UCSB brings a bold play by upcoming playwright Tarell Alvin McCraney to the Hatlen

Joré Aaron-Boughton, left, plays Oya and Charles Grant plays Elegba in UCSB's Theatre and Dance Department production of "In the Red and Brown Water." David Bazemore photos
Joré Aaron-Boughton, left, plays Oya and Charles Grant plays Elegba in UCSB’s Theatre and Dance Department production of “In the Red and Brown Water.”
David Bazemore photos

I liken what we do to making a sand mandala,” says stage director Shirley Jo Finney. “You spend all this time making this wonderful, beautiful creation and then, with one breath, it disappears. But then it makes room for something new.”

Her upcoming production of Tarell Alvin McCraney’s “In the Red and Brown Water” marks the second time she has worked on this play, the first of a trilogy of plays featuring the same characters from this exciting new voice in theater. But where she mounted a successful five-month production at Los Angeles’ Fountain Theater, working with professional actors, this production comes out of her residency at UCSB’s Theatre and Dance Department, and uses 10 student actors.

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Stand-up Maria Bamford mines her own troubles for comedy gold

Stand-up comic Maria Bamford, performing at the Lobero on Sunday, says she owes her career to the Internet. Susan Maljan photo
Stand-up comic Maria Bamford, performing at the Lobero on Sunday, says she owes her career to the Internet.
Susan Maljan photo

Maria Bamford’s story is one of keeping at it until it works, no matter what comes in the way — anxiety, depression, attempted suicide and what has been dubbed “unwanted thoughts syndrome” (examples of which might be too disturbing for the average reader). But she has emerged as a stand-up comic who mirrors our own dysfunctional times, her stage persona a stunned version of herself that dives in and out of multiple characters and voices. Yet her jokes do not exist to invoke pity, they are just brutally honest.

When I talk to her over the phone two weeks before her trip to Santa Barbara to play the Lobero on Sunday, she’s “in the back room of a bookstore,” one of the places where she feels comfortable, surrounded by reading material.

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Fellini Fest brings three film-based plays to Santa Barbara

The cast members of "La La La Strada" are, from top left and clockwise, Erica Flor, James Connolly, Jeff Mills, Dillon Yuhasz, Dana Fox-Ortner, Blythe Foster, Christina McCarthy, Genevieve Anderson. Erin Davison
The cast members of “La La La Strada” are, from top left and clockwise, Erica Flor, James Connolly, Jeff Mills, Dillon Yuhasz, Dana Fox-Ortner, Blythe Foster, Christina McCarthy, Genevieve Anderson.
Erin Davison

Two of the best directors of the 20th century, and one of its most enigmatic actresses: that’s not the line-up of another film festival, but the five-day-long, three-play “FELLINIFEST,” the self-proclaimed “Live Theater for Movie Lovers.” With the Film Festival still in our minds, producer Jeff Mills (no relation to the author) is hoping cinephiles will be attracted to these three new plays at Center Stage Theater.

Mr. Mills has been a Fellini fan since seeing “La Strada” when he was a student at UCSB. “It just floored me. It catches you right from the first scene.” He caught as many films by the director as he could and in 2003 made Fellini the theme of his wedding. Films like the quasi-autobiographical “8?” make even more sense to Mr. Mills now — having been a part of Boxtales for years and starting up Proboscis Theatre, he now has loads of directing and producing under his belt.

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Teen Star’s finale at the Granada awards a new winner

After a year of anticipation, a popular audition process that brought in contestants from across Santa Barbara County, and weeks of mentorship and rehearsal, the sixth annual Teen Star Santa Barbara came to the Granada Theatre on Saturday.

Performing in front of a sold-out crowd, the evening featured 10 teen hopefuls vying for the title, but in the end there could be only one winner: 14-year-old Sydney Shalhoob of San Marcos High School.

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Dante Di Loreto, producer of TV’s “Glee” and also “American Horror Story,” speaks at Channel City Club

Dante Di Loreto, left, is interviewed by John Palminteri at the Channel City Club luncheon on Monday at the Fess Parker Doubletree. NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS
Dante Di Loreto, left, is interviewed by John Palminteri at the Channel City Club luncheon on Monday at the Fess Parker Doubletree.
NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS

“A producer is someone who brings people together in an opportunity to create something,” said Dante Di Loreto, who has hit television gold not once but twice in the last decade, and with two completely different genres. “Glee” is an uplifting musical comedy-drama about “the best high school you wish you had gone to” as Mr. Di Loreto said, and “American Horror Story” – in the words of one audience member at yesterday’s luncheon – “is the scariest thing I have seen on TV.”

“I use the analogy of a ship at sea,” he continued. “The director thinks of himself as the person behind the wheel steering the ship. The actor sees himself as the bow cutting through the waves. And the producer is the guy who built the boat, put it out on the water, and hopes it comes back in one piece.”

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SBIFF: That’s a wrap! SBIFF closes its 30th year with Kevin Costner film “McFarland, USA”

The cast of "McFarland USA" gather for photographers on the red carpet at the Arlington Theatre on Saturday. The film closed the 2015 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS
The cast of “McFarland USA” gather for photographers on the red carpet at the Arlington Theatre on Saturday. The film closed the 2015 Santa Barbara International Film Festival. NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTOS

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival closed out its 30th year with a sold-out final screening at the Arlington Theatre of director Niki Caro’s “McFarland, USA” helped in no small part by its star Kevin Costner’s appearance on the red carpet.

This Disney film, set for wide release Feb. 20, tells the true story of Jim White, played by Mr. Costner, the coach that came to a small San Joaquin Valley town and created a cross-country team that went on to win at the national level.

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SBIFF: And the winners are… SBIFF winds down with awards for both pros and students

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced its award-winning films and honored the filmmakers Saturday at Fess Parker's Doubletree Resort.NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTO
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced its award-winning films and honored the filmmakers Saturday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.
NIK BLASKOVICH/NEWS-PRESS PHOTO

After 12 days, numerous premieres, celebrity tributes, filmmakers socializing, and dedicated film fans gorging on as many as six feature films a day, the Santa Barbara International Film Festival announced its winners Saturday at Fess Parker’s Doubletree Resort.

With rain finally falling on this last day —after a surprisingly warm and sunny festival —a majority of the filmmakers honored were present to accept their awards and talk to the press.

For all, it was an achievement that honored the years put into the making of their films, whether it was one or 10 or sometimes more.

Jeffrey St. Jules’ horror musical “Bang Bang Baby” won The Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema and with it a Panavision camera package worth $60,000.

Based on votes gathered outside every screening at the festival, the Audience Choice Award went to “Hip Hop-eration,” a New Zealand film from Bryn Evans making its U.S. premiere. The documentary follows a troupe of senior citizens as they travel to Las Vegas to take part in the World Hip Hop Championships.

Belgium’s “All Cats Are Grey,” directed by Savina Dellicour, took home Best International Film. The story is about a private detective tracking down his daughter’s biological father.

The Best Documentary Film Award went to Nick Brandestini’s “Children of the Arctic,” which follows Native Alaskan teenagers trying to hold on to their traditions.

Luis Javier M. Henaine’s film from Mexico, “Happy Times,” won the Nueva Vision Award. The romantic comedy is about an agency that helps people end their relationships.

“Monument to Michael Jackson” and its director, Darko Lungulov, took home the Best Eastern European Film Award. The film depicts how one man tries to save his community by replacing their old Soviet statue with one of the King of Pop.

A brand new award honoring the best Santa Barbara feature went to Scott Teems’ “Holbrook/Twain: An American Odyssey” which follows actor Hal Holbrook and his one-man show playing Mark Twain that’s lasted 60 years.

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film Under 30 Minutes went to “The Answers,” a life-after-death car-crash story directed by Michael Goode.

The Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animation Short Film went to Niv Shpigel and Robert Moreno’s Israeli film “Load,” also about asking questions about a life lived.

The award for Best Documentary Short went to “Life After Pi,” Scott Leberecht’s story of the bankruptcy of visual effects house Rhythm & Hues Studios, just before it won an Oscar for “Life of Pi.”

And the Fund for Santa Barbara Social Justice Award went to the documentary “A Snake Gives Birth to a Snake,” by Michael Lessac, which follows South African actors on a journey around the world, going to other war-torn areas and trying to teach lessons learned from reconciliation.

This year’s jury included director and cinematographer Will Eubank, director Peter Chelsom, producer Chaz Ebert, actors Anthony and Arnette Zerbe, composer/lyricist Adam Guettel, actor James Read, SBIFF founder Phyllis de Picciotto, director/actor Perry Lang and producer Mimi deGruy.