An arts executive who’s really a clown at heart

Michael Alexander is the longtime executive director of Grand Performances, a landmark nonprofit arts presenter in its 21st season of providing free performances of music, dance and spoken word with a global focus.

Its outdoor summer shows run Thursdays through Sundays at California Plaza through Sept. 21 and feature groups as diverse as China’s first professional modern dance ensemble, the Guangdong Modern Dance Company; the Masanga Marimba Ensemble and the Paulist Choristers of California (

“Up until a few years ago,” he said, “I was definitely an ‘early adapter.’ I had a mobile phone and various permutations on the PDA starting in the mid- to late-'80s. Today, my wife and I still don’t have cable and don’t subscribe to any video service. We both have Treos and pick up e-mail wherever we are. I just got my iPod and have started to put it to good and fun use.”

TiVO PICKS: If I had TiVo, my picks would include a “Law & Order,” Tavis Smiley, “Nova” and sumo wrestling.


IN HEAVY ROTATION ON iPOD: I am listening to Kepa Junkera (a Basque accordionist with one of the most adventurous minds in world music), Romano Drom (Roma-Gypsy artists from Hungary), various Rai musicians from North Africa, my favorite arias and duets from Il Trovatore and “Wait, Wait ... Don’t Tell Me” [the weekly National Public Radio quiz show].


YOUTUBE PICKS: Those that show quirky dance segments, odd interpretations of all types of music and any foreign commercial demonstrating a weird sense of humor.

BEDSTAND LIBRARY: Among the books waiting to be read or re-read are Cornel West’s “Democracy Matters,” Machiavelli’s “The Prince,” Thomas Hoving’s “Making the Mummies Dance,” and John Hersey’s “A Single Pebble.”

TOP INTERNET DESTINATIONS: Wikipedia -- it fills in the gaps when I just cannot remember who did what to whom and where.

CULTURAL ADDICTION: I love world music (particularly if there is a message about a people’s struggle for identity). I like the fusion of cultures, the use of roots music instrumentation and modes, limited use of contemporary electronica and a good dance beat. I like eating the foods of the world and learning to say “No onions, please” in as many languages as possible.

GUILTY PLEASURE: Putting on my clown gear and entertaining 4- to-6-year-olds at birthday parties.

SECRET WEAPON FOR NAVIGATING THE CULTURE: Wife, friends and luck. One night I was heading for the L.A. Theatre Center to see some local modern dance. My car, on the other hand, decided to head to the Japanese American Cultural and Community Center. I stayed and had a great but unexpected evening with the local band Quetzal and a number of poets.


-- Lynne Heffley