This past week has been a quiet one for me; I read a couple of novels that I highly recommend and finally went to see the “The End of the Tour,” with an unexpected and thoroughly convincing performance by comedic actor Jason Segel as the renowned late author David Foster Wallace.

The novels came from the Pico branch of Santa Monica Public Library, which I’ve visited a lot over the summer. I read “The Book of Air and Shadows” by Michael Gruber, an intricately woven literary mystery involving a heretofore-unknown work by Shakespeare. It’s wonderfully constructed and completely engaging. The gripping novel “The Girl on the Train” by Paula Hawkins is one you won’t be able to put down; no wonder it’s been on the bestseller list for ages. And finally, I just discovered Anita Diamant’s “The Red Tent,” a fictionalization of the Biblical lives of Rebecca, Leah, Rachel and Dinah, wives, sisters and daughters of Isaac and Jacob, the direct descendants of Abraham and Sarah. I loved it.

But all this reading means I stayed mostly home, in advance of the upcoming busy fall cultural season. So I’ll share some local events I’ve been alerted to that I think are worth your attention.


Let’s start with the anniversary series that Laemmle Theatres has created at the Royal in West Los Angeles.

Bruce Dern will appear at the 55th anniversary screening of “Wild River,” a film whose reputation has grown over time and was inducted into the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Dern made his film debut in “Wild River,” which tells the Depression Era story of a defiant 80-year-old woman who refuses to sell her land to the Tennessee Valley Authority to build a dam. The event takes place Sept. 17 at 7:30 p.m.

Then take time out to meet Oscar, Emmy and Golden Globe award winning actress Cloris Leachman in person at the 40th anniversary of “Crazy Mama,” a 1975 “chick flick” well ahead of its time. An early movie by Oscar winning director Jonathan Demme, it’s a wild comedy that follows three generations of women on a crime spree in the 1950s. The event takes place Thursday, Sept. 24 at 7:30 p.m.

Both evenings are hosted by film scholar Stephen Farber (Reel Talk) and feature a Q&A with the actors following the screenings. Tickets are available at


Some of us have found our purpose in life, others are still looking. Our local storytelling series “Shine” focuses a spotlight on “My Calling,” the theme for an evening of inspiring true stories on Sunday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m. at Santa Monica’s Promenade Playhouse.

Entertainer and coach Rahla Kahn, an original Groundlings member and a consultant who focuses on healing through entertainment, will host the night, which features live music by Wayne Perry, founder and director of The Holistic Voice Institute and Sound Therapy Center of Los Angeles.

Alan Aymie, whom I profiled in these pages when he performed his “A Child Left Behind” one-man show, is featured; also on the bill are Kimberly Dillon, an entrepreneur, techie, motivational speaker, stand-up comedian, and TV host; Kristina Kirstin, a TV director and filmmaker; Terrie Silverman, writer/performer and Artist-in-Residence at Beyond Baroque; poet, physician and story healer Dr. Ruby Carroll Simpkins; and Aileen Socrates, a trainer and coach who leads workshops in transformational leadership.

Get inspired; get tickets at


The Human Rights Watch Film Club at the American Cinematheque is sponsoring a screening of an award-winning documentary about the Middle East, followed by a panel discussion on Sept. 20, at Santa Monica’s Aero Theatre. Doors open at 4:30 p.m., screening and panel discussion begin at 5:30 p.m., followed by a reception at 7:30 p.m.

Oscar nominee Gini Reticker’s “The Trials of Spring” follows three Egyptian women: Hend Nafea, a young religious Muslim from the countryside who is now facing a likely jail sentence for her role in the uprisings; Mariam Kirollos, a young, urban Christian who has long been passionate about women’s rights; and Khadiga Hennawi, a formerly veiled widow in her 60s who earned the nickname “Mama K” for assuming the role of caretaker of the revolutionaries. Their stories illuminate the roles women play as they risk everything to bring change in their country.

The panel discussion will focus on Middle East activism, the pioneering role of women, and the legacy of the 2011 “Arab Spring” uprisings. It will feature Nafea, along with Professor Sherine Hafez, an expert on Islamic activism; Beth Levison, the film’s producer; and Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East & North Africa director at Human Rights Watch.

Tickets are available at


Santa Monica College presents the 13th year of its popular Fall Literary Series, beginning Sept. 15, all free to the public, sponsored by the SMC Associates.

The line up starts on Sept. 15 with Geoff Dyer, “Expect the Unexpected: Geoff Dyer Reads from His Work.” On Sept. 21, still a left-wing firebrand, my former colleague (KCRW’s “Left, Right & Center”) Robert Scheer will discuss “They Know Everything About You” at 6:30 p.m.

“Steph Cha Reads from her Work” on Tuesday, Oct. 13 at 11:15 a.m. Cha is an attorney and LA Times contributor who’s created a series of novels featuring a Korean-American sleuth who channels Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe.

And on Tues., Nov. 10, Cal State Long Beach professor Stephen Cooper, renowned for his biography of L.A. author John Fante, discusses “Isaac Babel: New Fiction by Stephen Cooper” at 11:15 am.

For details and locations call SMC’s Office of Public Programs at (310) 434-4100.

Sarah A. Spitz spent her career as a producer at public radio station KCRW-Santa Monica and produced freelance arts reports for NPR. She has also written features and reviews for various publications.

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