Thursday, May 27, 2010

Shocked and Appalled at UCLA

David Sefton -- generally the most intriguing and unpredictable of Los Angeles' arts showmen -- has resigned from his post running the UCLA Live series that takes place at Royce Hall and other venues. Sefton, a native of Liverpool, is being coy about this, but it's hard not to imagine that someone as passionate about his programming, and about his particularly fervent niche of high and low, stepping down unless he received considerable pressure.

Here is the LA Times story which runs tomorrow. Writes Mike Boehm: 'He said Thursday that he quit in response to "a major rethinking and restructuring" of the program that his bosses at UCLA's School of the Arts and Architecture are undertaking in response to "increasing fiscal pressures" brought on by the poor economy and the state's fiscal woes.'

In the 13 years I've been in LA, only Esa-Pekka Salonen of the LA Phil has been a more exciting local force in the arts. I recall the jolt the arrival of the irreverent Scouser sent through the local cultural community, and went to as many of these offerings as I could. Here is my LA Times story on Sefton concentrating on his wild theater offerings.

One early sign that a short-sighted and stupid decision might be coming was UCLA's recent (and barlely announced) canceling of the International Theater Festival, the key to Sefton's annual programming and some of the most daring avant-garde performance I've ever seen, from Societie Rafael Sanzio to Complicite to the more traditional but still bracing Shakespeare performances by Mark Rylance's Royal Shakespeare Company. The best coverage of this is by Steven Leigh Morris. (Dean Christopher Waterman of UCLA says ticket sales had been low.)

I also wrote a cover story on Sefton for New Times LA soon after he arrived: I spoke to or corresponded with a number of cultural luminaries, including Elvis Costello, Laurie Anderson and late great deejay John Peel, and all sung Sefton's praises and talked about his transforming of London's South Bank Centre. Christ, here's a guy who brought Scott Walker out of reclusion!!

"When I arrived I was an enfant terrible, and now I'm an eminence gris," Sefton told Boehm. "It takes just 10 years."

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