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Entertainment & Arts

Essential Arts: The Music Center roiled by a resignation and harassment investigation

Los Angeles Philharmonic
Happier days at the the L.A. Phil: Confetti showers the orchestra’s 2010-11 opening season gala.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

A prominent departure at the Music Center, an actor wrestles Samuel Beckett and a beloved conductor begins his final season at the San Francisco Symphony. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with the week’s essential art news and theatrical cats.

Music Center upheaval

Despite the recent unveiling of the Music Center’s $41-million “Plaza for All” renovation — and a $12-million gift for the arts in L.A. County from philanthropist and former City Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski’s Ring-Miscikowski/The Ring Foundation — it has been a troubled month at the Music Center. With L.A. Opera‘s general manager Plácido Domingo under investigation for sex harassment allegations, the opera star stayed away from last weekend’s season-opening gala on the plaza, though as The Times’ Jessica Gelt reports, ticket sales were “fairly typical” ... “not sold out but close.” And this week it was announced that Simon Woods resigned as director of the L.A. Phil after only two years, reports The Times’ Deborah Vankin. “After a great deal of reflection, I have concluded that my hopes and aspirations lie elsewhere,” said Woods in a statement.

The L.A. Phil’s outgoing director, Simon Woods.
The L.A. Phil’s outgoing director, Simon Woods.
(Craig T. Mathew and Greg Grudt / Mathew Imaging)

Times classical music critic Mark Swed says this is no reason for despair. Both the opera and the philharmonic have “exceptionally strong No. 2s, trailblazers in their own right who have already proved themselves indispensable in making the L.A. Phil and L.A. Opera what they are today.”

Gelt reports that the investigation into Domingo is officially underway. The singer is slated to take the stage in “Macbeth” at the Metropolitan Opera in New York next week, notes Gelt, leaving “the Met moving forward with controversy attached to its opening week cast.”

Placido Domingo
Plácido Domingo performs at his 40th anniversary at the L.A. Opera in 2008.
(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

Swed reviews Barrie Kosky’s “La Bohème” at L.A. Opera. It was a poignant season opener. “This is Puccini for a new generation, for a world moving on,” he writes. “Women in this brilliant ‘Bohème’ are newly and importantly empowered.”

On stage

Stage actor Bill Irwin has long been obsessed with the words of Samuel Beckett. “Other things I memorize are gone as soon as I don’t need them anymore,” he tells Tom Jacobs. “This stuff has stayed with me to an amazing degree.” It’s an obsession he explores at length in a new one-man show, “On Beckett,” at the Kirk Douglas Theatre.

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In his review of the show, Times theater critic Charles McNulty says that Irwin brings “a player’s insight into the inner theatrical workings of the writing, a wisdom earned through his own stage successes and failures.”

Bill Irwin, one of the premiere interpreters of playwright Samuel Beckett.
Bill Irwin, one of the premiere interpreters of playwright Samuel Beckett.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

McNulty also reviews “In Circles,” Al Carmines’ musical adaptation of Gertrude Stein‘s 1920 work “A Circular Play.” It is, he writes, “a tantalizing revival,” with a “lush” stage design by Mark Guirguis and costumes by Ann Closs-Farley that are “at once old-fashioned and strikingly modern.”

Ethan Coen‘s series of one-acts, “A Play is a Poem,” is having its world premiere at the Mark Taper Forum this month, and Times reporter Ashley Lee spoke with the filmmaker about how theater is different from movies. “You make a wrong decision in rehearsals, and it’s just not like making a movie, where you can always retrieve errors and slap stuff together and make sense of it in a different way,” he says. “This, my God, it’s really different.”

Director and screenwriter Ethan Coen, author of the new stage work “A Play Is a Poem.”
Director and screenwriter Ethan Coen, author of the new stage work “A Play Is a Poem.”
(Christina House / Los Angeles Times)

Lee also had the opportunity to hang with the cast of “Almost Famous,” the musical inspired by the Cameron Crowe film. The show, which is having its premiere at the Old Globe in San Diego this month, revisits Crowe’s time as a teen music writer — with key narrative tweaks. “This is a story about being a fan of rock music at 15, and of feeling like you found a place where you belong,” he says.

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The new musical “The Wrong Man” tells the story of a man who is framed for a murder. “I’m originally from Illinois, which is famously the most corrupt state in the union,” Ross Golan, the show’s creator, tells contributor Lisa Fung. “After the governor, at the time, put a stay on executions, I thought it would be fascinating to tell the story from the perspective of a guy who is in prison for something he didn’t do.”

Actor Joshua Henry, left, talks with Ross Golan, writer of “The Wrong Man,” in August.
Actor Joshua Henry, left, talks with Ross Golan, writer of “The Wrong Man,” in August.
(Michael Nagle / For The Times)

The Times’ Daryl H. Miller reviews a “striking” production of the musical “Deadly,” on view at Broadwater Main Stage, about a serial killer of women in late 19th century Chicago.

He also checks out “American Mariachi” at South Coast Repertory, about a young woman who puts together an all-female mariachi group to recreate a beloved song. The ending may be predictable, writes Miller, but “the singing is particularly exhilarating.”

Alicia Coca, Gabriela Carrillo, Luzma Ortiz, Marlene Montes and Satya Jnani Chavez in ​"American Mariachi.”
Alicia Coca, Gabriela Carrillo, Luzma Ortiz, Marlene Montes and Satya Jnani Chavez in ​"American Mariachi.”
(Jordan Kubat / South Coast Repertory)

Margaret Gray checks out Deaf West Theatre‘s “The Solid Life of Sugar Water,” by playwright Jack Thorne, a voyeuristic look at marriage — down to a couple’s intimate bedroom thoughts. “Intimacy can be excruciating, hard work, a labor (literally) of love,” writes Gray, “and even at moments of the tenderest communion, there are still two separate minds at work, two separate experiences.”

At Casa 0101 in Boyle Heights, Nikki Muñoz reviews the stage version of Luis Rodriguez‘s memoir “Always Running.”The talented cast has chemistry,” notes Muñoz. But the pacing of the action can feel disjointed.

Everything dance

The Times’ Makeda Easter speaks with L.A. Dance Project’s Benjamin Millepied about the new festival he has helped spearhead: L.A. Dances, which will bring a range of work from choreographers such as Bella Lewitzky and Charm La’Donna. But Millepied wants to see even more dance in L.A.: “I’d love to have another studio and more time and space, funds, and more residencies, because that’s what the artists need.”

L.A. Dance Project’s Benjamin Millepied.
L.A. Dance Project’s Benjamin Millepied.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)

Related: L.A. is getting another dance festival: a two-week, citywide event organized by Debbie Allen and Nigel Lythgoe for 2020.

National Dance Day returns to the Segerstrom Center in O.C. with free performances and workshops.

Plus, Laura Bleiberg reviews Invertigo Dance Theatre‘s performance of “Formulae & Fairy Tales,” inspired by the tragic life of mathematician and code breaker Alan Turing. “The 70-minute dance,” she writes, “is a breakthrough.”

Spencer Jensen, left, and Luke Dakota Zender in Invertigo Dance Theatre’s “Formulae & Fairy Tales.”
Spencer Jensen, left, and Luke Dakota Zender in Invertigo Dance Theatre’s “Formulae & Fairy Tales.”
(Ben Gibbs Photography)
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Classical notes

"Michael Tilson Thomas‘s long goodbye has begun,” writes Mark Swed on the occasion of the conductor’s last season leading the San Francisco Symphony. He kicked off a Thursday show with John Adams‘ “dazzling” short composition “I Still Dance” and a “revelatory” performance of Rachmaninoff‘s Fourth Piano Concerto.

Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony.
Michael Tilson Thomas conducts the San Francisco Symphony.
(Grittani Creative LTD)

The new doc “Moonlight Sonata: Deafness in Three Parts” looks at how hearing loss affects three generations of a single family — a narrative linked by the famous sonata composed by Beethoven, who was deaf.

In the galleries

Christian Marclay currently has a show on view at LACMA that employs fragments of Snapchat video as source material for installations that are focused on sound. But contributing reviewer David Pagel reports that “none is fully fleshed out, like a resolved work of art.”

A detail from Christian Marclay’s 2018 installation “The Organ,” at LACMA.
A detail from Christian Marclay’s 2018 installation “The Organ,” at LACMA.
(Benoit Florençon)

Ready for the weekend

Contributor Philip Brandes rounds up everything going on in L.A.'s small theaters, including a play inspired by a missing Hebrew manuscript.

Richard-John Seikaly and Allison Blaize in “The Spanish Prayer Book.”
Richard-John Seikaly and Allison Blaize in “The Spanish Prayer Book.”
(Brian M. Cole)

Matt Cooper has all the best cultural things to do, including a flamenco show at the Ford Theatres.

And I list the latest art happenings in my weekly Datebook, including L.A. artist Gabriela Ruiz‘s debut museum show at the Vincent Price Art Museum.

In other news

— Tony-winning actress Phyllis Newman, known for roles on stage and television, has died at 86.
Tracking the legacy of actor Raul Julia.
Border wall construction could damage or destroy 22 archeological sites in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
— The Getty Trust is investing $100 million to help preserve threatened antiquities.
— Speaking of the Getty: The museum is getting a major loan of Assyrian art from the British Museum.
— “I usually find art thefts upsetting, but it’s hard not to laugh at this one.” Critic Jonathan Jones on Maurizio Cattelan‘s stolen golden toilet.
— The National Dance Council of America will allow gender-neutral and same-sex couples to compete in events.
I’m into crinkle concrete.
— There’s a good interview with Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainwright on Scratching the Surface.
— Is Instagram ruining architecture?

And last but not least...

Waiting for gato: In a nod to “On Beckett,” here are some Samuel Beckett motivational cat posters.


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