LOS ANGELES – L.A. Live, the entertainment complex with a 40,000-square-foot, open-air plaza that features giant LED screens as well as a red-carpet site for special events, celebrated its 10th anniversary on June 8 in Microsoft Square.
A press conference, hosted by ESPN co-anchors Neil Everett and Stan Verret, kicked-off the festivities while the chemistry between the two filled the outside space with positive energy.
Neil and Stan introduced us to the friends and driving forces behind L.A. Live, which includes Dan Beckerman, president and CEO of AEG; Lee Zeidman, president of Staples Center and L.A. Live; Curren D. Price Jr., 9th District Council Member of Los Angeles; Luke Walton, head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers; chef/restauranteur Wolfgang Puck; and Luc Robitaille, president of the Los Angeles Kings.
The press conference concluded with a special performance by the Conga Room Foundation’s “Conga Kids.” Once the Conga Kids were done wiggling their little hips to “Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley, Wolfgang Puck surprised us with the grand finale—a three-foot tall, tiered birthday cake designed especially for the occasion.
Later that evening, L.A. Live transformed into the ultimate anniversary celebration called “Dark Nights Birthday Edition” sponsored by Absolut Vodka. The celebration reflected the name of the location “LIVE” with outstanding performances including Weekend Celebrity, Ryan & Liz Dueling Pianos, and Phobik Vyal.
For the past 10 years L.A. Live has hosted more than 204 million guests and 15,000 events, including 93 award shows, 125 movie premieres, 1,700 sporting events, and more than 2,000 concerts and live events so it’s no secret why L.A. Live is Los Angeles premier sports and entertainment district.
Happy Birthday LA Live and we at LeftCoast.LA wish you many more!
We asked photographer Steven Tackeff to select some of his favorite images from the summer radio station concerts that are always a tough ticket in Boston, New York and Los Angeles. Steve picked some of his favorites from Kiss 108’s annual concert, including Alanis Morissette, Gwen Stefani, Britney Spears, Ricky Martin, and Lenny Kravitz.
IMAGES BY STEVEN TACKEFF
When the news broke on Tuesday that trailblazing fashion genius Kate Spade had died the reaction was immediate.
Locally, public relations veteran Chris Haynes, who like so many was caught off-guard by the 55-year-old Spade’s apparent suicide, posted on line of his shock and sadness. For Haynes it was personal. He oversaw the 1999 opening party for Spade’s Newbury Street boutique while working directly with Spade and her husband, Andy.
As outlets around the world looked for photographs to accompany the stories, many chose the image from the now-defunct Stuff@Night of Spade in Boston in front of a wall of her most colorful handbags. “Out of the millions of Kate Spade photos out there in the Universe, Getty Images shared three pictures and SOMEHOW one of them is from our Boston store opening,” Haynes wrote.
Boston Fashion Week founder and executive director Jay Calderin posted a simple black and white photo of Spade taken by Thomas Iannaccone with a Wendy Mass quote: “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Kate Spade (December 24, 1962 – June 5, 2018)
Styleboston’s Tonya Mezrich wrote up a piece outlining her thoughts on Spade’s passing. (And we got her to let us use some of photographs of her with Spade bags.)
“RIP Kate Spade. Your life was, oh, too short. Your whimsical designs gave my husband something to look forward to when choosing gifts for the various holidays: birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Christmas, Chanukah, you name it. I think my first bag of yours was the pink T-Rex. Who buys dinosaurs for their wives? He saw it in the store and insisted on getting it. It brightened so many peoples’ day each time I wore it to an event—the Hot Pink Party, Valentine’s day, there were so many occasions for a fierce pink T-Rex to attend.
“My list does not end there. A Russian nesting doll hardwood clutch made its way into my collection, too. A Russian name that I cannot pronounce and do not even attempt to, but indeed a whimsical nesting purse with a little doll pouch inside as well in typical Russian nesting fashion. Kate, oh, Kate you were so creative. But my favorite of all your bags is the limited-edition wicker gator. He scared many a diner as we sat al fresco in Miami eating dinner at Michael’s Genuine. Those Floridians are so used to seeing gators, I was surprised he made one yell sitting upon a side table at the outdoor patio, peeking his head out of the nearby shrubs.
“You will not be forgotten. You got your last name from the brother of comedian David Spade, I didn’t know this until now, but to me you were your own spade, a jack of all trades and one that will be sorely missed.”
**Be sure to tune in to Tonya’s new tv series “On The Red Carpet” on NESN Sat/Sun night at 11:30 pm.
Monday, May 28th the UCLA Cultural Affairs Commision celebrated the 32nd anniversary of their annual Jazz Reggae Festival. The festival was held at the UCLA Sunset Recreational Center and sponsored by Coca-Cola and Playfull. There were live performances from Half Pint, Charlotte Day Wilson, Sahara Grim, Jamila Woods, Global Soul Collective and an amazing performance by headliner Konshens and the Submachine band. In between acts, DJ, QBwoy was spinning the hottest tunes in hip-hop reggae and top 40’s while the crowd sang along.
The food vendors had their work cut out for them but they handled the large crowd gracefully. My two favorite vendors were “Flavors of East Africa” and “Unforgettable Lemonade” the combination of the two was to die for. We also visited the craft booths where we got a chance to talk to Ronnie Skin Care Daddy, the founder of LosAngelesOilsAndButters.com. Ronnie had a lot of products containing black seed oil, which happens to be an immune system booster that I am obsessed with.
The Jazz Reggae Festival launched in 1986. Throughout the years the JRF has brought in many respected artists such as Erykah Badu, The Roots, Damian Marley, Common, and many more. The JRF always strives to create a cohesive and welcoming space for students and the greater Los Angeles community. This year LeftCoast.LA was there and it didn’t take us long to feel at home. Between the spot-on staff and the lively crowd there was not one ingredient missing! This event was cooked to perfection.
Coming from the East Coast, I did not know what to expect when it came to Haitian Flag celebrations in Los Angeles. I was born in Jacmel, my father is from there and my mother is from Port-de-Paix, so I think that qualifies me as 100% Haitian but this Haitian had never been to a flag celebration like this one before. I have to say this festival did not disappoint! Premier Event Promotion Services did an amazing job putting together this Haitian Heritage festival and they locked down Leimert Park in Los Angeles with good food, live music and positive vibes.
One of the highlights of the concert had to be artist MC Sloan, who is a 7th generation relative to Toussaint Louverture, arguably one of the biggest names in Haitian history. Because of Toussaint’s resilience and ability to lead Haiti, he successfully defeated colonialism and slavery. Another nod to history was delivered by MC Sloan, who did an outstanding with a brief lesson reminding us of where we came from and where we need to be today. Alongside all the beautiful West Indian faces we saw that night were countless numbers of supporters from the American and African American community.
The host, Mr. Haiti, kept us on our toes and grinning as we saw live performances from MC Romane Simon, a respected film producer in Los Angeles, Mr Surprise, a Reggae artist for the soul; my favorite tune of his is “Send no Gun”, Hip Hop artist Lil Litty, who had me craving Lemonade Juice by the end of his set, Theresa King, who relaxed us with her vocals and Pickleez California’s go-to Haitian band.
It’s safe to say we can’t wait to see what else P.E.P.S.LA has up their sleeves…stick with LeftCoast.LA for all things LA!
It is here! “Deadpool 2″ is upon us. Another superhero Marvel movie that we’ve all been waiting for. The theaters will be brought to life again this Friday with this amazing sequel that critics are saying is better than the first. What else did we find amazing? The” Deadpool 2″ Theme Bar Pop-Up experience that we attended, brought to us by Mike’s Harder and the Downtown Los Angeles Film Festival, was an adventure to be talked about, an event not to be missed, and certainly the best pop up scene on this side of the globe. Check out my video “Leftcoastla hits Deadpool2″
It really has never felt this good. A Bar Pop-Up experience that’s far better than what you would expect from a normal Marvel show. Oh… Wait! ‘Far better’ is actually not good enough to describe what the pop-up experience party felt like. Saturday, May 12th will be a day to remember for every Marvel fan in LA, and it all went down in style as the actors stayed in character. It was so real and gave fans a feel of what the movie will be like, and now everyone is talking about “Deadpool 2”.
Aside from the free drinks and chimichangas that were available, the fun was unstoppable as the DJ kept dishing out all the latest tracks. Now the expectation has been created. The anticipation is sky high. Every Marvel fan in attendance can’t wait to rock and roll-if this is not the real deal, then we wonder what is! Kudos to Marvel for not disappointing us. So what are you waiting for? May 18th is just around the corner. “Deadpool 2” is here. Grab a bucket of popcorn, pick up your tickets and join in the fever. Let’s journey together.
Recently I had the opportunity to sit down in LA for a lively chat with the Massachusetts-based entrepreneur and level III Reiki Master Practitioner, Farah Andre. Reiki healing has been practiced for decades on the West Coast but the East Coast has been slow to embrace it.
Farah is working to change that perception. A registered nurse with a Bachelors of Nursing degree from Labouré College, she is a believer and is in LA to talk to experts about the best ways to bring this practice to Boston. She touched on her background and shared some insights on her work encouraging people, especially from the black community, to adopt the benefits of Reiki to recognize and remedy core spiritual wounds which, when left untended to, affect their general wellness.
Reiki is a system of healing used for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing on all levels; physical, mental, emotional and spiritual. The word Reiki is from a Japanese word meaning universal life force or energy.
According to Farah, Reiki is really about energy and meditation. It is an elevation cleansing of the body, mind, soul, cos, where everything is interconnected.
“It is about finding what your true life purpose is. It is about guiding you and letting go of things that no longer benefit you so you can prosper.”
She explains that Reiki is a stress reliever and excellent for achieving homeostasis for people suffering the effect of external stressors such as school, work or family. Many health issues like hypertension or high blood pressure, eczema, etc. are often a result of our body reacting to these external stressors.
Farah, who is part of the Black Nurses Rock New England, also talked about plans to partner with a number of NBA teams to see how Reiki can benefit the performance of basketball players in their game and practice sessions, especially for players who have suffered anxiety and panic attacks in the past.
Despite her accomplishments and list of achievements, Farah remains humble and grounded and a lot of fun to be with. She explains that she likes to keep it “quiet” even as she steadily climbs the ladder of success.
For now, Farah continues to support patients in healthcare settings while offering Reiki treatments through her woman and minority-owned business, Endless Konnections.
For more information on Reiki contact Farah at www.endlesskonnections.com.
Most people might have slowed down by now. But Mary Higgins Clark is decidedly not most people. With more than 50 best-selling books to her credit (100 million copies of her thrillers are in print in the United States alone) and a new novel, I’VE GOT MY EYES ON YOU, just released, the “Queen of Suspense” is still on the move. In fact, this Bronx-born denizen of Saddle River, N.J., produces two books a year.
Clark, who celebrated her 90th birthday on Christmas Eve, always makes time for her many (many) fans and will put her pen down long enough to be recognized by her fellow writers. For her “distinguished service to the literary community,” the Authors Guild Foundation on May 16, 2018 will honor Clark, along Fulcrum Publishing’s Charlotte and Robert C. Baron, and Vida: Women in Literary Arts.
Beyond her prodigious and well-received work, Clark has been an indefatigable supporter of the FRAXA Research Foundation, a Massachusetts-based non-profit leading the way into research of Fragile X, the most common inherited form of autism.
Clark indulged our own (resident Clark fan) Carol Beggy in a few questions about her work, her fans, and her philanthropy.
CB: Mary, if I can be so bold as to call a literary hero by her first name, how do you do it? Specifically, you’ve continued to write books that resonate with readers when other authors would have taken their winnings and retired to the beach or the mountains.
MHC: Yes, call me Mary. It’s very flattering that readers have enjoyed my books over the last 43 years. I am at heart a storyteller. That’s what I do. I’m not much of a cook, although my five children did not starve to death. I can’t sew a stitch. Nothing I planted in the garden grew properly. So, what would I do all day if I didn’t write? I hope I never find out!
CB: Are your fans really as loyal as they seem? I overheard two people waiting at the airport, one was reading one of your books, and the conversation involved them first trying to not ruin any plot lines and then debating various stories you told. Do they engage you about your stories? How do you keep it all straight?
MHC: I have been blessed with many readers who say, and they mean it, “I’ve read every one of your books.” We’ve had a relationship that’s lasted over 40 years. I love it when readers tell me my book kept them up until 2:00 in the morning. It’s also great when they tell me which of my books is their favorite. It’s gratifying that their answers are many different titles.
CB: Even within the industry, you have a large following of fans. I have been at Book Expo, the annual publishing industry trade show, and when you are doing a signing the editors, librarians, other authors in attendance “fight” for a spot in your line. (You and James Patterson get that same treatment.) Does it ever surprise you or make you pause that you’ve achieved a kind of rock star status?
MHC: I can honestly say I am living my dream. I know so many people who are wonderful writers who can’t make a living doing it, who get very modest contracts if they can get published at all. I must share a story from the old days. The first book I wrote was a historical novel on George Washington. Its title was ASPIRE TO THE HEAVENS. This was 1968. I would go around to the few bookstores that carried it and volunteer to autograph the copies. In those days the stores could not return a signed book for credit, so every signed book meant a sale. I made a pact with God. If I ever become famous, I’ll never refuse a request to sign a book. I’ll always remember that a signed book meant a sale.
CB: I have a Little Free Library (one of those take a book, leave a book, swapping stations) in front of my house. Your books, any time or format, are among the fastest moving. I put one in the Library’s shelf and it is gone. I even saw an older man take one telling me that he loves to read your books, but people give him a hard time. Has it ever surprised you to learn that someone was a fan?
MHC: My publisher tells me that about three quarters of the people who buy my books are women. But I’ve been delighted to hear from so many men who became readers when their wife, girlfriend or mother insisted that they give my books a try.
CB: As new audiences find you, do you ever want to go back and re-tell a story or re-do a book?
MHC: Not really. Whenever I finish a book, I say, okay, I’ve told the best story I can possibly tell. The only time I have regret, and maybe that’s too strong a word, is when a lot of readers tell me they figured out early on who the killer was, and they were right. I remember in one of my early books I introduced a character who was expert at imitating other people’s voices. That skill makes people very uncomfortable, and they immediately suspected him. I try to keep readers guessing, but when the killer is revealed, I want the reader to agree that there were clues along the way that built a case for this person to be the killer. Nobody likes an ending that comes out of left field.
CB: I understand your son Dave plays an important role in your writing. Can you tell me about that?
MHC: Dave started working with me about five years ago. In the beginning he was doing research and handling my email correspondence with my editor. I developed arthritis in my hands and typing became difficult. I started dictating to Dave. He would bring back what I wrote with some suggestions on how things might be said differently. They were good. It quickly evolved into talking plots and characters with him and the results have been very good. Dave came up with idea for my current book, I’VE GOT MY EYES ON YOU.
CB: Now to the non-writing work that you and your family have dedicated yourselves to: advancing research toward improved treatments and a cure for Fragile X, which affects your grandson. What’s the most important thing people who have not been directly affected by this genetic condition should know about it?
MHC: It’s not always obvious that a child has Fragile X, so if you see a child who is having a hard time – anxious, afraid. having a meltdown – it’s quite possible that they are doing the very best they can. But despite challenges, most people with Fragile X are very friendly and love humor.
CB: Fragile X has been a cause close to your heart. Tell us why it’s so important to you?
MHC: There are so many worthy causes and diseases to be cured, but the impact is greatest when it hits close to home. When my grandson was born, his parents quickly became aware of a relatively new organization called FRAXA Research Foundation. Almost 30 years ago, shortly after my grandson was diagnosed, Katie Clapp and Mike Tranfaglia came to my house, shared the story of their son Andy and how they were devoting their lives to finding treatments and a cure. I was so moved that I pledged $1 million to FRAXA and I hosted a fundraising gala in New York City.
CB: You and now so many members of your family are big supporters of FRAXA Research Foundation. Could you tell us a little bit about FRAXA?
MHC: FRAXA is a national 501c3 nonprofit founded in 1994 in Newburyport, MA. FRAXA’s mission is to find effective treatments and a cure for Fragile X, the most common inherited cause of intellectual disabilities and autism. To date, FRAXA has invested over $27 million into cutting edge biomedical research, yielding discoveries that are changing the lives of families coping with fragile X.
CB: Of the many FRAXA fundraising parties/events you’ve attended, tell me about the one when your granddaughter Elizabeth gave a remarkable speech, “This is my brother”, about her brother David who has Fragile X.
MHC: I thought it was remarkable. Elizabeth has always been so wonderful in how she has gone out of way include her brother in every facet of her life. I’ll never forget her line, “I judge people by the way they treat my brother.”
CB: How can people help?
MHC: There are two ways people can help. Research is expensive. FRAXA is such a worthy cause. And the research they are doing is making a difference in the lives of those affected by Fragile X. There’s another way the relatives and friends can help a family with a child who has Fragile X. Many of them are so good about minding the kids so the parents can have a break. What they should also consider is the sacrifice that siblings of Fragile X kids make. If you can take care of the child with Fragile X while the family and the non-affected siblings have a chance to do an activity together, that is so helpful. We should remember that the siblings of kids with Fragile X are really special, too.
By Joane Nelson
LA JOLLA, Calif.—Those who were lucky enough to be at the ArcLight Cinema for the U.S. premiere of “I’m Not Here,” on April 25 will not soon forget the special night. If, alas, you were not at the San Diego International Film Festival VIP pre-screening on Wednesday night, then you missed out on a thought-provoking, exclusive screening with a theater packed with people excited to see J.K. Simmons do what he does best.
The film “I’m Not Here” is directed by Michelle Schumacher, whose star is her husband, Academy Award-winner Simmons. It was nothing short of amazing. In addition to Simmons, the features Mandy Moore and Sebastian Stan, who can be seen in “Avengers: Infinity Wars” and “I, Tonya.”
There’s really no way to describe this feature without any spoiler alerts but we have to try: Simmons plays a man at the end of his rope who’s dealt with problems that a lot of people can relate to. The film’s teasing logline is “A man struggles with the tragic memories of his past to make sense of his present, but soon realizes that time isn’t the enemy he thinks it is.”
In addition to the pre-screening, SDIFF also announced it had a new sponsor, the blue chip financial investment company, Morgan Stanley, which was represented by several staff including systems and policy expert VR Raman. Also in attendance were members of styleboston.tv and LeftCoast.LA.
Tonya Mantooth, CEO of SDIFF, led a lively post-screening Q & A panel with Simmons, Schumacher, and others who held nothing back as the night was full of thoughtful conversation, drinks, and laughs.
(Screening location: ArcLight La Jolla, 4425 La Jolla Village Drive, CA 92122.)
Speaking of movie director Michelle Schumacher, J.K. Simmons talked about the important qualities she brought to the production, including her sense of purpose, her detailed preparations and an ability to adapt to different situations. Michelle on her part told the SDIFF audience that the production was very dear to her heart. She thanked everyone who supported the project and described the movie as a low budget production which was made possible through the collaboration of friends and family.
Answering questions from the audience during the prescreening of the movie, Simmons talked about how he decided to shed more than 20 pounds to play the role of an emaciated 60-year-old alcoholic. According to him, he had a choice between getting emaciated or bloated for the movie role but he chose the former.
He and Michelle also talked about similarities/differences between the movie characters and real life.
In “I’m Not Here” J.K. Simmons played a remarkable character that did not speak a single word throughout the movie. He told the audience during the SDIFF prescreening that he had to completely immerse himself in the screenplay to prepare for the movie role. He said he was able to make a success out of it by relying on the guidance of the movie director
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
EDITOR AT LARGE
CHIEF FASHION CORRESPONDENT
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