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Essential Arts and Culture: The Broad's architecture, a comic's crusade and Franzen's 'Purity'

I'm Kelly Scott, and here are some arts and culture stories from L.A. Times writers and critics to check out.

How the Broad museum measures up

As we get closer to the Sept. 20 opening of the Broad museum on Grand Avenue, Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne weighs in on the new player on the city's arts landscape. The building was designed by the New York firm Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Hawthorne calls it a step forward for DSR, if not a wholly successful finished product. The Broad opens with an inaugural exhibition of more than 200 artworks from Eli and Edythe Broad's collection of modern and contemporary art. Last week, museum leaders announced that ticket reservations will be taken beginning Monday.

The Broad museum features a 105-foot escalator. (Iwan Baan / The Broad and Diller Scofidio + Renfro)

Colin Quinn embraces the coarse in public discourse

I think we can agree that we live in a time of heightened sensitivity, and that most of us take great care to avoid racial and cultural stereotypes. There. That sounds so much better than "political correctness." Comedian and actor Colin Quinn doesn't want to trample on anyone's sensibilities, but he says let's get real. At "The New York Story," his comedy show at the Cherry Lane Theatre in New York, he jokes about the Irish, Italians, blacks, Jews, Puerto Ricans and others. "It's not saying people are inferior. It's just saying everybody's got their thing," Quinn told Steve Zeitchik. Quinn's thing includes that successful show ("The New York Story" closed briefly; it will reopen in October) and a role in this summer’s hit comedy "Trainwreck."

You are getting sleepy, very sleepy...

Max Richter, an English composer living in Berlin, writes music that puts people to sleep -- that's sort of the point. His new work "Sleep" runs 8 hours, 24 minutes, 21 seconds, and Richter hopes that it will put people into "slow wave sleep," a state before REM sleep. "The state is very important in learning and consolidating information," Richter said to David Ng. The work will have its world premiere in Berlin this fall in concerts that begin at midnight and run till morning. But that's not the only type of music that Richter makes; he also wrote the score for the HBO series "The Leftovers."

German-British composer Max Richter in Oxfordshire, United Kingdom. (Mike Terry)

The sun never sets on August Wilson

If you read this newsletter regularly, you'll find out I am a serious August Wilson person. I haven't seen all of the 20th century plays, but I will never forget the ones I have seen. "Fences," one of the most popular, is staged frequently in Southern California theaters, but it isn't possible to see it too many times. You're in luck: International City Theatre in Long Beach has a production that critic David C. Nichols called "a pertinent, gripping revival."

Jermelle Simon, left, Karole Foreman and Michael A. Shepperd in "Fences" at International City Theatre. (Suzanne Mapes)

Trying to put a "town square" in Costa Mesa

What's the opposite of paving over paradise? In Orange County performing arts, it means creating a Michael Maltzan-designed grassy, leafy plaza between Segerstrom Center and the Segerstrom Concert Hall -- now all shadeless hardscape. Segerstrom has shown movies on the big theater's wall and put on evening performances in that space. Now its leaders want to make it more welcoming to a larger slice of the community. The space, which will include two outdoor stages, is part of a campaign to raise $68 million for the plaza, the programming initiatives Center Without Boundaries and the Center for Dance and Innovation, as well as a major portion to retire some longstanding debt.

An artist's rendering of Segerstrom Center for the Arts, aerial view. (Michael Maltzan Architecture)

Colleagues around the newsroom have been at work on a few stories we also thought you might find interesting:

Running, street art and Instagram — a millennial brew

This week's Mind & Body section profiles a most unusual running group: BlacklistLA. Each Monday night, hundreds gather for a four-mile run that takes them to a new piece of street art in and around Los Angeles -- and then share the highlights on Instagram with the hashtag #BlacklistLA. It's a diverse bunch by gender, ethnicity and ability -- but it does skew young. (Who else goes on four-mile runs at 10 p.m.? And who else is on Instagram all the time?) BlacklistLA refers both to the underground, vaguely naughty nature of the late-night runs and to the notion that artists making what has been called graffiti were frequently kept out of galleries.

“The art of running for the love of Los Angeles” is their motto. (Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles Times)

The man, the missteps, the new novel

Jonathan Franzen is a writer who can't (or won't) steer clear of controversy. There was his tiff with Oprah: He objected to her book club logo being put on the cover of "The Corrections," his masterful 2001 portrait of a Midwestern family. More recently, he made headlines for a tone-deaf quip about adopting an Iraqi war orphan. But book critic David Ulin looks beyond that and admires Franzen's new novel, "Purity," for its "fierce writing," which "does what fiction is supposed to, forcing us to peel back the surfaces, to see how love can turn to desolation, how we are betrayed by what we believe."

The guy who took up the fallen writer's pen

Stieg Larsson's wildly popular Swedish Millennium series featuring punk super hacker Lisbeth Salander and investigative reporter Mikael Blomkvist came to an end when Larsson died in 2004.  But now the trilogy kicked off by "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo" has been revived. Crime journalist David Lagercrantz has stepped in to continue the series, with "The Girl in the Spider's Web." Our reviewer says the book is a disappointment.

In short

The Benedict Cumberbatch "Hamlet" has arrived in London. It doesn't seem to matter what the critics say.... Next, another god. Actually, the God: Sean Hayes will play him in "An Act of God" at the Ahmanson.... Hollywood Bowl says goodbye, Patina; hello, Lucques.

Coming up

Mark Swed reviews Audra McDonald with members of American Ballet Theatre on Tuesday and the L.A. Philharmonic at the Hollywood Bowl. ... And coming up a little later: The Times' Fall Arts Preview is Sept. 13.

Follow me on Twitter at @kscottLATarts.

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