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Sweeney Todd, White Buffalo, Paper Airplanes and More

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Aired 3/19/10

Sweeney Todd, Derby Dolls, naked dance, White Buffalo and paper airplanes. It doesn't get more eclectic than this weekend in San Diego. We'll chat with our guests about all of their options for the weekend.

The finale launch at a past Paper Airplane Festival. The festival brings together families to participate in activities revolving around building and flying space-themed paper airplanes.
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Above: The finale launch at a past Paper Airplane Festival. The festival brings together families to participate in activities revolving around building and flying space-themed paper airplanes.

Event: 2010 Paper Airplane Festival

  • San Diego Air & Space Museum, 2001 Pan American Plaza, Balboa Park, San Diego
  • Saturday, March 20, 2010
  • 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
  • Age Requirement: All ages
  • Cost: Free - $15

Full Event Information

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH (Host): I'm Maureen Cavanaugh. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. Any weekend that can boast both a paper airplane show and a roller derby match is worth talking about as early as possible, but there's even more going on in San Diego this weekend: art shows, theatre, music and naked dancing. So, welcome to the KPBS Weekend Preview. I’d like to introduce my guests. Keli Dailey is an arts writer for the the San Diego Union-Tribune. Keli, welcome back.

KELI DAILEY (Arts Writer, San Diego Union-Tribune): Hi, Maureen.

CAVANAUGH: And Seth Combs is the arts and music editor for San Diego CityBeat. Good morning, Seth.

SETH COMBS (Arts/Music Editor, San Diego CityBeat): Good morning. Thanks for having me.

CAVANAUGH: You’re very welcome. Well, let’s get right underway then. Keli, there is a paper airplane festival happening this weekend. Tell us about it.

DAILEY: Well, I think this event at the San Diego Air & Space Museum is either setting your kid up for aerospace engineering or detention. It’s a day of, yeah, it’s a day of hands-on folding and flying at the 4th Annual Paper Airplane Festival and it’s really about the physics of flight. So you get materials and plane folding instructions on how to make eight different types of paper airplanes, but there are hundreds of designs.

CAVANAUGH: Wow. So I understand there are contests. How are they judged?

DAILEY: You know, these are contests that start around 12:30 for flight distance, accuracy, like if you can aim at a target and hit it, plane tricks, aerobatics and time in the air. So they’ve got some real former pilots that are judging these events, and I’m sure they’d say without rockets and jet engines or propellers, all your thrust comes from your wrist, you know.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly. The same thing we always test paper airplanes for. There were a lot of attendees last year. Are they expecting a crowd this year?

DAILEY: You know, 550 people came last year?

CAVANAUGH: Wow, that’s a lot.

DAILEY: Yeah, you’d have to imagine everybody made like two planes because as the museum itself proves, you can always improve on your early models. So it’s safe to say like a thousand planes might get made at this festival. And there’s a group launch at three o’clock and I can imagine the sun gets blocked out momentarily when everyone throws theirs. And I’ve got to say, though, that…

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

DAILEY: …all abandoned aircraft get recycled. It’s very important.

CAVANAUGH: Very good. Very good. Now, this is part of a larger event, the Balboa Park-wide Science Family Day. What else is going on in Balboa Park that’s scientific?

DAILEY: You know, it’s like summer craft – summer camp crafty stuff for kids. A surprising number of activities at the area museums that involve paper. Like make a paper-based steam engine at the Model Railroad Museum. You know, botanical drawings at the San Diego Museum of Art. And it kicks off the San Diego Science Festival that is a week-long affair and you can visit sdsciencefestival.com for info on which museums are free or what kind of activities are happening.

CAVANAUGH: So the Balboa Park Science Family Day takes place Saturday. The Paper Airplane Festival is also on Saturday from 11:00 to 3:00 p.m. Well, Seth, as our naked people correspondent, I want to go to you and talk about the art show called the Symmetry Project. It takes place this weekend at Sushi Performance & Visual Arts. Tell us about this show.

COMBS: Yes, it’s been around for a few years. It’s definitely a naked people show. It more specifically will include a dance performance that’ll – from a Berlin-based composer and a producer named Klaus Janek. And, you know, they’ll also ask me for – I’m sorry. Excuse me.

CAVANAUGH: That’s okay.

COMBS: They might not necessarily reach – I think most of the audience might not necessarily be showing up for the visual art aspect of the show even though there is that and they’ll be definitely coming for the dance performance which, as you said, two highly talented performers who are stark naked.

CAVANAUGH: Well, you know, this Symmetry Project has gotten a lot of flack. Apparently Fox News commented on it last year. But what are – what is the validity of this? What are they trying to get at with this naked performance piece, Seth?

COMBS: You know, well, that’s not really a shocker that Fox News had a problem with it. I think the first line of the piece was ‘talk about a stimulus package, ha-ha-ha-ha…’

CAVANAUGH: Oh…

COMBS: But what are they trying to get at? Well, I think the key word here and one that keeps coming up in reviews is challenge, the word challenge. It challenges audiences to rethink what is – what exactly it is they’re looking at because of the movements and the way that they dance and they grasp and lift each other up and contort into one another. I mean, it’s bizarre to me that anyone would be like, ooh, naked people. But, you know, sometimes that’s the case and as far as this performance goes, there’s nothing overtly sexual about it although it’s certainly sensual but when you’re trying to make phrases of – or make sense of phrases of like – in these press releases, one particular quote that stood out to me is one from the Voice of Dance, is that ‘nudity, as much as it liberates physically, wraps us in an emotional shroud. Where does intimacy and exhibitionism begin? Any dance that raises such questions must be taken seriously.’

CAVANAUGH: That’s interesting. Keli, what’s your take on the Symmetry Project?

DAILEY: You know, when I see dance I can’t help but think that clothes are a flimsy barrier, you know, especially when you see like a male ballet dancer. But the Symmetry Project makes lycra look like body armor, you know. Like these guys are, you know, there’s behinds and fronts and all – they’re stacking bodies on top of each other. It’s – After a while, you kind of forget that they’re like naked and kind of think it’s almost a little gross even, just the positioning of people’s heads and bottoms. But, you know, I think – just a little background. The criticism was because they got a $25,000 NEA grant…

CAVANAUGH: I see. I see.

DAILEY: …in the stimulus package and…

COMBS: Right.

DAILEY: …so Fox News and Republican criticism was like this is what we’re spending our money for…

CAVANAUGH: Right, right.

DAILEY: …to support the arts. But it was for salaries for struggling artists in the Symmetry Project.

CAVANAUGH: Well, it does sound like a stimulus project. It does, on many, many levels. And the cemetery project (sic) takes place Friday through Sunday at Sushi Performance & Visual Arts in downtown San Diego. “A Weekend with Pablo Picasso,” Keli. The San Diego Rep is staging a workshop production of this “Weekend with Pablo Picasso.” Tell us about this piece.

DAILEY: Well, Herbert Siguenza has a one man show premiering at the San Diego Rep. It’s about a little known visual artist that you may have heard of. I’m kidding. It’s about the most famous – 20th century’s most famous artist, Pablo Picasso. And the premise of the new play is that we’re visiting Picasso while he’s doing a rush order in his studio in France in the 1950s and between working on these art pieces, he’s sharing his views on art and life and personal stories, and it’s based on real interviews with Picasso in a photo book about his life, and it has a slide show also. It’s kind of like Siguenza’s channeling Picasso for a gallery talk.

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh, and as you mentioned Herbert Siguenza portrays Pablo Picasso. It’s written and performed by him. Tell us more about him.

DAILEY: Well, I did an interview with Siguenza. It’s in this Sunday’s Union-Tribune. And he basically – he’s great at comic impressions.

CAVANAUGH: Ah.

DAILEY: He is with the L.A.-based sketch comedy troupe Culture Clash?

CAVANAUGH: Yes, certainly.

DAILEY: And they were just here recently for their Culture Clash in America at the SD Rep. And they’re the Latino sketch comedy troupe and they had the first Latino show, sketch comedy show, on Fox. But he’s not a classically trained actor, obviously, is what I’m getting at. He’s an activist who came into acting and so this piece is a real departure for him. It’s really big.

CAVANAUGH: And – But I don’t necessarily remember that Pablo Picasso was especially known for his one-liners. I mean, is this a funny piece?

DAILEY: You know, Siguenza himself is funny and, you know, he’s known for clowning and slapstick but this is more about illuminating Picasso’s way of seeing, way of creating, his reasons for making, you know, the anti-war work Guernica and for cubism. But Picasso was kind of an eccentric, I think, is really what he really captures in this piece. Definitely flamboyant, definitely confrontational with some of his ideas. And judging by Siguenza’s script, you know, there’s a lot of dancing and masks and mood swings and painting and bathing. It’s, you know, it’s an artist.

CAVANAUGH: Now this is billed as a workshop production so does that mean it changes through the run?

DAILEY: You know, about two weeks ago I saw the seventh version of the script and it’s a workshop production, like you mentioned, so critics aren’t allowed to review it. It will change like any production, you know, an actor finds their rhythm kind of toward the end of the production and Siguenza loves to do improv so I imagine that he’ll change and tweak the piece as it goes.

CAVANAUGH: The “Weekend with Pablo Picasso” runs through April 11th at the Lyceum Theatre in Horton Plaza. And, Keli, I’m going to stay with you…

COMBS: Sure.

CAVANAUGH: …because I promised a roller derby…

DAILEY: Yep.

CAVANAUGH: …and we’re going to give them roller derby. The San Diego Derby Dolls will play the L.A. Derby Dolls this Saturday night. Keli, what are the highlights of a Derby Dolls roller derby match?

DAILEY: You know, the biggest highlight has to be the crashes.

CAVANAUGH: Yes.

DAILEY: It’s like girl NASCAR on skates. And instead of logos, you’ve got fishnets and mini-skirts and tattoos. And seeing women bash into each other and outsmart each other roadrunner style is plenty entertaining but I get the feeling that the Derby Dolls themselves enjoy bashing into each other more than the audience does.

CAVANAUGH: Now am I understanding that San Diego has five separate roller derby teams?

DAILEY: You know, they’re all under the San Diego Derby Dolls umbrella but – and they break down along the lines of who skates a flat track and who skates a banked track, which is kind of like an oval, tilted…

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay. Yeah, I’ve seen…

DAILEY: …Hot Wheels track.

CAVANAUGH: …that, umm-hmm.

DAILEY: And also they’ve got their A teams versus their B teams, which are kind of beginners. And this weekend, we’re seeing a mixed team. It’s called the Swarm so they’ve got experts with beginners, and they’ll be bruising the Sirens from the L.A. Derby Dolls on the – Del Mar’s new banked track this weekend.

CAVANAUGH: Now do I understand correctly that you trained with the Derby Dolls for a day?

DAILEY: That’s right. I did one day of boot camp at the Dollhouse downtown and I showed up with shaky Bambi legs, power drilled my knees into the floor, and came home with a lot of bruise blossoms.

CAVANAUGH: Well, I mean, it sounds like it’s just really terribly rigorous. Did you feel that way?

DAILEY: You know, I just talked to one of the Derby Dolls about her ankle. She broke it at a practice recently. And, you know, that’s enough to keep me away from fighting on skates. When I was training with Bully Julie, she told me falling is a – Yeah, she’s so cute. She’s this tiniest Derby Doll ever and very tough. She said falling is a big part of roller derby. So 30 minutes later she went headfirst into a wall after she told me that…

CAVANAUGH: Wow.

DAILEY: …and then got up smiling. So I should mention that there’s a special skating insurance that’s required if you participate with the Derby Dolls.

CAVANAUGH: Don’t try this at home. How is the L.A. team? How are the L.A. Derby Dolls? Is this going to be a tough match for San Diego?

DAILEY: We won last time.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, okay.

DAILEY: The Swarming Sirens, we won like 150 to 51, yeah, 104 to 51. So – But I’m, you know, I’m told size-wise that we’ve got some small girls on our team and they’ve got some, you know, larger girls so we’ll see if we can hammer them.

CAVANAUGH: Okay, well, the Derby Doll teams from Southern California square off at the Del Mar Fairgrounds this Saturday night at 6:00 p.m. Seth, the Asteroids Galaxy Tour plays the Casbah on Sunday night. They are a duo from Denmark and the folks at Apple must be fans. Tell us about that.

COMBS: Yep, it seems that that’s the way to get buzz these days for your otherwise unknown band in the U.S. is write a catchy tune and send it to Steve Jobs. In this case, the song, which was called “Around the Bend,” found its way into the right hands, I guess, and landed that coveted iPod commercial and has helped their careers and it helped careers of many like Feist and the Caesars and the Fratellis, bands like that. I swear they should have a greatest hits album by now.

CAVANAUGH: Well, let’s hear that track so people know what we’re talking about. This is the Asteroids Galaxy Tour with “Around the Bend.”

(audio of clip from “Around the Bend” performed by the Asteroids Galaxy Tour)

CAVANAUGH: That’s “Around the Bend” from the Asteroids Galaxy Tour and also from the iPod Touch ad. Seth, tell us about this band’s career so far outside of the iPod ad.

COMBS: Well, outside of the ad, the – they’re both from Copenhagen, Denmark. A duo, a man and a woman. She does the singing, obviously, while he writes and produces much of the music. They’ve been around since 2008, which was the same year as the iPod ad and since they seem – or, their music, rather, seems to be popping up more and more, and I’ve just – they seem to be popping up more and more in the right spots. They had three of their newer songs in an episode of “Gossip Girl,” which…

CAVANAUGH: Uh-huh.

COMBS: …is a very popular series, and the NBC show “Chuck” which is also very popular. I mean, basically, if you watch TV other than the great programming on KPBS Television, then chances are you’ve heard this band and probably said to yourself, oh, I wonder who plays that.

CAVANAUGH: Thank you, Seth, for that. Now do you know anything about their live show?

COMBS: I do. I – Well, it’s, you know, the magic of YouTube, what can you say?

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

COMBS: Well, as I mentioned, they record as a duo but live they have a full six-piece band and I’m pretty sure they’ll be bringing that band with them. I haven’t heard of any visa problems yet. Much of the band just looks like your kind of standard indie rock band but the singer – the singer, her name’s Mette – Mette…

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

COMBS: …and she’s got model looks and gaudy, glam rock outfits, and she loves dancing around the stage and acting just, you know, all lovely and glamorous, and she’s like if David Bowie and one of the women from Atta (sic) – Abba had a, you know, love child. I’m pretty hot for her.

CAVANAUGH: Oh, that’s great. Okay, well, glad to know that, Seth. The Asteroids Galaxy Tour plays the Casbah on Sunday night. Keli, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street…

DAILEY: Hmm…

CAVANAUGH: …is back with us. Cygnet Theatre is taking on the Stephen Sondheim classic “Sweeney Todd.” And I would imagine most people are familiar with this musical but can you give it to us in a nutshell?

DAILEY: Sure. It’s Victorian London. An expert barber, called an artist with a razor, has his life destroyed by a judge and he wants revenge. The original on Broadway in the seventies had audiences gasping when Sweeney like slit the throat of his customers, and then he made them into human meat pies with the help of a baker who was played by Angela Lansbury in the Broadway original. And it’s a dark comic operetta, 80% of it is sung, and it’s gruesome for a musical. I call it a grusical.

CAVANAUGH: A grusical, that’s a wonderful way to put it. And…

COMBS: Yeah.

CAVANAUGH: …of course people might be very familiar with the Johnny Depp version of the Stephen Sondheim musical that just came out a couple of years ago.

DAILEY: Sure, sure. And I’ve been assured that the play is not as gory as the movie because if they had all that bloodwork, you know, how would they clean the Victorian costumes every night, Cygnet has told me.

CAVANAUGH: Very, very practical. Now Stephen Sondheim is celebrating his 80th birthday this Monday. How important has he been to American musical theatre, Keli?

DAILEY: You know, he’s got more Tonys on his fireplace than any other composer. He’s got a Pulitzer, he’s got an Academy Award, but all the accomplishments on his resume, I’ve got to say, being the lyricist for “West Side Story” is what I love him most for.

CAVANAUGH: Umm-hmm.

DAILEY: Like the “Jets Song” is the most singalongable song in the world, and I like Streisand doing “Somewhere.” I did an interview with the Cygnet co-directors of Sweeny Todd and it’s in today’s Night and Day, and they basically call Sondheim a Shakespeare, musical Shakespeare, like all – the plot is driven by his music and his lyrics and it’s, you know, just this wonderful lyricist. They really admire the guy. But it was accidental that they timed his piece to his 80th birthday, they say.

CAVANAUGH: Okay. But it’s a happy accident. What is it that you like about this play, Keli?

DAILEY: You know, it’s totally high-low. It’s takes a fluffy genre, the musical, and it’s got all the conventions, the love story, humor, suspense, just like any other musical, but it’s got nasty lyrics and it’s lurid and the murders and the meat pies are gross. And only Sondheim would find a tale about a madman in a world gone mad and say, ah, that’s music to my ears. Let’s slit some throats, you know.

CAVANAUGH: Exactly. Well, Cygnet begins previews of “Sweeny Todd” tonight, and the musical runs through April 25th. Hey, I want to thank both of you so much. Keli Dailey is arts writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, and Seth Combs is the arts and music editor for San Diego CityBeat. Thank you so much.

DAILEY: Thanks.

CAVANAUGH: Lots to do this weekend. Thank you, Seth.

COMBS: Thank you for having me.

CAVANAUGH: And I want everyone to know one final note: KPBS is having an open house this Saturday as part of the Explore SDSU event. We will have studio tours and activities for the kids here at the KPBS building on the SDSU campus. That’s 10:00 to 3:00 on Saturday, and we can’t wait to meet y’all. Thank you. These Days is produced by Angela Carone, Hank Crook, Megan Burke, Pat Finn, Sharon Heilbrunn, and senior producer is Natalie Walsh. Production Manager is Kurt Kohnen, with technical assistance from Tim Felten. Our production assistants are Jordan Wicht, Rachel Ferguson and Renee Villasenor. I’m Maureen Cavanaugh. I hope you’ll enjoy the rest of the week. You’ve been listening to These Days on KPBS.

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