First Fridays kicks off at the Natural History Museum, Meow Meow joins Pink Martini's Thomas M. Lauderdale onstage at the Theatre at Ace Hotel, the L.A. Philharmonic and many others will perform Leonard Bernstein's epic Mass at Disney Concert Hall, actor and filmmaker Griffin Dunne will talk about his famous aunt Joan Didion, and Ironbound will make its West Coast premiere at Geffen Playhouse. Here are 18 fun and engaging things to do and see in L.A. this week.
How Very Becoming
The Natural History Museum's annual five-part series of discussions — this year themed "L.A. Invents: A Becoming Los Angeles Series" — kicks off its first event of 2018, paired with live music. It begins with guided tours of rarely seen artifacts in the history department that explore how cars, aviation, sports, architecture and the aerospace industry have evolved in our city. Next, L.A. Times' Patt Morrison moderates a talk, "From L.A., to Infinity — and Beyond" with guest speakers Benjamin Dickow, Peter Westwick and Diana Trujillo. Finally, X's John Doe and Exene Cervenka and singer-songwriter Phoebe Bridgers perform, while KCRW's Anthony Valadez and DJ Reflex spin tunes throughout the evening. Natural History Museum, 900 Exposition Blvd., Exposition Park; Fri., Feb. 2, 5-10 p.m.; $20. (213) 763-3466, nhm.org. —Siran Babayan
The Cat's Meow
Brandishing the microphone and her trademark two lit cigarettes in her balled-up right fist and a bottle of beer in her left hand, Meow Meow is a glorious mess onstage. Crowdsurfing is rare in the refined world of cabaret chanteuses, but the Australian singer-actor-comedian also known as Melissa Madden Gray manages to retain something resembling poise in her elegant ballroom gown and elbow-length gloves even as she's awkwardly borne aloft like a triumphant football coach by her ardent if bemused fans in the first few rows. The fact that Ms. Meow, backed by Pink Martini pianist Thomas M. Lauderdale, is simultaneously purring mournfully doom-ridden ballads by Radiohead and Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht — while vamping it up as an archly mannered diva who fearfully dodges roses thrown by her fans — only adds to the absurd theatrical spectacle. The Theatre at Ace Hotel, 929 S. Broadway, downtown; Fri., Feb. 2, 8 p.m.; $29.50-$69.50. (213) 623-3233, theatre.acehotel.com. —Falling James
We'll Always Have Degas in Paris
Though Edgar Degas publicly displayed only one sculpture, 1881’s Little Dancer, Aged Fourteen, he produced in his studio hundreds of small, informal sculpture of horses, dancers and bathers. The Norton Simon’s “Taking Shape: Degas as Sculptor” (through April 9), which coincides with the 100th anniversary of the artist’s death, exhibits more than 70 of his bronze statuettes alongside paintings, drawings and pastels from its permanent collection. In conjunction with the display, the museum also hosts month-long screenings of classic dance films, including Swing Time, An American in Paris and Singin’ in the Rain. The series kicks off with 1935’s Top Hat, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers’ most famous pairing, featuring the Irving Berlin classics “Top Hat, White Tie and Tails” and “Cheek to Cheek” (see if you can spot a then-unknown Lucille Ball). Norton Simon Museum, 411 W. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena; Fri., Feb. 2, 5:30 p.m.; $15, $12 seniors, free children and students. (626) 449-6840, nortonsimon.org. —Siran Babayan
Fight for Your Right
If you ever wanted to see the Beastie Boys reunited, tonight is as close as you'll get. Tonight's screenings of Fight For Your Right Revisited and Awesome; I Fuckin' Shot That! pay tribute to Adam "MCA" Yauch. Fight For Your Right Revisited featured a who's-who of comedy reinterpreting the video for the band's smash hit; Awesome! is a wondrous welter of footage shot by 50 audience members during a sold-out 2004 action at Madison Square Garden. Ad-Rock and Mike D will remember MCA, what he meant to their lives and what he continues to mean as his true legacy perpetually unfolds. Egyptian Theatre, 6712 Hollywood Blvd., Hollywood; Fri., Feb. 2, 7:30 p.m.; $20 general, $18 students and seniors, $15 members. (323) 461-2020, americancinemathequecalendar.com. —David Cotner
Get Yer Coffee Fix
Most grownups drink coffee, whether it’s latte, espresso, cappuccino or just a plain cup o’ joe. Coffee might even be an addiction for you, which you can indulge in at the fourth annual CoffeeCon, a “coffee university” where you can both taste and learn how to brew like a pro. Sample drinks and buy related products from over 40 exhibitors or, better yet, take part in classes and panels led by experts and spread out over five spaces on such topics as “The Road to Mocha: Rediscovering Yemen,” “Latte Art at Home” and “Can Coffee Be Sustainable?” If coffee alone doesn’t give you a buzz, try the coffee cocktails made with Grey Goose. The Reef, 1933 S. Broadway, Historic South Central; Sat.-Sun., Feb. 3-4, 9 a.m.-4 p.m.; $20-$50. (800) 526-2784, coffee-con.com. —Siran Babayan
Celebrating Lenny's 100th
Amid the orchestral celebrations this year of what would have been Leonard Bernstein's 100th birthday, Keigwin + Company arrive to Celebrate Bernstein. This event specifically notes the conductor-composer's impact on dance, with a quartet of works from the iconic (On the Town and On the Waterfront) to the less familiar but equally engaging Bernstein scores Piano Trio and Sonata for Clarinet and Piano. The first two dances premiered in 2012 at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center to enthusiastic reviews, but the latter two will receive their world premiere here. Choreographer Larry Keigwin and his dancers are known for blending classical technique with contemporary dance elements spiced with showbiz strut, which makes them a perfect fit for Bernstein and his music. Younes & Soraya Nazarian Center for the Performing Arts, 18111 Nordhoff St., Northridge; Sat., Feb. 3, 8 p.m.; $33-$73. (818) 677-3000, valleyperformingartscenter.org/calendar/details/keigwin-company. —Ann Haskins
Sisters Are Doin' it for Themselves
If all the estrogen on The View makes you cringe, The Female Gaze feels your pain. Originating in New York in 2015, Upright Citizens Brigade's all-female parody spoofs the daytime series and its revolving door of bickering yentas who've co-hosted for the past 20 years, as well as copycat talk shows like The Talk and The Real. With main hosts Janie Stolar and Lydia Hensler, the whopping 15 comedians appear in cooking, fashion and makeover segments and pretend to be experts while discussing hot topics or, as they call them, "Hot Flashes." In The Female Gaze West, the ladies also will interview lone male guest — run! — actor Johnathan Fernandez. Tonight might be scarier than the showdown between Rosie O'Donnell and Elisabeth Hasselbeck or funnier than the time Sherri Shepherd said she didn't know whether or not the Earth is round. UCB, 5419 W. Sunset Blvd., Hollywood.; Sat., Feb. 3, 10:30 p.m.; $7. (323) 908-8702, sunset.ucbtheatre.com. —Siran Babayan
All Hail the Dungeon Master!
The game of Dungeons & Dragons has been fertile ground for comedy ever since Tom Hanks' weird freakout in Rona Jaffe's Mazes and Monsters, so get your damage rolls ready when you see Dungeon: A Standup Comedy Role-Playing Game. Fantasizing about mystical adventures is a bit like fantasizing about making it big in comedy, so the two are a natural match. Dungeon master John-Michael Bond faces players in exciting quests for treasure that are interrupted by routines by special guest stand-up comedians whose jokes are shinier and more valuable than the fiercest fiery dragon's hoard. NerdMelt, 7522 Sunset Blvd., Hollywood; Sat., Feb. 3, 7-8:30 p.m.; $10 doors/$8 advance. (323) 851-7223, holdmyticket.com/event/304862. —David Cotner
More Lenny at the Mouse House
Leonard Bernstein's Mass, commissioned by Jackie Kennedy to open the Kennedy Center, isn't a short, silent prayer or a private artistic conversation between the composer and God. Instead, the epic 1971 work, which is loosely structured like a Catholic mass, is a monumental, communal expulsion of passion in which Bernstein and co-lyricist Stephen Schwartz attempt to reaffirm the idea of faith at the end of the tumultuous 1960s. Conductor Gustavo Dudamel will have to rein in Mass' occasionally bombastic tendencies while steering a large version of the L.A. Philharmonic as it interacts with various dancers, a rock band, the UCLA Wind Ensemble and multiple choirs including L.A. Master Chorale and L.A. Children's Chorus. Walt Disney Concert Hall, 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown; Thu.-Sat., Feb. 1-3, 8 p.m.; Sun., Feb. 4 2 p.m.; $20-$210. (323) 850-2000, laphil.com. —Falling James
Memory and Motion
A unique, new gallery in Pasadena called sp[a]ce is presenting "Movement + Narrative," a group exhibition curated by realist figurative painter F. Scott Hess. The show was originally scheduled to hang at Gregorio Escalante Gallery in January but lost its home due to Escalante's unexpected death. Sp[a]ce gallery, located in an advertising firm called Ayzenberg, has taken it on, and Hess has expanded the exhibit beyond its original scope to include more artists, among them Alla Bartoshchuk, Andrew Hem, Cody Jimenez, Julio Labra, Dana Christine Lewis, Sarah Stieber and Peter Zokosky. sp[a]ce gallery, 39 E. Walnut St., Pasadena; Sun., Feb. 4-Sun. March 11, open Sat.-Sun., 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; free. (626) 584-4070, space.ayzenberg.com. —Richard Chang
Music as Medicine is the symposium that asks, "What if music could help you manage pain or treat anxiety?" Music therapy is being used to try to relieve everything from developmental disabilities to tinnitus — so why not other, more seemingly unsolvable health issues? USC provost Michael Quick introduces the idea in this, the latest of his "Series on Wicked Problems" looking at new solutions for incessant dilemmas — this time with a confab between neuroscientist Antonio Damasio, lyric soprano Renée Fleming and L.A. Opera CEO Christopher Koelsch to discuss connections between the brain and the effect of music thereupon. Bovard Auditorium, USC, 3551 Trousdale Parkway, University Park; Mon., Feb. 5, 7 p.m.; free, reservations required. (213) 740-4211, visionsandvoices.usc.edu/events/listing.php?event_id=966212. — David Cotner
Slouching Towards Didion
Actor Griffin Dunne profiles his famous aunt in his new Netflix documentary, Joan Didion: The Center Will Not Hold. Using interviews, archival material and testimonials from family, friends and colleagues — including Anna Wintour, Harrison Ford, Vanessa Redgrave, Tom Brokaw, Hilton Als and David Hare — Dunne chronicles Didion's life and publishing career, which began in the 1950s after she won a Vogue essay-writing contest. Didion discusses her most important novels, such as Play It As It Lays, as well as her reporting on '60s hippie counterculture in San Francisco, the Manson murders and civil war in El Salvador. Didion also looks back on her marriage to fellow author John Gregory Dunne and daughter Quintana, who died within a few years of each other and inspired the books The Year of Magical Thinking and Blue Nights. The screening is followed by a conversation with Dunne. Hammer Museum, 10899 Wilshire Blvd., Westwood.; Tue., Feb. 6, 7:30 p.m.; free. (310) 443-7000, hammer.ucla.edu/programs-events/2018/02/joan-didion-the-center-will-not-hold/. —Siran Babayan
You're Old Enough to Know Better, So ...
Cry, David, cry! That's what they used to tell me in school. I cried, all right ... and then I made them pay. But now I'll cry a different kind of tears at Collage and Cry. This community night welcomes you and your various miseries as you gather magazines, scissors and glue, and — in the immortal words of the late Carrie Fisher — take your broken heart and turn it into art. BYOB if you feel like crying in your beer — but you don't have to cry. You just have to show them your heart and soul and emotions. Show them all. Book Show, 5503 N. Figueroa St., Highland Park; Tue., Feb. 6, 7 p.m.; free. (213) 438-9551, bookshowla.com/event/collage-cry-14/. —David Cotner
Let It All Go
It seems faintly ironic to own a book about how to live with less. That said, the essential wisdom of the simple life will be imparted unto you when author Courtney Carver talks about Soulful Simplicity: How Living With Less Can Lead to So Much More ($17, TarcherPerigree). In 2006, Carver's multiple sclerosis diagnosis put her into an existential tailspin until she began to remove as much unnecessary nonsense — possessions, expectations, incredible power trips — as possible from her life. The pursuit of simplicity led her to a much better quality of life — something that, surprisingly, doesn't take too much to achieve. The Last Bookstore, 453 S. Spring St., downtown; Wed., Feb. 7, 7:30 p.m.; $30 (includes book). (213) 488-0599, lastbookstorela.com/events/soulful-simplicity-evening-courtney-carver/. —David Cotner
An Immigrant's Story
Life is hard, and Darja, a Polish immigrant who's squeaking by in New Jersey on a cleaning job, knows this. Ironbound, written by Martyna Majok, spans 22 years to tell Darja's story, who survives on aggressive pragmatism and sheer will. New York stage veteran Marin Ireland, who played Darja off-Broadway at Rattlestick Playwrights Theater in 2016, returns for the West Coast premiere of this play. Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Ave., Westwood; Wed., Feb. 7-Sun., March 4: Tue.-Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 3 & 8 p.m.; Sun., 2 & 7 p.m.; $32-$90. (310) 208-5454, geffenplayhouse.com. —Richard Chang
The Real Pozole
The thing about cookbooks that no one mentions is that, as a culture evolves, so do the dishes that characterize that culture. Journalist Lesley Téllez talks about her cookbook Eat Mexico: Recipes From Mexico City's Streets, Markets and Fondas ($25, Kyle Books) and offers up some of the meals made from the recipes within. Her tourism company, Eat Mexico, takes travelers on culinary tours concentrating on local food history and street food around Mexico City, so if there's anyone uniquely suited to telling you what's really happening with the culture of the cuisines down there, it's her. La Plaza de Cultura y Artes, 501 N. Main St., downtown; Thu., Feb. 8, 7-8:30 p.m.; $20. (888) 488-8083, lapca.org/content/platicas-y-pruebas-eat-mexico-recipes-mexico-citys-streets-markets-fondas. —David Cotner
Rollin' on the River
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Whether you're a fan of gentrification, urban renewal or just good ol' ethnic cleansing, today might be a nice day to drop by the meeting of the minds at L.A. River and Beyond. Big plans are afoot for the 32 miles that make up the river corridor, and with a projected 35,000 businesses and almost 400,000 housing units involved, see what deputy mayor Barbara Romero, multinational engineering firm AECOM's L.A. chief executive Kelli Bernard, Friends of Hollywood Park chair Alfred Fraijo Jr. and others have to say about the changes that are coming faster than you may think. The California Club, 538 S. Flower St., downtown; Thu., Feb. 8, 5 p.m.; $85 non-members/$60 members. (888) 317-0754, laheadquarters.org/event-2619836. —David Cotner
Once a Slave, Now a Giant
In November, President Trump signed into law HR 2989, the Frederick Douglass Bicentennial Commission Act, which established a panel to develop events and programs this year to honor the 200th anniversary of the birth of Douglass. Born in 1818, Douglass escaped slavery to become one of the most celebrated abolitionist leaders and writers in America. To mark his bicentennial, the California African American Museum hosts Frederick Douglass Now by Roger Guenveur Smith. Similar to his one-man shows about Huey P. Newton and Rodney King, Smith delivers a monologue that mixes Douglass' 19th-century editorials, speeches and letters with his own original writing. Standing in front of an American flag and using poetry, music and rap, Smith riffs on not only slavery but modern-day racism, blurring the lines between history and right now. California African American Museum, 600 State Drive, Exposition Park; Thu., Feb. 8, 7-9 p.m.; free, reservations required. (213) 744-2084, caamuseum.org/programs/current/frederick-douglass-now-by-roger-guenveur-smith. —Siran Babayan