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Best Of :: Arts & Entertainment

BEST PLACE TO LEARN TO DO-IT-YOURSELF
Machine Project

To call Machine Project a gallery would be a massive oversimplification. While it has been home to extensive art installations of all kinds since it opened in 2003, the real heart of this exemplary alternative storefront, run by Vermont native and CalArts graduate Mark Allen, is the classes, workshops, lectures and performance series it beckons you to become a part of. Machine has become best known for its array of investigations into science, technology and the human soul with courses that range from electronics and sound design to sewing and natural medicine. Machine seeds a movement away from mass consumer culture, in which anyone can participate simply by becoming a member and showing up. It’s currently home to a full-scale shipwreck; make sure to check out the wildly popular annual Fry-B-Q. 1200-D N. Alvarado St., Echo Park. (213) 483-8761, machineproject.com. —Anna Jones

1200-D N. Alvarado St., Los Angeles, 90026
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213-483-8761
BEST HOLE IN THE HILLS

If the John Anson Ford Amphitheatre is the nephew to the Hollywood Bowl, then TreePeople's S. Mark Taper Amphitheater is its toddler sister. It's a fancy endowment-sounding name for what is surely the cutest outdoor venue in town (sorry, Will S. Geer Amphitheater). Set among eucalyptus trees in Coldwater Canyon Park, the woodsy location feels a world away from anything citified. Every summer, TreePeople presents its "Once Upon a Canyon Night" performance series, an eclectic lineup of theater, comedy, film and music offerings. Everybody brings a picnic and wine, and people share their delectables with their neighbors. (Maybe keep the spray-cheese-in-a-can at home.) The vibe is super-friendly, like those small towns you've heard of. Even the parking lot is pretty charming. It must be the wood chips. 12601 Mulholland Drive, Beverly Hills. (818) 623-4877. --Libby Molyneaux

12601 Mulholland Dr., Beverly Hills, 90210
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818-623-4877
Read Any Good Laughs Lately?
Last Bookstore

It may not be the last used bookstore in L.A., but the Last Bookstore is certainly the best. And business? “Never better,” according to owner Josh Spencer. On Thursdays, the store features a comedy show called Literally Funny, a variation of regular stand-up where the participants read material in front of an audience. Material has included an erotic story written from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy, and “an episode of The Cosby Show explained in such a way to show how much of a sadistic son-of-a-bitch Cliff Huxtable really was,” says Nickelodeon computer programmer Erik Mann, talking about shtick he heard from another performer. NPR contributor Taylor Orci is a regular. “Last time I read a story about having panic attacks,” she told us. “I’ve also got a huge collection of notes I passed during junior high that are dying to be read aloud.” Show producer and host Dan Bialek says, “Stand-up comedy is really, really hard to do. It’s a lot easier to get laughs and to not feel uncomfortable in front of a small crowd when you’re reading something.” And if you just want to come and watch? “The show is 100 percent free,” he notes. “If you’re broke, love comedy and need something to do on a Thursday night at 8 p.m., look no further.” 400 S. Main St., dwntwn. (213) 617-0308, lastbookstorela.com. —Todd David Schwartz

453 S. Spring St., Los Angeles, 90013
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213-488-0599
Best Place to Rock In Eagle Rock
Eagle Rock Center for the Arts

There’s no denying the magic of Eagle Rock Center for the Arts. The gorgeous, cavernous, Mission-style queen is all gleaming wood floors, arched beams and leaded windows — a whitewashed architectural wonder sitting proudly near the busy intersection of Eagle Rock and Colorado boulevards. Built in 1914, the space became the Center for the Arts in 1998 and in recent years, a bustling hub of hipster activity. FYF Fest hosts regular events there — from dreamy folk shows to sunny daytime ice-cream socials. Walk in on a Saturday afternoon and you might find an exhibition of local artists or a grinning Roky Erickson serenading hundreds of little kids on an ice-cream sugar high (yup, that actually happened a few weeks ago). With a capacity of 225, occasional booze offerings and a lovely, succulent garden, this is pretty much the most pleasant place in town to watch a band, see a play, peruse some art or dance with your 2-year-old to a live version of “You’re Gonna Miss Me.” 2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock. (323) 226-1617, center artseaglerock.org. —Jessica Hundley

2225 Colorado Blvd., Eagle Rock, 90041
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323-561-3044
Best Small-Town Big Screen (1947)
Gardena Cinema

If you ever wondered what going to the movies was like before the world got gummed up with wasteful, endless cracker-box theaters, the Gardena Cinema is a window on a simpler time — even if it is a window made of increasingly cracked glass. The Gardena is the last independent cinema operating in the South Bay area of Los Angeles — not counting the secret cinema at Alpine Village in Torrance — and its 800 seats face a single 37-foot screen. Opened in 1947 as the Park Theatre, the Gardena Cinema has entertained the South Bay, run by the same family for more almost 35 years and offering a distinctly family affair of family fare brought to you by the letter G. Yes, the single screen seems inconvenient with the googolplex of multiplexes available out there. But once upon a time, theaters were sweltering, creaky, majestic things that served merely as delivery devices for the magic of the film on the screen. The movie was the whole point — and it was the movie that riveted you rather than reminded you of the creature comforts waiting for you at home. Movies, no matter how advanced they become, are an escape — and the Gardena is, too, even if the seats in the escape pod are bright, bright orange. 14948 Crenshaw Blvd., Gardena. (310) 217-0404, gardenacinema.com —David Cotner

14948 S. Crenshaw Blvd., Gardena, 90249
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310-217-0505
Best Art Space to Meet the Next Mike Kelley
workspace

workspace — coming atcha in lowercase, like bell hooks — defines itself by what it isn’t: It isn’t “the Man.” A venue for queer, alternative and feminist discourse, the gallery doesn’t literally say “no BIG ART, white male bureaucratic BS allowed,” but it really doesn’t have to. The space caters to its friends, fellow students in the USC, UCLA, CalArts, Art Center, UC San Diego, Irvine, etc., grind, giving them a place to work it out before tackling the big time. It plays host to a flurry of visiting curators who are encouraged to take over the small Lincoln Heights storefront, run by couple Daniel Ingroff and Paul Pescador, both artists in their own right (the space doubles as Ingroff’s studio in the daytime). workspace has featured everything from Darin Klein’s release of San Francisco’s trans male magazine Original Plumbing — which attracted the likes of James Cameron Mitchell and featured artists such as Zachary Drucker and Rhys Ernst — to the semi-regular Five Points reading series, which has featured readers as diverse as the L.A. Weekly’s very own Jonathan Gold and By Hook or by Crook filmmaker and Whitney Biennial participant Harry Dodge. It also hosts an annual Homoerotic Valentine’s Day reading, which was curated this year by artist Eve Fowler. Fellow Lincoln Heights DIY space Night Gallery, run by Columbia grad Davida Nemeroff, often teams with workspace for group shows and events. Perhaps the most exciting reason to visit workspace, though, is the many young, hungry artists on the brink of breaking out who regularly show there: Katie Herzog, Lia Lowenthal, David Gilbert, Kelly Sears and Cayetano Ferrer, to name a few. 2601 Pasadena Ave., Lincoln Heights. (323) 223-8086, workspace2601.com. —Nikki Darling

2601 Pasadena Ave., Los Angeles, 90031
MAP
323-344-1934
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BEST PLACE TO LEARN TO DO-IT-YOURSELF: Machine Project

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