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Weekend Preview: From Biblical Beheadings To Roller Skating In TJ

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January 26, 2012 1:08 p.m.


Valerie Scher, arts journalist

Nina Garin, arts and entertainment reporter at the U-T San Diego

Related Story: Weekend Preview: From Biblical Beheadings To Roller Skating In TJ


This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

SAUER: You're listening to Midday Edition on KPBS. I'm Mark Sauer. We have the opportunity to make this a truly international celebration with an Asian celebration for the lunar new year, and Tijuana's favorite past time, roller skating. But Salome, and that's at the San Diego opera. Joining me today are my guests, Valerie Scher, good to see you, Valerie.

SCHER: Good to see you want.

SAUER: And Nina Garren, writer with UT San Diego.

GARREN: Nice to see you. It's like the olden days.

SAUER: Yeah, we were all in the news room together at one time in mission valley. So this play draws on a famous biblical tale.

SCHER: Salome is basically about the death of John the Baptist. It's a truly twisted tale that involves sexual obsession, and a family so strange it makes Charley sheen seem normal. Salome wants John the Baptist, but she can't have him. Meanwhile, her step father wants her. So she performs the famously seductive dance of the seven veils in order to get her step father to do what she wants. And what she wants is for her to order the killing of John the Baptist, so his head is brought to her on a silver platter -- nice, huh?

SAUER: Well, are let's hear a little from last night's dress rehearsal. This is a screen where Salome asks for the head of John the Baptist.

(Audio Recording Played)

SAUER: Wow. Can you interpret that for us?

SCHER: You know, I'd like to say that the opening night performance will be broadcast live on KPBS FM. So -- I have not seen this particular production, though I have seen others. My motto as a critic is you never know until you go. So after Saturday's performance, I'll be able to assess is more accurately. I can say that this production was presented at San Francisco opera in 2009, and it was well-received. The New York Times called it bravely and marvelously macabre. So expect some kinky goings on with that severed head.

SAUER: Okay!

SCHER: Greer grimesly who sang in San Francisco will repeat his role here in as John the Baptist. And I hear from I reliable source that there is shades of Quentin Tarantino, so expect blood.

SAUER: Wow, we were talking about him again in the last segment. So not stayed and conservative, are the preconceived notion of opera.

SCHER: Absolutely not.

SAUER: So it's very provocative. Will it work with a contemporary audience?

SCHER: Well, sallow may, it was shocking when it premiered in Germany in 1905, and it still can be shocking even though we are exposed to so much in contemporary society. This opera based as you mentioned on Oscar wild's play, it's a real disturbing look at sexuality and violence. Salome doesn't understand love, and she uses sex as a weapon. And Richard Strauss's music is so powerfully expressive. The opera is less than two hours long, which is short by operatic standards, there's no intermission. It's an incredibly intense experience. At least it should be if it's a good production.

SAUER: So those of us who haven't seen much opera beyond Tommy, maybe, is this a good one to go too?

SCHER: It could be. If you have a taste and an interest in very intense theatre. Or movies. I don't think you're going to be out of your depth. I think you're going to be able to go along with this and follow it and don't forget there are English subtitles. So even though they're singing in Germany, it's very easy to follow.

SAUER: Yeah, my German is just a little rusty. But that's good to know. Will it cost an arm and a leg to get in? Or a head in this case?

SCHER: Oh, a head, could be a head. Tickets range from $50 to $275. You can check the website,, to see what's available. And I would certainly recommend this as a great experiment in opera.

SAUER: Okay. The San Diego opera's Salome opens tomorrow at the civic theatre. We're going to move on now to lunar new year celebrations here. And you recently wrote about the lunar new year. Mondays of the first day of the lunar calendar. Why is this so important here in San Diego?

GARREN: It's important because the first day of the lunar calendar is when some Asian communities celebrate the new year. And San Diego has such a diverse Asian population that there's a lot of events that are planned. And this is also the year of the dragon, so that is particularly special.

SAUER: I see the billboards on I-8, they've got the Barona here, and the dragons weaving through.

GARREN: So this holiday is celebrated by Chinese and Vietnamese communities. In China, millions and millions of people travel to their home towns. And that's actually a really cool documentary call would the last train home. But locally, people -- to make a fresh start, you wear new clothes or you can cut your hair, clean your house, you can decorate with oranges or eat oranges because the word orange translates to good luck.

SAUER: Ah, okay. Unlike in the godfather where orange always meant they were about to whack somebody.

GARREN: Did it?

SAUER: Yeah, if you look at the scenes and the symbolism. That's a whole 'nother discussion.

SAUER: And tell us about some of the big events here for the new year.

GARREN: There's two happening this weekend. The biggest one is the San Diego Chinese new year food and cultural fair. That helps downtown in the Gaslamp areaish. And they actually in honor of year of the dragon told me that they ordered a new drag an from China, but they're having some sipping issues. But there's going to be extra Acrobats and dancers for the year of the dragon. And there's one in Kearny Mesa tomorrow Saturday and Sunday

SAUER: I've been to that one.

GARREN: That's more of like a pan Asian, not just Chinese. That's happening at the seers essentials parking lot.

SAUER: Very good. And did you mention where we can find out more information?

GARREN: Well, I don't want to flag myself. But has a wonderful listing of all the events happening.

SAUER: Okay, very good. And I'm sure will match that.

SAUER: And now we move onto the ballet for Glorio de Colombia, and that's my week attempt at Spanish. Tell us all about that.

SCHER: Well, I think people should expect a comfortable and entertaining show that gives them an appreciation for this folk tradition. I think that's why so many of us respond to these kinds of dance troupes because they bring us something exotic and appealing, something we can respond to in an enjoyable way, and of course there's a whole history of touring dance troupes from all over. Russia to Mexico. You name it. And they're popular for a good reason. People get a big kick out of the old production which includes dancing, music, elaborate costumes, and something unusual instruments.

SAUER: And this performance then, is it simply a dance? But there's a story behind it too, is there not?

SCHER: Well, usually with this kind of group, the dances are broken into sections. It's not like going to a story ballet like swan lake, you know? You have different sections. And the choreography in this case certainly reflects the rituals and celebrations of Colombia, from the mountains to the coast, and the influences -- Spanish, Africa, something else entirely. And I would say that this company, which has been around for more than 20 years, it's the leading dance company in Colombia, are the performers are like good will ambassadors for a country that's not always perceived in a positive way.

SAUER: All right. They will perform Saturday at downtown's Copley symphony hall. And now we move onto the turista libre roller skating party.


SAUER: Anxious to hear about this other international event.

GARREN: Yes, this is a group of about 40 Americans. They're going to meet on the US side of the border, and they will be escorted to a roller rink. A lot of people show up to this in 1970s, 1980s clothes, like short shorts and sweat bands. Of the music you'll hear will be super fun, Mexi-Pop. And actually, this event was written up in December in the Washington post. So it's pretty happening, and there's only ten spots left. So if you want to go --

SAUER: What's the cost and the logistics and the arrangements?

GARREN: So it's $20. And that includes your transportation, your admission, and your skate rental. And then you're going to go to a bar afterwards called Chupiteria. And you'll have to buy your own drinks there. But it should be a pretty awesome time.

SAUER: All right. And tell us about the Pantinas de Plata.

GARREN: Pantinas de Plata. That means the silver skate. I actually used to go to this place when I was little. And I went there unironically.

SAUER: And you mixed right in.

GARREN: Yeah, yeah, of course! And the person taking you, his name is Derrick chin, he's a former UT employee, who now runs these groups of Americans to come to Mexico. He actually moved to Mexico and realized none of his friends wanted to come visit because they were scared, so he started doing this taking his friends to places that real Mexicans go to, you know, just the supermarket, the soccer game, shopping here. And so many people started coming that it's now become his thing.

SAUER: That's terrific!

GARREN: Yeah, are it's really fun.

SAUER: Now, have the unfortunate violent incidents put a damper on this?

GARREN: Well, that's why people were scared to go. And he says time and time again, you have to be savvy as you would in any big city.

SAUER: Sure, be aware of who's around you, and what's happening on the street.


SAUER: All right. And you mentioned that's $20, but it doesn't include your significant Margarita bar tab, I would imagine. Okay. The turista del libres, rolling skating party, that's Saturday night in Tijuana. And we're going to move onto the San Diego symphony's family festival. So you've got another event at Copley symphony hall. What is the family festival concert?

SCHER: The family festival an only concert series presented by the San Diego symphony. And the programs are only about an hour long. That makes them well-suited to children who it may have limited attention spans, as my children used to have. There's even a musical petting zoo before the concert where kids can hold musical instruments and get a sense of what they're like. Adults like these too. They are terrific.

SAUER: That's great. And if Craws people into the whole symphony experience. And at a time when the art it is education is increasingly endangered what do these provide for young people?

SCHER: Well, I think they're very important. And I'm sure you do too because children don't have enough experiences like this. Hearing a professional symphony orchestra in a remarkable concert hall that used to be a movie palace. Imagine what an impression this could make on a small child. It could be so enriching, maybe even life-changing. You could have someone decide to become a musician.

SAUER: Absolutely. All right, Nina, let's finish on a light note. Tell us about stand-up comedian, Hannibal Burgess.

GARREN: He is a rising comic, but he's got a lot of cred because he was a writer for Saturday night live and theatre rock. He made some guest appearances there. He was also on the famous poker episode of Luis. So he's coming up.

SAUER: All right. So what kind of comedy? More raw language involved?

GARREN: No, he's more of, like, an indie comic, smart observations, pop culture references, wacky 30 Rock kind of stuff.

SAUER: And he plays at the Casbah night at 7:00 PM. I'd like to thank my guests. And tonight I want to remind you at 6:30, an evening edition on KPBS television. Amita Sharma explains how Syrian activists in San Diego are helping protestors back home.