Arts & Culture Newsletter: Aretha at the Apollo

Good morning, and welcome to the U-T Arts & Culture Newsletter.

I’m David L. Coddon, and here’s your guide to all things essential in San Diego’s arts and culture this week.

With the arrival of the new year, I’ve been thinking as many of you have about what I will do when someday the world is safe again. Among the many things I’ve missed is traveling, in particular to major hubs of arts and cultural entertainment.

You don’t get more major than New York City.

Though I’ve visited the Big Apple on occasion before, I’ve never made it to the storied Apollo Theater in Harlem. Its history, which dates back to 1914, is populated by generations of Black musicians and performers across multiple genres and artistic disciplines.

They include the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who passed away in 2018. You may think you know a lot about Franklin, but there is so much more to learn by visiting the Apollo Theater’s “Digital Stage” website. Its recurring “Apollo Education” feature is offering “Apollo Live Wire: Aretha,” in which cultural critic Emily J. Lordi and three cultural scholars (Fredara Hadley, DJ Lynnee Denise and Portia Maultsby) take an in-depth look at Franklin, her music and her sweeping influence. The Zoom discussion is over an hour and a half in length, but if you’re a fan of Franklin and her work, you’ll find it stimulating and entertaining.

Also on the Apollo Digital Stage (and also free to access) is its “Apollo Music Café.” Full-length performances by singer-songwriter J. Hoard and the Funk Apostles’ STOUT can be viewed with the click of your mouse.

A treasure trove of musical performances and educational discussions makes up the whole of this digital-access site. Bookmark it and enjoy.


Dael Orlandersmith in "Until the Flood."

Dael Orlandersmith in “Until the Flood.”

(Courtesy photo by Robert Altman)

Free for streaming is the Goodman Theatre in Chicago’s presentation of “Until the Flood,” a one-woman show written and performed by Dael Orlandersmith. Over the course of 70 minutes, Orlandersmith portrays eight people she interviewed in Ferguson, Mo., in the wake of the 2014 shooting of Black teenager Michael Brown by White police officer Darren Wilson. They include teachers, students, a Black barber who’s seen it all in Ferguson, a retired White police officer who insists “You’ve got to use your gun,” a minister, and a town electrician who wonders “If America is so bad, why does everyone want to come here?” then waxes nostalgic about a time when Ferguson was “clean, pure, white.”

“Until the Flood” was originally commissioned and produced by the Seattle Rep and has been performed by Orlandersmith around the country since its premiere in 2018. The streaming performance is done before an audience and is interspersed with montage footage and sounds (including that of gunshots) that recall the Aug. 9, 2014, shooting and the days and weeks of activism and unrest that followed.

Orlandersmith taps into the full spectrum of emotions in her portrayal of the various citizens of Ferguson with whom she spoke. As herself, in a closing monologue, she asks the thought-provoking rhetorical question: “Has the ‘We Shall Overcome’ come and gone?”

Visual Art

Herman Leonard photo of Duke Ellington

Herman Leonard photo of Duke Ellington

(Photo by Herman Leonard / Courtesy of Morrison Hotel Gallery)

I’m still sorry that the Morrison Hotel Gallery in La Jolla closed its doors back in 2009. (New York, Los Angeles and Maui locations remain.) The Prospect Street space was a fun browsing spot for dedicated music-heads like myself.

But archival photos of music’s most iconic figures can still be appreciated on the Morrison Hotel Gallery’s website. If you’ve got time to spare and a passion for popular-music photography, you can pass an hour or more clicking on, enlarging and marveling at images both black-and-white and color of everyone from Bob Dylan to David Bowie to Beyoncé.

You can click back and forth between the featured photographs on the home page, or dive into the site’s vast “Collections” section, where the focus may be on an individual artist, such as punk rocker Patti Smith, or on an important music event, such as The Band’s star-studded “Last Waltz” concert at San Francisco’s Winterland in 1976. A search feature also enables you to look up your favorite artist or band, or to search by musical genre.

The Morrison Hotel Gallery is a business, of course, and photos you click on indicate not only the photographer and the date but the purchase price. The holidays are over, but there’s always a music-loving friend’s birthday looming.

Visual art, Part II

Kim Phillips-Pea is president of the Southeast Art Team and leads the team at the Pop-Up Art Gallery at Market Creek Plaza.

Kim Phillips-Pea is president of the Southeast Art Team and leads the team at the Pop-Up Art Gallery at Market Creek Plaza.

(Jarrod Valliere / The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Pop-Up Art Gallery at Market Creek Plaza is a dream come true for Kim Phillips-Pea, curator of the gallery and president of the Southeast Art Team. The community in southeastern San Diego has long been filled with creativity and artists perfecting their work, but the neighborhood hasn’t had much physical space dedicated solely to visual art — until now.

“There’s nothing like this in the community. Our team is used to setting up in the Malcolm X Library or a pop-up in a park under a canopy. We’ve never had a more permanent indoor space to enjoy art,” she said of the partnership between her Southeast Art Team and the Jacobs Center for Neighborhood Innovation.

The gallery features the work of local artists and highlights a select number of them each month, until the gallery closes at the end of February 2021.

Read more about Phillips-Pea and the gallery in this story by the Union-Tribune’s Lisa Deaderick.


Elvis Presley in a scene from "Kid Galahad."

Elvis Presley in a scene from “Kid Galahad.”

(Associated Press)

On the subject of birthdays, tomorrow is Elvis Presley’s. The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll was born Jan. 8, 1935, in Tupelo, Miss. (He passed away back in 1977 at the age of 42.) Presley’s contributions to music and pop culture need no amplification, but his side career as a film star justifiably requires some defending. For every good picture Presley made, and there weren’t a lot of them, there were bunches of bad ones, or have you forgotten “Tickle Me,” “Clambake,” or “Change of Habit” (in which Elvis portrays a priest, with Mary Tyler Moore as a nun)?

But in honor of Presley on what would have been his 86th birthday, let’s accentuate the positive. Following are the trailers to three of Presley’s best movies (all available for rental viewing via Amazon Prime): 1957’s “Jailhouse Rock” (his finest), 1962’s “Kid Galahad,” and for sheer kicks and glamor, 1964’s “Viva Las Vegas.”

TV and streaming

Actor Nicolas Cage hosts "History of Swear Words"

Actor Nicolas Cage hosts “History of Swear Words,” a snappy look at six of the most controversial words in the English language.


U-T columnist Karla Peterson, in a story titled “Kicking off 2021 TV with meditation, swearing and a rock doc,” writes: If your last days of 2020 included some binge-watching to go along with your binge-eating, I come not to judge, but to advise. What you need is a palate cleanser, something to make you forget how much you miss “The Queen’s Gambit” already and how the next season of “Succession” can’t come soon enough. Here are three shows — two newbies from Netflix and a repurposed HBO series now airing on AXS TV — that will clear your head with short bursts of timeless insight, pop-culture history and profanity. Two of them are less than 30 minutes long, and all of them are chess-free. You’re welcome. Read more of Peterson’s column here.

Looking ahead at 2021

Artists look ahead at 2021

We asked artists and arts leaders about what 2021 looks like to them, and here’s what they had to say. Read all the essays here.

Ballet dancers on the theatre scene on rehearsal.

Meanwhile, U-T Arts & Entertainment Editor Michael James Rocha chimed in with his own thoughts on the past year and where we’re headed in a commentary titled “Yes, it was a dark year in the arts, but through it all, I still see hope.” Read what he had to say here.


Nnedi Okorafor attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018

Nnedi Okorafor attends the 70th Emmy Awards at Microsoft Theater on September 17, 2018, in Los Angeles.

(Getty Images)

University of California Television (UCTV) is making a host of videos available on its website during this period of social distancing. Among them, with descriptions courtesy of UCTV (text written by UCTV staff):

“An Evening with Nnedi Okorafor”: The popular literary genres of science fiction and fantasy were once viewed as male enclaves, but no longer. One of today’s most prominent genre authors is Nnedi Okorafor, the American-born child of Nigerian immigrant parents. Perhaps best-known for her “Black Panther” and “Wakanda Forever” comics, Okorafor is an award-winning novelist celebrated for weaving African culture into evocative settings filled with memorable characters. A New York Times profile called Okorafor’s imagination “stunning.” She’s currently working with “Game of Thrones” author George R.R. Martin on developing a show based on her World Fantasy Award-winning novel “Who Fears Death” for HBO.

“Restructuring the Economy During & After COVID-19”: Economist Ray Major from the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG) discusses current and projected economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the San Diego region. A recent report authored by SANDAG estimates San Diego’s losses for 2020 to top $12.4 billion with an additional loss in wages of $4.8 billion and 176,000 workers unemployed as a result of the crisis. Major believes recovery depends upon helping the workforce in failing industries shift to jobs that are more resilient. To this end he recommends that government and the commercial sector focus on re-training programs to help people change careers.

“Reach for the Stars with Sally Ride”: Following her career as the first American woman in space, UCSD physics professor Sally Ride devoted her energies to science education and popularization. She was especially concerned that nearly two-thirds of freshmen enter college without adequate grounding in math and science, and emerge unprepared for many post-college career choices in a rapidly changing environment. In this address from 2011, Ride describes how her own early interest and later training in science created the path for her groundbreaking entry into the space program, and stresses that where she led, others can and must follow.

And finally: Arts in the Time of COVID

Herbert Siguenza

Herbert Siguenza

(K.C. Alfred)

In this week’s edition of Arts in the Time of COVID, Pacific editor Nina Garin talks about San Diego Repertory Theatre’s new online monthly show “VAMOS!,” San Diego filmmaker Isaac Artenstein’s “A Long Journey: The Hidden Jews of the Southwest” and Virtual Coffee with the Playhouse. Watch it here.