Monday, March 24, 2008

LA Chamber Music Fixe

I've always loved chamber music. There's just something intimate about it, even in a fairly large concert hall - the small number of instruments making such a wonderful combination of sounds, perhaps. So it was no wonder that I had such a great time when I was able to attend Chamber Music with Janine Jansen, part of her weekend of concerts in her LA debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall.

Lucky for me (and for you!), there's plenty of chamber music opportunities in the Los Angeles area to keep your calendar filled...

Here's a highlighted run-down just for the month of April:

For more information about this and other great events in Los Angeles - as always - check out

-Charity Tran, Web Coordinator

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sweeney Todd at the Ahmanson

For most musicals, the orchestra's in a pit and the actors do their singing and dancing thing on the stage. For Sweeney Todd? Not so much.

I wasn't sure what to expect going into the Ahmanson Theatre for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. I was going into it cold turkey - no movie-watching, no pre-listening of a soundtrack, no wikipedia-reading. All I knew was that there was a barber and there was going to be some dead characters by the end.

But while the story was a great twist of tangled relationships, dark humor, and memorable songs and characters - the best part was seeing the way the story was produced (which I post-read was a new production).

A handful of actors - instruments in hand - take to the stage to bring the story of Sweeney Todd to life. Try being in character while playing a cello...or a tuba for that matter. These singer/musicians take to the stage, often using their musical instruments to reflect their characters, and wow the audience with not one specific thing - but everything all together.

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street runs at the Ahmanson Theatre from March 11th-April 6th.

-Charity Tran, ExperienceLA Web Coordinator

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Love, Betrayal and Pirouettes?

Angelina Ballerina was one of my favorite children's book series as a little girl intrigued by whimsical illustrations of mice twirling and leaping in pink and yellow tutus. Despite the current shift to digital means, the tangible world of literature will always be close to my heart, invoking memories of the excitement I'd feel whenever I'd open up a cover to dive into yet another new dreamworld. Like I told a friend of mine the other day, I can't imagine curling up by the fireplace with a steaming cup of tea by my side, eager to dive into the world of my... e-book?

Speaking of dreamworlds... American Ballet Theatre (ABT) returns to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion to perform Swan Lake, a romantic tale of love, betrayal and forgiveness. Click here for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see this production of breathtaking choreography, lavish costumes, visually spectacular sets and Tchaikovsky's glorious score.

And leave it to LA to provide opportunities for children of all ages to meet Angelina Ballerina and pose for photos. Children can meet this favorite mouseling following the 2pm ABT matinee on March 29th. I'd go if I didn't already have plans... just kidding. Well, sort of.

Be sure to check out ExperienceLA for more ABT performance dates and times!

-Sarah Koo, ExperienceLA Arts/Culture Marketing Assistant

Interview: Abdul Malik, Community Artists Guild

Daood sits down with Abdul Malik, actor and founder of the Community Artists Guild....

Daood: Before discussing your acting career, you are the founder of CAG (Community Artists Guild). Can you take us back to the inception that led up to this essential institution?

Malik: I left the industry in Hollywood in the late seventies to move back to my original home Detroit and raise my family in a more culturally aware environment. During my first years there I got involved with the professional and community arts industry and realized that a lot of aspiring actors were throwing it all away to go to Hollywood without a clue to what the industry was about. The misconception was that talent alone would ensure your success, which is a big mistake in this city. It's not who you know, but who knows you and what you do. There was also the age old predator factor of unscrupulous producers exploiting local talent and not compensating them because they're uninformed and unrepresented, and mostly non-union. So, I started the CAG to educate actors, with my 30 years of experience in the industry, on what they needed to know in order to be successful in Hollywood and also how not to be exploited in Detroit or anywhere else.

Daood: To what would you attribute significant differences from your contemporaries as an art institute?

Malik: Well, most of their programs have turned their backs on the programs, institutions and visionaries that trained us in this community, such as A.C. Bilbrew's performing arts training workshops, Eubank's Music Conservatory, C. Bernard Jackson's Inner Cultural Center, Nick Stewart's Ebony Showcase Theater, PASLA, Marla Gibb's Crossroads, the Watts Prophet's Workshop, the Mafundi Institute, in that the main focus was training and giving our youth exposure to the arts. Most of the training was free or low cost, also, rather than merely using and taking credit for the artistic resources of the community for their own personal benefit. Our focus is on training our students in the technology and techniques of the future that will give them a viable income in their chosen profession, as well as the skills and humanity to pass those skills on to the next generation.

Just about every Major Black and Hispanic actor in this business who came here with no connections in the 60's, 70's, 80's, and 90's came through those institutions and hasn't done a thing to establish anything to replace them. Nobody's pushing our kids in this community up, so we had better be about the business of pulling them up. And that means all cultures and races in our community or you'll have them all fighting for the same crumbs off the table and trying to destroy each other. The system will only replace them with another group or culture of people and we have failed to understand that.

Daood: .…and those attending CAG have the opportunity to perform a variety of classical text such as?

Malik: We do all the classics from every genre, stage, television, and film as well as independent and avant-garde works. We give our students a well-rounded education in the performing arts from Shakespeare to August Wilson because versatility is the key to survival as a performing artist or technician. Also, the Black, Asian and Hispanic history and experience in America is unique in that there has never been a time when those cultures have not had contact with all the other cultures in the American Diaspora.

Daood: Elaborate on the pertinent aspect of working on scenes from published plays as well as screen plays?

Malik: As a professional performing artist, and especially a minority artist, your job is finding the next job. Therefore you should be auditioning in every aspect of the industry so that you have a constant source of income or you will quickly become homeless in this town. That includes theater, film, television, writing, public speaking, voiceover, narration, and any other form of media. This industry will need your skills at any given time to do any given thing, and as an artist you are here to fulfill their needs, that's how we get paid, by being necessary to tell the story. You therefore need to be familiar with the published scripts and screenplays, which usually is the standard and basis of the genre, as well as being open to the new material being introduced. That is what makes you marketable no matter what your race, creed, gender, religion or color.

Daood: As your students become astute in their craft are there opportunities to perform original pieces?

Malik: Absolutely and more so now than before, because the access to the technology is so easy and just about anyone that has a good story to tell can be seen or heard. There are thousands of stories of the Black Experience alone, from ancient Africa to the present that haven't been told. We constantly encourage our students to crossover into all other trades in the industry.

Daood: Is musical theatre apart of your genre and what are your thoughts of the adaptation of Dreamgirls to the silver screen?

Malik: We have moved away from theater for the most part: 1) because there are many organizations that focus on those areas [and] 2) our focus is to help artists gain and sustain employment to survive, and theater in Hollywood in not something that will sustain an artist, New York is different in that respect. I thought Dreamgirls being adapted to the screen as well as the new version of A Raisin' in the Sun and Lackawanna Blues is a great move to expose our stories from our point of view because plays do give you an opportunity to get more into the story rather the visual nature of the story.

Daood: If you had the opportunity of a live multi-media dream play combining dance, original music, what would be the subject matter and why?

Malik: But I will say that the most important projects these days would be on what the previous leadership of the sixties movement would think about the State of Our Race, Country, communities, leadership and our youth today as compared to their periods and what would be their solutions to our problems today.

Daood: Venturing back into the novelty of acting, at what pinnacle point in which you absolutely new that becoming a thespian was not going to be a short story?

Malik: Probably, every year that I've been actor and found that it was not going to be something that I could do by myself. I want to give up everyday, but can't afford to, and I can't let down all the people who have supported and believed in me, especially my family, wife and children who have sacrificed the most in my absence while on tour.

Daood: With countless films and stage performances, far too many to mention here, apart of your repertoire, is there any particular roles that you have not played of interest?

Malik: I don't know…After portraying Malcolm X and performing for his family, followers, nemeses, and all over the country and world for the past thirty years and playing him at different points in his rich life, and being investigated by the FBI, I think was the ultimate role. Maybe Iceberg Slim or one of the characters in Donald Goines' Books because their stories don't glorify the horrors of the fast life in our communities and are geared toward steering our youth especially our young girls away from that life style.

Daood: Any films, stage performances can we look forward to seeing you in?

Malik: I will be doing my final command performance of the One Man Play Brother Malcolm X: Reminiscences of a Revolutionary by Frank G. Greenwood here in Los Angeles on Malcolm's birthday where I started in 1978. Of course as a working actor you could see me anywhere, Stage, Film, TV, or hear me as a voice over artist.

Daood: Are there any forthcoming CAG projects in which we can look forward to attending?

Malik: Our Big Screen filmed showcase of our workshop actors is forthcoming after the writers strike is over. Also Our First Takes: Kids in the City, Visual Media Communications after school program will be screening their film shorts for the public at Johnnie Cochran Middle School in June.

Daood: Thank you for partaking in the interview!

Those interested in more information about CAG:
Phone: 323 779-7791