‘A Strange Loop,’ Johnny Cash and a little-known Hockney: The week’s SoCal culture report

The cast of "A Strange Loop."
“A Strange Loop” at the Ahmanson.
(Alessandra Mello)

It’s a big week for SoCal stages, and Essential Arts has you covered with staff picks for live performance this week, plus other weekend possibilities for art and classic movies. We’ve also got a scoop on a 1970 David Hockney drawing of Santa Monica — once exhibited at the Louvre — that has popped up in London. And we are changing the day of the week this newsletter lands in your inbox! But first ...

Best bets: What’s on our radar this week


1. ‘A Strange Loop’
Michael R. Jackson’s Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winner probes the inner reality of a 26-year-old Black, queer artist who’s trying against the odds to write an original musical — one that will rescue him from poverty, obscurity and a looming sense of failure. When I saw the production in New York, I sat astonished and grateful that something so brutally honest and rigorously constructed had finally broken through to a Broadway stage.
Wednesday through June 30. Ahmanson Theatre, 135 N. Grand Ave., L.A.
— Charles McNulty

An archival photo of June Carter Cash and Johnny Cash.
Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash
(Photo courtesy of the John R. Cash Revocable Trust)

2. ‘The Ballad of Johnny and June’
I drove down to San Diego this week to see a new musical chronicling the love story of Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. It was the production’s first preview performance, and the La Jolla Playhouse audience was absolutely rapt, from the initial scenes recounting the country singers’ childhoods to their famous onstage proposal and their struggle with addiction. I particularly enjoyed Christopher Ryan Grant and Patti Murin, who are pitch perfect as Johnny and June and nail their performances of hits like “Jackson,” “Walk the Line,” “Ring of Fire” and “I’ve Been Everywhere.” The show is still making tweaks ahead of its June 9 opening.
Through July 7. 2910 La Jolla Village Drive, La Jolla.
— Ashley Lee

Ojai Music Festival
(Al Seib/Los Angeles Times)

3. Ojai Music Festival
One of the world’s most admired pianists, Mitsuko Uchida, returns as music director for this year’s festival, joined by the exceptional Mahler Chamber Orchestra as the guest ensemble. In weekend evening concerts, Uchida will lead three Mozart piano concertos from the keyboard. But, as usual, Ojai will branch much farther out from that, with adventurous programming and intrepid soloists, paying special attention to Schoenberg and Kaija Saariaho. Among the oddities will be avant-garde accordionist Ljubinka Kulisic offering a Sunday morning meditative concert devoted to John Cage.
Thursday through June 9. Various locations.
— Mark Swed

The week head: A curated calendar

Time is running out to see the 40-painting retrospective of work by Joan Brown at the Orange County Museum of Art.
Time is running out to see the 40-painting retrospective of work by Joan Brown at the Orange County Museum of Art.
(Yubo Dong, studio)


Joan Brown Last chance to see the 40-painting retrospective of work by the Bay Area artist.
Ends June 2. Orange County Museum of Art, 3333 Avenue of the Arts, Costa Mesa.

Kybele Dance Theater Observe or join in with this interactive performance of “Simyacı (Alchemist)” by Seda Aybay.
3 p.m. Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St. Santa Monica.

OperaFest L.A. Features 11 wide-ranging works by seven different companies.
Through June 15. Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, 135 N. Grand Ave., downtown L.A., and other venues.


Vox Femina The women’s chorus performs “In Her Image,” a new piece from Jocelyn Hagen.
4 p.m. The Colburn School, Zipper Hall, 200 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A.


A Night of Stop Making Sense A 40th-anniversary screening of Talking Heads’ seminal concert film includes a Q&A with all four band members moderated by Fred Armisen and a performance by Blondshell.
8 p.m. Pantages Theatre, 6233 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood.


Caifanes + Café Tacvba The powerhouse Mexico City bands co-headline an evening of rock en español.
7 p.m. Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood.


Bad Boys: Ride or Die Martin Lawrence and Will Smith return as Miami detectives for the fourth installment of the action-comedy franchise.
In theaters.


Janet Jackson The Together Again tour hits town with guest Nelly.
8 p.m. Kia Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood.

Steve McQueen stars in the 1968 movie classic "Bullitt," which is being shown at Los Angeles Theatre.
Steve McQueen stars in the 1968 movie classic “Bullitt,” which is being shown at Los Angeles Theatre.
(Warner Bros. Pictures)

Last Remaining Seats The Los Angeles Conservancy’s annual series showcasing classic movies in historic theaters continues through June 15.
2 p.m. Saturday, “Bullitt” (1968); 8 p.m. Saturday, “Gaslight” (1944). The Los Angeles Theatre, 615 S. Broadway, downtown L.A.

Verdi Requiem Grant Gershon conducts the Los Angeles Master Chorale performing the ancient Catholic funeral mass.
1 p.m. Saturday; 6 p.m. June 9. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A.


David Medalla, Untitled, ca. 1957 Graphite and China ink on paper. 11 × 8 7/16 in. (28 × 21.5 cm).
David Medalla, Untitled, circa 1957, graphite and China ink on paper, 11 inches by 8-7/16 inches.
(Courtesy of David Medalla Archive and another vacant space, Berlin)

David Medalla: In Conversation With the Cosmos The first comprehensive survey in the U.S. of the Filipino artist covers paintings and drawings from the late 1950s to works produced before his death in 2020.
June 9-Sept. 15. UCLA Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood.

A Hockney resurfaces

"View From Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica" by David Hockney shows a coastal view through sliding glass doors.
(Chiswick Auctions)

A little-known 1970 crayon and pencil drawing by David Hockney has resurfaced in London, where it will lead a June 25 sale at Chiswick Auctions. “View From Miramar Hotel, Santa Monica,” roughly 17 inches by 14 inches, was not included in the large 1995 Hockney drawing retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. However, according to the auction house, it was among the paintings and drawings in a 1974 Hockney exhibition at the Musée des Arts Decoratifs at the Louvre in Paris, where the artist was then living. Apparently unexhibited since, the work is a view looking north out a sliding glass door on an upper floor of the hotel, with vivid palm trees and a swimming pool glimpsed through a balcony railing and the Malibu coastline seen in the hazy distance. The drawing carries an estimate of 200,000 to 300,000 pounds (about $255,000 to $382,000) and has been consigned by an unidentified British seller, who is said to have inherited it.
— Christopher Knight

Tony season heats up

Jessica Lange sits amid the empty red velvet seats of a theater.
(Evelyn Freja / For The Times)

In preparation for the theater world’s highest honors this month, critic Charles McNulty sat down with Jessica Lange for a candid conversation about her Tony-nominated performance in Paula Vogel’s “Mother Play: A Play in Five Evictions” and the challenges of keeping a legendary career going at 75. “I love playing wildly emotional characters,” Lange said. “That’s always been the most interesting to me — characters teetering on the edge and falling off every once in a while.”

"Merrily We Roll Along" star Jonathan Groff with director Maria Friedman.
(Justin Jun Lee / For The Times)

How did director Maria Friedman finally solve the riddle of “Merrily We Roll Along,” the Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical that flopped when it premiered on Broadway in 1981? The answer, McNulty writes, was casting — including Jonathan Groff as Franklin, Daniel Radcliffe as Charley and Lindsay Mendez as Mary. The interview with Friedman and Groff was one of our reader hits this week.

A LALIFF guide

"Memories of a Burning Body" screens Saturday at LALIFF.

The Los Angeles Latino International Film Festival continues through Sunday, and Times contributor Carlos Aguilar parses the lineup and shortlists some titles to remember.

More culture news, briefly ...

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Philanthropist Elizabeth “Liz” Levitt Hirsch, former president of the Levitt Foundation founded by her family, has died. She was 72. Hirsch served as president for a decade and was instrumental in supporting the Levitt Pavilion in MacArthur Park, which hosts a free summer concert series. She also supported the foundation’s decision to spend down its assets of $150 million, in support of the arts, by 2041.

The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens has named 13 long-term research fellows who will be in residence for the full academic year, as well as 120 short-term fellowships that last from between one and five months. The fellowships are part of a peer-reviewed process that doles out $1.4 million in awards annually. Two local long-term research fellows, Nayan Shah and Alison Hirsch, are from USC.

Skirball Cultural Center has announced its 27th season of free outdoor sunset concerts. The music takes place on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. from July 18 through Aug. 8. The lineup includes El Laberinto del Coco (July 18); Bab L’ Bluz (July 25) and Waahli (Aug. 1).

Pasadena Heritage, the nonprofit dedicated to preserving the city’s historic, cultural and architectural resources, has named a new executive director, Erin Simon. Simon starts Monday in place of Sue Mossman, who is retiring. Simon is a public historian whose practice is rooted in social justice activism.

Entertainment Community Fund (formerly known as the Actors Fund), in partnership with developer Thomas Safran & Associates, has opened an affordable housing complex in Hollywood. The Hollywood Arts Collective’s Cicely Tyson building consists of 152 studio, one-, two- or three-bedroom units primarily for low-income creators and artists.
— Jessica Gelt

And last but not least

We’re on the move! Readers have said they would love recommendations of things to do before the weekend, not during it. So starting next week, Essential Arts will be landing in emailboxes on Thursdays instead of Saturdays. We’ll focus on the weekend immediately in front of us but also highlight some events and exhibitions coming the following week — pleasing procrastinators and planners alike. At least that’s the goal! Let us know how we’re doing at