Less than Zorro: The river ran dry for the arts in 2020

“Abruptly came the foreshortening of much” was one of the pandemic-inspired paintings that Scott Trimble created early in the year, and long before we knew what was in store for us. Visually, it kind of sums up the year that was, doesn’t it?

The Great Intermission

Postponed, delayed, cancelled… but the show will go on

This wasn’t at all what we expected a year ago, but life deals the cards and we play the hand we’re given. Many individual artists were able to adapt, whereas galleries, theaters, and other venues struggled to find ways to deliver the goods. It was a big year for Zoom, although for most people Mr. Computer Screen was a poor substitute. I’ve tried to give a snapshot in the images that follow of what tried, succeeded, or failed to materialize in 2020. Despite the paucity of events, I’ve had to be randomly selective. It could have been an even worse year, right?

In retrospect, some people see the untimely death of Kobe Bryant as a premonition of darker times to come. “Bi Kobe” is Frank LaMantia’s tribute to the Lakers’ legend. LaMantia lives locally but because of the pandemic he and I have never met in person. When we communicated, in June, he wasn’t sure how virtual art shows would go over: “I think people have to actually see, feel, and smell art,” he said

Surf City Theatre’s production of Neil Simon’s “Rumors” ran through March 8, so unlike many theater companies it wasn’t shut down at the start of a long run. Until then, the Hermosa Beach-based company was routinely mounting four plays each season. Here’s most of the cast of “Rumors” in a crucial scene: L-r: Sabrina Guyll, Christopher Yearwood, Marquel Skinner-Rogers, Drew Rogers, Jennifer Dellapina, Mitch Feinstein, Jessica Plotin, and David Brown. Photo courtesy of Surf City Theatre

During the second week of March, I met up with Jessica Fichot, whose first two albums were in the French chanson tradition and whose third album is a paean to 1940s Shanghai jazz. She and her quartet were scheduled to perform on Friday, March 13, at El Camino College. Just as my interview with Jessica appeared in print the show was cancelled. Photo by Andy Sheng

Randy Berler’s South Bay Film Society screened films almost every week at the AMC Rolling Hills 20 in Torrance. Virtually all of them were sold out. “Antigone” was screened on March 11, and there were lots of cancellations. We knew it would be the last one for a few months, but thought, or rather hoped, we’d be back before the end of the year (Note: The South Bay Film Society continues to screen films online… go to their website to learn more)

Early during the pandemic, South Bay-based Brian Hawkins created a short film called “Distant” that gave us a bird’s-eye view of empty streets and beaches. This is an image of the crosswalk at the intersection of Hermosa and Pier Avenues in downtown Hermosa Beach. “Distant” is meditative, thoughtful, even brooding, although it ends on an upbeat note. Now, at the very end of 2020, I think any upbeat finale may still be premature

Back in February, Humble Harry presented his annual “Johnny Cash Birthday Tribute” at the Hermosa Saloon in Hermosa Beach. Humble Harry was ailing and said that his homage to the man in black might be his last one. But, he noted, “The show must go on,” and, quoting Johnny Cash, “I’m gonna sing till the day I die.” Photo

Another thing sorely missed after the middle of March? Art shows, their receptions, and the chance to mingle with old friends and new acquaintances. This is from an event in February. Photo

The 30th annual Dylanfest, presented once again by Andy Hill and Renee Safier, emerged as a live-streamed event over the last weekend in May. The duo, and their countless musicians, had hoped for a live performance in September. Now we’re keeping our fingers crossed for 2021. Photo courtesy of Andy & Renee

Families across the Southland missed this year’s annual tour of new productions by Shakespeare by the Sea. All local theater companies were forced to put their seasons on hold during what the Torrance Theatre Company’s Gia Jordahl called “the great intermission.” Pictured: “Henry V” when Shakespeare by the Sea presented it during the summer of 2019. Photo by José Cordon

Acclaimed body painter Paul Roustan, frequently showcased at Resin and Shockboxx on Cypress Avenue in Hermosa Beach, scored high points in the annual, Austria-based World Body Paint Festival this past summer. Out of 416 U.S. participants in the World Category, he was ranked number one. The theme was “Psychedelic Circle.” Pictured, Roustan and his model, Shadia Elise. Photo by Paul Roustan

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Written by: Bondo Wyszpolski

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