July 19, 2012

“I dance upstairs tonight.”

That simple and somewhat cryptic statement by one of the women in the production, “Nylons,” aptly sums up the conflict some of the characters face.

“Upstairs,” although never seen, is where the dancers strut their stuff “au natural.” It is also where the best money can be made.

But, there is a price the characters—including a married diva, a gifted bartender and a struggling beauty—might have to pay for leaving the conventional and romantic dances downstairs for the excitement of upstairs.

“Nylons” originally appeared on Stage 52 last April and has now moved to the much larger Wilshire Ebell Theater for a one-night performance July 28 at 8 p.m.

“Nylons” is the fifth play written since 2005 by Compton-born, Moreno-Valley raised playwright Brandi Burks, and follows on the heels of the critically successful “Shhh . . . Quiet as Kept.”

Burks said she was inspired to write Nylons because, “My last four plays have been based on gospel story lines. I feel like the religious people already have a solid foundation, and it's time that I reach out to the world no matter what religion or creed. I decided to get risky with “Nylons” and deliver a message that everyone should be aware of.

“Nylons are universal from the office to the church to night clubs.

Nylons range from plain to lace to fishnet and everything in between. Going from Gospel-based plays to “Nylons” is a way to show my creativity and versatility as a playwright.”

Prior to this latest stage venture, Burks penned and produced “Shhh . . . Quiet As Kept,” in 2009; “Men Cry Too” in 2008; and “Come Sunday” in 2006 and 2010. A 2005 production at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in downtown Los Angeles, “This is Not My Destiny” which sold out every night of the show, began the up-and-coming young playwright’s string of successful productions.

The NAACP Theatre awards even recognized her talents with a nomination in 2006 for “Come Sunday.”

Chicago native Tiffany Snow, who plays the lead role of Flossy, is a 2011 NAACP Theatre Award winner and she and the rest of the cast will perform to original music

Vincent M. Ward portrays the role of Kenzo. A Dayton, Ohio, native, Ward is a versatile actor and has played stage, television and movie roles that range from drug dealer to pastor.

Like her last production, Burks has also included live, original music, and the musical director for this show is veteran Cedric Lilly.

Lilly has more than 20 years of experience behind him and has performed with musicians including Roy Hargrove, Latoiya Williams, Vesta, Yo Yo, Bobby Brown and the Greater Los Angeles Cathedral Choir.

Tickets for “Nylons” are $35. They can be purchased in advance online at www.brownpapertickets.com. Additional information is available by calling (323) 600-7402.

The Wilshire Ebell is located at 4401 W. 8th St. in Los Angeles, just west of the intersection of Crenshaw and Wilshire boulevards.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 19, 2012

By MARK KENNEDY, Associated Press


Producers of a musical based on the life of Motown Records founder Berry Gordy are seeking an exceptionally talented young actor — one who can play a preteen Gordy, a young Michael Jackson and a precocious Stevie Wonder.

Gordy launched an audition website July 17 to help find the young man between the ages of 8 and 11 who can sing, dance and act like the King of Pop in his Jackson 5 days and Wonder at about age 11.

“Motown” will open on Broadway next spring.

Gordy says he’s not looking for imitators, but someone who “can be themselves in the role” and give him “the same chills” he experienced when he first saw Jackson at age 10 in 1968.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 19, 2012


Be flexible as others present changes and new schedules for a group activity. Your easy-going attitude will allow you to reschedule appointments easily. Watch the sun rise it’ll be good for your spirits! Soul Affirmation: I release internal pressure by enjoying the beauties of the world around me. Lucky Numbers: 22, 26, 29



Give your busy brain a rest and work your body this week. It’s a great day for physical activity that can loosen up muscles and relieve tensions. You’ll receive some practical advice from a distant relative. Soul Affirmation: Newness of outlook helps me deal with the monotonies of life Lucky Numbers: 2, 16, 33



Family responsibilities may feel like a chore this week. If you relinquish control of the situation, a natural order will occur, and things will organize themselves. You can let people be who they are. Soul Affirmation: I call on my creative talents to pay my bills. Lucky Numbers: 5, 9, 42



A secret may be revealed in a casual conversation. Your confidence is valued and appreciated. Take it all in! There’s no returning to what has been once you realize the gift you’ve been given. Soul Affirmation: Helping others is the true measure of my worth. Lucky Numbers: 12, 13, 27



A friend from the past could suddenly appear in your life. This could be a highly beneficial reunion for both of you. Let bygones be bygones, and renew this friendship. Love isn’t used up just because it’s shared. Soul Affirmation: Charm is my middle name this week. Lucky Numbers: 4, 17, 18



Drive the speed limit this week or you could wind up with a ticket. Why rush? Serenity is available if you only stop and listen for it inside of you. Discharge your usual obligations with dignity and count your blessings. Soul Affirmation: I am guided by the joy within. Lucky Numbers: 1, 13, 49



Justice is on your mind again this week. This may be in a cosmic sense, or you may still be speeding along trying to get a ticket. Slow down and relax your brain-energies! The universe knows how to take care of itself and of you. Trust!  Soul Affirmation: Distant love is sometimes sweeter. Lucky Numbers: 8, 11, 13



No need for rowdiness, wild ones. You can make your point without waving your hands and arms about wildly! Speak your wisdom softly, gently this week, so that others can hear it and benefit. Soul Affirmation: I face each week with a smile and the week smiles back at me. Lucky Numbers: 22, 27, 31



Things speed up again this week and you are in a highly creative mood. An outspoken female in your circle may illuminate a thorny question for you. You’ll be surprised and pleased by what you hear. Soul Affirmation: I look for the good in all that comes to me this week. Lucky Numbers: 25, 31, 36



One of your most unique gifts is the power to change your mind. You know how to change the way you think, and it gives you great personal magnetism. This week you may be called upon to change the way you think about a person close to you. Do it. Soul Affirmation: Friendships are shock absorbers on the bumpy roads of life. Lucky Numbers: 10, 14, 22



Focus intently on the personal this week. Others may seem scattered or impersonal, but it’s not about you. Keep your thoughts and feelings to yourself until others are more receptive to your good vibrations. Soul Affirmation: I master fear by knowing that all is well. Lucky Numbers: 1, 5, 39



A personal decision is made, and you are happy for the person who makes it. This person may be younger than you, but you’ve got a karmic bond between you. Enjoy the excitement of moment, and know that faith is being kept by your very actions.  Soul Affirmation: This week I forgive myself for everything that has happened. Lucky Numbers: 3, 4, 10

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 19, 2012


Associated Press


Michelle Obama said the nation’s top designers in fashion, architecture, landscapes and technology were making life better through their everyday work and honored them at the White House July 13.

The first lady joined the Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum in hosting a luncheon in the East Room for winners of the National Design Awards. The New York City-based museum presents the awards, along with a design fair for Washington teens to meet some of the nation’s top creative minds.

Richard Saul Wurman, who created the popular TED conferences for discussing technology, entertainment and design ideas, won the Lifetime Achievement Award. The first lady added that he was “quite dashing and sassy” after meeting him last Friday.

Thom Browne, who designs the Black Fleece line for men and women by Brooks Brothers, was honored for his fashion design that evokes the late 1950s and early 1960s. Winners were also named interior design, product design and other sectors.

Obama told a crowd of designers from companies like Facebook, Nike and New York's fashion scene that the design winners help improve daily life through their work.

“Every day, these visionary designers are pushing boundaries, creating and revealing beauty where we least expect it and helping us all lead healthier, more sustainable lives,” Obama said. “From the clothes we wear to the technologies we use to the public spaces we enjoy, their work affects just about every aspect of our lives.”

The first lady hailed the nonprofit design firm Design that Matters in Cambridge, Mass., which partners with social entrepreneurs to address needs in developing countries, including a neonatal incubator made of spare car parts and a projector for nighttime adult literacy classes in Africa. The company won the design award for corporate and institutional achievement.

She also saluted Wurman, who is an architect and author known for his travel guidebooks. He began TED conferences in 1984 and they would introduce such innovations as the first Mac computer, the Segway and the first announcement of Google, among other creations.

Obama said Wurman has spent his career transforming information into knowledge to help people better understand the world.

“But in the end, as he put it,” Obama said, “he does this work ‘not for fame, fortune or money,’ but ‘just really to do something good.’ ”

After the ceremony, Wurman said he treasured the award and cried when he heard he was receiving the honor.

Atlanta-based architects Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, a husband-and-wife team, won the top award for architecture. Scogin said it was a unique honor to receive at the White House but that design has historically been part of the U.S. presidency.

“Thomas Jefferson is still one of the great — he was not an architect — but he was one of the great architects in American culture,” Scogin said. “His interest in the visual and making spaces is always to this day still original thinking.”

The architects joined a teen design fair at the Smithsonian earlier in the day to share their careers with teens from Washington and New York City. Elam said there’s great design around the world now, so the nation needs to cultivate its next generation of innovators.

“There’s no reason that American design shouldn’t be the most inventive,” she said. “We have the most freedom of any place on the face of the earth, and our design work should just reflect that on and on and on.”

Other winners included:

— Design Mind Award: Janine Benyus, a biologist and innovation consultant working to use biomimicry, looking to nature to create sustainable designs.

— Design Patron: Red Burns, an arts professor and chief collaborations officer for the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University for her innovations in communications technology.

— Communication Design: Rebeca Mendes, a professor in media arts at the University of California, Los Angeles.

— Interaction Design: Evan Roth, an artist who visualizes and records often unseen moments in public spaces and collaborated with Jay-Z on the first open-source rap video.

— Interior Design: Clive Wilkinson Architects, a Los Angeles-based firm whose clients have included Google, Disney and 20th Century Fox.

— Landscape Architecture: Stoss Landscape Urbanism, a Boston studio that works in both landscape design and urban planning.

— Product Design: Scott Wilson, founder of the Chicago-based studio Minimal that collaborated with Microsoft to design Kinect for Xbox 360 and who created TikTok watches for the iPod Nano.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

July 19, 2012

By Joy Childs,

Watts Times Contributing Writer


Like manna from jazz heaven, tributes to two icons — Miles Davis on June 27 and Ray Charles on July 11 — came down on the Hollywood Bowl’s summer jazz series. They were two of the best tribute celebrations in recent memory at LA’s premier venue.

“A Celebration of Miles Davis”

If you haven’t been to the Bowl, or a post office lately, you might not know that the United States Post Service and the Bowl have unveiled the Miles Davis (1926−1991) commemorative stamp. The jazz icon’s stamp is a forever stamp (meaning it’s a perpetually valid first-class postage stamp), which  bears a likeness of Davis’ signature swaybacked stance blowing the hell out of a trumpet. 

The ceremony was attended by family members Cheryl Davis (daughter) and Erin Davis (son) as well as Herbie Hancock, who then had to rush over to the Bowl to moderate the concert honoring Davis.

What a brilliant celebration it turned out to be.

After telling the crowd about the commemorative stamp ceremony, to wild applause, Hancock revealed that his first gig with Davis was on the very stage from which he was speaking … i.e., at the Hollywood Bowl in 1964. That statement was enough to make the real jazz lovers in the audience smile in the imagination of what the stage might have looked like back then, set up, as it was, for one of the greatest jazz bands of all time: Hancock, Davis, Ron Carter and Tony Williams. OMG!

The show transported you back to the Miles Davis of the ‘60s and forward. First up — and fittingly so — was Jimmy Cobb’s So What Band. The drummer, at 83 years young and attired in his ever-present suspenders and cap, has the distinction of being the sole surviving member of Davis’ “Kind of Blue” masterpiece album, which is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Cobb and his band mates, including Javon Jackson (who, on tenor sax, was a ringer for John Coltrane); Buster Williams (bass); Larry Willis (piano) — and both Vincent Herring and Jeremy Pelt on trumpet — did an absolutely sterling job of recreating “King of Blue” in its entirety, songs so well known it wasn’t even necessary to call out their titles.

Moving on to the ‘70s and’80s was the Miles Electric Band. Their set opened with  Badal Roy on the tabla, which is a pair of small different-sized hand drums used especially in music of India. He was soon joined by trumpet extraordinaire/young lion Nicholas Payton, who tore it up on Davis’ 1971 recording of “Jack Johnson” before venturing in to “In a Silent Way,” regarded as one of Davis’ earliest experimentations with electric piano and guitar and rock improvisation.  Their grooves were augmented by black-and-white film footage and stills of Davis with fellow heavyweights Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley.

The last third of the concert was devoted to the Miles Electric Band, headed by porkpie hat-wearing Marcus Miller, whose musical choices included “Splatch,” “Portia,” “Jekyll and Hyde,” “Goree,” and “Tutu,” Davis’ title album from 1986, dedicated to Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the first Black Anglican Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa. Little known is the fact that originally Davis was to have worked with Prince but ended up working with bassist/clarinetist Marcus Miller.  And given the result of “Tutu” and its progeny — “Tutu Revisited” (2011) — funketeers are no doubt thankful it was ultimately Miller’s off-the-chain funky licks that landed him that original recording date — and the Hollywood Bowl tribute as well.

“Ray Charles: Genius + Soul = Jazz”

How do you pay tribute to RC? It’s got to be an all-star event, joining world-class bands like the Count Basie Orchestra and an All-Star Band, of course, with special guest vocalists in a spectacular homage to one of the most distinctive voice of all times.

It may have been an odd choice for Tavis Smiley to have been the moderator, but it was all good. In fact, having Bebe Winans infuse his brand of gospel on Charles’ 1954 gospel-inspired “I Got a Woman” was a really good choice, and Winans was definitely up to the task on what had been Charles first R&B hit. And if you’re Winans, you can’t help but bring a soul injection, a gospel tinge to a song like “Drown In My Own Tears.”

A bit of a musical lesson was provided by Dave Koz, who told the audience, “A lot of people don’t know that Ray Charles was a great sax player [Note: This writer didn’t know.]” before taking the stage with his own musical hero, Tom Scott on “Them That (I Ain’t Got Nothin’ Yet).  And Dee Dee Bridgewater, along with Houston Person on sax, was as sassy as she wanted to be on “Hallelujah I Love Him,” adding that she’d met Charles while doing “Sophisticated Ladies, that he’d invited her and the entire cast to his home for a cocktail party, where he told her, “Baby, I like your voice!” She also had tons of fun blowing on “Busted.”

Another highlight was Terence Blanchard doing a smoky, New Orleans bluesy – sounding strokes throughout the set.

The Raelettes were a hoot — soulful, preachy Patti Austin on “Come Rain or Come Shine.”  Sweet-sounding Lynne Fiddmont. Sexy siren Siedah Garrett. And Country Music Academy award-winner Martina McBride.  The Count Basie Band was in full swing mode on “I Can’t Stop Loving You,” which Smiley announced was the first official crossover hit known.

Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds, donning dark glasses like Charles, certainly did justice to “Let the Good Times Roll” with the Count Basie Band and “Hurts to Be in Love,” as well as on “Cryin’ Time” with Monica Mancini.

One hysterically funny moment came from a 1977 “Saturday Night Live” clip featuring the comedians of that show posing as “The Young Caucasians” and singing a dismal version of “What’d I Say” in a 1950’s Four Freshmen style … which brilliantly led to a rocking, soulful version by the tribute musicians.

After ending with an all-star, patriotic “America the Beautiful, there was no doubt that Miles Davis and Ray Charles each left their stamp on the sphere of music — and a Ray Charles stamp is expected in 2013.

Parent Category: Lifestyle
Category: Arts & Culture

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