Arts & Entertainment

  • Best College Theater Production

    Cypress College New Play Festival

    Mark Majarian and the rest of this community college's theater department deserve a chorus of hosannas for launching and growing a new-play festival as strong as any in Southern California. This year marked the 13th installment of the summer event, which has premiered or helped develop more than 70 plays. Many of the writers—and several of the plays—have subsequently received… More >>
  • Best Professional Theater Production

    'Hank Williams: Lost Highway,' Laguna Playhouse

    The singer always gets the headlines, and it was Van Zeiler's commanding turn as Hank Williams Sr. that drew the rave notices in this show. Great work, no doubt, but ringers in the lead role aren't uncommon in musicals. However, though full or partial versions of more than 20 Williams songs were included, this Randal Myler-and-Mark Harelik piece (Myler also… More >>
  • Best Actress

    Linda Gehringer

    She earned this laurel last year for her body of work over the past 10 years. But this year, Gehringer added to her already-sparkling résumé with her multilayered turn in South Coast Repertory's Doubt as an über-controlling nun in John Patrick Shanley's riveting play about secrets and lies at a Catholic school in 1964. Even more impressive is that, physically,… More >>
  • Best Actor

    Gregory Itzen

    When Itzen first walked onstage in Donald Margulies' Shipwrecked! at South Coast Repertory, some audience members probably did a double-take: Isn't that the fumbling, spineless President Logan of 24 onstage? But the instant he opened his mouth, Itzen drew the audience into the spellbindingly ambiguous world of his character, a raconteur with a gift for gab and a host of… More >>
  • Best Author

    Ron Carlson

    Orange County has served as a sort of halfway house for some great writers, thanks mainly to some fine academic programs at area colleges (Michael Chabon, Aimee Bender, Richard Ford and Alice Sebold are among the literati hatched at UC Irvine's MFA writers' program). But there are authors of national rank squirreled away in every corner of the county writing… More >>
  • Best Budding Author

    Christopher Goffard

    Nobody has seen the underbelly of Orange County like we have, so we've got to admit that Los Angeles Times reporter Christopher Goffard nailed it with his crime-noir novel Snitch Jacket. The cover images for the paperback edition, which is out now, leave no doubt that Goffard's tale won't win Chamber of Commerce approval. There are two less-than-flattering photographs of… More >>
  • Best Poetry Reading

    Factory Readings at the Gypsy Den

    After 20 years, 240 meetings, seven different venues, hundreds of poets and thousands of curious audience members, there's no question this monthly gathering has become something special. And the fact that it's produced by Santa Ana College professor Lee Mallory—a guy who has ridden the bus to work since 1978 and still doesn't have a cell phone or computer—is just… More >>
  • Best Visual Artist

    Kiel Johnson

    Whenever we hear about a new show featuring the work of Long Beach sculptor/doodler Kiel Johnson, we drop whatever we're doing and scamper over, hooting excitedly. Johnson fills large canvases with drawings of bizarre contraptions of his own devising, incredibly complicated, crowded, cartoony cities where highways tangle together like the power cords beneath your desk. He also builds crazy stuff… More >>
  • Best Public Art

    Lemon Street Murals, Fullerton

    The murals that decorate the Lemon Street pedestrian overpass (just south of Valencia Drive) won't make you forget Emigdio Vasquez—they're really just simple paintings of a pachuco, a Monte Carlo and similar Chicano-icon bric-a-brac. But they became the focus of a community uprising earlier this year, when city council member Shawn Nelson publicly accused the murals of promoting crime and… More >>
  • Best Dadaist Installation

    Locks Over the 405

    For reasons no one quite understands, padlocks have been strewn along a chainlink fence on an Interstate 405 overpass for several years. As this item was being whipped up, about 50 locks hung in a single row over five consecutive sections of the fence that runs alongside the southbound lanes of Fairview Street in Costa Mesa. The mystery routinely catches… More >>
  • Best Art Gallery

    Grand Central Art Center's Rental and Sales Gallery

    It is a measure of how healthy OC's art scene is these days that we actually had to think long and hard about which gallery most deserved this year's blue ribbon. Space on Spurgeon has been showing some great stuff, as has the J. Flynn (well, until it closed), @Space and a dozen others we could name. But when we… More >>
  • Best Art Gallery Show

    'Roll for a Cure' at Grand Central Art Center's Rental and Sales Gallery

    This show was awesome in at least three ways. Featuring plaster casts of the bare breasts of the OC RollerGirls derby team, it was awesome as pure (ahem) titillation. It was also surprisingly awesome as fine art; the casts had been gorgeously decorated by various local artists, with work ranging from the campy fun of the Elvis makeover Ivanna S.… More >>
  • Best Art Museum

    The Laguna Art Museum

    This is one of the most eclectic exhibit venues in Southern California, and its shows are almost always worth a visit. Recently, it has presented career retrospectives of underrated Pop artist Wayne Thiebaud, loco local boy Shag and hippie-graphics great Rick Griffin. But the just-concluded exhibit "In the Land of Retinal Delights: The Juxtapoz Factor" went to a whole new… More >>
  • The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art

    Best Art Museum Raided by the Feds

    The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art

    So it only took 75 years, but something finally interesting happened at the Bowers. In January, federal investigators raided the place after learning that several Asian antiques, all of them purchased from a Southland dealer on the somewhat shady side, had apparently been looted from historical sites in Thailand. One has to wonder what ethical hand-wringing accompanied the retrieval of… More >>
  • Best Show at an Art Museum Raided by the Feds

    'Terra Cotta Warriors'

    Even though the raid got the Bowers noticed for all the wrong reasons, it was quite a bit of serendipitous timing, for in late May, the museum unveiled what people have been calling the Bowers' best exhibition ever: "Terra Cotta Warriors: Guardians of China's First Emperor." Guest-curated by Albert Dien, "Terra Cotta Warriors" has earned rave reviews, and the crowds… More >>
  • Best Internet Comedy Act

    Unco Chin and Unco Same (pronounced 'Sam') from JustKiddingFilms.

    This bizarre duo from Little Saigon have a ton of videos on YouTube and MySpace and a comedy act that falls somewhere between Borat and Beavis and Butt-head. They typically impersonate Asian teenagers trying to act like black gangsters. They also have a shtick called "Korean-American History Month," in which they dress like cranky Korean dudes and talk semi-comprehensively about… More >>
  • Best Dance Troupe

    Kaba Modern

    After a fierce battle to the top for MTV's surprising hit show America's Best Dance Crew (presented by Randy Jackson! Hosted by AC Slater!), UC Irvine's Kaba Modern dance team ended up in third place, but it has finally earned some well-deserved national attention. Kaba Modern has been making a name for itself in underground circles and national and global… More >>
  • Tierrita Flamenca

    Best Flamenco Troupe

    Tierrita Flamenca

    The obsession with flamenco in the U.S. is no different in OC, where aficionados shell out around $50 for the best seats in the house whenever a show comes to town. But one of OC's great hidden secrets is the lively local troupe of tiny dancers known as Tierrita Flamenca. Some members of the little corps, who range in age… More >>
  • Best Non-Art Museum

    The Huntington Beach International Surfing Museum

    Sometimes we forget how lucky we are to not live in some miserable, landlocked state in the vast expanse between California and New York. The mild climate paired with the excellent surfmakes OC a surfing mecca. Sure, Huntington Beach might've mean-spiritedly wrangled that "Surf City USA" trademark from Santa Cruz (poor Santa Cruz!), but we'll admit it's a pretty apt… More >>
  • Best Music Festival


    There are two kinds of people in this world: greasers, and those who like to silently laugh at them. This annual summertime festival caters to both types. It's hard to be an American and not appreciate (at least in some ways) the music and iconography of the Hootenanny scene. Since 1995, the festival has combined the greatest acts in roots,… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Concert

    Any Time the Pacific Symphony Orchestra Plays Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre

    Ewww, classical . . . does anyone even listen to that boring old stuff anymore? Well, turns out a lot of people do. Especially when it's boomed out live under the stars, a majestic testament to mankind's creativity and the overwhelming grandeur of the heavens. Los Angeles has the Hollywood Bowl. Orange County has Verizon Wireless Amphitheatre. And when the… More >>
  • Best Record Label


    DJ Gilles Peterson and his fans endorse it. DJ Scotty Coats (see the Nightlife section of this issue) works there. It put out Blank Blue's Western Water Music Vol. II (see below). Just take a glance at Ubiquity's insanely diverse roster of artists for an idea of what's currently being snapped up by hipper music-heads the world over. From hip-hop… More >>
  • Best Recording Studio

    The Distillery Studio

    In this fake digital age, where just about any 11-year-old with a Mac laptop and a copy of Garage Band can sound like he's got a full backing band and an American Idol-worthy voice, it's nice to know we've still got places like Costa Mesa's Distillery. Run by Mike McHugh, bands such as the Aquabats, the Black Lips, the Specials,… More >>
  • Best Album of the Past 12 Months

    Blank Blue, 'Western Water Music Vol. II'

    When Elvin Estrella (a.k.a. DJ Nobody) asked Niki Randa, his co-worker at Fingerprints, to lend her vocal talents to his expertly constructed tracks, Blank Blue was born. Western Water Music Vol. II reflects the element in its title, featuring Randa's ethereal, smooth vocals over Estrella's shimmering, pulsating, ebb-and-flow production. The whole thing washes over the listener like tides, as various… More >>
  • Best Rock Band

    The Growlers

    The Growlers sound best playing out of your garage. Drawing influences mainly from the music of the late '60s (was there a lot of music going on during that decade? We can't recall hearing any), the Growlers lay their twangy guitar lines over grooving bass and no-nonsense percussion. "Her Command," off their cheekily named debut album, Greatest Hits, swaggers like… More >>
  • Best Hip-Hop Artist

    Sparrow Love Crew

    Long Beach's Sparrow Love Crew have steadily built a huge following with barn-burning live shows that have been known to make even the squarest unsuspecting attendees wave their hands in the air like they just don't care. Their debut EP, Burgertime, is upbeat, party hip-hop at its absolute best, featuring impeccable deejaying courtesy of Opi Styles (listen to those amazing… More >>
  • Best Metal Band


    After metalheads caught wind of glam in the late '70s, it seemed all would be sunshine and Aqua Net from then on. As heavier bands such as Black Sabbath made way for Spandex-clad howlers such as Twisted Sister, real metal fans (those would be the angry ones) were forced to practice their dark arts in small clubs instead of the… More >>
  • Magic Lantern

    Best Live Band

    Magic Lantern

    Like a band of whirling dervishes, Magic Lantern are able to instigate mystical experiences through the power of their art, to conjure up spirits through the force of their sound. And like the musical religious mystics before them, Magic Lantern understand the power of repetition as a means to provoke these altered states. Drones, repeated guitar phrases and spaced-out, echo-y… More >>
  • Best Movie Theater

    Bay Theatre - CLOSED

    Some people enjoy the scent of freshly popped popcorn with their movies. We do, too, but we prefer that popcorn to come with a side of must. The aroma of age evokes so many memories: Grandma's house, Granddad's slippers—you know, old stuff. Which is why the Bay Theatre in Seal Beach is the perfect viewing zone for those who love… More >>
  • Best Outdoor Movie Night

    Moonlight Movies on the Beach

    There's nothing like watching a good movie with a full moon above and beach sand sifting between your toes. Ideal for a nice, cheap night out with a date, the family, or alone, Moonlight Movies on the Beach screen most Tuesday and Wednesday nights during the summer on Long Beach's Granada and Cherry beaches. Films shown run the gamut from… More >>
  • Best Theater for Indie Films

    Edwards University Town Center 6

    Let's face facts, Orange County: We tend to lean a bit toward the commercial side. So it's fitting that our best indie theater isn't indie at all, but part of a national mega-chain that swallowed whole the venues previously built or acquired by penny-pinching "Old Man Edwards," the late James Edwards of Newport Beach. Our nod to Regal's Edwards University… More >>