Arts & Culture Newsletter: Shakespeare Center LA’s ‘Macbeth’: virtual and graphic

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.

Transforming William Shakespeare’s greatest works into graphic novels is nothing new, but tossing a theatrical component into the mix certainly is. That’s what the always inventive Shakespeare Center LA has done with “The Scottish Play.” Its “Macbeth: A Virtual Live-Action Graphic Novel” merits an “aye” for ambition, though as a multimedia production it’s an uneasy amalgam.

Shakespeare Center LA Artistic Director Ben Donenberg dreamed up this idea and must be applauded for attempting another way to tell one of The Bard’s most-told tales. The on-demand streaming presentation works like this: A cast of seven, including Keith David as Macbeth and Simone Vicari Moore as Lady Macbeth, appear as talking heads in Zoom squares at the bottom of your screen. Above them as the story unfolds, the over-200 illustrations of Michael Hurt Hall and Sophia Mata visualize “Macbeth” in all its gore, ghostliness and bombast. These images are illustrated stills, not animated characters or scenery in motion, and to be honest I wasn’t blown away by them.

Even so, what you get with “Macbeth: A Virtual Live-Action Graphic Novel” beats just a Zoomed reading of the play, and it’s more sophisticated than a cartooned melodrama. At an hour in length, it whizzes by too. For your $25 you also get lots of pre-show “Macbeth” trivia and factoids to savor, including anecdotes about all the bad luck that befell actors unsuperstitious enough to portray the Thane of Cawdor onstage or in film. Streamings end July 30.


This undated film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Christian Bale as Batman

This undated film image released by Warner Bros. Pictures shows Christian Bale as Batman in a scene from the action thriller “The Dark Knight Rises.”

(AP/Warner Bros. Pictures, Ron Phillips)

Graphic novels and all things comics are at the forefront this weekend with the return of San Diego’s premier pop-cultural event, Comic-Con International. As you well know, this year like last Comic-Con is strictly virtual with Comic-Con@Home programming streaming tomorrow through Sunday.

Here’s the programming schedule: If you’d like to get a head start on the virtual weekend and you also are into graphic novels, let me recommend the “Graphic Novels are the New Textbooks” panel streaming today from 4 to 5 p.m.

And if you’re a Batman fanatic, check out the “Batman: Fear State” panel at 1 p.m. tomorrow hosted by former DC Comics editor Ben Abernathy. I’m no fanatic, but I have enjoyed the film adaptations over the years, which gives me the opportunity to state without equivocation that Michael Keaton was the best Batman. On the subject of his two turns as the Caped Crusader, director Tim Burton’s 1989 “Batman” and 1992 “Batman Returns,” DC’s website is offering a sneak peek at its upcoming comic book miniseries “Batman ’89.” The comics by Sam Hamm and Joe Quinones are inspired by Burton’s memorable vision of Gotham City. Aug. 10 is launch day, fanboys and fangirls.

Country music

This undated file photo shows The Grand Ole Opry

This undated file photo shows The Grand Ole Opry, the longest continuously running radio show in the world, at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn.


Nashville’s Grand Ole Opry prides itself on identifying and nurturing emerging country music talent. See and hear for yourself by visiting the Opry NextStage page. Each month a different young country artist is spotlighted: photos, bio, credits, and in some cases sound clips as well.

Recently in focus was Hailey Whitters of Shueyville, Iowa, who made her Opry debut two years ago and has a gig there coming up on Aug. 24. Her NextStage page includes a couple of acoustic performance videos. You can assess her potential for yourself.

July’s discovery is Parker McCollum of Conroe, Texas, whose bio tells us that he got his start at a hometown haunt called Puffer Bellies on its Open Mic Night. That’s America. That’s country.


City Ballet dancer Iago Breschi will be a part of the company's upcoming production called "On the Move."

City Ballet dancer Iago Breschi will be a part of the company’s upcoming production called “On the Move.”

(Courtesy photo by Jaroslav Richters)

Two world-premiere works from Resident Choreographer Geoff Gonzalez launch City Ballet of San Diego’s 29th season in a program titled “On the Move.” Performances of Gonzalez’s “Unbroken” and “Within the Hourglass Desert” will be Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Horton Grand Theatre downtown. This is City Ballet’s first full return to live performance since the onset of COVID-19. Tickets for “On the Move” range from $29 to $49. Read more about this production in this Union-Tribune story.

Visual art

Plein air artists come to San Diego County from all parts to paint outdoors here. Do I really have to explain why? If this on-location style of painting appeals to you as an artist or just as a viewer, you’ll want to head up to Oceanside for the Oceanside Museum of Art’s 2021 Plein Air Festival. Activities including workshops, competition and art for sale begin Saturday and continue through July 30.


San Diego author Anisha Bhatia and her new book, "The Rules of Arrangement"

San Diego author Anisha Bhatia and her new book, “The Rules of Arrangement”

(Courtesy of Anisha Bhatia)

Navigating the tricky waters of parental expectations and societal pressure while piloting their own destiny is a common challenge for young people in general. For many young women in India, it can be a struggle just to touch the steering wheel.

In her debut novel, “The Rules of Arrangement,” published by Alcove Press, author Anisha Bhatia introduces us to Zoya, who faces that exact dilemma. Despite frequent comments disparaging her dark skin and “fuller body,” the 26-year-old keeps her sanity largely through passion for her marketing job — and a wicked sense of humor.

Bhatia, a longtime San Diego resident, chronicles Zoya’s experiences in what the young Punjabi woman calls “the gladiatorial arena of arranged marriages.” Throughout this comedy of manners, which will be distributed by Penguin Random House, Zoya drops many pop-culture references, from Bollywood movies to the TV sitcom “Friends.”

Read more about Bhatia in this Union-Tribune story.


Charles McPherson

Charles McPherson

(Nelvin C. Cepeda/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

Charles McPherson, jazz sax great coming off banner year, will play his 82nd birthday concert Saturday. Read more about it in this story by the Union-Tribune’s George Varga.


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:

“Unmasking the ‘Angel of Death’”: German physician Joseph Mengele is infamous for performing grotesque and deadly experiments on prisoners at the Auschwitz concentration camp. He was also a member of the team that selected victims to be killed in the gas chambers and one of the doctors who administered the gas. In this lecture based on his highly acclaimed book “Mengele,” David Marwell untangles the history and myths surrounding the man known as the “Angel of Death,” suggesting that Mengele was not so much a uniquely monstrous perpetrator as he was a willing part of a monstrous machine of destruction.

“Healing While Managing Pain and Addiction Risks”: Addiction to prescription drugs such as opioids has reached near-epidemic proportions in the U.S., posing serious challenges to primary care physicians formulating pain management programs for their patients. A responsible plan must address the need to provide effective relief while guarding against potential abuse. In this program, a distinguished panel of physician-scientists discuss ongoing research into the use of alternatives to opioids for treating chronic pain, integrative medicine options, addiction treatment complications and options, and if psychedelics can be a viable option for pain management in the future. Any potential option must be closely suited to a particular patient’s circumstance.

“A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Moon”: Whether for exploration, tourism, or colonization, space is the next frontier of human endeavor. Because commercial space travel will eventually allow a significantly larger number of people to journey beyond Earth’s atmosphere, researchers will have direct access to medical data during spaceflight and will gain greater insights into the effects of space travel on human health. Dr. Jonathan Clark, noted research scientist and six-time space shuttle crew surgeon, explores how evolving technologies are making space travel more accessible while also having impacts on terrestrial applications. His remarks are especially timely in light of NASA’s commitment to return to the moon.

More theater

Bibi Mama wrote, co-directed and starred in her play "The Mango Tree" at Moxie Theatre.

Bibi Mama wrote, co-directed and starred in her play “The Mango Tree” that is kicking off Moxie Theatre’s 2021-2022 season with virtual streaming.

(Moxie Theatre)

San Diego’s Moxie Theatre quietly kicked off its 2021-22 season this month with a filmed play, but the rest of the four-show lineup will be presented for live audiences at its theater in Rolando. Read more about it in this theater notebook by the Union-Tribune’s Pam Kragen.

And finally: Top things to do in San Diego this weekend

A dog dressed up at PAWmicon

A dog dressed up as Gumby

(Helen Woodward Animal Center)

Here are the best things to do in San Diego from Thursday, July 22 through Sunday, July 25.

Angelia S. Rico

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