Culture Watch


Lots to see, lots to do.

I’ll be attending a super special event as operatic star Julia Migenes returns to The Odyssey Theatre with a world premiere of her newest musical portrait of a composer.

For three weeks only beginning February 10, Migenes performs “Debussy: His Letters and His Music.” Clair de Lune (Moonlight) may be one of the most recognizable compositions in classical music. The mere mention of it should make the opening notes of this impressionistic piano piece sound inside your head; if not, head over to YouTube for a sampling of countless recordings of this lovely work.

Claude Debussy was a child piano prodigy who made an early impression as a composer at age 22 as the winner of the coveted Prix de Rome competition in 1884. He made his mark with the symphonic poem “Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune” (Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun) later famously choreographed by Nijinsky, and in 1902 with his then-controversial opera, Pelléas et Mélisande. For a decade he was seen as France’s leading composer. He died young, at age 55 in 1918 due to colon cancer as bombs were falling on Paris in World War I.

Julia Migenes first heard Debussy’s music when she was just 7 years old and was deeply moved by it. She began singing his “’ariettes oubliées” as a teenager. She has performed to vast acclaim in major opera houses around the world; to hear her in such an intimate setting is a real gift to Angelenos.

Through his letters she explores Debussy’s life – his youth, his wit and his battles with the more conservative musical world around him – and of course, she performs his music. Migenes has a magnificent voice, and in previous visits to The Odyssey, she presented Diva on the Verge, Franz Schubert: His Letters and Music, and Julia Migenes Sings Kurt Weill.

There are just six performances, on Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. Feb 10 – 25 and this is sure to sell out. Call (310) 477-2055 or visit; the theatre is located at 2055 S. Sepulveda Blvd. in West L.A.



If you missed it this summer, you have a one-night-only second chance to see Santa Monica Rep’s rendition of “The Grapes of Wrath,” on Friday, Jan. 20 as part of this year’s Fireside at the Miles series.

This is a staged reading, featuring live music and a pre-show Woody Guthrie sing-a-long, celebrating Frank Galati’s play, based on John Steinbeck’s classic American tale of a family moving west to search for prosperity and escape the horrors of the Dust Bowl (no, that’s NOT a football playoff!).

There’s only one way to reserve a ticket: email with the number of seats you want – limited seating by the way. Tickets are just $10, or $5 if you’re a student, under 18 or over 55. The Miles Playhouse is located at 1130 Lincoln Blvd.



The ever-challenging and provocative City Garage presents a unique play by Julia Jarcho, “Grimly Handsome,” the 2013 Obie Award-winning drama making its West Coast premiere here on January 20.

Picture a Grimm’s fairy tale set in a Christmas tree lot in New York, where a cat-and-mouse game, a detective caper, layered poetic language, characters playing multiple roles and mysterious wildlife animals combine to create a strange, often funny dream- like play.

Want to find out more? Get thee to Bergamot Art Station where “Grimly Handsome” is playing, anytime between January 20 through February 26. Tickets at



Sister Helen Prejean’s fame came from the book “Dead Man Walking,” later turned into a movie of the same name.

Tim Robbins collaborated with her to create that film, which won an Academy Award, and was later turned into a stage play (and even later, an opera, most recently seen and heard at The Broad Stage).

Robbins and his theatre, The Actors’ Gang in Culver City have created the 2017 season of their series Axis Mundi, featuring speaking events, lectures and documentaries intent on encouraging civic engagement and public dialogue on social justice issues.

Robbins and Sister Helen will be speaking on Friday, January 13 at 8 p.m. All of these Axis Mundi events are “pay what you can.” Advance tickets can be purchased here: The Actors’ Gang Theatre is located at the Ivy Substation building, 9070 Venice Blvd., Culver City. (310) 838-4264.



My former colleague, Edward Goldman of KCRW’s Art Talk (he of the charming Russian accent) has conducts a one-of-a-kind art collecting course where you get a behind-the-scenes look at the thriving L.A. art scene.

Lauded by the New York Times, this popular class will bring participants into artists’ studios, homes of private collectors, gallery and museums exhibitions, meeting with art dealers and curators who will walk with you through interesting exhibitions. Outings start at 10:30 a.m. and last approximately 4 hours, with a break for a catered lunch.

Only 20 people may participate in the four sessions ($600), which take place on Saturdays, Jan. 21, Feb. 11, Feb. 25 and Mar. 4.

If you’re interested in joining the class, please email ASAP:


Sarah A. Spitz is an award-winning public radio producer, now retired from KCRW, where she also produced arts stories for NPR. She writes features and reviews for various print and online publications. Contact her at