the reason for the performance of BRUNDIBAR to the forefront of our minds. It was my brainchild and I orchestrated the connection of the two pieces as well as created the two study guides that when along with the production for two different age groups. It was definitely a labor of love that was quite a challenge.


What have you found to be the biggest difference between working in youth theatre as compared to working in a more traditional adult-oriented theatre? 
I moved here from New York City where I did Broadway, National Tours and Carnegie Hall. Most of my work in NYC was with adults, whether I was performing or directing. After I moved to San Diego and discovered J*Company (now my dream job), I knew my life would never be the same. I love working with both adults and youth and the one thing I always say is that my favorite place to be in the world is in a room with actors. But working with young artists is such a dream because there is an uninhibited abandon, a child-like quality that they bring to the stage. As we get older the world seems to teach us to question ourselves and we get weighed down by lots of baggage and emotional damage. I think that as performers if we could see life through the eyes of a child and stay young at heart all of our performances, whether they be dramatic or comedic, classical or contemporary, straight theatre or musical theatre, would be much fuller and connected to our hearts.

As the Artistic Director, are you involved with all aspects of the play – script selection, costumes, scenery, directing… the whole shebang? 
Every single solitary part! Luckily I have a fantastic support system with Nan Pace, my Managing Director, Chris Plonka, our  Technical Director, the Executive Staff of the SDCJC and Dr. Monica Handler Penner our Executive Producer, coupled with an dedicated Board of Directors and an incredible parent volunteers! Most theatre companies have many more people working for them, but the passion and dedication that these people bring to the plate allows us to do the work of many multiple others. When I studied directing with Anne Bogart, the first lesson she taught was, “Always surround yourself with excellent people” and I am happy to say I have done just that.

Were you involved in youth theatre when you were young? And if so, what was your first role and how old were you?
I grew up in a small rural community in Missouri. I never had the opportunities which our J*Company kids have. I remember performing in gyms, cafeterias and church basements. My life was very similar to the TV show GLEE with a very “Up With People” sort of show choir and the shows I performed were the golden oldies such as Our Town and The Fantastiks. However, I was very lucky with the fact that the year I turned 18, I started being cast in professional productions and by age 19 I had all three of my acting union cards, so my professional career happened quite early on.

How does casting for your productions work? Can anyone audition?
J*Company is a very inclusive professional youth theatre company. I am pleased to say that anyone between the ages of 7 - 18 may audition. Our auditions are announced on our website at www.sdcjc.org/jcompany and we also have pre-audition meetings scheduled, so parents and young actors can find out all that is required for our audition process and rehearsals. The one thing I love to let people know, is that no one should ever be nervous about auditioning for a J*Company show. I think people feel that at auditions the directors want you to do poorly, but that is not the case. A good director is rooting for you and wants you to be the best you can possibly be. I also believe that the audition process should be fun and not stressful. When the joy of live theatre looses its fun, then there is no point in doing it.

What are some of the goals you have for the J* Company Youth Theatre? 
J*Company has grown so much and continues to make leaps and bounds every season. Yes, of course, there are long term goals such as a small black box theater for more experimental works; touring shows; and some more original productions, which can be brought to other regions, but the most important goal is the care and training for our young artists to always be at the highest level and to grow every season.

I read in your bio that you studied under Twila Tharp, Joel Grey and Betty Buckley among many others – is there one person who most inspired you in your dramatic career?
I have been blessed to have the chance to work with some of the most incredible people in the theatre industry: Howard Keel, Kaye Ballard, Kristen Chenowith, Patti LuPone, but the theatre great that I have learned the most from was Betty Buckley. Betty was my acting instructor in NYC for three years and helped me to break out of my shell and to really discover my inner actor.

Outside of becoming the Artistic Director for J*Company, what has been your most fulfilling role, either as an actor or a director, to date? 
Oh my, that is one difficult question. As a performer, I can’t express the joy and fulfillment  I felt when I soloed at Carnegie Hall.  To stand on a classic stage like that, where the likes of Judy Garland, Julie Andrews, Joan Sutherland and so many other incredible performers have stood and performed, is incredible and the acoustics are absolutely perfect! As a director, it would have to be the direction of the adaptations of Romeo And Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I adapted from the original Shakespeare text. I taught Shakespeare to third graders (yes third graders) and they loved every moment of it. It amazes me the depth and breadth of incredible young people.

Lastly, do you have any sure-fire cures for stage fright? 
Stage fright? Just remember to breathe.

 
For more information on Joey Landwehr and J*Company Youth Theatre, please visit their website:
 http://sdcjc.lfjcc.org/jc/


Interview: Q & A with Steven Schick, Musical Director of the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus

schick conducting

Steven Schick conducting

Q & A with Steven Schick, Musical Director of the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus

You were raised in a farming family in Iowa.  Were other members of your family musically inclined?  At what age did you become serious about music?

My mother was a good amateur pianist, but as the mother of five children and a farm wife she had very little time to play.  My first real musical memories were listening to her play late at night after she thought everyone was asleep. I suppose it was a quintessentially 'new world' experience, hearing Chopin as winter winds whistled across the snow covered corn fields.

Everyone else in the family did something much more practical than music with their lives!


What exactly does percussion mean? When I hear the word percussion I think of a drum in a marching band or a bongo drum – but percussion can also include many other instruments as well, is that right?

The best definition of percussion comes from the German "Schlagzeug."

"Schlag" means to hit and "zeug" means stuff. Lately the kind of stuff we typically hit has become a broad and very interesting array extending from the drums you mentioned to car parts, tin cans, water-filled canisters -- almost anything you can imagine.  In this way percussion is truly tied to the place and time of the percussionist:  we look around and see what the local environment has to offer then we start to "schlag."

I’m amazed at the number of projects you’re involved in – from performing to recording, teaching, consulting, writing, and conducting – and not just locally, but globally. You must be extremely busy. What are some of the most challenging and exciting undertakings on your calendar in the upcoming year? 

I am very fortunate in that there is not only a lot of work (this makes me happy in financially challenging times) but that the work is also highly varied and extremely personal.  In addition to my ongoing projects with the percussion group "red fish blue fish" and the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, I'll be conducting the entire chamber music of Edgard Varèse with the wonderful group ICE at the Lincoln Center Festival this summer.  The piece that Paul Dresher wrote for me, "Schick Machine,"  essentially a play about a mad instrument inventor, has a run in San Francisco next year.  I'll be in Paris for two weeks this spring with another purely theatrical presentation (a play in French about the dadaist poet Kurt Schwitters seems like a long way from the farm!).  I am also making a 20 year long film with video artist Ross Karre -- 2 minutes a year of Terry Riley's seminal piece "In C."  And a second book project that is just waiting for a little bit of free time.

Your role at the La Jolla Symphony & Chorus is as Musical Director. For Roots & Rhizomes, an international course for percussionist, you’re the Artistic Director. Can you describe the difference between the two, and what is uniquely challenging about each?

The essential difference is that directing the La Jolla Symphony is a daily project and "Roots and Rhizomes" takes place every other year in an intense three week period at the Banff Centre for the Arts.  The LJS&C involves reaching out to our immediate community; Roots and Rhizomes involves building an international community of percussionits who come together for special projects.


Tell us about your experience with Bang on a Can All-Stars of New York City?

For this I would need a book-length response!  Bang on a Can was (and via my continuing relationships continues to be) a life-changing experience.  Over the course of ten years I played around 400 concerts with them and nearly a dozen recordings.  We played really everywhere from the Sydney Opera House to the Centre Pompidou to all the New York halls. It was a wonderful experience both musically and personally.

The La Jolla Symphony & Chorus brings together volunteer and professional musicians alike.  How would you describe the experience?
I am proud of the volunteer status of the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus.This includes me as well since I also volunteer my time, and as you have mentioned, a number of professional musicians. When we all come together it is for one reason only; the pure love of music and making music together.
That is truly remarkable I think!


Does the La Jolla Symphony offer something for the casual music appreciator as well as the music connoisseur?

Well, yes.  But that is true of all good music: there is an infinite number of ways to listen to it and appreciate it.  Often classical music has damaged its own cause by suggesting that there is something sacred about listening to this music, that you have to earn the right to be there.  I think anyone with open ears and an open mind will find a lot in our concerts.


What are your long term goals and aspirations for the LJ Symphony?  Do you have a dream project that you would like to share with us?

I am making the music I believe in, so my personal aspiratons have long been met.  For the La Jolla Symphony and Chorus, I hope for continued vitality.  I might be long gone, but I would love to hear, and maybe conduct,  the centennial concert in 2054!


Who do you listen to for inspiration?

That's simple, for inspiration I listen to my wife Brenda


Interview: Q & A with Joyce Axelrod, Co-Founder of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival

by Nancy Bockoven
axel rod one

Israeli actor Sirak Sabahat, star of 'Live and Become,' poses with Joyce Axelrod

Q & A with Joyce Axelrod, Co-Founder of the San Diego Jewish Film Festival

Can you give us some basic information about the San Diego Jewish Film Festival – how long has it been around? Approximately how many films are included? Is the festival for all ages?

We are celebrating our 20th year. Our first festival was at Sherwood Hall featuring 4 films! This current festival will show 50 films over 13 days at five venues ( UltraStar La Costa, AMC 12 in La Jolla, UltraStar Mission Valley, Reading Carmel Mountain in Poway, and the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center, JACOBS FAMILY CAMPUS.) It is for all ages including young parents with infants at the Baby and Me movie showing, February 15 at 11 a.m. See our website:http://sdcjc.lfjcc.org/sdjff/2010/index.aspx

film fest one

Stills from Gefildefish (Shlomi Yosef), Leon the Pig Farmer (National Center for Jewish Film)

What was your interest in starting a film festival and how did you go about making it happen?

What were some of the challenges you ran up against? Lynette Allen, who was then the Director of Cultural Arts at the Lawrence Family JCC and I, after two years of showing a small film series in the gymnasium, decided to present 4 films at a real theatre and we printed a brochure for the “First Annual San Diego Jewish Film Festival.” Each year we added a few more films to the roster and then moved to the La Jolla AMC. For years, Lynette and I previewed films in our own homes, comparing notes afterward. Currently there is a curating committee of 11 people who meet weekly. They preview over 200 films. Films are selected in many ways; but mostly by participating in a net-working of 81 Jewish film festivals in the US and over 100 world-wide. Toward the end of the process the films are programmed with the idea that there is a balanced festival that will appeal to a wide variety of people, with a wide range of subjects and themes. There really haven’t been many major problems. The attendance just grew and grew and today we attract over 20,000 ticket holders.

How do you go about selecting films for the festival, are there particular requirements the films must meet? Who can submit a film?
The SDJFF offers an array of films ( from emerging to seasoned filmmakers, worldwide) that depict elements of Jewish life, history, and culture in challenging, moving, and humorous ways. We showcase guest actors, filmmakers, and scholars who introduce their work, and we encourage audience discussions.

How has your role in the San Diego Jewish Film Festival evolved over the years? What is the ‘Joyce Forum’ section of the film festival all about?
For the past 6-7 years I have been involved in curating films for The Joyce Forum ( named after me) One day during the festival we present outstanding Jewish-themed short-subject, documentary and feature films by student and early-career filmmakers from all over the world. The Joyce Forum seeks to support emerging filmmakers by showcasing their talent and exposing their work to established filmmakers, artists and industry peers.

I read that you’re a filmmaker yourself. What kinds of subjects interest you and why?
I have been working in video production for about eleven years, mainly producing video projects for non-profit organizations.It is my intent through making videos to tell stories that evoke emotions .

One example of a video that I produced was for the Volcan Mountain Preserve Foundation in Julian, California. Others have been for California non-profit organizations such as the National Conflict Resolution Center, Congregation Beth Am in Solana Beach and the Playwrights Project of San Diego. I was thrilled that The Riford Library in La Jolla recently featured a three-part series showing my work entitled: Video Views on Women, Creativity and Frivolity. I have a website. Please visit it at: www.joyceaxelrod.com

How difficult is it for an independent film maker to get a film made today?
There are an over abundance of young filmmakers today and I don’t know how they can all achieve prominence. The competition is fierce.

What are a few of your favorite films showing this year?
Please visit the Joyce Forum website where my favorites will be featured on Monday, February 15th. This year we are featuring a local filmmaker , Nicole Opper, who has received lots of accolades nationwide with her documentary, " Off and Running"

She was named one of the top 25 independent filmmakers to watch by Filmmaker Magazine and will be introducing her film on Monday evening at 8pm at the AMC. For me, that will be a highlight! http://sdcjc.lfjcc.org/sdjff/2010/joyce_forum.aspx

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about the San Diego Jewish Film Festival?
I would like to let San Diegans to know that our SDJFF films have universal themes which will appeal to a broad range of non-Jewish film goers .


Performing Arts Review: The King and I

king an i square
by Carrie Lowe | La Jolla High School

Rogers and Hammerstein’s 1951 Broadway musical, The King and I, was brought to a smaller stage during the weeks of December 3rd-13th in the form of a J Company production that dazzled and allowed for audiences to “get to know” the stars of San Diego’s young Jewish community.

Based on Margaret Landon’s book Anna and the King of Siam, the musical tells the story of Anna Leonowens, a strong-willed English schoolteacher who travels to Siam at the request of the King for her to tutor his many children. At first, Eastern and Western ideals clash as Anna is displeased that she would not receive the house she was promised because the King insists that she live in his palace. However, as Anna becomes more integrated in Siam life and befriends the King’s many wives and children, she and the King find friendship, even banding together to save the King’s reputation in the face of the English ambassador.

In the J Company’s adaptation, the characters were portrayed by the young actors who are a part of the company’s theatre group.  They gave the musical a warmer tone and allowed for the audience, which comprised of mainly family members and friends, to acquaint with the plot through familiar faces. The star of the show, Danny Meyers, 16, portrayed the King of Siam with a degree of intelligences, and enabled the character to be liked in some instances and resented in others. His costar, Ali Viterbi, has a voice well beyond her years and was perfect for the role of Anna; a scene in which Anna loudly and passionately expresses her disgust towards the King was Viterbi’s shining moment. Other actors, especially Hana Pak, who played lovelorn Tuptim, a “gift” to the King of Siam from the King of Burma, are all precocious in their acting and singing skills. The younger actors who played all of the King’s children add humor and sweetness to the musical. While the near three hour long performance was a bit overwhelming, the overall feel of the musical left lasting impressions.

While the musical itself discusses the differences of cultures and how simple acts of kindness can over come that difference, another act of kindness was found off the stage. In a letter on the first page of the show’s program, director Joey Landwehr tells the story of personal sacrifice to raise awareness. Landwehr recounts a day when Danny Meyers, the show’s lead actor, approached his director and asked if he had to shave his head for the part of the King, as Yul Brynner did in preperation for his role in the 1956 film adaptation. While Landwehr insisted that the King didn’t have to be bald, Meyers, who, according to Landwehr, “loves his hair quite a bit”, decided to shave his head as a way to raise awareness for kids with cancer. Landwehr goes on to say that this act of “beautiful selflessness” is a result of being a part of the arts, which allows for more noble ideas and caring attitudes.

The King and I was another example of how much the J*Company allows for young performers to shine. From the filled theatre to the heartfelt notes of encouragement in the program, the J*Company is really all about the community. The King and I was just another successful way that that togetherness was shown.

The 17th season of the J*Company Youth Theatre continues in March with a production of The Sound of Music, and in May with a production of Cinderella. Tickets can be bought online at www.sdcjc.org/jcompany


Author Event Review: The Year of Loving Dangerously, Author Event Review

year dangerously
by Alison Herman | La Jolla High School

D.G. Wills Bookstore in downtown La Jolla may seem like an unorthodox location for a speaking engagement: on Friday night, the audience for political cartoonist and graphical memoirist Ted Rall was squeezed in between towering bookshelves and assorted works of art. But it proved to be a perfect, intimate setting for an introduction to Rall’s extensive body of work, and not just his latest, The Year of Loving Dangerously, an account of the author’s cashless, homeless, and near-hopeless summer of 1984. The evening’s conversation shifted almost seamlessly from New York in the 1980s to the artistic influence of R.Crumb to United States foreign policy—all topics Rall is well acquainted with.

The discussion began with his recently published memoir, which recounts his experiences as a broke, jobless young man in Reagan-era New York City, stuck in a downward spiral after being expelled from Columbia University. Rall explained that he had several motivations for writing a memoir in graphic format: foremost, to depart from the “sad-sacky” storyline of many graphic novels and recount some of the “wild and crazy things” he experienced as a young man. But Rall also had higher motives; as he explained, he presented his story as a commentary on how fundamentally unstable most Americans are economically, and how an Ivy League student with a warm bed and nineteen meals a week could become virtually destitute in the space of six weeks. The Year of Loving Dangerously is also a collaborative effort with the Spanish artist Pablo Callejo, Rall’s first and a departure from his typically simplistic artistic work.

As president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, Rall is primarily known as a political cartoonist with a caustic sense of humor and a critical eye cast toward American politics, strategies, and culture in general; Friday’s audience was treated to this aspect of Rall’s material as well. A slideshow of several of Rall’s images and even some unpublished animations wove together such seemingly disparate topics as the Taliban and the Hokey Pokey, corporate mergers and Spiderman, or text messages and obesity, all to the maximum provocative and humorous effect.

Throughout his presentation, Rall maintained a lively, conversational, and thoroughly candid tone, unashamedly expressing his political and social beliefs while simultaneously inviting the audience to debate and discuss them. As he displayed his work to the audience, he described his experiences abroad in central Asia as a journalist and how they informed his perspective on President Obama and the war in Afghanistan—a radical departure from his boyhood in Kettering, Ohio. At the conclusion of his lecture, it was clear that The Year of Loving Dangerously hadn’t come close to revealing all of the “wild and crazy” events Mr. Rall had experienced: in fact, it was just the tip of the iceberg.

DG Wills Books
7461 Girard Ave
La Jolla, CA
858/456-1800


http://www.dgwillsbooks.com/

Art Exhibit Review: Manny Farber: Four Decades of Painting & Drawing

manny farber
by Roger Li | La Jolla High School

It is a common expression that the man behind the artist can be found in the details of his works. This fact held especially true for the works of Manny Farber, many of which are currently gathered at an exhibit at the Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center of San Diego. A Hershey’s chocolate bar, a few fresh roses, a couple of hastily scribbled memos, some cigars, and a very famous painting – these were the subtle flourishes that I had noticed were embedded in many of Farber’s pieces. Discovering these additions was one matter, but interpreting them was an entirely new entity. Flowers and cigarettes did not seem to possess any immediate correlation, to say the least.

To help my augment my amateur eye, I enlisted one of my friends who had recently completed an art history course to come along with me. She pointed out his violent strokes, his use of shallow depth perception, his split-colored canvas, his abstract perspective, his discordant tone, and the way the frames made the paintings feel as if they were snapshots of a greater picture. Even though I appreciated her input, her suggestions did not help me come to any startling conclusion about Farber’s art. To me, it was pleasant and interesting. When I pointed this out to my friend, she immediately criticized me. Art was not about what I felt, but rather my ability to accurately analyze it.

Faced with this dilemma, I decided to approach the works from a different perspective, one that I certainly knew better – that of a cultural anthropologist. Instead of attacking the pieces from the lens of an art critic, I tried to decipher what I could about Farber’s life from his details, the first aspect of his work that had struck me the most dramatically. The room at the JCC conveniently held his paintings in chronological order. Thus, I started at the end of the room and took a second viewing, this time paying extra attention to the details.

One of the first paintings I encountered was Black Crows (American Candy Series). It was done in 1974, and was almost blank, except for some candy bars and saltines. The background was square, white, and gray with irregular patches of brown. Both my friend and I wondered if the time period in which it was created served as to any hint about what it meant. Unfortunately, there were no indicative psychedelic colors, many of which actually came later in his career. Finding no tangible connection, we both moved on.

Right around the beginning of the 80s, there was noticeable shift in Farber’s artwork. This shift began with It Isn’t the Coffee, It’s the Bunk (1982). In stark contrast to his previous muted backgrounds, this painting held a cacophony of color and detail. In fact, this work did not really even have a true background. It was composed of various knick-knacks and mementos, many of which were books with writing in them. It reminded me of the cluttered study desk of a college student. However, this sudden change was interesting to me. From my point of view, it signified a new maturity and a confidence that I had not seen in his previous pieces.

Around the middle of the gallery came, presumably, his most famous paintings – Beet-y-Color, Stephanie’s Lines, Ponder, New Blue, Open, Radishes, and Big News, all of which were created in the late 80s, 90s, and early 00s. In these paintings, Farber truly unleashed his creative spirit. Almost of them had vibrantly colored books, gardening materials, and plants. A unique sense of depth that wasn’t present in his previous works emerged to give these pieces an airy whimsicality, somewhat akin to that of Alice in Wonderland.

Near the end of the exhibit, I reached three of his final paintings. Each were untitled and created in 2006. These works yet again showed an evolution in his creative repertoire. More jarring lines gave them a sense of primitiveness. I could tell age had affected his brushstrokes. The presentation of these pieces gave further acknowledgement of Farber’s last years by framing them simply, with the same white edges that were used for the paintings created at the beginning of his career.

When I finished up these last few works, I felt strangely like I had discovered a new friend. I had not known about Manny Farber beforehand, and my first impression of his art was “pleasant.” But after closer examination, I was able to appreciate his artwork for what it was – an eccentric, vibrant celebration of his life. Maybe it was a completely “wrong” interpretation, but part of the ubiquitous magic of art is being able to make a subjective interpretation at all.

Before I left the exhibit, I noticed one final detail: his signatures were never in the same place twice. Sometimes they were hidden in a book or a note. Sometimes they were on the edges of paintings, and sometimes near the middle. I felt like this was an accurate portrayal of the man I believed Manny Farber to be – a brilliant artist who savored life and appreciated the details of life that we, unfortunately, so often overlook.


Manny Farber: Four Decades of Painting & Drawing is on exhibit thourgh February 24, 2010

Gotthelf Art Gallery
Lawrence Family Jewish Community Center
Jacobs Family Campus
4126 Executive Dr.
La Jolla, 92037
858.457.3030


http://sdcjc.lfjcc.or


Performing Arts Review: The Upright Citizens Brigade

upright
by Roger Li | La Jolla High School

It began with an interview – a random series of questions posed to a soft-spoken biology major at UCSD.

 “Let’s search through your wallet.”

With those first words, the Los Angeles Upright Citizens Brigade troupe launched into a completely improvised comedic tour de force. On November 30th, the Loft at UCSD was treated to a special performance by the LA UCB. The first segment consisted of an interview. Answers that came from a randomly selected student were used as fodder for various skits. The second segment involved more short skits, this time based on text messages from the crowd; hilarity ensued.

It’s often said that the best humor brings back embarrassing memories. This statement proved itself to be searingly true as the night progressed. No topic was left untouched as the Wildlife Fund, crossdressing, the popular teen series Twilight, and gay parents were all ridiculed with the same amount of razor-sharp wit and unflinching honesty.

Moments that stood out included several skits involving a group of bacchanalian clergymen, a rapper that had an unusually intimate relationship with koala bears, an awkward blind date made exponentially more awkward by hemophilia, a father and his daughter’s starring role in Girls Gone Wild, a disabled Kate Winslet, a porn star reading Romeo and Juliet,and a particularly innuendo-laced description of rollercoasters.

“You know when you’re really scared when you first strap on? Then once you reach the top and start racing downhill, it’s all pleasure from there.”

It’s hard to believe, but that was one of the more G-rated quotes of the night. But what really amazed the audience was the troupe’s almost superhuman ability to consistently come up with fresh ideas. It’s true that most of these comedians have been perfecting their craft since their adolescence, but that makes their talent no less astounding. Transitions from the River Styx to zebras were made seamlessly with few slipups. The creativity of these performers was greatly appreciated by the audience who did not stop laughing the entire night – no exaggeration necessary.

Needless to say, it was a fun night.

The Upright Citizens Brigade was hosted by ArtPower! www.artpwr.com

The Loft, UCSD
9500 Gilman Drive #0078
La Jolla, CA 92093


Author Event Review: The Piano Teacher, by Janice Y.K Lee

lee piano teacher
by Alison Herman La Jolla High School

From Madama Butterfly to Memoirs of a Geisha, the meeting of East and West has a rich history in literature and has proven to be a continual source of inspiration for authors. On Wednesday night at Warwick’s bookstore in downtown La Jolla, Korean-American author Janice Lee presented her own contribution to this tradition in the form of her fascinating debut novel, The Piano Teacher. Having grown up in Hong Kong, the former book editor for Elle magazine made the city the story’s backdrop, populated by wealthy Western expatriates immediately before and after World War II.

Lee began the night with a reading from the book’s second chapter, when the newly arrived Englishman Will Truesdale first encounters the Chinese-Portugese socialite Trudy Liang at the party of a mutual friend. Captivating Will as well as the reader, Trudy’s fluid and engaging dialogue gradually provides a lush portrait of Western life in China during the 1940s. The descriptive, yet concise, language Lee employed to depict the flippant Trudy and somewhat bedazzled Will made it clear exactly why the book has been so critically acclaimed, by sources as diverse as The New Yorker and Lee’s former employer, Elle. For the benefit of the audience, the author quickly synopsized the rest of the plot: more than ten years after he and Trudy have been torn apart by the war, Will meets the novel’s title character, the piano instructor Claire Pendleton. Claire becomes as fascinated by Will as he was by Trudy, and the remainder of the book alternates between the two plotlines.

Lee wisely elected not to reveal the book’s ending during the subsequent question and answer session, but she was happy to expound on the process of writing and pursuing it as a career. Describing the production of The Piano Teacher as “a big shaggy mess” five years in the making, Lee brought the audience from her initial conception of a handful of characters to the book’s conclusion—which, she said, was the only one she could imagine for the book. In addition, producing a work of such a detailed nature required a copious amount of research, which was mostly done through English-language documents and memoirs of 1940s Hong Kong. Lee described taking such painstaking steps as consulting English acquaintances to find which region of the country best suited Claire’s background and perusing vintage newspapers to find advertisements for the correct model of refrigerator.

For those aspiring to writing as a profession, Lee recommended reading anything one could acquire, from classics to newspapers to biographies. Denying that she’d been lucky to produce such a well-written first novel, the author referred to the thousands of pages that would never see the light of day that were crucial to her development as a writer. According to Lee, writing is like any other discipline: it comes easiest to those with knowledge and experience.


Exhibit Review: There's Something About Seahorses

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by Nicole Jarvis | La Jolla High School

Calmly, seahorses float across their tanks, and hide among the corals, inviting you into their unique world. With their new exhibit, "There's Something About Seahorses", Birch Aquarium at Scripps has succeeded again in creating yet another entertaining and educational exhibit. The new exhibit has something for everybody - be it the interactive touch screen activities, the seahorse nursery, or the dazzling movements of these interesting-looking fish. It replaces the popular Art of Deception exhibit, but rest assured, this exhibit does not dissapoint. Overall, the exhibit features about a dozen different species of seahorse and seahorse relatives in tanks mimicing their natural habitats and water conditions. The best part about the exhibit, however, is the Seahorse Nursery. The Seahorse Nursery features newborn and juvenile specimens of the species featured in the exhibit, including the Giant Pacific and the Dwarf Seahorses. Each species has a small tank labeled with the date of birth of the seahorses inside it, so guests can be aware how fast, or slow these species grow and develop. Other standout features of the exhibit include a Dating and Mating display, and the Camouflage Corral, where small children can play with seahorse puppets in a large coral reef play area just for them. "There's Something About Seahorses is truly a great addition to the Birch Aquarium.

9AM - 5PM daily

ticket sales stop at 4:30PM

Adult (18-59) $12
Senior (60+) $9
College students (with ID) $9
Youth (3-17) $8.50
UCSD staff and students (with ID) $8.00
2 years and under FREE

Scripps Oceanographic Society Members FREE

3 - hour courtesy parking offered

Please visit website for more information
http://aquarium.ucsd.edu/

Birch Aquarium at Scripps
2300 Expedition Way
La Jolla, California 92037
(858) 534-FISH (3474)


Review: Grupo de Rua

grupo
by Antonia Cereijido | La Jolla High School

David La Chapelle's documentary, Rize, about Krumping, a form of hip-hop dance that became popular in Los Angeles during the 1990s, begins with the image of a policeman beating a black man. The man being beaten flails his arms and pushes his chest out in the same manner Krumpers do in Krump battles.

In Brazilian dance troupe, Grupo de Rua’s new dance H3, choreographed by Bruno Beltrao, nine strong male dancers master different genres in contemporary and hip hop dance, including the Krump. However, while the moves may be the same, the essence is different. A Krumper moves against an oppressor, he is resisting the life of the street. Beltrao also creates the feel and world of the street dancer, but the dancer does not fight his surroundings. He embraces and is moved by them. Beltrao shows a day in life of a hip-hop dancer who survives in the streets of Brazil.

H3 begins to the soft noises of city transit. The subtleness in the sound of cars passing by carries the dancers from step to step. The noise becomes their pulse and their actions are no longer theirs. They are being moved by a higher being that is uncontrollable. The dancers punctuate the fluidity of the dance by throwing their heads back, pushing out their chests and walking backwards. This surrender to the sky demonstrates the dancer’s acceptance of his life. He is not a fighter. He is a survivor.

As in the life of any street dancer, the day becomes night. The later acts of H3 recall Nike soccer commercials. The stage’s only source of light is a fluorescent white lamp, commonly found at a football or soccer field. This is only reinforced by the background sound of sneakers squeaking on a wooden floor as men run and yell to each other in Portuguese. Again, the sound is not overwhelming but it seems to guide the dancers gently as they playfully trip and roll over each other. One element that separates Grupo de Rua from most hip-hop troupes is this playfulness. Often time’s hip-hop is very aggressive. In hip-hop classes, the instructor regularly tells students to “hit” their movements. Grupo de Rua does not hit their movements, they absorb them.

Yet, do not think these dancers are any less powerful than the hip-hop seen on America’s Next Dance Crew. They are simply more efficient. There are sequences in the dance with nearly no movement. That is because a dancer who depends on his body for survival knows how to preserve it. There are moments in which movements are superfluous or even harmful. This concept of preserving and improving the body is also evident through the sequences in which one or two dancers take center stage as the others wait and watch on the sidelines. The dancers take turns playing teacher and student. These are two of the many roles the dancers play. They are simultaneously performers, workers, and even companions, but never friends or lovers. While they may play together, they are not dependent on each other. They are soloists who look inward and to the greater being that is represented through the changes and shifts of the city.

One dancer flings the others one at a time onto the stage from a corner. The dancers hit the floor and sprint backwards in a circle. This simple sequence is one of the most powerful. The dancer once again is not responsible for the initiation of his movement. It is something else that is pushing him, like a street dancer’s need to earn money that motivates him to work everyday. This action is repeated the same way dancers repeat their routines everyday. The circle the dancer creates is a clock and he is a hand of that clock that is carried through to the next day.

This piece is beautiful. The dancers exhibit incredible control of their body. Beltrao successfully fuses contemporary concepts with the strength of hip-hop dance. H3 is a striking example of excellent story telling.


Art Exhibit Review: Museums in Miniature

miniatures
by Carrie Lowe | La Jolla High School

Surrealism is all about the element of surprise, the juxtaposition of what is expected and what is actually there. In a new exhibit at the Contemporary Art Museum, surrealism is explored by two artists, an inspirer and the inspired.

Museums in Miniature wanders through the minds of Joseph Cornell, an American artist and innovator of assemblage, and Marcel Duchamp, Cornell’s French-American mentor. A small exhibit in one of the smaller halls of the museum, Museums in Miniature grasps the strange and evocative and thrusts it forward in a shocking manner.

The collection is comprised of six of Cornell’s works and two of Duchamp’s collections, all from the museum’s own archives. One of Cornell’s works, Untitled (Compass Case), which is essentially a box of compasses, coupled with Untitled (Chest with Sponges), which is essentially a box of sponges, suggests intimacy with the observer. Duchamp’s work, The Green Box, a collection of manuscripts and rough drawings, is nostalgic and almost dauntless.

The contrast of intimate and bold allows for a perfect segue into the museum’s larger exhibit, Automatic Cities: The Architectural Imagery in Contemporary Art.

Runs through Jan 31, 2010

Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego - La Jolla
700 Prospect Street
La Jolla, CA 92037-4291
858 454 3541

11 AM – 5 PM Thursday through Tuesday
11 AM – 7 PM Third Thursday of the Month

General Admission $10
Military/Seniors $5
Students 26 and over (with ID) $5
25 and under Free (with ID)

http://www.mcasd.org/

Closed Wednesday

Event Review: Ignacio Berroa Quartet

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by Alison Herman La Jolla High School

It’s not every day that a jazz quartet is named for its drummer. But Ignacio Berroa is anything but your everyday musician, as the Cuban percussionist demonstrated Wednesday night at the Athenaeum Library in downtown La Jolla. Accompanied by musicians from locales as varied as New York and Venezuela, Berroa led his audience in an exploration of both traditional jazz and Latin American spins on the classic genre.

Witnessing a jazz concert is not unlike listening in on a heated conversation: the sound begins with an easy, rhythmic exchange between two instruments (like a bass and a snare drum) and slowly builds to a crescendo as more and more players join in and contribute to the exchange. The different melodies and beats eventually blend into a continuous dialogue, growing in volume and scope as a burst of saxophone or new piano riff chimes in; the separate elements are equally likely to form into a familiar order or transition into an entirely new set of notes and tunes.

Berroa’s show almost perfectly exemplified this phenomenon: the set list included a traditional Brazilian tune, a jazz version of “When You Wish Upon A Star,” and a classic composition from Berroa’s mentor, Dizzy Gillespie—all in one seamless hour. The musicians were equally adept at twisting a well-known melody, as saxophonist Ben Wendel did with the famed Pinocchio theme, or constructing a fascinating and highly unorthodox rhythm, especially in the case of bassist Otmaro Ruiz. Such remarkable diversity of sound and talent demonstrates the appeal of Berroa’s music: a fascinating combination of several separate, and seemingly different, musical styles.

Perhaps the most interesting element of the music was this combination of Latin American music and improvisational jazz. Both forms feature rhythm and beats as integral components, making it unsurprising that a drummer such as Berroa would be a pioneer in linking the two. Berroa hails from Havana, where he began studying drums at age eleven, moving to New York in 1980 and meeting the jazz great Gillespie in 1981. Berroa went on to play in Gillespie’s quartet, and has accompanied other famed players such as Tito Puente, Chalie Haden, and Chick Corea, one of whose compositions was prominently featured in Wednesday night’s set.

The product of Berroa’s fusion of jazz and Latin was an utterly unique musical experience; within one two-hour concert, the audience was treated to selections from the long history of both venerated musical traditions, as well as the remarkable talent and virtuosity of the musicians in the quartet. Throughout the show, Berroa’s enthusiasm occasionally broke through in the form of a grin or laugh. After all, he was presenting something both time-honored and entirely new: innovative and interesting music.

The Ignacio Berroa Quartet was presented by
The Athenaeum Music & Arts Library


Author Event Review: Larry King at the San Diego Jewish Book Fair

larryking
by Kianna Anvari | La Jolla High School

The Jewish Community Center wrapped up their 15th annual San Diego Jewish Book Fair on November 12, 2009. This extravaganza of Jewish Literature was an all-ages event. Numerous authors lectured about their books and had signings. One author in particular managed to fill up almost the entire auditorium, and enthralled the mostly older crowd.

Larry King, born Larry Zieger, arrived a few minutes later than scheduled on November 8, 2009. Two empty chairs were center stage, with flowers on either side. The room was dark, with only the soft spotlight focused on the chairs. The audience of about 500 anxiously awaited the arrival of Mr. King. Linda Daniels, co-chair of the San Diego Jewish Book Fair, began talking about the Book Fair and thanking all who contributed.
Within minutes she presented Gina Lew, professor of media and culture at UCSD, who would be interviewing Mr. King. As Larry King appeared from the shadow, a roaring applause filled the room. Dressed in a button- up shirt and jeans, Mr. King walked to his seat with a nonchalant step and his leather coat flung across his back. The first thing he said resulted in a burst of laughter. “I know what you’re thinking, I didn’t bring my suspenders.”
As a joke, the co- chairs of the fair presented him with a box of new suspenders. Mr. King graciously accepted his gift and cracked yet another joke. “It’s from Macys, so we know there was a sale.”

His laid- back attitude and sense of humor may have come as a shock to those who thought he was just a typical dull interviewer. He soon informed the crowd that he was a storyteller, and unlike his television persona, where he asks a minimum of two questions, he loves to tell stories and make people laugh.
Mrs. Lew first asked Mr. King about his name. He explained that he changed his name to King because he was told that Zieger was too ethnic. Ever since he was a kid, he was always talking and telling stories. He developed the nickname, Zeke the Creek the Mouthpiece, which has stuck to this day. “I was Zeke the Creek the Mouthpiece because I was always talking and it rhymed.”

As he spoke, one could hear his thick Brooklyn accent, which is somewhat hidden on television. Mrs. Lew asked him if he ever had a voice coach. He gave out a small chuckle and said, “Never. I smoked for 35 years, had a heart attack, and haven’t smoked since.” The audience applauded and he continued to tell the full story of his 1987 heart attack.

After each question, Mr. King responded with several humorous anecdotes about his life, which resulted in endless laughter from the crowd.

When asked an important question, if being Jewish was more cultural than religious, Mr. King answered with a firm “Yes.” He elaborated more by saying how he loves Israel, and that Jerusalem is his favorite place in the world. With hesitation lingering in his voice, he stated that he is agnostic. He went on to explain that he was raised to believe in God, but has grown to believe otherwise. “I really don’t know if there is a God.” Later Mr. King was asked if he could interview God, what would he ask Him? He smiled and said, “I would ask, did you have a son?” The crowd broke out into laughter as he continued, “But if He says no…then we have a whole new problem.”

He was then asked about his book, My Remarkable Journey, which is filled with stories about his life. He explained that the reoccurring theme is the importance of friendship. He noted that in his business, it is especially important to maintain strong friendships. “The most important thing in life is loyalty.” He stated that he still remains close to his childhood friends. He continued to say that through all of his success, he is still a little Jewish kid from Brooklyn. “I left Brooklyn, but Brooklyn never left me.”

http://sdcjc.lfjcc.org/sdjbf/2009/index.asp


Peforming Arts Review: The Good Guys Tour - Spoken Word

good guys
by Roger Li | La Jolla High School

Spoken word is a full-body experience. For those who haven’t had the opportunity to partake in one of these performances, spoken word is best described as, frankly, indescribable. Right as Rudy Francisco took the stage at the Loft at UCSD on November 17th, there was an immediate kinship that formed between the members of the audience. His ideas came out like machine gun fire, one after the other without pause. Yet somehow they all came together as a cohesive whole. His quick, sharp body movements, closely resembling the hypnotic ethos of a preacher, matched his overflowing of words, metaphors, and ideas. Occasionally, he would pause at just the right moments to allow the audience to absorb the full impact of the ideas he was communicating. At times, he would transition during these pauses, drifting from his unique persona as a poet to a completely different persona as a comedian. During one portion of the performance, Tyree transitioned from used underwear to Hurricane Katrina to fuzzy pajamas during the course of several minutes. All of these elements came together for a truly emotional rollercoaster.

Having been the National Underground Poetry Slam Champion, it is an understatement to say that Francisco knows something about words. Currently, he is traveling with fellow poet Andrew Tyree in a national spoken word tour, The Good Guys Tour. Tyree is no amateur either, having placed 6th at the 2008 Individual World Poetry Slam. But these two men are more than their qualifications. What makes them special is their accurate grasp on what constitutes human nature. In the middle of the performance, Francisco and Tyree posed the question “Who in the audience has ever fallen in love?” Despite half the audience remaining silent, every single person was still able to feel what it meant to “touch your lips and feel the next sixty years.” This extraordinary relatability is exactly what made this experience so electrifying. Both men spoke about love, loss, and joy with unflinching passion.

But what really increased the raw emotion of the show was the adept and frequent use of metaphors. One example was a comparison of a woman’s eyelashes to violins that play symphonies. Another was an explanation of how the pain of a broken heart felt like a cracked hourglass, with the sands of wasted time seeping out of his ribs. This skillful manipulation of the English language added another element to their already stellar performance.

Perhaps the most accurate comparison that night was that of a spoken word artist to a stripper. Both require sacrifice. Both require specific skills. But most importantly, both strip several times a week. One strips physically, the other, emotionally. Throughout the course of the performance, one realizes that, much like a stripper, a spoken word artist needs to embody a certain type of person. He needs to be articulate. He needs to know about life. But most importantly, he must be willing to bare his soul to strangers.

The Good Guys Tour was hosted by ArtPower! and presented by
The Black Student Union: www.artpwr.com

The Loft, UCSD
9500 Gilman Drive #0078
La Jolla, CA 92093