Mike Lavoie photo

Mike Lavoie photo

Many of us grew up with Colin Quinn as a member of Saturday Night Live, but there are those of us whose first dose of Mr. Quinn’s raspy Brooklyn accent was on MTV’s non-gameshow, “Remote Control,” where he’d destroy the hits of the year in his unmusical voice. Since then, this stand-up comedian has acted in films and television, hosted comedy variety shows, and recently popped up on an episode of “Girls.” But during his stint on SNL, Mr. Quinn was already working on long-form stand-up. His first show, “Colin Quinn: An Irish Wake” went to Broadway, and since then, he’s maintained a presence on stage. Now this Saturday, he comes to the Lobero with his latest, “Unconstitutional,” an examination of our nation’s founding document, or 226 years in 70 minutes. This will not be a history lesson, but you just might learn something … and you will be laughing. In this interview, however, Quinn gets into the serious business of parsing this document and reveals that he’s a big James Madison fan.

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From left,Tom Hinshawwill read David Rakoff's"ln New England Everyone Calls You Dave," executive director Maggie Mixsell and Robert Lesser, who will read Paul Rudnick's"Good Enough to Eat

From left,Tom Hinshawwill read David Rakoff’s”ln New England Everyone Calls You Dave,” executive director Maggie Mixsell and Robert Lesser, who will read Paul Rudnick’s”Good Enough to Eat

Speaking of Stories kicks off 2014, and its 20th season, with “Nothing but Laughs,” its annual show of humorous tales. Maybe it’s a sign that the funniest comedy writers now work in the non-fiction essay format, or maybe it’s just pure coincidence, but the line-up for the two shows this Sunday and Monday at Center Stage Theater is all in the hilarious-but-true tradition.

The line-up for Sunday and Monday feature five Speaking of … regulars, all five of whom are also adept at comedy. Katie Thatcher will read Sloane Crosley’s childhood tale, “The Pony Problem;” Meredith McMinn will read Nora Ephron’s aging-ritual tale, “I Feel Bad About My Neck;” Devin Scott — the youngest of the performers — will read Michael Thomas Ford’s confessional, “The F Word;” Tom Hinshaw will take on David Rakoff’s mountain climbing story, “In New England Everyone Calls You Dave;” and Robert Lesser caps things off with Paul Rudnick’s sugar-holic tale, “Good Enough to Eat.” Executive director, Maggie Mixsell has made sure each performer really matches the personality of the writer. Well, as closely as possible.

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'Masters of Architecture (detail),'Design, Bitches 'Heavy,'Design, Bitches 'Radiant Body Globs,' Ball-Nogues Studio Installation view of "Almost Anything Goes: Architecture and Inclusivity" at Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara 'Eye Candy Table (detail),'Atelier Manferdini Museum of Contemporay Art Santa Barbara photos

‘Masters of Architecture (detail),’Design, Bitches

‘Heavy,’Design, Bitches

‘Radiant Body Globs,’ Ball-Nogues Studio

Installation view of “Almost Anything Goes: Architecture and Inclusivity” at Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara

‘Eye Candy Table (detail),’Atelier Manferdini
Museum of Contemporay Art Santa Barbara photos

In the 21st Century, things have gotten wiggly. Where once a discipline hopper like Warhol was an anomaly, it’s now rare to find an artist working in one medium. The new exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Santa Barbara asks whether a similar breakdown is happening in the architecture and design world, and if affording firms and designers museum space changes the way we see them, or how they see their audience. “Almost Anything Goes” explains the title of the exhibit that opened last week and runs through April 13.

The focus is on Los Angeles artists trained in architecture, the majority with a link to the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-ARC) in downtown L.A. Along with MCA’s Miki Garcia, the exhibit has been curated with Brigitte Kouo, a SCI-ARC graduate.

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It’s kind of hard to say what it is,” says one of Vaud and the Villains’ musicians who goes by the name One String, when asked to describe the group in a video interview a few years old. “It’s vaudeville. It’s just this side of theater; it’s Americana.”

The 19-piece group comes to SOhO this Sunday for their first proper, late-night, Santa Barbara gig after having spent the last five years building notoriety in their native Los Angeles. The creation of married couple Andy Carneau and Dawn Lewis, Vaud and the Villains is a dream of a band that might have existed in the 1920s or 1930s, a mix of races and styles, of Dustbowl and traveling medicine show, all acoustic, but loud and raucous as hell, playing the American version of Joe Strummer’s “Three Chords and the Truth.” But a Vaud and the Villains performance is also a show, with a narrator (Mr. Carneau) and characters with fictional backstories, as well as dance routines. (Mr. Carneau is fond of quoting Oscar Wilde to explain the fictional group: “Every saint has a past while every sinner has a future.”)

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A Thing of Vision – 16 local collectors share their private works at CAF

Martin Eder's "Chasse aux Papillons," from the collection of Mike Healy and Tim Walsh. Photos Courtesy of CAF

Martin Eder’s “Chasse aux Papillons,” from the collection of Mike Healy and Tim Walsh.
Photos Courtesy of CAF

The idea for “Visionaries,” Santa Barbara Contemporary Arts Forum’s new show opening tomorrow night, came from the various trips Miki Garcia and Valerie Velazquez have taken as part of their job. Not trips far afield or to other museums, but ventures closer to home, to the houses of the board members of CAF. While discussing business or making social calls, the two couldn’t help but witness the collections on display and how the members supported not just CAF, but the artists in the gallery and contemporary art as a whole.

“Seeing how people incorporate these pieces in their home is an art in itself,” Velazquez says.

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Sign of the Four: The Fab Four find imitation is the most successful form of flattery

Since the premiere of Beatlemania in 1977, the Beatles tribute band has not just become an accepted part of popular entertainment, but something approaching an art, with its own unspoken laws and aesthetics. Audiences accepted the Beatlemania cover band because it came in the guise of a Broadway show, a multimedia experience, and were forgiving for any inauthentic moment. But just as there are forgeries of Rembrandts so good that even the experts are fooled, the stakes in the Beatles tribute band world are very high indeed.

For several years now, the Fab Four, an Orange County-based tribute band, has earned a reputation as the toppermost of the poppermost. With Ron McNeil as John Lennon, Ardy Sarraf as Paul McCartney, Michael George Amador as George Harrison, and Rolo Sandoval as Ringo Starr, the Fab Four have made thousands of jaws drop with their uncanny performances. They won’t win any look-alike competitions (though Sarraf gets pretty close), but their voices sound dead on, and the music, all live, comes as close as most people will get to either reliving their first Beatles concert or seeing them at all. Santa Barbara audiences will have that chance when they play a benefit concert for the Marjorie Luke Theater, on Sunday, November 23.

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Sacred Revolutions: St. Petersburg Choir Brings Rachmaninoff’s Vespers to America

It’s taken conductor Vladislav Chernushenko 25 years to get to the United States to tour. Originally, the group he heads-the St. Petersburg State Academic Capella Choir-was scheduled to make their first American tour back in 1978. “The contract was signed,” he says, “And then it didn’t happen for political reasons.”

The history of the St. Petersburg choir can be charted out along centuries of political reasons, events, and decisions, yet their music has kept its close ties to the spiritual. One of the world’s oldest choirs, the group formed in Moscow in 1479 for the express purpose of accompanying Tsar Ivan III wherever he went, celebrating mass or entertaining. Ivan the Terrible and Peter the Great both sang in choir at certain points. In 1703, the choir sang at the inauguration of St. Petersburg a major event in the choir’s history, and there they remained. In 1837, the great Russian composer Mikhail Glinka became Kapellmeister, and wrote many operatic works expressly for the choir. During the Communist Revolution the choir’s sacred music fell out of favor, but the group continued, under the name the Popular Academic Chorus, and performed works by Shostakovich, Kabalevsky, and Prokofiev. As rules became lax, the sacred crept back in, until the coming of perestroika unleashed the history of sacred Russian composers and work back into the repertoire.

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“The inspiration for this piece came from not really knowing what I wanted to do.”

Choreographer Kenneth Kvarnström is talking on the phone from his San Francisco hotel room about “Fragile,” the hour-long work from 2001 that his dance company is bringing to UCSB Campbell Hall on Wednesday.

“Fragile is how I felt,” he says. Since 1987, the Finnish-born but Stockholm-based Kvarnström has made it his company’s mission to produce one long work per year, and then tour the world with it.

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One Road, Four Choices: William Soleau Brings Multifaceted Seasons to State Street Ballet

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

–Robert Frost, from “The Road Not Taken”

Choreographer William Soleau has been thinking about destiny and choice a lot this year as he puts the final touches to his four-act work “Seasons,” a world premiere for the opening of State Street Ballet’s tenth season.

“What if I had chosen another college?” Soleau asks, “What if I hadn’t met that one teacher? What if I had not fallen in love with that one girl?

“These ‘what if?’ questions are something everyone can relate to,” he says.

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