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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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Gustavo Dudamel's contract with L.A. Phil extended to 2022

If there was any risk that New York City would sing a siren's song to Gustavo Dudamel, the Los Angeles Philharmonic appears to have sailed safely past.

The Phil announced Friday that it has extended its star conductor's contract until mid-2022, effectively taking him off the table as a plausible option for the New York Philharmonic, where Alan Gilbert is due to step down from his position as music director in 2017.

The announcement came while the orchestra is on an Asian tour that is to end Sunday in Tokyo.

Dudamel's extension adds three years to his current contract, which ran through mid-2019. He's in his sixth season as music director, having begun in 2009-10 when he took the baton from Esa-Pekka Salonen.

The extension means that Dudamel, who's also music director of the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra in his home country of Venezuela, will lead the Phil for at least 13 seasons. The orchestra did not disclose financial terms; Dudamel earned $1.44 million in 2012, according to the...

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