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The Weekender: Let’s Play It by Ear

Five things to do in Los Angeles this weekend that hopefully won’t require changing plans

Here in L.A., people change plans all the time. They don’t cancel because that would be too definitive. They change it a thousand times until you give up.

Professionally, when plans change, it’s easy. Someone’s assistant will contact me with a “So sorry to do this…” intro and immediately offer up alternative times for rescheduling. Then my assistant – a.k.a. me – will respond. It’s straightforward, efficient and never personal.

When plans change with friends, it’s another matter. It’s always personal. There are friends who are chill and friends who behave as though changing a plan is a crime against humanity. You have to know your audience. Either way, the volume of e-mails and texting back and forth is exhausting. Here’s a partial, not comprehensive, excerpt from a recent exchange:

Plan Changer: Can we shift this to 3 instead of 4?

Me: Sure

PC: Can you do Saturday instead of Sunday?

Me: Sure

PC: Would you be able to come West?

Me: Can we meet in the middle?

PC: Sure. Brentwood?

Me: That’s not really the middle.

PC: I have to take an Uber.

Me: You can’t drive?

PC: My car is at the mechanic. Maybe next week is better.

Me: Okay what day?

PC: Let’s play it by ear.

I don’t mind playing it by ear once there’s a plan in place. If we’re definitely going to see each other we can play it by ear and decide where to meet and when. But if the plan itself is up in the air? Then play it by ear means let’s leave it open so that we can spend hours e-mailing back and forth until something better comes along and/or one of us moves away or dies.

The only thing worse than a change of plan is a slight change of plan. That means the plan is in place, but a brother or sister or out-of-town guest will be joining and you’ll end up feeling like the third wheel and wishing you’d canceled.

I had one friend who had her professional assistant handle her personal plans. I was seated and waiting at a restaurant when I got a text that said: “Alyssa is sorry she can’t make it and wants to know if you’re available on Sunday instead.” I guess my friend figured if her assistant does the dirty work, it takes the stink off of her. I asked about the reason for the change. “I’ll have to get back to you,” she said. “Is there another day that works for you?”

I told her we could play it by ear.

As everyone knows: it’s all about the excuse. If you’re going to mess with a plan, you better have a reason that makes the inconvenience worth it.

Here are 5 things to commit to this weekend:

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Go See

Ricky Gervais – Armageddon

If there’s a subject that’s perceived as taboo or shouldn’t be talked about, Ricky Gervais will dig in. He likes to complain about virtue signaling, the over-earnestness in cancel culture, and the tediousness of political correctness. His next major stand-up special is coming to Netflix in 2024 and if you want to see it in person – or at least part of what might make it into the special — here’s your chance. As you can probably guess, this show is about the end of the world.

Getty Images

When: Saturday, May 6th at 7:30 PM

Location: Hollywood Bowl | 2301 N Highland Ave Los Angeles, CA 90068

Parking: Instructions can be found here!

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Go Hear

Fruit Bats in Concert

The Fruit Bats are an Indie rock that Lias has adored ever since the 2006 documentary on Dave Brower came out. Brower was a prominent environmentalist and the film (“Monumental: Dave Brower’s Fight For Wild America”) has the Fruit Bats on its soundtrack. She swears that everyone who hears this band becomes obsessed. “Their music is folksy and catchy and soulful and poetic,” she says. “It’s got tons of heart and it just makes you happy.” Hard to argue with that. Unless you like music that makes you sad.

Note: this concert is on a Thursday! I know. But according to Lisa: Thursday is the new Friday.

Photo by Dean Christesen

When: May 11th at 8 PM

Location: Ace Hotel | 929 S Broadway, Los Angeles

Parking: Ace Hotel does not offer on-site parking. The closest parking is at 1018 S Hill St

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Venice Family Clinic Art Walk & Auction

I love the idea of art sales funding health care. If only that could be turned into a national program. One Warhol sold could mean insulin for everyone. I’ll save this idea for when I’m elected to congress.

In the meantime, hundreds of artworks are featured in an Exhibition and Online Auction that supports a nonprofit community health center in Venice. The month-long exhibition opened on April 18th and features works from established, mid-career and emerging artists in a 7,000-square-foot gallery space at RUNWAY Playa Vista. All the artwork is donated and the sales help fund the health clinic which provides services to more than 45,000 people in the area.

Now in its 44th year, the Venice Family Clinic was on the verge of closing in 1979 when a group of Clinic supporters gathered with local artists to organize the first-ever Art Walk + Auction to make sure the community continued to receive vital medical services. Renowned architect Frank Gehry played an integral role in bringing the event to life by enlisting artists living and working in Venice’s thriving art scene – Lita Albuquerque, John Baldessari, Ed Ruscha and others. It’s raised over 23 million dollars in the past four decades.

Photo by David Crotty/Getty Images for Venice Family Clinic

When: Until May 4th

Where: Runway Playa Vista | 12746 W. Jefferson Blvd. #3170, Playa Vista

Parking: Paid parking is immediately adjacent to the gallery as shown on the map.

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Listen To

Verdi Chorus – VERDISSIMO! Plus!

The exclamation points are what got me. It seems so….operatic! And it’s Verdi! Plus!

Led by Artistic Director Anne Marie Ketchum, the Verdi Chorus is the only choral group in Southern California that focuses primarily on the dramatic and diverse music for opera chorus. There are 55 singers and it’s dedicated to presenting opera choruses in concert. The program this weekend will feature selections from four Verdi operas – Otello, Il trovatore, La forza del destino, and Un ballo in maschera, as well as beloved melodies from Strauss’ Die Fledermaus. Obviously, that’s the plus. Another plus is that you don’t have sit through an entire opera.

The program will have guest soloists. “Our audiences will even get to hear Todd Wilander sing the lead tenor role in Un ballo In maschera before he flies off to New York to cover this role for the Met! We get him first!” says Ketchum. Her enthusiasm is palpable. I mean, palpable!

WhenTwo performances only | Saturday April 29th at 7:30pm & Sunday April 30th at 4:00pm

Where: First Presbyterian Church in Santa Monica | 1220 2nd Street, Santa Monica, CA 90401

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1776 – The Musical

This Tony Award-winning Best Musical opened on Broadway in 1969 and ran through 1972 – the same year the film came out. Apparently, it inspired Lin-Manuel Miranda to write Hamilton. He said, “1776 certainly paved the way. Not just in that it’s about our founders, but also in that it engages fully with their humanity. I think it makes them accessible to us in a very real way.” It’s definitely a history lesson. With a book by the Peter Stone and a score by history teacher/songwriter Sherman Edwards, this revival production is reframed in the context of America today. The cast is entirely made up of people who identify as female, trans, nonbinary and gender nonconforming – and the enslaved person who stood by Thomas Jefferson as he wrote the words “All men are created equal” is acknowledged as a presence on stage.

The show is built around the signing of the Declaration of Independence and how two dozen disagreeable individuals finally agree to settle their differences And at nearly three hours with intermission, you know where it’s going. Spoiler alert: America was born.

Photo by Joan Marcus 

When: Through May 7th

Location: The Ahmanson Theater | 135 N. Grand Avenue L.A., CA 90012

Parking: Self-Parking is available in The Music Center Garage for $10 at the Grand Ave entrance.

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  Ariel Leve is an author, award-winning journalist, TV comedy writer and screenwriter. She was a columnist for The Guardian, The Observer, and wrote the popular Cassandra column for The London Sunday Times Magazine. These humor columns were published by HarperCollins in a collection titled, “It Could Be Worse, You Could Be Me." She is the author of the critically-acclaimed memoir, "An Abbreviated Life” and wrote for the esteemed comedy series, “Better Things" Click Here to Sign Up For The Weekender!