Thursday, August 29, 2019

Urban Jazz Harpist Antoinette Has "That Thing"

Strip away Lauryn Hill’s scathing admonition to men and women on her 1998 hit, “Doo Wop (That Thing),” and you are left with an innovative rhythmic track that astutely balances jagged hip hop edginess and a melodic R&B soul. It’s an unlikely composition for a classical harpist, which makes it Mariea Antoinette’s sweet spot. She has made it her mission to tackle unexpected funk, rhythm and blues, and pop songs, creating new possibilities for her instrument by presenting them with the harp as the protagonist. Teaming with producer and arranger Allan Phillips, Antoinette’s reimagined “That Thing” goes for playlist adds on September 23.

Antoinette’s elegant stringed siren provides a surprising contrast over the buoyant beats Phillips constructed. Lush harmonic accouterments are provided by a vibrant live horn section - trumpeter Derek Cannon, tenor saxophonist John Rekevics and trombonist Jordan Morita - and dramatic strings from the APM Allstars Strings along with Evan Marks’ guitar and Phillips’ keyboards. Antoinette debuted “That Thing” with her band on stage last month at the San Diego Smooth Jazz Festival, garnering an enthusiastic standing ovation.      

“I chose the track for its funky, innovative rhythm and the beats are very cool. It’s a perfect song for harp that people are not expecting. Lauryn Hill is a music pioneer and a leading voice for women and for her style, ingenuity, and edginess. The stories she tells through her music and lyrics are fresh and unique. ‘That Thing’ schools both women and men on motivations, keeping your eyes open and being wise in relationships. Everyone loved it when we played it live in San Diego,” said Antoinette.

“That Thing” offers an alluring glimpse into Antoinette’s forthcoming album, “All My Strings.” She and Phillips are busy tracking material for her third album that is slated to drop January 31, 2020, on the Infinity Productions/MAH Productions label. Antoinette’s last outing, “Straight from the Harp,” went top five at Billboard when it was released in 2015. The San Diego-based musician has been balancing her solo career with being a member of the all-star female ensemble Jazz in Pink since 2007. In June, she made her Playboy Jazz Festival debut at The Hollywood Bowl playing with Jazz in Pink, with whom she has performed at several prominent festivals this year, including Seabreeze Jazz Festival, Capital Jazz Cruise and the upcoming Barbados Jazz Excursion and Cancun Jazz Festival. The award-winning harpist collected three statues last year for Instrumentalist of Year (San Diego Prestige Awards), Best Jazz Single for “Overture” (Black Women in Jazz & The Arts Association), and a BMA Image Award from the Black Music Awards. Her high-profile performances include playing for President Barak Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, with Ne-Yo at the BET Awards, at Vanity Fair’s Grammy party with Jamie Foxx and on American Idol. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Center Theatre Group Accepting Applications For 2019-2020 Student Matinee Program

Center Theatre Group invites schools and community organizations serving youth from the greater Los Angeles area to apply for the 2019 – 2020 Student Matinee Program, a comprehensive arts education experience which brings thousands of students and educators to the theatre each season.

 The Student Matinee Program includes admission to a special morning matinee performance of a production at the Ahmanson Theatre or Mark Taper Forum, followed by a post-show discussion with the cast and crew and educational materials to help prepare students to comprehend the world of the play. Prior to seeing the show, teachers participate in an educator conference to explore the play in-depth and have the option of bringing Center Theatre Group teaching artists into their classroom to lead show-based activities.

 The dates and productions for the 2019 – 2020 Student Matinee Program are as follows: Date: Production: Venue: October 17, 2019 “Latin History for Morons” Ahmanson Theatre December 3 and 4, 2019 “Jitney” Mark Taper Forum December 12, 2019 Matthew Bourne’s “Swan Lake” Ahmanson Theatre February 11 and 12, 2020 “What the Constitution Means to Me” Mark Taper Forum April 30, 2020 “Once on This Island” Ahmanson Theatre Multiple educators from the same school or community organization may apply. Each application allows for a maximum enrollment of 50 students and up to 5 chaperones. Accepted groups must provide their own transportation to the theatre and pay a $50 enrollment fee. Administrative expenses and tickets for each student, teacher, and adult chaperone are included.

To apply to the Student Matinee program, educators from schools and community organizations serving youth can visit The Student Matinee Program is made possible in part by the Rosenthal Family Foundation.

 Center Theatre Group Now Accepting Applications for 19/20 Student Matinee Program – 2 The Student Matinee Program also receives generous support from the City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs, The Walt Disney Foundation Company, Ella Fitzgerald Charitable Foundation, Renee & Meyer Luskin, Deena & Edward Nahmias, Union Bank, and U.S. Bank. Center Theatre Group, one of the nation’s preeminent arts and cultural organizations, is Los Angeles’ leading nonprofit theatre company, which, under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Ritchie, Managing Director Meghan Pressman, and Producing Director Douglas C. Baker, programs seasons at the 736-seat Mark Taper Forum and 1600 to 2100- seat Ahmanson Theatre at The Music Center in Downtown Los Angeles, and the 317-seat Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

In addition to presenting and producing the broadest range of theatrical entertainment in the country, Center Theatre Group is one of the nation’s leading producers of ambitious new works through commissions and world premiere productions and a leader in interactive community engagement and education programs that reach across generations, demographics, and circumstance to serve Los Angeles.

LL Cool J Hosts 15th Annual Community Camp

Recently, LL COOL J returned to his hometown in Queens to host the closing ceremonies of the 15th Annual Jump & Ball Community Camp. LL was greeted by the more than 200 youth who participated in the month-long camp and residents of the neighborhood where he grew up. 

Launched in 2005 by LL COOL J, Jump & Ball is a free and fun-filled camp every Saturday & Sunday during the month of August for hundreds of kids from Southeast Queens. The program was developed as an opportunity for the kids in the community to not only learn the game of basketball but also learn team building and leadership skills critical to life off the court.

LL has always been an avid philanthropist involved in numerous causes including literacy for kids as well as music and arts programs in schools. Celebrating its 15th Anniversary this year, LL’s charity “Jump & Ball” – which takes place every August in his hometown of Queens, New York – aims to give back to his local community by offering a five-week athletic and team building program dedicated to bringing wholesome fun to young people.

Guests enjoyed live music courtesy of Rock the Bells, LL COOL J’s curated Sirius XM channel featuring classic hip hop, a special performance by the Harlem Globetrotters, free food, free back to school haircuts and more.

Joker Opens In Theaters Nationwide October 4

Check out the trailer for Joker, starring Joaquin Phoenix.

Geffen Selects Six For 'The Writers' Room'

The Initiative under Artistic Director Matt Shakman
Develops New Work by Local Writers

Geffen Playhouse today announced its selection of six local writers to participate in the second cycle of The Writers’ Room, a forum for engagement and collaboration between Los Angeles playwrights. The participants for 2019/2020 are Boni B. AlvarezChloé HungInda Craig-GalvánJuan José AlfonsoRamiz Monsef and Ruby Rae Spiegel.
The program was founded last year by Artistic Director Matt Shakman, whose vision for Geffen Playhouse emphasizes world premiere productions and the development of bold, relevant work by the local artistic community. He is supported in realizing this vision by Geffen Playhouse Manager of New Play Development Rachel Wiegardt-Egel who will facilitate the one- year residency beginning in September of 2019.
In addition to the feedback of their fellow writers, members will receive dramaturgical support from the Geffen’s artistic staff and the opportunity to further develop their work with directors and actors, culminating in a reading series that may be open to the public.
The Writers’ Room is made possible through the generous support of Patricia Kiernan Applegate.


Boni B. Alvarez
Boni B. Alvarez is a Los Angeles-based playwright-actor. His plays include America Adjacent, BloodlettingFixedNicky, Dallas Non-Stop, Dusty de los Santos, RubyTragically RotundThe Special Education of Miss Lorna CambongaMarabella, and Refuge for a Purple Heart. His plays have been produced at Center Theatre Group/Kirk Douglas Theatre, Echo Theater Company, Coeurage Theatre Company, Skylight Theatre Company, and Playwrights’ Arena. His plays have been developed/given readings at Chalk Rep, Moving Arts, Artists At Play, The Vagrancy, Los Angeles Theatre Center, EST/LA, The Blank, Pork Filled Players (Seattle), Second Generation (2g, NYC), InterAct Theatre (Philadelphia), and Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Upcoming: world premiere of Driven at Theatre Rhinoceros in San Francisco. He is an Adjunct Lecturer at USC and a Resident Playwright of New Dramatists.

Chloé Hung
A Chinese-Canadian writer and director, Chloé Hung is a graduate of the M.F.A. in Dramatic Writing program at NYU Tisch. Chloé’s plays include All Our Yesterdays (Toronto Fringe, Next Stage Theatre Festival); Issei, He Say (world premiere at New Jersey Repertory Company); Three Women of Swatow (upcoming world premiere at Tarragon Theatre in March 2020). She was awarded the RBC Emerging Playwrights Award. Her plays have been workshopped in Toronto, New York, Washington DC, Banff, Philadelphia, and Los Angeles. In the world of television, she has written for Cherish the Day and Queen Sugar (both created by Ava DuVernay, for OWN). Her short film Signal received funding and mentorship through the Women In Film production lab. She is developing a television pilot, Banana Kids, with Insurrection Media. She workshopped her screenplay, A Glimpse of Sun, with The Black List’s screenwriting lab. When she’s not writing, she’s likely baking pies and cookies.

Inda Craig-Galván
Inda Craig-Galván’s plays include Black Super Hero Magic Mama (world premiere at Geffen Playhouse, Eugene O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, Kennedy Center Rosa Parks Playwriting Award, Kilroys List); I Go Somewhere Else (world premiere at Playwrights Area, L.A. Drama Critics Circle Awards & Stage Raw playwriting nominations); and Welcome to Matteson! (Ojai Playwrights Conference, Blue Ink Playwriting Award, The Old Globe/Powers New Voices Festival). She has also developed work with Oregon Shakespeare Festival Black Swan Lab, San Francisco Playhouse, Black and Latino Playwrights Conference, and others. M.F.A. in Theatre, University of Southern California. Television credits: How to Get Away with MurderThe Rookie.

Juan José Alfonso
Juan Alfonso is late to the playwriting game. After 20 years as a media executive, he wrote his first play, An Educated Guess, based on his own experience as an immigrant to the United States. The play was developed at New York Theatre Workshop and Steppenwolf Theatre Company (produced by Definition Theatre Company), and has been shortlisted at regional theaters across the country for awards and production. In his day job, Juan is a television producer. He has worked on over 25 shows, including the Emmy-winning American Crime from Academy Award winner John Ridley and Marvel’s Agent Carter; as well as documentaries like The Clemente Effect and L’Arbitre, winner of the United Nations prize at the New York Festivals in 2010. Juan began his career in advertising agencies in New York and San Francisco. He is an active member of Children’s Bureau and Urban Compass, and an unpaid weekend chauffeur for his very active children.

Ramiz Monsef
Ramiz is a co-author of the musical The Unfortunates, which was produced at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and ACT in San Francisco. He wrote that show’s accompanying graphic novel as well. He also co-wrote The Many Deaths of Nathan Stubblefield, which had its premiere in the 2017 Humana Festival at Actors Theatre of Louisville. His newest play 3 Farids was part of The Bushwick Starr reading series and was selected to be in the New Works Festival at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, as well as the DNA Series at La Jolla Playhouse, and at Playwrights Horizons. Ramiz is an actor as well, and has appeared in theaters across the country, including Actors Theatre of Louisville, Mark Taper Forum, Berkeley Rep, Yale Rep, ACT, Seattle Rep, seven seasons at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Geffen Playhouse, Kirk Douglas Theatre, Second Stage Theater, Culture Project, and New York Theatre Workshop. He has appeared on television in Law & OrderTraining DayNCIS, SEAL TeamModern Family, Kidding, Shameless, The Watchlist on Comedy Central, and the upcoming film Synchronic.

Ruby Rae Spiegel
Ruby Rae Spiegel’s Dry Land premiered Off-Broadway in a sold-out, critically acclaimed run at Colt Coeur, following development in New York Stage and Film’s Powerhouse Theater Readings Festival and the Ojai Playwrights Conference. A finalist for the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize, the play has since gone on to be produced in over ten cities in the United States, London, Sydney, Abu Dhabi, South Korea, and more. Ruby’s short play Carrie & Francine premiered in the Summer Shorts Festival at 59E59 when she was only 18 years old. The play was produced alongside work by Neil LaBute, Christopher Durang and Alexander Dinelaris, receiving critical acclaim from The New York TimesThe New York Post, and Time Out New York, and is now published in the anthology Outstanding Short Plays Volume 3. Ruby is a MacDowell Colony Fellow, was part of the Center Theater Group's 2018/19 writers’ group, and recently attended Hedgebrook. Ruby has written for several television shows, including The OA, PurityMindhunterWhen They See Us, and A Teacher.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Center Theatre Group Applications Now Available For The Disney Musicals In Schools Program

Educators and Center Theatre Group teaching artists at Tulsa Street Elementary
Photo by Hal Banfield
In 2017, Center Theatre Group was awarded a grant from Disney to bring the Disney Musicals in Schools program to the Los Angeles area. The program is an initiative developed by Disney Theatrical Productions to create sustainable theatre programs in under-resourced elementary schools. Center Theatre Group will select four area public elementary schools to participate in this year’s program. Previous recipients have included Breed Street Elementary (LAUSD), Cantara Street School (LAUSD), Harrison Elementary (LAUSD), Hope Street Elementary (LAUSD), Humphreys Avenue Elementary (LAUSD), La Ballona Elementary (Culver City Unified School District), Ritter Elementary (LAUSD), Saturn Street Elementary (LAUSD), Tulsa Street Elementary (LAUSD) and Wild Rose School of Creative Arts (Monrovia Unified School District).

Students from Tulsa Street Elementary rehearsing for their production of “Aladdin KIDS,”
part of Center Theatre Group’s second annual Disney Musicals in Schools (DMIS) program.
Photo by Hal Banfield.
The selected schools will participate in a 17-week musical theatre residency, led by a team of teaching artists trained by Center Theatre Group and Disney Theatrical Productions, at no cost. Each school will receive performance rights, education support materials and guidance from the teaching artists. The program features a professional development focus, through which participating school teachers partner with Center Theatre Group teaching artists to learn how to produce, direct, choreograph and music direct, culminating in their first 30-minute Disney KIDS musical at their school. As a capstone to the experience, Center Theatre Group will host a Student Share Celebration in which each school performs one number from their show on the Ahmanson Theatre stage for an audience of students, teachers, family, and community members.

Monday, August 26, 2019

Urban Bush Women: Hair & Other Stories Set To Perform Friday As Part Of IGNITE @ the FORD!

By Darlene Donloe

Here’s a tip.  Don’t ever touch a black woman’s hair without permission. Ever!

There is something very special about a black woman’s hair. It’s revered, hated, misunderstood, envied, and mocked. It’s a conversation starter and a mystery to those of other hues.

In Good Hair, the documentary produced and narrated by Chris Rock, comedian Paul Mooney says” “If your hair is relaxed, white people are relaxed. If your hair is nappy, they are not happy.”

It’s interesting to navigate the history of myths surrounding black hair.

The power and notion of hair is explored at 8 p.m., Friday, Aug. 30, at the Ford Theatres in Urban Bush Women: Hair & Other Stories, part of IGNITE @ the FORD!, a series comprised of world-renowned contemporary artists whose work is thought- provoking and reflects the world in which we live.

Hair & Other Stories explores disquieting perceptions of beauty, identity and race, and what constitutes the freedom to rise in extraordinary times, which is what they consider the urgent dialogue of the 21st Century.
Crafted from personal narratives from communities, kitchens, and living rooms, social media and YouTube, Hair & Other Stories creatively examines structural racism in society, and celebrates the persevering narrative of the African Diaspora in America.

Founded in 1984 by choreographer Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, Urban Bush Women (UBW) is a company that seeks to bring the untold and under-told histories and stories of disenfranchised people to light through dance. They do this from a woman-centered perspective and as members of the African Diaspora community in order to create a more equitable balance of power in the dance world and beyond.

Throughout its 35 years, UBW has continued to use dance as both the message and the medium to bring together diverse audiences through innovative choreography, community collaboration and artistic leadership development.

Renee Taylor-Foles

I recently caught up with Renee Taylor-Foles, Urban Bush Women’s organizational advancement partner, to talk about the company’s upcoming performance.  In her role she looks at what opportunities will advance the company, i.e., fundraising, board relations, and marketing.

DD:  Talk about Hair & Other Stories.   Why was this experience chosen?

RTF: This is a beautiful work choreographed by Urban Bush Women Artistic Directors Chanon Judson-Johnson and Samantha Speis, and it really looks at how we look at our own image through different lenses, gender, race and how we look at ourselves and each other. We do this by looking through the lens of black women’s hair. We find it’s the entryway to have this important conversation in America right now. It incorporates dance, text, original music, song and also interacting with the audience. This is not an experience that is just observed. Everyone can participate in the conversation.

DD: Let's talk about the black woman in 2019. Who is she?

RTF: That question resides in each one of us. It’s saying this is a question we need to be asking ourselves. How are we seeing black women and are we making that definition for ourselves?

DD: Tell me why UBW is important?

RTF:  We have worked for 35 years to center the stories and histories of women. We do it as the women of the African Diaspora. This has always been our center putting forth these stories. People will see a familiar part of their culture and how they live their lives. It incorporates not just dance, but song and voices and text and theater.

DD:  What makes/keeps UBW relevant?

RTF:  The fact that we continue to have these conversations in communities. We are not closed off. A big part of Urban Bush Women is working in communities, what some call community engagement. We are not just on the concert stage. We meet with communities, we do community work where we have movement conversations. It’s open to people of all abilities, all levels and conversations around the work. We talk to the community about the work.  We have Hair Parties at restaurants, bars, anywhere. 

DD: What is a Hair Party?

RTF: A Hair Party is a movement conversation we have between company members and community members. Each company member has designed their own Hair Party. There will be a movement conversation - moving and speaking together around topics like black women’s hair, gender, and race. We do it in a way where people feel open to having those conversations.

DD:  For someone who has never seen the show – describe what they will see.

RTF: They will have an experience to be remembered. They are going to see beautiful choreography and hear original music sung live. The performers are absolutely amazing. They are going to see not just movement on the stage but movement and music. They will have audience participation. It’s not just sitting back and observing.

Urban Bush Women: Hair & Other Stories features new music compositions by The Illustrious Blacks (Manchildblack and Monstah Black) with stage direction by Raelle Myrick-Hodges, dramaturgy by Jawole Willa Jo Zollar, costume design by DeeDee Gomes, projection design by Nicholas Hussong, lighting design by Xavier Pierce, and sound design by Everett Asis Saunders. The Company includes Chanon JudsonCourtney J. CookDu’Bois A’KeenSamantha Speis, Stephanie Mas, and Tendayi Kuumba (* on leave), with guest performers Marjani Forté-Saunders and Kesha McKey.

Urban Bush Women: Hair & Other Stories, Ford Theatres, 2580 Cahuenga Blvd. East, Hollywood, CA; August 30, 2019; 8 p.m.; $25, $35, and $50; Tickets are available online at and by phone (323) 461-3673. Proceeds from IGNITE @ the FORD! events benefit the Ford Theatre Foundation.