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Culture Report: Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company Calls it Quits

A revamped Death for Food event returns, Bill Murray is headed to Escondido, San Diego Opera is selling off a Barrio Logan studio and more in our weekly digest of the region’s arts and culture news.

Mo`olelo Performing Arts Company is no more.

The theater company’s board of trustees recently voted to close and donate all its assets and programs to Playwrights Project, a local nonprofit that produces play-writing programs and theatrer productions with an emphasis on reaching students, prison inmates and other underserved communities.

“We believe this development is the very best course of action for Mo`olelo because of our limited resources, both financial and organizational,” Mo`olelo board chair Jerry Buckley wrote in an email to longtime supporters.

Mo`olelo paused its operations in 2015 due to financial concerns. The board has since been studying various options for moving forward.

In the email, Buckley said that for more than a decade Mo`olelo was one of the only local theater companies producing socially conscious, community-based productions that featured people of color on staff and on stage. He said the landscape has since shifted, and now several local companies and arts groups are doing similar work.

“We are proud to see so many of San Diego’s performing arts organizations now embracing these priorities as an important part of their missions,” he wrote.

Cecelia Kouma, Playwrights Project’s executive director, said the donations from Mo`olelo include funding, office supplies, access to artists, volunteers and supporters and other resources. She said the Playwrights Project’s mission and programs align closely with the work Mo ‘olelo had been doing.

The money from Mo ‘olelo will be used to fund a new Playwrights Project program that will focus on telling the diverse stories of San Diego’s refugees and other underrepresented communities. Mo`olelo had several productions and programs focused on refugees. Next June, Playwrights Project will stage a play based on interviews with 16 immigrants living in City Heights at the City Heights Performance Annex. The hope is to produce a play or program focused on refugees every year.

“I think this is really wonderful and a somewhat natural progression to keep Mo`olelo going in a way and to keep their community connected to professional theater,” Kouma said.

• Playwrights Project announced Tuesday that the nonprofit is getting a handful of California Arts Council grants to support six of its ongoing programs, plus a a $10,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, which will help fund its in-school programs for at-risk youth.

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Edgy Food Event Returns, Remade

Animals are killed for food all the time, but when one local photographer decided to make the act of killing an animal the central focus of a food event, people got pissed.

Vegans and vegetarians signed a petition and caused enough uproar to eventually get Jaime Fritsch to shut down his planned Death for Food event at Suzie’s Farm in 2014. San Diego Magazine called it “one of the most controversial food events in the city” at the time.

Photo by Susan Myrland

Photo by Susan Myrland

Fritsch, a San Diego photographer, and his Death for Food collaborators had pulled off successful events that involved slaughtering animals for food before, but they happened in Mexico.

Soon after the 2014 fiasco, Fritsch paused the events and has been working on a cookbook and focusing on his own farm and family. But this Wednesday marks his return. He’s hosting a sold-out event at Bread & Salt in Logan Heights with famed Tijuana chef Javier Plascencia. The menu includes a whole pig, rabbit and quail paella and more.

Death for Food’s goal, said Fritsch, was to produce a book exploring the disconnect between people and their food. Fritsch himself has long toiled with his guilt of eating meat, so the events were also a way for him to confront his unease.

Fritsch said this event’s focus will be on cultural connections to food.

“It’s still about making deeper connections between people and the food they eat,” he said. “People who show up can learn about the pig they’re eating, and learn about all sorts of aspects of the food and how it’s being prepared.”

Fritsch has more events in the works to highlight the food and culture of Valle de Guadalupe, the wine region outside of Ensenada, Mexico. On top of connecting people to the food they eat, he hopes to help promote cross-border connections.

“I’m a no-border guy,” he said. “I’m an advocate of people embracing this whole region.”

Opera Selling Its Scenic Studio, Big Week for Poetry in San Diego and Other Arts and Culture News

 The San Diego Opera announced Monday it will sell its scenic studio in Barrio Logan to help shore up some debt. The opera’s general director, David Bennett, had long been eyeing the studio as a possible alternative venue that could host some of the company’s more experimental productions.

Photo by Kinsee Morlan

Photo by Kinsee Morlan

• Bill Murray is one of the headliners of the just-announced 2017-18 season at the California Center for the Arts, Escondido. (Union-Tribune)

• San Diego has never looked so poetic. On Friday, the San Diego Poetry Annual will feature San Diego authors and poets including Anthony Blacksher, Judy Reeves and Adam Greenfield (who helps VOSD record and produce our podcasts). Then on Saturday, the Poets and Painters Spoken Word, Music & Graffiti Art Festival returns for its second year.

• A new mural painted by San Diego artists Miguel Angel Godoy and Saratoga Sake will be unveiled in Ramona this weekend.

• La Jolla Playhouse’s Without Walls Festival of immersive, site-specific and experimental performance art will move to downtown San Diego this year.

• Take a “humorously informative journey through the first 10 amendments” with Black Kat Theatre’s current production. (KPBS)

• The San Diego International Fringe Festival kicks off Thursday and includes a production by an 18-year-old Del Mar playwright. (Encinitas Advocate)

• Combat Arts San Diego, a nonprofit that uses art to help veterans, is unveiling a new mural in Kearny Mesa.

• The New Children’s Museum’s has been out making art with people in six San Diego neighborhoods, and this Saturday the outreach effort culminates with a big free art-making party.

Here’s an interview with the founder of the Balboa Park Online Collaborative.

• If you haven’t been to the new Cultura art gallery on El Cajon Boulevard in the College Area, I hear this Saturday’s show is going to be off the chain.

• Here’s the story behind the theft and eventual return of a well-known musician’s guitar. (SoundDiego)

Balboa Park is the best, according to readers of a popular travel website. (Times of San Diego)

• CityBeat’s Seth Combs says the Wonderspaces pop-up art event is a “neat experience and a clever marketing experiment, but it’s really just a carnival fun house.”

• The SACRA/PROFANA professional vocal ensemble has hired its first-ever executive director.

• U-T writers came up with a list of 24 things you have to do this summer in San Diego.

• Mingei International Museum opened a new exhibition last week featuring works by Arline Fisch, who started the lauded jewelry program at San Diego State University.

• Carlsbad is chugging along with its new arts master plan. Folks can provide input on the plan Thursday.

Food, Beer and Booze News

I’m declaring this Drink Week in San Diego. CityBeat is out with its annual drink issue, there’s a cocktail/booze festival happening Saturday and the San Diego Museum of Art is inviting folks to sip cocktails while they enjoy the big Richard Deacon sculpture show.

• Liberty Station is hosting its first ever tasting event and the Taste of Adams Avenue event is happening this week, too.

• The company behind more than a dozen of San Diego’s hottest restaurants, including Neighborhood in East Village and Craft & Commerce in Little Italy, is celebrating 10 years of existence. (Reader)

• Eater’s out with a good list of coffee spots.

• It’s official: San Diego is the craft beer capital of the United States. (East County Magazine)

Kinsee Morlan is engagement editor at Voice of San Diego. Email her at kinsee@vosd.org. Want to recommend this culture newsletter to someone? Share this sign-up link.

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