Just over a decade ago, a Westside venue for world-class performing arts was wishful thinking for Dale Franzen, a former opera singer whose ties to the world of the arts run deep. Today, she’s the artistic director overseeing programming for The Eli and Edythe Broad Stage, which recently announced its stellar fifth anniversary season.
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (“Hamlet”), pop chanteuse Madeleine Peyroux, folk-rocker Richard Thompson, The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, the world premiere of an opera based on an Isabel Allende story, Hal Holbrooke’s “Mark Twain” and Rickie Lee Jones, plus jazz, comedy and dance are just a few of the artistic offerings on tap at The Broad beginning in September.
And Franzen will see her dream take wing, or rather add one as ground is broken on a new building at the Broad’s home base, the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center on Santa Monica Boulevard between 10th and 11th streets.
The new East Wing will include a 165-seat music hall, joining the 499-seat Broad Stage and the 99-seat Edye Second Space — a smaller black box theater, and it plays a central part in Franzen’s vision for the next five years, with the Broad as a laboratory for cutting edge creations, as well as a home for adventurous international offerings.
Everyone who lived through it has their “where were you when the verdicts came down” story about April 29, 1992, the day when the Simi Valley jury found four white LAPD officers not guilty of beating black motorist Rodney King, a beating caught on videotape and shown relentlessly on the era’s version of viral — TV.
Now retired, then I was a producer at Santa Monica public radio station KCRW, and we broke into programming for round the clock coverage of the riots, fires, looting, mayhem and killings that took place over the next few days. Out of the ashes, we created “Which Way, LA?” with Warren Olney, a program I was privileged to produce for its first five years. It’s still going strong with a highly awarded reputation for fostering civil civic dialogue for 20 years.
Birthed out of the riots, “Which Way, LA?” is focusing on them this week with daily special one-hour programs at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. (89.9 FM; aggregated here http://www.kcrw.com/lariots) covering such issues as the LAPD, racial demographics and economic changes, the effort to rebuild, and today’s program discussing the role of culture with Anna Deveare Smith (“Twilight: Los Angeles 1992”), John Singleton (“Boyz n the Hood”), poems by Wanda Coleman and more. The series winds up tomorrow with an overview of then and now, including an interview with Rodney King, and features a number of guest experts who appeared in the program’s earliest days and throughout its history.
Anna Deveare Smith’s groundbreaking documentary theatre play “Twilight: Los Angeles 1992” is being revived at The Skylight Theatre in Los Feliz. The original 1994 production featured Smith as all 40 characters in a script based on the words of real people whom she interviewed — 175 in all — about their experience of the riots. This new production features 25 multi-ethnic actors from the Katselas Theatre Company performing all the roles. It’s a short run, but this was one of the most important works to come out of the riots and this staging sounds promising; just three more opportunities to see it, Friday and Saturday night at 8 p.m. or Sunday at 7 p.m. For more information, visit http://www.katselastheatre.com.
The Company of Angels downtown offers “L.A. Views V: April 29, 1992,” eight short plays set during the riots that “dig through the ashes” to offer accounts of a time whose impact is still being assessed. A wide range of L.A.-based multicultural writers and actors bring a diversity of perspectives, from business owners to newscasters to people trapped in the darkness of it all, that shed light on the legacy of 4/29/1992. Opens tonight, with weekend performances through May 27. For more information, visit companyofangels.org.
Opera grand and small
Puccini lovers are in luck. Perhaps his most popular opera, “La Boheme” takes to the stage at L.A. Opera beginning May 12 for six performances only, in the much-loved Herbert Ross production. The tragic romance adds sweet and local notes with husband-and-wife team Stephen Costello and soprano Ailyn Pérez performing Rodolfo and Mimi, and the role of Musetta being shared by two sopranos from L.A. Opera’s Domingo-Thornton Young Artist Program: Janai Brugger, a 2012 winner of the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions (May 12, 20 and 23), and Valentina Fleer (May 26, 31 and June 2). For tickets, go to http://www.laopera.com
And if you have champagne taste on a beer budget, Puccini’s “Tosca” will be performed by the Vineyard Touring Opera Company on Saturday, April 28 at 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. at the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club — a double treat as the building is a local hidden treasure. Tickets start as low as $5 for seniors, but if you like champagne, they’re serving it with $50 VIP tickets — http://www.vtopera.org.
Finally, props to Santa Monica Repertory. Their ambition is to create a regional theatre along the lines of Berkeley Rep. Without a home (yet) their productions have received positive notice: last summer’s “The Tempest” at Annenberg Beach House, and the current staging of “Proof,” at the Church in Ocean Park. Upcoming events will help them build their dream: staged readings of a new play called “Rubber Room” about high school bullying and the educational system, weekends in May at Miles Playhouse; and a six play reading series, first Saturdays monthly, beginning in June at the Santa Monica Public Library. Maybe in five years — or 20 — we’ll be celebrating their anniversary — http://www.santamonicarep.org.
Sarah Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for NPR and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She reviews theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.