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December 17
1839 - Judge John F. Powell born in Galway, Ireland [story]

Los Angeles-based artist and California Institute of the Arts grad Edgar Arceneaux (Art MFA 01) performed his award-winning, critically acclaimed theatrical work “Until, Until, Until…” in three sold-out shows this week at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco.

The piece was originally commissioned by Performa in New York City for its 2015 Biennial, and after its premiere there Arceneaux became only the third winner of the organization’s prestigious Malcolm McLaren Award.

The CalArts Center for New Performance assisted in development of the work through a 2015 residency, during which Dean Travis Preston called Arceneaux’s subject matter “absolutely compelling and really quite personal.”

Its LA debut came last summer at Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects in a series of performances as part of Arceneaux’s seventh solo exhibition at the gallery. An installation featuring elements of the work at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge in fall of 2016 was lauded in The New Yorker.

“Until, Until, Until…” uses video and live performance to explore an almost-forgotten and fascinating moment in American television history: entertainer Ben Vereen’s controversial tribute to African-American vaudeville legend Bert Williams — whom W.C. Fields called “the funniest man I ever saw and the saddest” — at the All-Star Inaugural Gala for President-elect Ronald Reagan in January 1981.

The event, broadcast in a tape-delayed two-hour special by ABC, featured a series of celebrities taking star turns as President Reagan and his wife Nancy looked on, beaming.

Viewers at home saw Vereen, introduced by Johnny Carson, walk slowly onstage in an eerily vivid portrayal of Williams’ turn-of-the-century stage persona—brown topcoat, white gloves, old top hat and blackface makeup with whitened lips. Then Vereen danced and sang his way through “Waiting for the Robert E. Lee,” an Al Jolson number, and quickly, after a commercial break, the TV special moved on to a few bland numbers by Donny and Marie Osmond.

What viewers didn’t see, because ABC cut it, was the critical second half, which was intended by Vereen to be a powerful statement about the racism Bert Williams had faced.

In that section, Vereen-as-Williams attempts to summon a bartender to buy a drink for the Republican audience to thank them for their generous applause, and his one-way conversation with the imaginary bartender makes it clear he’s been told he can’t drink there because he is black.

Vereen then slowly and sadly moves to a small dressing-room table, sits before it, slowly removes his hat, coat, and gloves, begins to wipe off the blackface, and finally somberly — and then stirringly, as Vereen himself — sings Williams’ melancholy 1905 hit, “Nobody.”

African-American viewers were outraged by the broadcast, and saw Vereen’s appearance as a baffling and demeaning throwback to the days of blackface minstrel shows, especially given the sense that the incoming Republican administration was not thought to be sensitive to the concerns of black Americans.

This being before YouTube and Twitter, Vereen had no way of quickly correcting the mistaken impression that had been created by the truncated clip, and despite his immediate and repeated insistence to journalists that he had been misunderstood — and that ABC had violated its original agreement to show the performance in full — Vereen’s career never recovered from the outcry.

Arceneaux became fascinated with this moment and its repercussions and permutations through two chance encounters: first, he saw a brief clip 20 years or so ago of Vereen’s performance as part of a PBS documentary on the lives of African-American artists; then, four years ago, he bumped into Vereen at an event and worked up the nerve to introduce himself and ask about the performance.

Vereen was not initially enthusiastic about revisiting that moment, but came to trust Arceneaux’s growing interest in exploring the incident and its aftermath and eventually agreed to meet with him.

At Vereen’s North Hollywood home — full of awards and memorabilia from his Broadway shows and his famous “Chicken George” portrayal on the Roots miniseries in the 1970s — they watched a clip of the performance together.

“I was sitting behind him,” Arceneaux said, “and as the video began to play he began to say, ‘Look at what I could do,’ ‘Look at those kicks…!’ I felt like when I was sitting there, I could see an alignment of windows, showing me a view of a 100 years of time: here he is, in 2015, in his late 60s, watching himself in his 30s, performing a man from the 1920s…

“I started asking myself, ‘When did the performance end, and when did it begin?’” (Recent allegations of sexual misconduct against Vereen prompted both the Yerba Buena Center and Studio Edgar Arceneaux to release statements affirming their solidarity with “the countless victims of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct whose bravery sparked a cultural shift that will change society for the better.”)

Arceneaux co-wrote the script with an old Art Center friend, artist and filmmaker Kurt Forman, and they brought on Los Angeles actor Frank Lawson to play Vereen-as-Williams; the production team is “90 percent CalArtians,” Arceneaux says.

Along with the usual art-friendly hot spots, they hope to tour the play through the Midwest — “the red states — and eventually perform it in Washington, D.C. In the meantime, Arceneaux and Forman are writing five new scenes that add more insight into Bert Williams’ life and how Ben Vereen came to study his career.

The creative team has hopes of eventually turning the stage production into a feature film; meanwhile, the piece continues to grow as they continue to experiment.

“The way in which I tried to tell the story was kind of like a big loop,” Arceneaux said. “If you spin something around in the air, like a pizza pie, its shape can kind of wobble in differing directions….We’re still writing the piece, and still performing it, so it’s still kind of spinning in the air.”

It was this idea of things coming around again—images, moments, history, encounters, dreams, longings, racism, hope—that gave idea for the title of the piece. “It’s about longing,” Arceneaux says, “and waiting… waiting for some sort of resolution that may never come.”

While all performances of “Until, Until, Until…” are sold out, the accompanying exhibition is on view at the YBCA’s First Floor Galleries until March 25.

— By Clayton Stromberger

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Friday, Dec 14, 2018
Award-winning musician, philanthropist and CalArts School of Music namesake Herb Alpert and his wife, famed vocalist Lani Hall, will perform a holiday concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday night, Dec. 20.
Friday, Dec 14, 2018
The 20th annual Animation 'Show of Shows' mini-festival has opened at theaters in Los Angeles and New York this week, and three of the films selected are directed by CalArtians.
Friday, Dec 14, 2018
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday that nine scientific and technical achievements represented by 27 individual award recipients will be honored at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Wednesday, Dec 12, 2018
"Milk and Cookies with Santa," a free "sensory-friendly" storytelling and cookie-eating event hosted by the city of Santa Clarita, is set for the Canyon Country Community Center on Monday, Dec. 17, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday, Dec 12, 2018
Faith Community Church in Newhall will host its 13th Annual “Festividad for Christ” community Christmas celebration on Saturday, Dec. 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Latest Additions to SCVNews.com
New laws approved by the California Legislature in 2018 will affect roadway safety in several ways, including helmet use on bicycles and motorized scooters, hit-and-run on bicycle paths, modified exhaust systems, and enhanced safety for refuse collection vehicles.
CHP Notes New Bicycle, Roadway Safety Laws
With the New Year just around the corner, the California Department of Motor Vehicles wants to inform the public about several new laws or changes to existing law that take effect Jan. 1, 2019.
DMV Reminds Motorists of New 2019 Laws
1839 - Judge John F. Powell born in Galway, Ireland [story]
1902 - Hi Jolly (Hadji Ali), Gen. E.F. Beale's Syrian camel driver, dies at Quartzsite, Ariz. [story]
1987 - Incorporation: Santa Clarita officially becomes a city [story]
The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday denied the Trump Administration’s attempt to block California's lawsuit challenging the citizenship question on the 2020 Census.
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Award-winning musician, philanthropist and CalArts School of Music namesake Herb Alpert and his wife, famed vocalist Lani Hall, will perform a holiday concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Downtown Los Angeles on Thursday night, Dec. 20.
Dec. 20: Herb Alpert, Lani Hall Holiday Special at Disney Concert Hall
The 20th annual Animation 'Show of Shows' mini-festival has opened at theaters in Los Angeles and New York this week, and three of the films selected are directed by CalArtians.
CalArts Animators Featured at 20th Annual ‘Show of Shows’
Following finals week, CSUN Men's Basketball returns to action Sunday afternoon, hosting Pacific on The Blacktop at The Matadome with tip-off slated for 3 p.m.
Dec. 16: CSUN Men’s Hoopsters to Host Pacific
After taking their Fall semester finals this week, the CSUN women's basketball team travels 30 miles down the I-5 to the Galen Center where the Matadors will face USC Sunday afternoon.
Dec. 16: CSUN Woman’s Basketball Team Takes on USC
Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station deputies arrested a man on The Old Road for three outstanding warrants plus new drug, counterfeit money and suspected stolen property charges on Thursday night.
Man on Bike Arrested on Drug, Bogus Cash Charges in Stevenson Ranch
The California Enterprise Development Authority will hold its next teleconference meeting on Thursday, Dec. 20, at 10:30 a.m.
Dec. 20: California Enterprise Development Authority Teleconference Meeting
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Friday that nine scientific and technical achievements represented by 27 individual award recipients will be honored at its annual Scientific and Technical Awards Presentation at the Beverly Wilshire in Beverly Hills on Saturday, Feb. 9.
Feb. 9: AMPAS to Honor Scientific, Technical Achievements
Santa Clarita business law firm Poole & Shaffery, LLP and the Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce will host the 2019 Employment Law Update luncheon at the Hyatt Regency Valencia on Thursday, Jan. 10 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.
Jan. 10: 2019 Employment Law Update Luncheon
Outgoing California Gov. Jerry Brown had some harsh words for world leaders at the United Nations Climate Conference in Poland, which wrapped up Friday.
‘Wake Up, the Planet Is Burning Up,’ Brown Tells Polluting Nations
The Santa Clarita Valley Chamber of Commerce will host its next Business After Hours mixer at Oakmont of Santa Clarita on Wednesday, Dec. 19 starting at 5:30 p.m.
Dec. 19: Chamber Business After Hours Mixer at Oakmont
The next meeting of the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors is set for Tuesday, Dec. 18, starting at 9:30 a.m.
Dec. 18: LA County Board of Supervisors Meeting
College of the Canyons sophomore Anthony Simone scored 24 points and pulled down 11 rebounds as the Cougars jumped out to an early lead to defeat host L.A. Harbor College 73-69 on Wednesday night.
Canyons Sinks L.A. Harbor 73-69
This year's NAIA All-American roll call was a testament to perseverance.
TMU’s Pair of All-Americans: A Tale of Perseverance
A divided Ninth Circuit on Thursday partly lifted a nationwide injunction barring enforcement of the Trump administration’s interim rules letting employers opt out of covering birth control on religious and moral grounds, limiting the injunction to California and four other states.
Court Limits Injunction on Contraception Rules to California, 4 More States
Resource deputies conducted a special operation at an unnamed Santa Clarita Valley school that netted three adults who were arrested on drug charges on Wednesday.
3 Adults Arrested on Drug Charges Near Local School
The California Air Resources Board on Friday approved a first-of-its-kind regulation in the United States that sets a statewide goal for public transit agencies to gradually transition to 100 percent zero-emission bus fleets by 2040.
California Aims for All-Electric Public Bus Fleet by 2040
1931 - Season's first major storm deposits 9 inches of snow in Newhall, 10 in Saugus [story]
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City Launches ‘Pace’ Bike Share Program
The Santa Clarita Community College District Board of Trustees, which oversees College of the Canyons, swore in recently elected board members, named its new officers, and set its 2019 meeting schedule at the board’s business and organizational meeting held on Wednesday.
New COC Board Members Sworn In, 2019 Officers Named
iLEAD Agua Dulce, a free public charter school serving grades TK through 6, has been selected to receive a $475,000 grant to bolster its acclaimed project-based and social-emotional learning programs, the school announced Thursday.
Agua Dulce Charter School Selected for $475K Grant
The Saugus Union School District said goodbye to two long serving Governing Board members at the District’s final meeting of 2018. Judy Egan Umeck, who served for 22 years, and Paul De La Cerda, who served for 13 years, left the Board following ceremonies at the Dec. 11, 2018 special meeting.
Longtime SUSD Governing Board Members Bid Farewell
The Saugus Union School District Governing Board conducted swearing-in ceremonies on Tuesday for trustees elected this past November.
SUSD Appoints New President, Clerk; New Members Sworn In
A suspect was taken into custody after reportedly stealing his father's vehicle Thursday morning, according to officials at the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station.
Suspect in Custody After Reportedly Stealing Father’s Car
Three members of the William S. Hart Union High School District Governing Board re-elected last month were sworn in for their next four-year terms Wednesday night at the board’s annual re-organizational meeting
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With a focus on transparency and a desire to reassure customers that water rates will continue to reflect the accurate cost of providing services, the SCV Water Board of Directors recently adopted a rate-setting process that includes an independent ratepayer advocate.
SCV Water’s Rate-Setting Process to Include Ratepayer Advocate
Santa Clarita Valley residents and visitors will be able to enjoy 67.5 miles of an expanded network of multi-use trails and trail-related facilities, such as equestrian and outdoor leisure and sports, following approval Tuesday of the Santa Susana Mountains Trails Plan – Phase II, by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.
Santa Susana Mountains Trails Expand into SCV
This holiday season, Princess Cruises Community Foundation (PCCF) sponsored its eighth annual employee holiday giving program benefitting Single Mothers Outreach, a local nonprofit organization that empowers single parents and their children by providing hope, support and resources so that families can become self-sustaining.
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The Christmas and New Year’s holidays are ways to spend time with family and friends ringing in another year, but also a time when people can make poor choices that put themselves and others at risk on the road.
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A special meeting of the Castaic Union School District's Governing Board will take place Thursday at 5:00 p.m.
Dec. 13: CUSD Governing Board Special Meeting
1900 - Automobile Club of Southern California founded; first car in SCV appeared 1902 [story]