Arts & Culture Newsletter: Experience La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, this time online

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.

La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest is over for another year, but if you missed any or all of the festival’s in-person programming, you’re in luck: At no charge through Tuesday, you can stream six of the SummerFest 2021 full-length concerts, while 20 education events will be online indefinitely.

Four of the streamable concerts are part of the festival’s “Synergy Series.” Also included is the “SummerFest Finale: A Love Composed” and “The Silver Score: Iconic Cinematic Scores that Define the Hollywood Sound.” I opted to launch my own virtual SummerFest experience with the latter.

“The Silver Score” begins like gangbusters, with the Calder Quartet, the Balourdet String Quintet and bassist Xavier Foley collaborating on the “Psycho Suite,” music written by the legendary Bernard Herrmann for “Psycho,” just one of his memorable scores for Alfred Hitchcock. From the thrilling musical backdrop to Marion Crane’s (Janet Leigh) fugitive flight from Phoenix to the chilling, knife-strafing shower scene at the Bates Motel, the “Psycho Suite” dramatically demonstrates how music and film can at their very best work together.

This nearly two-and-a-half-hour concert also includes Philip Glass’ “The Poet Acts,” best remembered from the 2002 film “The Hours”; Samuel Barber’s “Adagio for Strings,” featured in both Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” and David Lynch’s “The Elephant Man”; and composer John Corigliano’s supple music for the exquisite Francois Girard film “The Red Violin.”

Somehow strings don’t seem as conducive to John Williams’ “Star Wars” score, which to my mind requires more bombast.

I’m sorry I didn’t make it to SummerFest, annually one of San Diego’s premier musical events. Next year. Hopefully maskless.

Visual art

Mingei Executive Director and CEO Rob Sidner

Mingei Executive Director and CEO Rob Sidner

(Sandy Huffaker/For The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Welcome back, Mingei International Museum. After being closed for three years, the Mingei in Balboa Park is reopening Friday. Admission for the next four days will be free in celebration.

You may not recognize the museum after its $55 million reimagination project, but you’re likely to be amazed by the Mingei’s added architectural openness and amenities. For more on what’s new at the museum, see my Union-Tribune story here.

The opening of two exhibitions coincide with the Mingei’s return: “Global Spirit – Folk Art from the Ted Cohen Collection” and “Humble Spirit / Priceless Art.”


This undated image released by Copyright Bob Ross Inc.

This undated image released by Copyright Bob Ross Inc./The Joy of Painting, shows the late Bob Ross, host of the PBS series “The Joy of Painting.”


Netflix’s official trailer for its new documentary “Bob Ross: Happy Accidents, Betrayal & Greed” is a tease, that doesn’t tell you a damned thing about the film. Now that I’ve watched it, I can tell you a lot. First of all, if you’re a fan of Ross, who passed away in 1995, and of PBS’ “The Joy of Painting,” fear not. Your cherished memories of both are not besmirched.

The thrust of this documentary is an indictment of Ross’ longtime business partner, Annette Kowalski and her husband Walter, who are painted (sorry) as villainous exploiters of Ross’ celebrity and brand, especially after his passing.

Leading the charge is Ross’ surviving son, Steve, who along with several of his father’s friends and associates testifies to the Kowalskis’ alleged, titular betrayal and greed. I buy it, but then I loved the gentle-voiced, nature-loving Bob Ross, even though I’ve never attempted a painting in my life. Before the film goes completely on its crusade, it offers many endearing clips of Ross, on and off camera, and archival photos of the days before he wore his famous fro.

If you’re like me, this film will anger you but also make you miss and mourn the TV painter who felt like an old friend.


Nicolás Ramiro Valdez, playwright and performer, from San Antonio, Texas

Nicolás Ramiro Valdez, playwright and performer, from San Antonio, Texas will present “Conjunto Blues” at the San Diego REP Latinx New Play Festival.

(Courtesy of San Diego REP)

San Diego Rep Latinx New Play Festival founder Patrice Amon says she and her artistic cohorts didn’t set out to create a theme for this year’s three-day event, which begins Friday. But the idea of connection emerged, organically.

“Each of the plays is about connecting — either with ancestors of family or your past — with who you are or who you want to become,” Amon said, “or about connecting with the heritage of your community.”

Readings of the festival’s five plays were pre-recorded and can be viewed in person at San Diego State University’s Conrad Prebys Aztec Student Union Theatre or streamed live online. Tickets are pay what you will.

In other theater news …

Karen Ann Daniels will join the Folger Shakespeare Library and Theatre this fall.

Karen Ann Daniels will join the Folger Shakespeare Library and Theatre this fall.

(Garlia Cornelia Jones)

San Diego native Karen Ann Daniels has always loved theater, Shakespeare and museums, and she’s long had a fascination with the nation’s capital city. So her recent appointment as director of programming at Folger Shakespeare Library and artistic director of Folger Theatre in Washington, D.C., feels like a snug fit. Read more in this story by the Union-Tribune’s Pam Kragen.

Digital interviews

Sean Penn

Sean Penn

(Taylor Jewell/Invision/AP)

The online magazine has been around since 2011, but I only discovered it last week when happening on to a Q&A interview with actor Sean Penn. The guy gets on my nerves sometimes, but he’s never dull.

Neither is this website, which archives hundreds of short, printed Q&As with figures across the spectrum of culture: film, music, literature, art, sports, business and more. Some of the transcribed interviews feature embedded video clips, though these are mere snippets and don’t add much to the package. Accompanying portraits of each interviewee, however, pop with personality.

A major quibble of mine would be that I couldn’t find dates of the interview with any of these (save the recently posted Penn offering). Context, a product of the time and the circumstances, underlines the meaning of any interview.


National Comedy Theatre cast members

National Comedy Theatre cast members (from left) Gordon Fitzgerald, Melissa Whitney, Jessica Talson Burtness and Sharon Skare.

(Courtesy of National Comedy Theatre)

With laughter needed more than ever, the timing of the National Comedy Theatre’s return Friday couldn’t be better. And you know what they say: in comedy, timing is everything.

NCT’s improv comedy show stems as it has since 1999 from audience suggestions. Performances are Friday and Saturday nights at 7:30 and 9:45 p.m. You’ll find the theater at 3717 India St. in Middletown.


Gary Coronado Los Angeles Times

Gary Coronado Los Angeles Times

(Gary Coronado/Los Angeles Times)

On the eve of his biggest movie yet, PLNU and SDSU grad Destin Daniel Cretton talks about how San Diego shaped his Hollywood life, filming during a pandemic and why directing a Marvel movie wasn’t something he ever wanted to do. Read more in this exclusive Union-Tribune interview.


University of California Television invites you to enjoy this special selection of programs from throughout the University of California. Descriptions courtesy of and text written by UCTV staff:

“Poverty, God & Politics”: National leaders at the nexus of faith, highlight spiritual and political strategies that can move us out of the COVID pandemic in a way that puts us on track to end hunger and poverty. David Beckmann discusses two foundational insights from his years as president of Bread for the World — that dramatic progress against poverty is possible, and that faith communities can help change the politics of poverty. Episodes are drawn from a joint seminar on poverty, communities of faith, and politics cosponsored by the UC Berkeley Goldman School of Public Policy and the Church Divinity School of the Pacific.

“Stem Cells and Curing Blindness”: There are several diseases that can lead to blindness, but UC San Diego research scientist Karl Wahlin thinks there might be one way to cure them all — endogenous regeneration. Wahlin works with retinal organoids which are miniature retinal models developed from stem cells, and he’s hoping to use these tiny retinas to find a cure. Wahlin has teamed up with UC San Diego Stem Cell Program Director Alysson Muotri who is using a similar technique to study the brain. Together, they hope to understand how the brain and the eye influence one another’s development.

Steven Schick, distinguished professor of music and Reed family presidential chair, poses for photos in his studio

Steven Schick, distinguished professor of music and Reed family presidential chair

(Eduardo Contreras/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

“Bernstein Centennial – La Jolla Symphony & Chorus”: Steven Schick conducts this 2019 performance that begins with Laurie San Martin, one of this country’s most important ebullient composers, followed by the lightness of a classical great — the seldom-heard “8th Symphony of Beethoven” — and concludes with Leonard Bernstein’s extraordinary and poignant “Symphony No. 3 (Kaddish)” with chorus, soprano soloist, and narrator. The Bernstein piece, named for the Jewish prayer for the dead, was dedicated to the late President John F. Kennedy and premiered in the days after his assassination in 1963. It is a reflection simultaneously on the loss of a president and the loss of a generation of European Jews — powerful music, but also hopeful.

And finally: Top weekend events

Actor Taron Egerton sits at the piano, with his head tilted back as he recreates Elton John's 1975 Dodger Stadium moment.

Taron Egerton as Elton John at his Dodger Stadium appearance in “Rocketman.”

(David Appleby / Paramount Pictures)

Here are the best events happening Thursday, Sept. 2, through Monday, Sept. 6.

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