SAN DIEGO — Wow! There clearly is an audience for innovation in San Diego. Over the weekend, avid fans packed several venues to hear and watch the works of those creators who are not content just to do things the way their artistic forebears did.
UC San Diego's Pacific Ring Festival, primarily dedicated to performance of the world's most contemporary music, did a brisk business at its Friday and Saturday night concerts.
At UCSD's Mandeville Auditorium, close to 1,000 people reflected on Joji Yuasa'ssoothing blend of white noise and piano and a tape of bamboo, bell and brandy glass sounds before being challenged by a choreographed choir--dressed in black and wearing sunglasses or diving masks--which rambled about the stage, asking (singing?) Yuasa's "Questions."
Meanwhile, the delightfully unconstrained group of young local theater artists, known as Festival, flashed a fleeting glimpse of yet another batch of their non-traditional works. An eager audience jammed into Sushi performance gallery to hear staged readings of pieces like Karl Roeseler's "Walking Backward Through Downtown San Diego."
Saturday night this festive co-op of artists who write, direct and act showcased a second program that drew a different crowd. Theater lovers should make a point to catch Festival, the next time around.
Saturday at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art, the prodigal son's "Baby Redboots Revenge" returned to Sherwood Hall, where a crowd of 350 gave a monstrous ovation for Sean Sullivan's performance in the one-man roaring stream of surreal unconsciousness written by hyperactive San Diegan Philip-Dimitri Galas. Galas missed the performance because he was in the hospital with anemic exhaustion.
Meanwhile, back at the UCSD ranch, another near-capacity audience was bowled over as the Ring Festival hit two high points in the Technology Concert. Just watching the players set up on stage several dozen of Guatemalan composer Joaquin Orellana's exotic homemade percussion instruments was an artistic experience in itself. The short, dark, Guatemalan conducted his "Hibrido a Presion," which sets in apposition primitive and New World cultures. The sweetly percussive piece charmed virtually everyone.
Although the avant-garde Suzuki Company of Toga's staging of "Clytemnestra" still remains to be seen (8 p.m. Thursday and Friday in the Mandell Weiss Center), the Ring Festival may have reached its peak Saturday with "Vertigo." This world premiere collaboration of computer and video synthesis by Roger Reynolds and Ed Emshwiller used quadraphonic sound and 10 TV monitors. It was simply a tour de force, visually and aurally stunning.
Maybe someday, someone will realize that San Diego is ripe for a festival of new arts. Then again, maybe someone already has. It's 24 days until Neofest, Sushi's fourth annual festival of new arts, a collection featuring a few local and many top out-of-town innovators.
ART TOO: Artwalk, the annual open house of art galleries, lofts and artists' studios held April 26-27, drew about 1,000 people curious about visual art. There were few sales, however, according to one Artwalk organizer. Art remains the least patronized of the arts in San Diego.
One reason may be some gallery directors' attitude. Two of San Diego's most highly touted contemporary art galleries did not put their welcome mats out.
These same gallery directors have complained that San Diegans aren't good art collectors. But collectors need attention and nurturing in the early stages. Visitors--all potential art buyers--to these galleries were not greeted. Nor was there a guest list (a basic marketing tool) so these strangers could be advised of future shows. But it's unlikely--given the inhospitality of such galleries--that a neophyte art lover would have a reason to return.
GLOBE SELLS: Speaking of marketing ploys, the Old Globe Theatre will have an open house "Seat Yourself" session for potential subscribers from 5 to 8 p.m. Monday. Subscription buyers can wander through the three theaters and designate their summer seats before paying for them. There will be free refreshments and guided tours.
Globe artistic director Jack O'Brien keeps a busy schedule. He just finished directing "Painting Churches" for PBS-TV's American Playhouse. The show will air May 19. Later this month, O'Brien whizzes back to New York to audition singers for "Porgy and Bess," which he will stage in December at the Houston Grand Opera. This summer he will direct the world premiere of Stephen Metcalfe's "Emily" at the Globe.