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Closing the Book on 2012 – Ensemble Theatre gets witchy for December

Clockwise from top, Leonard Kelly-Young,Thomas Vincent Kelly, Susan Ruttan, Mattie Hawkinson and Zachary Ford David Bazemore photos

Clockwise from top, Leonard Kelly-Young,Thomas Vincent Kelly, Susan Ruttan, Mattie Hawkinson and Zachary Ford
David Bazemore photos

It’s time for the Ensemble Theater Company to put on its big holiday show, and what can be more seasonal than… witches? With “Bell, Book and Candle,” opening tonight, you can have both yuletide fun and the casting of spells. This 1950 Broadway play from John Van Druten later got made into a Hollywood film starring James Stewart and Kim Novak, their only other on-screen team-up apart from in “Vertigo,” along with Jack Lemmon and Ernie Kovacks. Its mixture of romantic comedy and witchcraft influenced the show “Bewitched” six years later, and its domestic nature still gets played out in shows like “Charmed.”

The setting is Manhattan, circa 1950, and it’s Christmas time. Gillian (Mattie Hawkinson) is the young woman who is working her charms on her upstairs neighbor Shepherd (Thomas Vincent Kelly, last seen here in “Opus”). And “charms” is right: she’s a witch, and he doesn’t know it yet. But there’s also a rule — perhaps it’s in the back of a book of spells, who knows — that if a witch falls in love, she could lose all her powers. Gillian has two relatives to help her through this troubling time: Aunt Queenie (Susan Ruttan), also a witch, and Gillian’s brother Nicky (Zachary Ford). Also on hand is Sidney (Leonard Kelly-Young) a crazy writer who is working on a book about witchcraft. Guest director Brian Shnipper is set to work this all up into a magical holiday brew.

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Your Finest Hour – Artists JEFF & GORDON help people create their dreams of success

JEFF & GORDON PHOTO

JEFF & GORDON PHOTO

How do you define success? Is it that gold watch? Is it holding that golden statuette? Is it standing on the podium as confetti cascades down? Is it the roar of the crowd? Or a quiet moment? And what is success anyway? Something that takes decades to achieve? Or a year? What about a week?

These are questions the art duo Jeff Foye and Gordon Winiemko, also known as JEFF & GORDON (and sometimes, to confuse NASCAR fans, Jeff Gordon), have been mulling over. They are also questions they want you to ask yourself as part of their interactive art piece, “Moment of Glory.” This free event takes place this coming First Thursday at the always boundary-pushing Contemporary Arts Forum.

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Old School – Street photographer Ricky Powell’s work comes to Fuzion

Ricky Powell photo exhibit

Ricky Powell photo exhibit

A day after our walk-n-talk interview on the rainy streets of Santa Barbara, street photographer and rabble-rouser Ricky Powell sends me a thank-you note. His email signature is longer than the message, all separated with slashes like a telegram: Ricky P. / The Lazy Hustler / Funky Uncle / Horny Dog Walker / KooL Substitute Teacher / Bummy Sophisticate / Illy Funkster. All these titles he’s bestowed upon himself, but perhaps Lazy Hustler fits the best.

A very brief selection of Mr. Powell’s work now hangs at Akomplice/Fuzion on State Street through the rest of the year, documenting how Mr. Powell was at the right place at the right time when hip-hop exploded in the mid-’80s.

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Cranberry granita cosmopolitan

Cranberry granita cosmopolitan NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

Cranberry granita cosmopolitan
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

Thanksgiving is over, but we are not in any way done with cranberries. For some, they are tied to the holiday, but for us in the Drink of the Week camp, cranberry means cosmopolitans!

Joe Andrieu, one half of Repeal Day Santa Barbara (yes, it’s a blatant plug! Check page D1 for more shameless self-promotion), arrived at a recent holiday party bearing a small tub of cranberry granita (an Italian variation on sorbet). Giving props to Alton Brown, who first introduced the idea to him (by website), Joe made us cosmopolitans consisting of nothing but granita, lime juice and vodka. The granita, being straight from the freezer, provided the chill of ice without the ice. The resulting cocktail was thick with cranberry flavor, way more than any “cranberry cocktail”-filled cosmo we’ve had. Needless to say, many of these were ordered at the party, and poor Joe never left the kitchen, having no assistant available to give him a break.

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A Thing or Two (or Ten) about Scriptwriting – ‘Legally Blonde’ dynamic duo return to the Pollock for classic teen comedy

Karen McCullah, Matt Ryan and Kirsten Smith COURTESY PHOTO

Karen McCullah, Matt Ryan and Kirsten Smith
COURTESY PHOTO

Ah, now here’s the life. When Karen McCullah sits down with her long-time writing partner Kirsten Smith to work on a script, they usually do it poolside at Karen’s Hollywood house, sipping on mimosas. (Unless they’re working on the plot of a movie, then the mimosas usually wait. Champagne is good for writing dialog.) That working environment was well-earned: Ms. McCullah and Ms. Smith wrote some of the best loved comedies of the last decade, from their breakthrough hit “10 Things I Hate About You,” the hilarious “Legally Blonde” (now a Broadway musical!), and “The House Bunny,” which showed off Anna Faris’ comedic chops.

The two will return to UCSB this Thursday for their second sit-down chat at the Pollock Theater for the Carsey-Wolf sponsored “Script to Screen” event, hosted by Matt Ryan. Their last trip to UCSB featured a screening of “Legally Blonde.” This time they return with “10 Things I Hate About You,” their high school rewrite of Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” starring a young and still unknown Heath Ledger, Julia Stiles and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. They will screen the film, then talk about the making of the script, their first successful collaboration and the start of a beautiful friendship.

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Yes, Virginia, It’s Time for the Holidays – Ojai Act kicks off the season with an American Classic

Logan Hall photo

Logan Hall photo

Warning to parents with impressionable children: Good Ol’ Saint Nick will not be appearing in “Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus,” at least not embodied in human form. Now, the spirit of what Santa Claus means, that’s another matter.

This special Christmas show, a collaboration between Ojai ACT and the Ojai Performing Arts Theater Foundation (OPAT), brings a holiday tale about finding the Christmas Spirit in a hardscrabble existence.

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Drink of the Week: PERSIMMON TO COME ABOARD

PERSIMMON TO COME ABOARD nik blaskovich / news-press

PERSIMMON TO COME ABOARD
nik blaskovich / news-press

I don’t know about you, dear reader, but I have a weird thing with persimmons. I’ve been taught to eat them when they’re crunchy. But I never do that. By the time I get around to it, they’ve gone soft. Well, softer than soft. What’s the word for it? Gross, that’s the word.

There is a happy medium, though. The perfect fall fruit, persimmons are sturdy and willing to unlock their secrets if you keep an eye on them. Patrick Reynolds, who by now should be a familiar face in this column, likes them too, and so has made up a nice little fall cocktail for you, based on his love of coming home to a warm house filled with family, friends and the smells of the kitchen.

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Vote for Eddie – Irrepressible comedian Eddie Izzard talks about running marathons (and maybe for office)

There is not one wild animal that is not perfectly fit,” says comedian and actor Eddie Izzard, explaining why he decided to keep fit by running. “Not a squirrel, not a mole, not a tiger, not a giraffe with an inch of body fat. I find that interesting. And we are sitting there with domesticated cats and dogs eating endless pies.”

Because I’m talking to the man who once talked about evil giraffes and cats that mine tunnels instead of purring, I expect him to go off on a riff about overweight lions on fad diets. But he doesn’t. He’s making a serious point. For Mr. Izzard, who makes his Santa Barbara debut Saturday night at Campbell Hall, comedy is purely reserved for when he steps onstage.

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Aria Mixtape – Opera Scenes at UCSB offers short and sweet dips into the repertoire

Most operas clock in at anything from 21/2 to 5 hours — especially if you’re Richard Wagner — and take weeks to put on, so how can a stable of eager singers get in their chance for a lead role? Also, how can the opera lover keep up with the evolving world of modern music when so few companies want to take a chance outside the standard canon of works? UCSB Opera Workshop’s “Opera Scenes,” this Saturday and Sunday, answers that need, with nine scenes from both obscure and well-known works.

A success last year, “Opera Scenes” returns for an evening that features selections from Mozart’s “Le Nozze di Figaro” and “Die Zauberflute,” Seymour Barab’s “A Game of Chance,” Smetana’s “The Bartered Bride,” Donizetti’s “La fille du régiment,” Cimarosa’s “Il matrimonio segreto,” Verdi’s “Attila,” Floyd’s “Of Mice and Men,” and Offenbach’s “R.S.V.P.”

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My Brother From Another Mother – Switched-at-birth tale has pretty locations, pretty decent actors

The two boys meet each other Cohen Media photo

The two boys meet each other
Cohen Media photo

As you may have guessed from the title, Lorraine Levy’s “The Other Son” follows a classic trope of “switched-at-birth” but with a cracking good, though portentous political update. Such narratives make us question nature versus nurture, and there’s plenty of that to go around in this drama. The story stumbles here and there, but there’s enough to recommend it.

We know something’s up when Joseph (Jules Sitruk) is turned down in his medical tests for the Israeli army when his blood type doesn’t match his parents, the army general Alon (Pascal Elbe) and his French wife Orith (Emmanuelle Devos). Turns out that being born during heavy shelling during the Gulf War has resulted in a mix up. Joseph is actually the son of a Palestinian family, Said (Khalifa Natour) and Leila (Areen Omari). This obviously comes as a shock to their son, Yacine (Mehdi Dehbi), who has just returned from medical school in Paris with his baccalaureate.

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