One night last month, local theatergoers watched the story unfold around a brothel in the Congo in La Jolla Playhouse’s current production of Ruined.

Situmai Noella and Swedi Riziki sat among them, along with more than 20 other Congolese, Ugandan and Liberian refugees. Noella and Riziki, who are themselves Congolese, have themselves escaped some of the horrors depicted onstage and now are striving to acclimate to life in City Heights.

I sat down with the women last week at the Alliance for African Assistance, a nonprofit that is a partner with the Playhouse on the production. What the two saw onstage was bleak, but encouraging, they said.

“Because there are times when they tell people they have gone through a mess and people will never understand it until the truth is seen,” said their case manager, Womaniala Gerald, who translated for me from Swahili.

In other news:

Look! Ma!: The San Diego Symphony celebrated the 100th anniversary of its first performance with a gala featuring Yo-Yo Ma on Friday. The Union-Tribune wove an interesting timeline of the symphony (short version: lots of financial strife and “resurrection”) and described Ma as a humble star who refused to take a solo encore at the gala.’s review,(topped with an awkward introduction worth clicking through to see) proclaims the orchestra at a zenith this year, and admonishes classical music fans to “make the trip downtown to hear these musicians while they’re on top of their game.”

For my part, I stopped by Friday’s rehearsal to ask the cellists who play in the symphony’s regular section: Do you play any differently knowing the master of your instrument is right there?

The composers among us: Rand Steiger is a composer-in-residence at University of California, San Diego’s Calit2 who’s had his work played by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and others. The U-T’s James Chute profiles him as the first in a series of six profiles of UCSD’s “groundbreaking composers whose music is performed worldwide.”

Art clout: Riviera magazine dedicates some major space to local artists in the current issue, mentioning street artist Shepard Fairey’s local roots and several emerging local artists.

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Art pout: CityBeat’s Kinsee Morlan liked that Riviera issue but dissed the magazine editor’s introduction because of its aside that readers should “see if you can divine the diva (and divo) culprits with each page.”

Behind the one behind the scenes: A local photography museum’s curatorial assistant finds meaning in her own photographic pursuit in this Q&A in Will Parson’s U-T blog.

Jackrabbits: The sometimes derelict shacks in the California desert, known as “jackrabbits,” are the focus of a show at The Andrews Gallery. A discussion heated up this week on KPBS’s website about the homesteads and the artistic merits and ethics of exploring them.

Upending the fight: Dani Dodge, our regular blogger, paints a dramatic scene of local artist Lea Dennis’s effort to suspend a full-size boxing ring from the ceiling at Space 4 Art, the warehouse converted to artist studios that we took you to recently.

What’s on his wall? He’s got access to more art than just about anyone in the county, so what’s one of the pieces Hugh Davies, executive director of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, has picked to grace his office? Ann Jarmusch describes the piece and the artist whom Davies calls “the best pure painter of this region.” (U-T)

Culture cut: “People love to kvetch about public funding for the arts,” blogs local progressive political consultant Lucas O’Connor in response to our post about Councilman Carl DeMaio’s plan to cut the city’s funding. That topic was also the focus on Behind the Scene TV, our segment with our partners at NBC 7/39.

Crayons’ bequest: The San Diego Museum of Art recently opened the Temple, Palace, Mosque exhibit to showcase its collection of Asian art that Edwin Binney III (the Crayola heir) gave the museum in 1986. The collection caught the eye of the Wall Street Journal.

Passing: Sebastian Adler, who “elevated the reputation” of the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, died last week, the Los Angeles Times reported.

And local acting icon Sandra Ellis-Troy died this weekend, leaving the theater community reeling. Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista is planning a celebration of her life next Monday.

Moonlight’s site summed up Ellis-Troy’s unconventional path to the stage:

Nearly 20 years ago, Sandra chose to pursue a career in the theatre world after having successfully worked in a variety of fields: retail marketing director, owner of an imported gifts store, president of an advertising and public relations firm, restaurant proprietor, children’s textbook illustrator, co-founder and senior vice president of a golf company, radio talk show host, published poet, event coordinator, and community relations consultant. But it was the theatre where she worked and found her calling.

Nutcracker choices: There are 15 productions of the Nutcracker hitting San Diego County stages this month. The North County Times’ Pam Kragen rounded them up. If you started Friday, you could see a different local production of the Nutcracker every day from now ’til Christmas Eve. That is, if your December calendar has tons of room in it.

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Please contact Kelly Bennett directly at or 619.325.0531 and follow her on Twitter: @kellyrbennett.

Kelly Bennett

Kelly Bennett is a former staff writer for Voice of San Diego.

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