Results tagged “Los Angeles Times” from ARTicles
James Rainey's Los Angeles Times article on tepid press reception of Gustavo Dudamel's first U.S. tour as LA Philharmonic music director reminds me of a scene I'm watching unfold in Cambridge, Mass., where Diane Paulus is completing her first year as artistic director of American Repertory Theater. Both media and popular support of Paulus have been strong, but there's a less documented story on the street. Is she turning A.R.T. into an out-of-town stage for New York actors and other theater workers? Is her work serious or is it, as has been suggested of Dudamel's, a "publicity and fund-raising machine"?
During her first year, Paulus has produced the biggest ticket-seller of any season at A.R.T. -- "Sleep No More" by England's Punchdrunk theater -- and her revival of "Donkey Show" that has been running nearly a year at A.R.T.'s smaller black-box space has a minor cult status locally. People love the work, or they don't. Critics love the work, or they don't. But the work keeps trucking, just as it does with the other theaters in the Boston area. Paulus' "Best of Both Worlds," a musical adaptation of "A Winter's Tale" staged in an inner-city vernacular, featured outstanding performances by an all-black cast -- a rarity at A.R.T. -- but the show didn't find the same kind of following as "Sleep No More," and the writing didn't cast the same spell for many who did attend. Same for another import, "Paradise Lost," Daniel Fish's update of Clifford Odets' play. Time will tell how Paulus assesses these two productions.
Paulus' newest work, "Johnny Baseball," is a musical about the Red Sox. The show opens June 2, and the local theater community is already noting that the cast is imported from New York -- even as the story is written by Massachusetts native Richard Dresser, stars Boston Conservatory graduate Stephanie Umoh, and features young Erik March, pitcher and infielder for the Newburyport Pioneer League. In previews, theatergoers wore Red Sox outfits and caps, and drank beer during the show. Can Fenway fans be far behind?
A friend who is a professor at the University of California at San Diego was visiting this week, and she mentioned that she was despondent and angry over the apparent witch hunt against an artist and faculty member at the university. The new media artist, named Ricardo Dominguez, who is an associate professor at UCSD, reportedly may have his tenure revoked for staging an online sit-in on the home page of Mark Yudof, the president of the 10-campus University of California system. The protest was over tuition hikes and involved hundreds of participants typing the word "Transparency" in the page's search box.
Dominguez got some attention last year when he created a modified cell phone that would provide people illegally crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. with inspirational poetry and directions to water stations. (The L.A. Times called the device "more conceptual than practical," though it "scored public relations riches.") Three Republican congressmen from the San Diego area have asked the UC San Diego chancellor to provide a financial accounting of the cell phone project and, according to the Times, Dominguez and other faculty members say that the university is considering whether creation of the phone was an improper use of public funds, whether there are grounds for filing criminal charges against him for the computer sit-in, and whether to revoke his tenure.
The Los Angeles Times ran two prominent stories last week, including one on the front page of the April 30 edition, about billionaire Eli Broad's plans to build a museum for his contemporary art collection either in the city of Santa Monica or in downtown L.A. Broad, who is often described as a tough negotiator, appears to be pitting the two cities against each other, hoping to get the best deal before he commits to a site.
There aren't many people in Los Angeles with as much money as Broad, so when he agrees to donate money for a new building or a cause, institutions are quick to cave to his terms. In this case, one or two officials in each city are balking at Broad's demands for virtually rent-free land, questioning whether it's in the public interest to lease Broad valuable plots of real estate for a total of $1 a year, so he can build a place to show off his art. They would most likely get an arresting architectural edifice, with his name prominently displayed on it. Broad, who made his first fortune building homes for average folk before making his second fortune selling insurance policies, expressed dismay at the chutzpah of these ungrateful officials.
Broad told the Times, "It just burns me that people are saying they're giving me, a billionaire, $1 a year for nothing without looking at the public benefit that's being created, without thinking of all these children that are going to go there free of charge and all the other benefits."
On Friday in the Los Angeles Times, Mike Boehm reported more fallout from the cash crisis that recently imperiled that city's Museum of Contemporary Art: damning findings by the state and an embarrassing official slap.
The California Attorney General's office determined that the Museum of Contemporary Art skirted state law for years enroute to financial meltdown in late 2008 and ordered the museum to hire a consultant to help improve its financial management. The attorney general also required MOCA board members to receive special training in their fiduciary duties.
The findings and "required corrective actions" were included in a two-page letter to MOCA last November. The attorney general's office provided it to The Times this week after repeated inquiries.
Now comes news in The New York Times that the little-known, publicly funded New York State Theatre Institute "is rife with corruption, mismanagement, nepotism and possibly illegal conduct, according to a scathing report released on Tuesday by the state inspector general's office."
The report alleges that the artistic director, Patricia Snyder, treated the group as a personal fiefdom, routinely doling out acting roles, directing jobs, production work and other benefits to herself and her family members. Ms. Snyder steered a total of more than $700,000 in payments to her husband, her two sons, her two daughters-in-law and to herself, the report said.
Danny Hakim's story mentions that the report comes "four years after a New York Times article" -- his own -- "detailed nepotism and questionable spending practices by the institute."
Note those "repeated inquiries" Boehm made, and his aggressive reporting on the museum's crisis at the time. Note that long-ago Hakim story, the result of a careful examination of the theater's own records.
Boehm is an arts reporter, one of a diminishing number on staff at newspapers. Hakim covers Albany, not the arts, at least not usually; in this case, the two intersect. In arts journalism, we have a little habit of forgetting to include hard news in the definition of what we do. But it's one of the most important aspects of our coverage. It's also time-consuming, expensive, and therefore endangered. As these stories illustrate, killing the watchdog is a dangerous thing to do.
This is the most essential sentence in Los Angeles Times theater critic and 2010 Pulitzer Prize drama jury chair Charles McNulty's brilliant broadside against the Pulitzer board for its shameful habit of tinkering with the drama prize: "Too bad the board doesn't have members who are better able to distinguish the merits of a production from the merits of a dramatic work."
Exactly, exactly, exactly. Theater is a collaborative art form, but the drama prize is awarded to playwrights, composers, book writers, lyricists: the people who write the work. If you can't tell the difference between what's on the page and what's on the stage, then you have no business ignoring the advice of people who can. The Pulitzer board has never given the slightest indication that it's in possession of this skill.
Surely every playwright has been foiled by an actor or director or designer's misunderstanding of the text, or inability to communicate it; that happens to Shakespeare every day of the week, and has for hundreds of years. Lucky for him, we don't base our estimation of him on the countless god-awful productions of his work. But even Shakespeare's plays can be elevated in production beyond what's written. That's part of the beauty of theater. A good drama critic, like anyone else steeped in the art, can see through the performance to the play underneath.
Also important in McNulty's piece: Although he praises "Next to Normal," he calls "its understanding of mental illness simplistic." This year's Pulitzer winner is arguably entertaining (not in my opinion; the box office begs to differ) -- but truthful, dramatically or otherwise? Hardly.