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Essential Arts and Culture: The view from the West End, Fountain Avenue and Renaissance Rome

I'm Kelly Scott, arts and culture editor of the Los Angeles Times. Although we are looking ahead to the fall season, we had plenty of stories to follow in these last weeks of summer.

The man in the eye of the storm

We'll start with Benedict Cumberbatch, who was hunkering down this week during previews of "Hamlet" in London, now that he's asked the "Cumberbitch" community not to record his performances with cellphones. There were also dust-ups over early reviews and the disclosure that in at least one performance the "to be or not to be" speech did not come in its customary place. Tuesday is opening night. Will Cumberbatch, who has shown this summer that he can disrupt people's sleep (buyers begin queuing in the middle of the night for the few tickets released daily) and vacation plans, give us "Hamlet" as we have never seen it?

Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet. (Johan Persson / AP)

This Fountain is a high-water mark of L.A. theater

It's true that one can almost miss the Fountain Theatre, a modest building in a funky neighborhood, and that, as Charles McNulty writes, from certain angles it looks like a shambling house ready to be gutted. Yet anytime I've ventured to the Fountain, I've left feeling bullish on small theater in L.A. One factor in the Fountain's success as one of L.A.'s top small theaters, McNulty writes, is artistic director Stephen Sachs. As the theater's 25th anniversary approaches, McNulty sat down with Sachs to talk about how one builds a theater into a place like the Fountain, how to maintain it and what is the Fountain of tomorrow.

Stephen Sachs is the artistic director at the Fountain. (Katie Falkenberg / Los Angeles Times)

He drew it. But did he carve it?

A Michelangelo sculpture in a traveling "Vatican Splendors" exhibition? You mean, a sculpture that Michelangelo actually made? Something about it didn't sound right to reporter Mike Boehm. What he found was that the Vatican believes it is by Michelangelo's hand. But it wasn't hard to find others who begged to differ. "When I published 'The Complete Michelangelo,' I would never, ever have considered including that object," said William Wallace of Washington University. The Vatican was observing the vacation month of August in Europe — no one was around to talk — but directed Boehm to the writings of a Vatican scholar, which were inconclusive. Perhaps, as one expert said, the right term is "after Michelangelo."

A black chalk drawing by Michelangelo from the mid-1500s bears similarities to a sculpture in the exhibition “Vatican Splendors” that’s credited to Michelangelo. (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum)

Two new figures in Southern California arts leadership

New leaders were announced at the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and the Broad Stage this week. At LACO, Scott Harrison will take over from Rachel Fine. Wiley Hausam arrives from Stanford to lead the Broad, taking a position that has been vacant since founding director Dale Franzen resigned last year. LACO has another big job to fill: Music director Jeffrey Kahane will step down after the 2016-17 season. Hausam says he thinks the Broad audience is "willing to take artistic risks and do stuff that's more interesting."

In short

Butterflies are free — from the human gaze at the Natural History Museum this weekend. Because of the FYF music festival in Exposition Park, the Butterfly Pavilion is closed. Fun fact: Butterflies don't hear, but they do feel sound as vibrations. The closure is about the pavilion's visitor experience, not that of the insects. ... Cirque du Soleil, as part of its efforts to diversify the company's offerings, will see whether the neon lights are bright on Broadway — "Paramour" will open next year at the theater that once housed "Spider-Man: Turn off the Dark." ... An onstage orchestra playing the famous classical music selections of the soundtrack to "2001: A Space Odyssey" along with the film has been done before, but it was something special with the L.A. Philharmonic under the stars at the Hollywood Bowl last week, as was the orchestra playing Bernstein and Bizet under the baton of associate conductor Mirga Gra¿inyt¿-Tyla.

Coming up this week:

It's the last week in August, people.

What we're reading

What is this thing called Dismaland? Banksy spoke to the Guardian about what he's doing there in Weston-super-Mare. –Kelly Scott, arts and culture editor

Marion True, the former Getty curator tried in Italy for dealing in stolen antiquities, told the Washington Post that she's written part of a memoir but that she's not sure she wants to publish it. Christopher Knight would like to read the book — an important part of the story hasn't been told. –Kelly Scott

Hilton Als' New Yorker review of Annie Baker's latest play, "John," makes theater critic Charles McNulty wonder: Why isn't her remarkable body of work being done in L.A.?

Follow me on Twitter at @kscottLATarts.

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