From art festivals celebrating queer artists and South Asian culture to a very special comedy special, innovative dance productions in unexpected settings, a sustainable farmers market and a celebration dedicated to the golden days of cruising, here are the 14 best things to do in Los Angeles this week!

fri 6/1


A Star Wars Strip Show

In L.A., the sexier side of the Force has been a favorite burlesque theme for years via the popular Star Girls burlesque show. Now that Star Girls seems to have left the galaxy, The Empire Strips Back: A Burlesque Parody, a show from Australia, should make for a fun revisiting of erotic Jedi homage. The attention to detail in the costuming is astounding, the enthusiasm and energy of the dancers unparalleled in this galaxy or any other. Whether it's the bleeped-out dirty talk of R2-D2, the power dynamics of stormtroopers or just really perking up when someone gets choked out by Darth Vader, you'll be sure to find something to tickle your midichlorians during all the sensual shenanigans unveiled onstage tonight. Theatre at Ace Hotel, 929 S. Broadway, downtown; Fri., June 1, 8 p.m.; $45-$125. (213) 623-3233, —David Cotner

Credit: Courtesy of ArtWallah

Credit: Courtesy of ArtWallah


Back to the Roots

The annual ArtWallah festival celebrates its 20th anniversary by presenting innovative works that express the personal, political and cultural celebrations and struggles of the South Asian diaspora through music, dance, performance, literature, film and the visual arts. This year’s ArtWallah, themed THRIVE and directed and curated by Sheetal Gandhi, will be staged at Highways in Santa Monica. An interactive KidWallah will be held on June 2, from 11 a.m to noon. “ArtWallah was founded as a collective dream to make South Asian artists and our work visible in American society,” says festival co-founder Shilpa Agarwal. “We began in a small gallery in the downtown L.A. Arts District and grew to partner with arts institutions all over the city, attracting artists nationally and internationally. We’ve gone back to our roots, and are thrilled to be featuring local L.A. artists, and reinvesting in our community here 20 years later.” Highways Performance Space, 1651 18th St., Santa Monica; Fri.-Sat., June 1-2, 8:30 a.m.-10:30 p.m.;$20 in advance, $25 at door, Kidwallah: $5-$10 suggested donation. —Michele Raphael


Moving Up in the World

No one's voice smolders like songstress Peggy Lee's. Eight of her signature vocals join the debut album of British-born deejay Perc (aka Ali Wells), compositions from Arvo Pärt and Pierre Boulez, plus iconic American jazz from Clark Terry, Oscar Peterson and Count Basie, as L.A.-based contemporary company BODYTRAFFIC closes its 10th-anniversary season and makes its debut at this increasingly significant dance venue. Artistic directors Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett have assembled dancers who have impressive classical technique and can handle a range of equally demanding contemporary moves. It's these abilities that draw major national and international choreographers. For this season finale, the directors offer an impressive choreographer lineup, with works by Ohad Naharin from Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, Matthew Neenan from Pennsylvania's BalletX, German choreographer Richard Siegal, Belgian choreographer Stijn Celis and New York choreographer Sidra Bell. Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills; Thu., May 31, Fri.-Sat., June 1-2, 7:30 p.m.; $25-$45. —Ann Haskins

Among the festivities at this year's Queer Biennial: naked dinner parties.; Credit: Mr Joe Montana

Among the festivities at this year's Queer Biennial: naked dinner parties.; Credit: Mr Joe Montana


Queer Utopia

Across several weeks and multiple venues, the third iteration of the Queer Biennial brings together the work of more than 100 local and international, emerging and established artists. The celebration includes not only painters, sculptors and photographers but also literary, performance and cinematic artists and a team of curators — all working to express the central idea of a queer utopia. Anchored by a two-week group exhibition at NAVEL and christened with an opening reception hosted by the iconic John Waters (with a $65 book signing preceding the event), the biennial also includes off-site events such as an indie publication party at Please Do Not Enter, performance events at LAST Projects, film night at the Tom of Finland Foundation, plus talks, pop-up stores, naked dinner parties and more. One thing about this real and imagined queer utopia is that it's far from monolithic, instead favoring an eclectic and exuberant, thoughtful esprit de corps that honors the depth and breadth of its paradise. NAVEL, 1611 S Hope St., downtown; reception: Fri., June 1, 8 p.m.-2 a.m.; free. —Shana Nys Dambrot

sat 6/2


A Much Improved Commute

Here's one contemporary dance performance you are encouraged to dress down for. Donna Sternberg & Dancers is already known for its penchant for activating marginal, disused and proudly unconventional public spaces with its jaunty, intercultural moves. One of its most popular such projects has been Transit Dances, now back with its second installment. Audiences assemble for two afternoon performances of a suite of five site-specific dances, beginning at the 26th St./Bergamot Metro station in Santa Monica. (Pro tip: See some art at Bergamot's many thriving contemporary galleries, before or after. Most are open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays.) Inspired not only by the hidden gems that dot our urban sprawl but also by the plurality of nationalities and cultural traditions that make up the city, the company is joined for the event by artists from INCA The Peruvian Ensemble, Juli Kim's Korean and Wilfried Souly's African dance, and Kayamanan Ng Lahi Philippine Folk Arts. (Pro tip 2: Wear comfy shoes.) 26th St./Bergamot Metro Station, 2525 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica; Sat., June 2, noon & 1 p.m.; free with Metro fare ($1.75-$7). —Shana Nys Dambrot

Come learn what it's like to photograph the leader of the free world.; Credit: Sharon Farmer

Come learn what it's like to photograph the leader of the free world.; Credit: Sharon Farmer


Presidential Pictures

You may not know their names but you're probably familiar with their work. Sharon Farmer, Lawrence Jackson and L.A.'s own Eric Draper have each served as official White House photographers during the Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama presidencies, respectively. (Farmer was the first African-American female to hold that post.) Collectively they've captured countless public and private moments of the presidents' terms: in the Oval Office, on international trips, with world leaders, and during national and international crises, including 9/11. Slate's chief political correspondent, Jamelle Bouie, moderates Photographing the President, as Farmer, Jackson and Draper discuss their careers and what it's like being responsible for documenting the commander-in-chief. Annenberg Space for Photography, 2000 Avenue of the Stars, Century City; Sat., June 2, 7-9 p.m.; $22 (RSVP required). (213) 403-3000, —Siran Babayan

Andreas Mitisek has boldly  led the Long Beach Opera into uncharted artistic terrain for 20 years.; Credit: Keith Ian Polakoff

Andreas Mitisek has boldly led the Long Beach Opera into uncharted artistic terrain for 20 years.; Credit: Keith Ian Polakoff


Celebrating Two Bold Decades

No other local opera company takes as many chances as Long Beach Opera. Founded by artistically bold general director Michael Milenski in 1979, LBO is simultaneously the L.A. region's oldest company and its least traditional. After starting as principal conductor in 1998, Austrian native Andreas Mitisek was chosen as LBO's artistic director in 2003, maintaining Milenski's preference for overlooked, experimental and/or controversial operas while staging them in such unusual settings as warehouses, museums, nightclub basements and even a U.S. military facility. Mistress of ceremonies Suzan Hanson presides over “The Best of 20,” joined by fellow vocalists Roberto Gomez, Jamie Chamberlin, Robin Buck, Cedric Berry and Neda St. Clair for highlights from Mitisek's two decades with LBO. Beverly O'Neill Theater, 300 E. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach; Sat., June 2, 3:30 & 8 p.m.; $49-$150. (562) 470-7464, ext. 104, —Falling James

sun 6/3


Think Sustainable

Think and act locally at Urban Air Market: Los Feliz, an extortionately exhaustive journey into the depths of Los Feliz consciousness with more than 100 designers and makers of everything from couture to art to decor. This year's theme is sustainable design, so the things that go into making today's experience have been created — by outlets like Eclectic Collective, Lizbeth Navarro Ceramics, the Preserve Company and others — to be as renewable and reusable as possible. And in case you thought today couldn't be any more conscientious and complete, there are also live bands, interactive workshops and fare from area restaurants. Los Feliz Village, Hillhurst and Franklin avenue. Los Feliz; Sun., June 3, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; free. —David Cotner

Concerts in the Dome; Credit: Dan Kohne

Concerts in the Dome; Credit: Dan Kohne


Symphony Under the Stars

Chamber music concerts pop up in a dizzying variety of locations in the L.A. area these days, from historic mansions and vintage Broadway movie palaces to subway stations, libraries, art galleries and breweries. But the Sunday Afternoon Concerts in the Dome series takes place in the loftiest and most spectacular setting of all — underneath the gigantic dome that houses the 100-inch telescope at Mount Wilson Observatory. Not only does the looming dome make for an awe-inspiring backdrop at this dramatic nexus point between mountain and sky but the expansive chamber's acoustics imbue music with a powerfully resonant metallic tone. Paying homage to the observatory's founder, George Ellery Hale, trombonist Alex Iles and his brass quartet will have to breathe deeply to avoid fainting at Mount Wilson's 5,700-foot elevation. Mount Wilson Observatory, Red Box Mount Wilson Road, La Cañada Flintridge; Sun., June 3, 3 & 5 p.m.; $50. (626) 440-9016, —Falling James

mon 6/4


Los Angeles Icon

Before the Los Angeles skyline became marked by the U.S. Bank Tower (1989) and the Ritz-Carlton (2010), most people associated it with City Hall. Stephen Gee discusses Los Angeles City Hall: An American Icon ($45, Angel City Press), his new book about the 90-year-old institution that's survived smog, earthquakes and flying saucer attacks. Designed by John C. Austin, Albert C. Martin Sr. and John Parkinson, City Hall was the tallest building in Los Angeles when it opened, immediately becoming a source of civic pride and quickly making the burgeoning burg a metropolis in a way that few other landmarks ever have. Vroman's, 695 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Mon., June 4, 7 p.m.; free. (626) 449-5320, —David Cotner

tue 6/5


Staying Woke

Based on creator Justin Simien's 2014 movie of the same name, Netflix's satirical college dramedy series Dear White People focuses on a group of mostly African-American students at fictitious, predominantly white Ivy League school Winchester University, who clash over racism, campus unrest, interracial dating, the establishment and being woke. Its second season premiered in May. Hosted by the Paley Center, An Evening With Dear White People features a special screening and discussion with the show's cast and crew, including Simien and actors Logan Browning, Antoinette Robertson, Ashley Blaine Featherson, Marque Richardson, DeRon Horton and John Patrick Amedori. Paley Center, 465 N. Beverly Drive, Beverly Hills; Tue., June 5, 7 p.m.; $30. (310) 786-1000, —Siran Babayan

Selene Luna; Credit: Devin Smith

Selene Luna; Credit: Devin Smith


Educating One Laugh at a Time

Selene Luna, Danielle Perez and Greg Walloch would rather be appreciated as comedians than as people with disabilities, which is why they're calling their stand-up show Don't Laugh at Us! A Special Comedians Comedy Special. The three use humor not only as a point of connection between their disabilities and the audience but also to talk about their careers, dating and romance. Luna, a little person, voiced the character of Tia Rosita in last year's Oscar-winning animated film, Coco, though fans know her best as a burlesque dancer and Margaret Cho's right-hand woman, who's opened for the comedian on tour. Perez, an amputee in a wheelchair, famously won a treadmill and walk-in sauna on an episode of The Price Is Right in 2015. And Walloch, an actor and writer with celebral palsy, recently won a Peabody Award for directing The Daily Show reporter Hasan Minhaj's one-man show, Homecoming King. Cavern Club, 1920 Hyperion Ave., Silver Lake; Tue., June 5, 8 p.m.; $15 advance, $20 at door. (323) 662-4255, —Siran Babayan

wed 6/6


Then and Now

With all the changes happening in Santa Monica, sometimes it seems that you need a guidebook put together just last week to show everything that isn't there anymore. Take that back 116 years, and you're living in an entirely different world, let alone a different city. Michael Murphy's reinterpretation of Santa Monica Fire Department Souvenir Book of Santa Monica 1902 (Arcadia Publishing) unveils the herculean task he and photographer Jens Lucking undertook to track down 110 businesses and homes from the Santa Monica of 1902, match the original camera angles in that souvenir book and reshoot the images, sometimes to deeply shocking effect. Santa Monica History Museum, 1350 Seventh St., Santa Monica; Wed., June 6, 10 a.m.; $10, $15 couples, $5 students & seniors, free for members and children under 12. (310) 395-2290, —David Cotner

thu 6/7


A Taste of the Good Life

You can always use a little more luxury in your life. You don't have to die addicted to Champagne like John Maynard Keynes or become a fried chicken snob. But a touch of the good life is illuminating, so come aboard the Lovers of the Ocean Liners' sixth annual group trip to the Queen Mary. You'll say “Ahoy, polloi!” to these like-minded ocean liner enthusiasts — celebrating their 10th year as the definitive source of ocean liner history and culture — and learn all about transatlantic ocean liners both still in operation and retired to positions of posterity and repose. The Queen Mary, 1126 Queens Highway, Long Beach; Thu., June 7, 4 p.m.; free. (877) 342-0738, —David Cotner

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