GABRIEL GARCÍA MÁRQUEZ AT THE FORD

By Amin El Gamal

In 1965, immediately before locking himself in his home for 18 months to beat writer’s block and compose One Thousand Years of Solitude, Gabriel García Márquez wrote a movie called Tiempo de morir. Though the film is cited by the likes of Guillermo del Toro and Alejandro González Iñárritu as an inspiration, and is considered a classic in Mexico, it is nearly impossible to see in the US.

Libros Schmibros hooked me up with a copy in advance of their 50th anniversary screening of the film at the Ford on August 5. Lucky for Ford fans, it’s a gem. Halfway between a taut western and an indie drama, the film is both wildly entertaining and thought-provoking.

The screening will feature a newly restored print and a live Q&A with Márquez’s son and acclaimed filmmaker Rodrigo García.
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Though Boyle Heights lending library Libros Schmibros generally focuses on books, founder David Kipen hopes the event will spark an increase in LA outdoor movie offerings of Spanish language films. “Of 150 films screening outdoors in LA this summer, none are in Spanish or subtitled,” David said at the Highland Park coffee shop where we met.

Libros serves as a crossroads of sorts – where Eastsiders and Westsiders often co-mingle and LA’s many cultures collide. David came across Tiempo de morir while researching Jewish Mexican filmmaker Arturo Ripstein, who made his directorial debut with the movie.

“With Libros Schmibros being the Yiddish Mexican joke that got out of hand,” David said, “we thought it would be cool to bring everyone together to watch a terrific movie.”

David is a native Angeleno who—aside from stints reviewing books for the San Francisco Chronicle and five years as the National Endowment for the Arts Literary Director—has lived in various parts of LA most of his life. Libros started in 2010 when David moved into a Boyle Heights storefront and improvised loft and, as he ferried his collection of nearly ten thousand books, decided to open the space to the public.

David sees this recent foray into film as an expansion of Libros’ mission to “increase access to stories” and hopes the event will inspire a full film series in Boyle Heights’ Mariachi Plaza.

“There is a terrific heritage of Mexican film going back 100 years,” David said, “where Latino Americans can see themselves portrayed as something other than banditos or drug dealers. It’s a simple, but powerful thing.”


Come see Tiempo de morir at the Ford on Friday, August 5 at 7:30PM. Go here for tickets and info.

Freshest Sounds of LA

“There is a community of artists and musicians creating new work that is evoking a genuine reflection of what Los Angeles is. That’s where we were going with Concrete Saplings.” – Bryan Yamami, TAIKOPROJECT

It’s this community of LA-based artists that we at the Ford Theatres work so passionately to support and which Angelenos will be able to see aplenty this summer at the Ford. It’s so important to us, in fact, that we redesigned the stage, expanded the dressing rooms and upgraded the lights in order to provide this community of artists with a state-of-the-art facility to call home. And now here we are – almost two years later – welcoming you back as our nature meets culture transformation nears completion.

As we wrote about last week, TAIKOPROJECT will be kicking-off the opening weekend of our reopening season tonight with Concrete Saplings, created and performed in collaboration with Quetzal. The two in our one-two punch for our opening weekend is Aloe Blacc, who will be performing songs by such icons of American social movements as Aretha Franklin, Marvin Gaye, Joni Mitchell and more. Accompanying Aloe is an only-in-LA slate of musicians, including Brazilian guitarist Fabiano do Nascimento, son jarocho group Cambalache and soul/rock fusion group The Brothers Band, just to name a few.

To get a taste of what a night like this might sound like/feel like, check out this short clip of Aloe and Fabiano rehearsing Donny Hathaway’s “Someday We’ll All Be Free.”

Aloe-Blacc-rehearsal

And, because you can’t hit it out of the park with just a one-two punch, our opening weekend closes with a sold-out 35 year anniversary celebration of the Tony Award-winning musical Dreamgirls with none other than its original stars Sheryl Lee Ralph, Loretta Devine and Jennifer Holliday gracing our stage.

If you can’t make it this weekend, don’t fret. There’s a whole season full of amazing shows coming up – plenty of chances to sit out under the stars and soak up the freshest sounds of LA.

Tickets are still available for TAIKOPROJECT + Quetzal (July 8) and Aloe Blacc (July 9). Visit FordTheatres.org for the full summer season schedule.

TAIKOPROJECT + Quetzal = LA

By Brian Sonia-Wallace

I sat down with Bryan Yamami, of TAIKOPROJECT, in Quetzal Flores’ (of Quetzal) backyard before rehearsal on a recent Tuesday. As cars of musicians arrived and began to unload giant drums into the house, Yamami laced the history of these two groups into the story of their musical collaboration.

As it turns out, the link between TAIKOPROJECT, a Japanese taiko drum group, and Quetzal, a Chicano rock band, is surprisingly deep – the groups met more than ten years ago through a connection with the Aratani Japan America Theatre.

Then, a bit over a year ago, Yamami found himself at lunch with Quetzal and the Ford staff in the same week. This synchronicity led to a performance last summer as part of Ford on the Road, where each group performed existing songs from their repertoire.

TPQuetzal_157cropped-webTheir upcoming show – which opens the Ford’s 2016 Summer Season – has the mark of a true collaboration: a drummer starts a beat, or a guitarist lays down a riff, and together the groups write a song. This process was common for Quetzal, as a rock group, but something new for TAIKOPROJECT.

Their collaborative spirit was evident in the easy atmosphere of rehearsal – seven musicians and their instruments filling every corner of Quetzal’s living room, surrounded by bright folkloric art. The musicians worked out the time on a particularly difficult bit, fluidly switching languages between the formal musical notation and making instrument sounds with their mouths, “A flat, come in after the ba-da-da, ba-da-da, you know, on measure seven.”

As they mastered the timing, Japanese flute and electric guitars weaving in and out of the melody to the pulse of the drum, one of the drummers offered the image of an anime show he liked– “This one sounds like that,” he said. “Like kicking ass!”

Yamami describes the aesthetic of the show as an exploration of emotional range. “People always think of taiko as bone-shaking drumming,” he says. “We love that but we also want to challenge the range of emotions that these instruments can make people feel, exploring the melodic and lyrical side. Here, we are honoring tradition by turning it on its head.”

This is what makes this collaboration so LA: two groups that go deep with their traditions, rooted in their histories and communities but not confined to them, in conversation as they create something new.

– To get a taste of the show and learn more – watch the video below:

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TAIKOPROJECT + Quetzal, Concrete Saplings, opens the Ford Theatres 2016 Summer Season, Friday, July 8 at 8PM. Go here for tickets and info.

THE CINDERELLA AMONG OPEN-AIR THEATRES

This isn’t the first time the Ford’s amphitheatre stage has undergone a major transformation… In 1938, four years after his production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at the Hollywood Bowl, film director Max Reinhardt chose the Ford as the venue for his staging of Goethe’s Faust.

In the program notes, Reinhardt described the theatre as “the Cinderella among open-air theatres—in my opinion, the most beautiful of them all.”

Under the direction of set designer Nicolai Remisoff, the production involved the creation of an elaborate Bavarian village, including a church, tavern and prison.

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Watch your wingtips!
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Planning the stage’s Cinderella-esque makeover.
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Remisoff (on the left, with pointer) oversees construction on stage right. (Photo courtesy of Otto Rothschild Collection, The Music Center)
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The stunning completed set—the stonework and the familiar hillside backdrop are the only clues that it’s still the Pilgrimage/Ford. (Photo courtesy of The Red List)

With a breathtaking set like this, it’s no surprise that a who’s who of 1930s era Hollywood movie stars packed the audience for the premiere. An LA Times review describes fans crowding the entrance with their autograph books as stars such as Hedy Lamarr, Peter Lorre, Joan Crawford, Bette Davis, Gary Cooper, Olivia de Havilland and Lucille Ball arrived for the performance.

1938.Fritz Lang with Miriam Hopkins at outdoor premiere.Herald Examiner collection
California not-so-casual: Fritz Lang, director of the silent film classic Metropolis, is accompanied by his monocle and actress Miriam Hopkins on opening night, August 23, 1938. (Photo courtesy of Los Angeles Public Library, Herald Examiner Collection)

Tom Explores the Ford

Tom Explores LA-play

The glowing cross looming above the Hollywood Hills has, I’m pretty sure, perplexed many people. I know it did me (until I started working here).

Another Angeleno who has puzzled about the cross is Tom Carroll of Tom Explores Los Angeles. Tom’s thirst for knowledge about Los Angeles history led him on an interesting journey to the cross and beyond, discovering the Ford Theatres along the way.

For us, being an integral part of Los Angeles history is a point of pride. So much so that we took time during our closure to dig up more about our past, unmasking impostors and unearthing photographs of the Ford’s first performers in the process. Learning about the stories and people behind a place you think you know shifts your perspective.

As we look towards the future, we remain dedicated to continuing to tell LA’s story. One of the ways we do this is by focusing our season on the artists that call LA home.

Check out the latest episode of Tom Explores Los Angeles and find out what Tom discovered on his journey. And, then be sure to visit the Ford this summer. You may see it in a whole new light.

– Kim @ Ford Theatres

We’re back, LA!

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We’re back, LA! And, we’ve missed you!

If you’ve driven down the 101 on your way to the Valley, you’ve most likely seen our giant crane jutting up above the ridgeline. That’s us, hard at work on renovations. We’re still at it, but the good news is that we’re in the home stretch. Come July 8, you will get to experience the Ford as never before.

But, you may protest, “I love the Ford as it was!” Rest easy, my friend. You’ll still be able to see your favorite artists in an intimate space ensconced in the natural beauty of the canyon. We hired the best of the best among historic preservation architects to help us revitalize the Ford and address some critical things that needed fixing. Our #1 priority? Making improvements without changing the Ford’s vibe.

What will you find when you check out the Ford this summer? A new stage, better lighting, better sound. A new picnic terrace with more dining options. And, best of all, LA’s freshest artists doing what they do best.

Tickets are on sale now. Looking forward to seeing you at the Ford this summer!

Ford on the Road Neighborhood Guide: East Hollywood

A lovely view of the city from Barnsdall Art Park. (Photo courtesy of Yelp)
A lovely view of the city from Barnsdall Art Park. (Photo courtesy of Yelp)

Ford on the Road‘s next stop is the Angel City Jazz Festival to experience the sonic wizardry of Motoko Honda and Vanessa Vo at Bransdall Art Park in Hollywood. To prepare for this leg of our journey, we asked Angel City Jazz Fest’s Rocco Somazzi to recommend some fun things to do before and after the show!

What do you love most about the neighborhood?
Rocco Somazzi:
There is a very exciting confluence of different cultures in East Hollywood. Immigrants from Thailand, Korea, Armenia and Iran, among many others, live in the area and you can find interesting shops and restaurants representing them all on any given block.

Sanamluang Cafe offers a fun late-night dining experience. (Photo Courtesy of Yelp)
Sanamluang Cafe offers a fun late-night dining experience. (Photo Courtesy of Yelp)

What’s your favorite place for late-night fun?
Rocco Somazzi: I love Sanamluang Cafe. This hole-in-the-wall Thai cafe is known for staying open late. On Saturdays and Sundays, it fills up with all kinds of revelers. This eclectic scene is the perfect way to wind down after a night of partying.

What’s the best spot to sit and watch the world go by?
Rocco Somazzi: Barnsdall Art Park is perfectly located atop its own hill and allows for 360 degree views of the hustle and bustle of LA. Watching the world go by from up there is quite magical, especially at night.

Sqirl's hip and healthy breakfast fare is a local favorite. (Photo courtesy of Yelp)
Sqirl’s hip and healthy breakfast fare is a local favorite. (Photo courtesy of Yelp)

What is your favorite area to walk around?
Rocco Somazzi: Vermont in between Hollywood and Franklin is my favorite area for a stroll. The street is lined with funky businesses and cool cafes with patio seating. You always see lots of people out and about and whenever I walk up and and down the street, I run into someone I know.

Are there any other local businesses we should check out?
Rocco Somazzi: Sqirl is a fantastic little breakfast and lunch spot focusing on very high quality ingredients and creative preparations. They offer some of the best beverages I’ve ever had, like fresh pressed blood orange juice, a turmeric tonic and rhubarb lemonade. Everything there is so fresh and full of flavor!

Motoko Honda & Vanessa Vo perform as part of the Angel City Jazz Festival on October 3 at 8:00 PM at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. The evening will also include performances by Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue with Ambrose Akinmusire and Mat Maneri. Tickets are $15-$20.

Tradition meets the cutting edge in Honda & Vo’s soulful musical pairing

Motoko Honda (Photo by Will Cohen)
Motoko Honda (Photo by Will Cohen)

By Sheri Linden

A golf tee, a metal screw and a ruler — not the first things that come to mind when the subject is music. But each of these items had its moment in the spotlight during my recent chat with Motoko Honda, a composer/performer whose sonic improvisations have drawn ecstatic comparisons to Radiohead, John Cage and Prokofiev.

As she spoke from her home studio in Oakland on a recent Friday afternoon, the occasional digital glitches in our Skype connection did nothing to dampen Honda’s enthusiasm. Besides sharing background info on her upcoming Angel City Jazz Festival/Ford on the Road performance with Hanoi-born musician and Oscar nominee Vanessa Vo (a.k.a. Vân-Ánh Vanessa Võ), Honda offered an exuberant lesson in extended technique and prepared piano after I confessed to being unfamiliar with those terms.

“I can show you!” Honda said with a beaming smile. After playing a few notes, she inserted that golf tee into the workings of her piano — transforming the instrument into a “prepared piano” — and then demonstrated how those same notes deepened and changed.

It’s one of many extended, or unconventional, techniques that Honda uses in her holistic approach to music, which combines the acoustic keyboard with a range of electronic devices that manipulate sound. She’s been hailed as a virtuoso of this hybrid strategy. But Honda wasn’t always a fan of plugged-in music. “I actually didn’t like electronic music at all when I was young,” she says.

Motoko Honda at the piano. (Photo by Charles DeGuzman)
Motoko Honda at the piano. (Photo by Charles DeGuzman)

At the same time, she felt increasingly frustrated by piano’s limitations and longed to play “between the notes.” Inspiration struck when Honda, who was born in Yokohama and raised in the northern Japanese city of Sendai, was a graduate student at CalArts. “I saw guitarists playing all sorts of things using their stomp box. They can change the texture, they can change the tone, they can bend the sound.” Maybe, she thought, she could do the same with her piano.

Further demonstrations during our conversation made clear that she could do just that. With a simple screw placed just so, she gave her piano the metallic clang of a bell. Most impressive, though, was the soul-stirring power of an excerpt from the piece she’s writing with Vo for their October 3 performance. The brief musical passage churned with suggestions of thunder and then gave way to a lyrical section evoking the rippling of water.

Water is one of the motifs that Honda and Vo explore in their first collaborative composition. “We have such a close connection to water in our countries,” Honda says, noting that California’s drought lends additional resonance to the subject. She acknowledged with a laugh that the piece was still untitled as of mid-September, two weeks before its world premiere performance at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Barnsdall Park.

Honda likens their collaboration to storytelling with a personal slant. Although they’re from different countries, she and Vo share points of reference as Asians who emigrated to the States. “We still have memories about who we were in our countries,” Honda says, adding that their joint composition expresses a sense of “reaching out,” not just in terms of the distance they traveled to the US, but a reaching out “to the audience, to ourselves, to each other.”

Oscar nominee and Emmy Award winner Vanessa Vo who collaborated with Honda for their Ford on the Road show. (Photo courtesy of Vo)
Oscar nominee and Emmy Award winner Vanessa Vo who will perform with Honda at the next Ford on the Road show. (Photo courtesy of Vo)

For Honda, that distance traveled was a bold leap: from northern Japan to central Kansas, where, with little English and no friends or family in the area, she enrolled in tiny Bethany College. Her teachers in Japan had expected her to attend a high-profile East Coast conservatory. But Honda, overwhelmed by the time-consuming nature of classical training and competition, determined to study anything but music.

“My life had disappeared into music, and I no longer existed,” Honda says. In Lindsborg, Kansas, she “learned to become a person again.” Supportive and nurturing friendships eventually brought her back to the piano, with a fresh sense of balance.

One of the things she and Vo have in common is their resolve to enjoy their careers without sacrificing their personal lives — a challenge for women in particular. “In the long run, we want to celebrate and enjoy life, and we see life as the source of music.”

Like Honda, Vo uses extended technique on acoustic instruments. Their Barnsdall performance will incorporate three traditional Vietnamese instruments: the dan tranh zither (Vo’s a national champion in Vietnam); the dan bau, a monochord, or single-string, zither that can sound like the human voice; and the dan trung, a bamboo xylophone. Vo, who often performs with the Kronos Quartet, will also sing.

For all their complex layers of sound and ideas, the two musicians aim for simplicity in execution, and an experience that’s open to listeners of all ages and musical tastes.

“It’s not about trying to play Eastern or Western music but really trying to be true to our feelings,” Honda says. “It’s almost like my identity. As a pianist, I think as a Western person, but my soul is in Japan. I don’t know which one I am, but I like both.”

Motoko Honda & Vanessa Vo perform as part of the Angel City Jazz Festival on October 3 at 8:00 PM at Barnsdall Gallery Theatre. The evening will also include performances by Jen Shyu & Jade Tongue with Ambrose Akinmusire and Mat Maneri. Tickets are $15-$20.