Arts & Culture Newsletter: Making connections with audiences virtually
Transition to virtual connection with San Diegans is happening across the board, from theater companies to visual arts institutions to music venues
Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.
I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week. To receive this newsletter every Thursday morning, sign up here.
Through virtual technology, the arts and culture community of San Diego is continuing to provide entertaining and enlightening content to us that we can access from our homes. This transition to virtual connection with San Diegans is happening across the board, from theater companies to visual arts institutions to music venues.
Herbert Siguenza, San Diego Repertory Theatre playwright in residence and a founding member of the comedy troupe Culture Clash, is hosting via the Rep’s website daily at noon his “Lunch Breaks with Herbert Siguenza.”
“What I do is I talk about what I’m eating for lunch,” Siguenza said, “and then I start reading or talking about what’s going on.”
What Siguenza is currently reading is a page or two of a new play he’s working on titled “Isaac Asimov: Grandmaster Funk.”
“He (Asimov) wrote a lot about apocalyptic scenes and so I just thought the play was a perfect metaphor for our times,” Siguenza explained. “The play’s about robotics and the human race being saved by technology.”
For more about Siguenza’s “Lunch Breaks,” check out more of my chat with him here.
Now available on Vimeo
Amid the wave of cancellations that turned out the lights on San Diego’s theater scene a few weeks ago, one of the most poignant stories was that of San Diego Rep’s “House of Joy,” which was forced to close immediately after its opening-night performance.
Now, though, the downtown theater’s staging of the Madhuri Shekhar play is getting a second life — in a full-length recorded version.
The Rep has just made available a filmed production of “House of Joy” that was captured at an invited dress rehearsal just before preview performances began. The video is now available on the Vimeo platform through April 12; viewers can purchase a link for a suggested donation of $10-$100.
Read more about “House of Joy” on video in this story by Union-Tribune theater critic James Hebert.
If you visit the website of the Belly Up Tavern, you’ll see that the longtime Solana Beach music venue is offering virtual visitors “Belly Up Live, “in which they can download past notable performances at the club, as well as take a virtual tour of the Belly Up.
“Our focus is trying to provide people with a connection to the music even while the venue is dark,” said Chris Goldsmith, president of Belly Up Entertainment. “We still have a lot of live music available for people.”
Said Goldsmith: “We just want to support the San Diego music scene and be part of it. And when hard times hit, we don’t wither and die. We feel like our brand and what we’ve delivered are well loved, and that people are just waiting to come back.”
University of California Television (UCTV) is making a host of videos available on its website during this important period of social distancing. Among them, with descriptions courtesy of UCTV:
“Outsmarting Stress and Enhancing Resilience”: Studies on Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction show that it not only reduced depression but also increased positive affect. There are other strategies being studied in stress management including Coping Effectiveness Training that have proven to be quite effective over the long term. Margaret Chesney, Professor of Medicine at the UCSF, recommends physical activity, not smoking, less alcohol, and a good diet. Even in the most stressful time we can have positive affect. She also has a strategy called BREATHE to enhance well-being which she explains in the video. This is a practical tool we can use now to establish pathways by which positive emotions can influence health and well-being.
“Tan Dun’s Water Passion at SunmmerFest”: “Water Passion After St. Matthew” is a multicultural/multimedia oratorio, written by acclaimed Chinese composer Tan Dun to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the birth of J.S. Bach, whose “St. Matthew Passion” provided the initial inspiration for this work. The music is a theatrical mix of 17 transparent water bowls lit from below, drums, strings, Tibetan bells, chants, digital sounds, Chinese opera and Tuvan throat singing, with a dash of jazz and postmodernism, all filtered through Tan Dun’s adventurous sensibility. This work was performed at the La Jolla Playhouse in August 2012 and conducted by Tan Dun. It is stunning to watch and to hear. Tan goes beyond the traditional telling of the Passion by beginning with Christ’s baptism and ending with an evocation of resurrection, suggesting, in the words of Ecclesiastes, “a time to love, a time of peace, a time to dance, a time of silence …”
“Shaping Our Dynamic Microbiomes for Lifelong Health”: The collection of trillions of microbes living in your gut and on your body is collectively known as the microbiome. Scientists are finding that these tiny organisms contribute to making us well. Our lifespans are ever-increasing, but our health spans are not, leading to long periods of unpleasant and expensive suffering with chronic conditions. Many of these conditions have recently been linked to the microbiome. Potentially real-time analysis of our microbiomes could guide our daily decisions in a way that optimizes our microbiomes for extending our health span. Although the potential benefits of such research are clear, UC San Diego Professor Rob Knight also explores the risks, such as privacy concerns, that need to be identified and addressed. As we all find ourselves at home, remember to feed your own microbiome. Try to eat as many plant-based foods, especially those high in fiber. Try to limit ultra-processed food. Getting fresh produce while self-isolating or quarantined can be a challenge but frozen fruit, berries and vegetables are just as healthy as their fresh counterparts. Yogurt, kefir and fermented foods are also good for your microbiome. Let’s keep our immune systems in good shape. And don’t forget to wash your hands!
The arts, virtually
Today at noon, the Old Globe Theatre launches its “On Book: The Old Globe’s Shakespeare Reading Group” for fans of the Bard who want to read and discuss Shakespeare’s canon with artistic professionals. It’s part of an extensive community connection effort at the Globe that also includes a playwriting workshop and a how-to-make-theater workshop (both accessible via the theater’s Facebook page), and, also accessible that way, “Thinking Shakespeare Live!” hosted by Globe Artistic Director Barry Edelstein.
If you crave even more Shakespeare, the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., is making available video and audio recordings of the related Folger Theatre’s Shakespeare productions. View them online for free through July 1.
La Jolla Playhouse, meanwhile, has begun an online series called “LJP Vault” in which a Playhouse artist or staff member shares memories tied to past productions, as well as videos and photographs. Playhouse Artistic Director Christopher Ashley, who was featured in the first “LJP Vault” segment, will talk about this and other Playhouse virtual connections in next week’s Arts & Culture Newsletter.
San Diego Ballet , reports Executive Director Matt Carney, is offering virtual dance classes taught by company artists. There’s no charge for taking them, though donations are encouraged.
Oceanside Museum of Art will keep you busy with its #virtualoma offerings starting this weekend, including a Zoom presentation by Robin Douglas, who promises “a high stakes lecture of mystery and intrigue” as she explores some of the “most significant art heists, forgeries and recoveries of all time.”
For the kids, the New Children’s Museum has a number of online art projects up and running. They include coloring pages of the museum’s art installations, streaming videos of the museum’s Toddler Time programming on Fridays via its social media channels, and “DIU Blogs” art activities.
Also for the kids, Intrepid Theatre Company is taking Camp Intrepid, its theater performance classes, online. Its current production is “Harry Potter” (through Friday, April 3), and that will be followed by “Zootopia” for ages 6-15 (April 6-10) and “Addams Family Camp” for ages 12-17 (also April 6-10).
Beth Ross-Buckley, the executive director and artistic director of the chamber group Camarada, has been sharing a video a day to “help uplift our community.” The videos of Camarada’s performances come from a massive library of past concerts — more than 250, Ross-Buckley says. To receive her daily videos, visit her blog and sign up for Camarada’s newsletter.
Elsewhere, the Eastern Theatre Group’s artistic adviser, Vanessa Dinning, says the semi-professional company is offering virtual classes, readings and discussions. A weekly schedule is released every Monday. Visits its website here. (Also, read what Dinning has to say about how the pandemic has changed her life.)
University of California Television (UCTV) is making a host of videos available on its website during this important period of social distancing, and many of them are related to the arts. Among them:
La Jolla Symphony & Chorus’ February performance of Brahms’ Symphony No. 3 in F Major. Johannes Brahms’ Symphony No. 3, composed in 1883, is the shortest, subtlest, and most concise of his four symphonies. Each movement demonstrates Brahms’ mastery of the form as he ranges from boisterous to introspective, ending on a note of dignified restraint.
From Point Loma Nazarene University’s annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea, “An Evening with Alice Walker.” The work of Walker, an internationally celebrated American novelist, short story writer, poet, and activist, has been translated into more than two dozen languages, and her books have sold more than 15 million copies. She wrote “The Color Purple,” for which she won the National Book Award for hardcover fiction, and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Walker’s collected work includes poetry, novels, short fiction, essays, critical essays, and children’s stories.
For film enthusiasts, there’s “Las Sandinistas! Director Jenny Murray,” recorded in February. The possibilities of the Nicaraguan revolution, the refusal of current government officials to speak on the record, and the importance of recording the stories of an aging generation all arise in this conversation between documentary director/producer Jenny Murray and moderator Bianka Ballina. In this video, Murray discusses the re-emergence of Nicaraguan protests in 2018 and her film’s uncertain future in the Central American nation.