30 must-see arts events in Southern California this fall

As the calendar races toward autumn and the writers’ and actors’ strikes wear on — significantly cutting into fresh streaming options —entertainment and culture seekers would do well to embrace the thrill of the city’s rich arts offerings. Whether visiting a gallery, or viewing a theater, dance or music performance, the city’s coming lineup of must-see arts events arrive with a dose of community and camaraderie. They require us to join together in order to best experience them. Take heart — and a seat — as The Times’ arts staffers and critics offer up their top 30 picks for fall.

VISUAL ARTS

Opening Sept. 10
‘Alexandre Arrechea: Intersected Horizons’
The Cuban-born Arrechea creates works that often subvert the power invested in architecture in playful and oblique ways. This includes a sculpture that transforms an iconic New York City skyscraper into a rolled-up garden hose and another that imagines apartment towers resting on chairs, as if the buildings were trying to remain out of reach of a flood. (The latter was a highly visible installation he created for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in 2016.) The Museum of Latin American Art in Long Beach will debut the artist’s first solo museum show in L.A., featuring more than 50 works across various media. — Carolina A. Miranda

Jennifer Guidi, Meditation Cave, 2022. Painted bronze. Courtesy the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

Jennifer Guidi, Meditation Cave, 2022. Painted bronze. Courtesy the artist and David Kordansky Gallery.

(Brica Wilcox)

Sept. 15-Jan. 7
‘Jennifer Guidi: And so it is.’
We can’t wait for “Jennifer Guidi: And so it is.” to open at the Orange County Museum of Art in mid-September. And our impatience might run somewhat counterintuitive to the in-the-moment ethos of the show itself, which addresses “meditative states of being.” The exhibition, Guidi’s first solo U.S. museum presentation, will feature several new paintings. Many of them ooze the sunset hues and earth tones of California, evoking a sense of place in both the physical and spiritual realms. — Deborah Vankin

Sept. 15-Jan. 14
‘Harmony Korine’

The artist-filmmaker may be best known for writing the 1995 film “Kids,” directed by Larry Clark. But he’s also a photographer and painter. In September, he’ll debut a solo exhibition of new “acid-hued” paintings inspired by his new, not-yet-released movie. The exhibition, at Hauser & Wirth’s downtown Arts District location, is Korine’s first in L.A. in more than eight years. The works, as the gallery describes it, “blur boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ in ways that simultaneously attract and repel viewers with their hypnotic, otherworldly atmosphere.” — D.V.

A blue sculpted hand holds a rock.

Work by Kelly Akashi.

(Mariah Tauger / Los Angeles Times)

Sept. 21-Feb. 18
‘Kelly Akashi: Formations’

The more disembodied images proliferate on screens, the more the tangible, material world resonates. Ask L.A.-based artist Kelly Akashi, 40, who was born into the whirlwind transformations of digital culture. She switched from photography to sculpture made from wax, bronze, glass, silicone, copper, rope — you name it — often being fingered by graceful hands. This traveling 10-year survey comes to the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. — Christopher Knight

Oct. 1–Dec. 31
“Made in L.A. 2023: Acts of Living’
Here it comes again: “Made in L.A. 2023” is the sixth installment of the UCLA Hammer Museum’s hotly anticipated biennial survey of art produced in our dynamic region, this time with 39 artists. For a theme, curators Diana Nawi, Pablo José Ramírez and Ashton Cooper went to the source: a plaque installed by assemblage sculptor Noah Purifoy on Sabato Rodia’s Watts Towers, the city’s first masterpiece of international artistic stature: “One does not have to be a visual artist to utilize creative potential. Creativity can be an act of living, a way of life, and a formula for doing the right thing.” — C.K.

A vintage photo shows Barbara T. Smith wearing a'70s poncho and hat, sitting by a towering installation of plastic tubes

Barbara T. Smith with “Field Piece” at Cirrus Gallery in Los Angeles, 1971. The artist is now the subject of a retrospective, “Barbara T. Smith: Proof,” on view at the Institute of Contemporary Art Los Angeles (ICA LA) from Oct. 7, 2023, to Jan. 14, 2024.

(Getty Research Institute)

Oct. 7-Jan. 14
‘Barbara T. Smith: Proof’
The Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles will present a comprehensive survey this fall of this pioneering feminist artist from L.A. whose work has encompassed installation, photography, mixed media assemblage and some pretty wild performances. The show, of course, will also include the radical Xerox copies Smith began to make of her own body starting in the 1960s — not only appropriating commercial technology for artistic ends but also using it to counter the ways in which the female body is frequently rendered in art. — C.A.M.

Oct. 17-Jan. 14
‘William Blake: Visionary’
Timing, they say, is everything, and that was certainly the case with this exhibition. The show of the rebellious, metaphysical 19th century artist closed at co-organizer Tate Britain in February 2020, then promptly went into storage as the Getty — like every other American museum — was shuttered by the raging COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, 3½ years later, it arrives in Brentwood to spin Blake’s imaginative graphic tales of epic creation and destruction. — C.K.

Oct. 24 (publication date)
‘The Invisible Dragon: 30th Anniversary Edition’
Dolly Parton does not mince words: “To this day, after thousands of interviews with thousands of writers, Dave Hickey is still at the top of my list.” Hickey’s 1974 essay for Country Music magazine, “Dolly Triumphant!,” is one of a dozen reprinted in this newly released book. Eight are wrapped around the four controversial essays on beauty as an artistic tool — the title’s “Invisible Dragon” — that turned art criticism on its head when first published three decades ago. L.A.-based publisher Art Issues celebrates that landmark anniversary with a revealingly queer frame of reference — the brutal AIDS crisis then raging. — C.K.

A piece of ancient papyrus shows the god Osiris on a throne receiving the deceased in the afterlife under a canopy

A detail from the Papyrus of Pasherashakhet, Egyptian, about 375-275 BC, from the exhibition “The Egyptian Book of the Dead,” on view at the Getty Villa from Nov. 1, 2023, to Jan. 29, 2024. The show features the Getty’s Book of the Dead manuscripts, which have never been on public view.

(J. Paul Getty Museum)

Nov. 1-January 29
‘Egyptian Book of the Dead’
In their extensive preparations for the afterlife, ancient Egyptians took with them spells intended to lead them through various netherworlds and eternity — instructions, for example, that might help them survive a test for soundness of heart in the court of Osiris. Though not technically a book, these incantations are collectively known as the Book of the Dead. And on Nov. 1, the Getty Villa is putting some of its fragile, never-before-seen manuscripts on view. It’s good timing: We could all use a little magic to navigate the otherworldly right now. — C.A.M.

Nov. 12-Jun. 16
‘Paul Pfeiffer: Prologue to the Story of the Birth of Freedom’
Pfeiffer burst onto the national scene at the 2000 Whitney Biennial with an extraordinarily intense little video projection that digitally erased the players in a pro basketball game at a moment of maximum excitement. What was left behind was an explosive scene of audience hysteria amid a blinding array of flashbulbs — erotic videos of modern media voyeurism. The Museum of Contemporary Art retrospective of the Filipino American artist’s mixed-media works will offer more than 30 examples in a show with an unusually long, seven-month run. — C.K.

THEATER

Aug. 25-Oct. 1
‘Elephant Shavings’
Odyssey Theatre Ensemble’s founding artistic director, Ron Sossi, writes and directs this metaphysical journey to enlightenment, which spins on one actor’s quest to understand the nature of reality. With hearty helpings of Eastern philosophy and modern Western teachings, the story was born of Sossi’s own desire to better understand the mysterious workings of human consciousness. — Jessica Gelt

Aug. 27-Sept 24
‘The Bluest Eye’
Lydia R. Diamond’s stage adaptation of Toni Morrison’s debut novel is already underway at A Noise Within. This production of “The Bluest Eye,” directed by Andi Chapman, centers on three Black girls growing up in 1940s Ohio. One of these youngsters, whose hard life is the opposite of her screen obsession, Shirley Temple, wishes for blue eyes so that she might finally find the love and nurture that the world has cruelly withheld from her. Morrison’s gorgeously written tale, about the way society’s racist standards of beauty inflict damage that is more than skin deep, is painful to encounter but also enlivening in its fearless truth. — Charles McNulty

A man stands behind a woman, both looking directly at the camera

“The Sound Inside” at Pasadena Playhouse.

(Jeff Lorch)

Sept. 6-Oct 21
‘The Sound Inside’
Adam Rapp’s Tony-nominated drama, a small gem for two actors, focuses intensely on the relationship between a writing professor at Yale and her talented student. The story takes a dark turn after the teacher discovers that she hasn’t long to live. What transpires is both a thriller and a meditation on the slippery nature of fiction. Cameron Watson directs the L.A. premiere at Pasadena Playhouse, in a production starring Amy Brenneman in the role that won Mary-Louise Parker a Tony. — C.M.

Sept. 30-Oct. 28
‘Quixote Nuevo’
Playwright Octavio Solis, a cultural consultant for the Disney animated hit “Coco,” serves up an innovative take on the Cervantes classic with plenty of lively Tejano music at South Coast Repertory. The irreverent bilingual tale features Herbert Siguenza from the Chicano performance troupe Culture Clash as the lovelorn knight. — J.G.

A flyer shows a spilled glass of red wine and an engagement ring.

Geffen Playhouse’s “The Engagement Party,” coming this fall.

(Geffen Playhouse)

Oct. 4-Nov. 5
The Engagement Party’
Set in a deluxe Park Avenue apartment, where everything is always perfectly in place, Samuel Baum’s combustible drama has been compared to Yasmina Reza’s “God of Carnage” for the way it introduces a world of privilege only to smash its self-satisfied veneer and expose the savagery lying under the glittering surface. The play’s social gathering is a festive one, but the gasps heard in the audience at Hartford Stage, where the play premiered in 2019, suggest that the upcoming nuptials may not be a done deal. Tony-winner Darko Tresnjak, who staged the work in Connecticut, directs the Geffen Playhouse’s West Coast premiere. — C.M.

Oct. 26-Nov. 19
‘Spring Awakening’
East West Players, the country’s longest-running professional Asian American theater company, presents the Tony Award-winning best musical. The touching coming-of-age story explores the lives — and loves — of German teenagers in the late 19th century, with plenty of rousing rock (music by Duncan Sheik, book and lyrics by Steven Sater) to drive the angst home. — J.G.

Nov. 1-Nov. 26
‘Inherit the Wind’
As Republican-led states are restricting what schools can teach, it’s a good time to be reminded of “Inherit the Wind,” Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee’s play about the Scopes “monkey” trial that led to the conviction of John T. Scopes for teaching Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution to high school science students. A parable of McCarthyism, the play is about the tyrannical risks of political groupthink and the necessity of intellectual freedom in a functioning democracy. At Pasadena Playhouse, Michael Michetti directs what is bound to be a resonantly contemporary take on this American classic. — C.M.

CLASSICAL MUSIC

The exterior of Walt Disney Concert Hall with people gathered outside.

Guests wait in line outside the Walt Disney Concert Hall to pick up their tickets for the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra on June 26, 2021.

(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

Oct. 5-Nov. 7
Walt Disney Concert Hall 20th Anniversary Celebration
Ever the think-big orchestra and one that contains multitudes, the L.A. Phil breaks molds — that of a fall preview included. This fall’s highlights are more activities than events. One is a celebration of the 20th anniversary of Walt Disney Concert Hall, and that will include a season-opening gala celebrating Frank Gehry followed by premieres in October and November of new pieces by Esa-Pekka Salonen and Thomas Adès in tribute to the architect. — Mark Swed

Nov. 3-Nov. 19
California Festival
Thinking big well beyond Walt Disney Concert Hall, the L.A. Phil has partnered with the San Francisco Symphony and the San Diego Symphony on a vast California Festival of concerts that represent the state. A full 95 organizations will perform more than 100 new works throughout the state, in venues large and small. At Disney, Gustavo Dudamel offers a pair of Latin-themed orchestral programs, each with L.A. Phil commissioned pieces from the wondrous Mexican composer Gabriella Ortiz. — M.S.

Two people in costume onstage.

A scene from the 2022 world premiere of “El ultimo sueno de Frida y Diego” at San Diego Opera.

(San Diego Opera)

Nov. 18-Dec. 9
‘El último sueño de Frida y Diego’
Although not a participant in the California Festival, Los Angeles Opera might as well be since it jumps in at the same time with Berkeley composer Gabriela Lena Frank’s “El último sueño de Frida y Diego.” At its San Diego Opera premiere last fall, Frank’s score displayed a winning vibrancy that overcame the more contrived aspects of Nilo Cruz’s libretto. With further performance by San Francisco Opera, the creators have now had the luxury to make revisions ahead of its L.A. Opera staging. — M.S.

Dec. 9-Dec. 10
‘Visions: Elfman + Tetzlaff’
In May, Christian Tetzlaff was the fervent soloist in an astonishingly life-affirming performance of Brahms’ Violin Concerto with the London Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Michael Tilson Thomas and presently streamed on medici.tv. Look for the great German violinist to now distill that paroxysm of passion into a more personal and intimate setting when he performs the concerto at Royce Hall with the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra under its music director, Jaime Martín. — M.S.

Nov. 17
Daniil Trifonov
Another Brahms concerto is sure to be a highlight in February when the probing Russian pianist will be a soloist with the L.A. Phil. But hearing him in recital can operate on a more immediately emotive plain, and the UC Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures series presents Trifonov in November at Campbell Hall scaling the piano Everest with Beethoven’s massive and magnificent “Hammerklavier” Sonata. — M.S.

DANCE AND PERFORMING ARTS

Sept. 14-30
Bobbi Jene Smith + Or Schraiber
L.A. Dance Project’s choreographic artists-in-residence will be presenting a new evening-length work, “The Missing Mountain,” at the troupe’s performance space in downtown L.A. The piece is part of their two-year residency with the company and extends their 2019 work “Lost Mountain.” — Steven Vargas

Sept. 29-Oct. 1
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago
After a period of financial instability, the troupe has landed on its feet and is making its way to the Music Center this fall. The 46-year-old contemporary dance company will be presenting “Coltrane’s Favorite Things,” choreographed by Lar Lubovitch, and “Busk,” choreographed by Aszure Barton. — S.V.

Dancers leaping onstage.

Matthew Rich, Joseph Kudra and Tina Finkelman Berkett, members of L.A.-based troupe Bodytraffic, perform at the Broad Stage in 2016.

(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

Oct. 6-Oct. 7
BodyTraffic
L.A.-based dance company
BodyTraffic returns to the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts in Beverly Hills in early October. The company will share world premieres by Fernando Magadan and Joan Rodriguez, “Snap” by Micaela Taylor and the company premiere of Trey McIntyre’s “Blue Until June.” — S.V.

Oct. 14
20 Años de Grandeza Mexicana
L.A.’s prime ballet folklorico company, Grandeza Mexicana Folk Ballet Company, celebrates its 20-year anniversary at the Ford this fall. The performance will include fan-favorite pieces like “La Marimba del Sureste” and the L.A. premiere of the “Día de los Muertos” suite. — S.V.

Oct. 21
Zainab Johnson
The stand-up comedian, actor and writer may be familiar to those who frequent the Comedy Store and Improv in L.A., but if not, she might’ve also come across your TikTok for You page, where she has more than 400,000 followers. She’ll be performing comedy at the Wallis’ Sorting Room at 7 and 9:30 p.m. Oct. 21. — S.V.

Oct. 21
serpentwithfeet: ‘Heart of Brick’
Serpentwithfeet is an experimental pop musical artist joining forces with MacArthur “genius” fellow Wu Tsang as director and choreographer Raja Feather Kelly to present “Heart of Brick.” The theatrical performance, on Oct. 21 at the Ford, uses music and dance to tell the story of two men falling in love in a dance hall, capturing Black queer love onstage. — S.V.

Oct. 28-29
Turn It Out With Tiler Peck & Friends
One of New York City Ballet’s greatest stars is making her way to L.A. with a friend or two, heading to UCSB, the Soraya, Segerstom Hall and San Diego Civic Theatre. One of the company’s best, Peck has performed leading roles in “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Swan Lake” and “La Sylphide,” among others. Aside from her stage success, she’s also been featured on the Netflix series “Tiny Pretty Things.” — S.V.

Two people stand on a dark stage and sing into microphones.

Dorothee Munyaneza’s “Mailles” celebrates female might.

(Leslie Artomonow / REDCAT)

Nov. 2-4
Dorothée Munyaneza
In November, REDCAT in downtown L.A. presents “Mailles” by the choreographer, singer and author. In collaboration with visual artist Stéphanie Coudert, Munyaneza weaves the stories of six African and Afro-descendant female perspectives. The piece celebrates female might in the face of rejection. — S.V.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing emma@ustimespost.com.

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