Archive for the 'Events Around Los Angeles' Category

01 August

These are a few of my favorite…

Bruce Norris’ play A PARALLELOGRAM, which is playing through August at the Taper, contains many of my favorite things: time travel, birds, and Mary Louise Burke.

Time travel: I’m a sucker for the idea that we can and do and will be able to surf the zones. Soon.

Birds: Who doesn’t love a beautiful bird? The British poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, in his poem the “Windhover” said it best: “My heart, in hiding/Stirred for a bird/The achieve of, the mastery of the thing!”

Mary Louise Burke: is an old timey and deeply delightful NY stage actress. As a stage presence she has both gravity and grace.

The play is getting “mixed” reviews, which is what prompted me to write this, to let our MPW community know that the play is worth seeing.  I almost missed the gorgeous/subtle production of Nina Raines’ TRIBES – I saw the penultimate performance—  so I couldn’t get the word out and many people missed it.

But this one? Don’t miss this one. Even if it sort of annoys you (as it did my two companions) or if it completely delights you (as it did me)—it contains not only Time Travel, Birds, and Mary Louise Burke—it contains IDEAS about fate, Karma, agency, mental illness, relationships, love, and what language is good for—almost anything it turns out.  And it reminded me of this subtly profound Ashbery poem:

At North Farm

Somewhere someone is traveling furiously toward you,
At incredible speed, traveling day and night,
Through blizzards and desert heat, across torrents, through narrow passes.
But will he know where to find you,
Recognize you when he sees you,
Give you the thing he has for you?

Hardly anything grows here,
Yet the granaries are bursting with meal,
The sacks of meal piled to the rafters.
The streams run with sweetness, fattening fish;
Birds darken the sky. Is it enough
That the dish of milk is set out at night,
That we think of him sometimes,
Sometimes and always, with mixed feelings?

Click here for info on tickets.


Here are M.G. Lord’s thoughts on the play, as posted on her FB page:

I loved Bruce Norris' A PARALLELOGRAM at the Taper. It might be about a woman losing her mind. But I prefer to see it as about a woman realizing the shortcomings of the human race and how much better life might be after an apocalyptic event that wiped out most of humanity. Of course, I am not an entirely reliable source: I cheer for the Cylons in BATTLESTAR GALACTICA.

03 February

Visiting Writer: Nick Flynn 1/25/2013

On January 25, poet and memoirist Nick Flynn visited the Master of Professional Writing Program to give a workshop open to students in all genres.  That evening, he also appeared at the  ALOUD series of the Library Foundation of Los Angeles at Los Angeles Central Library, where he read from his new memoir, The Reenactments.

The Reenactments , Nick’s third memoir, adds a new layer of experience to his first, Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.   Nick watches–in the opening lines of the book, he is staring into a camera monitor–as director Paul Weitz and his cast and crew film a movie, Being Flynn, based on his first memoir of reconnecting with his father, Jonathan, when he appears as a client of the homeless shelter where Nick works.   

Nick shared with MPW students some of his ideas about writing poetry and prose, working in multiple genres, and having more than one project underway at a time–”I always have something to feel guilty about,” he joked.

A podcast of Nick’s reading and conversation with Elvis Mitchell will soon be available on the ALOUD site.

26 July

Watching The Clock…

Last night I urged a friend to see The Clock.

“I think I read about that,” she said. No doubt she did: Kenny Turan in The LA Times, or Leo Braudy in The Los Angeles Review of Books or Zadie Smith in The New York Review of Books, or Wendy Lesser in The Threepenny Review, or way back in February, Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker.

In a blurt, I admitted that I’ve been three times. And it’s true: I went first with my daughter (for just a half an hour); again with my husband and son (forty-five minutes); and then, without telling anyone, I snuck over to LACMA all by myself (stayed for a whole hour). By this time The Clock was not just a guilty pleasure (you went again? In the middle of a weekday afternoon?)–but a puzzle, a riddle, something to be solved: Because each time I didn’t want it to end, each time I couldn’t wait to see what happened next, wondered what had happened before, resolved to come back; and each time, though I didn’t want to leave, I walked away strangely satisfied–which is to say stirred, inspired–and what does that tell you (tell me, anyway) about The Clock? Well, that this is art at its most compelling, all layered up and having to everything to do with life and the relationship between the two, art and life, I’m sure of it; drop into The Clock, and you might find yourself thinking about what is to drop into any moment anywhere; frame it this way or that, and it’s not just significant, it’s also a beginning or an ending depending on your point of view.

“Remind me,” said my friend. “What is it exactly?”

And I explained that The Clock is an installation at the Los Angeles County Museum by Christian Marclay, an artist best known until now for his work in sound; but this is 24 hours of film–old, new, color, black and white, silent, foreign, domestic, big screen and small–synched up to real time in Los Angeles (but only until the end of this week–the exhibit closes on Sunday, July 31st); a collage of found art–moving pictures–in which almost every frame references time, or features a clock.

And first off, don’t you have to admire the artist who meticulously edited the whole with full knowledge that most of us are not likely to see more than an hour or two? Second, imagine the delight for some of the people some of the time, of revisiting beloved movies, actors, images, now spliced together in a way that pays homage on the one hand, but, on the other–and this is third–dishes up a new idea about narrative, reminding us, that though we are wired to look for meaning in beginnings and endings, we are actually stuck in the middle most of the time. So–if a phone goes unanswered in one movie, somebody picks it up in another in the very next frame; and if a single scene happens to actually resolve in the space of an hour–as when DeNiro finally shows up to meet Meryl Streep at Grand Central Station in Falling in Love (a triumph of editing since the original film is 106 minutes long in its entirety)we don’t need to remember why she didn’t believe he would come or what’s at stake if he doesn’t. The moment itself is hugely moving, and moves us along to the next.

But how to convince my friend of that? How to get her to rush out and see for herself before the end of the week? “When will they put out the DVD?” she asked.

Look, LACMA owns The Clock; undoubtedly the museum will produce a boxed set before too long. But I hope not. Because The Clock is meant to be viewed in real time–that’s the point. The narrative here–and there actually is one, I think–has something to do with all of these stories happening at once, and us, in the audience, complicit, trying to make sense of time in real time. What we are doing–watching the clock–is vital to the experience as conceived by Marclay. Here then is a work of art about the universal language (time!) which also serves to underscore the truth that, our penchant for meaning aside, we might as well surrender to our part in a story (for lack of a better word) that we can only ever partially imagine or understand.

So–go see The Clock (A 24 hour screening begins at 5 p.m. this Thursday). While you’re there, check out The Mourners, next door, also closing the 31st. Tim Burton is on view through October, it’s true. But otherwise, hurry, hurry, you’re running out of time…

09 May

Photos and Video from the Festival of Books

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books may be over, but memories remain….

Master of Professional Writing Program faculty member MG Lord (pictured below, left) moderates the panel, “Behind the Microscope”:

To MG’s immediate right is Lauren Redniss, whose brilliant graphic biography of Marie and Pierre Curie, Radioactive, MG plans to teach in her graphic novel course at MPW next year.  (The book was nominated for the the L.A. Times Book Prize in Science and Technology.)  Also pictured is Terry McDermott, author of 101 Theory Drive, a book about Gary Lynch, a wild-man neuroscientist at UC Irvine who has made breakthroughs in understanding how memory works.

Also on MG’s panel was Oren Harman, author of The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness, the biography of a bizarre outsider genius who investigated why kindness has not been eliminated by natural selection. Harman won the L.A. Times Book Prize for Science:

Pictured below, from the left, is MPW Program Director Brighde Mullins, MPW faculty member Nan Cohen, novelist David Francis, and poet Steven Reigns:

Here’s graduating MPW student Tom Rastrelli, working the MPW booth:

And MPW faculty member Prince Gomolvilas, posing with a random masked wrestler who wandered the festival:

Finally, here’s a Festival of Books highlights reel:

08 May

Keeping It Real at the Festival of Books

The Los Angeles Times Festival of Books is a miracle of sorts—of the many ways to read and write in America in 2011.  In the midst of celebrity authors (Jillian Michaels, Rainn Wilson, Ted Danson, etcetera) and the local grass-roots contingent and hardcore, high-end literati, I hosted a panel called Teaching Kids Writing.  Due to the increased marginalization of the arts in the national curriculum, it has fallen to nonprofits and arts organizations to create outreach programs that preserve and nurture the arts as well as create unique experiences that only arts education can provide.

Melinda MacInnis from the University of Southern California’s Neighborhood Academic Initiative talked about the genesis of her program, which began after the 1992 L.A. Riots:  “Years ago, when L.A. was literally on fire, USC had a choice—to build walls around the campus, or to reach out into the community. USC reached out.”

Melinda brought two students (pictured) to read from their work.  Joslynn Cerrato, an 11th grader from Foshay Learning Center, read a short essay called ”I Am American”  and Vanessa Lopez, an 11th grader from Manual Arts Senior High School, read a poem called “Feeling Blue.”

Michelle Meyering, from the writers’ advocacy organization PEN Center USA, introduced her program, which brings writers into schools. Two of our Master of Professional Writing students, Amie Longmire and Krishna Narayamurti, brought in three students from West Adams Preparatory High School. Teresa Meza read a  memoir, “I Was Wrong”; Domonic Flowers’ poem, “Save Me a Spot in College,” was a college application essay written in rhyme; and Natalia Zepeda’s short story, “Snow Woman/Ice Queen,” was riveting—all in all these young writers brought down the house.

Krishna talked about the three goals he and Amie presented—to be better writers, to be published, and to be brave. The last injunction, which was about BRAVERY, was an interesting one because we do talk about the risks involved with writing our truths, our stories.

Because writing is itself, as Gandhi reminds us, “an experiment with the truth,” the very act of writing can be an act of discovery.