‘A Space that Belongs to the Community’

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Posted January 4, 2017 by The Argonaut in This Week

Santa Monica rekindles the magic of Fireside at the Miles

This year’s Fireside at the Miles lineup includes: 1. vibraphonist Nick Mancini (Jan. 7), 2. strings-centric ensembleFRET (Jan. 28), 3. jazz singer Natalie Jacobs (Feb. 3), and 4. dancer Angela Todaro (Feb. 4)

The 8th annual Fireside at the Miles series launches on Sunday with a concert by the Nick Mancini Trio and continues with performances by musicians, dance ensembles and storytellers on Friday and Saturday nights through Feb. 25.

The Nick Mancini Trio is a jazz outfit featuring Mancini on the vibraphone, which is similar to a xylophone or marimba. Subsequent performers include the Los Angeles Flute Orchestra on Jan. 13, the Angela Todoro Dance Company on Feb. 4 and comedy and a cappella nights.

Fireside at the Miles reflects a Santa Monica tradition dating back to the 1930s and 1940s, when the Miles Memorial Playhouse’s fireplace was a key gathering place for artists and hosted orchestral performances, community theater shows and classes. It’s been said that Santa Monica native Shirley Temple even learned to tap dance at the Miles.

But during the 1970s and 1980s, the Miles fell into decline. It sustained major structural damage during the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The city decided to rebuild the theater, and it has since become one of the “last affordable performing spaces on the Westside,” as Yoffe puts it.

The Fireside at the Miles series began in 2010 after a six-week booking in January of that year. Playhouse Director Justin Yoffe decided to hire a couple of local acts to perform around the fireplace and see if people liked it. The series became a hit with the community and continues to spotlight local contributions to the arts — including a senior talent show, which happens on Feb. 18.

“That’s the spirit I’m wanting to rekindle with this series,” says Yoffe. “Sometimes community theater is taken in a derogatory way, like amateur. But I look at it as a space that belongs to the community, and the programming should reflect that community.”

— Phoenix Tso

Fireside at the Miles begins its eighth season with a performance by the Nick Mancini Trio on Saturday, Jan. 7, at the Miles Memorial Playhouse, 1130 Lincoln Blvd., Santa Monica. Performances continue on Fridays and Saturdays through Feb. 25, with all shows beginning at 8:05 p.m. and reservations released 10 minutes prior. Tickets are $10, or $5 for those 18 and under or 55 and older.
Call (310) 458-8634 or visit milesplayhouse.org.


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