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February 2021

Michael Alexander

Dear Friends:

As I write this, it looks like we are slowly edging out of the worst of the pandemic, with more people getting vaccinated and the numbers in L.A. County dropping. That said, it will still be a while before we are able to open Beckman Auditorium for public events and a while before we can enjoy the company of people outside our little bubbles.

Just after the beginning of the year, I was joined by many of my Caltech colleagues in attending a virtual national conference that has been bringing touring artists, their agents, and presenters (like Caltech's Public Programming team) together to arrange engagements and plan activities that connect artists to broader communities.

One of the highlights of the conference was the appearance of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who spoke quite enthusiastically about the progress being made in labs around the world to find safe, long-impacting medical interventions that will allow the medical world to tame this virus. He, like all of us, looks forward to the day when we can gather again. He can see an end in sight.


This pandemic has also taken a toll on touring artists. Many ensembles, in particular, were unable to sustain themselves without performance income. Some have decided to close permanently. Among those is a favorite of the Caltech campus, Capitol Steps. For 39 years, since their first show at a Christmas party for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (they were all Capitol Hill staffers when they started), they have been poking fun at political figures in the U.S. and elsewhere through musical parodies and crazy skits.

We are sorry to see this audience-pleaser come to an end. As a special treat, we have arranged for an opportunity for Steps fans to join us in May (date and time to be determined) for a chat with Elaina Newport, producer and founding member of the group. She has fond memories of being onstage at Caltech and is sure to share some interesting stories about performing in front of the very people her group was mocking. (They always told us they put the "mock" in "democracy.") We'll show a few clips and allow time for viewers to ask questions.

Before then, we have the theater show-turned-movie A Weekend With Pablo Picasso in March, along with our Science Journeys lectures aimed at youth, the Caltech faculty-led Watson Lectures, JPL's von Kármán series, and Conversations on COVID-19. This last series is produced by our friends at the Caltech Science Exchange and features speakers tackling subjects including vaccines and wearable technology to monitor temperature. We're happy to offer these programs to keep our community connected and informed.

Lastly, thanks to all our Friends of Beckman Auditorium. You are helping us connect with homebound students through our Science Journeys series, which is drawing enthusiastic audiences and a wonderful response.

Best wishes,