Arts & Culture Newsletter: A mini ‘Trolley Dances’ returns

Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.

I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.

“Mini Trolley.” That’s what Terry Wilson, artistic director of Jean Isaacs San Diego Dance Theater, calls this weekend’s downsized incarnation of the company’s longstanding and popular “Trolley Dances” series.

Normally, the site-specific “Trolley Dances” production is held over two weekends in the fall. But these are not normal times. Last September, SDDT produced a film commemorating the 22-year history of “Trolley Dances” and screened it at The LOT in Liberty Station. According to Wilson, another documentary screening is planned for this fall.

But in the meantime, “Mini Trolley” will be live Saturday and Sunday with tours beginning at the 70th Street Trolley Station in La Mesa and traveling the Green Line as far as the Grantville Station, then back.

Isaacs is one of four choreographers who created works for “Mini Trolley” along with Monica Bill Barnes, Jody Oberfelder of New York and Mary Anne Fernandez-Herding.

“It’s four sites and four choreographers,” Wilson said. “Four tours with a limited number of people for each tour. Our sites are all platform-related so the audience won’t have to walk very far to see the dances.”

So this is a scaled-down “Trolley Dances,” but SDDT is no less dedicated to it.

“We want audiences to know we’re still here,” Wilson said. “We welcome you to come and ride and enjoy.”

General admission tickets are $25.

Theater music

Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I”

Ken Watanabe and Kelli O’Hara in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s The King and I,” which aired Nov. 8, 2019, on “Great Performances” on PBS.

(Courtesy photo by Matthew Murphy)

The showtunes of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein got the full recital treatment May 22 when Bodhi Tree Concerts presented a best-of benefit concert online.

Like other Bodhi Tree presentations, this one found the seven cast members (Bryan Banville, Laura Bueno, Walter DuMelle, Sharmay Musacchio, Katherine Polit and DeAndre Simmons) vocalizing to the piano accompaniment of music director Nicolas Reveles.

The Rodgers and Hammerstein canon is a vast one, and all the best-loved shows are sampled, from “Oklahoma” and “The Sound of Music” to “The King and I” and “South Pacific.”

Having seen so many R&H shows many times, to me the bloom’s a bit off the rose when it comes to the likes of “Oh, What A Beautiful Mornin’” or “Some Enchanted Evening.” Still, this was an hour pleasantly spent, and there were a few film/TV clips interspersed among the singing, the most unlikely of which had to be from 1965: the real-life Maria Von Trapp teaching Julie Andrews, who played her in “The Sound of Music,” the proper way to yodel. Listen for yourself.


Michael Douglas, left, and Kathleen Turner

This image released by Netflix shows Michael Douglas, left, and Kathleen Turner in a scene from the third and final season of “The Kominsky Method.”

(Erik Voake/Netflix via AP)

The lure of Netflix’s comedy “The Kominsky Method” during its first two seasons was watching the co-leads, Michael Douglas and Alan Arkin, banter their way through the rough waters of old age. Douglas is Sandy Kominsky, an acting teacher in L.A. who never quite made it as an actor; Arkin is his best friend and agent, Norman Newlander, who has elevated cynicism to a high art. With these two old pros at the forefront and smart writing for them to work with, “The Kominsky Method” has been like a “Curb Your Enthusiasm” but without the overcooked irreverence.

The final season of the show, available for streaming since May 28, is a disappointment. Arkin’s Norman has passed away, leaving Douglas to carry on, admittedly with the help of some crack co-stars like longtime screen partner Kathleen Turner. However, the heart of this series was Sandy’s and Norman’s delightfully contentious relationship, brought to life by the easy chemistry between Douglas and Arkin, who voluntarily chose not to return for the final six episodes of the show. Season 3 of “The Kominsky Method” is still worth a watch, but its pizazz is missing.

Pop music

Musician Aretha Franklin recording at the piano at Columbia Studios in 1962 in New York

Musician Aretha Franklin recording at the piano at Columbia Studios in 1962 in New York. (Photo by Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images) Still from “The Apollo.”

(Donaldson Collection/Michael Ochs Archives / Getty Images)

As the addictive website This Day In Music demonstrates, every day of the year is a red-letter day in popular music. Let’s take today, June 3, for instance: On June 3, 1953, Elvis Presley graduated from high school in Memphis. On June 3, 1967, Aretha Franklin hit the top of the charts with “Respect.” On June 3, 2003, Barry Manilow broke his nose walking into a wall at his home in Palm Springs. OK, they’re not all monumental June 3s.

But in addition to finding out what happened on any day of the calendar year, this site can tell you who was born on which day; it can tell you what your favorite artists’ first jobs were; and there’s a little-known-facts page called “Liner Notes.”

The point is, you can spend a lot of time on This Day In, I mean a LOT of time. Maybe too much. But it’s great for playing trivia with your friends or just brushing up on your pop-musical knowledge.


A full house at The Old Globe's Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.

A full house at The Old Globe’s Lowell Davies Festival Theatre in Balboa Park.

(Courtesy photo by Craig Schwartz/The Old Globe)

Frank-N-Furter is back and O.B.’s got him. The OB Playhouse on Newport Avenue reopens “live and fully vaccinated” tomorrow with a production of “The Rocky Horror Show,” a staple in its pre-pandemic days. General admission tickets are $36.

Also returning tomorrow is OnStage Playhouse in Chula Vista. Its “special preseason show” is Kevin Artigue’s “Sheepdog.” It runs through June 27. General admission tickets are $25.

And last but not least as they say, the Old Globe Theatre opens its outdoor Lowell Davies Festival stage beginning tomorrow for presentations both live and virtual. There also will be events staged in the nearby Copley Plaza.

More theater

The cast of New Village Arts' "Beehive"erson and Megan Carmitchel.

The cast of New Village Arts’ “Beehive,” top row from left: Eboni Muse, Natasha Baenisch, Bibi Mama and Erin Vanderhyde. Bottom row: Brittany Adriana Carrillo, Rae Henderson and Megan Carmitchel.

(Courtesy photos)

Theater is popping up all over San Diego County this month as the state moves toward the full lifting of pandemic restrictions. Because the official all-clear won’t arrive until June 15, theaters are coming back in different ways, including new virtual shows, outdoor shows and indoor shows that adhere to the latest social-distancing restrictions. Here’s a look ahead at locally produced theater productions in June.

Music returns

Ziggy Marley performs a concert at Petco Park on Sunday, May 30, 2021.

Ziggy Marley performs a concert at Petco Park on Sunday, May 30, 2021.

(Tuff Gong Worldwide/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Beach Boys and Ziggy Marley play back-to-back Petco Park shows: ‘Good Vibrations’ meet ‘Rastaman Vibration’ — read the review by the Union-Tribune’s George Varga.

Meanwhile, America, Boz Scaggs, Chelsea Handler head Humphreys Concerts by the Bay 40th anniversary lineup.

And the La Jolla Music Society announces star-studded, in-person SummerFest lineup after online-only 2020 edition.

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay

Humphreys Concerts by the Bay

(Photo courtesy Humphreys Concerts by the Bay)


University of California Television (UCTV) is making a host of videos available on its website during this period of social distancing. Among them, with descriptions courtesy of UCTV (text written by UCTV staff):

“Integrative Therapy to Manage Anxiety and Reduce Stress”: Stress is universal and is experienced by all of us at some point in our lives. Most will recover from stressful experiences, but for some stress becomes a constant, unwelcome companion. Stress is not just in our minds, but is deeply somatic — that is, it affects us psychologically in ways that feel beyond our conscious control. In response, somatic psychotherapist Dave Berger advocates a diverse array of traditional and complementary healing practices, integrating the relationship between an individual’s emotional challenges, family dynamics, and cultural issues with their physical well-being to aid in the healing process.

“The COVID Vaccine: Debates, Distrust and Disparities”: Creating vaccines was only the first hurdle in ending the spread of COVID-19. Challenges include limited vaccine supplies, availability of specialized storage, and careful administration of vaccinations amid a highly polarized environment. Members of some populations of color and ethnic groups lack trust in the health care establishment due to a long history of maltreatment and systemic racism. All of these factors are barriers to achieving the high vaccination rates needed for herd immunity. This program examines vaccine distrust and disparities in San Diego County, and how we may overcome them in the most equitable, reasonable and humane way possible.

“The College Board Makes Big Changes”: For decades, tests like the SAT and ACT played a dominant role in college admissions. In response to the pandemic the majority of American colleges and universities are now “test optional” or “test blind,” meaning they will not consider an SAT or ACT score when deciding student admissions. In response, the College Board has eliminated SAT subject matter and essays tests, sparking a nationwide conversation about the college acceptance process. Steven Mercer and Adam Ingersoll examine the post-SAT landscape, including the effect on the number and diversity of applications and increased importance of AP courses and extracurricular activities.

Coddon is a freelance writer.

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