It’s a New Year, stimulate your mind with smart talk, challenging art and a unique music event.

But first, while we remember all the big names that we lost in 2016, let’s also honor the life of the late, great Gordon Davidson, a long-time Santa Monica Canyon resident who died suddenly on October 2, 2016. A memorial will be held on Monday, January 9 at 7:30 p.m. at the Ahmanson Theatre. It’s free and open to the public.

From 1967 to 2005 Gordon Davidson was Artistic Director of the Center Theatre Group/Mark Taper Forum at The Music Center. He was regarded as one of the most respected artistic directors in regional theatre across the country, overseeing the Taper and Ahmanson theatres downtown and the Kirk Douglas Theatre in Culver City.

I had the privilege of interviewing Gordon for NPR on the occasion of the 25th Anniversary of the Taper, and at KCRW, we interacted on such projects as Evenings at the Itchey Foot Literary Cabaret, and a special event devoted to protesting the imprisonment of renowned playwright and later Czechoslovakia’s President Vaclav Havel. 

No RSVP is needed but I feel certain that the Ahmanson will be packed. Gordon was a towering and much beloved figure in the world of theatre, so get there early and let’s remember this good man together. 

SPEAKING OF LEGENDS

The Broad Stage and Sotheby’s Institute of Art inaugurate the first in a new series called Artists Talk: LA Legends on Wednesday, January 18 at 7:30 p.m. 

Reviewer and author Hunter Drohojowska-Philp (she and Edward Goldman are KCRW’s “Art Talk” commentators) moderates a conversation between five of L.A.’s most iconic artists: Larry Bell, Billy Al Bengston, Robert Irwin, Ed Moses and Ed Ruscha. 

This lollapalooza of an art gathering will address the living legacy of five trailblazing artists who pioneered the Venice art scene in the 50s and 60s and set the stage for L.A.’s vibrant contemporary art landscape today. They’ll talk about their work, their process, their histories and their lives in this one-of-a-kind conversation that’s not to be missed. 

I wish Hunter the best of luck reining in these legendary and, let’s face it, often cantankerous figures!. For the Full Monty, there’s a 6 p.m. reception; or just attend the program starting at 7:30. Find out more at http://www.thebroadstage.com

MORE ART TALKS

The Mark Taper Forum downtown is also offering an important conversation about the arts in a keynote presentation that’s free and open to the public. 

On Monday, January 9 at 10 a.m., arts expert and consultant Diane Ragsdale presents a provocative lecture, “Transformation or Bust: When Hustling Ticket Sales and Contributions is Just Not Cutting It Anymore,” followed by a Q&A. Ragsdale writes a popular arts blog called Jumper, published on ArtsJournal.com, and she’s Arts Writer in Residence for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts.

This topic should be of great interest to arts organizations and audiences alike. She believes that organizations have come to treat communities like markets, citizens like consumers, and culture as an exploitable product, especially troubling because the arts show us what it is to be human. Through inspirational ideas, practical actions, and industry examples, she challenges arts organizations to resist market-driven methods and uphold their role as purveyors of a different value system.

It’s free but RSVP at www.centertheatregroup.org/tickets/mark-taper-forum/also-at-the-taper/transformation-or-bust-when-hustling-ticket-sales-and-contributions-is-just-not-cutting-it-anymore/.

UNDER THE RADAR AT SKIRBALL

With Andy Horwitz, Skirball Cultural Center’s new Director of Programs at the helm, a specially curated season of innovative dance, theatre and multimedia performances kicks off the 2017 winter season. 

 Performance Lab at the Skirball brings five projects over five weeks, featuring emerging and established voices performing in Skirball’s gallery space. 

Have you ever seen a live movie? Chicago’s acclaimed cinematic shadow puppetry ensemble Manual Cinema makes their L.A. debut with “Lula del Ray,” a mesmerizing multimedia show with live musical score about a resourceful young girl’s quest for adventure. Shadow puppets, live music, narration, a screen: it’s a fantastic phantasm that will forever change your idea of what a movie can be. 

It’s coming directly from New York’s Public Theater and its super cool Under the Radar Festival. Also from Under the Radar: rising talent Keith A. Wallace, a recent graduate of UC San Diego’s MFA acting program, brings his powerful one-man show about being young, male, and Black in America, “The Bitter Game.” 

In addition to these L.A. debuts, esteemed UCLA-based choreographer-performer Lionel Popkin will premiere a new dance work, “Inflatable Trio” which examines the tensions and contradictions of domestic life—performed in and around a bright yellow inflatable living room set.

The series includes two new works in development as well. Check out the complete schedule, which begins on January 27, here: http://www.skirball.org/programs/performance-lab

PRIVATE MUSIC VENUE

Contrapuntal Performance Hall offers intimate chamber music performances in a unique venue off the beaten path in Brentwood.

Discover it for yourself on Saturday, Jan. 14 at 4 p.m. when The Capitol Ensemble performs Mozart’s only string trio, one of his most obscure gems and one of his longest pieces (six movements) outside of his operas.

In his biography of Mozart, Alfred Einstein describes the piece as “a true chamber music work of large proportions, intended to offer the listener something special in the way of art, invention and good spirits. It is the most perfect string trio ever written.”

 Advance reservations are essential: arrive early due to parking concerns. Tickets only $20 are available here: http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2738802

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