After a devastating year and the resurgence of COVID-19 this summer, the performing arts industry depends on its ability to innovate live performances and continue entertaining its audiences in a time of uncertainty. Long Beach Opera artistic director James Darrah is at the forefront of this effort: throughout the pandemic, he’s mixed elements of video and graphic design into operatic performances and developed new ways for audiences to engage with them. Darrah joins Jennifer Bielstein, the executive director of the American Conservatory Theater and a member of San Francisco’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force, and Alta Journal contributor Catherine Womack for a theatrical Alta Live on how the performance industry has done some of its most creative work in COVID times and what the future could hold.
About the guests:
James Darrah is a director, designer, and writer who has recently worked on projects for LA Opera, Long Beach Opera, Opera Philadelphia, and the Boston Lyric Opera. He is the new artistic director and chief creative officer of Long Beach Opera and the creative director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra’s digital content. He is also on the opera faculty of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and the production design faculty of the UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television.
Jennifer Bielstein is the executive director of the American Conservatory Theater. Prior to joining A.C.T., she was the managing director of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis and the managing director of the Actors Theatre of Louisville. She is part of a group of arts and culture leaders in San Francisco who are on the city’s COVID-19 Economic Recovery Task Force with Mayor London Breed.
Catherine Womack is a Tennessee-born, Los Angeles–based writer. She regularly contributes to the Los Angeles Times, Alta Journal, Los Angeles Magazine, and other outlets. Womack holds undergraduate and master’s degrees in classical piano performance and pedagogy. Before pivoting to a career as a writer, she worked as a private piano instructor and a professor of music history in Dallas. She profiled Darrah for Alta Journal’s Summer 2021 issue.•
Check out these links to some of the topics our guests brought up this week.
- Read “Opera in Service of Its Audience,” by Catherine Womack in Alta’s Summer 2021 issue.
- Read “The Show Did Go On” by Ed Leibowitz in Alta’s Spring 2021 issue.
- Watch episodes of Close Quarters by the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on YouTube, free of charge.
- Read about the American Conservatory Theater’s adaptation of Animal Wisdom in collaboration with the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company.
- Read Catherine Womack’s review of No One’s Rose by the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra & Chorale, Stanford Live, and the American Modern Opera Company (AMOC).
- Learn about the antiracism initiatives of We See You White American Theater and the Playwright Center’s BIPOC Equity Action Plan.
- Follow James Darrah’s work at Long Beach Opera.
- Learn more about Jennifer Bielstein’s work at the American Conservatory Theater.
- Follow Alta on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
- Subscribe to our free Thursday newsletter on California and the West.