Anne Fontaine with Valery Freland (to her right)

BOSTON – French and Brazilian designer Anne Fontaine recently joined with Valéry Freland, the Consul General of France in Boston, to kick off Forest Day 2018 with a fundraiser at the consul’s home. The swanky event raised more than $12,000 toward the goal of planting 100,000 trees by 2022 to reforest the Brazilian Atlantic Rainforest, the Mata Atlântica.

Boston’s most famous Brazilian supermodel, Gisele Bunchen, was not able to attend, but donated a 15-pound (not a typo!) sparkly, designer, green mini-dress to the Foundation that she wore in San Paolo many years ago. The Anne Fontaine Foundation [/] will auction it off at an upcoming event in Washington, D.C., to raise more money for the cause.

We attendees were invited to meet with Anne and her foundation chair, Dorothee Charles, to hear more about the mission as well as tour the new collection at the Anne Fontaine boutique, located at The Heritage on the Garden on Boylston Street in the Back Bay. (Anne also has a luxe boutique in Beverly Hills.)

Anne, charming as ever, spoke to me about how she is always connected to nature in her collections, so much so that in 2011 she decided to create the Anne Fontaine Foundation in order to save the Amazon Rainforest.

Tonya Mezrich with Anne and attendees.

It was lovely touring the new collection, as Anne showed me her very first pair of jeans. Lots of blues, such as a fun flirty blue sweater and of course her signature white shirts which bore the floral theme. Anne raved about a pair of white floral trainers that are flying off the shelves.

I was drawn to the sleeves on this crisp white shirt in the center of the store and the floral lace shirt that the store manager was wearing. Laces are French and from Calais, Anne indicated, from production houses who have been producing lace for more than four generations.

Anne beamed about her new collection: Anne Fontaine Casual. These pieces have a price point of $200 to $300 per shirt rather than the higher boutique of $350 to $395 price point. I respect designers who find ways for those watching their budget to have access to beautiful designs and invest in significant pieces. I fell in love with a mesh jacket with floral appliqués on the sleeves. Apparently all of her staff want this jacket as well! Check out the AnneFontaine site and tell me what you think?

It was a pleasure to spend the afternoon with Anne again, two years later after my first visit and interview with her! She has 52 stores to visit year-round, and Boston is happy to boast being the first stateside store of the brand, and as store manager, Amanda, puts it, “We are the mothership of Anne Fontaine!”

 

“I’m so happy I could cry,” begins the most recent Facebook post from Becki Dennis.  “I just found out that I received the Best Actress Award at the Boston International Film Festival and our Director, Eric R. Eastman, has also won a well-deserved Indie Spirit Recognition Award!”

Dennis played the lead role in the new indie film “Spin The Plate,” which recently premiered at the Boston International Film Festival. In a plot twist of her own, she was not able to attend the screening as she was working on her new film, “Justine” in Los Angeles, which she now calls home. A recent transplant, she was amazed to discover how many other Bostonians, who like her have been performing their whole lives, have packed their bags for the City of Angels, where people really do become stars of the screen and stage.

Dennis has been performing since she was a kid, always in dance and theater productions and always drawn to the performing arts. She caught the acting bug pretty hard in high school and wanted to major in musical theater in college.  After three years at Point Park University in Pittsburgh, she came back to Boston, took an acting class at Emerson, a music class at Berklee and did an acting/directing course at Boston University.

She worked as an actor and performer for several years in the Boston market and one lucky day was recommended to David O’Russell for a speaking role in a major film.

“Filmmakers started to shoot more in Boston so I started to show up as an extra and really fell in love with being on a film set. I started to do commercials, training videos, short films, things like that-then came my first big break, which was “American Hustle.”

After being cast in another blockbuster film, “Ted 2” which was also shot in Boston, Dennis decided that she no longer wanted to be a big fish in a small pond and in order to branch out to bigger markets she had to make the move.  It has paid off. Landing the role of Jo in “Spin the Plate” was a turning point for Dennis.

“I always thought I couldn’t act in film or TV because you had to look like a model. Lead roles for plus size women have not come around too often in the past, unless it’s like the butt of the joke or something, but times are changing so to get to play something so complex and interesting is a gift.”

Dennis has gone on to have parts in 15 television shows in two years, though she started out slow and had to build up a portfolio of work to get to where she is now. Since she is in the middle of filming the feature film “Justine”  there is not a lot she can tell us yet about her new role.

“It’s a supporting role, it’s a good role and toward the end of the film, I play a nurse, and there’s a really interesting scene. The writer, director and lead actress is Stephanie Turner, who wrote the script when she was in the Sundance Screenwriters lab. Hopefully it’s Sundance bound…hoping it can be the next ‘LadyBird’ or something.”

Meanwhile, she and her husband are embracing the good life and the abundance of sunshine in LA but when asked what she misses most about the East Coast, besides her family, she immediately responds with “really good Italian food in the North End.”

As one bi-coastal resident to another, I say, “Amen to that.”

 

Fashion designer Charles Neumann

I spent the morning of the dress rehearsal chatting with costume designer Charles Neumann, who was handpicked by director James Darrah of the Boston Lyric Opera to bring the characters to life through his signature costuming. Having known each other from working together at Central City Opera in Colorado upon Neumann’s graduation in 2011, their long history afforded the BLO with a treat in costuming rich in background, design, and story that will be a true delight for the audience in the upcoming production of “The Threepenny Opera” this Friday at the Boston Lyric Opera House. (I’m entranced by the description of one character’s costume, which turns out to be Neumann’s fave as well.) Read more to find out the ins and outs of what goes into developing a costume wardrobe for a full-scale opera production and how a ready-to-wear fashion designer makes the jump from clothing design to costume design.

What is your background in fashion?

I graduated in 2011 from Lasell College in Newton with a BA in apparel design and production and went from graduation to Central City Opera in Central City Colorado for their summer season. I have been working since then on project commission work for smaller opera companies. I do a lot of ready-to-wear, but wanted to transition to costumes.

How would you describe your brand?

Women’s ready-to-wear, separates, mix and match separates, geared towards an “eye on the past”—a weird forward-thinking retrospect. My style details are pulled from fashion and apparel history. I like to use modern silhouettes, mix them. For example, if you had your two favorite people, what would they wear if we were on a date? I came up with long silhouettes with a heavily distorted hounds tooth. I love to create jarring juxtapositions favoring bohemian, or earth wanderer aesthetic. I use lots of hand beading and have a sharp eye for high quality production. It has to be 100 percent perfect. If you were to describe my brand in three words it would be: sharp, nostalgic, bohemian.

Police Chief Tiger Brown

How does this tie in to your costume design choices for the BLO?

James Darrah approached me to do it—I met him at Central City, he was an [artistic director]. He followed my work, and came to me and said I’m doing this opera. Imagine existing in this world where your clothes are the only viable option for these people. I was immediately intrigued. He described this world that exists without a time or place. It feels new, and interesting, but also feels very familiar. It has an eye on the past. When you see the opera you’ll see that it’s my signature brand. There is lots of attention to handwork, mixed materials, lines very similar to what I typically work with.

 

 

How would you describe the aesthetic of the costuming for ‘The Threepenny Opera’?

It’s lovely, but it’s NOT lovely. It has a weird back and forth. Everyone exists on the same social level. No one is higher than anyone else. But everyone is scheming and planning to step all over everyone else. Your personal visual can take a step backwards when you have slipped away. The clothes become tattered, thread bare. Imagine a trunk in attic, filled with Victorian clothes, that when you touch they fall apart. You can tell they looked very beautiful at one time. “The Threepenny Opera” costumes feel like “all things forgotten,” melancholic, dark, and sad. Jarring, because the music is sharp and aggressive but also sad, and soft. A great example and signature piece is Lucy’s yellow velvet coat: sharp harsh lines, but contrastingly very organic.

How did you get into the design mode for this opera? What was your inspiration? Did you watch other productions or read the script, listen to the music?

Definitely a combination of all of the above. I read the script 100 times. It was really important for me to think about: Who’s going to wear these garments, what are they like? It’s harder than [ready-to-wear] because clothing is a signifier, a personal billboard to tell people this is how I feel—this is who I am. I had to do this for each of the characters in the show. Who were you? What did you do? How did you get where you are? Psychological profiles of how they see themselves and how they would show others how they see themselves. I watched 1920s versions of the show, as well as ’30s and ’40s. Used some of the elements from notable productions for the main character Mackise.

 

Jenny Diver

Which character did you relate to the most?

There were two. Jenny Diver, had this long history with Mackise, the villain. She’s sort of removed, aloof, always watching always seeing. She sells him out not once but twice to the Peachums to get him hanged. She has a similar aesthetic to mine, she wears this beautiful lace dress that has been worn and worn the hemline is tattered. She feels nostalgic and melancholic. It’s the main signifier of my look, by aesthetic and brand. The second one is Lucy Brown, the daughter of the chief of police. She’s certifiably crazy. Wearing yellow velvet coat with big portrait collar, sharp angular lines reminiscent of designers Viviene Westwood and Yoji Yamamoto. She’s driven crazy because she fell in love with this person who doesn’t love her back. That’s how I am with my work.

Macheath (aka Mac the Knife)

I know this has been your first large-scale commission for the performing arts following your work with MetroWest Opera. How has it been working for such a large-scale production and what were some of the challenges?

It’s been wonderful. The people at BLO have been a dream to work with. We are all vibrating on the same frequency, the director, lighting, set designer, all existing on the same frequency. What’s been tricky is I’m typically committed to an image, and to a process, but with opera things are always evolving. You get a lot of “This doesn’t work lets change this.” And you have to run with the punches. And, you’re running EVERY second. Like getting a call at 8 p.m. the night before the dress rehearsal (last night) with a “We need XYZ, can you get that?” It’s definitely made me become adaptable to change.

How many people are on your production team?

Quite a few: a project manager, an assistant, Costume Works in Somerville—they are a costume company for BLO, Disney— a patternmaker, and Liz Perlman who owns Costume Works and built and fabricated the yellow coat. It’s a team of about 12 to15 people working with me from fittings, pattern making, assembling, and altering. We’ve been working together for six weeks. Actually, today is the first day we will see all of the clothes living in the set, on the actors and under the lighting. It’s exciting, intimidating, and joyful all at the same time. I’m waiting to see these clothes exist on stage. If anything needs to be altered or changed luckily, there is time before the show opens.

Were there budgetary constraints on the wardrobe?

BLO had a great budget to work with. I had designed the show before I knew what our physical budget was. It was submitted to the costume shop. They did a price breakdown of what it cost. Our principal costumes if they have something specific, those things we build from the ground up. With the supporting and chorus, those are pieces we pulled and bought and altered. It wasn’t a challenge. I’m very thrifty anyways. I’m good at getting a great look for not a lot of money. I do this in my own designs for my clothing line—I don’t think that fashion should be isolating. I feel like it should be accessible.

What is your favorite costume of the show?

A couple. Lucy’s yellow coat. It’s so beautiful. It was a triumph in making it. When I suggested this coat at our initial meetings at BLO everyone was wanting this coat. …When it came to how are we going to make this, Liz Perlman, she was like “I got this.” She was able to take what existed on the page and turn it into reality. It’s super soft, very hard, draped structured. It was an achievement to make this coat. This velvet is covered in all these custom dyed chiffon flowers. I built one dress for the opera—the dress to be worn by Jenny Diver. It’s a chiffon dress with open work on top made of gray lace. It has shine with its asymmetrical bodice. It’s beautiful, very well built, floor length with a small train. I used several bones in the bodice. The whole bottom of the dress is cut away leaving a soft organic hemline. The best part was we submerged the lower half in water and painted into it with browns, grays, blacks, all dirty tones so it really looks like someone was wearing this beautiful dress for years, walking through back alleys and streets. We built and added all those years into the dress by distressing and staining it. It feels beautiful but sad. It is one of my favorite pieces. There is high melancholy in it. A dress with a long history.

What are the differences between creating costumes for an opera versus designing a collection for fashion show?

It’s really the target audience. When designing a collection for the runway you come in with a concept, create an image. With a runway show, you’re in a tighter avenue. You know who your ideal customer is, your target audience. With an opera you are creating an image aesthetic, but it’s like real life, everyone has their own style, so it’s not necessarily the same, so it becomes harder because you’re trying to work in an overall aesthetic, but be true to each character’s personality. You must do intense psychological breakdowns of each character but be true to this world you created. It’s more involved doing costuming.

What are the plans for the costumes after the show ends?

They will go back to Costume Works. They will be cleaned and get packed away. They go into the BLO stock. For any future shows, they can be pulled. There is an opportunity if BLO is in love with the show, they can freeze the show and the costumes don’t get broken down, and it can get rented to other productions all over the country. In any event, the BLO owns everything.

What is your next project?

I am working on a fall collection inspired by Hypnos, the Greek god of sleep and the image of the world in which he dwells—a cave filled with poppies, where the river of forgetfulness stems, a world without light or sound.

For more information on tickets to the performance go to https://blo.org/the-threepenny-opera

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Keala Settle’s soaring performance of “This is Me” nearly stopped the Oscar broadcast on Sunday night, but to theater buffs and careful viewers her amazing stage presence and vocal range wasn’t a surprise. Settle, you see, originated the role of Becky in “Waitress: The Musical,” which made its world premiere at the American Repertory Theater in August 2015 before transferring to Broadway.
A Tony Award-nominee, Settle was backed by a diverse choir for her rendition of the Best Original Song nominee “This is Me,” the signature tune from “The Greatest Showman,” in which Settle played the bearded lady. The song (written by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, who won the Tony Award for their score for “Dear Evan Hanson,”) did not win the Oscar.
So what is everyone talking about? You can watch Settle’s emotional performance on the Oscars.com website.

Necklace in platinum with aquamarines of approximately 61 total carats and diamonds from the Tiffany Blue Book Collection Price Upon Request

Gal Godot relaxes before the big evening. Earrings in platinum with diamonds $580,000.00

The 90th annual Academy Awards was not an exercise in shyness, though we did feel a strong throwback to old Hollywood glamour in many of the fashion choices. (Editor’s Note: Tonya was one of the few who predicted that the color palette would lighten up from the darker colors worn in protest earlier in awards season.)

There were lots of red, white, and blue as well as touches of the requisite shimmer. Necklines were plunging, asymmetrical or even turtled as in Maya Rudolph’s interesting choice of a billowing red gown. My favorites and top picks includes Gal Gadot in a plunging silver dress with an exquisite encrusted 27 carat aquamarine lariat drop necklace with more than 1000 diamonds from Tiffany & Co.

Also top on my list was Allison Janney in the stunning red low V-neck with draping kimono sleeves. It was very similar to Meryl Streep’s red in color and cut, but was simply stunning when she took the stage to receive the Oscar for her performance as Tonya Harding’s mother in “I, Tonya.” My third top choice was Laura Dern in a captivating white, one-shoulder dress by Calvin Klein. She doesn’t typically wow me on the red carpet, but definitely brought her old Hollywood A game to the Oscars.

With all of these top picks the bottoms are always interesting to explore as well. Top on my list of misses was Nicole Kidman in Giorgio Armani. The blue bow at her hips was distracting and just plain bizarre. It looked like a functional booboo, with nowhere for Nicole to place her hands.

 Another miss for me was Salma Hayek. Her lavender paillette gown with excessive garland like beading read more like Bollywood not Hollywood to me, but not in a successful way.

Was anyone else wondering what was Eiza Gonzalez wearing?  Her yellow “bodycon” gown looked like something you would wear coming back from a day on the beach. But it was a contouring couture from Ralph Lauren. (Note to the House of RL: What were you thinking? The material was all wrong for a black tie event, and almost insulting! I get it, she’s new to the awards, but please, next time have a publicist line up a designer for that girl!)

My last miss was Margot Robbie. This girl is so gorgeous that she could wear a Christmas tree and look good. The bad thing is, that’s exactly what she did! The beaded shoulder draping and neckline was just too holiday and not enough Hollywood for me. Sorry Margot, Chanel just wasn’t scoring high with this judge.

            Local connections to the award show are always fun to keep track of. David Fialkow of General Catalyst and producer of “Icarus,” winner of the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature rocked the red carpet with red Ferragamo shoes which added a fun punch of color to his navy tuxedo. So glad he made it on stage to accept the award! Local designer, Beth Miller, bejeweled Natalie Morales with her signature pearl rose gold earrings and diamond rose gold ring.

What were your favorites and misses of the evening? Let us know in the comments or on social media.

Best Documentary Feature Film Oscar winner David Fialkow and family

Natalie Morales wearing Beth Miller

One thing that you can count on when talking about Wyclef Jean is that he is not going to walk a familiar path. From running for office in his native Haiti to leading humanitarian efforts after natural disasters, this Grammy Award-winning performer always seems to be on a road less traveled. For his current “Carnival” tour is making stops from cities as varied as Harrisburg, Pa., to Boston, where Jean will play the Wilbur Theatre on March 1. styleboston pulled our interview with Jean from our archives to share. You can view it here.

https://vimeo.com/257992275.

Britney Spears performs

Photographer Steven Tackeff is a Boston area native who recently returned to his favorite professional subject: photographing concerts and capturing the music scene.

While working as a freelancer in the mid-1990s for The MetroWest Daily News, Tackeff went out one night in search of a cow escaped from a Hopkinton slaughterhouse, a story that was dominating the daily’s news pages. Emily the Cow, as the bovine was named by the local community, wandered in area backyards, living off of what she could glean (or, was left for her by the residents), but many still doubted the tale. That all changed when Tackeff tracked the cow and took the first photographs. With the addition of the cow’s photo the story garnered international attention and was developed into a movie.
From then on, Tackeff continued to work with one of the editors in charge of the Emily the Cow story ( our own Carol Beggy) who then assigned him to photograph a concert. That lone assignment lead to Tackeff “shooting” photos of more than 400 music acts from Tony Bennett, to Sinead O’Connor, Steven Tyler, Pink, and U2. He has taken the portraits of an estimated 1,000 celebrities, including shots of Christina Ricci when she was in her early teens and Ed McMahon on his last public appearance in Boston.
“I had been doing news assignments when Carol sent me to a concert,” Tackeff says. “I returned to the paper and told her and the arts and features team that all I wanted to do from then on was shoot entertainment.”
Tackeff approaches his work as an artist who loves not just his work, but that of the artists he photographs. His photos have been published in numerous publications including The Boston Globe, Metro and other papers. An agency picked him up and started selling his work worldwide. He was approached by Rolling Stone to shoot concerts for their online site weekly sometime 3 to 4 times a week from that point on for a several years. Overall his work has included covering the the Grammy Awards and several MTV-hosted events. He also toured with No Doubt as their photographer. “Music moves me like little else,” Tackeff says.
With this gallery of photos, Tackeff is launching his presence on the styleboston.tv and leftcoast.la sites. His work will appear regularly.

Stephen Lewin and Erica Schwartz of the Ambassador Theatre Group with Emerson President Lee Pelton at press event in November. Photo by Bill Brett

BOSTON – We now have a date.

After two years of being dark and undergoing an extension renovation, the Emerson Colonial Theatre will re-open on June 27 with the world premiere of “Moulin Rouge! The Musical,” producers Global Creatures and the Ambassador Theatre Group announced.

The historic Boston theater, the anchor of Boston’s Theater District, will re-open on June 27 for just 36 performances. “Moulin Rouge!,” is based on the Baz Luhrmann’s 2001 film of the same name, and is expected to transfer to Broadway for a run. “Moulin Rouge! The Musical, will play this limited engagement at the newly refurbished venue at 106 Boylston St.

The Colonial, long known for its amazing acoustics, launched many legendary shows from its storied stage on Boylston Street, including “Anything Goes,” “Porgy and Bess,” “Oklahoma!,” “Born Yesterday,” “Annie Get Your Gun,” “Follies,” “A Little Night Music,” “Grand Hotel,” and “La Cage aux Folles.”

Tickets for the musical go on sale on Wednesday, January 17 and start at $55. They are available at EmersonColonialTheatre.com or by calling 866.616.0272. (In-person purchases will be possible when the theater’s box office opens at a later date.)

Although casting has not yet been announced, the musical is directed by Alex Timbers (A Tony nominee for “Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson” and “Peter and the Starcatcher”) with a book by John Logan, in photo, (Tony Award for “Red”) and choreography by Sonya Tayeh.

As in Luhrmann’s film, “Moulin Rouge! The Musical” celebrates some of the greatest popular music of the last 50 years. The stage musical promises to feature many of the iconic songs from the movie and also includes recent hits released since the movie premiered 15 years ago.

 

Other links

www.EmersonColonialTheatre.com

www.MoulinRougeMusical.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SOMERVILLE – A couple of nights before “Phantom Thread” opened in theaters styleboston’s Tonya Mezrich hosted an exclusive, special screening of the Paul Thomas Anderson movie that stars Daniel Day Lewis as a detail obsessed head of a London fashion house.

Here is Tonya’s report: Hosting an advance screening of this Paul Thomas Anderson 1950s drama last night was a real treat. Sixty-five of my dear friends and fashionphiles dressed in their hottest phantom threads gathered at the AMC theater in Assembly Square to get a sneak peek of the film. Touted to be Daniel Day Lewis’ last–he was brought out of retirement and his 10-year cobblership to get back together with Anderson to make this movie together.

The period and the setting are depicted so realistically that you can imagine this fictional movie being based loosely on reality—think an over-the-top version of Christian Dior or Oscar de la Renta. Having developed and run my own fashion house (but on a much smaller scale) years ago, the realism of the measuring, the fittings, the backstage chaos of a fashion show and ruining your piece de resistance hours before its intended delivery is all so accurate that it makes it hard to believe that it is indeed fiction.

However, Anderson brings us back to reality swiftly—with the ending of the movie making it very clear that this is so. But not without the characteristic playfulness, quirkiness and even dark side of Anderson’s filmmaking style we are familiar with as we remember the tormented Tom Cruise in “Magnolia.”

Editor’s note: Keep checking our pages as we continue to partner with those who bring you the best in lifestyle, arts and entertainment. The Boston Globe’s review goes even further than Tonya on recommending “Phantom Thread,” you can read it here.

https://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/movies/2018/01/10/phantom/QCiWWhRcqcQSDfduMTdVPK/story.html

Hair by Timothy at Salon Capri
Makeup by Tavi

 

The most striking element of opening night at the Boch Center Shubert Theatre for the musical adaptation of “The Color Purple,” Alice Walker’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, was the diversity of the audience and the connection that was made by people of all colors that evening.

In a world where the media seem to barrage people everyday with negativity around race relations in this country, the congeniality and shared excitement for the evening was the prevailing sentiment among the crowd. The performances by the cast of “The Color Purple” were filled with raw emotion, and the audience responded enthusiastically. Strong and natural yet controlled, the actors spun a powerful version of Walker’s story that was more upbeat and positive and less focused on the horrific treatment suffered by these southern African-American women during the 1920s and 30s because of their race and culture.

Moving quickly through the story, the vocal capabilities of the lead actresses, Adrianna Hicks in the starring role of Cecie, and Carla Stewart as Shug Avery, were worth the trip alone. The arts play an ever more important role in bringing people together and encouraging them to find common ground in the things they love. This is the message that Americans need to hear and for a few hours that magical evening all agendas were checked at the door, making opening night’s achievement truly worth the standing ovation it received.

Tickets are on sale now at the Boch Center Box Office, bochcenter.org, or by calling (866) 348-9738.

 

 

 

SDIFF Ambassadors Liese Cornwell and Terri Stanley with actor/comedian Kumail Nanjiani and spouse Emily Gordon

San Diego: Kumail Nanjiani is receiving lots of applause for his writing and acting in the new indie movie The Big Sick, and was among a handful of Hollywood celebrities honored at the 16th annual San Diego International Film Festival‘s Tribute to the Stars. Hosted by Variety magazine and held in the ballroom of the smart, new Pendry San Diego hotel, the glittering gala included Nanjiani, who won the Auteur award, and his wife Emily V. Gordon, who co-wrote the script based on the true story of their relationship. (Actress Zoe Kazan played Emily in the film.)

SDIFF’s top honor went to Sir Patrick Stewart, who accepted The Gregory Peck Award for Excellence in Film, and was presented by Peck’s daughter, Cecilia Peck. (Last year’s recipient was actress Annette Bening.)  Other awardees include Heather Graham, who brought her glam game on to accept the Virtuoso Award and Blake Jenner, who walked away with the Rising Star Award. The Chris Brinker award, given to a promising new director and inspired by the late director Chris Brinker, went to Manny Rodriquez Jr for Butterfly Caught.

One of the premier festivals in the region, SDIFF opened with the screening of Marshall  at the iconic Balboa Park Theatre and was followed by four days of screenings, panels and parties. Executive and Artistic Director Tonya Mantooth and her team deserve a big round of applause for continuing to bring quality films to the arts and film communities of southern California. For more coverage see the links below.

Fox 5 covers Variety Night of the Stars

A researcher plays David to a seagoing Goliath at Birch Aquarium at Scripps. PHOTO CONTRIBUTED

Imagine you are walking into a 12-foot cube with reflective mirrors on all sides and a music score begins, transporting you underwater, where you are surrounded by light radiating off the tiny organisms, and you can imagine what it looks and feels like to be a deep-sea diver who weaves in and out of its radiance.

At Birch Aquarium at Scripps in San Diego, part of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and UCSD, this cube will soon exist. The installation is called the Infiniti Cube and is being created by a Scripps scientist who studies bioluminescence, a renowned London artist in residence at Scripps Oceanography and a New York musician and composer who teaches math.

Scheduled to open soon, the Infiniti Cube is just one example of how Birch Director Harry Helling is adapting to the times. The priorities for public engagement at the aquarium have changed along with the urgency of understanding and protecting the planet, so his focus is on education, conservation and engagement in the community, which Birch has served for the last 100-plus years.

Read more: San Diego Community News Group – World class science community support fuel Birch Aquarium

 

 

 

 

 

Dick Flavin regales the Red Sox faithful on the game he loves at a recent La Jolla Farms get-together. PHOTO BY CHRIS SHAFFER
It’s always baseball season for Dick Flavin, the poet laureate of the Boston Red Sox, who was in La Jolla Oct. 24 in support of his New York Times bestseller, “Red Sox Rhymes: Verses and Curses,” a collection of baseball-themed poems he has written over of the years.

“When I finally did this thing,” Flavin said, “it was a wake up call to me. I had loved these poems and the lyrical connection. I started writing them, and I loved doing them. I loved the Red Sox all my life. I tell people I was born a Red Sox fan and baptized a Catholic.”

Flavin, a 22-year veteran of Boston television, recited some poems and told more than a few stories about the Red Sox and the game he loves as part of a City Club of San Diego event at Michelle and Bill Lerach’s beautiful La Jolla Farms estate.

The well-attended event was organized by San Diego native George Mitrovich, president of the City Club and the Denver Forum and chair of the Red Sox & Great Fenway Park Writers Series. Mitrovitch invited Red Sox fans young and old to hear Flavin do what he does best — humorously recite his favorite poems as he weaves the history and emotion of the game throughout the words.

 

The 224-page book is published by HarperCollins.

“When I was in the third grade,” Flavin said at an interview at the La Valencia Hotel before his appearance, “I made a discovery. It was a poem by Ernest Lawrence Thayer called ‘Casey at the Bat.’ I loved the story of it, and it was about baseball. I loved the music of it as the words took you inexorably to the conclusion. I loved hearing and saying it more than reading it. I learned the poem on my own. It became part of my act, and I would recite it for anyone who would listen.”

That iconic poem was the inspiration for the poetry Flavin would write about the Red Sox and baseball for the next 15 years.

Ted Williams, a native of San Diego and in Flavin’s opinion the greatest hitter in the history of baseball, had an important influence on Flavin, as is evident by the number of poems and stories around him. Flavin got to know Williams through his pals on the team – centerfielder Dom DiMaggio, a hero of Flavin’s and to whom the book is dedicated, and player-manager Johnny Pesky.

“I’m taking the road trip of a lifetime,” Flavin begins, “and I’m with Dom DiMaggio and Johnny Pesky. We all drove down to Florida to visit with Ted, who was gravely ill. I had to do something to justify my presence among these mythic heroes of my boyhood. So we’re in Ted’s living room, and I do a rewrite in my head of ‘Casey at the Bat.’ I made it about Ted, and the Red Sox and recited it for the three of them. I knew ‘Casey at the Bat’ cold, so it was easy to do. Ted loved it, and every time he saw me, he asked me to do ‘Teddy at the Bat.’”

Flavin also has a deep admiration for “the man with the vision,” as he refers to Larry Lucchino, former Red Sox CEO and a longtime La Jolla resident. Lucchino, who is mentioned often in the book, led the efforts to restore Fenway Park to more than its original grandeur, modernized it and brought it back to life, giving a great gift to the community of Boston. But Flavin considers Lucchino’s impact on baseball to be far greater than just one park.

“Larry’s great legacy to the game,” he explained, “is what he’s done for ballparks. Baltimore is a perfect example of that. He studied what it was about the older parks that people loved and folded that into Camden Yards. He built a retro modern park that has all the bells and whistles but also the traditional aspect to it as well.

“Larry came to San Diego and built Petco Park, a beautiful facility that would not have been built without Larry. They were all Larry Lucchino’s doing. Those three ballparks and what he has done for the community in those three places, Baltimore, San Diego and Boston, should put him in the Hall of Fame as an executive.”

It was Lucchino who asked Flavin to be the poet laureate of the Red Sox, the only team to have one. Even with the season completed — and long after the Sox were in contention — Flavin is still high on the game he loves and preparing for next season.

“When you love something the way fans love baseball,” he said, “you don’t stop just when your team isn’t winning. Baseball is still being played, and I’m still watching. I’ll be ready for spring training, like all baseball fans. We can’t help ourselves.”

Read more: San Diego Community News Group – La Jolla San Diego are Red Sox Nation s West Coast outposts poet laureate says

Building empathy through film

Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive
Photo by Liane Brandon

As executive producer and founder of Spy Pond Productions, Eric Stange has produced, directed and written a dizzying array of work, mostly telling unique, often lost stories of American history. His work, which also covers science, has been broadcast on PBS, The Discovery Channel, and the BBC. Before becoming a filmmaker he wrote about art and culture for The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Atlantic Monthly, and other publications. Eric has been the recipient of a Harvard University Charles Warren Fellowship in American History. He’s on the board of Common-Place, a website devoted to early American history, and writes a column about media and history for American Heritage magazine. “Edgar Allan Poe: Buried Alive” stars Denis O’Hare as Poe, and was shot on location in Boston. A screening will be held on Saturday, April 29, 1:30 p.m., at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square as part of the Independent Film Festival of Boston (http://iffboston.org), and will be broadcast nationally next fall on the PBS series American Masters.

 What was it like working with Denis O’Hare?

Denis is one of the most talented actors in the business. Virtually everyone has seen him in his many TV or movie roles (“American Horror Story,” “The Good Wife,” “True Blood, Dallas Buyer’s Club”), but like a lot of great character actors he isn’t a household name. He should be.

What sold us on casting Denis was that he spent a whole season of “American Horror Story” playing a leading character who’s mute. Our film doesn’t have a lot of dialogue—Poe is often alone and silent, though very expressive. When we saw that Denis did an entire season of episodic TV without saying a word —we knew he could be our Poe.

In addition, it turns out Denis had studied a lot of poetry in college, so he did a wonderful job reciting Poe’s poems. And we didn’t even realize until we started with hair and make-up how much he actually looks like Poe!

Left: Actor Denis O’Hare Photo by Liane Brandon

 Edgar Allan Poe is already a well-known figure, is there new information about Poe revealed in the film?

One of the reasons I made the film is because I came to realize Poe is a hugely misunderstood figure. Most people think of him in a one-dimensional way —as a brooding, mad, perhaps opium-addled denizen of the dark. Until I started researching this project I didn’t know that Poe was an important literary critic, and an influential magazine editor. He was a powerful player in the literary scene of the 1830s and ’40s—a tastemaker—one of the glitterati of his time. He helped define what American literature would be in the early decades of our nation.

I knew Poe had written detective stories. What I didn’t realize is that Poe invented the detective story as we know it today, with all the conventions we’re used to. Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes, said he had modeled his stories on Poe. And virtually every detective writer since has followed suit.

 Poe is one of those iconic figures who appears in popular culture decade after decade. Even people who haven’t read his works know his face. Why?

Yes it’s amazing how often Poe pops up. He’s in “The Simpsons,” on the cover of the Beatles’ Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and on and on.

Poe himself is partly responsible for his enduring image in pop culture. He knew that to sell his stories in a competitive marketplace he needed more than just good writing—he needed a public persona that would give him an edge. He was a fan of the English bad-boy poet Lord Byron, and he saw how a reputation—even a dark one —could help sell literature.

So he had daguerreotypes made that portrayed him a certain way, and he wrote falsified biographical materials that made him seem a more adventurous and romantic figure than he really was.

But what really cemented his reputation—and in a bad way—was the first obituary after Poe’s untimely death at age 40 in 1849. His literary enemy, Rufus Griswold, wrote the obit, and he described Poe in all the negative ways people still think of him today. So Griswold’s negative portrayal, along with Poe’s own self-mythologizing, have played a big role in keeping Poe famous —or rather infamous.

Daguerrotype of Edgar Allan Poe

What’s the real story? Was Poe just a regular guy who was terribly misunderstood or is there some truth to the dark, Halloween-figure side of Poe?

Well, like any complicated person, it’s a bit of both. If Poe were my buddy, I’d think twice when I saw him come up on caller ID. He could be a terrible friend, and a worse enemy. He was dead broke and in debt most of his life. He had a terrible time with alcohol, though he could be sober for long periods. At the same time, he was brilliant, witty, had lots of friends and was a loving husband, most of the time. Though he married his 13-year-old cousin when he was 26!

One thing I discovered is that practically anything you say about Poe, the opposite is also true. That’s part of what made the film challenging, and fun!

Why the title: “Buried Alive”?

Poe was fascinated —maybe even obsessed—with stories of people who were buried alive by mistake, which happened fairly frequently in the early 19th century. Medicine hadn’t figured out how to determine death with certainty, and particularly during epidemics there was a lot of pressure to get corpses underground quickly. One of his most famous stories is “The Premature Burial.”

I also love the metaphorical meanings. Poe lived his life under a constant cloud of grief —virtually all the women he loved died young. He struggled with a mountain of debt, and even before he died his bad reputation had begun to overshadow the reality of his life. And then, of course, there’s the never-ending mystery of his death. For all those reasons, it feels like an appropriate title.

Mystery of his death?

You have to see the movie.

 

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