The Mask behind the camera: Jack Mask profile

Few things are more beautiful than talented dancers. Few things are harder to photograph. Jack Mask is ballet with an f-stop. Mask is a wily 83 year old who insists he is not getting older, just better. He is already really good at a lot of things. He is a playwright, community college adjunct instructor, photographer extraordinaire, computer whiz, journalist, screenwriter, traveler and exhibited artist. Mask’s parents emigrated from Poland. “Like millions of immigrants, my parents were processed for entry into the U.S. at Ellis Island,” he said. “My father came from a wealthy Polish family. My father owned a farm in McKeesport, Pennsylvania. The Great Depression was disastrous. My father lost the family’s farm, including the John Deere tractor.”…

Jazz Resurrection

Like fine wine, jazz musicians improve with age. SWC’s Big Band and Jazz Improvisation ensembles featured geriatric players with great talent and considerable fluency. Billy Strayhorn’s “Take the ‘A’ Train,” the opening number, sounded like what a black and white New York movie looked like. It was easy to imagine the music in a Woody Allen movie from the 1970s. Trumpets were loud and vibrant, but kept a fine balance that did not overpower the other instruments. One trumpet soloist in the back row stood to perform his solo, but was nearly inaudible over the complex and rapid piece. Each note was performed with gusto and it was impossible to find any section of the band that had fault in …

New help for arts transfers

Getting a little academic guidance can be tough at Southwestern College. Counselors are hopelessly outnumbered, outgunned and often outdated. SWC’s student-per-counselor ratio is 1,200 to 1, one of the worst in California. Even more troubling for art students, most of our over-worked counselors are underprepared to help creatives. Faculty at SWC’s School of Arts and Communication are looking to change that with a new push to provide counselors with the information art students need to transfer. Professor of Photography Micajah Truitt, chair of the Visual Arts Department, and other full-time faculty, are working on putting together a list of possible transfer schools with visual arts programs. “We decided that we want to try and work with counseling better and work …

MAKING A SPLASH —  “Dream Collage” by Francisco Ros was an impressive  standout at an excellent Student Art Show. Photo by Serina Duarte.

Deeply creative Student Art Show is a wonder

College leaders wrestling over the design and mission of the notorious “corner lot” ought to start making it a habit to attend visual and performing arts events. Our corner lot ought to highlight our college’s strong arts programs with performance and exhibition spaces for our elite Mariachi, Concert Choir, ceramics and 2-D arts programs. The arts — particularly theatre and vocal music — used to be the face of the college. With some foresight, the arts can lead Southwestern College …

THE DOCTOR IS NOT IN THE HOUSE— (clockwise from above ) Martine talks to her husband, who is impersonating a doctor, with Valere (Andrew Woodend) and (Braulio Fernandez). Sganarelle (Trevor King), the drunken woodcutter-cum-fake doctor. Monsieur Robert (Juan Palomino) and his puppet get ready to rumble with Sganarelle. Photo by Karen Tome.

‘Reluctant Doctor’ can still tickle the funny bone

If laughter is really the best medicine, “The Reluctant Doctor” should be on everyone’s health plan. “The Reluctant Doctor,” a relatively short play performed in Mayan Hall, capitalized on its own ridiculousness with even more ridiculousness. Updated to be wackier than the already-ridiculous 1966 original, director Michael Schwartz coaxed funny, if uneven performances from his cornball cast. Sganarelle, (Trevor King) a good-for-nothing woodsman posing as a world-renown physician, attempts to fool folks with highly-embellished and hilariously-inaccurate medical advice. King frequently …

Orchestras, Concert Choir a magical mix

“Night on Bald Mountain” has never been so hairy. Mozart was a Wolf (gang) in sheep’s clothing. Hays’ “Requiem” could wake the dead. All in all a good gig by three of the South County’s most talented musical groups. “A Night of Instrumental Music” was a harmonious blend of the Southwestern College Orchestra, Concert Band and Concert Choir that brought the curtain down on the semester’s concert season with style. Under the graceful baton of director Deborah Nevin, the Concert Band featured an array of works by classical composers like Clare Grundman, Danny Elfman, Norman Dello Joio, Gary Gilroy, Mark Hayes and Robert W. Smith. Grundman’s “Fantasy on American Sailing Songs” was a robust and lovely medley of folk songs. …

COMEDIAN AND GAY RIGHTS WARRIOR — Critically-acclaimed playwright, director and actor Bryant Hernandez is a comic whiz as Crespo the Sheep in “La Pastorela” and Memo the Latino Angel in “Journey of the Skeletons,” but he writes and directs hard-hitting plays about gay rights and LGBT issues in America. Photo by Karen Tome

Multi-talented theatre artist famous for funny, excels at edgy

Bryant Hernandez is famous for playing a sheep, but he is anything but sheepish. His recent play “Tricks,” was a bold revealing look into relationships in the gay community. Hernandez has always bucked convention. He is an SWC theatre rat and alumnus with a rich list of dramatic achievements. In 1995 Hernandez and some kindred spirits snuck into Mayan Hall for top-secret operations late one Thursday night. Janitors and campus police looked the other way as Hernandez and his band …

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SWC guitar ensemble tough act to follow

Two of the college’s best-kept secrets let the world know that the cat is officially out of the bag. Concertgoers were treated to a delightful double bill as the SWC Guitar Ensemble and Latin Jazz Band nearly caved in Mayan Hall with breakout performances. Ushers should have issued hard hats. Dr. Jorge Pastrana conducted a well-strung showcase of his bands and even sat in for a few bars to remind his students why he is called doctor. Pastrana’s Guitar Ensemble …

FOR SHE’S A JOLLY GOOD CELLO — Cellist Dr. Erin Browder jams with grampadrew at the North Park Festival of the Arts. Photo by April Abarrondo

Superstar anthropology professor is the doc who rocks

Dr. Erin Browder rocks. Literally. And rocks hard. Browder is the Clark Kent of college professors, mild-mannered anthropology teacher by day, rock star at night. Her colleagues profess to being in awe, including SWC Anthropology Professor Dr. Maria Jelaca-Tavakoli, her former student and mentee. Browder, she said, is a top-flight anthropologist. “I think she’s amazing,” Jelaca-Tavakoli said. “She’s got excellent training and learned from some of the best in her field. She’s one of the best professors I have ever …

WEIRD NAME, BIG PROMISE — Death by Snoo Snoo had a succesful debut at The Tin Can music club.  
Photo by John Freeman

Life with Death

“Snoo Snoo,” legend has it, means “death by sex with Amazon women.” A group of young Southwestern College musicians decided that was the way to go. Chula Vista’s Death by Snoo Snoo is alive and well, and there are no Amazons in sight. “When we thought of the band name I wasn’t taking it too serious,” said guitarist Julian Sobejana. “I wasn’t taking this band too serious.” What started out as goofing off quickly turned into six-hour-long weekly band practices …

BALMY NIGHT — A brooding Joe Martorano, playing Joe, a hunky drug dealer, turns on the charm for straying housewife Darlene, played by Lauren Yowell, in the SWC production of "Balm in Gilead."
Photo by Balkis Nasery

Review: Big Apple’s Rotten Core

Lanford Wilson’s salty characters in his gritty “Balm in Gilead” were poetic, profane, proud, pathetic, prostitutes and pimps.   And an eavesdropping audience heard every delicious word. Director Ruff Yeager turned audience from voyeur to visitor by putting the seats on stage, essentially pulling out a few chairs for guests at fictional Frank’s Café. Mayan Hall got the grand New York treatment by gifted production designer Michael Buckley and became the gritty city that never sleeps. Prostitutes, druggies, hustlers and …