COMMUNITY CARRIES ON
For those in the arts and entertainment industries, the COVID-19 cloud continues to linger, casting an indeterminate shadow over calendars packed with planned upcoming events. Reporting this week’s cover story — which hits newsstands tomorrow — on the return of live shows brought me into conversations with people who are very brave, very tired, and, most frequently, both of the above. Jason Jones, co-owner of the Red Piano, spoke for many when he wrote to me that “The biggest problem with this whole thing is just not knowing when the end is or if there is even a light at the end of the tunnel. There is at least another seven months left until we get through the next flu season — how many of us will still be in business?”
With a few days’ perspective to contemplate his poignant remarks and hard question, all I can say is that there is a light — the vaccines have already had an incalculable positive impact — but there’s still no way to know what part of the COVID tunnel they illuminate. Of the two national news stories I read about arts and entertainment today, it’s telling that the more optimistic one was about how an outbreak among vaccinated people was handled in Provincetown, Massachusetts, while the other diagnosed the national concert business with a herd-wide case of whiplash.
With a current personal concert count in the double digits since June 15, I am happy to report that, as a fully vaccinated person following the CDC guidelines for masking as they evolve, I have yet to either contract a breakthrough case of COVID or experience a pandemic panic attack in a theater. Yes, there have been moments — a long restroom line at a large venue in Los Angeles, for example — that left me anxious, and there have been artistic decisions, such as the two performances I witnessed during which the audience was asked to sing along, that I would not fully endorse. Yet overall, for the fully vaccinated, concerts appear to be reasonably safe so far. Go outdoors if and when you can, and attend anything indoors with a mask. Right now, these are our options, so let’s enjoy them and learn to live in a world where the privilege of communal experience carries with it a significant degree of personal responsibility.
LADY DAY IN SOLVANG
The great actor/singer Karole Foreman returns to PCPA for the starring role of Billie Holiday in the chamber musical Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill beginning on Friday, August 20. Santa Barbara and Solvang/Santa Maria audiences know Foreman well. In addition to her outstanding performance in PCPA’s production of Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change, Foreman has been in three recent productions at Ensemble Theatre Company: Porgy and Bess, Sweeney Todd, and Intimate Apparel. The show, which dramatizes a representative evening from the end of Holiday’s career, puts the late singer’s monumental achievements in the context of an unbearably difficult relationship with fame, racism, and the United States. See it and learn more about one of America’s most influential musicians. (And the beautiful Solvang Festival Theater is all the outdoor venue anyone could ask for.)
SHAKESPEARE ON THE LAGOON
UCSB’s Naked Shakes returns to live performance with a free production of Twelfth Night on September 3 at 5 p.m. and September 4 at 1 and 5 p.m. Expect some righteous razzle dazzle from Professor Irwin Appel’s supersized cast. They will be playing this Shakespeare comedy in the daylight and by the shores of UCSB’s lagoon. Look for a preview article coming soon.
UCSB ART AND MUSIC DEPARTMENTS CARRY ON
The UCSB Department of Music will present its annual Summer Music Festival as a virtual event this year. Titled Under One Sky, the festival, which runs August 28 and 29, features a remarkably wide range of genres, from gamelan and North Indian music to classical compositions for two cellos. To watch, go to the department’s YouTube channel.
Thanks to the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara and their own superior persistence, the UCSB MFA program class of 2020 finally gets to showcase their work beginning on August 21 with Unending. The exhibition will be on view at MCASB in the Paseo Nuevo through September 12 and features the work of Thomas Stoeckinger, David White, Kio Griffith, Marshall Sharpe, Serene Blumenthal, and Megan Koth.
Perhaps you think you have exhausted the options available to you on the major streaming services, but have you seen Top Boy on Netflix yet? This crime drama set in London gets everything right, from the grimy streets and council housing estates to the effortless flash of the drug-dealing characters’ athleisure wear. Fans of the John Singleton drama Snowfall on FX/Hulu will recognize the matter-of-fact tone with which Top Boy portrays the difficult decisions and dicey trade-offs of the modern drug trade. Thanks to Drake for rescuing the show for American viewers and stepping in to executive produce seasons three and four. Look for hot young British rapper Dave as Modie in season three, and in the meantime, listen to “Heart Attack” from Dave’s fire new album We’re All Alone in This Together.