• Is Long Beach Sufficiently Self-Scrutinizing When It Comes to Police Use of Force?

    During the last few years, while the City of Long Beach has touted record-setting lows in crime, the Long Beach Police Department has been under fire for a number of high-profile accusations of excessive force.

    But according to the civic bodies responsible for investigating such accusations, the City finds only about 1% of complaints as necessitating officer training or discipline. (more…)

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  • Museum of Latin American Art Announces Major Change

    By Andrea Serna, Arts and Culture Writer

    Since its inception in 1996, the Museum of Latin American Art, MOLAA, has worked under the constrictions of a mission statement that focused on the work of artists who have lived and worked in Latin America post 1945.

    The question of what is Latin American art, and who falls under the definition has plagued the museum almost from the start. President and CEO Stuart Ashman, who came to the museum in 2011, led the efforts to clarify the mission of the museum.

    At the April meeting of MOLAA’s board of directors, a resolution unanimously passed that clarified the definition of Latin American art to include Chicano art and art created by people of Latin American descent who have lived exclusively in the United States.

    “I am very pleased that the Board of Directors of the Museum of Latin American Art took this important step,” Ashman said. “In addition to acknowledging the Latino artists in our region, this action will expand the museum’s ability to serve the community and maintain its relevance to an even larger audience”.

    Founder Robert Gumbiner fell in love with Latin American art several decades before the medium was popular. His early collection was displayed in the Long Beach offices of Family Health Plan, the health maintenance organization that he founded. Gumbiner’s belief was that art had the power to heal the body and elevate the soul. He was also a man who loved a bargain and art from Latin America was an affordable investment when he began his collection.

    Throughout the years the value of Latin American art increased and the museum he founded attracted artists and visitors from all of the United States, Latin America and beyond.

    Long Beach photographer D.W. Gastélum serves on the advisory board at The Art Exchange, a Long Beach nonprofit that supports working artists and arts education. Gastélum expressed pleasure in the broadening of the mission statement.

    “I see it as policy catching up with reality,” Gastélum said. “I agree with a statement by Latin Jazz musician Otmaro Ruiz, who said, ‘Latin America starts here (Los Angeles) and goes to Patagonia.’ There are a lot of different styles and experiences that go into making Latin American Art.”

    “Some of us think that people who lived and worked in the part of the U.S. that fell under the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which was not that long ago, are Latin Americans and always have been. I think it is a positive step for MOLAA and I am looking forward to seeing additional dynamic exhibits there.”

    Young local Latino artists who visit the museum find inspiration from the great works on display. Agustín Bejarano of Cuba, Fernando Botero of Colombia and José Gurvich of Uruguay all have a place in the permanent collection. But students and artists seeking the work of members of the Chicano art movement have been frustrated by their exclusion from the walls of the museum.

    These artists did not qualify for exhibition under the constraints of the previous mission statement.
    Long Beach Chicano artist, Steven Amado, who works under the name Chatismo, has a long history with the museum. He began his association with MOLAA as an intern in high school; now he is an educator at Jordan High School in Long Beach.

    “When it first opened its doors back in 1996 all of the artists in the Los Angeles area were excited to have Latino Art being displayed in their local community,” Amado said. “We were astonished and grateful. After the excitement, we then realized that we had no shot at ever exhibiting at such a grand venue.

    We had heard about the policy that only Latino artist living outside of the United States were allowed to exhibit. MOLAA has always been a great support and inspiration to many visual artists in southern California. It would be a dream come true to finally be able to display art in the museum here in the City of Long Beach, right in our back yard.”

    In 2011 a crack was opened in the door to the art movement. The Getty Museum funded Pacific Standard Time. The sweeping collaboration of over 60 cultural organizations, Pacific Standard Time told the story of the birth of the Los Angeles art scene and how it became a major new force. MOLAA was given the opportunity to represent Latino artists in Los Angeles.

    For the first time MOLAA opened its arms to embrace this branch of the family. The exhibition Mex/LA featured the work of many Chicano artists, including Rudy Cuéllar, founding member of the Sacramento-based artist collective the Royal Chicano Air Force, Andy Zermaño, Yolanda López, John Valadez and Harry Gamboa Jr. The first piece of artwork that visitors encountered when they came to see Mex/LA was Gypsy Rose, the famous lowrider car by Jesse Valadez Sr. that was installed in MOLAA’s lobby.

    The museum can now officially open its doors to the entire Latino community – those living in their native countries, the United States or abroad. It is already planning its first Biennial of Latin(o) American Art in 2016 in conjunction with MOLAA’s 20th anniversary. This exhibit will bring 30 artists from the United States, Latin America and elsewhere and will be selected by three guest curators.

    Amado confirms his pleasure at the recognition of his community of artists.
    “I think it’s a great moment in history for the museum,” said Amado. “A time for celebration and a great accomplishment for today’s modern Chicano arts movement. Artists living in the United States of Latino descent can now strive for bigger better things and hope to be exhibited at MOLAA. It’s about time; we can dream big now.”

    Andrea Serna was on staff at the Museum of Latin American Art from 2000 to 2008, where she worked as the membership marketing manager.

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  • The FIFA Arrived: Tanks to the Street!

    POR BRASILCOMN

    05/28/14  17:12

    By Edu Sotos, of Rio de Janeiro

    The original blog was written in Spanish and published in the Folha De S.Paulo

    It is noon and torrential rain pours over the favela of Nova Holanda, one of the neighborhoods that make up the Complexo da Maré, in the north of Rio de Janeiro. Under a metal shed, the same in which a few weeks ago Comando Vermelho traffickers protected themselves from the rain, a group of soldiers guarding the access to one of the most violent favelas in the city.

    Beside them, curious children ask about the display of the large-caliber arms that they load on their shoulders. Among them there is no fear, nor surprise.

    “With that reach to the Morro do Timbau [another of the favelas as part of Complexo da Maré],” says one of the boys while another replies, “Shut up. For that, a better precision rifle [is needed].”  (more…)

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  • Picasso’s Women is one the best at the Fringe

    By John Farrell

    Picasso’s Women: The Darker Side of Genius is a clever and thought-provoking look at the many women in Pablo Picasso’s long, creative and troubled life.

    The event in question is a gathering of the surviving women from Picasso’s life, brought together by Dora Maar with the idea of writing a book about them and how Picasso loved and used them. Set in a Paris Cafe, the meeting is at first awkward, but as the play progresses we get to see these women and how Picasso used them in his insatiable hunger for experience. Adapted by Aramazd (sic) from a play by Gwynne Edwards, the Welsh playwright who specialized in Federico Garcia Lorca’s plays, Picasso’s Women, brings together the women. They play lets them tell their experiences, while Picasso, which Russ Andrade plays as a mature man and Walter Perez plays as a young man, listens.

    The play is exceptional for its sets: the Fringe Festival favors suggestion of sets rather the real thing, but Picasso’s Women used a complete set: the reproduction of a cafe in Paris is convincing, the projection screen behind the actors is effectively used and the women are dressed in proper Parisian fashion of the 1950s.

    On that stage gathers Maar (Mariana Novakivich), Olga Khokhlova Picasso (Nadia Kiyatkina, who insists she is Picasso’s only wife), Francoise Gillot (Marianne Bourg) and a host of other characters, from Man Ray (Walter Perez doubling) to Suzanne the waitress(Brooke Clendenen). As each actor appears on stage they introduce themselves, so you are clear what is happening and to whom. The story is complex, from Picasso’s early blue period to his latest paintings from the 1950s. (more…)

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  • Last Confession

    By John Farrell

    Catholic or non-Catholic there is a fascination with the ancient rituals and modern politics of churches.

    When Dan Brown wrote The Da Vinci Code he tapped into that fascination and made millions. But that was, for all the web excitement that book generated, a book of fiction.

    The Last confession, which recently opened at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, is based on truth — at least in its outline. There is a chance to see more red silk on stage than you’ll get this side of a papal conclave. Also, there is a chance to see it

    s star, David Suchet, playing a role that isn’t Hercule Poirot. (Suchet did every single Poirot story by Agatha Christie for PBS years back.) Don’t worry, as Cardinal Giovanni Bellini,  he does get a big second-act interrogation scene worthy of Poirot. Bellini engineered the election of Pope John Paul I, who some think was murdered after only 33 days as Pope.The play tells the story of that brief period in church history as Bellini confesses to what might be his part in papal murder. John Paul I proved to be a liberal and the Curia, the conservative faction of the church, had reasons to regret his election. Cardinal Albino Luciani (Richard O’Callaghan) becomes pope and is a sweet-spirited man who only briefly comes to the knowledge of how the church works before he dies.

    Cardinal Jean Villot (Nigel Bennett) is the chief villain, and he plays that role with just a little concealed malice. Bishop Paul Marcinkus (Stuart Milligan) is as much a caricature of a Chicago hood (he was from Chicago, but . . .) as an archbishop, and you have to wonder how he got so high in the church. (more…)

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  • Better? Probably Not. Funny? You Bet

    By John Farrell

    Does Shakespeare need help?

    Better Than Shakespeare certainly thinks so. For its inaugural production Much Ado About Something they have taken Much Ado About Nothing, kept much of the comedy, and added an alien invasion to the mix, making a delightful interpretation of the play that uses much of Shakespeare but adds a little more.

    For purists the play might be sacrilege, but for the audience it is a lot of fun, even if the original is better, — one of Shakespeare’s best.

    Written by Megan Kelly and Kate Grabau and William Shakespeare (and how nice it must be to have billing above the Bard!) the play takes just over an hour, from alien invasion to the final love scenes.

    Adam Grabau is Benedick, handsome and, just maybe, in love with Beatrice (Grabau). The love scenes between the two are as dynamic as in the original. Never have two lovers seemed less suited to each other, — never. In this play (both the original and this version) the wit used leads to an eventual and happy ending. (more…)

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  • Summertime Laughs

    By Lyn Jensen

    Whether or not you’ve got summertime blues, you can look for some summertime laughs (along with food and drink) at the Laugh Factory in Long Beach.

    It books many of the same acts that play the Laugh Factory in Hollywood, but the shorter drive will allow you to save on this summer’s high-priced gasoline.

    “The Laugh Factory Long Beach is unique from other comedy clubs in that it shares the same comedian roster as the world-famous Laugh Factory in Hollywood,” explains the venue’s General Manager Ivy Schember, “All bookings are done through the corporate office in Hollywood and guests at the Laugh Factory Long Beach are treated with the same high-caliber line-up.”

    Since opening in 2008, Long Beach’s Laugh Factory has become a major feature of the Pike—in close proximity to many of the city’s other top attractions. With a seating capacity of 670, the venue bears the distinction of being America’s largest comedy club.

    Jason Stuart is one comic who appears fairly regularly, most recently on the bill “Jason Stuart and Friends,” on May 28 and June 25. In his standard routine, which he says he’s been honing for 30 years—along with an acting career—he talks about being gay and Jewish. (more…)

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  • The Last Remnants of Cops, Robbers & Hollywood Cowboys: Small Scale but Fascinating 

    By John Farrell

    The Last Remnants of Cops, Robbers & Hollywood Cowboys doesn’t depend on fancy theatrics for its considerable charm.

    Based on short stories by writer-director Tom Cavanaugh, the play has little action, with actors taking directly to the audience, sometimes sitting stage-side to tell their particular story.

    But the stories, based on reality and collected by Cavanaugh by listening to people he meets and overhears in Los Angeles, are fascinating and moving.

    Six actors: Laura Raynor, Chris Narrie, John Ross Clark, Rhonda Christou, Anita Leeman and Tad Yagi tell Cavanaugh’s stories, which depend on the detailed narrative voice he brings to the stage, with the actors cooperating with him. It is all told on a bare stage, without props or costumes. These are bare-bones stories that you hear with fascination and more than a little identification. There is the story of a life brought to an end to told by a friend who wanted just to help, another about life on the hard streets of Hollywood. The entire play lasts only 45 minutes or so, but it’s well worth the time.

    Tickets are $12. Performances are June 19 at 7 p.m., June 20 at 9 p.m., June 21 at 7 p.m., June 26 at 7 p.m., June 27 at 9 p.m., June 28 at 7 p.m. and June 29 at 5 p.m.

    Details: (323) 455-4585 (no web site)
    Venue: East Complex Theater
    Location: 6476 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles

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  • A Gay Take on a Classic

    By John Farrell

    The Importance of Being Earnest is Oscar Wilde’s incredibly witty play about the antics of a couple of British gentlemen in love in the 1890’s.

    It seems to be as heterosexual as a play could be, but re-imagined by Queer Classics and director Casey Kringlen it is just as delightful as a play about two men in love with two other men. Indeed re-imagined is a big word for the process involved. Just substitute two men as Cecily and Gwendolyn, a few leers extra, and make no other changes, and the play, done seriously as it must be, is every bit as witty as ever and even a bit funnier.

    Boone Platt is Jack, the young man who loves Gwendolen (Mason McCulley) but cannot marry her because her Aunt, the formidable and strongly opinionated Lady Bracknell (Nancy La Scala) does not approve of the fact that he has no parents. (He was adopted.)

    Algernon (Philip Orazio) schemes to find out what his friend Jack does in the country and succeeds, meeting Cecily (Grant Jordan) and falling in love. Miss Prism (Megan Soule) and Dr. Chasuble are also on hand as the denouement occurs, with Eric DeLoretta doubling in the roles of Lane and Merriman, two very different valets who both have great lines.

    The play, done in one act (and a little cut, without much harm) relies on one difference. The idea of two gentlemen marrying two others is never remarked, never even thought of. The objections raised to the two marriages, and the final resolution, are identical to the earlier version, and, frankly, everything is just as funny this way, right down to the final punning line that finishes the play. (more…)

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  • The Fantasticks: A Delight, Now and Forever

    By John Farrell

    Before there were any Fringe Festivals — well before the first Edinburgh Fringe Festival — there were plays that should have been in a festival, plays that started small and grew big and successful.

    Perhaps the best representative of that sterling, but very limited class, is The Fantasticks, which opened far off Broadway in New York in 1959, and is still running there.

    It was a small scale musical in a world of big musicals, but it was a hit nonetheless, a musical that brought back 19thcentury production values and a score that was rich and timeless, featuring hit songs and a story that harks back to Shakespeare, but remains as modern as young love.

    The Fantasticks, in a pristine revival (featuring a Harp! the show boasts) comes to the Hollywood Fringe Festival this year, presented by the Good People Theater Co. and directed by Janet Miller and featuring all of Tom Jones’ lyrics and Harvey Schmidt’s delightful music. On stage at the Lillian Theater it is simple and uses only one set, just like the original. And, if the cast isn’t quite as musical as it should be, they are, in all other respects, perfect. (more…)

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