Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.
I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.
Since 1932, art has come to life once a year in Laguna Beach, home to its Festival of Arts’ Pageant of the Masters. For eight weeks during the summer, living tableaux onstage re-create well-known artists’ works in shows that also feature orchestral accompaniment and narration. If you’ve never been to the Pageant of the Masters, here’s a look behind the scenes produced by PBS affiliate KCET.
After being canceled last year because of the pandemic, the Pageant of the Masters returned this week and will run through Sept. 3. The theme “Made in America,” held over from 2020, will feature living representations of works by Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, Norman Rockwell and others.
It’s hard to describe a Pageant show in words — this is an iconic visual experience, the goal of which in part is to give viewers new appreciation for artworks, whether familiar or unfamiliar.
The trip from San Diego to Laguna Beach is less than 80 miles long, and the Pageant of the Masters is worth the traffic and the rather steep ticket prices, especially if you’ve never seen one before.
Turning to some entertaining arts education you can do from home, San Francisco’s M.H. de Young Museum, while having reopened on a limited basis in its lush Golden Gate Park location, is continuing its Virtual Wednesdays programming. Set aside 45 minutes to an hour or so on Wednesdays at 5 p.m. for video discussions with artists, performances and film presentations. I know, I know: We’ve all had it up to here with Zoom, but the small-screens platform is generally a small part of each week’s episode.
Coming up next Wednesday is “Everything in Slow Motion” with Mercury Soul, combining classical and electronic music. On Wednesday, July 21, a live panel: “Black Forums with SeeBlackWomxn.” The latter is a Bay Area-based artists collective.
“Virtual Wednesdays” access is free.
Let me take you back to August 2018. La Jolla Playhouse was staging the world-premiere production of Will Power’s “Seize the King,” the playwright’s reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s “Richard III.” (See my Union-Tribune Arts conversation with Power in advance of that opening.) Meanwhile over at Cygnet Theatre, Ro Boddie was starring in Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe’s audience-interactive “Every Brilliant Thing.” (See the Union-Tribune’s review.)
So what’s the synergy here? Beginning Saturday, Boddie is starring in a Classical Theatre of Harlem production of “Seize the King.” The free performances, which run through July 29, will be staged in Richard Rodgers Amphitheatre in Marcus Garvey Park on the border between Harlem and East Harlem in Manhattan.
No virtual streamings are planned, but I’ll keep an eye open just in case. In any event, this production, as noted earlier, has some definite San Diego connections.
There’s a San Diego connection at shortstop for the National League in Tuesday night’s Major League All-Star Game in Denver. That would be Padres superstar Fernando Tatis, Jr. Speaking of baseball, you may remember that when the season began back in April, I listed what I believe are the best baseball movies yet made.
One of them deserves a revisit as we focus on baseball’s summertime classic this week. “Moneyball” from 2011 earned Brad Pitt an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of visionary Oakland A’s general manager Billy Beane. To me, one scene in the film, which also starred Philip Seymour Hoffman and Jonah Hill, testifies to Beane’s single-mindedness and also to Pitt’s charisma in the role. In a locker room visit to his then-losing team, he makes an emphatic point about how losers, and winners, should behave.
“Moneyball” can be streamed via Showtime or Amazon Prime.
When after a long hiatus you get talked into re-subscribing to HBO on account of one show, that show had better deliver. I was already skeptical, given my colleague Karla Peterson’s assessment of “Mare of Easttown” back in April. And small-town crime dramas haven’t really interested me since the days of “Twin Peaks.”
Now I’ve watched all seven episodes of “Mare of Easttown” and while it’s not without its flaws, I don’t regret going back to HBO over it. Kate Winslet, as the Easttown, Pa., cop whose murder investigation is compounded by incredibly dark and emotional demons in her personal life, is, well Kate Winslet. That means exceptional. Few actors could play a character as hard-edged and flawed as this one and still make you care so much about what happens to her.
If the plotlines are too serpentine and the red herrings excessive, “Mare of Easttown” can be forgiven, not only because of Winslet’s performance but also some of her supporting cast members’, including Julianne Nicholson, Jean Smart and Evan Peters.
The American artist
Last weekend, San Diego creatives shared their stories about what it’s like to be an artist in America today. Check out the special U-T project here.
University of California Television (UCTV) is making a host of videos available on its website during this period of social distancing. Among them, with descriptions courtesy of UCTV (text written by UCTV staff):
“Ian Hamilton Finlay’s UNDA”: The late Scottish poet, writer, artist and gardener Ian Hamilton Finlay was considered one of the leading conceptual artists of his generation, particularly with regard to sculpture and his development of “concrete poetry.” His work has been seen as “austere, but also at times witty, or even darkly whimsical.” UC San Diego Library’s Nina Mamikunian joins Stuart Collection’s Mary Beebe and Mathieu Gregoire for an exploration of “UNDA” (Latin for “wave”), Finlay’s 1987 contribution to the Collection. Topics discussed include Finlay’s artistic influences and creative methods for the piece in the context of his long career, and its installation.
“Detecting Bias in a World of Sensational Headlines”: In a world of unrelenting clickbait it is hard for people to receive information without reacting emotionally. Not surprisingly, in a recent poll, 64 percent of the people interviewed said that fake news caused “a great deal of confusion.” Tamara Zubatiy, CEO and co-founder of Barometer (formerly VeriCrypt), explains how her company’s AI-based software uses machine learning to score bias in digital news, marketing copy, incident reports, and other text content, where cognitive biases can manipulate or misinform readers and analysts. Like a text-based nutrition label, Barometer provides informative metrics such as degrees of language formality, editorial bias, sensationalism and more.
“The Science of Music”: UC San Diego researcher Vincent Minces applied his background in physics, neuroscience and the cognitive science of music to create Listening to Waves, a program designed to teach students the science of sound and music, including its physical, perceptual and neural aspects. In this lively conversation, Minces discusses engaging students through such activities as sound editing, sound exploration and the creation of musical instruments. He also shares his perspectives on teaching, arts education and his work to make science accessible to all through hands-on exploration of the physics behind everyday objects and activities.
And finally: Things to do in San Diego
Top things to do in San Diego this weekend, July 8 to 11. More here.
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