Productions at the Pollock
The Pollock Theatre at UCSB jumps back into the post-SBIFF fray in mid-spring with three events within a single week. Appropriate for Earth Day weekend, Pollock’s virtual filmmaker series dives into the 2020 documentary Frozen Obsession, which follows the 18-day, 2,000-mile Northwest Passage Project expedition through the stunningly beautiful and extreme Canadian Arctic, aboard the Swedish research icebreaker Oden. The film follows how scientists are racing to understand a fast-warming Arctic, exploring how environmental changes currently unfolding in the polar regions will affect life on a planetary scale. Director David Clark and expedition participants Hester Blum (Penn State University) and Korenna Estes (CSU-Fresno) join moderator Ian Kellett (UCSB) for a discussion of the film on April 22. Registered participants will receive a link to stream Frozen Obsession.
Pollock’s Script-to-Screen series returns on April 24 to re-visit Thirteen, the 2003 directing debut of Catherine Hardwicke that delves into the unhinged joy and bitter angst of modern adolescence with honesty, clarity, and passion. The story follows Tracy (Evan Rachel Wood) as she grows from a pig-tailed child, still playing with teddy bears and Barbie dolls, into a young woman navigating the hyper-sexualized pressure cooker of junior high. Writer-director Hardwicke, who went on to helm Twilight and Lords of Dogtown, joins Pollock Theater Director Matt Ryan for a discussion of the still influential film, which can be screened in advance on Amazon Prime and YouTube.
In recognition of the 35th anniversary of the Chernobyl disaster, the Carsey-Wolf Center’s Pollock is partnering with the interdisciplinary conference “Fallout: Chernobyl and the Ecology of Disaster” in presenting a virtual discussion of The Babushkas of Chernobyl. The powerful 2015 documentary explores the radioactive dead zone surrounding Chernobyl’s Reactor No. 4, where a defiant community of women ekes out an existence on some of the most toxic land on Earth. They share this hauntingly beautiful but lethal landscape with an assortment of interlopers: scientists, soldiers, and even young thrill-seekers who sneak in to pursue post-apocalyptic video game-inspired fantasies. The story turns into a remarkable tale about the pull of home, the healing power of shaping one’s destiny, and the subjective nature of risk. Director Holly Morris joins moderator Sara Pankenier Weld (Germanic and Slavic Studies, UCSB) for a discussion of the making of the movie. Register at www.carseywolf.ucsb.edu for events and links.
Alcazar Adjusts to Reopen for Movies
Carpinteria’s intimate and arty Alcazar Theatre has announced that it will begin hosting live movie screenings this weekend, a few weeks after such reopenings were permitted under the new protocols. The lineup kicks off at 7 pm on Friday, April 23, with a Montecito-centric all-time classic in The Last Picture Show, the 1971 coming-of-age drama adapted from the semi-autobiographical 1966 novel by Larry McMurtry and directed and co-written by Peter Bogdanovich. The movie was a career-launcher for both future Montecito resident Jeff Bridges, who earned an Academy Award nomination, and Timothy Bottoms, son of famed late local sculptor Bud Bottoms; his younger brother Sam also had a pivotal role in the heartbreaking film. Seeing the black-and-white all-time favorite on the big screen again is a mighty appealing thought.
Rounding out the weekend, the Hugh Jackman musical The Greatest Showman screens at 2 and 7 pm on Saturday, April 23, while Sing, the 2016 computer-animated musical comedy, shows at 2 pm on Sunday, April 24. In anticipation of welcoming back a live audience – limited at the moment to 25 percent capacity – the theater earlier this month installed an OTOjOY Hearing Loop assistive listening system that sends audio directly to people’s own devices, and will follow theatrical protocols of disinfecting the seats and environs between showtimes and requiring face masks. For tickets and details, visit www.thealcazar.org.
Carp’s Covid-Coping Outdoor Concert
Meanwhile, last weekend the theater was the virtual (and even on-site) host of the Carpinteria Rotary Charitable Foundation’s 12th Annual Talent Showcase, which would have taken place inside the renovated Art Deco theater in a normal year. Given the pandemic, the showcase went virtual, but not in the typical Zoom box shuffle so common over the last year. Instead, Carpinteria locals and their friends performed at a wide variety of mostly outdoor spaces in the seaside town for the event, which was hosted by the ubiquitous John Palminteri, who introduced each act with a preview of both the performers and the location.
Comic Jason Love, who has hosted regular comedy nights at the Alcazar for years and has successfully transferred the franchise online during the pandemic, kicked things off with a generous set actually shot onstage at the theater that found him employing musical snippets to flesh out his act. Highlights included Love wondering, musically, why no advertising whiz ever thought of using the hit “867-5309” for a plumber or other local business since the song made the number more memorable than our own cell digits. (Turns out that actually did happen: Benjamin Franklin plumbing, which has a location as close as Atascadero, employed the ditty because they already had the phone number, way back in the ‘00s. Plus Cingular, the precursor to Verizon Wireless, took its turn in 2003.)
After Love’s set, the nearly two-hour show shifted outside to such locations as the Carpinteria Arts Center, where the now-Carp dwelling former Cache Valley Drifter/Acousticats founder Cyrus Clarke sang a cover of Kate Wolf’s “Green Eyes,” appropriate since the Drifters were the late Wolf’s longtime backup band.
Singer-songwriter-guitarist Devyn Clayton belted out a number just off Carpinteria Beach, while a volleyball game on the beach provided the action backdrop as Carp High junior Fiona Casbarro took to the electric keyboard to cover Mitski’s “Nobody” in front of the Seal Sandbox. That’s also where Cecilia James offered up her original “Different Ground,” the title track of her new forthcoming EP.
The gorgeous grounds of Cate School, the typical summer home of the Music Academy of the West’s vocal department (hopefully this year, too) served as the setting for Kennedy Simpson and trio singing her original “Room For Rent,” and the even more picturesque Salt Marsh Nature Park provided a wide-open welcome for the duo of Rick Sharp & Jenny Alvarado offering up a version of Crosby, Stills & Nash’s “Teach Your Children.” The cleverly-named Slideways Trombone Quartet took over a Linden Avenue street corner to perform Jobim’s “No More Blues” with plenty of social distancing, while guitar/piano duo Tom Collins & Kent Rollins also took on a Jobim classic at the nearby Island Brewing Co.
Sometimes coping with the COVID pandemic protocols provides unexpected benefits. While going virtual obviously meant no audience interaction and no showing off the beauty and acoustics of the Alcazar, visiting all the various venues around Carpinteria might have been even more mighty for the beach town, and perhaps something organizers might want to find a way to incorporate even after the protocols are lifted. Zoom boxes, no. Outdoor shows, yes.
The Rotary’s Talent Showcase began streaming on April 17. The good news is you can watch it in its entirety on demand at www.thealcazar.org.