Culture Monster
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Not just Spock: Leonard Nimoy's arts trek covered many galaxies

“Leonard Nimoy carried conviction,” is the first sentence ever written in the Los Angeles Times, 59 years ago, about the man-who-would-be-Spock. He was playing a supporting role in a now-forgotten play called “Life Is But a Dream” at a now-defunct L.A. venue, the Civic Playhouse.

Nimoy, who died Friday at 83 at his home in Bel-Air, carried his convictions far in many varied arts endeavors that were light years distant from the screen roles for which he'll be indelibly remembered by millions.

As a stage actor, not yet famous, he delved into the edgy, dark theater of Jean Genet, performing in the 1960 L.A. premiere of the French playwright’s explosive prison drama, “Deathwatch.” The venue was a Hollywood coffee house.

In 1962, Nimoy secured the film rights to the play along with its producer-director, TV star Vic Morrow. The movie premiered in the spring of 1966 with Morrow directing Nimoy as a petty thief who turns murderous after being locked in a cell with Paul Mazursky and Michael...

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Islamic State attack on Iraq museum condemned by Getty

The Islamic State's recent video showing its forces destroying what appear to be priceless antiquities in an Iraq museum has provoked harsh words from the head of the J. Paul Getty Trust, who condemned the attacks but said there is little that can be done outside of military intervention to prevent future acts of cultural pillaging.

"It's outrageous -- it's the destruction of some of the world's greatest antiquities dating back thousands of years. These are objects that truly belong to the world," said James Cuno, president and CEO of the Getty Trust in Los Angeles, in an interview on Friday.

Cuno said that he had seen the five-minute online video that the Islamic State released on Thursday and said that the video appeared to be legitimate.

"It wouldn't be in the interest of ISIL for it to be fake. Anything that is contrary to their beliefs is idolatry," he said. "They appeared to use every attempt to destroy them -- it wasn't a casual activity."

The video shows forces using...

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UNESCO condemns attack on Iraq museum shown in alleged Islamic State video

A shocking online video released Thursday, purportedly showing Islamic State forces destroying priceless antiquities in a museum in Iraq, has drawn condemnation from the head of UNESCO, the United Nations body that is mandated to oversee cultural heritage sites around the world.

In a news release issued Thursday, Irina Bokova, UNESCO's director-general, called the acts portrayed in the video a "deliberate attack against Iraq's millennial history and culture."

She added that the attack "is far more than a cultural tragedy -- this is also a security issue as it fuels sectarianism, violent extremism and conflict in Iraq." 

Bokova said she has asked the president of the U.N. Security Council to convene an emergency meeting to address the protection of Iraq's cultural heritage.

The video, which has been widely disseminated online, shows what appear to be Islamic State forces destroying ancient works of art using sledgehammers, jackhammers and other tools.

Some reports have stated that...

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L.A. drama critics pan pay hike plan for actors in small theaters

The Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle has roundly panned a plan to require a minimum wage of $9 an hour for actors who perform in dozens of small theaters in Los Angeles, saying it isn’t just a mess, but a menace.

“The inevitable result will be a drastic reduction in the amount and quality of local theater,” the 21-member theater critics’ organization wrote in a news release Thursday, adding that the proposed minimum, scant as it may seem, “could be the virtual demise of Los Angeles as a leading incubator of plays and theater of innovation and diversity…. The cultural loss would be incalculable.”

“The… situation is urgent and dire,” the Drama Critics Circle added, with “a vastly constricted... less exciting theater scene” the likely outcome if the $9 wage goes through.

Leaders of Actors’ Equity, the national stage actors’ union, have proposed requiring the $9 minimum when its members perform or rehearse for productions in Los Angeles County theaters of up to 99 seats.

They’re scheduled...

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Critic's Pick: A new-music cornucopia

When California State University, Fullerton, composer Pamela Madsen began a festival devoted to contemporary female composers 14 years ago, she wasn’t exactly a voice in the wilderness.

There were successful female composers. Southern California had a significant new-music scene, although it was far more prominent in Los Angeles than Orange County. Even so, this was an outlier activity.

No more. Some years ago Madsen made the Fullerton festival mixed gender while still keeping women prominent. This year’s event at the school’s Meng Concert Hall, which began Thursday with a program by composer Lisa Bielawa, is called “Image Music Text.”

The weekend holds music by Elliott Sharp, the prolific cross-genre avant-garde guitarist and wind player, and by Madsen herself. Sunday afternoon, the ensemble Either/Or takes on Morton Feldman’s meditative four-hour-plus masterpiece “For Philip Guston.”

But this really is no voice in the wilderness anymore. Saturday night at Logan Creative in the newly...

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Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles names new president

The Mural Conservancy of Los Angeles, which restores, preserves and documents historic and public art, has a new board president, attorney Eric Bjorgum.

Bjorgum has been on the Mural Conservancy board for three years. He replaces Bill Lasarow, who co-founded the nonprofit in 1987 with artist Kent Twitchell.

“Eric’s the perfect person for the job because he’s an expert on the VARA and CAPA laws that protect the rights of the artists,” said Mural Conservancy Executive Director Isabel Rojas-Williams. “As murals become more hot, and as we move forward, more people want to use them for more reasons -- on TV, films, documentary programs. And the artists need to know what their rights are and how to be compensated for their work, as well as what to do if their murals are erased.”

Bjorgum is an attorney with Karish

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