The Death Trip – Center Stage one-woman show elucidates the psychedelic experience

Josie Hyde
Josie Hyde

The Ayahuasca plant, when brewed with several other plants of the psychotria genus, produces a psychedelic trip that rivals the synthetic death’s-door effects of DMT. It’s known as the “vine of death.” In Peruvian ceremonies the act of ingesting it is known as “la purga” because of the all-sluices open purgatorial nature of the experience, sometimes even curing diseases. And for one woman, it has been all these things — it has cured her and expanded her consciousness in equal parts. She brings her tale to Center Stage Theater tonight and Saturday.

In the one-woman show “Wind in a Mirror: Ayahuasca Visions,” Josie Hyde uses storytelling, poetry, music and bizarre, Peter Max-ish animations to bring this story to life. A child of the ’60s and no stranger to LSD and expanding her mind, Ms. Hyde claims the late monologist Spalding Gray as a friend and muse. (“He gave me a lot of encouragement … he called me his female opposite,” she says. “We argued.”)

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Under Construction – Big Changes to Santa Barbara’s Theater Scene are on their way

Supporters of the Ensemble Theater Company project participate in a groundbreaking in June by pulling on a rope and bringing down a privacy wallin Victoria Community Hall. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Derek Westen, co-chairman of the project, are in the foreground. Steve Malone/News-Press file photo
Supporters of the Ensemble Theater Company project participate in a groundbreaking in June by pulling on a rope and bringing down a privacy wallin Victoria Community Hall. Santa Barbara Mayor Helene Schneider and Derek Westen, co-chairman of the project, are in the foreground.
Steve Malone/News-Press file photo

As the year closes, the biggest change in theater in Santa Barbara is physical, as the back of Victoria Hall remains open and exposed to the elements while major remodeling carries on. By fall, the Ensemble Theater Company will take the big leap from the tiny Alhecama Theatre on Santa Barbara Street and move into these bigger digs. Meanwhile, 2012 featured the unveiling of the remodeled Garvin Theater with its lavish production of “Avenue Q” followed by “August: Osage County,” while UCSB also premiered a refurbished Hatlen Theater.

The Ensemble had a good year with the hilarious “The 39 Steps,” the bleak “Creditors,” “Black Pearl Sings!” “Crime and Punishment” and “Bell, Book and Candle.” Carpinteria’s Plaza Theater proved to be a place for all sorts of events, from one-man shows to their lavish community productions of “Appointment with Death” and “A Christmas Carol.”

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Wine Cask’s Bronx Beet

Bronx beet NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS
Bronx beet
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS

DJs drop sweet beats around this time of year … and bartenders do, too! That is, if we’re actually talking about beets. You know, the vegetable. OK, that’s our admittedly lame attempt at tying this drink to the festivities about to drop in four days time, but give us a break here at Drink of the Week central!

Matt Pickett at Wine Cask made this for us on a recent sojourn to his fine establishment, and we’ve saved this drink for a special occasion. Which is now.

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Modern Family – ‘Any Day Now’ features great performance, flawed script

From left. Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva and Alan Cumming star in "Any Day Now." Music Box Films photos
From left. Garret Dillahunt, Isaac Leyva and Alan Cumming star in “Any Day Now.”
Music Box Films photos

Any Day Now” sounds like Lifetime movie-of-the-week melodramatic hokum: a couple fight to adopt a child after it is abandoned by its drug-addicted mother. But in Travis Fine’s decent and occasionally moving film, there’s more to this set-up. The couple is a drag queen and a closeted attorney; the child has Down syndrome, and the setting is West Hollywood of the late 1970s.

Veteran actor Alan Cumming plays Rudy, who we first see glammed up and lip sync’ing disco hits alongside two other drag queens on stage in a gay bar. Watching him from the bar is polyester-suited Paul (Garret Dillahunt), a district attorney just starting to find his identity. After a sexual dalliance, it’s love at first sight for Rudy and Paul. Meanwhile, Rudy winds up looking after his neighbor’s child after the cops take the mother away for drug use and fourteen-year-old Marco (Isaac Leyva) wanders away from Family Services custody and finds his way home.

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Cadiz Tapas & Seafood’s Sean’s Eggnog

Sean's eggnog
Sean’s eggnog

If you’ve ever wondered why some people hate eggnog, look no further than what they think it is. From the most commercial brands to the healthier alternatives found at Whole Foods Market and Trader Joe’s, the pre-packaged stuff is pretty dire and full of odd ingredients such as dipotassium phosphate and soy protein isolate (yum!). It’s thick, a bit too creamy and coats the mouth. If only there was a better way!

Well, of course there is, and by chance one night we swung by Cadiz Tapas & Seafood, 509 State St., on an errand and got to sample Sean Sepulveda’s own eggnog that he had made in batches for a private party.

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Revel-ution – Five Years of Song and Celebrating Solstice at Santa Barbara Revels

In its five-year existence, Santa Barbara Revels have traveled as far away as Bavaria (on stage at least), to explore the multi-faceted and multi-cultural worlds of winter solstice celebrations. This year, they plan to bring it on home with a trip to America’s Deep South and the Appalachia. Santa Barbara Revels puts a secular spin on the holiday season, celebrating the turning of the year, December 21, the day with the shortest amount of daylight.

No matter what the culture or religion, the day has been celebrated for good reason: the sun begins to come back into our lives, and warmth is around the corner. The event, featuring 70 dancers, musicians, and singers, comes to the Lobero this weekend for three shows.

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What the Dickens! – Rubicon Theatre’s Musical version of Scrooge changes ages and genders

Rebecca Johnson as Estelle Scrooge Jeanne Tanner photo
Rebecca Johnson as Estelle Scrooge
Jeanne Tanner photo

“Christmas Carol” often introduces kids to the world of Charles Dickens. It’s a structured classic, not too long, and primes readers to jump into the longer works, their hundreds of characters with crazy names, love of description, and heartstring-tugging plots. And the play version remains a favorite from community to community. With Rubicon wanting to try something a little bit different this year, but still giving the people a “Carol” for the holidays, it presents “Little Miss Scrooge,” which opened this past Wednesday and runs until Dec. 23.

“Little Miss Scrooge” acts as half modern update and half mash-up with the rest of Dickens’ oeuvre, and the more novels you know, the more obscure references will tickle you.

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Keep Swingin’ – The continuing crooning career of Johnny Boyd

Eric Hooten Photos
Eric Hooten Photos

Johnny Boyd croons in a high voice not unlike Georgie Fame, has left his heart in San Francisco (or at least his cell phone number), and wants to put some romance back in your life. And he does it with a small combo, a new album of originals, “Never Been Blue,” and a Sunday evening performance at Goleta Valley Community Center. The stop is part of a tour he’s been waiting several years to undertake.

“Never Been Blue” came out in August and is his first in an 11-year stretch. “When that amount of time goes by, you don’t know what’s gonna happen,” he says. “Every time you turn around something has dropped out and shifted. Used to be the record company would help with the shift. But seeing as record companies don’t do that anymore . . . it makes it challenging to get to your audience.”

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Silver Belles – Cabaret setting provides alternative holiday show for SB Silver Follies

I feel the same way at sixty as I did at 16,” says the relentlessly perky Cathie Hetyonk. “It baffles me sometimes when I’m teaching that I can have that much energy. And the reason behind that is that music raises serotonin levels in the brain, as does exercise.”

Not to mention dancing, which we will do in a minute.

Ms. Hetyonk, along with her husband, J. Michael Alexander, head the Silver Follies, an over-55, all-dancing, all-singing review that started small but is getting bigger each year. And this coming Wednesday until the following Saturday, their annual holiday show, “Christmas at the Stage Door Cabaret,” proves it.

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DRINK OF THE WEEK: Wine Cask’s The Lit Fir

The Lit Fir
The Lit Fir

Have you gone out to find a Christmas tree yet? Even if you haven’t, you can probably smell the pine needles in the nose as you hunt for the perfect one for your front room. That fresh green aroma influenced this week’s cocktail, created by Matt Pickett over at the Wine Cask. Mr. Pickett has been making cocktails at the restaurant for three months, having spent time before at Olio Pizzeria, also in Santa Barbara, and other cities to the north. At Wine Cask, he’s been able to get his hands on a number of intriguing alcohols, which lead him to Oregon’s Clear Creek Distillery. They make an Eau de Vie of Douglas Fir, created by steeping fresh pine needles into a grappa-like alcohol. And according to Mr. Pickett, they do this in the forest to keep it all fresh. How crazy is that?

Add to this some of Clear Creek’s apple brandy and a mix of vanilla bean and cinnamon simple syrups, as well as orange, cranberry and lemon juices, and you have this wintry cocktail with a slight hint of forest and a full nose of vanilla. But don’t stop there: Garnish this with candied apple peel and your guests will think this came straight out of the woods.

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