Photo of the Week

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“Yosemite Self-Portrait” © Bob Corn-Revere

 

Of Note

A tsunami of complaints is flooding the Internet following last weekend’s first ever Forever Neverland Festival.  A newly-created  Facebook page, FNL Scam 2014, calls the Avila event “an absolute disgrace” and is demanding that concert-goers receive a full refund. Organizers cancelled numerous musical acts and events at the last minute, citing “California’s drought situation and budget considerations.” Visitors who paid as much as $250 a ticket are left to figure out legal options. KSBY

PCPAlogonewPCPA has a new name and a new look. Coinciding with the announcement of its new season, the 50-year-old organization is dropping “Theaterfest” from its name as well as “Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.” From now on the professional resident theatre company will be known as PCPA – Pacific Conservatory Theatre. The name change is intended to be more accurate. “It’s a conservatory for theatre arts,” according to PCPA communications director Craig Shafter, “as opposed to a conservatory for all the performing arts, such as a Julliard.”

The Imitation Game, a World War II thriller starring Benedict Cumberbatch, took the all-important People’s Choice Award at the Toronto International Film Festival. The prestigious TIFF recognition has been seen as a precursor to an Oscar for Best Picture, given recent winners, including 12 Years a Slave, Slumdog Millionaire, and Silver Linings Playbook. Check out the main winners. Hollywood Reporter

creativeeconomyforumThe inaugural Central Coast Creative Economy Forum will be held at the Performing Arts Center in SLO on Friday, October 31 with Nina Simon, author of The Participatory Museum, as scheduled lead-off speaker. Writer Joshua Wolf Shenk is the closing speaker of the event that features networking sessions throughout the day. Registration fee is $35.

Sarah Linn explores “Dimensions,” the current exhibition of fine craft at the SLO Museum of Art that features artworks created from clay, fiber, glass, metal, paper and wood by artists living in California. The pieces were selected by juror Carol Sauvion, creator of the Peabody Award-winning series Craft in AmericaArtbound

dannyleinerDanny Leiner is set to direct the feature film Seven Sisters, based on an original screenplay by David Congalton. Leiner’s resume boasts a wide range of television and film credits, including The Sopranos, The Office, Arrested Development and movies such as the cult classic Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and The Great New Wonderful.  Filming of Seven Sisters, set in and around San Luis Obispo, is planned to begin in early 2015.

In case you’ve been out of the loop lately, you should know that the Irish rock band U2 recently released its first album since 2009. Even better, Songs of Innocence is completely free—that’s correct, free—to iTunes users. Turns out the new deal is merely part of a larger $100 million arrangement between U2 and Apple. Tech Times

The National Guild for Community Arts Education's Opening Plenary at the Fairmont Chicago, Millennium Park on Thursday, October 31, 2013. Photos by Jasmin Shah.More than 500 arts leaders and arts education experts are expected to attend the annual conference of the National Guild for Community Arts Education in Los Angeles November 19-22. Regular registration rates close September 30.

Immerse yourself in art and culture-related distractions thanks to a fascinating compilation by Katherine Brooks of 18 apps that every creative person is guaranteed to enjoy. The Huffington Post

On the writing blogs:   Learn how teaming with your fellow authors can lead to social media success—Anne R. Allen   &&&   Remind yourself of the Art of Brevity and the importance of cutting out the fluff—Mandy Wallace

Quote of the week:   “Reading good fiction is like making the jump from masturbation to sex.” — Stephen King

Review

36 Views: A Sensual Delight

By Charlotte Alexander

September 13, 2014 (Santa Maria, CA) – So . . .  PCPA closes its 50th anniversary season with 36 Views, a play that few theatre-goers on the Central Coast will recognize. And the playwright, Naomi Iizuka, may be even less familiar, although she directed the playwriting program at UCSB for several years until 2008, when she moved on to lead the MFA playwriting program at UC San Diego.

36viewstitleWhile at UCSB, Iizuka worked alongside Risa Brainin, a talented director PCPA has brought in to bring life to this amazingly complex yet simultaneously uncomplicated production. Brainin presents this incongruity to us in many small packages, always in well-designed and well-played bits and pieces―36 scenes, in fact―that reflect the layers of language and meaning Iizuka has built into her work of art.

Make no mistake, this is a work of art about art, and about words and meaning and misunderstanding and truth and, ultimately, the nature of reality.

That big a picture, even painted on the relatively small canvas of PCPA’s Severson Theatre in Santa Maria, may scare away those who think it leaves no room for flirtations or frivolity in the midst of all the heady discussion. It shouldn’t, because as the production settles in for its relatively short run through the end of this month, the fine cast and crew and the many visual and poetic delights they present are truly worthy of discovery.

36views7The play begins with the words “True story!” spoken by Darius Wheeler (a well-cast, erudite Andrew Philpot), who practically begs us to pay attention. Those aren’t the last words the art dealer utters that you have reason to suspect are less than genuine, however, as layers of meaning and interconnections are exposed. As it turns out, everyone connected with Wheeler seems to have some truth or circumstance he or she needs to cover up or play coy about.

There’s Wheeler’s new friend, Setsuko Hearn (an intense and luminous Jully Lee), who as a professor of East Asian literature wants to believe what Wheeler tells her about a rare, priceless “pillow book” he may have just uncovered. Their growing attraction believably fuels a fire that in the end undoes them both.

36views14There’s Wheeler’s assistant John Bell (George Walker in his least melodramatic performance in recent memory), who is a Renaissance man “withering on the vine” according to his friend and co-conspirator Claire Tsong (Leah Anderson, in a performance remarkable for its intelligence, subtlety and wit).

Moving around these four central characters are two supporting players: the always dependable Peter S. Hadres as an affable professor, and Karin Hendricks as a nosy journalist who hopes to uncover a juicy, if illegal, story. But there are other, uncredited and almost invisible figures completely swathed in black who inhabit the stage most of the time as well. They bring in props, rearrange the few minimalist set pieces, help with costume changes and in general provide silent witness as well as active assistance in moving the plot forward.

What transpires is a layered guessing game of what is authentic and what is masquerade, what is real and what is forged. While plot and structure are complicated, the production design is anything but.

Scenic designer DeAnne Kenndy offers up a flat, clean square of wooden floor space, with large sliding panels as a backdrop on which are projected pictures and videos throughout the show. These wonderful projections, designed by Adam Flemming, are handsome yet subtle, predominantly in black and white.

Working under Brainin’s deft guidance, the other members of the design team also present us with a cohesive simplicity: costumes by Robin Newell (one character removes a thin silky robe, under which is another and another and yet again others); sound by Andrew Mark Wilhelm (a sharp rap on a wooden block often punctuates key dialogue or the spark of touching hands); lighting by Michael Klaers (lanterns operated onstage by the shadowy figures become concentrated spotlights when needed).

Music composed by Elisabeth Rebel is spare but graceful and unpretentious. Even the name of the play conjures up the refined simplicity of a woodblock print in its homage to Japanese artist Katsushika Hokusai.

At times the set feels like it’s waiting, waiting, waiting for something—its blankness as open and ready for embellishment as any empty art museum exhibit hall, gallery space between shows, or church sanctuary before mass. It’s the intrigue and lies and obfuscations of the play that come to fill the space, and that ultimately entertain audience members lucky enough, or adventurous enough, to attend a performance.

36 Views is a sensual pleasure, perhaps because it is such a cohesively designed whole. What a satisfying way for PCPA to cap off its 50-year celebration.

Asked & Answered

……………

Christy Heron: Author

I write what I would want to read. I write for the everywoman.

christyheron1

September 15, 2014 (San Luis Obispo, CA) — Christy Heron spent six years on the Central Coast as a writer/editor at New Times before moving on to Florida in 2011 to help care for her elderly parents. But she’s back in the news with the publication of her sexually graphic, in-your-face novel, Unrequited: One Girl, Thirteen Boyfriends, and Vodka. Much of the action takes place in Pismo Beach, so we caught up with Christy in Florida about the adventures of January Estlin and Christy’s thoughts about being a writer. Warning: The following R-rated exchange is not for the faint of heart.

David Congalton: The basic question: How much of the main character, January Estlin, is drawn from your own life?

Christy Heron: Maybe 20 percent. Some of the greatest writers in the world take exclusively from their own experiences. They do it because they’re brilliant (because they transform those nuggets into amazing fiction) and because they know it will entertain—or at least they’re betting on it. I don’t claim either, but I know a good story when I think of one. I’m no Jennifer Egan. Then again, maybe she wrote from her own experiences. I don’t claim to be anything I’m not. I write what I would want to read. I write for the everywoman.

christyheron2DC: There are moments in Unrequited when I just want to scream at January. “Move on!” “Get over the guy!” Stuff like that. So why can’t she? What keeps January making all these obvious mistakes?

CH: Haven’t you ever loved someone who wasn’t necessarily good for you? If she didn’t make those mistakes there would be no story. Plenty of people make sane and reasonable and rational choices. January isn’t one of those people. No conflict, no fucking story. This is a girl whom no one has ever said NO too. She doesn’t want anyone else! She’s a slow learner, and not equipped for such passion. Not equipped for such a powerful force to land in her lap. Ultimately, she expects him to reciprocate her feelings. She is in a foggy fairy tale of sorts after she meets the man of her dreams. OK, great for her but now what? She probably says to herself, “Now let’s fuck and make babies and never grow old and kiss the rest of our lives away. Smile at me while i make dinner and I’ll smile at you while we hike in Avila.” January struggles with rejection for the first time in her life, or maybe it was her breaking point from years of rejection from certain family members. Many male readers have said the exact same thing as you. January craves the character Short Fat Fuck. She defines her days by the chase. If he had asked her out and dated her, she would’ve probably dumped him after a month. But again, then there wouldn’t be a story to tell. I think the severity of her learning curve and propulsion to make the same mistakes over and over is a testament to what true mental illness and zero emotional stability will do to a person. It drags on and on. But there are reasons why. There are always reasons why.

DC: We should remind our readers that much of Unrequited takes place in Pismo Beach, and you lived on the Central Coast for many years. What was it like being single here? How would you describe the dating/bar scene?

CH: I came from a place (well, lived there) that had at least ten bars within walking distance of my house, and 30 more within a one-mile radius. The best lounges, dives, whatever, in the world. So I’m spoiled.  But the best thing about the “bar scene” up here are the hotel bars on the beach. Cliffs, Dolphin Bay, Moonstone, Avila, etc. Often I daydream about being back on the back patio of the Cliffs downing bottles of white wine with friends on Sunday afternoon. That ocean view. The dating scene on the Central Coast is great and allows for many options. If you want to stay single forever, you can. If you want marriage, it’s easy to find that as well. It’s what you make of it. Now a days there is a good mix of folks: the winery culture and the inevitable passing of time and the transformation of the area has brought a in different population. You can have a quiet family life in Arroyo Grande or swim the social scene throughout the beach towns, up to SLO and to Paso. I think as you venture further out of the Five Cities the possibilities become even more so. This is obviously my own warped view, but the real meal tickets are at the golf fundraisers and wine tastings. Hit up a winery on Sunday afternoon. Crowds I couldn’t imagine within 100 miles of the Five Cities are right in front of your face. But overall, it’s an easy going scene. Love is around every corner. Drinking helps.

DC: Your writing can be brutally honest and in-your-face. Who are some of the authors you’ve read along the way who helped inspire and shape your writing? I’m curious about how your writing style evolved.

CH: My writing style is innate—it comes completely natural to me. I have no idea how it evolved. I don’t ask why. I wasn’t trained. I honestly don’t read that much except for research. Definitely there are authors I admire but I try so hard to be individualistic in my craft. I don’t want to mimic anyone. I like reading bios in my spare time. As for contemporary fiction and the latest “it” writers, I only read for research. For instance, with 50 Shades of Grey I read a sex scene. Just so I didn’t do one single thing like she wrote it. I think there were still some similarities. but I wanted to portray most of the sex as realistic. We had another similar line too, that I couldn’t believe. I was like, fuck, I wrote this shit before her book came out. It’s not plagiarism right? It would never be considered that, but it was so similar it was eerie. Every single word I put in my book is researched, researched some more, and then picked at like a scab until I’m left with something I can tolerate (in that draft at least). Every word. I can’t do it any other way. That is why producing a good manuscript takes a long time. By the end of a day, it feels like I’ve done a two-hour spinning class. I’m crying, I’m dumbfounded, I’m stressed, I’m hating life. I’m hating my life choices. I’m hating my kitchen counters. I’m hating the reams of paper and ink cartridges. There is nothing ordinary about my personality or the way I do things, the way I live. Everyone looks at me like I’m crazy and just shake their heads when I tell them how I write, or what I’m writing about. I’m unique, I guess. (AW). See that? I wrote (AW) instinctively because I hate the word unique and that is my code/reminder to go back and change the word—or better yet, change the entire sentence to show the reader what I mean: don’t tell them “unique”: fucking show them unique. I’d rather write, then think about why I write the way I write.

DC: On the final page, you talk about what happened to Jack, but what do you think happened to Jack as a man? Will he ever grow up and mature or will he always be a dick?

CH: January would say that Jack will never change. He might tell you he has, but he hasn’t. It’s heartbreaking because the Jacks of the world are probably pretty lonely and miserable. And did you see him as a dick? I thought he was endearing at times, but wait —liars and sociopaths aren’t empathetic and I’m pretty sure that goes for themselves as well. So maybe lonely and miserable aren’t in the cards for him. He will be fine. He’ll go through life on easy street because he has no feelings. I wish January had that ability. Seriously.

DC: What, if anything, did you learn about yourself from getting this story out? And how are you doing in the relationship department these days?

CH: I learned that without a few MIRACULOUS pieces of advice from my very first readers, my book would be a piece of dog shit. I learned that if you are a committed writer, you had better be tough. There is nothing easy about this. I say sometimes, “Man, I wish I would’ve ‘went into’ high finance,” or something lucrative from the outset. Got a useful degree and worked at Google or Yahoo. I wouldn’t wish being a writer on anybody. And the worst part is, the writing is the most beautiful, fun part of it. It’s everything after (except for) the writing. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry. God, relationship department? Such a complicated question for me right now. I’m watching a parent die, taking care of my parents, and have been for a few years (and dealing with someone who has late-stage Alzheimers who gets violent—and just batshit crazy at times), so dating and sex really haven’t been on my mind. But lately that is changing. If I met the right person I’d be down to date and hang out. This week I’m in love with Jack White because I’m seeing him perform this weekend. He’s playing in Jacksonville—about two hours from my house. Two months ago when I drove to another one of his concerts, I totaled my car outside of Atlanta and instead of watching him assault guitars and a mic for two hours, I was stuck in Georgia for five days with two black eyes. I thought Kentucky (my final destination—where the actual concert was taking place) was the closest I was going to get to a Jack White concert. Little did I know. Oh, so January and I have that in common—we both love Jack White. Oh, I’m in love with my royalty reports too. Actually that’s a love/hate situation. Being in your mid-thirties and single is a combination the devil himself created. It sucks. I can go into further detail if need be on that one. Ha!

DC: What’s next for you as a writer?

CH: I plan on expanding my publishing company. That is exciting for me. A new adventure. Something totally different. As for writing, a few things: a two-volume novel about 20-something life in Los Angeles. Twenty-Something and Blonde. It will eventually become a series with three volumes. Also, a few short stories. One called Thank You Ted Bundy for Killing Me, or Ted Bundy: Kill Me Please, and a few more. I’m always writing little ideas here and there. I love to see where they take me. Then there’s Soulcrusher. Nonfiction—I’m so excited about it. That will take at least a year to write, and to expand on and edit what I’ve already written. I pray I get to experience all of it.

Review

The Last of Robin Hood and Frank: The Price of Fame

By David Congalton

September 15 2014 (Santa Maria, CA) –Actor Errol Flynn, best known to generations as Robin Hood, lived hard and fast and died of a heart attack at the age of 50. Those last few years were particularly unpleasant, with the one-time box-office champion reduced to TV game show appearances, bad plays and B movies. Even worse, Flynn, the subject of a notorious rape trial in 1942, spent the last two years of his life in the company of a teenager, Beverly Aadland, with the implicit approval of the underage teen’s mother, Florence.

last_of_robin_hood-620x346All this provides the backdrop for The Last of Robin Hoodwith Kevin Kline, Dakota Fanning, and Susan Sarandon starring as legendary actor, struggling actress-dancer, and bitter stage mother respectfully. The title is misleading—this movie is as much about Sarandon’s character, the woman who never got her Hollywood dream, as it is about the boozing, brawling, larger-than-life Flynn. Once Flynn has his heart attack, there is still another 15 long minutes for mother and daughter to try and negotiate their terms of endearment.

Kline, who previously has taken on a wide range of historical characters including Cole Porter and Lincoln presidential adviser Edwin Stanton, is spot-on as the aging lothario, weary beyond years, chasing a girl a third his age. I grew up on Errol Flynn movies, and Kline captures every wicked detail, from the accent to the phony bravado. It’s a wonderful performance. I wish his character had more screen time.

UnknownBut this is also about the Aadland women, as well, and frankly, their story simply isn’t as compelling. Once young Beverly succumbs to Flynn’s well-tested charms, there isn’t much conflict to the story and, personally, Florence tends to wear out her welcome rather quickly. The story limps from true event to true event in that period of 1957 to 1959 with obvious parallels being drawn to the tabloid press then and now.

Production values are excellent, even with Georgia locations filling in for Los Angeles. You get a real flavor for the period, but Kline’s uncanny turn as Hollywood’s greatest swashbuckler leaves one wondering what this film might have been had it been more about Flynn and less about the objects of his desire.

……………

Frank has a big head. No, really. He does. Huge. Actually it’s made of fiberglass and the guy, a singer-songwriter from rural Kansas, never takes it off, not even in the shower. WTF? Yeah, I know. It’s difficult to explain. You just have to go see Frank (playing exclusively at The Palm) for yourself.

An aspiring British songwriter, Jon (the always annoying Domnhall Gleeson), encounters a touring band called Soronprfbs, who suddenly has a need for a keyboardist after theirs attempts suicide. The band is fronted by Frank (Michael Fassbender) who sports this enormous fiberglass head 24/7 and launches into Jim Morrison-flavored musical tirades on stage.

Unknown-1Opportunity knocks and Jon quickly retreats with the band to Ireland to record a new record. Scoot McNairy (In Search of a Midnight Kiss) is the damaged band manager and Maggie Gyllenhaal basically steals the movie as the combative thereminist. Jon has big plans for the band, big plans for himself, and soon Soronprfbs is invited to perform at the prestigious South by Southwest festival in Austin.

I confess that I spent much of my time watching Frank wondering why I was. It wasn’t until the final ten minutes when Fassbender appears, minus the head, singing with such raw emotion and pain, that the film really hit me. This is a small, loving story, apparently inspired by true events, that captures the pursuit of fame and the fragility of the human condition. We all wear masks, don’t we?