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Bob Baker Marionette Theater gets boost from 'NCIS: Los Angeles'

When Joe Sachs set out to write episode No. 139 of one of broadcast television's top-rated scripted shows, "NCIS: Los Angeles," he asked himself: How do you merge a story about 21st century technology with marionettes from the 1950s and '60s?

The episode will air Monday night, and a good bit of it takes place inside the Bob Baker Marionette Theater, the oldest children's theater in Los Angeles and the oldest puppet theater in the United States.

"The theater is a giant vintage Christmas present from the 1960s with red velvet from floor to ceiling," says Sachs, who took his kids, 9 and 4, to the theater to see a performance of "The Nutcracker" in November.

The theater was in turmoil at the time. Baker was in hospice. (He died Nov. 28.) His beloved theater, which opened in 1962, was struggling financially and had been since 2008. The property had been sold in 2013, and the theater's lease was widely reported to be up this month.

That was where things stood when Sachs approached head...

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Essential Arts and Culture: Big news for the L.A. Phil and LACMA
99-seat theater debate: It's time to figure out a collective solution

Facebook and Twitter have been exploding with commentary on changes that are being considered by Actors' Equity concerning the 99-seat Theater Plan. The "Pro-99" contingent, the camp opposed to Equity's proposal -- has had the decided advantage in the forum of public opinion. But something is getting lost in the outcry -- the need for the theater community to collectively figure out a path that can move us all forward.

Since social media is where much of the debate is taking place, I decided to offer my thoughts to the Twitter universe in a series of tweets. Please join me on Twitter (@charlesmcnulty) to continue the conversation.

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Billie Joe Armstrong musical coming to Geffen Playhouse in September

The latest stage musical from Green Day frontman Billie Joe Armstrong will have its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse in September, the Los Angeles theater company announced on Thursday.

"These Paper Bullets!" -- loosely inspired by Shakespeare's "Much Ado About Nothing" -- will run at the Geffen from Sept. 8 to Oct. 18, after which it will play at the Atlantic Theater Company in New York. The two theater companies are co-producing the staging, which will be directed by Jackson Gay.

Armstrong wrote the songs for the musical, which is set in the world of rock and follows four musicians from Liverpool who find themselves in London looking to make an album. Playwright and television writer Rolin Jones of Woodland Hills wrote the script for the show.

The new musical was seen last year at Yale Repertory Theatre, which commissioned the work. The title comes from a soliloquy delivered in Shakespeare's original play by the character Benedick.  

Armstrong branched out into musical...

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American Academy of Arts and Letters announces 2015 art awards

The American Academy of Arts and Letters -- an organization whose founding members include Henry James, Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson -- announced its 2015 award recipients in art on Thursday.

The nine established and emerging artists were picked from a pool of 40 artists who were showing in a group exhibition organized by the AAAL, “Invitational Exhibition of Visual Arts,” which opened in New York earlier this month. The exhibit spanned paintings, sculptures, photographs, works on paper as well as installations.

“Each of the awards has attached to it a specific description and intent,” said AAAL executive director Virginia Dajani. “We were looking for excellence and promise and, in a few cases, lifetime achievement or a formidable body of work.”

Artist Clintel Steed received the John Koch Award, given to “a young painter of figurative work.”

Jane Rosen, Steve Dibenedetto, Brenda Goodman, Gary Lang, and Stanley Lewis received the Arts and Letters Awards in Art, honoring...

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YOLA and a musical experiment in Fukushima, Japan

YOLA has touched down in Soma. And it is not, as might have been expected, the far side of the moon. 

When 15 student musicians in the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Youth Orchestra of Los Angeles arrived here Thursday, the expectation was to find this coastal Japanese city, which suffered some of the worst damage from the 2011 Fukushima earthquake and tsunami, a desolate place.

The Los Angeles students had come to spend two days working with children in El Sistema Japan, a music education program that was set up in the wake of the catastrophe to help children cope with loss and trauma. Both it and YOLA, which Gustavo Dudamel founded in L.A. in 2007, are patterned after the famed Venezuelan El Sistema.

A tour of the devastated coastline is yet to come. There is no question that this is a depressed region. Nearly 500 lost their lives in the earthquake and tsunami. The nuclear radiation from the meltdown of the Fukushima Daichi nuclear power station 28 miles up the coast has significantly...

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