Entre Nous

Photo by Luis Chavez

Jean-Christophe Febbrari and Mathias Wakrat’s savoir vivre
By Frier McCollister

Jean-Christophe Febbrari and Mathias Wakrat opened their small, elegant French bistro Entre Nous on a shady stretch of Green Street in Pasadena in October 2018. 

It marked a new turn for the duo that was preceded by an impressive 15-year run in Eagle Rock with their popular restaurant Café Beaujolais on Colorado Boulevard. 

They cultivated a loyal following in Eagle Rock, and that helped launch the new Pasadena venue. Nevertheless, former enthusiasts of Café Beaujolais remain unaware of Entre Nous as the spawn of Febbrari and Wakrat. (A drummer, Wakrat is also the mastermind behind his eponymous alt-punk band with bassist Tim Commerford of Rage Against the Machine and guitarist Laurent Grangeon.)

“It’s a funny thing. Even today, almost every day (someone says), ‘You guys are here?’” Febbrari says about the restaurant.

The following from their run in Eagle Rock is extended and generational.

“We’ve known people who have followed us for years,” Febbrari says. “They are friends. From their first date at Beaujolais to their wedding, and now their kids are driving around. It’s a beautiful journey.”

Entre Nous evokes the ambiance of a classic bistro in its food and service. That said, there is a decided culinary nod to Provence and the south of France, where the two partners were born and raised.

Though the pair are natives of the same region in France, they met in the kitchen of Café Beaujolais in 2002, when they were employees working for the original owner. 

“I was a dishwasher. I had just arrived in 2002. We met there in the kitchen,” Febbrari confirms. 

“We both grew up on the Riviera. Mathias is from Saint-Tropez and Aix. I’m from Sanary, a small fishing town. We know the same spots (in France), but we met here. It’s a funny thing. It’s a journey. We didn’t have a restaurant background. We met here.”

The two budding restaurateurs bonded quickly. By 2004, they had hatched a plan with a silent partner investor and took over the ownership and operations at Café Beaujolais. Under the attention and guidance of Febbrari and Wakrat, the bistro soon became a local institution for reliably excellent and authentic French cuisine. 

The decision to decamp from Café Beaujolais and jump start the operation at Entre Nous in Pasadena came somewhat impulsively, when the lovely and storied location on Green Street became available. 

“We saw this place and we fell in love. Everything was beautiful. It was pure instinct,” Febbrari recalls.

With their staff intact — many of whom were nearly 20-year veterans at Beaujolais — the intrepid restaurateurs transformed the space from scratch. 

“If you build it, they will come,” he says. “It was a bit of that magic. Everything we did ourselves: the menu, the artwork. We’re hard workers. And we’re here. We’re a very small family. We understand each other without saying anything.”

Previously the location was occupied by Racion, the popular Catalan tapas bar engineered by Teresa Montano, who moved on to open the critically acclaimed Otono in Highland Park. 

Before that, the Venetian trattoria Tre Venezie filled the building. Febbrari describes the presence of Entre Nous as “a tribute” to its predecessors, each of whom also melded traditional regional cuisines with a sense of freshness, originality and refined technique.

“We closed Beaujolais on Sunday the 21st of October and we opened Entre Nous the next day on the 22nd. We were open for seven nights a week for seven months straight to meet and greet and understand the clientele,” Febbrari notes. “We are just like our customers. We eat here every night.”

Unlike the fine dining trend, Entre Nous has never been “chef driven.” Its reputation rests on the consistent quality of the experience. Entre Nous’ executive chef, Paul Carrier, joined the team during the pandemic.

“It’s interesting we have a chef with a French name, but he’s from Philadelphia,” Febbrari says. 

“He came along, and his philosophy and passion impressed us. He had a very healthy approach and knew his craft.”

The menu at Entre Nous hits all the classical notes, often with a Provençal accent. There are charcuterie ($30) and cheese boards ($19/$27), featuring rotating hand-selected curations from the chef. 

Appetizers include stalwarts like soupe a l’oignon gratinee or French onion soup ($17) and escargots de bourgogne ($19), snails served in their shells with garlic butter and pastis.

Brandade de morue au gratin de pommes de terre ($20) is a Provençal specialty with whipped salt cod and potatoes served with rosemary flatbread. 

Recently added to the menu is another classic, tartare de filet de boeuf or steak tartare ($25), macerated with fresh beets and bone marrow.

Notable menu entrees at Entre Nous include filet mignon a la Bordelaise ($44) with wild mushrooms and asparagus and a red wine and shallot reduction; la daube Provençale ($36), braised short rib with potato gnocchi and carrot puree; moules Provençale ($30), steamed in white wine, garlic and tomatoes; and poulet Basquaise ($34), Basque-style chicken, complemented with housemade pork sausage, green apple and espelette peppers. 

Another recent addition is the 24-ounce ribeye steak for two people ($105), served with potato gratin, garden vegetables, braised pearl onions and a compound butter of herbes de Provence.

Reliable side dishes like ratatouille ($10), grilled eggplant with tapenade ($8), potato gratin ($10) and, of course, pommes frites ($7) round out the dinner fare.  

There are six dessert options all priced at $15, including the favorites tarte tatin, cherry clafoutis and profiteroles.

Kir aperitifs and four champagnes grace the beverage and wine list. There is a small but diverse selection of reds and whites from France and California. Most are accessibly priced, and all are available by the glass or bottle.

Except for the frites, it’s difficult to imagine any of the menu items served in a Styrofoam takeout box. Without any easy pivot to takeout service, fine dining restaurants were hit particularly hard at the onset of the pandemic.

“We cried first and then we prayed, and I sold one of my kids,” Febbrari jokes. “We closed until June. Our food does not go out well. We had some great customers really supporting us.”

They experimented with meal kits and wine delivery, while engaging in community action. 

“We did some donation food. We delivered food to ERs. That was a beautiful thing,” Febbrari recalls.

When outdoor dining was allowed, Entre Nous had few obvious options. They started with a couple of tables on the sidewalk. The escrow company next door offered the use of the adjacent parking lot. 

“Ask for forgiveness, not for permission,” Febbrari quips. Outdoor lights were strung and heaters were installed to create a strikingly lovely dining patio.

“We realized Green Street is the most beautiful street in Pasadena,” he adds.

Slowly a sense of normalcy is returning to Entre Nous. Wakrat and Febbrari remain as survivors and stakeholders. 

“We never lost faith,” Febbrari says. “Matt has a daughter, and I have two young sons. We’re family men. We were resilient and hoped for the best. We feel privileged. We’re grateful. We never took anything for granted. We did everything we could. We did our part. We are part of the community. We are alive because people took risks to come out and support us. It’s been a humbling experience. We just want to thank the community.”

As a token of that gratitude, Entre Nous extends a traditional recipe from Provence to the Arroyo community.

Cacao and Coconut, A Perfect Match

Photo by Luis Chavez

Deep chocolatey notes and rich coconut flavor come together in this delicious dairy-free cake reminiscent of a popular chocolate candy bar. 

The moist sponge cake is contrasted with the subtle texture of the coconut flake topping, while the comforting sweet aroma wafts through the air. The rich flavor of the cacao — not cocoa — powder is further deepened by the addition of brown sugar for a toffee-like hint. If you enjoy the addition of almonds, I recommend substituting the vanilla extract with almond extract in its place and adding shaved almonds to the topping. 

Coconut Oil and Chocolate Bundt 
Active time: 10 minutes | Total time: 1 hour
Yields one bundt cake (about 12 servings)

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cacao powder (unsweetened)

1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 1/4 cup light brown sugar

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 cup coconut oil (warmed up to liquid temperature)

3 medium eggs, room temperature

3/4 cup boiling water

3/4 cup coconut flakes

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease and sprinkle some cacao powder in a 10-cup bundt pan.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, cacao powder, baking powder and baking soda. 

3. Whisk in the salt, sugar and light brown sugar.

4. In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla, coconut oil and eggs. Whisk until fully incorporated.

5. Gently fold in the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients with a spatula. 

6. Slowly add the boiling water and fold until fully combined.

7. Transfer to pan and tap to remove air bubbles.

8. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

9. Cool in pan for 15 minutes before turning out on a rack to cool completely. 

10. Sprinkle coconut flakes on top and serve.

Remainders Creative Reuse started in a garage

Photo by Luis Chavez

Robin cox creates arts and crafts supply thrift shop
By Matthew Rodriguez

While Robin Cox was digging through her East Pasadena garage, she saw it was filled to the brim with her excess supplies. Not wanting to waste any material by simply throwing it in the trash, Cox hoarded her leftover art supplies.

“My garage became kind of crazy, filled with art supplies, sewing supplies and extra sewing machines,” Cox says.

Searching for a way to repurpose her old supplies, she visited Scrap, a thrift shop in a San Francisco warehouse specializing in art materials. 

“I looked at it and thought, ‘Wow, this looks like my garage, only a thousand times bigger,” Cox recalls. “There’s no place like this that I know of in Southern California — so maybe I could do this.”

Like many great businesses, Cox’s Remainders Creative Reuse, a thrift shop for arts and crafts supplies, began with a dream and a garage. 

While it did not grow to become a giant tech company like Apple or Amazon, Remainders has cemented itself as an affordable and sustainable alternative to traditional arts and crafts stores. 

With her dream of creating Remainders, and after researching how to create a nonprofit and attempting to raise money to apply for that status, Cox chipped away at the clutter by having garage sales. She placed her supplies on her driveway and advertised on Craigslist. She raised enough money to earn nonprofit status in 2016 and moved into a storefront in 2018.

Cox prices everything in the building to sell quickly and often gives away materials for free. 

“I had already had businesses in my life,” Cox says. “I didn’t want to be a businessperson. I wanted Remainders to be more altruistic.”

Cox sold the materials at such low prices because of the donations from companies and especially from individuals, contributing to 80% of the inventory in Remainders. According to Cox, she can weekly fill a 26-foot semi-truck with donations. 

“I’m amazed at how much there is out there,” Cox says. “But when people started donating, I didn’t realize how much stuff people have.”

But the overflow of donations eventually caught up with Remainders, making the 1,200-square-foot store just as cluttered as Cox’s garage. 

“It was like being in a closet,” Cox says.

The staff at Remainders had to play a game of real-life Tetris to make space for the 15-person classes. 

“It was super tiny,” says Toban Nichols, director of education. “You had to move everything off the tables. You had to move everything around it. You had to put it sometimes outside so that people could sit.”

In need of a larger space, in 2020 Cox moved Remainders to its current location, a nearly 6,000-square-foot warehouse split evenly to host the thrift store and create space in different areas. 

“Our creative space is amazing,” Nichols says. “There’s all this space that we just didn’t have before.”

Education has always been important to her. 

“The materials really wouldn’t have any importance if there was no education attached to them,” Cox says. “People would just be on their own, fending for themselves, trying to figure out how to do stuff.”

Cox, a teacher in the late 1990s and early 2000s, noticed that arts programs were being cut as the focus — and money — turned to math and sciences. Many schools in the early 2000s — especially after the Great Recession in 2008 — were forced to cut their budgets. Oftentimes, the arts were an expendable program.  

“I feel like there are generations who have lost out because of that lack of programming in the arts,” she says. “I just felt like I was trying to make up for it in my small way.”

To help the community rediscover the excitement behind the arts, Remainders hosts classes and workshops for children and adults.

“I think part of the idea of helping the community and using the materials we have in a creative way leads directly to the way we see education,” Nichols says. “It’s something that both children and adults can do. … It’s not overly analytical. It’s very simple and easy to do.”

The workshops use materials that are on hand to alleviate the stress of finding and potentially ruining fabric that artists purchased. The idea came from Cox’s days as a teacher when she saw her students too terrified to cut into the fabric their parents purchased for $70. 

“They were terrified to cut into it,” Cox says. “There was so much riding on it and so much pressure because their parents had spent so much money that they were kind of paralyzed by that pressure to be perfect.” 

In addition to the workshops held in its 2,700-square-foot creative space and research library, Remainders helps schools by helping teachers find low-cost materials — or in many cases free — for their classrooms. Twice a year, Remainders hosts a teacher and student giveaway, where they can get items like paper, pencils and markers. Teachers can also get a 15% discount on other general classroom items.

“If they have a specific project or need and we have an abundance of it, we’re happy to give it away,” Cox says.

To date, Cox has given away items to more than 200 teachers who visited the stores. Remainders has also donated to many public schools and nonprofits in Pasadena and the Los Angeles area.

This has always been a vision for Cox, as she hopes to one day make enough money to where she could just give away all the materials to the customers who walk in. 

“If the grant money were so much that we could pay our staff a fair wage, all our expenses, rent and utilities, I would be happy to give materials as much as possible,” Cox says.

Shop And a Show

Photo by Chris Mortenson

South Pasadena art boutique offers rare jewelry and musical performances 
By Jordan Houston

Since its inception in November 2020, Jeweled Universe has built a reputation as a one-stop shop for live entertainment lovers and fine art aficionados through its unique “shop and a show” concept. 

The South Pasadena art boutique, located at 1017 Mission Street, Unit B, offers an eclectic collection of jewelry, gemstones, crystals, fossils, space rocks, ocean elements, birthstones, meteorites, earth drops and fashion. It also features weekly live musical performances to ensure that its guests are entertained throughout their shopping pursuits. 

As a seasoned professional in both industries, Jeweled Universe owner Diana March describes her store as a harmonious blend between performance art and the rare stone industry all while giving back to the community.  

“Because I’m a jeweler and work with rare gems, minerals, fossils and meteorites, I wanted to combine that with my experience as an entertainer,” says March, who has been performing as an actress, singer and dancer since she was 5. 

“I want it to be a really magical place for people to come in and perform and also shop for things that are unique, one of a kind and supports local artists,” the jewelry maker adds. “I like to say, ‘Come for the shopping, and stay for the entertainment.’” 

On top of selling merchandise from various artists, March offers her Elegant Geology line of fine art pendants, which incorporate wire designs that are handset in precious metals. Her work evokes essences of drama and whimsy, and has been sold in boutiques in Carmel, Newport Beach and Santa Barbara, as well as her previous successful boutique and artist salon, The Sisters of Bubik. 

Jeweled Universe boasts an in-store stage for its weekly live entertainment, which features classical musicians, cabaret acts, opera singers and poets. 

It hosts a free open mic from 8 to 10 p.m. on Thursdays and a Broadway-themed night on Fridays, incorporating a piano for show tunes and sheet music. Saturdays, on the other hand, are reserved for booked acts, March says.

“It’s important right now with the opening of the store during COVID-19 that people are able to allow themselves to be out there in the world again,” March expresses. “It’s an extremely supportive group of people we are attracting in terms of performers and audience members.”

Raised in a creative household in Los Angeles, March attributes her drive toward the performing arts to her father, a former photographer, and her mother, an artist and costume designer. The entertainer says she tapped into her love for artistic expression early on, working as an actress, singer and dancer in theater, film and television. 

Her resume includes years spent at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts and the Beverly Hills Playhouse, as well as one of the longest-running gigs at the Cinegrill at the Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel as a one-woman show.

Five years ago, she stumbled upon a gem and mineral show near a theater rehearsal that unlocked her passion for precious stones. 

“My musical theater teacher said we (the students) needed to find a hobby,” March recalls. “I happened to find a gem and mineral show happening next door to a rehearsal, and I met a lady that was doing wire designs and setting these beautiful, rare stones in precious metal settings.

“I started talking to her, and I asked her to teach me. She took me under her wing, and what started out as a hobby I was supposed to have then became another part of my life.”

March quickly developed her own style, designing bold, elegant pendants and earrings with materials from gem shows, hard-to-find shops and private collections. She now showcases her distinctive wire wrap style and pieces at a plethora of art events and gem shows.

Although March is fully dedicated to operating Jeweled Universe, she hasn’t completely retired from performing. Store visitors can expect to find the jeweler occasionally gracing its stage on Friday nights, singing to the tune of the piano. 

“I’ll usually bring my sheet music. I’m very rusty, but it’s a really safe space,” March says. “A lot of us are just getting back to singing and playing instruments.” 

However, March’s success journey with the store hasn’t always been smooth sailing, she says. Between beating cancer, the death of her husband, and the economic turmoil brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Jeweled Universe owner says she is proud of how far she has come. 

“As far as my jewelry goes, the best part is almost the same as what makes me happy as a performer,” March says. “I’m able to take something I can create, whether it’s a performance or a pendant with a beautiful stone, and I can present that to people, and it can bring happiness or joy.

“A lot of things pointed me into the direction where I could’ve easily said bye to performing or making jewelry. There was a point where I didn’t want to do anything. But then there was something inside of me — this strength that I was given by both of my parents, who were both artists, and they always gave me so much support and encouragement — to just believe in myself and not give up.”


Jeweled Universe

1017 Mission Street, Unit B, South Pasadena

818-421-1993

jeweleduniverse.com

Raising Charitable Children

Submitted photo

Parents’ actions will inspire their kids
By Heidi Johnson

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Since you get more joy out of giving joy to others, you should put a good deal of thought into the happiness that you are able to give.”

As parents today we have many challenges, especially during the holidays. We all walk the fine line of asking our children what they want, realizing that they don’t really need anything, and all while trying to explain to them the real meaning of the season. 

When our sons were younger, I wondered if they really understood what we were doing as a family for others. We wanted to raise compassionate and charitable children. However, there didn’t seem to be a set of instructions for raising good, kind and empathetic humans. 

While my three adult sons are far from the poster children for philanthropy, they have each found their own gifts and ways they can use them to support causes they care about. The process has been slow and a journey that has evolved over time. As their interests changed, so did their philanthropy. 

Our oldest son had a passion for serving inner-city children. His younger brother, who played high school football, used his talent to score points and funds for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. That changed in college when he became involved with Movember and men’s health issues through his fraternity. 

The youngest of the three is involved with the nonprofit Once Upon a Room, which orchestrates hospital room makeovers for very sick young patients. Now, he has helped bring a new chapter of the nonprofit to his college town of Fort Worth. None of this happened overnight; it began early and slowly.

Each year at Thanksgiving, we sit down as a family and decide what to do over the holiday season to help others. We have sent monthly care packages to a soldier for a year, provided gifts for families that could not have Christmas, we have wrapped gifts at local Children’s Hospitals and fed the homeless, to name a few. We would all put our ideas onto a sheet and express why it was important. Next, we would vote on which nonprofit or cause we wanted to support. Some years we simply had to take turns because agreement wasn’t always met.

Where to begin

There is no simple answer to this question, and raising charitable children is an ongoing process. With 1.5 million charitable organizations in the United States alone, where do you begin to find service opportunities for young children or even teenagers?

Families now have great online resources such as the nonprofit Project Giving Kids, which cultivates volunteer opportunities for young children and families. 

VolunteerMatch.org is another smart way to find local opportunities in your community to volunteer — among a host of others. I recently read an article that said role-modeling philanthropy is simply not enough. The article referenced a study from the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University that said, “The research showed that talking to children about giving increased by 20% the likelihood that children would give.”

Here are a few tips to remember as we approach the season of giving:

1. Start young: The earlier the better. For little ones (4 or 5), keep it simple, perhaps canned food for a local shelter or blankets, something that they understand.

2. Be age appropriate. Don’t overwhelm young children with world hunger but rather something relatable to them, perhaps something local in your community.

3. Engage your children in the process, especially the older they get. Find out what they care about. Perhaps they love animals and want to support a local shelter. Have them use their passion to make a difference. Catch them where they are, and meet them there. Your children’s service choices will evolve as they do, so be flexible.

4. Research together and suggest a few choices. Utilize online resources together to come up with a few age-appropriate ideas that resonate; ultimately it is the kid’s vote that decides.

5. Be intentional with your own giving. Teach by example. Discuss what causes you care about. Let your children hear and see your volunteer efforts or participate in them if possible.

6. Make giving habitual by being consistent. Whether it’s part of your allowance structure, a holiday tradition or something you do at birthdays, be consistent. Establish giving as a tradition and habit. It’s no different from any sport; the more you participate, the easier and more fun it becomes. Ultimately it becomes a part of who they are.

7. Emphasize the joy and the experience of giving, rather than money. Philanthropy is about being a part of something bigger than yourself. Giving is so much more fun than receiving. Make it a joyful experience for your family and something you share in together. Perhaps start with entering a 5K walk or charity run or volunteering together.

Benefits of raising charitable children

1. Opens children’s eyes to the fact that others are not as fortunate as they are.

2. Develops empathetic thinking.

3. Fosters an appreciation for what they have.

4. Enhances self-esteem.

5. Correlates to improved performance in school.

Like everything we do with raising our children, it takes time, patience, consistency and love. Chances are you already do most of these things and don’t even realize it and your children do, too. This holiday season, enjoy the process of giving in whatever way you decide to participate. You and your children will experience the real joy of the holidays together.

Heidi Johnson is a nonprofit founder who has spent two decades in the nonprofit space. She is the founder of the Charity Matters Blog and Podcast, and her work has been published in Medium, Thrive Global and Conscious Magazine. She resides in Pasadena with her husband, Ron, and is the proud mother of three charitable sons.

Vroman’s Live

Bookstore boasts stellar lineup for October
By Arroyo Staff

The renowned bookstore Vroman’s is hosting more top-notch virtual programs throughout October. 

The “Vroman’s Live” events are held virtually through Crowdcast. Register through vromansbookstore.com.

All “Vroman’s Presents” events are ticketed and will be held in person off-site and will have COVID-19 event safety guidelines that need to be followed attend. 

Anyone with questions is asked to contact email@vromansbookstore.com.

Vroman’s Live

Rep. Adam Schiff, in conversation with Jason Alexander, discusses “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could”

4 p.m. Saturday, October 16

Vroman’s presents Rep. Adam Schiff, in conversation with Jason Alexander, discussing “Midnight in Washington: How We Almost Lost Our Democracy and Still Could.” Vaccinations and masks are required for all audience members attending this event.

In the years leading up to the election of Donald Trump, Schiff had already been sounding the alarm over the resurgence of autocracy around the world and the threat this posed to the United States.

But as he led the probe into Trump’s Russia- and Ukraine-related abuses of presidential power, Schiff came to the terrible conclusion that the principal threat to American democracy now came from within.

This ticketed event will take place at Pasadena Presbyterian Church at 585 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. Ticket includes one entry plus one copy of “Midnight in Washington.”

Sutton Foster discusses “Hooked: How Crafting Saved My Life”

7 p.m. Wednesday, October 20

Vaccinations and masks are required for all audience members attending this event. 

From the two-time Tony Award winner and the star of TV’s “Younger,” funny and intimate stories and reflections about how crafting has kept her sane while navigating the highs and lows of family, love and show business — and how it can help others, too.

Whether she’s playing an “age-defying” book editor on television or dazzling audiences on the Broadway stage, Sutton Foster manages to make it all look easy. How? Crafting. From the moment she picked up a cross stitch needle to escape the bullying chorus girls in her early performing days, she was hooked. Cross stitching led to crocheting, crocheting led to collages, which led to drawing and so on.

This ticketed event will take place at Pasadena Presbyterian Church, located at 585 E. Colorado Boulevard, Pasadena. Ticket includes one entry plus one signed copy of “Hooked.” 

Vroman’s Presents

Kate Bowler, in conversation with Lori Gottlieb, discusses
“No Cure for Being Human: (And Other Truths I Need to Hear)”

6 p.m. Monday, October 4

It’s hard to give up on the feeling that the life you really want is just out of reach. A beach body by summer. A trip to Disneyland around the corner. A promotion on the horizon. Everyone wants to believe that they are headed toward good, better, best. But what happens when the life you hoped for is put on hold indefinitely?

Kate Bowler believed that life was a series of unlimited choices, until she discovered, at age 35, that her body was wracked with cancer. “In No Cure for Being Human,” she searches for a way forward as she mines the wisdom (and absurdity) of today’s “best life now” advice industry, which insists on exhausting positivity and on trying to convince us that we can out-eat, out-learn, and out-perform our humanness. We are, she finds, as fragile as the day we were born.

With dry wit and unflinching honesty, Bowler grapples with her diagnosis, her ambition and her faith as she tries to come to terms with her limitations in a culture that says anything is possible. She finds that we need one another if we’re going to tell the truth: Life is beautiful and terrible, full of hope and despair and everything in between — and there is no cure for being human. 

Alexandra Leigh Young, in conversation with Lauren Gibaldi and Eric Smith, discusses “Idol Gossip”

6 p.m. Thursday, October 7 

Every Friday after school, 17-year-old Alice Choy and her little sister, Olivia, head to Myeongdong to sing karaoke. Back in San Francisco, when she still had friends and earthly possessions, Alice took regular singing lessons. But since their diplomat mom moved them to Seoul, her only musical outlet is vamping it up in a private karaoke booth to an audience of one: her loyal sister. Then, a scout for Top10 Entertainment, one of the biggest K-pop companies, hears her and offers her a spot at their Star Academy. Can Alice navigate the culture clashes, egos and extreme training practices of K-pop to lead her group onstage before a stadium of 50,000 chanting fans — and just maybe strike K-pop gold? Not if a certain influential blogger and the anti-fans get their way . 

Ryan Hampton, in conversation with Gerald Posner, discusses “Unsettled: How the Purdue Pharma Bankruptcy Failed the Victims of the American Overdose Crisis”

6 p.m. Friday, October 8

In September 2019, Purdue Pharma — the maker of OxyContin and a company controlled by the infamous billionaire Sackler family — filed for bankruptcy to protect itself from 2,600 lawsuits for its role in fueling the U.S. overdose crisis. 

Author and activist Ryan Hampton served as co-chair of the official creditors committee that acted as a watchdog during the process, one of only four victims appointed among representatives of big insurance companies, hospitals and pharmacies. He entered the case believing that exposing the Sacklers and mobilizing against Purdue would be enough to right the scales of justice. But he soon learned that behind closed doors, justice had plenty of other competition — and it came with a hefty price tag.

“Unsettled” is the inside story of Purdue’s excruciating Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, the company’s eventual restructuring, and the Sackler family’s evasion of any true accountability. It’s also the untold story of how a group of determined ordinary people tried to see justice done against the odds — and in the face of brutal opposition from powerful institutions and even government representatives.

Myriam J. A. Chancy, in conversation
with Zinzi Clemmons, discusses
“What Storm, What Thunder”

6 p.m. Monday, October 11

At the end of a long, sweltering day, as markets and businesses begin to close for the evening, an earthquake of 7.0 magnitude shakes the capital of Haiti, Port-au-Prince. Award-winning author Myriam J. A. Chancy masterfully charts the inner lives of the characters affected by the disaster — Richard, an expat and wealthy water-bottling executive with a secret daughter; the daughter, Anne, an architect who drafts affordable housing structures for a global NGO; a small-time drug trafficker, Leopold, who pines for a beautiful call girl; Sonia and her business partner, Dieudonné, who are followed by a man they believe is the vodou spirit of death; Didier, an emigrant musician who drives a taxi in Boston; Sara, a mother haunted by the ghosts of her children in an IDP camp; her husband, Olivier, an accountant forced to abandon the wife he loves; their son, Jonas, who haunts them both; and Ma Lou, the old woman selling produce in the market who remembers them all. Artfully weaving together these lives, witness is given to the desolation wreaked by nature and by man.

Joshua Lurie, in conversation with Minh Phan,
discusses “History is Delicious”

6 p.m. Thursday, October 21

From well-known cultures to those just being rediscovered, “History is Delicious” explores the history of different dishes, cultural traditions and even a few great recipes. What does Ethiopian cuisine look and taste like? Find out for yourself with each beautifully illustrated page that makes learning about food fun. Discover the role cuisine plays in the fabric of unique cultures from around the world and enjoy some great-tasting food along the way. Featured sections include History of European Cuisine; Dining Do’s and Don’ts; and Dumplings of the World, Recipes from Around the World.

Vroman’s Local Author Day featuring Jared Seide and José L. Recio

6 p.m. Monday, October 25

Jared Seide presents “Where Compassion Begins.” Compassion is sometimes confused with empathy, or even sympathy. It is neither, though it includes some aspects of both. Compassion begins when we allow ourselves to really hear and attune to suffering, that of others, as well as ourselves. And hearing and perceiving this anguish, we are moved to do something about it. What takes compassion beyond sympathy or empathy is that it includes action, action that is considered, skillful and beneficial.

Council is a foundational practice that builds our capacity to perceive the experience of others and invites us to pay attention. When we listen differently to someone’s story, without judging, we create the conditions for compassion to arise. Council asks us to lean in, to learn ways we can skillfully attend to the pain we recognize in ourselves and others, and to do something helpful in response. This book is an invitation to build the muscle of compassion, through exercises and practices that enhance our capacity to listen from the heart and, in so doing, take care of ourselves and those around us.

José L. Recio presents “Transitions.”

“Transitions” is a book of mainstream fiction, written in the tradition of the short stories classics. Recio puts fictional characters in situations different from his own experiences but suitable to trigger the same or very similar set of emotions when dealing with those situations.

Vroman’s Local Author Day: Kids Edition featuring
Louise Wannier, Cecilia Caballero and Dr. Antoinette Corley-Newman

11 a.m. Saturday, October 30

Louise Wannier presents “Tree Spirits.”

“What do you see when you look up at this tree?” “Tree Spirits” is a book written in rhyme which encourages children to develop their imagination, creativity and emotional intelligence. “How do you imagine they/he/she is feeling today?” For parents and grandparents and friends and family, it is a fun book to read with the children in their lives. It includes an interactive drawing section.

Cecilia Caballero presents “Lavender Little Girl.”

An ode to love of a darling daughter. A celebration of the love for a clever, strong and compassionate girl. A cherished book by little girls everywhere. Parents will snuggle and read this every night to their daughters. A book for all women, sisters and mothers who were also little girls once. 

Dr. Antoinette Corley-Newman presents “Trick or Treat.”

Every year on October 31, the witch and warlock children of Transylvania jump on their magic brooms and fly into town to take part in the mortal’s harvests celebration. Although she enjoys the festivities, Abigail wishes to bring back enough mortal treats to share with all of Transylvania to enjoy all year long. One day, after accidentally slipping into her mother’s brewing pot, Abigail comes up with a brilliant plan.

Storytelling Through Music

Photo by Key Lime Photography

Rising ‘jamgrass’ band makes its mark on SoCal
By Jordan Houston

LA’s The Storytellers are sending a message loud and clear — bluegrass is not dead. 

The five-piece progressive bluegrass band, comprised of guitarist-vocalist Scott Diehl, bassist-vocalist Lance Frantzich, banjoist Dave Burns, fiddler Tyler Emerson, and drummer and percussionist Steve Stelmach, hit the scene roughly four years ago. 

Performing at bars, taverns and regional festivals throughout the state, the Storytellers “draw from the rich canon of traditional bluegrass, country blues, old-time and folk music as a basis for inspired improvisations and intrepid vocal harmonies.” 

The “jamgrass” band maneuvers traditional and progressive approaches to the genre, inspired by the likes of Doc Watson, Jerry Garcia and the Grateful Dead, to produce soulful, “bluegrassy” harmonies onstage.  

“We would call ourselves bluegrass-ish,” Diehl says. “It’s difficult to label our music. We try to so that people know what they’re going to get into when they see us, but we’re also a jam band, including country and bluesy roots.”

Echoing his partner’s sentiments, Frantzich adds, “We play a lot of Grateful Dead — we call it ‘deadgrass.’ We really try to see ourselves as a bridge to bluegrass, because it has come and gone. We see ourselves as a part of the revival of that movement.” 

Like cousins, jamgrass and bluegrass share similar elements. Jamgrass, however, incorporates more instruments, such as drums, electric guitars and “resophonic” slide dobro guitars, into its DNA. It is also a “more open-to-interpretation format,” pulling from rock and pop.

The current version of the band formed officially in February 2018. The Storytellers performed at more than 30 Los Angeles-area shows by the end of the year. The jam band has since gone on to grace the stages of the Mint, Molly Malone’s, The Coffee Gallery Backstage, Kulak’s Woodshed, The Trip, Old Towne Pub, Redwood Bar, The Theatricum Botanicum, Silverlake Lounge, Cinema Bar, Maui Sugar Mill Saloon and Villains Tavern.

“We are music lovers through and through,” Frantzich says. “We were attending a lot of shows, and at one point, we just decided that instead of attending all of these shows, we should just pick up instruments and start creating and playing music.” 

The Storytellers have also snagged gigs at the June Lake Jam Fest, the Huck Finn Jubilee, the OC Music Festival, the Love Street Festival and the main stage of the California Avocado Festival.

Diehl says the inspiration behind the band’s name stems from the group’s desire to express meaningful and substantial stories through lyrics and music.

“We sing songs that are stories,” he says. “We pick out music that has meaning, depth and substance to it — which, frankly, can sometimes be lacking in some of today’s music. So, we really like to get onstage and connect with people.”

On top of performing improvised covers, the Storytellers are gearing up to launch “Howling in the Hills.” The CD, a blend of originals and bluegrass classics, will be engineered by Joshua “Cartier” Cutsinger at the Hayloft Studios.

Diehl and Frantzich say they are especially eager for the debut of one original piece in particular, “The Ballad of Bob Stane.” The song is a tribute to Stane, a legendary folk music promoter and owner of the Altadena Coffee Gallery Backstage. The Storytellers attribute Stane, who has worked with the ranks of the Dillards, The Association, the Smothers Brothers, Pat Paulsen, Lily Tomlin and Steve Martin, as a major factor in the early launch of its success. 

“He is a legend in the music scene,” Diehl explains. “When we played for him the first time he told us, ‘OK, you’re doing this right and you’re doing this wrong.’ I’ll never forget he told us at one point, ‘If you don’t change your ways, you’re going to be a bar band instead of a class act.’” 

The group will perform the ballad for Stane for the first time at the Coffee Gallery Backstage at 2029. N. Lake Avenue on November 5. 

The Storytellers have managed to not only survive as live entertainers throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, but thrive. Last year, the musicians landed their acclaimed monthly “Bluegrass-Ish Brunch” residency at Hangar 24 Craft Brewing in Irvine.

“During COVID-19, we did do a couple of livestreams, but only like one or two, because we found a way to perform live while keeping it safe,” Diehl says, adding that the Storytellers are grateful for the brewery’s hospitality and support. 

It has a gigantic outdoor space — there could be hundreds of people there that can still have their own socially distanced space,” he continues. 

The jamgrass band performances at Hangar 24 every third Sunday will continue throughout 2022. For Frantzich, the monthly residency is an example of the loving community and kinship fostered between the band and its venues and audience members throughout the years. 

“My favorite thing that has come out of this has been the community,” the bassist shares. “I can’t overstate the importance of our audience enough. We’ve come to love these people very much, and love is what we really want our whole musical experience to be about.” 

The Storytellers will perform at various venues across the state through October, including hotspots like Fresno’s Barrelhouse Brewing and the Coffee Gallery Backstage. The jamgrass band will also return to the Gilley’s Las Vegas on October 22. 


The Storytellers

WHEN: 7 p.m. Friday, November 5

WHERE: Coffee Gallery Backstage, 2029 N. Lake Avenue, Altadena

COST: Visit website for more info

INFO: storytellersband.com or coffeegallery.com

Art of Inclusion

Photo by Minal Saldivar

Sehba Sarwar shows what it’s like to ‘belong’
By Nicole Borgenicht

Sehba Sarwar is passionate about creating art to help break down borders.

Her latest piece is “On Belonging,” a site-specific art installation celebrating her individual artist award for 2019-20 from Pasadena’s Cultural Affairs Division.

“My focus was on migration, movement and displacement, because that’s the theme of my memoir as well as my work,” she says about her in-process memoir.

Due to the pandemic, the project was delayed. From Friday, October 8, to Monday, October 25, community members can now view “On Belonging” in Memorial Park, 85 E. Holly Street; McDonald Park, 1000 Mountain Street; and Victory Park, 2575 Paloma Street.

“I’m happy to have the work showcased in multiple spaces and to get promotional support from the Armory so that the installations can be launched at ArtNight,” she says.

The project was funded in part by Pasadena Arts & Culture Commission and Pasadena’s Cultural Affairs Division and co-sponsored by Armory Center for the Arts.

Five trees will be draped with an indigo and red block-printed cloth known as an ajrak that Sarwar brought to the United States from Sindh, her home province in Pakistan.

The exhibit mirrors the Sufi tradition of using beads, fabric paper and thread to transform trees into shrines and spaces for meditation.

“Ajrak, the fabric I use for wrapping, is an integral part of the project,” Sarwar says. “It’s from a province in Pakistan called Sindh; my hometown Karachi is the capital.  

“My mother shipped it to me. I’m transnational, and a lot of the work that I create is from found objects in Pakistan and the United States. I mix them together. Ajrak is also common to the Indian states of Gujarat and Rajasthan bordering Sindh.” 

Because Pasadena parks have low-hanging branches on their trees, Sarwar will work with local volunteers, friends and family to build the installations. Previously, crews were needed to climb the trees and wrap components to secure the art. 

“This year, my mother is also visiting me from Pakistan,” she says.

“I hadn’t seen her for two years because of the pandemic. I asked her to stay on longer so she could help me with the stitching and hanging. She’s been helpful all along — she sent the fabric to me from Karachi the first time and flew to Houston to help along with my sister. They were both in Boston at the time.” 

“On Belonging” features text and drawings by Pasadena community members as well as students from Pasadena and Blair high schools. 

The Pasadena installations are different from past iterations, in terms of the region elements, as well as questions Sarwar asked the participants. 

The cards reflect their answers to her question on “Where they found comfort and a sense of belonging during the pandemic.” In addition, Sarwar had participants note the location of their mother’s or direct relative’s birth and discovered many were from other countries.

In May, Sarwar began visiting Pasadena and Blair high schools classes to collect cards. She coupled those with cards returned by friends and neighbors. 

“The community responses underscore the fact that migration cannot be stopped no matter how many walls are built, and blockades are created at seaports and airports,” Sarwar says. “Also, I am conscious of the land on which the installation is placed as belonging to the Tongva nation. Land, untold histories, found and sought objects are all part of my work.”

The installation debuted in Houston after which she installed “On Belonging” in Claremont on a 100-year-old carob tree at Scripps College. 

She encourages guests to touch and read the cards and reflect upon their history and migration patterns. 

“‘On Belonging’ is dedicated to global communities and refugees who resist walls, borders and checkpoints.”


“On Belonging”

armoryarts.org/belonging

sehbasarwar.com

An Unconventional Exhibit

Norton Simon Art Foundation, Gift of Mr. Norton Simon © 2021 Estate of Pablo Picasso / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

Norton Simon Museum shows Picasso’s character
By Nicole Borgenicht 

Known as one of the best museums in the country, the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena touts a first-rate permanent collection and curates approximately six temporary exhibits annually. 

The permanent collection includes European art from pre-Renaissance through the 20th century with extraordinary impressionist paintings, as well as art from South and Southeast Asia and American art from the 20th century. 

Currently, the Norton Simon Museum has a rare and distinctive Picasso varied print selection on exhibit through January 10. 

Norton Simon curator Gloria Williams Sander explores innuendos of Picasso’s artistic rapport and character through details about the 16-piece show. 

Sander chose and arranged specific Picasso works to explore the artist’s talent and directives as well as new findings in each print. One gains a great appreciation of different types of prints by seeing these special Picasso art pieces in one small show. 

“I looked for examples that were illustrative of Picasso’s inventiveness in engaging with different printmaking techniques,” Sander says. 

Along with the fluidity of chosen Picasso’s prints, there is a softness that shows his expressive touch. Sander explores his marks in the print works on paper. 

“These are etchings, aquatints, lithographs and linocuts that are distinguished by a special characteristic: an individual impression may be one of only two or three examples in the world; it may be a unique impression; it may bear a signature outside the norm for Picasso; or the artist’s written instructions to the printer remain on the sheet for us to see, like a personal annotation,” Sander said. 

“It may be the sole proof impression executed in color, or it may be an impression celebrated for its pristine palette, where the fugitive colors have not faded and remain brilliant (‘Bacchanal with A Young Goat,’ 1959). I expect that there will be prints that are completely new to visitors: ‘Head of a Woman, No. 3,’ 1939, is a unique artist’s proof, printed on Japan paper, which depicts surrealist artist Dora Maar.”

Throughout his printmaking career, Picasso frequently altered states of his prints, as displayed in the two proofs of “Head of Woman, No. 3 (Portrait of Dora Maar).” “Two Nude Women,” 1946, is an unrecorded trial proof between the seventh and eighth state and the sole print from this lithographic series to be printed in color.

Sander would like viewers to capture new insights about the various elements of this print collection.  

“A state (or ‘altered state’ as noted in ‘Head of a Woman, No. 3’ and ‘Two Nude Women’) is a step in the development of a print involving alterations to the printing surface. All the impressions of a print before a change are made to the matrix (copperplate, lithographic stone, linoleum block) belong to the same state.”

At last, the more familiar artwork as a symbol of peace by Picasso entitled “The Dove” has a warmer tone in this rendition. Moreover, Sander says, “The museum’s impression of ‘The Dove,’ 1949, bears a personal inscription to the artist’s Parisian printer Fernand Mourlot. This dedication to Mourlot was likely related to the technical difficulties his printmaker had to overcome to realize the artist’s subtle shading of the bird as he tried to emulate painting by means of lithography.”

Upon viewing the Picasso exhibit, gentle shapes and strokes less direct and linear in popular pieces are delightful to see. The sculpture garden is complementary. 

“Visitors love to photograph Aristide Maillol’s trio of bronze sculptures — ‘Mountain,’ ‘Air’ and ‘River’ — which are installed on three sides of the pond,” says Leslie Denk, Norton Simon external director. 

“Another favorite is Henry Moore’s ‘King and Queen,’ which greets visitors as they step onto the garden paths to the right of the entrance.” 

A Joy in Movement

Photo by Chris Mortenson

Jennifer Cheng passes along her love of dance
By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski

Dance has always been a big part of Jennifer Cheng’s life. 

She was training to be a professional dancer when college came calling in the late 1970s. Her parents persuaded her to study law, so she put the art form on the back burner. 

When she retired from her successful law career, she pirouetted right back onto the dance floor. In 2010, artistic director Cheng founded Dance Conservatory of Pasadena to inspire, train and nurture creative endeavors with a focus on ballet.

Cheng says ballet was the logical move for her. 

“Ballet is obviously an artistic expression, which is important for the development of young kids,” she says. “It’s important to teach the discipline, too. 

“It’s a discipline that helps kids focus. They understand that working hard and listening to their instructors are big parts of it. There’s a joy in movement.”

For 10 years, the Dance Conservatory of Pasadena has challenged students to create work that’s important to the community with three programs — Miss Caroline’s Children’s Division, a comprehensive pre-professional ballet program and an ongoing adult-focused movement program.

Annually, Cheng, the teachers and students work toward performances of “Sleeping Beauty” or “The Nutcracker.”

“They create a full performance of ‘The Nutcracker’ in December,” she says. “We didn’t water it down. They do a full-on one that you would see featuring the ballet and American Ballet Theater or the Bolshoi Ballet. It was a great experience.”

Cheng’s instructors include Sasha Greschenko, a former soloist with the Bolshoi Ballet. He has been with the Dance Conservatory of Pasadena for about six years and teaches contemporary ballet and contemporary ballet choreography.

The newest addition to the staff is Mia Hjelte, a former soloist of the Royal Swedish Ballet (2006 to 2017) and artistic director of the touring dance company Stockholm 59North.

“She retired from the Royal Swedish Ballet and came to the United States,” Cheng says. “She’s been teaching ballet and doing her own projects related to dance. She is teaching ballet classes and, because of her experience in classical ballet, she’s a great resource to teach my kids a different perspective other than Russian. 

“She has tremendous technique and a great ability to instruct. She’s very well liked by a lot of her students and parents.”

Like other dance studios and arts organizations, the Dance Conservatory of Pasadena was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The conservatory is hoping to produce “The Nutcracker” in-house, without the use of a community theater. 

“We’re hoping that Caroline (Broes) can put on a little ‘Nutcracker’ — maybe with just excerpts — with full costumes and makeup in the studio,” Cheng says. “We lost students, unfortunately, and we’re waiting for them to come back.”

For Cheng, the Dance Conservatory of Pasadena is a passion project. 

“We’ve really built it up,” she says. “We were doing really, really, really well and getting a lot of students. We were on our way to breaking even and succeeding. I was very proud of it. This is something I had done when I was growing up, and I wanted to pass it on.”


Dance Conservatory of Pasadena

66 Waverly Drive, Pasadena

626-396-1744, dancepasadena.com