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Entertainment & Arts

Newsletter: Essential Arts & Culture: An immigration musical, self portraits fusing black and white, getting gender-bendy

Genevieve Gaignard
“Compton Contrapposto” (2016) by Genevieve Gaignard, on view at the California African American Museum.
(Genevieve Gaignard / Shulamit Nazarian)

A new show of photography merges black and white identity. Redoing the postmodern Crystal Cathedral in Orange County. And a Finnish conductor brings a fresh perspective to established works at Disney Hall. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer for the Los Angeles Times, with the week’s most intriguing arts stories:

Black and white

L.A.-based artist Genevieve Gaignard is the biracial daughter of a black father and a white mother. And in her self-portraits, now on view at the California African American Museum, she fuses all manner of racial tropes. “I often pair things that are stereotypically white with things that are stereotypically black,” she tells The Times’ Deborah Vankin, “and put them together to create a language that, hopefully, expresses what it’s like from my experience to be mixed race.” Los Angeles Times

Genevieve Gaignard’s identity-bending “Extra Value (After Venus)” (2016).
Genevieve Gaignard's identity-bending "Extra Value (After Venus)" (2016).
(Genevieve Gaignard / Shulamit Nazarian )

Vankin also writes about an intriguing new exhibition at the L.A. Public Library that allows visitors to listen to the famed 19th century thespian Edwin Booth recite a passage from Shakespeare’s “Othello.” Very cool. Los Angeles Times

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An immigration musical

Krystina Alabado, left, and Daphne Rubin-Vega in La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere musical “Miss You Like Hell.”
Krystina Alabado, left, and Daphne Rubin-Vega in La Jolla Playhouse’s world-premiere musical "Miss You Like Hell."
(Jim Carmody )

A road trip featuring a carefree, bohemian mother who is trying to fix her immigration status and her alienated teenage daughter serves as the backbone of the world-premiere musical “Miss You Like Hell,” on view through Dec. 4 at the La Jolla Playhouse. The show, writes Times theater critic Charles McNulty, is “an affecting yet haphazard travelogue,” but serves as a touching showcase for the musical gifts of lead actress Daphne Rubin-Vega. Los Angeles Times

Plus, McNulty recently hopped over to New York to take in productions of “The Front Page,” “Les Liaisons Dangereuses,” and the ’90s AIDS musical “Falsettos.” All the re-stagings are “very much a stroll through yesterday,” he writes. “The history is important but so too is an artistic reckoning with how the work does (or doesn’t) speak to us today.” Los Angeles Times

John Slattery, left, and Nathan Lane in “The Front Page.”
John Slattery, left, and Nathan Lane in "The Front Page."
(Julieta Cervantes )

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Speaking of re-stagings: McNulty, who has been pretty busy, also takes in the Garry Hynes-directed production of “The Beauty Queen of Lenane” at the Mark Taper Forum, now on view through Dec. 18. Though not a favorite of his, due to the “crude plotting” and “creaky exposition,” McNulty writes that this production of Martin McDonagh’s mother-daughter psychological battle nonetheless offers “a jangly theatrical escape for those who don’t mind when a fable leaves them recoiling.” Los Angeles Times

Gender-bending roles

Lena Hall backstage at the Hollywood Pantages, checking the fit of the wig she wears in “Hedwig and the Angry Inch.”
Lena Hall backstage at the Hollywood Pantages, checking the fit of the wig she wears in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch."
(Stuart Palley / For The Times )

In the critically acclaimed new production of “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at the Hollywood Pantages, Lena Hall is a woman playing a man who dresses like a woman. But on a few evenings this month, reports The Times’ Jessica Gelt, she will also play the title tole of Hedwig, “a woman playing a man who tried to become a woman — and was left with a 1-inch mound of flesh between her legs.” An intriguing juggling of identities and roles. Los Angeles Times

Conductor to watch

He may have led a program that seemed commonplace — including Dvorak’s Cello Concerto and Sibelius’ First Symphony — but Finnish conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali made these and other works “riveting” and “original” in a performance at Walt Disney Concert Hall, writes Times classical music critic Mark Swed. “Rouvali’s imaginative, often spectacular musicality,” he writes, “is exceptional even in an era with a number of remarkable young conductors.” Los Angeles Times

Conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Dvorak’s Cello Concerto with the LA Phil.
Conductor Santtu-Matias Rouvali conducts Dvorak's Cello Concerto with the LA Phil.
(Wally Skalij / Los Angeles Times )

Plus: Composer J.S. Bach, writes Swed, is having a moment — in new recordings and in a recent Los Angeles Philharmonic concert, where cellist Johannes Moser dedicated a Bach sarabande to Hillary Clinton and Leonard Cohen. Now the Camerata Pacifica chamber orchestra is contending with Bach’s legacy in a series of concerts — the last of which lands in Ventura on Sunday. Los Angeles Times

A gravitas-proof building?

A schematic of the proposed Crystal Cathedral design by Johnson Fain.
A schematic of the proposed Crystal Cathedral design by Johnson Fain.
(Shimahara Illustrations )

In revamping the interior of architect Philip Johnson’s famed Crystal Cathedral (now renamed the Christ Cathedral) in Orange County, the L.A.-based design firm Johnson Fain is trying to bring some gravitas to a building that was designed for television flash. But Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne says the redo misses the boat on what Johnson’s original building was intended to be. It is, he writes, “more suggestive of the offices of a high-end law firm than the kinds of early experiments in postmodernism.” Los Angeles Times

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Look back: Internment camps

A view of the cemetery monument at the Manzanar Japanese American relocation center — now a historic site.
A view of the cemetery monument at the Manzanar Japanese American relocation center — now a historic site.
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times )

This week’s political talk about a Muslim registry raised the specter of America’s World War II-era internment campswhere tens of thousands of Japanese Americans (a majority of whom were U.S. citizens) were incarcerated because of their race. Given the news, I thought it’d be instructive to revisit Times art critic Christopher Knight’s 1992 review of an art exhibition at the Long Beach Museum of Art that was inspired by the internment experience. “These works,” he writes, “begin to make gut sense out of an event whose long repression has had awful repercussions.” Los Angeles Times

In other news…

L.A. artist Rafa Esparza at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in 2015.
L.A. artist Rafa Esparza at Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions in 2015.
(Barbara Davidson / Los Angeles Times )

— The Whitney Museum has announced its lineup for its next biennial, and it includes a lot of intriguing names from Los Angeles, including Rafa Esparza, Henry Taylor, John Divola and Frances Stark. I’m looking forward to this one. New York Times

— Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made a one-night-only cameo in a performance staged by the Washington National Opera — and she got a standing ovation. Washington Post

— Oscar-nominated actor Demián Bichir, who starred in the film “A Better Life” and the pot program “Weeds,” is taking on the role of El Pachuco in the re-staging of Luis Valdez’s “Zoot Suit” at the Mark Taper Forum. Los Angeles Times

— Plus: “Selma” star David Oyelowo is going to play Othello, a role he has long resisted, in a modern-dress production at the New York Theater Workshop. New York Times

— How dancer and artistic director Tamara Rojo has transformed the English National Ballet. New York Times

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— Re-creating a historic 1968 LACMA artist portrait. Vanity Fair

— The Claremont Museum of Art — known as a roving “museum without walls” — is settling into a permanent home at the Claremont Depot this weekend. Los Angeles Times

— The American Institute of Architects generated intense controversy last week when it pledged that it would work with President-elect Donald Trump. The organization has now apologized, calling the statement “tone deaf.” New York Times 

— Sort of related: Sean Hannity’s anti-Obama painting. Has to be seen to be not believed. Hyperallergic

— An architectural installation in San Marino allows visitors to take in the sounds of satellites whirring through space. Los Angeles Times

— A selfie-seeking tourist in Portugal toppled an 18th century sculptureHyperallergic

— Those totally camp stretching portraits at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion? One of them is going on sale this Saturday. Los Angeles Times

— What your photo stream looks like when you’re a NASA astronaut. Los Angeles Times

— For the last two years, the Latin Grammy Awards have been the site of pointed political moments. This year, not so much. I tuned in to a show that offered memorable theatrics, but little in the way of substance. Los Angeles Times

And last but not least…

Because we could all use a break from the politics: John Baldessari’s quirky art school assignments. Open Culture

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Find me on Twitter @cmonstah.


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