Erik ReeL - Arts and Culture Contributing Editor at Large
Born in Seattle, U.S.A. in 1952. Attended Whitman College, majoring in mathematics; the University of Washington in mathematics, art history and studio art; University of California, Berkeley. Studied art history with Rainer Crone, painting with Jacob Lawrence and Michael Spafford, sumi-e with George Tsutakawa, Chinese brush with Hsai Chen. Wrote on art for Vanguard, ArtExpress, High Performance, ArtWeek, Bellevue Journal-American, Seattle Voice. Seattle Arts Commission Special Task Force for media, and Special Task Force for educational Institutions in the late 70s. Taught art history, color theory, life painting, and design at Seattle Central Community College for 5 years before leaving Seattle in 1984. Current studio is in Ventura, California, north of Los Angeles.
Website URL: http://erikreel.com/
The Santa Paula Theater Center and company has launched the second play in an excellent season of tough, great theatre, with their current production of David Mamet’s legendary play, American Buffalo.
When it rains, it pours, they say. While we don’t get a lot of professional Shakespeare in our regional theatre, and thus one would expect there to not be much of a pool of Shakespearean actors locally, the 805 currently has two major Shakespeare plays on offer: Rubicon’s fine King Lear, and The Ojai Art Center Theater’s Macbeth. Not only that, but both productions are trying to do something new and interesting with their productions.
Lady and Macbeth. Ojai Art Center Theater in conjunction with the Ojai Performing Arts Theater's Macbeth
King Lear at Rubicon
King Lear is one of Shakspeare’s greatest plays, some say greatest. People usually do Lear because they want to do something with it. Like Wagner’s Ring, Shakespeare’s Lear has, in modern times, become a formidable vehicle for taking a production to the limits. This usually means something in terms of either its direction, staging, or acting, or some combination or all three. Rubicon accordingly tries a lot of different things with this ambitious production in a well-worth seeing Lear.
Wrongs of the Righteous
Anthony Giardina’s timely play, The City of Conversation, now playing at Santa Barbara’s ETC, traces the story of a fictional Washington D.C. political doyen, Hester Ferris, pushing American politics Pamela Harriman-style, behind the scenes in her dining and drawing rooms, across four decades and many more presidential regimes. It is in many ways a difficult play to pull off, in spite of its many funny lines, and pertinent content.
This ETC production fairs better than most, in large part thanks to Sharon Lawrence’s superb rendering of Hester Ferris, its lead character. In a sense, the main reason to watch this play is to see Lawrence work her magic.
Steven Dietz's This Random World at SPTC
Santa Paula Theatre Center kicks off its 2018 season with a wonderfully good production of Steven Dietz's This Random World. SPTC produced Dietz's Becky's New Car last season as well; but these are two very different plays with little in common except Dietz's genius for fascinating female parts; a beautifully controlled, understated sense of humor; terrific writing; and Dietz's particularly good-hearted, slightly off-kilter somewhat philosophical bent.
Scott Blanchard (L) and Aileen-Marie (R)
Vonder Gray at WAV
Vonder Gray's exhibition of new work at the WAV is an important show for this artist, the WAV and the greater Ventura art community. Continuing her recent forays into improvisational abstraction, featuring large, sometimes unstretched, paintings on canvas, the new work is more open, expansive, confident, and larger in conception.
First, let us hear it for doing new theatre, new scripts, producing local playwrights’ new plays, or more courageously yet, workshopping new plays. Plays do not bloom, full-grown, out of the head of Zeus. As they say in Silicon Valley, if you are not doing something new, you have no future.
Rubicon Theatre in Ventura’s downtown cultural district is doing Sir Ronald Harwood’s Taking Sides through 12 November 2017. Harwood did The Pianist and has repeatedly shown interest in World War II-related moral dilemmas. Taking Sides fits right in. It’s basically a military tribunal “trial” by the American occupation command in Berlin of Wilhelm Furtwangler, the great German conductor who stayed in Nazi Germany throughout the Nazi era and World War II.
Patrick Vest as Major Arnold, Tara Donovan as Emmi Straube and Peter Van Norden as German composer Wilhelm Furtwängler in Taking Sides by Academy Award-Winner Sir Ronald Harwood and directed by Ovation Award-winner Stephanie Coltrin.
Photo Credit: Josh and Veronica Slavin
Photo Credit: Josh and Veronica Slavin
BEYOND THE 805
Art, Theatre, and Costume Design
Chagall at LACMA
The exhibition Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art [LACMA] on view until 7 January 2018 is a special kind of exhibition. It deals with Chagall’s involvement with specific dance performances during his mature years when he was at the height of his powers drawing from long-held connections to music, stage, and dance. Due to the difficulty of exhibiting this type of material, it is probably, unfortunately, a once-in-a-lifetime experience and may never be repeated.
Installation view, Marc Chagall designed costume for the Magic Flute opera, Chagall: Fantasies for the Stage at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art through 7 January 2018, copyright 2017 Artists Rights Society [ARS] New York / ADAGP Paris. photo: Copyright Fredrik Nilsen.
Flying H Does Blackbird
Ventura is getting a special treat: Two of the 805’s best acting talents, Jessi May Stevenson and Taylor Kasch, are teaming up to do David Harrower’s Blackbird, one of the most remarkable plays written in decades.