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The power of myth Boxtales celebrates 20 years of innovative theater

Twenty years ago in 1994, a 30-year-old Michael Andrews was a successful plumbing contractor with the itch to move on to a completely different place in his life, to follow his passions in the theater world and the music scene. And he managed to do both. His band Area 51 is still playing around town, and the company he helped create, Boxtales, celebrates two decades of bringing the world of myth and storytelling to audiences young and old. Boxtales will do so starting this Thursday with a three-day celebration of its best work.

They’ll return to the Lobero with “Prince Rama & the Monkey King,” “The Odyssey,” “Leyendas de Duende” and “B’rer Rabbit and Other Trickster Tales.” The shows have all the hallmarks that have made Boxtales a success: imaginative masks, great costumes, clever stage design, and original adaptations of classic myths that streamline the sometimes convoluted stories down to their entertaining essence.

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Faith and identity in turmoil: Out of the Box’s ‘Bare’ explores two gay teens in Catholic school

The cast of "Bare: A Rock Opera" as students of St. Cecilia's

The cast of “Bare: A Rock Opera” as students of St. Cecilia’s

I feel like we always say this, but this is the hardest show we’ve ever done!” says the always chipper Samantha Eve, the executive director of Out of the Box Theatre Company. She’s talking about the 15-plus cast members of “Bare: A Rock Opera” that opens at Center Stage Theater this Thursday. Ms. Eve has worked with large casts before, like Stephen Sondheim’s “Assassins” and the hippie collective of “Hair.” But this musical, a story of two Catholic boarding school boys who fall in love and question their faith and identity — with some surprising consequences — is calling on local high schoolers for the job.

“We’re dealing with a lot of scheduling conflicts,” Eve says. “But we’re lucky because they’re bringing a lot of great energy to the show. They’re extraordinarily talented.”

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The fortune-ate daughter: SBCC Theatre Group produces ‘The heiress,’ an adaptation of a Henry James novel

SBCC Theatre Group

SBCC Theatre Group

Inheriting a fortune and then being besieged by suitors who claim to love you was just as much of a problem back in the days of novelist Henry James as it is now, hence the ongoing popularity of “The Heiress,” a James adaptation for the stage that opens this coming Wednesday as the second play of SBCC Theatre Group’s 2014-15 season.

Based on “Washington Square,” Augustus and Ruth Goetz adapted Mr. James’ 1880 novel into a play in 1947 and then into a 1949 film version starring Olivia de Havilland and Montgomery Clift. It’s a play of ambiguous motives, abuse and bitter recriminations, just the kind of heady drama that actors and directors love to sink their teeth into. And this production boasts a strong crew.

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Getting better with age: “Sideways” celebrates its 10th anniversary at the Arlington

A 10th anniversary screening of the movie "Sideways" was held at the Arlington Theater on Sunday. Attendees take in a question-and-answer session involving, from left, moderator Gabe Saglie, actress Virginia Madsen, director Alexander Payne, Hitching Post owner Frank Ostini and Kalyra Winery owner Martin Brown, also shown below. NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS

A 10th anniversary screening of the movie “Sideways” was held at the Arlington Theater on Sunday. Attendees take in a question-and-answer session involving, from left, moderator Gabe Saglie, actress Virginia Madsen, director Alexander Payne, Hitching Post owner Frank Ostini and Kalyra Winery owner Martin Brown, also shown below.
NIK BLASKOVICH / NEWS-PRESS

The motion picture “Sideways” celebrated its 10th anniversary Sunday with a special screening at the Arlington Theatre, which featured a post-film interview with director-writer Alexander Payne and star Virginia Madsen. It was a time to toast the cultural resonance of this humble character study, as its effects are still being felt in the Santa Ynez Valley and beyond.

Ten years ago, “Sideways” enlivened the entire county when Fox Searchlight announced it would be shooting among the many wineries that dot the area, but that was before it was released. After its premiere, and its run of film festivals, and its several Oscar and Golden Globe nominations, our county realized just how important this film was to the economy, and to this day, visitors can take a tour that takes in the wineries that its lead anti-hero Miles (Paul Giamatti) and his friend Jack (Thomas Haden Church) seek out.

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Experimental visions: MCA premieres On Edge Festival, four days of performance art

"Spinning Four," Surabhi Saraf Varun Sharma photo

“Spinning Four,” Surabhi Saraf
Varun Sharma photo

As a frequent attendee at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Forum Lounge” over the years, it would be fair to say the events — every First Thursday at 7 p.m. — were unpredictable and just as often brilliant as they were half-baked. Sometimes there were short bursts of stunning performance, clocking in at a friendly 20 minutes; sometimes audiences found they had signed up for two hours. It was an experiment that had run its course in a way, but it was also pointing to something bigger, more consistent, and better defined. The On Edge Festival opens this Thursday, and promises the best of the performance art scene.

In its four days, the Festival, curated by Forum Lounge’s Heather Jeno Silva, will put on productions at MCA, as well as at Center Stage Theater, Municipal Winemakers, the Courthouse Sunken Gardens, and a gallery/event space on Canon Perdido.

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Waltz into Darkness: Touring one-man play ‘The Actual Dance’ examines breast cancer from husband’s perspective

Writer-performer Samuel Simon

Writer-performer Samuel Simon

Samuel Simon calls it his “fourth career.” Now a playwright and performer in his late sixties, it took him a full career to find his calling. After decades of being a lawyer, advocate and businessman, it was his wife’s brush with breast cancer and mortality that pushed him in semi-retirement out from behind a desk and conference calls to standing alone on stage for “The Actual Dance,” coming to Center Stage Theater this Thursday. How did this happen?

“I’m an actor and a playwright,” he says. “And that is such an incredible thing to hear myself say.” Right out of law school he worked for Ralph Nader, then joined the Army, then worked in D.C. and at the Federal Trade Commission. He then created a public relations firm at the dawn of the Internet, which turned out to be nicely profitable, enough to retire. In 2000 Mr. Simon started to take improv classes in New York City for personal development, taught by veterans from The Second City and the Groundlings. Around the same time, his wife Susan was diagnosed with Stage 3 breast cancer.

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Love and death in Santa Barbara: A perfect ‘Carmen’ for Fiesta time

Brianna Hunter as Carmen and Brett Payne as Don Jose star in the Music Academy of the West's production of "Carmen"

Brianna Hunter as Carmen and Brett Payne as Don Jose star in the
Music Academy of the West’s production of “Carmen”

It was an idea that was strangely overdue, this production of “Carmen” in the middle of Fiesta. It only took the Music Academy of the West and Old Spanish Days to agree to work together and suddenly it seemed an obvious thing. Set one of the world’s most popular operas in Santa Barbara during the year the opera was premiered (well, give or take a year), and end the performance with a re-creation of an authentic fiesta: you can’t really miss, not when some in the audience are dressed similarly to people onstage.

Friday night’s performance was one of only two (the other being Sunday), making this “Carmen” a must-see in the arts community.

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A buffet of arts: Arts & Lectures new season welcomes new artists, many favorites

FROM TOP: "Schoolhouse Rock Live!" comes to UCSB's Campbell Hall on Oct. 12 - Tim Trumble photo David Sedaris, may 4 - UCSB Arts & Lectures W. Kamau Bell, Feb.5 - UCSB Arts & Lectures Cirque Ziva, Jan. 24 - Amitava Sarkar photo

FROM TOP:

“Schoolhouse Rock Live!” comes to UCSB’s Campbell Hall on Oct. 12 – Tim Trumble photo

David Sedaris, may 4 – UCSB Arts & Lectures

W. Kamau Bell, Feb.5 – UCSB Arts & Lectures

Cirque Ziva, Jan. 24 – Amitava Sarkar photo


The new season of Arts & Lectures is a few months away. Plenty of familiar faces return for this season — David Sedaris rounds it out in May as usual — but there are also a lot of new acts rolling through to get excited about. As UCSB’s arts series expands its venues to downtown, there’s a sort of delicate balance between campus and downtown.

“Much of our audience is community oriented, so it often makes sense to have it downtown,” says Roman Baratiak, Director Celeste Billeci’s second in command. The organization has its eyes on using The New Vic more too. And dance usually does better downtown.

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Arsenic and old jokes: SBCC DOES ITS BEST TO JOLT JOSEPH KESSELRING’S AGING PLAY WITH ENERGY

From left, Leslie Ann Story, Christopher Lee Shortand Linda MacNeal in The Theatre Group at SBCC's production of "Arsenicand Old Lace"

From left, Leslie Ann Story, Christopher Lee Shortand Linda MacNeal in The Theatre Group at SBCC’s production of “Arsenicand Old Lace”

Many a theater major, high school or college, has done their time in a production of “Arsenic and Old Lace,” that ol’ farce about the Brewsters, the “family that slays together, and therefore stays together.” The ghosts of Cary Grant and Peter Lorre hover over the play, despite the two stars only appearing in the film version, even seven decades later. (Blame Turner Classic Movies.) It hurtles along at a brisk pace, indulges in some black but not bleak humor, and still has some clever twists in it.

On the last weekend of its run at SBCC’s Garvin Theater, Katie Laris’ production of Joseph Kesselring’s play still manages to get some mileage out of this jalopy.

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Letters home: Ensemble Theatre’s Lloyd Webber musical is a one-woman show

 Misty Cotton is alone on stage in the one-woman, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Tell Me On A Sunday." The Ensemble Theatre Company production runs through Aug. 2 at The New Vic. Courtesy photo


Misty Cotton is alone on stage in the one-woman, Andrew Lloyd Webber musical “Tell Me On A Sunday.” The Ensemble Theatre Company production runs through Aug. 2 at The New Vic.
Courtesy photo

Ensemble Theatre Company’s season may be over for now, but it has one more surprise up its sleeve. “Tell Me On a Sunday,” which opens Thursday, is a light summer aperitif of music and song from Misty Cotton. She is performing a lesser known musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber, best known for Broadway juggernauts like “Cats” and “Phantom of the Opera.”

It’s a tale of a young English woman who comes to New York City to try to make it big.

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