A CLASSIC: 'Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,' about 1663–64 by Johannes Vermeer. (Photo courtesy Rijksmuseum; Getty Museum)
A CLASSIC: ‘Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,’ about 1663‚Äì64 by Johannes Vermeer. (Photo courtesy Rijksmuseum; Getty Museum)

Fill in the rest of that headline with “so little time!” Once again, I’ve been immersed in a week-long intensive seminar that’s left me no time to imbibe culture. So this week, I’m suggesting rather than covering what I think is important and interesting.

First, we have a Vermeer in our midst. In fact, this is the only U.S. stop on the world tour of “Woman in Blue Reading a Letter,” and you have just six weeks to see the celebrated masterpiece at the J. Paul Getty Museum at the Getty Center.

Recently restored by conservationists at the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the painting has been on loan while the museum undergoes renovation. The blue hues uncovered by the restoration are said to be the marvel of this masterpiece, and the intensity of the woman’s focus on the letter in her hand gives way to deep speculation about her circumstances.

Only about 35 paintings by Dutch Golden Age master Johannes Vermeer (1632‚Äì1675) exist, and none of the dozen works housed in U.S. museums are in California, so don’t miss this opportunity to see a painting by one of the giants of art history, Feb. 16 to March 31 — www.getty.edu/vermeer.

In conjunction with the exhibition, the Getty will present “Perspectives on Vermeer,” a discussion on the painting with curators of paintings and photographs, art historians, and a cinematographer on Sunday, Feb. 24 at 3 p.m. For more info, visit www.getty.edu.


Exemplary theatre


One of L.A.’s most highly-regarded theatre companies, Pasadena’s A Noise Within, presents an acclaimed production of John Steinbeck’s “The Grapes of Wrath,” based on an adaptation by Frank Galati that made theatrical history when Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre first produced it in 1988.

Called a “distillation” of the novel, this version proves the timelessness of its themes.

“This adaptation beautifully captures the essence of this epic novel and its life-affirming message that even in times of great adversity, people can transcend difficulties by looking beyond themselves and helping others,” said Director Michael Michetti.

The novel contributed to Steinbeck’s Nobel Prize for literature and earned him the Pulitzer Prize. Steinbeck’s words, Dust Bowl songs and original music written for the 1988 debut bring the novel to life as a stage play. It runs Feb. 23 through May 11 with previews starting Feb. 16. For tickets, call (626) 356-3100, or visit www.anoisewithin.org.


More art


Pacific Palisades residents, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, have created a collection of African-American artworks, documents and historical artifacts considered so important that it has been on a national tour since 2006. Millions more people will get the chance to see it for the next three years following its installation next month at Disney World Resort in Florida.

Santa Monica College Performing Arts Center’s Pete and Susan Barrett Art Gallery hosts this impressive collection through March 9, with an opening reception on Feb. 16.

Through 40-plus years of marriage, the Kinseys have been collecting items of cultural significance spanning nearly four centuries that document the hardships and triumphs of the African-American experience. You’ll see an early version of the Emancipation Proclamation, correspondence between Malcolm X and Alex Haley, and a reproduction of a 1773 first-edition copy of poems by Phillis Wheatley.

On Feb. 28 at 7:30 p.m., the Kinseys will give a multi-media presentation on the collection at The Broad Stage. And a richly illustrated, 198-page coffee table book, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey — where Art and History Intersect,” accompanies the exhibition, and will be available for purchase at the gallery.

Meet the Kinseys on Feb. 16 for a personal tour and book signing from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m., then stay for the reception. The gallery is open Tuesday through Friday, noon to 5 p.m. and 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday. The SMC Performing Arts Center is on Santa Monica Boulevard at 11th Street. Call (310) 434-3434.


Music at the edge


Jacaranda, the Santa Monica-based series creating intimate concert adventures into the realm of new and rarely-heard classical music, presents “Thresholds: The Scandals of 1912-13,” the story in music of the most concentrated period of innovation in music history. The concert takes listeners through the tumultuous period that began with the sinking of the Titanic in April 1912 and ended with declarations of war in July 1914.

On Feb. 23, Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring,” Arnold Schoenberg’s “Pierrot Lunaire,” and radical chamber music by Anton Webern and Alban Berg will be performed, with superstar mezzo-soprano Julia Migenes singing “Pierrot” in English, conforming with Schoenberg’s wish to present it in the language of the audience.

Now considered masterworks, Stravinsky’s and Schoenberg’s compositions were both booed at their openings, while Stravinsky’s even caused a riot. (If only art still inspired such passion, instead of moralistic outrage.) But in this “shock of the new,” the seeds for modern music were planted and nothing would be the same thereafter.

The dazzling contemporary architecture and great acoustics at First Presbyterian Church of Santa Monica really enhance the musical experience. Downbeat is Feb. 23 at 8 p.m.; call (213) 483-0216; more info at jacarandamusic.org.


Raise the curtain


Making up for lost time, here’s what I’m rushing to do before my next scheduled intensive seminar.

On Friday night it’s the world premiere of “Paradise: A Divine Bluegrass Musical” at the Ruskin Group Theatre at Santa Monica Airport.

And on Sunday I’ll attend “Caged” at City Garage (Bergamot Station). The description is stark: “Two naked specimens in a cage, visitors come and go, fascinated by them, arguing, and wondering about these creatures. This new play by award-winning playwright Charles A. Duncombe is a tender and absorbing drama about entrapment, a reflection on life, how we see each other and ourselves.”



Sarah A. Spitz is a former freelance arts producer for National Public Radio and former staff producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica. She has also reviewed theatre for LAOpeningNights.com.


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