Thursday, February 4, 1999
In the summer of ''65, the Watts section of South Central L.A., a desperately poor ghetto, exploded in long, terrifying nights of rioting, fires, and pitched battles with police.
Out of the rubble arose the Watts Writers'' Workshop, created in a ruined downtown building by Budd Schulberg, Academy Award-winning screenwriter for On the Waterfront, as a forum where local residents could express themselves through the arts.
The Watts Prophets were one of the first groups to take advantage of the workshop. Formed in 1967, three of the original four members still write and perform together today, releasing their latest CD, When the ''90s Came, just last year. The trio--Amde Hamilton, Richard Dedeaux and Otis O''Solomon--will perform their original "poetry of social consciousness" at the Sunset Center in Carmel this Saturday night, backed by a three-person jazz combo.
It''s been 32 years since the Watts Prophets first took to the stage to speak their minds on race relations, generational conflict, political change and ecological awareness. Much has changed in the world since then, says Dedeaux, but the group''s essential message remains the same.
"The emphasis is on social commentary," he says. "About raising your kids to have respect, to have values. About saving the earth."
Dedeaux is speaking from his home in South Central L.A., the same house his family has lived in for 37 years. Little has changed in Watts since the riots, he says: the same buildings, the same infrastructure, the same amount of space. "But there are 17 times more people," he says, likening the explosive potential in his neighborhood to putting more and more lab rats into the same cage.
The point is, he says, not to give up. "We look around and try to find solutions," he says. "That''s what the Watts Prophets relate in our poetry. Don''t pass the buck."
Over 32 years, the Watts Prophets have collaborated with Don Cherry, Sarah Vaughn, Billy Higgins and Quincy Jones. Their early ''70s albums have been sampled by the likes of DJ Quick and Easy-E. But they''ve gone through periods where they hardly performed and had to take other jobs: Dedeaux, a mechanic by trade, also runs a custom framing business. But since a 1991 reunion, the trio has been hitting the circuit again regularly, performing mainly at college campuses and in art institutions.
Last month, they played at Dartmouth College, where, Dedeaux reports, "there were maybe eight black people in the audience." He''s not expecting very different percentages in Carmel, but that''s fine with him. "Our message is the same," he says. "Young, white, rich kids in Carmel face the same problems as poor, black kids down here [in L.A.]
"Problems don''t have a color," he notes. Violence, drugs, lack of respect, pollution--they affect everyone. "Our show is about social commentary, with some love poetry and comedy," he says. "It''s about the ''90s, and how to raise your kids with values and respect."
The Watts Prophets have been called "the progenitors of West Coast rap," being the first nationally known proponents of what is now a familiar style of rhythmic, spoken word performance. But Dedeaux draws a careful distinction between his group''s work and that of many young rappers today.
"We never used profanities," he says. "When we started in the ''60s, it was the black pride movement--the Panthers, Martin Luther King, ''I''m black and I''m proud.'' The emphasis was on social commentary. Music was never a big part of our performance. Over the years, as the new technology came into play, [rappers] took out the social commentary and put in old ''blue'' material. In my day, that was hidden. Now, it''s mainstream. Bitches and ''hos have replaced love and respect."
But most rappers "are positive," he adds. And all of it comes from a truthful place, a real anger, a legacy the Watts Prophets share. "We''re the fathers of gangsta rap, too," he says. "I also like Ice Cube and Ice-T."
Dedeaux says poetry gave him a needed creative outlet when he was young, and it can do the same for others. "It''s a good teaching tool," he says. "When you say poetry, you bare your soul. People who would lie tell the truth in their poetry. It used to be just for the elite, something you''d read up at a podium. We''ve taken it down and brought it to life.
"Poetry belongs to the world. It crosses all borders. They say it''s a dying art--but they''ve been saying that for thousands of years." cw
Taking Care Friday & Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 2:30pm. Comedic Drama. Philip Pearce''s original script examines the generation caught between aging parents and rambunctious children, and explores the difficulties of learning to care for a parent you once looked up to as incredibly gifted. A talented older woman, quickly losing her sight and hearing, meets with her sons on the porch of the family home--they''ve come together to make some tough decisions. Baby boomers and their parents alike are likely to relate to this humorous take on a serious matter that will touch all our lives. Indoor Forest Theater, Mountain View and Santa Rita, Carmel. 624-1531. $12/general; $9/children; $9/seniors. Through: 2/14.
The Lion in Winter Thursday, Friday and Saturday, 8pm; Sunday, 7pm. Drama. Peter O''Toole and Katherine Hepburn locked horns with majestic wit and fury in the Hollywood version of The Lion in Winter, the dramatized tale of a Christmas meeting between the kings of England and France in the year 1183. In this Unicorn Theatre production, Robert Colter, last seen as Scrooge in the Unicorn production of A Christmas Carol, plays Henry II, while Susan Keenan steps in as his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine and Paul Scofield appears as France''s King Philip. The play is a witty, lightly humorous look at the lives, loves and jealousies of Royals past--does anything really change? The Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman Ave., Monterey. 649-0259. $15/general; $12/children; $12/seniors. Through: 2/13.
Winnie-the-Pooh in... More Adventures in the Hundred Acre Woods Saturday, 2pm and 4pm; Sunday, 1pm and 3pm. Unicorn Theatre''s Family Fantasy Theatre brings back its annual Pooh offering, with a collection of delightful stories from A.A. Milne''s much-beloved bear. This year, the troupe has added three new tales: "How Eeyore Lost his Tail," "Piglet and the Heffalumps," and "Why Tiggers Can''t Climb Trees." Rob Foster plays the irrepressible bear, with Max Spiegal as Piglet, Kimberly Scott as Tigger, Katy Crockett as Christopher Robin and a host of other actors. This show regularly sells out; they''re adding more performances than last year, but be sure to make reservations. Hoffman Playhouse, 320 Hoffman Ave., Monterey. 649-0259. $5/general. Through: 2/28.
Pac Rep Open Auditions Saturday and Sunday, 10am-4pm. Pacific Repertory Theatre will hold open auditions for the upcoming 1998 summer/fall season. Plays are Master Class, May 28-July 11, directed by Sid Cato and Old Wicked Songs, June 8-July 15, directed by Dan Gotch (all roles open, weekly pay, prepare two contrasting monologues); Merry Wives of Windsor, Sept. 10-Oct. 17, directed by Kathy Deskin-Jacobs and King Lear, Oct. 1-17, directed by Stephen Moorer (all roles open except Lear, weekly pay for leads, prepare two contrasting Shakespeare monologues, four-minute max); and Fortinbras, Aug. 6-Oct. 16, director TBA (all roles open, weekly pay for leads, prepare two contrasting comedic monologues, one modern and one classic, four-minute max). Call to schedule audition time. Golden Bough, Monte Verde Street between 8th and 9th avenues, Carmel. 622-0700. Through: 2/7.
Marjorie Evans Gallery "Artist Equity Group Exhibit." Works by 20 local members of Artists Equity. Sunset Center, San Carlos Street and 8th Avenue, Carmel. 591-2787. Reception: 2/5, 5pm. Through: 2/26.
Sally Griffin Senior Center "If Walls Could Tell." Paintings by David R. Rojas focusing on farms, barns and other rural icons that "evoke a rural, pastoral time long since past." 700 Jewell Ave., Pacific Grove. 899-9141. Reception: 2/6, 5:30pm. Through: 2/28.
Ansel Adams Gallery "Backwater: Central Valley Dreamscapes." Photographs of California''s central valley by Roman Loranc. The Inn at Spanish Bay, 2700 17-Mile Drive, Pebble Beach. 375-7215. Through: 3/15.
Back Porch Fabrics and Gallery "These Are a Few of Our Favorite Quilts." Exhibit of quilts and garments made by the staff of Back Porch Fabrics. 157 Grand Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-4453. Through: 3/12.
Carl Cherry Center "The Green Whale of Winter." Exhibit featuring "works of 25 artists of differing styles, techniques and themes investigating whaling themes in literature." Guadalupe Street and 4th Avenue, Carmel. 624-7491. Through: 2/19.
Carmel Art Association "Hearts and Flowers." Works by CAA members in commemoration of Valentine''s Day. Also an exhibit of new abstract works. Dolores Street, between 5th and 6th avenues, Carmel. 624-6176. Through: 3/3.
Carmel Valley Manor Color photographs of flowers and landscapes by Stuart Mitchell and Irving Stuart. 8545 Carmel Valley Rd., Carmel Valley. 626-4806. Through: 2/28.
Center for Photographic Art "10 Years." Works by 33 photographers selected to celebrate the Center''s 10th anniversary. In the Sunset Center, San Carlos Street and 8th Avenue, Carmel. 625-5181. Through: 3/9.
Gray''s Art Gallery "Celebrating Black History." Group exhibit in various media. 1104 Broadway Ave., Suite K, Seaside. 899-1069. Through: 2/27.
Highlands Inn "Visual Inn." Photographs of renowned American chefs by Italian photographer, writer and businessman Francesco Illy. Highway 1, Carmel. 624-3801. Through: 3/8.
Monterey College of Law Handmade papers, monotypes and etchings by Paula Walzer. 404 W. Franklin St., Monterey. 373-3301.
Monterey Museum of Art: Civic Center
Gerald Wasserman''s "Caff Scenes;" Works on paper from the Frost/Hanna Collection. C.S. Price: "Landscape, Image and Spirit." 559 Pacific St., Monterey. 372-5477. Through: 4/18.
Monterey Museum of Art--La Mirada "Face to Face: The Paintings of Mabel Alvarez." 720 Via Mirada, Monterey. 372-3689, 372-5477. Through: 3/7.
Monterey Peninsula Airport "Altered States: Transforming the Spirit of Castoff Materials." Works by local artists who have created unusual works from everyday objects. Also, "Angels of Tradition," Santa Catalina Lower School students present their version of Monterey''s Christmas angels. 200 Fred Kane Dr., Monterey. 624-7910. Through: 3/31.
National Steinbeck Center "Cross-eyed: Two Siblings/Distinct Memories." Exhibit of art works and writing by John and Leah Harper that "relate humorous and touching stories about their memories growing up in a large family." One Main St., Salinas. 796-3833.
Pacific Grove Art Center "Weston: A Family''s Legacy." For the first time ever, photographs by the entire Weston clan--Edward, his sons Chandler, Brett, Neil and Cole, and Cole''s son, Kim, and his wife, Paulette--are exhibited in one show. This is a historic show, highly recommended. 568 Lighthouse Ave., Pacific Grove. 375-2208. Through: 2/19.
Pajaro Valley Gallery "Black & White and Everything in Between." Works by Lynda Watson and Jane Gregorius. 37 Sudden St., Watsonville. 722-3062. Through: 3/20.
Santa Catalina School "Contemplation&bul;Forces." Paintings by China-born artist Lampo Leong. 1500 Mark Thomas Dr., Monterey. 655-9350. Through: 2/7.
Seaside City Hall Group exhibit with works in several media celebrating Black History Month. Artists include Jimi Claybrooks, Carol Bowie, Vern Bowie, Barrington McCloud, Sandra Gray and Antar Jannah. 440 Harcourt Ave., Seaside. 899-6270. Reception: 2/21, 3pm. Through: 2/26.
A Taste of Monterey "Whales of Randy Puckett." Art exhibit and sale featuring the bronze sculptures of dolphins and whales by Randy Puckett benefits the Friends of the Sea Otter. 700 Cannery Row, Monterey. 373-2747. Through: 2/14.
Zantman Art Galleries Oil paintings by Italo G. Botti. 6th Avenue and Mission Street, Carmel. 624-8314. Through: 2/12.