Category Archives: Arts
SPIRITUALS AS SACRED MUSIC The Second Annual Black History Month Celebration on Sat. Feb. 28 will be a lively affair, with a program emphasizing the history of African-American spirituals as sacred music. The program at the Florence Schwimley Little Theater, 1936 Allston Way, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., will feature musical performances by some of the region’s most accomplished performers. Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Tour, a “Grammy-nominated, percussion-driven, vocal ensemble whose mission is to preserve and share the rich musical traditions of African-American roots music,” is the headliner. Othello Jefferson, Diamano Coura West African Dance Company, Berkeley High African American Dance Troupe, Sister’s Keeper, and James Daley will also be there. There will be a “Black Invention” display featuring 20 artifacts. There will be booths with food. … Continue reading »
Eleanor Shapiro still remembers the first time Klezmer music struck her soul.
It was 1996 and Shapiro was auditioning for a part in a dance troupe that planned to perform to a Klezmer piece. Shapiro was asked to sing “Ale Brider,” a traditional Yiddish folk song reinterpreted by the band, The Klezmatics.
When Shapiro heard the lilting, rhythmic melody inspired by the music coming from Eastern European shtetls, she was deeply moved.
“It was so clear it was speaking to my heart,” said Shapiro. “I felt like I had come home.”
Previously Shapiro had thought that the future of Jewish culture lay in Israel, where she had spent nine years, and the expansion of Hebrew. But her worldview shifted in that moment. She suddenly realized the power of Jewish music. That led her to volunteer for the Berkeley Jewish Music Festival, started in 1986 by Ursula Sherman, who had fled Nazi Germany with her family when she was a teenager. By 1998, Shapiro was co-director. In 2004, she became the sole director of the festival, now in its 30th year. … Continue reading »
As a singer/songwriter with a folky bent, Alexis Harte spent about a decade leading his own bands and taking care of all the details that entails. These days, the Berkeley-reared guitarist and vocalist has found an ideal partner in Oakland’s Damond Moodie, a soul-steeped singer/songwriter who’s also co-director of Pumpkin Seed Childcare.
They’ve effectively combined their complimentary sonic sensibilities in The Lemonhammer. The quartet celebrates the release of a new EP Made In A House 1 p.m. Sunday at Freight & Salvage on a double bill with Judea Eden Band as the opening act. The ticket price includes a copy of the EP. … Continue reading »
Black Repertory Group’s Langston Hughes production ‘Mulatto’ aligns with the theater’s longstanding mission
By Phil James
The Black Repertory Group, a community theater initiative based in Berkeley, is currently halfway into its production run of Langston Hughes’ Mulatto: A Play for the Deep South, a play about a black mother and her children torn apart by her uncivil union with a Georgia plantation owner.
The play is one of many significant works by Hughes who, among other things, was a pioneer of black literature and a leader of the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s. Set in 1935, Mulatto focuses on Cora, the mistress of an abusive plantation owner in the Jim Crow-era South. With mixed-race children, Cora’s children must deal with the reality of having a “neither-nor” identity — that is, being neither fully black nor fully white.
But for Sean Vaughn Scott, the owner and artistic director of the Black Repertory Group, the production is about far more than educational entertainment. Far from being a leisurely side-project, the play brings together a diverse tapestry of actors old and young who use performance as a way to mend personal and social problems. … Continue reading »
Regular readers may recall my late 2014 review of Volker Schlöndorff’s Diplomacy. As stagy as that film was, however, it’s been outdone by Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Feb. 27). How stagy is Gett? So stagy it could just as accurately be entitled Two Rooms and a Hallway – but don’t let that put you off.
Viviane (the magnificent Ronit Elkabetz, carrying herself with the dignified aplomb of an Eleanor Bron or Irene Papas) is an Israeli woman seeking a divorce from her deeply religious husband Elisha (Casino Royale’s Simon Abkarian). Unfortunately for her, there’s no such thing as civil marriage or divorce in Israel, and their separation must be approved and legalized by a rabbinical court.
Though Iranian law is still heavily weighted in favor of men, even the Islamic Republic has civil divorce courts. Not so Israel, however, where men still hold all the cards. In Viviane’s case – and despite copious evidence of incompatibility with hubby – proceedings quickly grind to a halt when Elisha stubbornly refuses to grant her her freedom. … Continue reading »
YOU’RE A GOOD MAN, CHARLIE BROWN Charlie Brown is coming to town with the opening on Saturday of Berkeley Playhouse’s production of the two-time Tony Award-winning musical You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown at the Julia Morgan Theater. The play, which is, of course, based on the famous comic strip “Peanuts,” by Charles M. Schulz, is directed and choreographed by Christina Lazo and music and lyrics are by Clark Gesner. In an innovative move, the theater group is partnering with Berkeley Humane with onsite pet adoptions during the production. “Snoopy was rescued from the puppy farm by Charlie Brown and we know that a number of puppies will be saved during the run of the show. We think Charlie Brown, Snoopy and all the Peanuts gang would be proud of that,” said Berkeley Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Daren A.C. Carollo. The show runs from Feb. 21 to March 15. Tickets are available through the by calling (510) 845-8542 Ext: 351, or visiting berkeleyplayhouse.org. Select “Pay What You Can” nights will be announced where tickets are sold on a sliding scale from $5-$20. … Continue reading »
The film was stuffed in an old cardboard box at the Berkeley dump, resting next to other rolls of footage documenting long-forgotten events.
But when the scavenger pulled out the reel, he saw “New Mo Cut” written on a piece of tape on the film. Could that be a reference to Moe’s Books, the scavenger (who asked not to be named) wondered? He took the film home to find out more.
When he unraveled the black-and-white, 16mm film he saw images of a man in a black top hat and tails getting out of a vintage Rolls Royce affixed with a sign that reads “Moe’s Books: To the Trade Since 1965.” The scavenger recognized the man as Moe Moskowitz who founded Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue. The man had never met Moe, who died in 1997 at the age of 76. But he was a regular at the bookstore and had seen a photo above the front counter depicting Moe dressed in a top hat, tails, and white gloves — an image that looked similar to what was on the film. … Continue reading »
Drawn to documenting the burgeoning protest movement in the late 1960s, Ken Light came to photojournalism as an extension of his anti-war activism. He started by shooting marches and demonstrations, but it wasn’t until the Nixon administration’s secret bombing of Cambodia came to light in late April 1970, and campuses exploded, that he truly found his calling. Hitchhiking from Ohio State in Athens to the flagship Ohio State campus in Columbus, he captured clashes between students and the National Guard shortly before four students were killed at Kent State in similar demonstrations. Arrested despite his press credentials, Light retrieved his undeveloped film when he got out of jail, and “those photos were published in newspapers and magazines all over the world,” he says. “I was struck, you can really have a voice. I could look around at my generation and tell stories about what’s happening.”
On faculty at UC Berkeley since 1983, Light is a longtime professor at the Graduate School of Journalism and curator of the J-School’s Center for Photography (where there’s now a fantastic exhibition of work by the legendary chronicler of rock, jazz and blues musicians Jim Marshall). Over the years, he’s earned numerous awards and published books examining the lives of farm workers–With These Hands (Pilgrim Press) and To The Promised Land (Aperture); impoverished African-Americans in the deep South — Delta Time (Smithsonian Institution Press); and Appalachia — Coal Hollow (University of California Press). … Continue reading »
On a recent morning before dawn, two former Pixar animators, Dice Tsutsumi and Robert Kondo, met up at their Berkeley studio to watch live as the nominees were announced for the 2015 Academy Awards. It was worth the 5 a.m. start, as their beautifully crafted short, The Dam Keeper, was indeed nominated for an Oscar. The 18-minute film tells the tale of a young pig encumbered with an important job, and how meeting a new classmate changes everything. Kondo and Tsutsumi have worked as art directors on Ice Age, Ratatouille, Monsters University and Toy Story 3. Berkeleyside caught up with Tsutsumi to learn more about their new film and about the two filmmakers who made the leap to go it alone a year ago this month.
What did it feel like to find out your animated short, The Dam Keeper, was nominated for an Oscar?
We got together at our studio, Tonko House, at 5 a.m. so we could watch the announcement live together. We did Google Hangout with our producers and editor as well. One of our producers, Duncan Ramsay, who now lives in London, saw it from London but still managed to watch it live with us. The internet at our studio is slower than everyone else’s and we had a bit of a delayed streaming. We saw other guys scream with joy while we were still watching the previous category! … Continue reading »
Two smart scientists live at the northeast corner of Scenic and Cedar. Dan Werthimer is an astrophysicist who conducts research for several SETI (Search for Extra-Terresetrial Intelligence) programs. Mary Kate Morris is a virologist who has researched HIV since a Peace Corps tour in Africa in the 1980s.
Two great artists live at the northeast corner of Scenic and Cedar. Mary Kate Morris is an auto-didactic artist. Dan Werthimer is good at engineering things. After buying the house in 1984, they were inspired by the garden, and garden art, of Marcia Donahue and began presenting art to the street, sometimes their own and sometimes art of others. … Continue reading »
Mayor Tom Bates last night delivered a picaresque tour of developments in Berkeley in his State of the City address at the Shotgun Theatre’s Ashby Stage.
Bates lauded projects and improvements in each of the city’s main areas, singled out efforts to address street repairs with revenues from Measures M and BB, talked about the need for affordable housing, the police department and the December protests, and touched briefly on challenges the city faces with unfunded pension liabilities and an aging infrastructure.
“That’s a general rosy picture of how we’re doing,” Bates said at the conclusion of his main tour of what’s happening in the city. … Continue reading »
It’s 342 miles between Berkeley and Hollywood, but on Oscar night, Sunday, Feb. 22, that distance will be shortened for those who flock to the live Academy Awards telecast at A Night in Berkeleywood at the Hotel Shattuck Plaza.
The Berkeleywood celebration, in its second year, benefits the Berkeley Film Foundation, which has been supporting independent filmmakers in Berkeley and the East Bay since 2009 (Berkeleyside is a media sponsor of Berkeleywood). Nearly $800,000 in grants have been made to 90 film projects by the foundation in six years.
“It’s important to take care of our artists,” said David Bergad, executive director of the BFF. “People really look to us for support.” … Continue reading »
When I was a wee lad, my grandfather would describe taking a long journey as ‘going to Timbuktu’. I had no idea where Timbuktu was – in fact, I didn’t realize it was a real place – but I can remember thinking that it was an awfully funny name. Every time Grandpa said Timbuktu, he got a chuckle out of little me.
It wasn’t until many years later, of course, that I discovered that Timbuktu was real — a city in the West African nation of Mali (or in Grandpa’s day, French Sudan). And now it has its own eponymous film: the Academy Award-nominated Timbuktu opens at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, Feb. 13.
Kidane (Ibrahim Ahmed dit Pino) lives in a tent outside the city proper, where he and his family raise cattle for a living. The pride of his herd is a cow named GPS, who Kidane intends to gift to adopted son Issan (Mehdi Mohamed) when the boy reaches manhood. (The cow’s unusual name is never explained by director Abderrehmane Sissako’s screenplay – or perhaps this detail was lost during the subtitling process.) … Continue reading »