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Readings, 'Snapshots' Celebrate Latino Writers, Artists


Comic Paul Rodriguez and "Selena" co-star Jackie Guerra will perform readings at the festive kickoff of an exhibition saluting Gary Soto and other award-winning Latino writers and artists for children's books, Saturday at the Every Picture Tells a Story gallery in Hollywood. Families are welcome.

The centerpiece of the exhibition is "Snapshots From a Wedding," a collaboration between noted multimedia sculptor Stephanie Garcia and Soto, a National Book Award finalist and winner of the Pura Belpre Award honoring Latino writers and illustrators whose work "best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience" for children and youth.

"The beauty of the work in this show," said gallery co-owner Lee Cohen, "is that Gary Soto's words, and the art that has come from them, offer an intimate look at a culture that all of us are not exposed to every day.

"Soto and the artists who have worked with him haven't chosen the big moments in life but the smaller moments that we can all respond to. It's a bringing together of cultures, a show for everybody."

Soto will appear at the reception with Garcia, whose three-dimensional works for "Snapshots"--sculpted and painted clay figures surrounded by found objects--will be on display, along with the artwork of other Soto illustrators, Susan Guevara ("Chato's Kitchen") and Ed Martinez ("Too Many Tamales!").

* "Snapshots From a Wedding" opening reception, Every Picture Tells a Story, 7525 Beverly Blvd., Hollywood, Saturday, 6-9 p.m., free, (213) 932-6070.

Just Say Noah: How did all those lions and tigers and rabbits get along on Noah's Ark without gobbling each other up? With a song, a prayer and a two-step. At least that's the way it is in "Animal Trouble on Noah's Ark," a cheery, simply staged new musical for children ages 4 and up at Bang Theatre in West Hollywood.

Performed by veteran adult theater professionals and written by Laura Hall and T Michael, this good-natured show, with songs that vary in adeptness and hummability, retells the biblical tale with an emphasis on getting along, friendship and faith.

The animals don't go two by two here. Differences to be overcome drive the messages as prey and predator learn to coexist, to be patient and to do chores. The gorilla (Rick Hall) grumbles most of all; he's the pooper-scooper.

Meanwhile, Noah's sneezing, wheezing sons (all played by Chris Halstead) cope with their allergies and Noah (Halsted, who also plays Skunk) and his wife (Jennifer Buttell) try to keep the peace.

Under co-author Michael's direction, the capable actors, performing on a small bare stage with few props and minimal costuming, hit their stride after some routine opening numbers.

They bounce into a more assured comic mode with "Don't You Just Love a Rabbit?," a tuneful hoot sung by Lion (Lisa Ann Grant), Wolf (Rick Hall) and Tiger (Steve Staley), as they salivate over an unwitting Rabbit (Jenn Robbins). Staley adds comic weight throughout the show in his other role as the always optimistic Dog.

Both cast and music seem more comfortable when humor predominates; serious moments, like "Noah's Despair," a musical crisis of faith, convey obligatory solemnity in an unoriginal, easy-listening pop style.

* "Animal Trouble on Noah's Ark," Bang Theatre, 457 N. Fairfax, West Hollywood, Sundays, 3:30 p.m. through June 15. $5. (213) 653-6886. Running time: 1 hour.

Toying With Art: A hairdo of nails, a bewigged kitchen stool, a tennis ball head: The figures on exhibit at the Fowler Museum of Cultural History, striking in their variety, are the work of inspired Los Angeles-area students in kindergarten through high school who came up with their own definition of "dolls" in a museum-sponsored competition.

"Isn't S/He a Doll? A Juried Art Exhibition for Students," opening Sunday, features the competition's top 50 entries and is being held in conjunction with the museum's "'Isn't S/He a Doll? Play and Ritual in African Sculpture," an exhibition of playthings and symbolic figures.

Using the African exhibits as reference, the students--both boys and girls--created works expressing personal experiences, observations of life and cultural heritage, with such titles as "Fat Boy," "Metallic Man," "Revelation," "Cholo" and "Zuly Goes to a Wedding."

The awards ceremony for first-, second- and third-place winners in each of four grade categories will be held at 2 p.m. Sunday.

* "Isn't S/He a Doll? A Juried Art Exhibition for Students," UCLA Fowler Museum, UCLA campus, west of Royce Hall, Sundays through Nov. 9. Museum hours: Wednesdays through Sundays, noon to 5 p.m.; Thursdays, noon to 8 p.m. Admission: $5 per adult, $3 seniors, free for ages 17 and under; free to everyone on Thursdays. Parking in Lots 4 or 5, $5. (310) 825-4361.

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