FaLL for

15 TO

From TV to pop, stage to museum, people to watch for as the fall arts season arrives.

15 For Fall

Our picks for stars that will shine this season

Cover Story

August 29, 2004

Steve Cohen

Television writer

Pack your bags and follow your dream.

That may be Steve Cohen's secret to success.

In 1991, after graduating from Washington University in St. Louis, he drove to Little Rock, Ark., where he volunteered to campaign for Bill Clinton. "The only thing I knew about Little Rock back then is that it's where Brooks Robinson came from," says Cohen, a former Pikesville resident.

He followed the Clintons to Washington, working first in the president's office of communications, then becoming deputy press secretary to Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Then he and a friend, novelist Brad Meltzer, had an idea: What if there were a television show about two brothers, Jack and Bobby McCallister, one of whom will become president of the United States?

After Clinton left office, Cohen and Meltzer went to work creating the show. In 2002, they pitched the project to Thomas Schlamme, one of the executive producers of The West Wing, and they were on their way.

Now Cohen is co-creator of what many critics are calling the best new drama of the fall season, the WB's Jack & Bobby.

Set mostly in the present day, the series uses flash-forward techniques to the year 2049 to interview historians, staffers, friends and fellow politicians about the McCallister presidency. It stars Matt Long, Logan Lerman and Christine Lahti, Schlamme's wife, as the boys' eccentric mother.

As skillful as the pilot is in shifting through different genres and time periods, what makes it jump out of the pack of new fall series is its heart. In just 43 minutes, Jack & Bobby not only makes you believe in the world Cohen and Meltzer have created, it makes you care about the people in it.

And Cohen's done it again: He packed his bags and moved -- this time with his wife, Eva, an architect, and two children -- to L.A. "This is a heckuva leap of faith. I've been a resident of the West Coast for all of 10 weeks. I have a wife and two kids, and we all took the leap together," he says. "We put it all on the moving truck, and trust me, it's only in the last few weeks that I've actually started to sleep at night."

-- David Zurawik

Jack & Bobby

Premiere: Sunday, Sept. 12 at 9 p.m. on the WB network (WNUV Channel 54).

Sanford Biggers / Artist

The word is "syncretism." It means mixing disparate beliefs or practices, and it is a concept in which artist Sanford Biggers revels.

Since a 1992 trip to Asia, the New York resident has been wowing art circles with his unique sculpture, installation and videos that blend African, Asian and Christian belief systems.

"When I was in Japan, I started to realize how aspects of African-American culture were being co-opted and exploited there, while at the same time Asian culture was being adopted by black Americans here," says Biggers, who is African-American.

"That was the starting point for me, looking at indigenous cultures in terms of the arts, rituals and ceremonies that permeate all societies."

The work of Biggers, who grew up in Los Angeles, will be presented Oct. 28 at Baltimore's Contemporary Museum. His Mandala for the B-BodhiSattva is a circular dance floor inscribed with ancient symbols on which the 33-year-old artist performs a hip-hop-style breakdance inspired by the worship of Tibetan monks.

"In hip-hop, the practitioners are called b-boys or b-girls," Biggers explains. "So in this piece the mandala is the worshipping place for the b-boys, but not normal b-boys. Instead, the Bodhisattva -- the higher spirits of Buddhism -- have come back in the form of b-boys, and the circular forms of their dancing are echoed by the circular patterns on the floor."

During the show's 2 1/2 -month run, Biggers will also give lectures, visit local studios, curate a show and create an original performance piece with the choir at Baltimore's Douglas Memorial Community Church.

He'll also be busy preparing for his solo shows at New York's Triple Candie Gallery in February and Chicago's Renaissance Society in March (his show at Los Angeles' Mary Goldman Gallery opens next month).

The youngest of three children from a middle-class family -- his brother is a chemistry professor and his father and sister are both physicians -- Biggers says art-making helped turn his life around.

"In high school I ran around with a pretty bad crowd," he says. "Fortunately, I knew enough not to get into any real trouble. And when I got into my art I became very focused, which was a big relief to my parents."

-- Glenn McNatt

Sanford Biggers: both/andnoteither/or opens Oct. 28 at the Contemporary Museum, 100 W. Centre St. Hours are noon to 5 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, and by appointment. Call 410-783-5720.

Ewa Podles


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