Category Archives: Arts

Blondies’ coming-of-age album addresses sexual assault

The Blondies lead singer Simon Lunche and lead guitarist Isaac Roth. Photo: Natalie Orenstein
Print Friendly

Bay Area rock band The Blondies have grown up together, working their way up from summer camp stages to venues like the Stork Club in Oakland and Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco. The members, some freshly graduated from high school, are navigating the adult world, and it’s reflected in their music.

The Blondies released “Just Another Evening,” a self-described “coming of age album,” earlier this month. The title track is a comment on rape culture and the pervasiveness of sexual assault and harassment.

“Unfortunately, I see that kind of stuff going on around me all the time and I was really fed up with it,” said lead singer and songwriter Simon Lunche, who graduated from Berkeley High School this month.

The band members who are already in college were disturbed by the level of sexual assault and harassment on their campuses as well. The five members of The Blondies, all male, felt compelled to make a statement about it. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , ,

Aurora’s remarkable ”Master Harold’ … and the boys’

Sam (l, L. Peter Callender) and Willie (r, Adrian Roberts), pretend to spar as Hally (Andrew Humann) calls the shots in Aurora Theatre Company’s Master Harold…and the boys. Photo: David Allen
Print Friendly

Aurora’s new production of “Master Harold” … and the boys is a brilliant evening of theater. Its playwright is South Africa’s Athol Fugard, whose internationally respected anti-apartheid works include Blood Knot, Boesman and Lena, and My Children! My Africa!Master Harold’s” cast of three, L. Peter Callender, Andrew Humann and Adrian Roberts, are all superb in their roles. And Timothy Near’s discerning direction perfects the production.

The powerful, award-winning “Master Harold,” a 90-minute autobiographically-based drama set in one rainy afternoon in 1950, is about Hally (aka Master Harold), a 17-year-old Afrikaner white boy, and Sam and Willy, two middle-aged black servants employed by Hally’s family. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , ,

Berkeley High alum embarks on abortion bill documentary

Berkeley director Maya Cueva (courtesy)
Print Friendly

“As a filmmaker, you have this unspoken responsibility to inform your audience,” says director and Berkeley High alum Maya Cueva. “You have to let people know what is happening in the world around them. Sometimes that’s good news, and sometimes it’s bad.”

Only two documentaries into her directing career, Cueva is on a mission to inform the masses. Her latest project, Undue Burden, is a six-part series highlighting the potential effects of the Texas abortion bill known as HB2. The bill is currently being assessed by the U.S. Supreme Court, but with only eight justices on the bench, the possibility of a tie doesn’t seem too far out of reach. As Texas and the rest of nation await a verdict, people for and against abortion are using this time to make cases for their positions.

Cueva, who is 22, was born and raised in Berkeley. She credits her high school teacher, Dharini Rasiah, for awakening her interest in film during media classes in Berkeley High’s small school, CAS [Communications Arts and Sciences]. Cueva said she discovered her passion for film while working with Rasiah, who encouraged her to apply to Ithaca College in New York. After receiving a scholarship to Ithaca, Cueva enrolled in its documentary studies program. She graduated with a bachelor’s in documentary studies in 2015 and, since then, has been living in Berkeley and working on her newest film.

See more from Berkeleyside’s “One to watch” series.

After winning a College Emmy for her first short documentary The Providerthe idea for Undue Burden followed. Cueva and her team started production in February, and they hope to return to Texas to finish the series once the Supreme Court makes its decision. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , ,

Big Screen Berkeley: Therapy for a Vampire

Jeanette Hain in 'Therapy for a Vampire'
Print Friendly

Since Nosferatu first chilled filmgoers in 1922 (sparking a lawsuit in the process), almost every conceivable variation of vampire has stalked victims across screens big and small. In addition to the traditional ‘cape and fangs’ bloodsucker, we’ve seen funny vampires, mod vampires, hopping vampires, African vampires, even X-rated vampires – but until now I don’t think there’s been a movie depiction of a vampire undergoing psychotherapy.

That particular cinematic gimmick is the selling point of Therapy for a Vampire (Der Vampir auf der Couch), a darkly comic German chiller opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday. Despite its title, however, the film is more than just a ninety minute My Dinner with Andre style confessional for hemovores.

Writer-director David Rühm immediately signals his intent: opening in a spooky graveyard, the film is a tribute to classic gothic cinema, right down to its mittel-european setting ‘somewhere near Vienna’ circa 1932. For admirers of classic Universal and Hammer horrors, this mise en scène is the big screen equivalent of comfort food. … Continue reading »

Tagged ,

Berkeley writer Yaa Gyasi adjusts to fame, accolades for debut novel ‘Homegoing’

Yaa Gyasi. Photo: Michael Lionstar
Print Friendly

By Frances Dinkelspiel and Mal Warwick

Yaa Gyasi had just returned to her Berkeley home after a whirlwind tour of bookstores around the country to promote her debut novel, “Homegoing,” and she sounded a bit tired Tuesday on the phone.

Her book, which starts with the tale of two half-sisters in Ghana in the 18th century and then follows 12 of their descendants for 200 years throughout Africa and the U.S., was published in early June to extraordinary reviews. The New York Times wrote about it twice (with Pulitzer-Prize winning author Isabel Wilkerson calling it a “hypnotic debut) as did scores of other media outlets, including NPR, Time Magazine, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and Slate. Mal Warwick said in his review for Berkeleyside (which appears at the end of the article) that Gyasi has a “marvelous way with words.”

After Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the mega-bestseller on race, “Between the World and Me,” finished the book he exclaimed his delight on Twitter: “Finished Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Homegoing’ yesterday. Thought it was a monster when I started. Felt it was a monster when I was done.”

Of course, the fact that the book was sold for about $1 million in 2015 after 10 publishing houses competed to buy it increased the hype factor.

Gyasi, 26, who moved with her boyfriend to Berkeley in August, said she has been surprised – and a bit exhausted – by the attention. … Continue reading »

Tagged , ,

Blue skies, warm weather draws thousands to Berkeley Juneteenth festival

Screen Shot 2016-06-20 at 12.13.16 PM
Print Friendly

The perfect weather on Sunday drew thousands of people to Adeline Street to Berkeley’s Juneteenth Festival. They frolicked, ate, and listened to music – until it was time to rush to their television sets to watch the seventh heartbreaking final game between  the Warriors and Cavaliers finals.  Then the street grew noticeably emptier.

The main RD Bonds Main Stage, which showcases  “the best of the African American experience: African drumming, jazz, blues, neo-soul, gospel, rhythm and blues, and reggae,” served as the heart of the festival. Dance, spoken word, and fashion graced the Lothario Lotho Stage. There were also food booths, historical displays, health screenings, and activities for children.

Juneteenth celebrates the day slaves in Galveston, Texas learned that they had been freed from slavery. President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation on Jan. 1, 1863 but the Civil War had prevented news of the abolishment of slavery from reaching Texas for another two and half years.  On June 19, 1865, Union Major General Gordon Granger arrived with the news that the war had ended. Many former slaves celebrated in the streets, forming the basis for the holiday. … Continue reading »

Tagged

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

Juneteenth5
Print Friendly

BERKELEY JUNETEENTH FESTIVAL Family entertainment is the focus of the annual Berkeley Juneteenth Festival which this year takes place Sunday, June 19, 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. The RD Bonds main stage will be showcasing the best of the African-American experience: upcoming acts in African drumming, jazz, blues, neo-soul, gospel, rhythm and blues, and reggae. The Lothario Lotho stage will feature specialty performances like dance, spoken word, fashion, and community performers. Alameda County health agencies will be on hand to offer informational workshops and health screenings. There’s a two-on-two basketball tournament; historical exhibits; art for children; and of course, delicious food. Pick up a copy of Vision Magazine when you’re there — a Berkeley Juneteenth souvenir publication featuring highlights about the performers and artists, and stories pertinent to the community. For more details visit the Juneteenth website. … Continue reading »

Tagged ,

Big Screen Berkeley: Frameline40 in the East Bay

biker
Print Friendly

It’s time once again for the annual San Francisco International LGBTQ Film Festival (more succinctly known as Frameline40). This year the Festival further expands in the East Bay, offering five days of programming at Rialto Cinemas Elmwood.

I’ve always had a soft spot for biker movies, so when I read the précis for Ovarian Psycos (screening at 9:30 p.m. on Monday, June 20) my interest was immediately piqued. Could the film possibly be a distaff version of 1971’s legendary gay biker epic, The Pink Angels?

Alas no, but Ovarian Psycos still largely succeeds on its own terms. While the Psycos might be considered a ‘gang’ by some, they ride pedal bikes as opposed to Harleys, and are actually more of a community organization cum bicycle club serving women of color living in or near East L.A.’s Boyle Heights neighborhood.

Primarily (though not exclusively) young and Latina, the Psycos organize large-scale rides through the streets — sometimes dubbed ‘Clitoral Mass’ — in an ongoing effort to reclaim the streets for women. Their meetings also serve as open-ended opportunities to discuss issues that affect members’ daily lives — particularly male violence against women. … Continue reading »

Tagged ,

She’s the boss: Ojai at Berkeley celebrates amazing women

Tyshawn Sorey's "Josephine Baker: A Portrait" closes Ojai at Berkeley Saturday at Zellerbach Playhouse
Print Friendly

Tyshawn Sorey grew up hearing about Josephine Baker as a matriarch of the civil-rights movement who knocked down racial barriers around the world. It wasn’t until recently, however, when the drummer, pianist and composer started to collaborate with poet Claudia Rankine and soprano Julia Bullock, that he came to appreciate her vocal prowess. Cal Performances presents his new work Josephine Baker: A Portrait 8 p.m. Saturday at Zellerbach Playhouse as the closing event of Ojai at Berkeley.

Programmed by artistic director Peter Sellars to celebrate an array of heroines, the festival opens tonight at Zellerbach Playhouse with Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho’s oratorio “La Passion de Simone” inspired by radical 20th-century French philosopher Simone Weil. The new restaging by Sellars features International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), the vocal group Roomful of Teeth, and Julia Bullock singing the part of Weill, a role originally created for her former teacher, the transcendent Dawn Upshaw. … Continue reading »

‘Sara’s Song’ captures era when there were two Berkeleys

Tina Jones Williams' mother and father in the early 1940s. Williams' book, Tina's Song,  is loosely based on some aspects of their lives. Photo: courtesy Tina Jones Williams
Print Friendly

On Saturday, June 18, author Tina Jones Williams will lead a discussion about her new novel “Sara’s Song” at the Rosie the Riveter Visitor Education Center in Richmond. The book is inspired in part by her family’s move from Chicago to Berkeley during World War II, and follows her first novella in the Julia Street Series, “Some Things I Want You to Know.” Both Williams’ mother and Sara, the novel’s protagonist, worked briefly as welders at the Richmond Shipyards. Berkeleyside spoke with Williams, a Berkeley native who grew up on Julia Street, about writing a book of fiction that captures an era when two Berkeleys, a Black one and a White one, existed parallel to each other, rarely intersecting on the corners of openness and acceptance. 

Was your mother the inspiration for the novel?
The two main characters, Sara and Ben, are very loosely based on my mother and father. They did in fact leave Chicago in 1943, moving their small family (I wasn’t born yet) to Berkeley. Some of the parts, and some of the events, and some of the people did, in fact, happen. The other thing that I will say: the very best parts of Sara are my mother, for sure. … Continue reading »

Tagged

25 years after the Oakland/Berkeley firestorm, Risa Nye pens memoir

Risa Nye
Print Friendly

On Oct. 20, 1991, a wildfire ripped through the Oakland hills and parts of Berkeley, killing 25 people and destroying 2,483 houses and 437 apartments and condos. Risa Nye, an Oakland writer who writes the Ms Barstool column for Nosh, was at home with her family in Oakland when the fire began. Since it was on the other side of the freeway, Nye, who was about to turn 40, didn’t quite believe the flames would reach her house. So when the family evacuated, they took some precious items but left behind many important keepsakes.

Read Berkeleyside’s special 20th anniversary Firestorm coverage.

Nye has written a memoir about the tragedy and how she and her family coped with their losses called, “There Was a Fire Here.” She Writes Press published the book, which Zac Unger, a former Oakland firefighter and the author of “Working Fire,” says is a “searing memoir” that is “told with humor and grace.” There will be a book release party for Nye Thursday at 7:00 p.m. at The Bay Area Children’s Theater Performance Hall, 2162 Mountain Blvd. in Oakland (corner of Mountain and Snake Rd). Nye will be in conversation with Alex Green.

Berkeleyside recently spoke with Nye about her book.

What motivated you to write a memoir about the fire 25 years after it happened? How hard was it to recreate the events of that time? What techniques did you use to capture the period?

The memoir had been in the works for many years. The push was to get it published this year in honor of the 25th anniversary of the fire. The anniversary provided a good incentive to get it done in a timely manner. Recreating the events wasn’t hard at all — I had kept newspapers from 1991, starting with the day of the fire, in a big box, and I had access to other reports and documents online. Another great resource was a short film, made by a Stanford graduate student just a few months after the fire, which included footage of the fire and interviews with my older son and me. I’d also kept a journal during the planning and reconstruction phases, so I had my words as well as the words of others to refer to as I wrote. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , ,

World-renowned poets gather in Berkeley to raise funds for Squaw Valley writing program

Six poets will read from their work and that of their deceased colleague, C.D. Wright, on Friday June 12.
Print Friendly

Six acclaimed poets will gather in Berkeley on Friday to commemorate a colleague and to raise scholarship funds for the Poetry Workshop of The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.

The poets who are reading have all been highly lauded for their work. Among them are a former Poet Laureate of the United States, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and recipients of Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts grants, among other prizes. The poets are Robert Hass, Sharon Olds, Brenda Hillman, Kazim Ali, Cathy Park Hong, and Patricia Spears Jones. All six will be teaching at the Poetry Workshop near Lake Tahoe this summer.

The event will be from 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. on June 17 at the First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Way. Tickets are $25 in advance/$30 at the door. The poet Kevin Simmonds will serve as emcee. … Continue reading »

Tagged , , , , , , , ,

Adam Hochschild examines the Spanish Civil War

spain in our hearts
Print Friendly

@@@@@ (5 out of 5)

A few weeks ago I read and reviewed Richard Rhodes’ Hell and Good Company: The Spanish Civil War and the World It Made, which was published last year. More recently, Adam Hochschild, a Berkeley resident and lecturer at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, tackled the same material in a book published this year. It’s the book that Rhodes tried and failed to write. It’s called Spain in Our Hearts. I found it to be an outstanding and deeply moving tale of an event that has received far too little attention by historians. (Amazon lists just 334 history books involving the civil war as compared with 114,985 for World War II.)

To write this important new book, Hochschild pored through the letters, diaries and newspaper dispatches written by Americans who served in the war. These men (and a few women) served as either soldiers in what came to be called the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, as doctors or nurses serving them and other soldiers of the embattled Republic, or as reporters who fed the American press with on-the-scene accounts of the fighting. … Continue reading »

Tagged ,