Category Archives: Arts

Big Screen Berkeley: Breathtaking ‘Sunshine Superman’

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With a title like Sunshine Superman, you might be expecting a biopic or full documentary retrospective of the career of the hurdy gurdy man himself, Donovan Philips Leitch. If that’s what you’re anticipating when you amble into Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas during the week beginning Friday, May 29, however, you’re going to be in for a shock: there’s nary a hint of mellow yellow anywhere in this film, though the titular song does make a last minute appearance during the final credit crawl.

Instead, Sunshine Superman introduces viewers to Carl Boenish, the father of the BASE jumping movement. If you’re like me, you probably hadn’t even heard of this movement before the recent deaths of several BASE practitioners in extremely unfortunate but not terribly surprising circumstances.

So what is BASE? The acronym stands for ‘building, antenna, span, and Earth’, and its adherents are fearless thrill-seekers who enjoy leaping off extremely tall structures (either natural or manmade). If you’ve ever jumped off the sofa, you’ve probably experienced an inkling of what these folks experience. Maybe. … Continue reading »

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Artist Rich Black gives Berkeley’s UC Theatre a new mural

Rich Black mural 5/22/15 Photo: Melati Citrawireja
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Rich Black, the artist and muralist known for his high-impact art, has spent the last few days painting an eye-catching mural on the front of the UC Theatre at 2036 University Ave.

Black, who is probably best known for the murals adorning the front of the Ashby Theater (on Ashby and Martin Luther King Jr. Way), spelled out “SUPPORT” in huge yellow letters against a black background at the emerging UC Theatre. He interspersed the phrases “Employment,” Education,” and “Music” in between the letters.

Black is the creative force behind all the marketing material, programs and literature produced by Berkeley’s Shotgun Players who are based at Ashby Stage. (Watch a Berkeleyside video about Black made in 2011.) He paints the entire wall of the theater every time it puts on a new production — adapting a design he has devised to promote the play to fit the large expanse of the building’s façade. He is also the author of the flipbook, “Futura, L’Art d R. Black”
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From hawks to Berlin to Salinger to neurosurgery to sci-fi: 6 great reads to start off your summer

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It’s not quite June gloom outside, and May gloom doesn’t have the same ring. While the weather isn’t cooperating, Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of the summer. To usher in a season of more relaxation (if you’re lucky) the Berkeleyside editors (Frances, Tracey and Lance) have some book suggestions.

“Golden State,” Stephanie Kegan

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Marcia Donahue’s amazing world

Marcia Donahue garden. Photo: John Storey
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Marcia Donahue has lived at 3017 Wheeler St. for 37 years. She has gardened there for 37 years, exquisitely and creatively, favoring lush and jungle-like plantings that change with the changing sunlight of the day. She has created art there for 37 years. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First's production of Glenngary Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre. Photo: Theater First
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GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS This weekend is your last chance to see Theatre First’s production of Glengarry Glen Ross at Live Oak Theatre, as its run has its final day on Sunday. David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize-winning comedy about working-class real-estate salesmen trying to eke out a living in the fast-paced economy of the 1980s and claim their piece of the American Dream became an instant classic of American theatre and is regarded as one of the playwright’s best plays. For details and to buy tickets, visit Theatre First’s website or phone 510-981 8150. … Continue reading »

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A jazz convergence with Hafez Modirzadeh

Hafez Modirzadeh by Walter Wagner
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Conversations with Hafez Modirzadeh often swerve in unexpected directions. The Iranian-American saxophonist/composer is a confidant of jazz legends like Ornette Coleman and a mentor to cutting edge stars like Vijay Iyer. Always looking to expand his conceptual framework, he’s created an enthralling body of music that encompasses classical modes from Persian, Arabic and Turkish music and beyond. A longtime professor of music at San Francisco State where he’s the co-director of Jazz and World Music Studies, Modirzadeh plays an extremely rare East Bay concert 8 p.m. Friday at the California Jazz Conservatory with pianist Mark Levine, bassist John Wiitala and drummer Akira Tana.

Catching up with Modirzadeh recently by phone from his home in San Jose he was eager to discuss his recent Fulbright-funded sojourn to Turkey, but first he wanted to talk about last week’s front page New York Times story about an 11-year-old piano prodigy from Jakarta.

Reading the profile and watching the video, Modirzadeh recalled a premonition about “varieties of intonation eventually coming from our youth to advance consciousness through sound. There’s something about where he’s from, a clear inspiration from gamelan, the shimmer in the beat between the instruments. That’s a key element in a lot of the music I’ve been trying to develop, and I believe that shimmering resonance is at hand, and with it comes our humanity’s resolution!” … Continue reading »

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Berkeley author Marissa Moss says goodby to Amelia, a character that has delighted readers for 20 years

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By Michael Berry

After 20 years and more than 5 million copies sold, Marissa Moss‘ “Amelia’s Notebook” series has arrived at its concluding chapter.

The Berkeley writer is bringing her feisty, hand-drawn creation back to its small-press roots, publishing “Amelia’s Middle-School Graduation Yearbook” through her own children’s press, Creston Books.

Moss, 55, said she took her inspiration for Amelia’s story from a composition book she originally intended for one of her three sons. Although she had already published a number of picture books, she decided to experiment with a new combination of hand-written prose and pictures to tell the story of a fourth-grade girl trying to figure out a move to a new school. … Continue reading »

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The It List: Five things to do in Berkeley this weekend

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JAZZ ON FOURTH Sunday marks the 20th annual Jazz on Fourth festival, which benefits Berkeley High School’s jazz program. The free festival has raised nearly $200,000 for the program over the last 19 years. In addition to the BHS Jazz Ensemble and combos, Fourth Street will be bopping with Mal Sharpe’s Big Money in Jazz Band with Kellye Gray, blues from Terrie Odabi, and salsa with Edgardo & Candela. Fourth Street merchants donate major gifts for a gigantic raffle, and the street will be lined with activities (you can visit Berkeleyside at our booth). There’s beer donated by Trumer Brauerie, and free photos courtesy of Photolab. Jazz on Fourth, Fourth Street, noon to 5 p.m., Sunday, May 17. … Continue reading »

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Jazz blooms in Berkeley with a rich choice of performers

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On any given night one can find a handful of jazz gigs in Berkeley interesting enough to coax even a casual fan out of the house. But this Sunday offers something altogether rare with a convergence of two events that auger well for the future of the scene.

From noon to 5 p.m., the Berkeley High jazz program’s 20th annual Jazz on Fourth Street fundraiser turns the shopping district into a music-filled street party. And at the David Brower Center from 2-5 p.m., Jazz in the Neighborhood celebrates its second anniversary with a fundraiser and concert featuring the lustrous vocalist Clairdee, pianist Ken French, bassist Marcus Shelby, trumpeter (and Berkeley High alum) Erik Jekabson, pianist Glen Pearson, saxophonist/flutist Mary Fettig, trombonist Wayne Wallace, and drummer Hamir Atwal. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘I Am Big Bird'; ‘100 Year Old Man’

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Fancy feeling warm, fuzzy, and feathery next time you go to the movies? Then make plans to see I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story, a delightful piece of cinematic iconography opening at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood on Friday, May 15.

Public television’s “Sesame Street” first aired in 1969, and (with apologies to Kermit the Frog and Elmo) Big Bird soon became the show’s most popular character. Ever since, he (or is Big Bird a she?) has been played by puppeteer Caroll Spinney, who also created the eight-foot, two-inch tall vertebrate.

Now 81 years of age, Spinney remains active and continues to appear on “Sesame Street” whenever Big Bird’s presence is required, though his apprentice takes over for some of the trickier and more physically demanding scenes. When not treading the boards in his super-sized costume, Spinney also provides Oscar the Grouch with his grumpy, trash-talking persona. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Julie Partos Clark raises the quirky bar on Webster Street

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At 2634 Webster St., just west of College, there is a regularly changing themed sidewalk art installation. “Regularly” might not be the perfect adverb there, though, because there is no schedule for changes, no plan for changes, not sketches for the next one – just changes when the moment is right to change.

The artist behind these installations in Julie Partos Clark, a Jewish Australian-Hungarian artist who first came to Berkeley with her mother in the early 1960s. Today she is the matriarch in a multi-generational family compound of houses on the corner of College and Webster. She is a working artist who describes her work as collage, although she may use the term “collage” a bit differently than you or I might. … Continue reading »

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In Berkeley: The First Annual Rafael Manriquez Festival

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Rafael Manriquez is no longer here to sing his own songs, but the Chilean-born troubadour’s friends, family and colleagues are making sure that his poetic calls for justice continue to reverberate.

Born in Chile and based in the Berkeley area from 1977 until his death in June 2013, the composer, vocalist and master of various string instruments wrote songs that have been performed and recorded across the Americas. On Saturday La Peña presents the First Annual Rafael Manriquez Festival, an event featuring a talent-laden cast including Jackeline Rago, Avotcja, Fernando Torres, Ricardo Valdivieso, Esteban Bello, Axel Herrera, Hugo Wainzinger, and Lichi Fuentes (Manriquez’s former musical partner in the beloved and widely traveled Grupo Raíz).

The ambitious undertaking marks the release of a lost Manriquez album from the 1980s, El Pajaro Vuela (The Bird Flies), featuring Bay Area Latin jazz stars John Santos and Rebeca Mauleón. Some of the funds raised during the concert will go towards the production of a new Rafael Manriquez CD with 14 unpublished songs discovered as unfinished recordings in his archives. While many of Saturday’s performers have several of his songs in their repertoire, the festival is designed to introduce less familiar or unheard Manriquez tunes.

“All of these musicians have made a tremendous effort to incorporate a song of Rafa’s that they didn’t know,” said Marci Manriquez, who along with her brother Manuel Manriquez will also perform a song of her father’s on Saturday. … Continue reading »

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Book details deportation of city’s Japanese community

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Imagine that you live in a town of about 115,000 people. Berkeley, California, say. With only rumors and rumblings in the news media to warn you, an edict comes down from the Federal government that all the Muslims in town must be “relocated” to camps monitored by the US Army. Why? Because, supposedly, the threat of terrorism is so great, and the behavior of many Muslims so troubling, that they must be removed from their homes and placed in detention for the duration of the War on Terror.

Couldn’t happen here? Well, it did.

On April 21, 1942, the front-page story in the Oakland Tribune was headlined, “‘Japs Given Evacuation Orders Here.” The article reported, “Moving swiftly, without any advance notice, the Western Defense Command today ordered Berkeley’s estimated 1,319 Japanese, aliens and citizens alike, to be evacuated to the Tanforan Assembly Center by noon, May 1.”

These Berkeley residents were among a total of about 120,000 Japanese Americans who were interned, two-thirds of them United States citizens — including the adopted Japanese children of Caucasian parents. … Continue reading »

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