Out West Arts: Performance at the end of the world

Opera, music, theater, and art in Los Angeles and beyond

All Filler. No Killer.

June 24, 2010


On Wednesday, I tweeted this:
It's official. There is no longer any reason to subscribe to @UCLALive. 10/11 season is pointless without theater.
To which I received this direct message from @UCLALive:
Which sounds to me like a question that deserves an answer. The less than 140 character version would be:
You betcha.
The longer one would be:

It comes as no surprise that the 2010/2011 UCLALive season that was announced on June 23rd is a disappointment. Following the sudden dramatic resignation of David Sefton, the organization’s artistic director for nearly a decade, it had already been made clear that economic woes had forced the university to cut back on programming in ways that Sefton felt were unacceptable. This included canceling the annual International Theater Festival and, according to comments Sefton made in the Los Angeles Times, "unbooking" acts he had already made arrangements with to perform in L.A. However, after finally seeing what UCLALive had to offer for next season, I can now understand why he left in such haste. I’d have bailed ship too rather than embarrass myself by having my name associated with the complete evisceration of one of the city’s most important performing arts programs.

The loss of the International Theater Festival is enormous. It has been the centerpiece of the entire series for many years and was just about the only component of the UCLALive schedule that brought works to L.A. that there was no chance of seeing anywhere else locally and in relatively few locations elsewhere in this country. Surely this must have been some of the most expensive programming UCLALive sponsored, and undoubtedly its attendance and revenue generation had been hampered by the poor economy of the last two years. However, to enforce the dumping of all theater performances as part of the next season marks a complete inability of the powers-that-be to distinguish art from filler. Let me put this in the most direct terms. If UCLALive was looking to reduce the costs of their programming, they could have cut everything except two or three theatrical events and they would have produced a more entertaining and important season than the promise of decidedly unremarkable leftovers served up this week.

But let’s put the loss of the Theater Festival aside for the moment. What’s even more disappointing about the 2010/2011 season on offer in Westwood is how redundant, unoriginal, and ultimately unimportant the rest of what is promised for next year is. Much of the programming is little more than repeat engagements from artists who’ve appeared at UCLA time and again in the past. Does it really set UCLA apart to host another annual visit from David Sedaris? Even the supposedly big events—live visits from Murray Perahia, Stephen Sondheim, and Laurie Anderson—have all been there, done that, given that each of these artists have appeared doing more or less the same thing at UCLA within the last few years. The classical music offerings are pretty sad as well. There will certainly be more familiar faces like the Takács Quartet and Jeffrey Kahane. But of the six classical performances offered, all but one are exclusively chamber music and one of those is a mysteriously nondescript organ concert that neither indicates what is being played or who is scheduled to perform. Now that’s what I call music.

It’s a shame that UCLALive has gone from a leader in the local performing arts scene to veritable life support in such a short time. This is especially true considering the number of local arts organizations that are proving you can operate successfully even in this economic environment with edgier and unusual programming such at the Theater @Boston Court and Long Beach Opera. But there is hope. Both REDCAT and the Broad Stage have shown interest in welcoming experimental theater from both local and foreign shores and have done so with some success in the last three to five years. And while neither have the facilities that UCLA does, apparently both have a bit more savvy about what’s worth saving and what’s not when it comes to live performance. And best of all, neither of these venues charges you ten dollars to park just so you can then walk across campus to the theater.



Just don't ask us for any favors when we bring back theater in 11/12.
Ouch! That's gotta hurt Brian, "we're not going to comp you for something we *might* put on 2 seasons from now". You pay for everything you attend, right? because you're not a professional critic.

What’s even more disappointing about the 2010/2011 season on offer in Westwood is how redundant, unoriginal, and ultimately unimportant the rest of what is promised for next year is

$88 bucks (+ service charges) top ticket for Ornette Coleman, again? That classical series is beyond sad, too.
Another fair question. I pay for the great majority of everything I see, but I have received press tickets on occasion from UCLALive and others. In 2009, I saw 19 performances on comp tickets out of a total of 265 shows for a rate just above 7 percent. Half of those 19 comps were for shows that I already held tickets for, but used the comps for additional viewings of the same performance at later dates. I have accepted comps for 13 performances this year so far and I always identify when I have been given tickets in the piece I'm writing about.

I have received tickets specifically from UCLALive on 3 occasions by my count out of the 50 or so I've attended there over the last five to six years. On all three occasions I requested them, though not all of the comps I've receive are at my request.

I'm no moral paragon, and I admit I can be bought with very little attention and investment. I feel that in this regard, I'm no different from professional critics. I'm just more up front about it.
I spend 180 days a year teaching 12 years olds. Had no idea until now that some of them moonlighted at UCLA Live.
The UC system, starting with Senator Dianne Feinstein's corrupt husband Richard Blum, is basically just another arm of organized crime at this point. You shouldn't be all that surprised. Cal Performances up at UC Berkeley thinks everyone should kiss their behinds and shut up too while they use public resources as if they owned them.
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