DIGGING DIRT: 'Symphony of the Soil' is a documentary that explores the mystery of soil. (Photo courtesy Lily Films)
DIGGING DIRT: 'Symphony of the Soil' is a documentary that explores the mystery of soil. (Photo courtesy Lily Films)
DIGGING DIRT: ‘Symphony of the Soil’ is a documentary that explores the mystery of soil. (Photo courtesy Lily Films)

I’ve mentioned the monthly storytelling series Shine a few times here and finally attended the Oct. 24 edition, where storytellers shared tales on the Halloween theme “Hauntings.”

The series, produced by Jen Bloom and Isabel Storey, takes place at the YWCA Westside in Santa Monica on the third Thursday of each month. Next month the theme is “The God Question,” and volunteer storytellers are invited onto the stage in addition to those featured on the program, so start planning your six-minute piece now; you will be timed.

This month’s featured storytellers included Andrea Schell, who was influenced at a very young age by Steven Spielberg’s TV series, “Amazing Stories,” and secretly saw herself as Andre(a) the Giant, which helped her both hide and discover her identity in the mirror through skin care. Kristine Eckert, trying to identify a crazy feeling she couldn’t shake, consulted a Laurel Canyon psychic who discovered it was the spirit of her deceased, schizophrenic brother; she had a message of closure from him for her.

A South African √©migr√©, Shannon Esra’s green card did not magically make her “day-mares” disappear, and she couldn’t fathom her longing for home. But her “what if” scenarios vanished and a sudden feeling of calm took over as a voice out of nowhere told her to “be present.” Eric Bloom, co-founder of Santa Monica Repertory and partner of Shine co-producer Bloom, told a moving story about his father’s death, a mysterious shaking bed and a haunted theater.

Kevin Walsh opened by saying “I am a rational person,” and proceeded to describe the tragic death of his girlfriend’s sister, who was nicknamed “Sunshine” because of her brilliant smile, and the dream that released him from his rage toward the drunk driver who killed her.

Torrie Silverman was hilarious, and even brought a costume to demonstrate how she finally achieved her life’s dream of being in a movie, even if it meant wearing a tutu and toe shoes while playing a kazoo.

Volunteer storyteller Bernie Sklar gave us “Loose Lips Sink Ships,” a well- modulated story about the youthful consequences of “swearing to God.”

Amy Lewis spoke about a ghost named “Truth,” who helped prove her father wrong about the forever darkness of death. The evening closed with Sherri Ziff’s tale about seeing a holocaust ghost in her grandparents’ closet.

Find out more about Shine at www.storiesbloom.com. For a variation on standup storytelling, check out Word Salad LA at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Nov. 5, and the first Tuesday of every month at The Talking Stick in Venice. This month’s theme is “Road Trips,” details and videos here: www.wordsaladla.com.


Singing soil’s praises


A lyrical, poetic and simultaneously scientifically sound film, “Symphony of the Soil” is a new documentary that explains the wonder, the mystery and the miracle of that upon which all humanity depends for its survival, soil.

Does it sound silly to get all gushy about dirt? Well the majesty of the mountains, the flow of rivers, the scraping of glaciers and the replenishing cycle of life and death, of carbon and organic materials that combine to make life on earth possible for us, is well worth celebrating.

“Symphony of the Soil” takes us across the planet to show us how soil is formed, how it sustains us and why we should appreciate and respect what nature has given us without being preachy. Soil scientists and microbiologists give us the deeper explanations in terms everyone can understand.

The cinematography is spectacular and the film had a deep impact on me. As I learned about the elements that soil is composed of and traveled to the locales and origins of its material parts, the images on the screen gave me a spiritual lift along with a renewed reverence for this planet of ours called Earth, the very stuff of which we are made and upon which we depend.

Conversely, just as there are soil stewards, there are also soil destroyers, and as scenes of soil desecration were shown, I actually began to feel ill. But the feelings of tension lifted because the film gives us reason for optimism and possible healing, even as we struggle to convince the forces of commerce and chemistry that continuing the path we are on is unsustainable.

We must give back what we take, mimicking nature that way. I encourage you to see this beautiful and informative film when it opens on Nov. 8. More here: www.symphonyofthesoil.com.


Santa Monica’s new salon


Robert Mozejewski and his wife Cheryl Bianchi have begun an eco-conscious weekly salon series called EarthWe L.A. at Bergamot Station, featuring panel discussions, film screenings, art exhibits, music and more.

This Saturday, from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., a special screening of “Femme: Women Healing the World” features a conversation with the filmmaker, Emmanuel Itier, an exhibition of the fine art photography of Michele Mattei, a live musical performance by Snow in Africa and a celebration of feminist pioneer Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday in an evening that benefits the Ms. Foundation.

All events are featured at http://earthwe.com/events/ and take place in Bergamot Station’s Building D, Space 5, next to Santa Monica Museum of Art.


Shop early, shop artsy

Arts ReSTORE LA: Westwood is a new initiative by the Hammer Museum that aims to re-energize Westwood Village with the creative force of local artisans and craftspeople.

From Nov. 1 to 24, the Hammer will fill several empty storefronts in Westwood, donated by the property owners to this project, with an array of artisan vendors. With its accompanying events and workshops, the Arts ReSTORE pop-up village will enliven the neighborhood with a new and vibrant retail experience.

Selected by public vote in the Arts and Cultural Vitality category, The Hammer received a grant from the Goldhirsh Foundation’s LA2050 initiative, which is seeking to create a shared vision for the future of L.A.

Do your holiday shopping here! More on the artists and a map at http://artsrestore.la/map/.



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


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