Kristin Chenoweth Makes SB Debut
Tony Award-winning actress/singer Kristin Chenoweth has no illusions about who she is and what she can do. Blessed with a brilliant voice, plucky determination, and such a bubbly personality that The Daily Beast called her “the human version of just-popped champagne,” Chenoweth has soared on Broadway as Glinda in Wicked, and earned accolades, Emmy awards and nominations for roles as shows as diverse as The West Wing, Pushing Daisies, and Glee, and won legions of fans for her concert appearances.
A show biz star ever since she made the audience “go crazy” when, as a little girl playing a rabbit in The Nutcracker she hopped up on a fallen prop of a vine, put it in her mouth and popped back to her seat beside Clara, Chenoweth also knows not every role is in her grasp, even if being a true one-of-a-kind has served her well.
“I wanted to be Belle in Beauty and the Beast more than anything,” she said. “But the truth is I’m a plate. I’m a fork… A napkin, or a napkin holder. But I love being an original.”
Chenoweth will be much more than table-setting when she invites you to “be her guest” for her Santa Barbara debut on Wednesday, October 2, at the Granada Theatre, where she’ll command the stage in a concert serving to promote her just-released new album, For the Girls. She “dished” about Broadway, big voices and Carol Burnett over the phone in an effervescent interview.
Q. You’ve been so successful in many fields. How do you choose what to do?
A. It’s hard. I like to do it all. It’s like I have show biz ADD and it can be hard to know where I should focus. One of the ways I evaluate is to wonder if anyone else could play it? Is it a part that’s original? Those are the ones I pick. But music is never far away. It’s what I love the most. But it’s always fun whatever I do, TV, or a movie or music or a musical. I approach everything from the acting standpoint – from the dialog or lyric, where the character or a song is born. That’s where I start… And I like leaving a handprint wherever I go. I can never see myself doing anything else. I can’t even imagine it.
Your new album, which is the focus of your current tour, consists of covers of famous songs written and/or recorded by female singers. What was the motivation to do it now, and what did you want to bring that was uniquely you?
Women are having a Renaissance now, although I started thinking about making this record before all of this was happening (#MeToo, etc.). I always had a list of women I wanted to honor and pay tribute to, but I wasn’t going to touch it unless I felt that I was ready – that I could sing Barbra Streisand’s most famous song, for example… I wanted to remind (or introduce) my younger fans to Eydie Gormé, or Lesley Gore, Doris Day. I wanted them to remember who it was who came before us. I want not just to mentor, but to say look these people up – check out Eva Cassidy if you don’t know who she is. Before there were any of us, there were these women.
But then I had to tell myself, don’t be scared. You have to put your own stamp on these songs. You have to do it with confidence, know your angle. Each song represented something to me. I heard Lesley Gore do “You Don’t Own Me” when I was a little girl. I went back to her original, and now I understand that song. I’ve never felt like I needed to be owned…
So how did you know you were ready?
Evolution. Understanding life helps inform you of when you’re ready to sing or even say the words. I couldn’t have done this in my 20s.
I want to ask you about Carol Burnett, who lives in Montecito, and mentioned that she would be attending your concert.
She’s the original queen! The one who has it all – singing, acting and dancing. People forget she was a Broadway star. Not me. I don’t forget it. She’s the one who gave me permission to be a zany wackadoo funny and make people laugh, and then make people cry at the very end, like she did with the last song of her show every week. She’s the original. When I saw how she made my father laugh, that’s when I knew that this was what I wanted to (do)… She’s one of the women who came before me that I learned from, and is still teaching me a lot. It’s amazing that I got to know my idol.
Hearing that, I’m imagining the new album is not just another record, but a major milestone for you, a way to claim all of that for yourself.
You bet! That’s it. If I never did another one I’d be happy.
Notes on Music
The California Honeydrops, who have played close to a dozen shows at SOhO over the last several years, head up to the rooftop at the MOXI Museum for a show sponsored by the EOS nightclub on Friday, September 27, the same night that powerhouse singers Leslie Lembo and Barbara Wood co-headline a show with Raw Silk back at SOhO.
The apparently inexhaustible Rod Stewart, the sandpaper-singing British rock star who marks half a century as a solo artist this year boasting more than a quarter-billion in total records sales worldwide, squeezes in a show at the Santa Barbara Bowl on Saturday night between engagements for his “The Hits” shows in Las Vegas.
Two local legends play blocks apart on Tuesday, October 1, when Jim Messina does his classic country-rock thing at the Lobero while singer-songwriter Glen Phillips shows up at SOhO.
Call-To-Action Film Festival
Seven thought-provoking films settle in for SBIFF’s second annual seven-day Call-To-Action Film Festival, aiming to rouse the rabble at the Riviera Theatre September 27 to October 3. With a goal of sparking dialogue on pressing issues of the day using the art of film, each film will be accompanied by moderated panel discussions with the film’s directors and specialists on the topics. Among the highlights is American Factory, about Chinese company Fuyao’s factory in Dayton, Ohio, in the space of a shuttered General Motors plant, which claimed the Directing Award for a U.S. Documentary at Sundance in 2019 and won the Best Documentary Feature Award at the RiverRun International Film Festival. Also of note: Gay Chorus Deep South, director David Charles Rodrigues’ chronicling of the 300-member strong San Francisco Gay Men’s Chorus touring the Deep South in response to a wave of anti-LGBTQ laws and the divisive 2016 election. Single admission is $8-$10, and full festival passes are available. Call (805) 963-0023/ (805) 335-1555 or visit https://sbiffriviera.com/CTA.
Double CAST-ing film festivals
Santa Barbara Center for Art, Science & Technology – aka SBCAST – is set to host two different boutique festivals over the weekend. More than 20 very short films screen Friday night, September 27, in the sixth season of the 3-Minute Film Festival, including the Australian narrative “Three Million Dollars” that clocks in at 60 seconds, and the “American For Short Stories” that spans just 48 seconds. On the other end of the spectrum are “#Kneeltoheal,” a documentary from Oxnard that takes up the full three minutes, while somehow “Clean Water,” a Mexican doc that was filmed in the Sudan, and the American experimental “Film Roll,” were both allowed entry despite going 15 seconds over the allotted duration. Other intriguing titles include “Happy Monday,” “An Untitled Thing About How Birthdays Can Be Sad,” and “Pizza Boy.” Mashey Bernstein, UCSB film professor emeritus and the director of the Santa Barbara Jewish Film Festival, served as chair of the four-person jury. The event begins with a reception with the filmmakers at 6:30 pm followed by the outdoor screenings at 8 pm.
Saturday afternoon, September 28, brings the fourth season of the International Fine Arts Film Festival, another one-day wonder that actually begins with a single screening on Friday night, following the conclusion of the 3-Minute Film Festival. The mini-fest seeks to present the best films in the world created by both students and professionals spanning the visual arts, storytelling, tragedy, comedy, dance, music, science, performance and experimental. Among the titles for the 17 shorts being screened both indoors during the day, and outdoor after sunset are Reversal Symmetry, which uses pedestrian movement to represent the oscillating dance between matter and antimatter at Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics; Giselle, a dance narrative based on the original ballet; Quartet for the End of Time, a doc about French composer Olivier Messiaen, who premiered the titular masterpiece in 1941 while incarcerated in a Nazi prison camp in Poland; and The Wayward Cube, a doc tracing the process of creating from conception to completion architect and artist Bolek Ryzinski’s Art Space, a 12’ x 12’ x 9’ cube with 12 rotating, mirrored and painted panels that produce a kinetic kaleidoscopic experience. Admission to both boutique festivals is free, although donations are suggested. SBCAST is located at 513 Garden Street. Visit www.3minutefilmfestival.com and https://internationalfineartsfilmfestival.com.
SBLIFF Satirizes SBIFF
The Santa Barbara International Film Festival is such a behemoth in winter-time cinematic pursuits, others in town don’t often take it on either in timing or for that matter tone. So leave it to the folks and Fishbon and SBCAST to create the San Pesci Legends International Film Festival (SPLIFF) a friendly if sometimes savage satirization of Santa Barbara’s art and film festival scene and celebrity culture in general. SPLIFF takes place on October 12 at SBCAST but the producers – who also created interactive theatrical experiences Blisstopia and The Conspiratorium – are still seeking input. Do you have embarrassing student films buried deep within your hard drive? Black-and-white videos of protagonists standing stoically for two minutes? Stilted dialogue? All can find a second life at the event, billed as both a riotous party and a dramatic adventure where participants play an integral role in the unfolding of the plot. The more pretentious your short films the better, particularly ones that strive for high art or abstraction but somehow miss the mark, and those that are either consciously or unconsciously ridiculous.
Meanwhile, at the event itself, status-obsessed actors and agents will seek your help in sabotaging the careers of their fellow award nominees, paparazzi will stalk the stars, hounds will collect autographs for profit, and much more silliness and skewering will ensue, plus Hollywood-themed libations, Indian delicacies by Nimita’s Cuisine, music by DJ Gryphn and aerial performances by Elevated Dreams. Submit films or see how you can get involved by emailing email@example.com, and/or visit www.eventbrite.com/e/fishbon-presents-spliff-san-pesci-legends-international-film-festival-tickets-70102150419 for tickets or information.
Focus on Film: Pollock Premieres
UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center kicks off its fall series Special Effects with George Miller’s 2015 blockbuster Mad Max: Fury Road. Winner of major awards for art direction, visual effects, costumes, stunts and makeup, Fury Road is set in a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland where fuel and water are scarce commodities and a heavily armored tanker truck outrunning a ruthless warlord and his army highlights the movie acclaimed as a modern feminist action epic. Kristen Whissel (Film and Media, UC Berkeley), author of Spectacular Visual Effects: CGI and Contemporary Cinema, joins Patrice Petro, the Director of the Carsey-Wolf Center, for a discussion following the 7 pm screening on Tuesday, October 1, at UCSB Pollock Theater. The full series will explore the diverse history of special-effects cinema through screenings of Hollywood classics, CGI blockbusters and previously unseen documentary footage. Visit www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu/pollock or call 805-893-5903.
Outings to Ojai
It you’re heading over the hill and through the woods to the mountain-valley village over the weekend, you can fill up your Saturday with three wildly divergent offerings in the Ojai area.
Dr. James Adams of USC School of Pharmacy and plant educator Enrique Villaseñor join veteran Ojai herbalist Lanny Kaufer for the Fall Medicinal Plant Workshop from 9 am to 3 pm on Saturday, September 28. The event centers on Dr. Adams’ groundbreaking pharmacological studies on medicinal uses of California’s native plants, and includes a plant identification session at two native plant gardens during the morning followed by an afternoon hands-on preparation session held at a community kitchen in Ojai. That’s where the presenters will demonstrate how to prepare edible and medicinal products from seasonal native plant material such as California Buckwheat, Sacred Datura, Black Sage, Yerba Santa, and Manzanita berries, plus instruction on preparing healing foods and drinks from Prickly Pear cactus fruits. Participants will go home with a jar of balm they made themselves from the Chamise plant as well as a complete list of all plants that were identified and/or utilized during the day, plus recipes, online journal articles and other information. Call 805-646-6281 or visit HerbWalks.com more information or to register for the workshop, which costs $75.
Performances to Grow On gets the jump on its own upcoming 19th annual Ojai Storytelling Festival in late October with a benefit show featuring Antonio Rocha, an award-winning storyteller from Brazil who fearlessly fuses mime and spoken word. Rocha employs his tenor voice, realistic sound effects and mesmerizing moves to tantalize your funny bone and soothe your soul as he performs tales from around the world. with his signature moves and sound effects. The culturally diverse show not only entertains but also addresses matters of communication, self esteem, conflict resolution and respect – a combination that has earned presentations not only in premier venues in the United States, but also in 15 other countries across six continents. Tickets for the 2-5 pm show at the Ojai Art Center cost $10-$15. Call 805-640-8797 or visit http://ojaiartcenter.org or http://www.ojaistoryfest.org.
Later that night, singer-songwriters Greg Felden, Coby Brown, and Brad Byrd are touring together in an unusual way, offering a triple threat by sharing the backing band for each of their songs. Felden’s new Made of Strings CD reflects the country and folk music he was weaned on and the indie songwriters of the Pacific Northwest. Fellow now-L.A.-based songwriter and composer Brown’s fourth full length album Everything Looks Different To Me Now has received heavy airplay on KCRW while the second single, “Tokyo,” shot on location in Japan, was included on Apple’s Best of Japan playlist. Byrd’s Phases prompted American Songwriter to laud the disc as “Haunted by memories of idyllic times, while also being consumed by a loss of love and the frustration that goes with it.” The guys get together for a 7:30 pm gig at The Vine, 308 East Ojai Avenue.