Thursday, October 9, 2008
• In September 1988, Stephen Moorer and the GroveMont Theatre Arts Center produced Early Girl, a decadent little play about a prostitute. An unsentimental and frequently hilarious look at the profit motive in the world’s oldest profession, Early Girl’s theme suggests the arc of PacRep– not to say that Moorer is a prostitute, but over the last two decades he’s kept his eye on the profits. With a long list of savvy business decisions, he’s built the GroveMont into PacRep, a nationally recognized theater company. Not easy.
• Most of our institutions have managed to hang on by their fingernails. They’ve been forced to shorten their seasons and produce proven chestnuts instead of newer, more radical shows (though Gary Bolen and the MPC Theatre Company have found a way to weave edgier stuff like Urinetown and Fat Pig into their schedules). Nevertheless, they’ve continued to put actors on the boards and butts in the seats. Again, not easy.The Tired
• We’ve lost some wonderful theaters such as The Magic Circle to economics, and the downright heroic Paper Wing looks to be running out of juice– this year’s version of Rocky Horror is its last.
• There continues to be a vacuum of consistently edgy, smart theater. It’s certainly not the fault of the company directors. They’re doing what they have to do to keep their theaters afloat.
• It’d be nice to see more original work from Monterey County playwrights.The Verdict
It’s a damn shame that arts funding has dwindled to nearly nothing. The last 20 years have been a bumpy ride, but it’s safe to say that theater in Monterey County is strong compared to most of the nation. There is still a wealth of high quality plays being produced here and all the major theaters have their 2009 schedules posted and are planning beyond the immediate future. Theater will weather the economic storm and the funding cycle will start anew at some point in the next 20 years. Until then, Bolen, Moorer, et al. will find a way.
The Carl Cherry Center has long done the unlikely: sow a rich cultural contribution from a landscape crowded with venues competing for the artistic coin. Their consistency in producing thought-provoking material– whether theater or visual arts– meets their clear, and clearly ambitious, mission to (among other aims) offer diverse and engaging works. And it’s also a great gathering spot for art classes and the like.
• Monterey County is still one of the hottest literary destinations in the world. Period. Home to Pulitzer Prize winners, literary legends and writers of all shapes and sizes, it’s continued to inspire and attract scribes for the last 20 years. We’re the shiznit.
• The last 20 years have seen some tremendous literary institutions emerge and/or thrive. From The Steinbeck Center in Salinas to Big Sur’s Henry Miller Library to Carmel’s Robinson Jeffers Tor House Foundation, some very dedicated folk have been ensuring that writing is alive here. Organizations like the Monterey County Film Commission, Central Coast Writers, Fiction Writers of the Monterey Peninsula, The West Coast Poetry Slam, the Carl Cherry Center, Pacific Grove Poet’s Perch Committee and many others create a vibrant, writer-friendly community. Not only are we doing our literary tradition proud, we’re bringing a lot of attention and business to the county and producing some seriously good work.The Tired
• While Print On Demand presses have made it possible for anyone to publish anything (if they have the money), a definitive Monterey County press has yet to emerge. That said, we do have a wealth of good, young literary journals such as Ping Pong, Homestead Review, Cadillac Cicatrix and the Monterey Poetry Review.
• Some really great poets and writers have died. You’ll be missed, but your words remain.The Verdict
Steinbeck once said, “Man, unlike anything organic or inorganic in the universe, grows beyond his work, walks up the stairs of his concepts, emerges ahead of his accomplishments.” The Monterey County literary scene is similar. The scene is so rich and vibrant, it’s already written its future.
VISUAL ARTSThe Inspired
• It’s no secret that the Monterey Peninsula was one of the first arts colonies on the West Coast. Big Sur and Carmel have been a hotbed for painters, photographers and sculptors for the better part of the last century. What’s been exciting to see over the last 20 years is how places like Sand City have thrown off the rust of their industrial heritage and developed into artistic communities. Top artists have been converting Sand City’s buildings into studios and galleries, and the city’s annual West End Celebration has become arguably the most vibrant arts event in the county.
• If you’re not aware, the Center for Photographic Art in the Sunset Cultural Center has developed into one of the holiest sites of photography anywhere. With its feet firmly in the path of such 20th century luminaries as Edward Weston, CPA regularly showcases some of the best photography in the world.
• You’ve got to love what the Monterey Museum of Art has done over the last two decades. As the flagship arts institution in the county, it has brought in consistently amazing work and become a proud representation of local, state and even national art.
• Artists. There are a ton of them here and the great thing is most of them get shown. Galleries, cafés, restaurants… there are literally hundreds and hundreds of places to show in this county. You don’t have to be Richard MacDonald to get your work seen.The Tired
• Monterey County artists just aren’t being funded like they used to be. The Arts Council of Monterey is doing a great job, but the number of grants has dropped precipitously over the last 20 years. The federal and state opportunities simply aren’t there. Most noticeably, this has affected the Open Studio Tour in recent years. If any California county deserves a thriving studio tour, it’s ours.The Verdict
Monterey County will continue to attract artists. There are few places as inspiring as our region. In 20 years there will still be a gazillion art galleries and no Laundromat in Carmel. What’s more, the arts community will continue to spread out into the South County and beyond. You cannot stop art.
JAZZ AND CLASSICALThe Inspired
• Unbeknownst to most, Monterey County has become the Valhalla of semi-retired jazz studs. Over the last 20 years, a community of world-class jazz musicians have settled down on our fair shores. Many still hop commuter flights to L.A. for recording sessions and even roll on the occasional tour, but they can be found on any given night playing low-key gigs at places like Roy’s and Cibo. This rarefied atmosphere has not only been good for audiences, its been good for young, local up-and-comers who’ve thrived playing sessions with these greats.
•Monterey Symphony Music Director Max Bragado-Darman, Executive Director Joseph Truskot and their cast of instrumental supporters and musicians have conducted no small coup in cultivating a vibrant orchestra we can call our own. Their most recent phase, which they aptly call International Flare, has only reiterated their commitment to delivering a dynamic and accessible schedule without neglecting artistic growth or the next generation of listeners with an ear for an opus.
• Chamber Music Monterey Bay has developed into a truly exceptional promoter of spellbinding music over the last two decades. Amy Anderson and James Newkirk are making chamber music more than relevant by making performances must-see musical events on the Peninsula.
• Sunset Center. Acoustics are everything and Sunset boasts crystalline sound. In addition to the national acts that roll through the Sunset, the Monterey Symphony lights this place up. Not to be missed.The Tired
• Native American languages are dying. As the oldest generation dies, the tongue dies with them. The old ways are simply not being passed on. The same could be said about classical and chamber music. Despite the best efforts of local middle and high school programs, the greats simply don’t have the same cachet among the young as the Jonas Brothers and Hannah Montana. Someone has to remind these kids that Led Zeppelin was as much Mozart as it was Muddy Waters. If the kids have the ear, they’ll extrapolate the rest on their own and immerse themselves in some heavy-duty European roots.The Verdict
Monterey County is rich in world-class music. Get the kids in the seats and the future of classical, chamber and jazz music will follow. Who knows how many Rushad Egglestons there are among us who are wasting their ears and talent on High School Musical II?
• Bellydancers intertwine with the Peninsula’s bohemian roots. From the late ’60s until just last year, bellydancing flowed like wine (and there was plenty of wine, too) until the wee hours of the morning at Kalisa’s La Ida Cafe on Cannery Row.
• The Spector Dance Company was recently nominated for an “Excellence in Performing Arts” award by Ovation TV. Fran Spector Atkins’ company, truly the backbone of dance in Monterey County, performs work from emerging choreographers and inspires local ballerinas.
• DanceKids Monterey has been teaching Monterey kids from 5 to 18 how to pirouette and perform en pointe while inspiring them, building self-esteem and keeping the spirit of ballet alive.
• The Big Sur Natives are legendary. When they emerge from their redwood enclave, they’re surrounded by mystery and fire.
• CSUMB’s World Theater hosts some of the planet’s elite dance troupes. Its state-of-the-art theater and inspired schedule is a real treasure.
• Across the Peninsula, the former Carmel Ballet Academy’s (relatively) new name, the Carmel Academy of Performing Arts, accurately captures how Carol Richmond has only amplified the long, inspired tradition of the CBA, offering a variety of avenues for local youngsters to dive into dance and performing arts.The Tired
• We’ve got a world-class choreographer in Spector Atkins producing socially conscious, multimedia dance performances on a shoestring budget. We’ve got an educated, art-appreciating populace with wealth to spare. So why don’t more donors pitch in for dance funding?
• Speaking of diversity, where are the strip joints in Monterey County? As far as I’m concerned it’s an art form that’s unfortunately been ignored in these parts.The Verdict
Monterey County loves to dance. Outside of the professional dance companies, we’re pouring into schools like Shall We Dance and Monterey Peninsula Dance to samba and swing and waltz and foxtrot. We’re contra dancing, fire dancing and boogying down in the clubs and bars and festivals. The future for dance in this county looks bright.