Scene & Heard: Rubbing elbows
A greater treat than refreshments awaited the audience after the July 31 performance in the New Original Works (NOW) Festival at REDCAT, a.k.a. the Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater in Los Angeles. The evening's artists — having performed hip-hop, contemporary dance and shadow theater in 3-D — joined them to mingle in the lobby.

"It's an important part of the experience," said George Lugg, the theater's associate director. According to Lugg, people tend to ask the same general questions at Q&A sessions, starting with "Where do you get your ideas?" But one-on-one chats can often generate meaningful conversations.

Lugg said he received 162 proposals for the three-week festival of experimental arts, which ended Saturday. Of them, he chose eight performance artists, including in the July 31 show Rae Shao-Lan Blum and Tashi Wada; Christine Marie; and Raphael Xavier.

The youngest performer in Xavier's hip-hop piece, Taj Speights, 12, continued dancing with his companions in the lobby. Speights said he also performs on the street and in television shows, such as "Eastwick." "Sometimes I just go out and break, just for the love of hip-hop," he said.

In discussing hip-hop's "immaturity," Xavier said he sees considerable room to grow. "Hip-hop is still young," he said. "Some people think to advance it by combining it with older forms, but the form is in itself challenging. I've stumbled across things, and I'm not done exploring yet."

Blum and Wada examined relationships through music and contemporary dance, while Marie integrated classic Balinese shadow theater with live actors and 3-dimensional effects, so that players and props seemed to dance into the audience.

Still holding onto her cardboard 3-D glasses, Marie said she began experimenting with the technique long before "Avatar." "I'm way ahead of James Cameron," she said with a laugh.

Also joining fellow artists were Sheetal Gandhi, Rosanna Gamson, Meg Wolfe and Marcus Kuiland.

Top Chefs

No matter that guests had to toast their own s'mores. The July 29 "Evening at the Beach" at the Jonathan Beach Club was strictly a gourmet affair, complete with top L.A. chefs preparing their specialties at stations set up on the sands of Santa Monica.

"When I heard this was going to be at the beach, I said there could be nothing else but s'mores for dessert," said Sherry Yard, executive pastry chef at Spago. "And I'm not doing it – it's do-it-yourself." Of course, with wild Alaskan salmon, Caledonian blue prawns, fennel sausages, tuna steak, tortillas and other delectable offerings for the crowd of more than 400, Yard's version of s'mores was equally upscale with premium cookies, a choice of chocolates and flavored marshmallows to melt over a beach bonfire.

The seaside party served as a prelude to September's American Wine & Food Festival, which benefits the Puck-Lazaroff Charitable Foundation in support of Meals on Wheels. During their years together, ex-spouses Wolfgang Puck and Barbara Lazaroff created the annual feast, which has raised more than $15 million over the years to provide hot meals for senior citizens.

Against the sounds of the ocean, Lazaroff said, "We always wanted to do something at the beach — as long as we don't mess this up and there are no scandals, it's our first annual."

Keeping guests fed along with Yard were chefs Joshua Smith of Church & State Bistro, David Myers of Comme Ca, Katsuya Uechi of Katsuya, Christophe Eme of Ortolan, Michael Cimarusti of Providence, John Sedlar of Riviera, David McIntyre and Sally Camacho of WP24 and John Lechleidner of Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill.

ellen.olivier@society-news.com