Arts & Culture Newsletter: San Diego Dance Theater looks at life, love and loss

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.

Next March, San Diego Dance Theater will celebrate its 50th anniversary. In the meantime, the company founded by SDSU Professor Emeritus of Dance George Willis has something else to celebrate: This weekend, SDDT presents its first formal performance indoors without dancers being masked since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Capturing Balance: Dances of Life, Love and Loss” features three pieces: “Crossroads” choreographed by SDDT Executive Artistic Director Terry Wilson; “Love Letters: Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera” choreographed by Wilson’s predecessor Jean Isaacs, who had been artistic director since 1997 before retiring; and “KWAN” by guest choreographer Khamla Somphanh. Performances will be Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and 2:30 p.m. Sunday at the Light Box Theater at ARTS DISTRICT Liberty Station in Point Loma.

Wilson’s “Crossroads” was first performed back in January 2020. “It has to do with the different losses I’ve had in my life and witnessing other people go through those kinds of losses,” Wilson said. “You go through grief and you pick yourself up and move on.

“It’s more poignant now because we’ve lost so many people because of COVID.”

Isaacs’ “Frida Kahlo to Diego Rivera” dance, Wilson said, is evocative of “a tremendously passionate love that’s almost indescribable,” while Somphanh’s “KWAN” “moves into the spiritual realm. It’s also about balancing and about the Buddhist belief system.”

The company of seven dancers is excited to showcase these works and to embrace the future, said Wilson, as is she: “I’m looking forward to excavating some of the dreams I’ve had on the back burner and working toward creating dances for the company.”

Actress/playwright Nambi E. Kelley

Actress/playwright Nambi E. Kelley

(Courtesy of San Diego Repertory Theatre)

Theater

Actress/playwright Nambi E. Kelley’s one-person play (with the working title “American History X”) is one of four works-in-development to be read virtually Friday through Sundayin the San Diego Repertory Theatre’s Hear U.S. Now New Play Festival. The others are Jason Grasl’s “The Normal Force,” Boni B. Alvarez’s “Duty Free” and Giovanni Ortega’s “The Butterfly of Chula Vista.”

Kelley’s play, a National New Play Network Commission, “is about how your ancestors are always with you and always inside of you — their lessons, the pieces of their lives, their joys, their struggles.”

“I’ve always been like a sponge, so I reflect and absorb. When I lost my mother, it refocused my art in a way that it gave me more purpose, but I was still pretty scattered. Then I lost my dad, who was a historian. When he passed, all that history went with him. I became keenly interested in how we preserve this and carry it forward.”

Readings are prime opportunities to witness a new play in its embryonic stage. They’re also beneficial to their creators.

“The reading process for me is essential,” Kelley said, “because at some point I can’t go any further figuring it out on the page. Then I learn so much and I go back and make all these discoveries.”

Trumpeter Bria Skonberg

Trumpeter Bria Skonberg

(Courtesy photo by Dario Acosta)

Jazz

Thank you, British Columbia, for being one of my absolute favorite destinations. Thank you, too, for giving the jazz world trumpeter/vocalist Bria Skonberg. I can’t think of a more intimate setting in which to appreciate her artistry than The JAI, where Skonberg will play two sets (at 6:30 and again at 8:30 p.m.) Saturday in a La Jolla Music Society presentation.

Skonberg should really cook in this cabaret setting at the Conrad Prebys Performing Arts Center.

Comedian, actor, writer and producer Patton Oswalt

Comedian, actor, writer and producer Patton Oswalt

(Jay L. Clendenin/Los Angeles Times)

Comedy

It took me awhile to appreciate the comedy chops of Patton Oswalt. I once thought of him as just second-banana (to Kevin James) shlub Spence on “The King of Queens.” Then I caught his ace dramedy performance in Charlize Theron’s 2011 film “Young Adult.” Then his memorable turn in 2013 on “Parks and Recreation.” Turns out there was much, much more to Patton Oswalt, as fans of his Netflix specials and other TV projects can attest.

On Sunday night, Oswalt will stand up at Humphrey’s Concerts By the Bay on Shelter Island. The show is titled “Who’s Ready to Laugh?”, and if you’re going, you should be more than ready to do so.

Actress Marilu Henner brings “Music and Memories” to the North Coast Repertory Theatre

Actress Marilu Henner brings “Music and Memories” to the North Coast Repertory Theatre on Monday and Tuesday nights as part of its recurring Variety Nights.

(Courtesy of North Coast Repertory Theatre)

Cabaret

Someone else who emerged on a sitcom, the vastly superior to “The King of Queens” classic “Taxi,” is also in town this weekend. Marilu Henner, whose long career boasts motion-picture and Broadway credits in addition to the small screen, brings “Music and Memories” to the North Coast Repertory Theatre on Monday and Tuesday nights as part of its recurring Variety Nights.

Henner will reflect on her life and career in both song and storytelling. Should be a snap for her: She literally possesses an autobiographical memory, a rare condition known as HSAM.

UCTV

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:

“’Emotional Well-Being’ Series”: The outbreak of infectious diseases such as COVID-19 cause feelings of stress, anxiety, grief and worry. Learning to cope with these feelings in a healthy way will help you become more resilient. “The Emotional Well-Being” series from the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at UCSF features mental health and emotional wellness experts showing how you can reduce personal stress now, as well as develop coping skills for other disasters. Gain insights on reducing stress and trauma, coping with grief, managing pandemic fatigue, parenting and helping young people as they transition back to in-person learning and jobs, the use of psychedelic-assisted therapy and more.

”Defending Against Ravages of Disinformation”: Disinformation — the intentional dissemination of false information to shape political and social outcomes — is an increasingly pernicious feature of the U.S. political landscape. In just the past 18 months, disinformation has had direct, harmful effects on efforts to check the spread of COVID-19, on initiatives for racial justice and on the 2020 election and its aftermath. Disinformation costs lives and erodes democracy. This Berkeley Conversation convenes eminent scholars to explore one of the most critical questions facing US democracy: How can we counter disinformation to protect our communities without compromising America’s core principles?

“Here Be Pirates: First Citizen Scientists”: A love of learning and teaching about pirates inspired UC San Diego’s Mark Hanna to tap the world-renowned Hill Collection of Pacific Voyages, housed in Special Collections & Archives at the UC San Diego Library, to bring history to life in his mobile classroom. Hanna’s students discover the authentic Golden Age of Piracy by reading the Hill Collection log books and other original documents, touring the “Real Pirates!” exhibit during its 2014 run at the San Diego Natural History Museum, and sailing on the Californian at the Maritime Museum of San Diego. Discover some surprising insights into the life of pirates and their contributions to the communities that welcomed them on land.

And finally … Top Weekend Events

Harry Styles standing in front of a microphone

Harry Styles performs on NBC’s Today show on Feb. 26, 2020.

(Charles Sykes/Invision/AP)

Here are the top weekend events happening Thursday, Nov. 11 through Tuesday, Nov. 16.

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