Essential Arts: A wild procession, a female ‘Tempest’ and music’s new sounds of protest

Artist Noé Olivas sweeps through Santee Alley in a gown made from mops for Rafa Esparza’s “a la calle.”
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times)

It has been a week! With flamboyant parades, a female Prospero, a timely newspaper opera and a special report on the new generation of protest musicians. I’m Carolina A. Miranda, staff writer at the Los Angeles Times, with your weekly dose of what’s happening culture-wise:


In what seems to be a month of terrible headlines, artist Rafa Esparza provided a moment of incredible joy as he led a surreal procession through Santee Alley in L.A.’s fashion district. There were blue demons, red devils and Esparza himself — decked out in a garland of barking mechanical puppies — all in connection with his solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles. “So many people who are thinking about fashion [and] who are queer have a specific relationship to the callejones [arcades],” Esparza told me of his connection to Santee Alley. Los Angeles Times

Bashir Naim and Shamu Azizam channel their inner demons for Rafa Esparza’s “a la calle.”
(Carolina A. Miranda / Los Angeles Times )


Another (unrelated) Esparza — Ofelia Esparza of East Los Angeles — is renowned for crafting Day of the Dead altars. This week the National Endowment for the Arts bestowed its NEA Heritage Fellowship on the artist, a $25,000 award that is the nation’s highest honor in folk and traditional arts. Of altar-making, she tells The Times’ Jessica Gelt. “It bridges generations, and today it’s bridging cultures and even countries.” Los Angeles Times


The Times arts and entertainment team has a new collection of stories out that looks at music and the art of protest.


As part of the package, Times classical music critic Mark Swed notes that “Hamilton” wasn’t the first production to bring political topics to the proscenium. He reports on the 1926 debut of Charles Wakefield Cadman’s opera “Shanewis” at the Hollywood Bowl about a Creek/Cherokee princess who grows disenchanted with urban life and returns to the values of her society. And he charts the many other politically tinged productions that have followed, including George Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess” and John Adams’ “Nixon in China.”

“America is a country that makes, with its great figures, myths,” he writes. “And one way or another, we have come to depend on, and find a way, for our music theater, with its traditions and inventiveness, as a special place to unpack those myths.” Los Angeles Times


— Times reporter August Brown reports on how saxophonist Kamasi Washington is infusing jazz with “forceful assertions of black identity.” Los Angeles Times

Randall Roberts looks at how a range of California musicians — including Kendrick Lamar and Lucinda Williams — wrestle with politics. Los Angeles Times

— Times pop music critic Mikael Wood analyzes how pop music — by the likes of Janelle Monáe, Beyoncé, Luis Fonsi and Childish Gambino — is using “slick, commercially minded” aesthetics to embrace progressive causes. Los Angeles Times

— More in the series: Randy Lewis on Jason Isbell bringing his introspective “White Man’s World” to country music, August Brown on the rapper JPEGMAFIA’s rhythmic rants against the conservative right and “fake-woke” left, Todd Martens on how Stella Donnelly mixes the personal and political with humor, and Lewis again on how the travels of Hurray for the Riff Raff’s Alynda Segarra shaped her world view. Los Angeles Times

Janelle Monáe, shown at the BET Awards, has written some of the most effective protest songs of 2018.
(Richard Shotwell / Invision / Associated Press )


Pacific Opera Project is producing a rare version of “La Gazzetta,” Rossini’s 19th century comedic romp about a father who places marriage ads for his daughter in various newspapers. An opera about a newspaper couldn’t come at a more poignant time, notes Mark Swed — just as “The Times enters a new era with a new owner, new digs and new aspirations,” and, sadly, the killing of five staffers at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis, Md. Los Angeles Times

Related: Times contributor Catherine Womack reports on how this little-known opera is a close cousin to key Rossini works “The Barber of Seville” and “La Cenerentola.” Los Angeles Times

An opening scene from “La Gazzetta” by the Pacific Opera Project.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times )


Anne Tomlinson, artistic director of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus, is stepping down after 22 years. During her time there, she has steered the chorus from an outfit of 100 participants to today’s world-renowned organization, which has 450 students in six ensembles. “I have been able to block out that ‘last time’ voice,” she tells Jessica Gelt of bringing her career there to a close. “Let’s sing and present a concert to the best of our abilities, and after that, I might shed a tear or two.” Los Angeles Times

Anne Tomlinson is stepping down as the artistic director of the Los Angeles Children’s Chorus.
(Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times )


Does all this inspire you to listen to music? Matt Cooper has published his weekend picks, including Liza Minelli and Michael Feinstein at Segerstrom Hall. Los Angeles Times

Plus, Cooper has a look at the week ahead in SoCal classical music. Los Angeles Times

And Richard S. Ginell looks at the staging of two works by composer Gordon Getty by Los Angeles Opera Off-Grand: “Usher House” and “The Canterville Ghost.” Los Angeles Times


Times theater critic Charles McNulty took in the world premiere of Amanda Peet’s new play “Our Very Own Carlin McCullough” at the Geffen Playhouse. The play tells the story of a tennis prodigy who’s career and life is being steered by her single mom and her male coach. “Peet’s impulse to resist overheating the drama is laudable, but the writing seems sluggish at times,” notes McNulty. The play, however, is buoyed “by the scrupulous acting of Mamie Gummer and Joe Tippett” — who play mom and coach respectively. Los Angeles Times

McNulty trotted down to San Diego to catch the Old Globe’s production of William Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” — featuring Kate Burton in the role of Prospero (a.k.a. “Prospera”). To the role, a bitter one, she brings compassion, he writes: “Burton’s Prospera is commanding on the outside, soft on the inside. She’s stern with Miranda, who still has so much to learn about life, but her tyrannical parenting is unmistakably born out of anxious love.” Los Angeles Times

And Reprise 2.0, the reboot of the Reprise Theatre Company, is back with a performance of “Sweet Charity” at UCLA’s Freud Playhouse, on view through Sunday. While the Neil Simon book is “dated,” McNulty reports that he nonetheless found himself tapping toes during numbers such as “Big Spender.” Los Angeles Times

Plus, Matt Cooper has a look at the week ahead in SoCal theater. Los Angeles Times


Times contributing reviewer Sharon Mizota has been hitting the white boxes. This includes visits to sculptor Daniel Silva’s “inexplicably compelling” installation at Baert Gallery and painter Jonathan Lyndon Chase’s show at Kohn Gallery, full of exuberant depictions of black male sexuality that suggest “an openness of an identity in which stark contradictions are not so much reconciled as simply allowed to exist.”

Also on the docket: a collaborative show at Kopeikin Gallery, in which painter Kirsten Tradowsky painted works from gallerist Paul Kopeikin’s collection of vernacular photography. “They are erasures,” writes Mizota, “replacing the specificity of photography with broad impressions.”

For more arts listings, check out my weekly Datebook, which includes some trés chic fashion photography at the Getty Museum and the cinematic work of artist Jack Goldstein. Los Angeles Times


Reporter Angela Kocherga got inside a tent city operated by the U.S. Health and Human Services Department in Tornillo, Texas, that serves as housing for teenage migrants. Tents were air conditioned and contained bunk beds, a dining hall and a screening area for movies. Albuquerque Journal

Young migrants line up at the tent encampment in Tornillo, Texas, where U.S. mayors protested this month.
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images )


Sabina Ott, a beloved Chicago curator, who grew up in Los Angeles and studied in San Francisco, has died at the age of 62. Chicago Tribune

— Plus: David Goldblatt, a South African photographer who captured the country’s racial divide, has died at 87. The Guardian

— The Baltimore Museum of Art sold works by white male artists to fund acquisitions by artists of color. Artnet

— The state of California has granted $9.7 million to the Cheech Marin Center for Chicano Art, Culture and Industry, scheduled to open in Riverside in 2020. Los Angeles Times

— On Melrose, an angel wing mural for verified influencers that makes fun of verified influencers. Hyperallergic

— Beast Jesus: the Sequel — Another work of restoration goes seriously awry at a historic Spanish church. The Guardian

Elon Musk gets into copyright kerfuffle with Colorado potter Tom Edwards. Washington Post

— Artist Catherine Opie and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro will be the honorees at LACMA’s 2018 Art + Film Gala. Los Angeles Times

Artist Catherine Opie and filmmaker Guillermo del Toro will be the honorees at LACMA’s 2018 Art + Film Gala.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times; Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times )

— Critic John Terauds is totally over Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. The Toronto Star

Glenda Jackson will return to Broadway in a gender-blind production of “King Lear.” Hollywood Reporter

— The Los Angeles Master Chorale this week announced a $1-million gift from outgoing board chair David Gindler. Taking over as chair is Philip A. Swan. Los Angeles Times

Alexandra Lange reports on the new Gateway Arch National Park, which helps integrate Eero Saarinen’s famous arch with the city of St. Louis around it. Curbed

— “They go together as well as … the City Council and ethics reform.” Architecture critic Blair Kamin is not digging the expansion plans for Chicago’s Union Station. Chicago Tribune

Medellin, Colombia’s “post-narco urbanism.” 99% Invisible

— For the dance types: a “bucking” explainer. The Guardian


Our heartfelt condolences go to our colleagues at the Capital Gazette. In honor of the dead, the Gazette has published a largely blank page that features only a list of the dead. @capgaznews

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Twitter: @cmonstah