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Expect to be delighted and outraged by our incisive and sprawling coverage of culture and arts.

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    By Tamara Winfrey Harris


    Never in a generation have women, people of color, and the LGBTQ community more dearly needed active allies to counter inequality. Unfortunately, the contours of active allyship are elusive to most Americans — even progressive ones. It’s not simply that it is easier to disapprove of bigotry passively than it is to actually do something about it. (Though it is.) It’s also that many people lack experience resisting the prejudice baked into American society.


    But there are plenty of men and women who have long been committed to living the values of anti-racism, -sexism, and -homophobia who can teach us how to do better. In the weeks leading up to Donald J. Trump’s inauguration, I spoke to everyday activists — writers, lecturers, Sunday School teachers, and mothers — about how to support marginalized people and fight discrimination. Conspiring with marginalized people to beat back bigotry requires five things of would-be allies, they told me: learning, listening, speaking up, taking action, and being brave.


    Learn.


    People of color know full well the effect systemic racism has on their lives. They know its history, its hiding places, and where it intersects with other issues like class and gender. White supporters of people of color need to understand this, too, and they can start by seeking out information about race with the same attention and vigor they pay to other issues they care about.


    Ashley Ray was motivated by her family to learn more about race: She is white, her husband of 17 years is black, and her children are biracial. She began teaching herself about racism and white supremacy as a way to be a better wife and mother. She started online, where several organizations devoted to social justice and equality have robust resource pages, including the Human Rights Campaign, Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), Conspire for Change, and Showing Up for Racial Justice.


    She also sought out the actual voices of people of color. This is crucial, because most Americans live in a bubble: Seventy-five percent of white people, for instance, do not have non-white friends. This is why, Ray says, it is so important to listen to firsthand accounts of what it is like to be Latinx or Native or African-American or Asian in America. Allies should expand their media consumption to include outlets — like Colorlines, Ms., Bitch, The Advocate, and Black Girl Dangerous — that feature voices and reporting often ignored by mainstream media.


    Listen.


    And, Ray stresses, allies must “learn to believe these voices and understand that you’ve been conditioned not to. You have to make the choice to believe them.” It is a sad fact that women, people of color, and members of the LGBTQ community are often suspected of bias when speaking about their lived experiences and the real impact of inequity. Advocates have to challenge themselves to listen to marginalized people and to trust them, even when that means confronting their own prejudices and inaction.


    Deanna Zandt, author and founder of Lux Digital, currently runs a blog called Ask Deanna About Racism But Only If You’re White. Deanna has always been a progressive and an ardent feminist, but finding her race politics took some soul-searching — prompted when she was chastised for talking the talk without walking the walk.


    “I am part of the Women, Action, and the Media (WAM!) community. We had a conference where during and afterward a bunch of women of color, and then queer women of color specifically, spoke up publicly about not feeling included or welcome,” she explains. Feelings hurt, she responded to the complaints with defensiveness.


    “One of the things that happened during that process is I realized that everything that had ever been said to me by [men] about gender, I was in my head saying to these women of color about race,” she remembers.


    That experience led Zandt to reflect on the ways she’d failed to intervene in black women’s erasure from feminist spaces, and how she had been denying her own race-related blind spots.


    Ray also acknowledges that being called out for race bias still sometimes prompts feelings of defensiveness — a very human reaction. But, like Zandt, over time, she has learned the most helpful response as an ally is to be quiet, listen, and examine the charge. Ray says, “Most of the time if something is getting called out, it needs to be called out.”


    Speak Up.


    An ally’s ability to speak up for marginalized people to other privileged people is perhaps the most valuable thing they have to offer.


    “It’s very effective for boys and men to hear other boys and men speak out against violence against women,” says Byron Hurt, an activist and filmmaker whose documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes examines toxic masculinity. Hurt says that men who support women give other men permission to think about themselves and women in a different way. This proactive advocacy by men is imperative, because sexism is men’s problem to solve, he says: “[Men] can’t expect women to fight all of the battles around sexism.”


    Likewise, says Terri Kempton, “racism is a white problem created by white people to benefit white people and it needs white people to change it,” she says. White Nonsense Roundup, the group she co-founded four months ago, is a collection of mostly white people trying to educate other white people about issues of race and privilege. The group serves as an “on-call service” for people of color who are experiencing harassment or are embroiled in tough racial discussions with white people online. “They can tag us or they can use our handle on Twitter and call us into a conversation and we will take over some of the education piece so the burden doesn’t perpetually fall on people of color.”


    The other part of the group’s work is coaching white people in having conversations about race with friends and family — for instance, teaching them how to push back on offensive jokes. (Kempton says not to laugh, but to put the burden of proof on the joke teller to explain why they believe their comment is funny. She also suggests leveraging common ground and shared culture. For example, reminding a dedicated mom of her love for her kids may help her understand why immigrant parents also want the best for their children. And, she says, it’s okay to prepare snappy comebacks in advance or to circle back if you get tongue-tied when incidents occur.)


    Take Action.


    Most Americans are not activists. And not all people can take the same risks. But everyone can work within their sphere of influence to make change.


    “There is a part of me that wanted to leave my job and go to Standing Rock,” says Dr. Liza Talusan, an educator, facilitator, activist and writer. “[I] wanted to block the highway or do a ‘die-in,’ at City Hall. [But] I totally admit that’s not me. My capacity is doing it through the systems of education.”


    Talusan said that for her — a straight woman who’s motivated to support gay and trans equality because of her Catholic faith — that means, in part, being a resource for “religious institutions looking to be more inclusive of LGBT communities” and visiting Catholic schools to talk about gay and trans inclusion. While these actions align with her profession in diversity education, Talusan also acts on her values in everyday life: for instance, by “disrupting norms” when she teaches Sunday school, using inclusive language that acknowledges different family structures.


    Be brave.


    These things are not always comfortable. But Ray says that allyship means “committing to pushing past the point of comfort to take effective and impactful action to change things” — even if that action is messy or dangerous. A willingness to take risks is non-negotiable. Kempton says that to be an ally requires “bravery.”


    Whatever their discomfort, good people must intercede, for instance, when they see a Muslim woman being harassed for wearing a hijab. Maeril, a French art director and filmmaker, created an illustrated guide to standing up to public Islamophobia and other harassment: Sit beside the person being harassed and engage them in conversation, ignoring the attacker. Maintain eye contact with the victim and continue the conversation until the attacker is starved of attention and leaves. Escort the victim to a neutral area where they can collect themselves. Respect their wishes if they say they are okay and just wish to leave.


    Speaking out against bigotry and inequality can come with a personal sacrifice. Jackson Katz, an educator, filmmaker, author, and creator of Mentors in Violence Prevention (which works on gender violence prevention), says that people working in solidarity with marginalized groups “give up the ease of interaction with people in [their] own group.” Dr. Damon Berry, a professor of religious studies, says that in some cases he’s lost relationships with friends and family, “because there was just no space for us to develop any understanding of each other.” At the same time, he’s gained “deep friendships and real, profound connections” with people different from himself. “You learn things about them, they teach you things about yourself, and you support one another and you care for one another,” he said. “To me, that’s what a society should be.”


    Looking ahead to a Trump presidency, the moral imperative to do what’s right has to override the costs. “People who want to perform allyship are really going to have to consider what they would risk,” Berry says. “There may come a time where one is called upon to sacrifice economic comforts, to sacrifice even physical safety. And if you are not willing to sacrifice those things, and more, perhaps — to stand for what you believe in and the commitment you made — then you don’t have the courage of your convictions. Perhaps you never believed it at all.”


    More from The Cut:


    Compassion for Melania Is Misguided — But It Isn’t Wrong


    25 Famous Women on Getting Older


    Everything the Trump Administration Has Done to Restrict Women’s Health Care


    Why People Are Deleting Uber En Masse


    The ACLU Got $24 Million in Donations in One Weekend

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    The work of your favourite writers is like "a galaxy you keep coming back to". Hear Clemens Setz, one of Austria's most successful young authors, shares his admiration for two of his idols, Thomas Mann and Peter Handke.

    Thomas Mann's work is "full of things I myself would ever dare do," says Clemens Setz of one of German literature's giants. Another favourite of Setz's is author and playwright Peter Handke. "I love his work, but I hate parts of it," says Setz. "I get irritated. I get more alive reading it."

    Clemens Setz (b. 1982) is an Austrian writer and translator, who debuted in 2007 with the novel 'Söhne und Planeten'. Setz has received numerous prizes for his work, including the Leipzig Book Fair Prize in 2011 for the short story collection 'Die Liebe zur Zeit des Mahlstädter Kindes' and Wilhelm Raabe Literure Prize for 'Die Stunde zwischen Frau und Gitarre' in 2015. His second novel 'Die Frequenzen' was shortlisted for the German Book Prize in 2009 as was his novel 'Indigo' in 2012. He lives in Graz, Austria.

    Clemens Setz was interviewed by Roxanne Bagheshirin Lærkesen at Rungstedgaard in connection to the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2015.

    Camera: Simon Weyhe
    Edited by: Klaus Elmer
    Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

    Supported by Nordea-fonden

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    "At some point I feel that the characters do exist... they become independent." Watch the praised Egyptian novelist Alaa al-Aswany in this short and humorous conversation about his - autonomous - novel characters.

    It is essential to al-Aswany that his characters always feel like living people: "I cannot impose on them what they should do... I try of course to convince them to do the right thing." At some point his characters even start taking things into their own hands, as in his novel 'The Yacoubian Building': "The next day I opened the laptop and I realized that overnight they decided to get married... I got happy and I congratulated them!"

    Alaa al-Aswany (b. 1947 in Cairo, Egypt) is one of the Middle East's most popular novelists and Egypt's biggest selling. His second novel 'The Yacoubian Building', which is an ironic depiction of modern Egyptian society, was published in 2002 and quickly gained national as well as international recognition, not least due to its straightforward depiction of (homosexual) sexuality and avid corruption. In 2013, al-Aswany published his third novel 'The Automobile Club of Egypt'. Moreover, he still works as a dentist.

    Alaa al-Aswany was interviewed by Bjørn Bredal at the Louisiana Literature festival at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark in August 2014.

    Camera: Klaus Elmer, Simon Weyhe and Nikolaj Jungersen
    Edited by: Kamilla Bruus
    Produced by: Christian Lund
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

    Supported by Nordea-fonden

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    Rising from the landscape in a place rich with materiality and history sits architect Dorte Mandrup's new Wadden Sea Centre. Meet the renowned architect and see a building were "everything comes together."

    "It's interesting that architecture exists in a strange place between the practical and pragmatic, finances and technique, and yet it needs to have an artistic expression," Dorte Mandrup says. A work of architecture becomes a question of finding the right aesthetic solution to a local challenge or, in the language of architects: "the synthesis of the parameters you're working with. When it falls into place, you know it."

    At the Wadden Sea Centre in Ribe, Denmark, the challenge was to unite the new centre's functions and the very particular landscape in which it is built. A UNESCO world heritage site, the Wadden Sea is a unique natural reserve with a rich wildlife and a specific tradition of low buildings in tile and thatch, a history that the architects wanted to include in the building. Using local, traditional materials and building techniques such as thatch the Wadden Sea Centre has "a different sculptural quality than what you otherwise see in the landscape. It's a way of developing the tradition," says Dorte Mandrup. As such, the building becomes an expression of Mandrup's way of thinking architecture: One must transcend the technical - "there must be an artistic message otherwise it doesn't matter."

    Dorte Mandrup (b. 1961) is a Danish architect and founder of Copenhagen-based Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter. Her projects include the headquarter of IKEA in Malmö, Sweden, the most environmentally friendly office building in Scandinavia and the Icefjord Centre in the UNESCO-protected area of Ilulissat, Greenland. She also headed the extension of the listed Munkegård School in Gentofte, Denmark, one of modernist architect Arne Jacobsen's Masterpieces. She is the recipient of multiple awards, among others the 2003 Dreyer Honorary Award, the 2004 Eckersberg Medal and several WAN Awards.

    Dorte Mandrup was interviewed by Marc-Christoph Wagner at the site of the Wadden Sea Centre in Ribe, Denmark, in September 2016.

    Camera: Klaus Elmer
    Edited by: Klaus Elmer
    Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
    Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art

    Supported by Dreyers Fond

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    Young art collectors are defined as professional individuals who are below the age of 40 and actively engaged in the art market. These young professionals are found across the globe, from China and the Philippines, to the United States and Mexico. Many start young, some with intrinsic passion for the arts, while others are influenced by their parent's involvement in the art world as collectors themselves.

    The myth that these young collectors are extremely heeled is a half-truth. Emma Hall, ranked #1 in artnet's "12 Young Art Collectors to Watch in 2016", comes from a family of art collectors, whereas Mohammed Afkhami (ranked #5), an Iranian financier and Middle Eastern contemporary art enthusiast, began collecting by buying and selling works of art priced around $300-$500 dollars. He is now one of the largest collectors of Middle Eastern art. Young collectors in general tend to look for undervalued art and less well known blue chips. Despite being a riskier investment, returns can be very rewarding.

    Another trend amongst notable young art collectors is that they start young. Michael Xufu Huang and Tiffany Zabludowicz, ranked #8 and #9 respectively, began at the age of sixteen. Michael is now the co-founder of an independent non-profit contemporary art museum in Beijing, M WOODS.

    Many well established art institutions across the globe are well aware of next generation of art collectors. For example, by joining the Guggenheim's Young Collector's Council, members enjoy numerous benefits, which include complimentary admission to museums and art fairs, private museum and gallery tours, a seat on the YCC Acquisitions Committee which votes on new museum acquisitions, as well as many other perks.

    Banks are also well aware of the trend. Numerous hold wealth management seminars and even mock auctions for children of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI). According to a US Trust survey, HNWIs under 50 years old are more likely to view art as an investment, while those over 50 years old treat art as part of their image and lifestyle. Therefore, younger art collectors are observed to be more willing to buy and sell their pieces of art, while the older generations have the tendency to keep them.

    2017-01-31-1485881438-6234483-graph.png

    The younger generation also brings in a new wave of technology. Mobile apps have opened new possibilities for the art world. Many art enthusiasts use "pinging" on their mobile phones, which send notifications or alerts whenever an artist appears at auction. Artsy.com reportedly sold a piece of art for $1.4 million on its mobile app. Over the last 5 years, several online auction houses have been appearing, the most well known of those being Paddle8, Artsy and artnet. Christie's and Sotheby's have also taken their auction platform online with their very own Christie's LIVE and Sotheby's BIDnow.

    2017-01-31-1485881465-5705046-graph2.png

    Disclaimer:
    The Information on this forum is provided for educational and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness, or fitness for any particular purpose. The Information contained in or provided from or through this marketing material is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    Young art collectors are defined as professional individuals who are below the age of 40 and actively engaged in the art market. These young professionals are found across the globe, from China and the Philippines, to the United States and Mexico. Many start young, some with intrinsic passion for the arts, while others are influenced by their parent's involvement in the art world as collectors themselves.

    The myth that these young collectors are extremely heeled is a half-truth. Emma Hall, ranked #1 in artnet's "12 Young Art Collectors to Watch in 2016", comes from a family of art collectors, whereas Mohammed Afkhami (ranked #5), an Iranian financier and Middle Eastern contemporary art enthusiast, began collecting by buying and selling works of art priced around $300-$500 dollars. He is now one of the largest collectors of Middle Eastern art. Young collectors in general tend to look for undervalued art and less well known blue chips. Despite being a riskier investment, returns can be very rewarding.

    Another trend amongst notable young art collectors is that they start young. Michael Xufu Huang and Tiffany Zabludowicz, ranked #8 and #9 respectively, began at the age of sixteen. Michael is now the co-founder of an independent non-profit contemporary art museum in Beijing, M WOODS.

    Many well established art institutions across the globe are well aware of next generation of art collectors. For example, by joining the Guggenheim's Young Collector's Council, members enjoy numerous benefits, which include complimentary admission to museums and art fairs, private museum and gallery tours, a seat on the YCC Acquisitions Committee which votes on new museum acquisitions, as well as many other perks.

    Banks are also well aware of the trend. Numerous hold wealth management seminars and even mock auctions for children of Ultra High Net Worth Individuals (UHNWI). According to a US Trust survey, HNWIs under 50 years old are more likely to view art as an investment, while those over 50 years old treat art as part of their image and lifestyle. Therefore, younger art collectors are observed to be more willing to buy and sell their pieces of art, while the older generations have the tendency to keep them.

    2017-01-31-1485881438-6234483-graph.png

    The younger generation also brings in a new wave of technology. Mobile apps have opened new possibilities for the art world. Many art enthusiasts use notifications or alerts to find out when an artist of interest will appear at auction. Artsy reportedly sold a piece of art for $1.4 million on its mobile app. Over the last 5 years, several online auction houses have been appearing, the most well known of those being Paddle8, Artsy and artnet. Christie's and Sotheby's have also taken their auction platform online with their very own Christie's LIVE and Sotheby's BIDnow.

    2017-01-31-1485881465-5705046-graph2.png

    Disclaimer:
    The Information on this forum is provided for educational and informational purposes only, without any express or implied warranty of any kind, including warranties of accuracy, completeness, or fitness for any particular purpose. The Information contained in or provided from or through this marketing material is not intended to be and does not constitute financial advice, investment advice, trading advice or any other advice.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    2017-01-30-1485750701-7604344-PaeWhitePW5682016.jpg
    Pae White, Bugs, a large scale brocade tapestry memorializes the richness of the natural world.

    Art Los Angeles Contemporary wrapped up this weekend at the Barker Hanger located on the grounds of the accessible, park-like, Santa Monica Airport. If you missed this weekend there is next year. In fact, art fairs are all the rage worldwide.

    Contemporary Art a Mirror to Better Understand the World

    Modern art is edgy and can take you out of your comfort zone, beckoning to reflect and feel in innovative ways if you let the information sink in, move and hold you in this new contemplative place.

    Take for example the huge metal screw that eviscerates an upholstered chair on one side of this sculpture below. On the other side is a whitewashed cast of body as if it is foisted on the petard with a rubbed out pattern of an American flag in the back ground. Pretty much sums up in imagery what many might experience at this time. Time to get out of the armchair, right?

    2017-01-30-1485750939-8126050-ALAC17Thurs0047.jpg
    Collaborative multi-media artists Rafa Esparza and Timo Fahler, A Post Industrial Snake, 2016 and 2017, represented by Club Pro gallery. They recycle images contained in this installation as they update the narrative for today's world.

    The title of this blog is a riff on the quote by the late Washington Post editor Ben Bradlee, "Journalism is the first draft of history that will never be completed about a world we can never understand." Contemporary art is the visual representation of the written word, expressing a similar sentiment about letting questions arise and then constructing meaning. "Comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable," is another phrase that comes to mind about the purpose of reporting that could be applied to art, attributed to legendary newspaperman H.L. Mencken.

    On a lighter note, there is the work of Chris HUEN Sin Kan, from Hong Kong represented by local Gallery Exit. Rather than focusing on the external world, his work using white space invites the viewer into a peaceful internal world ruled by everyday experiences.

    2017-01-30-1485791489-8364160-F8B4DDCFA3A2470FB7261F82D6182CC63767000002792A37934B_tmp.png
    Painter Chris HUEN Sin Kan's use of white space invites the viewer into meditative domestic scenes.

    2017-01-30-1485751705-8007715-ALAC129marcselwynfineartrichardmisrach.jpg
    Richard Misrach, Untitled (January 24, 2016 5:38PM), 2016, archival pigment print, 60 x 80 inches. Edition of 5 with Marc Selwyn Fine Art, reminds me of the challenge to stay calm.

    Art fairs such as this also present an opportunity to get out, mingle and people watch. There are inviting seating areas replete with reading material, couches and chairs, as well as food and drink purveyors. In addition to the dozens of international and local galleries to peruse there are performances and panels that will excite, disturb and expand one's evolving knowledge base.

    2017-01-30-1485807035-79583-ALAC289ratio3miriambohm.jpg

    Miriam Bohm, a Berliner, represented by Ratio 3 in San Francisco, plays with the idea of what it means to 'hold a frame.'


    Talk about a life hack. As a life long learner, engaging with cutting edge art might expand your capacity for being a citizen of the world in an important global community. All this for going to an art fair?

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    Last Friday, I went to the Craft & Folk Art Museum for the opening of an exhibition of contemporary Iranian video and photography. As coincidence would have it, that was the very day President Trump signed an executive order closing the nation's borders to refugees and people from 7 predominately Muslim countries -- including Iran.

    2017-01-31-1485905342-7895051-1_Composite_Coalition_Tired.jpg

    FOCUS IRAN 2: Contemporary Photography and Video at the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Los Angeles
    Top: Armin Amirian, Coalition, 2015
    Bottom: Siamak Nasiri Ziba, Tired, 2007
    Courtesy of the Artists


    If you believe in the timeless wisdom of the saying "a picture is worth a thousand words", this is certainly an exhibition that will open your mind; every image provides a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of Iranian people. I urge you to go and see this important exhibition for yourself.

    2017-01-31-1485905935-5365007-2_Composite_FalseRoots_Love.jpg

    Top: Sanaz Khosravi, False Roots, 2016
    Bottom: Omid Sariri Ajili, Love, 2012
    Courtesy of the Artists


    This exhibition, titled FOCUS IRAN 2, is actually the second biennial exhibition with a focus on Iranian culture and heritage. An international jury panel selected works by several dozen artists living both in and out of Iran, thus providing diverse visions from inside and outside of the country.

    2017-01-31-1485906223-8987759-3_Girl_ManwithTwoWives.jpg

    Top: Masoud Mohammadi,Girl, 2014
    Bottom: Hossein Sadri, A Baluch Man with His Two Wives, 2016
    Courtesy of the Artists


    In her statement, the Craft & Folk Art Museum director Suzanne Isken says that "in an era where xenophobic rhetoric has taken center stage, [the promotion of cross-cultural understanding through our exhibitions and programs] has taken on a new urgency".

    2017-01-31-1485906265-9560705-4_Composite_LACMA.jpg
    Islamic Art Now, Part 2: Contemporary Art of the Middle East at LACMA in 2016
    Top: Newsha Tavakolian, Untitled, 2011
    Inkjet on paper
    Bottom: Ammar Al Beik (b. 1972 in Syria), Maximum Alert, 2008
    Archival print on cotton paper


    It's been only a year since the Los Angeles County Museum of Art had an exhibition of contemporary Islamic artists -- primarily photographers, and most of them women. I was impressed by the diversity and edginess of many of these images. At a time when most of the news coming from the Middle East is -- to put it mildly -- rather negative, seeing the artworks produced by contemporary artists there reminds us that we have much more in common with people in the Middle East than we might otherwise realize.

    2017-01-31-1485906458-5669114-5_Composite_Manzanar_Mochida_Skirball.jpg

    Top: Ansel Adams, Entrance to Manzanar , 1943
    Gelatin silver print (printed 1984)
    Photo courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center
    Bottom: Dorothea Lange, Members of the Mochida family awaiting evacuation bus, 1942
    Photo courtesy of Skirball Cultural Center


    All of the above brings back the memory of another extremely important museum exhibition, Manzanar: the Wartime Photographs of Ansel Adams, shown at the Skirball Cultural Center in 2015. It dealt with the political paranoia of the time, when President Roosevelt, after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, issued an executive order leading to the forced evacuation of 110,000 people of Japanese ancestry into ten internment camps, Manzanar one of them.
    Since visiting this exhibition, I've been haunted by the information I read in one of museum's wall texts, that "in the entire course of the war, [only] ten people in the United States were convicted of spying for Japan. All of them were Caucasian." It was courageous of the Skirball to present this exhibition about this shameful chapter in our nation's history -- a lesson that we mustn't forget.




    ___________


    Edward Goldman is an art critic and the host of Art Talk, a program on art and culture for NPR affiliate KCRW 89.9 FM. To listen to the complete show and hear Edward's charming Russian accent, click here.

    To learn about Edward's Fine Art of Art Collecting Classes, please visit his website. You can also read more about his classes in the New York Times here, and in Artillery Magazine.

    -- This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.


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    In a week of turmoil over federal immigration and refugee travel orders, Iowa poet laureate Mary Swander's nationally touring play, Vang: A Drama about Recent Immigrant Farmers, is opening a new door to the extraordinary stories of families from Sudan, Mexico, the Hmong in Laos, and Holland that are quietly rejuvenating the state's aging agricultural communities.

    Swander, author of several acclaimed works of poetry and memoir, as well as the plays, Farmscape, Driving the Body Back and Map of My Kingdom, based Vang on three years of interviews and research with New Iowans across the state. Swander teamed up with Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer Dennis Chamberlin and Kennedy Center award-winning actor Matt Foss to bring the stories of their journeys and the challenges of transitioning to farm life in Iowa to stage in Vang--a Hmong word for "garden" or "farm."

    Iowa, of course, has always been a crossroads of immigration--and a host of refugees.

    "The immigration to Iowa this season is immense," noted an Iowa newspaper in 1855, "far exceeding the unprecedented immigration of last year, and only to be appreciated by one who travels through the country as we are doing, and finds the roads everywhere lined with movers."

    The movers in Vang and Iowa today include Joseph Malual, a refugee from Sudan, who managed to work and earn a PhD in Sustainable Agriculture from Iowa State University, as well as Hmong families who have become mainstays in the Des Moines farmer's market, and newly arrived Dutch dairy farmers in Brooklyn, Iowa.

    Theatre productions of Vang have been staged across the country, as well as in smaller communities in Iowa. Swander often holds talk-backs on immigrant stories in the changing farm towns.

    "We so rarely see ourselves reflected in the arts like this," one of the audience members recently told her.

    In advance of a special staging of Vang at the historic Old Capitol Senate Chambers in Iowa City on Sunday, Feb. 12, as a kickoff for the Iowa Valley Global Food Project, I interviewed Swander on her latest work and its impact on audiences across the country.

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    JB: The story of Iowa, in many respects, has been the arrival of immigrants as farmers, who have carried on the state's agricultural legacy. After the success of your play, Farmscape, how did you happen to pursue the stories of four immigrant families for your Vang play?

    MS:
    I wrote Farmscape with a graduate class at Iowa State University. We wound the play together from interviews of farmers and others involved in the changing rural environment. The students in my class were diverse in terms of gender, ethnicity, cultural backgrounds,religions, urban/ rural backgrounds , geographical parts of the country and the world. I urged the students to go out and find diversity in their interviewees, yet when they actually hit the pavement the first time, most returned with interviews of white male farmers with common opinions and values. The students had internalized society's stereotypes of farmers.

    So we worked with the material and looked at our own biases. We went out into the field again and broadened our search, and eventually came up with a play that hit on some of the major issues in contemporary agriculture. The play began touring and the state folklorist saw it and liked it. Then she suggested that in the future I might explore recent immigrant farmers. A few weeks later a new faculty member in photo journalism--Dennis Chamberlin--walked into my office and said he'd like to work with me. His two loves: sustainable agriculture and immigrants. An idea was born.

    Dennis and I spent 3 years researching Vang. We read and read about immigration, the experiences of different immigrant groups to the U.S. and the culture, values, and folklore of various countries. I worked to find the immigrant farmers, develop trust and rapport with the interviewees. I interviewed scores of immigrant farmers and secured translators. I narrowed down my scope to the four couples profiled in Vang. I went back to each set of farmers 3-10 times. Dennis and I always went together at first, then we would each return separately.

    I started out interviewing Hmong farmers at the Des Moines farmers' market. With the help of a Hmong lecturer at ISU who grew up in the Hmong community in Des Moines, I finally settled on Toua and A Vang. An ISU Mexican graduate student in sustainable agriculture helped me find Ramona and Beni in Marshalltown. Dennis had photographed Joseph Malual for another project. Joseph and I often sat near each other in a weekly seminar at ISU--but little did I know his story. I had heard a story on Iowa Public Radio about immigrant Dutch farmers and Pat Blank opened the door for me to interview Dorrine and Jan Boelen.

    JB: With the Trump administration issuing a ban on the immigration from certain Muslim-majority countries, like Sudan, can you tell us a little about your character of Joseph Malual, and his journey from Sudan to Iowa, and his role as a farmer and PhD student?

    MS:
    Oh, Joseph is one of the most courageous men I know. Filled with integrity. He grew up in South Sudan and was baptized a Christian when he was thirteen. He was under threat of attack at all times during the war. He could be shot on the street at any time. So, he fled to the North, where he was oddly safer. He worked nights in a factory to get enough money to put himself through school. He finally was admitted to engineering school, but before he could complete his studies, he had to go off to serve in the army. He went to a training camp where he was pumped full of hate propaganda toward the U.S., France, and other countries. He fled the camp and started walking across Sudan. It took him three months and many traumas along the way to reach a refugee camp in Ethiopia. There, he tried to help the Lost Boys of Sudan and was thrown into prison for his work. He was confined for months under life-threatening conditions.

    Finally, the U.N. intervened and he was evacuated from the refugee camp and flown to be settled in Des Moines. He arrived in Feb. in a jeans jacket. He was given enough money for one month's food and lodging. He went to work in the meat packing plant in Des Moines, then saved his money, worked hard, and enrolled in the sustainable ag. program at ISU with an emphasis in sociology. His dream was to return home to create agricultural food learning centers in Sudan, but South Sudan is now more war torn than ever. He now has his PhD and is working with Wisconsin Extension Service.

    He met his wife in Ethiopia. The couple went through years of paperwork to get her to the U.S. where they married and now have a family.


    JB: What has been the reaction to the play in Iowa and elsewhere, and what has surprised you most in your talk-back sessions?

    MS:
    Overall, Vang has been well-received. We've performed everywhere from farmers' barns, to refugee centers, to the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago.In the beginning when I was drafting the play, many of my writer friends were skeptical and cynical. "That's great, Mary," many of them said. "Where are you going to go to find the immigrants and refugees? California?" But that's the point of the show. Immigrants and refugees are all around us. We're not paying attention and not helping them much. They are providing a labor force and cultural strength for our country. Yes, there are problems, but these folks are working to solve their problems and some of ours, too. The Hispanic immigrants in Marshalltown, for example, are taking care of our veterans with their adopt a vet program. At the talk-backs after the shows, a certain percentage of the audiences are surprised to learn that not all immigrants are undocumented. When I heard that response, I realized we had to start with the basics, but that we were educating our audience. Vang is verbatim theatre, using the exact words of the interviewee--nothing made up.

    JB: Much of your work features the role of narrative arts and storytelling in bringing together communities to discuss critical issues. How can communities like Iowa City learn from "Vang" to launch more storytelling projects in our towns, cities, counties and schools, especially to inform ourselves about shifts in demographics, migration, agriculture and food?

    MS
    : Iowa City is a UNESCO City of Literature. We could bring all the talent that we have in this city to the forefront to create a model of narrative arts and storytelling to address critical issues. Kirkwood Community College is already taking the lead. They have applied for a major grant to have their international students interview the elderly in Iowa City. I can imagine a huge cultural exchange with this project. We could grow this initiative to include not only KCC students, but those in Journalism, Rhetoric, Theatre, Sociology, Geography, Anthropology, History, and other classes at the U. of Iowa. Iowa City high school students could also be involved. We could target a different issue every year. This initiative would not only educate audiences and bring more awareness to social justice issues, but it would improve communication skills of those involved.

    Right now I'm involved in a food insecurity project in Storm Lake within the immigrant community there. These people are working in the meat packing plant, processing the food that most Americans eat, but the immigrants doing the hard work can't afford to eat themselves. With the help of some of the churches in Storm Lake, we will be allowing the immigrant laborers to tell their own stories of food insecurity. We will present the stories at a major food insecurity conference in March.

    JB: Any other thoughts?

    MS:
    A couple of weeks ago we gave a Vang performance in Washington, Iowa for 200 people. Washington is a pretty typical rural county-seat town in Iowa. The town has a good share of immigrants working in the meat packing plants in neary-by Columbus Junction--again, a scenario that is more and more typical. Immigration is a hot topic, of course, in the U.S. right now, and Washington is generally on the right of the political spectrum. I felt the audience was actively engaged and thoughtful during the play and in their responses in the discussion. Several people complimented me afterwards on finding a way to open a civil discussion in a public forum about an issue that usually only sees polarization. "We so rarely see ourselves reflected in the arts like this," one of the audience members told me.

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    When you are a renowned graffiti writer living 25 minutes outside of Marrakech at an artists compound and painting in your studio to prepare for an upcoming exhibition on canvas, sometimes you still are activated by wanderlust to go out and catch a tag. Or something more elaborate.



    Jardin Rouge has hosted some of best known American and European graffiti writers such as members of Tats Cru, Daze, Ceet, Jace and Tilt as well as Street/Mural Artists like Kashink, Mad C and Hendrick Beikirch (ECB) over the past few years, inviting them to paint and sculpt new works in roomy quiet studios and on the buildings of the property itself.


    As you leave the compound and take a long walk or motorcycle ride up the lonely and narrow dusty roads and gaze through ruddy fields past lines of olive trees you’ll discover bubbled and colorful aerosol works on dilapidated structures, half walls, and cratered remnants of buildings that rise just above the rich red soil.



    Suddenly the visual language of the inner city overflows the margins into agrarian areas, this time by way of a fervent patronage of this painting practice as art form. The distinction happens more often these days with festivals, galleries, museums, brands, collectors, fans inviting urban artists to suburban or ex-urban oasis to create their signature work very far removed from its original context.

    Until now most of the fiery debates about graffiti and Street Art moving into the mainstream have focused on whether it belongs in institutions, or needs to be studied in academia, or if it ceases to be graffiti or street art when it is made for the gallery canvas or brought into the gallery directly from the street. Here, it is going anywhere but mainstream.



    What do we call graffiti writing or characters from one city when it is introduced to another city, as has happened for decades thanks to the nomadic nature of couch-surfing artists and the adventurous practices of the graffiti tribe. And what happens when it goes for a hike further afield?

    What do you call it when artists like Yok & Sheryo are on perpetual spraycation in places like Ethiopia or Mexico or when ROA is spraying his monochromatic animals in fields of Latin America or when New York graffiti icons are providing a backdrop to livestock that are chewing their cud and flipping their tales at flies?



    Is the graffiti and Street Art practice intrinsically tied to location or citizenship or local identity? Is is somehow made new by its audience?

    There is much concern expressed today about graffiti and Street Artists losing their “street cred” (ibility) or authenticity by painting permissioned murals in their home cities or at festivals they have been invited to.



    In many countries and regions there are no norms regarding aerosol art, so none are violated when an artist decides to spray a multicolored bubble tag on an old milk house next to a collapsed dairy barn.

    One wonders how to contemplate the work of artists whose culture has often been marginalized when the work itself keeps appearing in unexplored margins.

    As usual, the movement of these art forms and their various practices are in flux, continuously on the morph. At the very least the new context draws the work into strong relief, allowing a new way to regard its aesthetics.



























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    By Jil Picariello, ZEALnyc Theater Editor, February 1, 2017

    Back in November, I charted the arrival of a new heavenly body on Broadway. Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, making the move from its off-Broadway tent to the Great White Way, lost nothing of its ability to enchant. The music, the staging, the performances, the warm potato pierogies...all of it came together in the most creative and enthralling way.

    Based on a relatively small slice of Tolstoy's famed War and Peace, the show tells the tale of innocent Natasha's surrender to the charms of Moscow and the jaded cad Anatole. In case you've forgotten the novel (or never made it that far), Natasha is engaged to Andrey, who is off fighting Napoleon. Bad boy Anatole is the brother of wicked Hélène who herself is married to the searching, sad Pierre. It sounds complicated, although it's really not, and to help follow the plot there's both a synopsis in the program and an opening number, a prologue that introduces each character with a quick tag: "Balaga is fun, Bolkonsky is crazy, Mary is plain, Dolokhov is fierce, Hélène is a slut, Anatole is hot, Marya is old-school, Sonya is good, Natasha is young, and Andrey isn't here."

    And then the song continues: "And what about Pierre? Dear, bewildered and awkward Pierre?" Yes, what about Pierre? When I saw the show in November, the star and main attraction, Josh Groban, making his big Broadway debut, was ill. His standby, Scott Stangland, who played the role in earlier off-Broadway incarnations, was wonderful, I thought, and brought a sense of depth and darkness to the character that seemed missing from the show as a whole. After all, Tolstoy did not write the book as a comedy, much less one with music. Intelligent, naïve, and awkward, Pierre is the author's voice in the novel, and it is his search for meaning in a world riddled with greed, selfishness, and cruelty that drives much of the story.

    Having now seen Josh Groban in the role he was born to play, you can file that complaint away. His rich tenor and expressive performance brings a moving melancholy to the role that highlights the pain of not just Pierre's life, but the world he inhabits. He brings a balance and texture to the production as a whole that Stangland, as excellent as he was, did not deliver. With Groban filling the fat suit, I felt for Pierre, I suffered with him, and a show that made me laugh in November, now also made me cry.

    The other effect of Groban's participation is that Lucas Steele, as Anatole, shines just a tad less brightly, or maybe his glow is balanced by the light of Groban's deeper performance. Steele is still near-perfection as the ultimate bad boy, a sort of anti-Prince Charming. But he isn't the star now, Pierre is. And since Pierre's name comes first in the title--and he provides the ballast for the pain as well as the beauty in the tale--this means a richer, more balanced, more moving piece as a whole.

    The rest of the cast remains the same, and Denée Benton is still the picture of innocent charm as Natasha, Brittain Ashford as Sonya warmly expresses the pain of watching her dear friend and cousin throw her life away (her performance of "Sonya Alone" grows ever more moving), and Amber Gray makes Cruella de Vil look like Mother Teresa as the slinky, slimy Hélène.

    The whirlwind of music and movement, all under the direction of the brilliant Rachel Chavkin, pulls you into the story in a reconfigured theater (set designer Mimi Lien has crafted the Moscow-meets-Brighten Beach cabaret with incredible skill) filled with levels and catwalks on which the cast jumps and twirls, sings and dances through and among the audience.

    There are (my only complaint) far fewer pierogies and maraca eggs this time (I guess that the "audience giveaway" budget can only go so far). But who cares, really. Instead of a warm pierogi, you are warmed by the beauty and brilliance of the show. And instead of shaking your egg, you are shaken to your core.

    I'll trade a warm potato dumpling for that any day.

    ____________________

    Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 at the Imperial Theatre, 252 West 45th Street for an open run. 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission. Music, lyrics, book, and orchestrations by Dave Malloy, adapted from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy; directed by Rachel Chavkin; choreography by Sam Pinkleton; music supervision by Sonny Paladino; sets by Mimi Lien; costumes by Paloma Young; lighting by Bradley King.

    Cast: Denée Benton (Natasha), Josh Groban (Pierre), Brittain Ashford (Sonya), Gelsey Bell (Mary/Opera Singer/Maidservant), Nicholas Belton (Andrey/Bolkonsky), Nick Choksi (Dolokhov), Amber Gray (Hélène), Grace McLean (Marya D.), Paul Pinto (Balaga/Servant/Opera Singer) and Lucas Steele (Anatole). Standby for Pierre: Scott Stangland.

    Ensemble: Sumayya Ali, Courtney Bassett, Josh Canfield, Ken Clark, Erica Dorfler, Lulu Fall, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Paloma Garcia-Lee, Nick Gaswirth, Alex Gibson, Billy Joe Kiessling, Mary Spencer Knapp, Reed Luplau, Brandt Martinez, Andrew Mayer, Azudi Onyejekwe, Pearl Rhein, Heath Saunders, Ani Taj, Cathryn Wake, Katrina Yaukey, Lauren Zakrin.

    Cover: Josh Groban in 'Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812;' photo: Chad Batka
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    Jil Picariello ZEALnyc's Theater Editor writes frequently on theater and culture.

    For more features from ZEALnyc read:

    An Old Gem is Unearthed by the Mint Theatre

    'Albatross' Brings New Perspective to a Classic English Poem

    Complexions Contemporary Ballet Breaks Boundaries and Pays Homage to Rock Legend David Bowie

    Art Break: Combined Creativity--Comic Book Style

    For all the news on New York City arts and culture, visit ZEALnyc Front Page.

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    A new year should come with the promise of a fresh start, but a just released study examining the roles played by women working behind the scenes in the arts is singing the same somber tune we've heard again and again.

    The Celluloid Ceiling Report, conducted by the San Diego State University Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film, revealed that women constituted just 17 percent of all directors, writers, producers, editors and cinematographers working on the top 250 grossing films in 2016. In fact, women directed just seven percent of the top films last year, a two percent drop from 2015 and 1998, the first year the study was conducted. Perhaps even more shocking, of all the behind-the-scenes positions polled, only three percent of music composers were female. Moreover, women composers accounted for only 1.8 percent of the total pieces performed in the 2014-2015 concert season among the top 22 American orchestras.

    Even with the industry under arguably more pressure than ever before to change the tide and, in particular, close the gender gap, this is still a glaring problem. Yes, there are some anomalies: for the first time in over a century, the Met featured an opera composed by women in December. We celebrated Taylor Swift for being the highest-paid musician in the world. Missy Mazzoli's "Breaking the Waves" was among the year's strongest operatic premieres; Rolling Stone hailed Beyoncé's visual album the best of the year, and Ashley Fure's new orchestral piece, "Bound to the Bow," left a memorable mark at the New York Phil Biennial. Yet, for the most part, the arts and entertainment landscape remains exclusive.

    It's clear that this issue is deeply rooted and its prevalence widespread. So, it's time to change the tune and do our part to bring women into the spotlight. We can do this by cultivating an environment where they are welcomed, encouraged and empowered, and by investing the resources to grow their talent - as early as possible.

    As composer Missy Mazzoli recently said in an interview in the New York Times: "When you're young is when you receive the brunt of this sexist behavior. You don't have the defenses or the perspective to deal with it at such a young age, which is why I think a lot of women are discouraged from being composers when they're teenagers."

    Mazzoli is one example of an artist who is helping young women find their voice. Working in collaboration with Kaufman Music Center's youth orchestra, Face the Music, Mazzoli, along with acclaimed composers Ellen Reid, Reena Esmail and Kristin Kuster, launched a program called Luna Composition Lab. Luna Lab aims to address the gender imbalance head-on by creating role models, mentorship and performance opportunities for girls, along with providing access to a professional network of musicians. By connecting young women with established female composers, the program is starting to close the gap- providing girls with positive role models, fostering their confidence, giving them an outlet for self-expression and encouraging them to follow their dreams.

    Kaufman Music Center's Luna Lab is not alone in providing young female composers a pathway. Since 2013, the organization Opera America has awarded grants to women composers to create new works and to opera companies to commission them. Similarly, the League of American Orchestras sponsors orchestral opportunities for women in the early stages of their career. The Earshot project of the American Composers Orchestra has featured the music of more than 100 women composers over the past 15 years.

    While these programs are going a long way to inspire young women to partake in the arts, we need the help of local communities and leaders, schools, organizations and individuals across the country to truly level the playing field once and for all.

    A look back at 2016 alone is evidence that there's no scarcity of talent -- women everywhere are composing, directing, writing, filming and performing monumental works. But in 2017, let's build on the momentum and help bring them to center stage.

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    How can authors and aspiring authors deal with the lows that come with writing as a career? originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world.

    Answer by Allison Winn Scotch, New York Times bestselling author of six novels, including In Twenty Years, on Quora:



    How can authors and aspiring authors deal with the lows that come with writing as a career? This is a great question, and the only answer is through.


    Here's the honest truth: every single writer reaches low points. After my fourth novel, (for which I was paid very well and promised a lot of things that did not pan out), did not sell well, I was left angry, shaken and confused, I considered leaving the industry. It was a real reckoning: how much did I love what I did for a living vs. how unhappy the process made me? I am not alone in this feeling, regardless of when an author hits that point. Rejection, as I always tell aspiring writers, is simply part of the beast in this industry. If you are thin-skinned or take rejection personally, and I say this with the utmost love and kindness, this job isn't for you. I really mean that. Even now, I have manuscripts turned down, I get mean reviews all over the place, I get hateful emails. If this will make you crazy, find another outlet for your creativity.


    That said, back to your original question: the only way through it is through. You just have to keep writing. My very first manuscript was agented but didn't sell to a publisher. My agent and I parted ways. I wrote another book, found a new agent (an exhausting process in and of itself), and she sold that book at a four-way auction. You just have to have the tenacity to keep going. It is not a steady, always positive career, and you just have to go into it knowing that. Surround yourself with a great support system, befriend other writers who have empathy, keep going.





    This question originally appeared on Quora - the place to gain and share knowledge, empowering people to learn from others and better understand the world. You can follow Quora on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. More questions:

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    Hench (Lucas Hedges), 16, and Bobbie (Justice Smith), 14, are brothers living alone in what looks like a sparsely furnished suburban London council flat. Their mother, Maggie (Ari Graynor), lives elsewhere with an abusive boyfriend who sounds like her most recent boyfriend but definitely not the father of either Hench or Bobbie.

    Given the circumstances, the somewhat contained Hench is charged on a daily basis with bringing up Bobbie, who would likely be diagnosed as an extreme case of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. That's if anyone in proper authority were to be in the position to offer a diagnosis. Indeed, Bobbie could easily qualify as in the top ranks of relentless hyperactivity.

    When first viewed in Anna Jordan's Yen, at the Lucille Lortel, the brothers are watching porn on the flat screen television that, along with a bed and a chair, is the only notable object in this gloomy living room. Mark Wendland is the designer and appears to have intended to create a desolate environment that can also work as a metaphor for the boys' despair.

    Unseen on stage but definitely heard barking from time to time in an offstage room is their hyperactive dog Taliban. (Sound designer Fitz Patton takes care of the barking.) It's explained that Taliban is named that way because he's "fierce."

    Clearly, playwright Jordan is intent on bringing attention to current English affairs where children are left on their own to cope with living as best they can. She does so extremely effectively by zeroing in on these two lost boys who have no Peter Pan to rescue them. She quite ably shows the destructive results that follow from their virtual abandonment.

    Yes, Maggie drops by occasionally to give lip service to her maternal role, but she's obviously more in thrall to the men in her life than she is to the boys in her life. The couple of times she rises to defend them don't register as unadulterated commitment.

    During the few months that Yen unfolds, a catalyst for change does arrives--16-year-old Jennifer (Stefania LaVie Owen), who's visiting the neighborhood confine. Hench invites her to spend time with Bobbie and him, and over the hours she does, she shows herself to be uncommonly wise. Totally forthcoming about her feelings, she falls for Hench and he for her, although while she openly declares her feelings, he's initially unable to respond in kind. In one of Jordan's most touching scenes, Hench does get up the gumption to ask Jennifer to teach him how to touch.

    Because, however, Hench and Bobbie are so emotionally arrested by their circumstances, Jennifer's presence has eventual repercussions that negatively affect not only the progress Hench has begun to make but exacerbates Bobbie's unrestrained adolescent behavior.

    Detailing how this plays out would spoil the Yen developments that are both disturbing and, from a few perspectives, all but inevitable. Again, that's got to be playwright Jordan's aim in calling attention to ingrained societal deficiencies.

    Director Trip Cullman pulls no punches as, among other things, Hench and Bobbie indulge in typical sibling rivalry that often start as horseplay but can turn too quickly into more physically damaging punches. (The fight direction is by J. David Brimmer.)

    In Yen, sequence after sequence in is extremely moving. The Hench-Jennifer exchange mentioned above is one, but they're abundant. Another is a late-in-play talk Maggie and Bobbie have when he's gotten himself into a situation that causes him at long last to stop his all-but-constant pogoing.

    The acting, under Cullman's eye, is praise-worthy. Hedges, making a stage debut and currently Oscar-nominated for Manchester by the Sea, conveys the confusion Hench experiences as a child having to raise a younger child. His longing to mature while not knowing how that's accomplished is heart-tugging. There's also a smartly-staged late back-and-forth between Hench and Jennifer when their relationship has undergone an unfortunate transition.

    Owen, as Jennifer, gives a clear-eyed performance that seems beyond the character's years. Her unusual talent is hard to miss. Playing Maggie, Graynor is a mother uncertain of her abilities. Furthermore, she cleverly gets across that whenever Maggie visits, she's under the influence of drugs as well as under the thumb of a tyrannical partner.

    As for Smith, his has the full impact of a breakout performance. It's not every day that youthful exuberance is displayed with quite so little restraint. His carrying-on goes so far that--and this has to be Jordan's demand--he starts to wear out the audience. If so, he's only instilling in patrons the fatigue that Hench registers.

    There's an old saying that goes "youth must be served." Yen delves into what profoundly disturbing can take hold when youth isn't served.

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    The overarching title for the eight programs in San Francisco Ballet's new season is Infinite Worlds. The diversity of the works gives good reason for the term. The three evening-length story ballets include both Swan Lake, the renowned classical ballet set to Tchaikovsky's immortal score, and the North American premiere of Frankenstein, a dark, "mature audience" take on Mary Shelley's Gothic 1818 novel, by Liam Scarlett, the youngest choreographer to create a full-length dance for England's Royal Ballet. The third is Christopher Wheeldon's wonderful Cinderella, which you can read about here.

    But you don't have to wait for those ballets to get a sense of this company's amazing range. Artistic director Helgi Tomasson has a special knack for diversity when planning the programs with three short ballets.

    Take this season's first two offerings. Program One consists of "Haffner Symphony," a 1991 ballet by Tomasson to Mozart's beautiful Symphony No. 35 in D Major; "Fragile Vessels," a world premiere by Czech choreographer Jiří Bubeníček; and "In the Countenance of Kings," by the hot young dancemaker Justin Peck. (He's just 29 and already has created more than 30 ballets.)

    The "Haffner" is a neoclassical tutu ballet, whose elegant yet light-hearted pairings and sheer physicality let you know this isn't anything your nineteenth-century ballet companies would have danced. At a recent matinee, it was thrilling to see how well principal dancer Maria Kochetkova partnered with Angelo Greco, a young soloist new to the company, ably backed by several members of the corps.

    Then came our first view of "Fragile Vessels." You almost can't miss with Rachmaninov's popular Piano Concerto No. 2, and the San Francisco Ballet orchestra, under principal conductor Martin West, sounded superb. (Mungunchimeg Buriad was the pianist.) Clearly inspired by the dancers in this company, Bubeníček has created a rousing, energetic, very demanding dance, against geometric gold-and-bone sets by his twin brother Otto (also a dancer), for them. Principal Dores André, whom we saw that afternoon, has said of the brothers, "They ask for a lot of things that are very, very hard to do. I don't think they realize how hard it is for the other humans in the room to accomplish those things...things I would have never tried." That includes bold stop-start movements, off-kilter balancing, and gorgeously complex lifts.

    Of course, André was clearly up to the task, as were principal Joseph Walsh and soloist Wei Wang, who danced the second movement's intricate pas de trois with her. It tells you a lot about this company that the corps danced many of the same steps as the principals, and all made it look--not easy, but flowing, polished, almost effortless. Our audience gave them a standing ovation.

    Two of the company's most exciting dancers, Walsh and André returned, with principals Luke Ingham and Frances Chung and soloists Jennifer Stahl and Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, for Peck's premiere from last year, which also was created for San Francisco Ballet. This is the third ballet for which Peck, a soloist and resident choreographer at the New York City Ballet, used music by the multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens, orchestrated by his frequent collaborator Michael P. Atkinson. Peck's dance, too, calls for high energy and impressive athleticism. At times, you felt you were almost holding your breath.

    This program is properly named "The Joy of Dance." Program 2 is devoted to "Modern Masters," from William Forsythe and his thrilling, high-intensity "Pas/Parts" to Alexei Ratmansky and his "Seven Sonatas" to another world premiere by SF Ballet resident choreographer Yuri Possokhov, who never repeats himself and is always interesting. His latest, "Optimistic Tragedy," was inspired by the 1933 Russian play of that name as well as by Sergei Eisenstein's famous silent film Battleship Potemkin. Who wouldn't want to see that?

    Program 1: Feb. 2, Feb. 4 (matinee and evening); Program 2: Feb. 1, 3, and 5; Frankenstein premieres Feb. 17, War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., S.F., 415.865.2000, sfballet.org.

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    From penning witty zingers for the Tony Awards to hosting Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS fundraisers, Bruce Vilanch is no stranger to the New York theatre community. In 2005, Vilanch even starred as Edna Turnblad in Hairspray. When the Hollywood funnyman returns to Broadway, though, he hopes it’s as writer of the next great jukebox musical.

    “Think Mamma Mia!” said Vilanch when describing his new musical Sign of the Times. “In fact, please think Mamma Mia! -- because Mamma Mia! ran only 12 years, so please think of that!”



    Like other “jukebox musicals” -- productions such as Jersey Boys and Beautiful - The Carole King Musical -- Sign of the Times utilizes hit pop songs rather than an original score. In this case, the music of Grammy Award-winning, ‘60s British pop icon Petula Clark “and other hit-makers of the day” takes center stage.

    “When I was in college, and I was hearing Petula’s music, every time I would hear one of her songs, I’d say, ‘What show is that from?’” the comedian shared during an interview on Party Foul Radio with Pollo & Pearl. “They all sounded so theatrical, because they had big orchestras behind them.”

    Vilanch recalled a similar feeling when listening to ABBA years later, he told Podomatic’s No. 1-ranked LGBT podcast. Therefore it was not surprising, he said, when the quartet’s catalogue later became the foundation for the wildly successful Broadway hit Mamma Mia!

    “They had these big, Broadway pop arrangements behind everything,” said Vilanch of ABBA, noting that, like the Swedish super-group, Clark’s music also “lends itself very well to a Broadway show.” He said: “It always had that feel from the beginning.”



    A six-time Emmy Award-winner, Vilanch has supplied jokes to a veritable Hollywood who’s who, was the quirky center square for four seasons of Hollywood Squares, a long-time reporter and columnist for The Advocate and even cowrote Eartha Kitt’s campy 1980s hit “I Need a Man.” A featured writer on almost every major televised awards broadcast, he’s served as head writer for the annual Academy Awards since 2010.

    The hilarious blond – equally known for his inimitable appearance – is far more than champion of the one-liner though. He’s written successful stage productions stretching back more than four decades.

    Vilanch cowrote Bette Midler’s 1974 Broadway show Clams on a Half Shell and later inked her 1980 epic Divine Madness. The Divine Miss M again teamed with The Divine Miss V for The Showgirl Must Go On, Midler’s 2008 residency at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas.

    Vilanch forged a similarly long-standing relationship with Diana Ross. After befriending the MoTown legend on the set of Mahogany, in which he had a bit part, he wrote An Evening with Diana Ross. The show played Vegas, Broadway and was later turned into a television special.



    When approached by Richard Robins -- “a big real estate guy in Chicago,” who purchased Clark’s musical catalogue -- to work on Sign of the Times, Vilanch was “immediately interested.” What emerged is the tale of Cindy, a young woman who moves to New York City in 1965 and (according to production notes) discovers “unexpected friends, lovers, careers, and conflicts are all a subway ride away.”

    Based on an original story by Robins, and written by Vilanch, Sign of the Times features Clark’s biggest hits including No. 1 single “Downtown,” “I Know a Place” and, of course, the song from which the production draws its name. Also included are smashes from contemporaries Leslie Gore (“You Don’t Own Me”), Nancy Sinatra (“These Boots Are Made for Walking”), Dusty Springfield (“I Only Want to Be With You”) and more.

    After debuting last summer with a successful five-week run at Goodspeed’s Norma Terris Theatre in Chester, CT, Vilanch says it could be only a matter of time before New York calls. To gain perspective on the process, he turned to modern musical theatre genius and Tony-winning Broadway superstar Lin-Manuel Miranda (who Vilanch calls “Mr. Hamilton”).

    “He said Hamilton took seven years; everything takes seven years,” shared Vilanch, noting Sign of the Times is now in its third year.

    “Legitimate theatre, on the Broadway end, is like movies these days,” Vilanch concluded, “Things happen years down the pipeline. Hopefully the next year or so, it’ll end up on Broadway. We’re working our way there!”

    LISTEN: Bruce Vilanch talks Sign of the Times, Personal Stories About Diana Ross, Bette Midler & More




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    Greg Braun is an actor, director, and co-owner of The New Collective acting studio in Los Angeles. Since I first met Greg Braun in 1999 at the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan, I have been in awe of his talent. I've had the privilege of seeing him perform on stage and screen, and I appreciate the depth and truth he brings to each character. I recently caught up with Greg to learn more about his dynamic career in the arts and the important work of The New Collective LA.

    2017-02-02-1486054519-396185-GregBraunNC2017.jpg

    How did you discover your passion for the art of acting?


    I was a freshman in high school, and lucky enough to have an incredible drama teacher, Rich Russo, who encouraged me and helped me believe in myself.

    Do you remember the first time you truly loved an acting performance?


    It was interesting. As a teenager when I started to become interested in the complexities of great acting performances, I always loved the older male characters the most. The strongest memory I have was seeing Brando in "The Godfather". His portrayal of an old man fascinated me. I think it may have had something to do with the fact that I felt like an old man myself, even though I was thirteen. Then, I always wanted to play old men in high school in plays like "Sunshine Boys" and "My Fair Lady". It got to be pretty hilarious.

    How did you become an actor yourself?

    After doing plays all through high school, I pursued it further. I went to college for a year, then just went straight to New York City to really go for it.

    Which actors inspire you and your own work?

    Naturally, all the great Actors Studio actors of the '50's, '60's, and '70's: Marlon Brando, James Dean, Montgomery Clift, Robert De Niro, Al Pacino, and Dustin Hoffmann. All of them were role models for how to have strength, power, and vulnerability at the same time.

    Where else do you find inspiration?

    I feel like all the arts provide inspiration. I've always been a music lover. I love going to art galleries to be transported into an artist's vision. I also feel that nature provides the greatest inspiration of all, so I love getting out to the beach, the mountains, or the desert and let my mind wander.

    Which part of yours did you most relate to?

    The craft of acting demands that you must find a way to relate to every part, but it's not until I started working with Susan Batson, my mentor, that I truly began to understand what that process was really about. So, I would say, the parts that I worked on after beginning to study with Susan were ones that I related to the most.

    Susan directed a modern adaptation of "The Lower Depths" by Maxim Gorky, and we worked on developing our characters for months before even starting rehearsal. My character's name was Aly; he was a troubled street kid who loved to rap and run away from the police. Working on that was such an amazing experience and an unbelievable education. We performed for several weeks at the Actors Studio in New York and went on to do a six-week run in Hamburg, Germany.

    Do you have a performance which stands out as something you are personally and exceptionally proud of or that is particularly important to you?

    My first real film job in LA was a proud step for me. It was a stand-out character role in a Hollywood production, an independent film called "The Third Nail". I got to wear prison garb, say a lot of evil things to people, and get shanked to death by five angry prisoners. We shot in an old prison often used for film shoots, and I really got to work with great actors and a great film director, Kevin Lewis. I've had a few other independent film experiences in LA and loved them.

    Where and how do you like to relax when you're creating?

    In nature, with coffee, inspiring music, my script, and a couple of sharp pencils.

    If you could collaborate with any artist in all of history, who would you choose and why?

    Harold Clurman, founder of the Group Theater and prolific Broadway Director and writer. He was the greatest leader and innovator in the American Theater. He passionately believed that the theater was a primary art form, one of the fine arts. You can feel his passion for the theater in his words. My favorite book by him is his memoir, "The Fervent Years". I never had an opportunity to meet or work with Clurman, but my mentor Susan Batson did. I've always felt an affinity for his writing and his work. I feel like, if I ever had the chance to meet and work with him, I would be like a sponge, and it would change my life forever.

    Are there any particular comforts you like to have to hand when performing?


    I always found that music was always very important. I always put a playlist together for every character.

    How would you like your acting to be perceived?

    Just that the character felt like a real human being.

    Who are your mentors and heroes?

    My teachers, in order of appearance were: Rich Russo, Sandy Dennis, Peter Jenson, Joe Paradise, Viveca Lindfors, and Susan Batson.

    What inspired you to start your own acting studio?

    I started the New Collective LA with fellow actor and good friend Matthew Word in 2009 after the economy crashed. A huge writer's strike was happening in Hollywood, and it felt like there was a deep need for a space that supported the art of acting and the actor's process on a daily basis. I had previously been teaching for Susan at her acting studio that she created with her son, Carl Ford, called Black Nexxus. When the opportunity revealed itself in '09, we were able to form the New Collective with Susan and Carl's permission, and I will always be forever grateful.

    What sets The New Collective apart from other acting studios?

    Our program is designed to offer flexibility so that actors can tailor their program to serve their individual needs. We also offer the most one on one attention than any other acting studio. Everyone gets up and works in every class.

    What would you like potential students to know about The New Collective?

    We are a creative haven for the artist. We work with actors from all levels and all backgrounds. We aim to honor where you have come from in your process, and give you new things to incorporate. We are not a "strip you down and build you back up" kind of place.

    Is private coaching available at The New Collective?

    Yes, we do private coaching and tapings.

    What are your future plans for The New Collective?

    We really would love to see our actors taking their work beyond just working on their craft. We want to cultivate and environment for actors to create their own work. We recently renovated our space and have a brand new, 50-seat theater that we rent out for productions. We would love to have our theater being utilized by our actors creating their own projects and putting them up in our theater. It's already been happening here and there, and that's really exciting for us.

    What have been the biggest rewards and challenges of having your own business?

    The main challenge has been believing that it can be done, that the acting studio can be successful, but it always comes down to doing the work. The rewards have always come from committing to doing good work and caring about the work - caring about helping actors find their power and learn how to fly. Staying on track with that has always alleviated the fear and doubt.

    What do you love the most about teaching acting?

    I love that teaching keeps me involved in the art all the time and I love being able to turn a light on for artists searching to develop their process.

    Do you have a favorite motto or quote?


    "Everything you can imagine is real." - Pablo Picasso

    What artistic projects do you have on the horizon?

    I've directed two productions at the New Collective: "Frankie and Johnny in the Clair De Lune" and "True West". I would love the chance to direct another play, although it's challenging with my teaching schedule. I trust that the next project is on the horizon and always shows up at the perfect time.

    What do you most want to achieve as an artist?

    Just living an art-filled life.

    What advice would you give to a child who wants to grow up to be an actor?

    Never stop believing in your dreams.

    What do you most like to do when you're not acting?

    Spending time with my beautiful wife.

    You can follow Greg's work with The New Collective LA on Facebook and Twitter.

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    2017-02-02-1486058961-164948-Elephant.jpg
    It's fandom time!

    What The Cat in the Hat was to adults, the beloved Elephant & Piggie series, is to kids. After 25 books, author Mo Willems ended the line in 2016. To salute his efforts, last fall the New York Historical Society celebrated his career with a museum exhibition.

    Now, the New Victory Theater is celebrating the comedy duo with Elephant & Piggie's We Are In A Play!" -- based on six of Willems' books.

    And their young audiences could not be happier.

    Elephant Gerald (Evan Casey) and Piggie (Lauren Williams) click as "bestus" friends, who embark on a romp through parties, dances and a crack at trumpet playing on a day when anything is possible. Elephant wears a gray jacket, pants and glasses, while Piggie sports a pink dress and pigtails.

    Alongside the Squirrelles (Jamie Eacker, Jennie Lutz and Justine Moral), the two sing silly songs, enjoy a few wacky moments and otherwise revel in each other's company.

    Willems wrote the script and lyrics; Deborah Wicks La Puma composed the music. There are life lessons about friendship, caring and respect -- even stepping outside your comfort zone. Best of all, from the audience's point of view, they get a chance to join in the fun.

    The show is unabashedly sweet and packs punch for its pint-sized theatergoers.

    For adults, there is Paramour at the Lyric Theater. It is a departure for Cirque du Soleil: The acrobatic brilliance remains, but it's coupled with the Broadway musical genre, set in Hollywood's golden age.2017-02-02-1486059200-8265132-ParamourH.jpg
    The story is a love triangle -- Hollywood director A.J. (Jeremy Kushnier) plucks Indigo (Ruby Lewis) from obscurity to turn her into a star. Her composer partner beau Joey (Ryan Vona), isn't amused.

    In between the predictable plot lines, the $25 million production offers inventive stage acts. At a speakeasy, waiters perform nifty turns. There's always some Cirque-style business mixed with various scenes, like the stunning high-wire act from the Atherton twins. Most of the visual elements, coupled with an ample use of video projects, are dazzling.

    Director-conceiver Philippe Decoufle keeps the action flowing, and every now and then, the stage performances and the romance connect. One of the best moments is the "Love Triangle," where a trio of dancers recreate the emotional tug-of-war in mid-air. There's even a comic-book-style finale chase scene that's terrific to watch -- and a bit reminiscent of Spider-Man: Turn Off The Dark, which also played the Lyric.

    The twist, and the downside, is the story itself, which is banal. That doesn't mean the show isn't entertaining -- or the leads don't deliver. Just that as Broadway musicals go, it's more Las Vegas than Great White Way.

    Photos: Elephant & Piggie/Teresa Wood; Paramour/Richard Termine

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    Ludwig von Beethoven wrote exactly five piano concertos. Tchaikovsky, three. Brahms, two. Grieg, one. Okay, Mozart, the outlier, wrote 23, but if you're going to dedicate your life to touring as a classical pianist, part of your job is to keep these pieces fresh for yourself and for audiences.

    I asked Richard Goode, one of the world's greatest Beethoven interpreters, headed to Boston to perform a Beethoven concerto on February 12 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra as part of the Celebrity Series of Boston, how he does it.

    Michael: What's the secret of keeping Beethoven as exciting today as when you first performed his work?

    Richard: Since 2005, I haven't played many performances of these pieces, so it wasn't difficult to see them freshly this time around--something like meeting old friends after a long interval.

    I remember a comment by the pianist Mieczyslaw Horszowski, who said that progressing as a musician meant learning to read a score better. Returning to the 4th Concerto, I've been struck by the leisure and breadth of Beethoven's conception of the first movement--it is marked 'Allegro Moderato', and a moderate allegro is rather rare with Beethoven. There is so much detail, and much of the piano writing is delicate filigree.

    The seamlessness of the transitions in the first movement remind me of Mozart. It is something that I don't think Beethoven achieved in the first movements of his earlier concerti. This makes the dramatic climax in the development where the music goes to the most distant key--C sharp minor--that much more powerful. I think that in this piece, Beethoven is very much in dialogue with Mozart--specifically with Mozart's C major Concerto K. 503.

    Michael: The most popular Beethoven concertos are the 3rd and the 5th, the Emperor Concerto. What brings you back time and again to the 2nd and 4th?

    Richard: There are beautiful dialogues between piano and orchestra in both Beethoven 2 and 4. In the second movement of the 4th, it is very possible that Beethoven (as the legend goes) really did have in mind Orpheus pleading with the guardians of Hades. But there is also the very touching coda in the Adagio of the 2nd, where the piano's eloquent voice is answered by the hushed replies of the orchestra.

    Michael: How were these pieces received when Beethoven first performed them?

    Richard: One thing that might enlarge people's understanding of Beethoven is to realize how bizarre his music sounded to many of his contemporaries. Of course he was revered as a master, but the sheer weirdness and wildness of his imaginative flights were a constant source of amazement. He was compared to the poet Jean Paul Richter, the master of far-fetched metaphor, beloved of Schumann.

    Michael: The common perception of Beethoven is that his music is great but depressing. Do you buy that?

    Richard: Karl Ulrich Schnabel, the son of the great pianist Artur Schnabel, liked to say, somewhat mischievously, that Beethoven's music was '85% cheerful'. He felt that the pathos and tragic struggle too much dominated the public perception, with the enormous humor and classical balance getting short shrift. So symphonies 3, 5, and 9 fit the heroic and tragic image. Stravinsky said that he much preferred the even numbered ones. For Boulez, the Grosse Fugue was the summit.

    Michael: Where are the Beethovens and Mozarts of today? It seems as though no one is capable of composing what we would call classical music or universally accepted music.

    Richard: In their day, musical language was relatively codified--every listener understood the basic language. Those rules don't exist now--there is no agreed-on language, but instead an enormous freedom to make your own rules and convince the listener. It is very exciting and hugely challenging. Perhaps today's universal composers are not classical at all.

    Richard Goode will perform Sunday, February 12 with the Budapest Festival Orchestra at Boston's Symphony Hall under the direction of Iván Fischer.

    For further information, go to http://www.CelebritySeries.org

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