Category Archives: Arts

YMTC: Some enchanted singing (and dancing and acting)

The YMTC ensemble perform Thanksgiving Follies in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” at the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater. Photo: David Greenberg and Katrinka Reinhart.
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If you want to see one of the liveliest, most vibrant and engaging musical productions to hit the East Bay in a while, head to the El Cerrito Performing Arts Theater this weekend.

The Youth Musical Theater Company’s revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic “South Pacific” opened Friday, July 18, and features a cast of highly talented and dedicated young artists performing some of Broadway’s most memorable tunes: “Some Enchanted Evening,” “Bali Ha’i,” “There is Nothing  Like A Dame,” “Younger Than Springtime,” I’m Gonna Wash That Man Right Outta My Hair,” “I’m in Love with a Wonderful Guy,” and the less well-known, but highly controversial in its day, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught” (to hate). … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Office Space

Gary Cole in Office Space
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It’s summer time, so I’m sure you’ll forgive me for writing about something other than my usual assortment of depressing foreign dramas, grim documentaries, and art-house snoozers. How does a comedy sound this week – and an American one at that?

Despite being one of the country’s most respected repositories of film history, Pacific Film Archive isn’t averse to having a little fun from time to time. How else to explain their decision to host ‘Rude Awakening: American Comedy, 1990-2010’, a series incorporating such decidedly lowbrow fare as Borat and Knocked Up? … Continue reading »

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Shotgun Players’ ‘Twelfth Night’ misses the mark

Orsino searches for the right melody to describe his desire for  Olivia.

Featuring (L to R): Rebecca Pingree, Ben Euphrat, Cory Sands. Photo: Pak Han/Shotgun
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Shotgun Players struggles through its version of “Twelfth Night” as it populates the production with mediocre music, uneven and occasionally painful acting, stagey technique and free wine for the audience, rather than concentrate on the heart, guts and language of the play, which is about love and its suffering.

“Twelfth Night” is one of Shakespeare’s comedies in which a female character disguises herself as a man. The aristocratic Viola (Rebecca Pingree) lands on the Illyrian coast after being shipwrecked in a terrible storm. Alone, and assuming that her twin brother Sebastian has been drowned, Viola dresses up as a man named Cesario and finds work in the household of Duke Orsino (Ben Euphrat). Although Orsino loves the Lady Olivia (Ari Rampy), she is mourning her dead brother and refuses any and all advances from the noble Orsino, as well as from the silly Sir Andrew Aguecheek (Nick Medina), a friend of Lady Olivia’s drunken uncle, the loud Sir Toby Belch (Billy Raphael). … Continue reading »

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Gallery: Fans celebrate Berkeley art museum milestone

Crowds turned out Thursday evening to celebrate a milestone in the new Berkeley art museum project downtown. Photo: Emilie Raguso
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Thursday evening, community members turned out in droves to sign the final steel beam for Berkeley’s new art museum before it was lifted high into the air by a crane and set in place.

The Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive is undergoing a complete rebuild in a new downtown Berkeley location, west of Oxford Street between Center and Addison, with its opening set for January 2016.

The “topping out” celebration was a chance for art fans to sign the final beam before watching it be set into place by construction workers shortly after 7 p.m. Addison Street between Oxford and Shattuck Avenue was closed to vehicle traffic during the event, as attendees enjoyed music from 14-piece brass band Mission Delirium and wrote messages on every surface of the beam using colorful markers.

Photographs from the event, by Berkeleyside reporter Emilie Raguso, appear below. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Spark 2.0 lights up Civic Center Park

The second Berkeley Spark! festival was held Saturday at Civic Center Park. Photo: Darius Wekwerth
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Civic Center Park was turned into a Burning Man west (of sorts) Saturday as hundreds of people came to enjoy food, music, crafts, sculpture, performance, dance and art at the second Berkeley Spark festival.

One of the highlights of the festival was a giant metal bear with a moving arm made from recycled metal. Named “Ursus Redivivus” by its creators, most of the bear’s parts came from an escalator at an old Ross Dress for Less store. … Continue reading »

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Laura Inserra: A Rose grows in Berkeley

Laura Inserra. Photo: Marco Snchez
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In the midst of a thriving practice as a musician, composer and arts presenter in Rome, Laura Inserra decided that a year or so in the Bay Area could offer a welcome change of scenery. That was 2007, and instead of returning home to Italy the North Berkeley resident has become an invaluable presence on the Bay Area arts scene, bringing evocative music to unusual settings.

A multi-instrumentalist who specializes in percussion, Inserra performs Saturday at the Subterranean Arthouse with BEL Trio, an improvisation-laced ensemble with a global sensibility featuring bassist Ben Levine and multi-instrumentalist Evan Fraser, best known for his work with Hamsa Lila and Beats Antique on kalimba, berimbau, calabash, and various frame drums. … Continue reading »

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Big Screen Berkeley: Siddharth

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The tradition continues with Siddharth, a new drama from India opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, July 18. Directed by Richie Mehta, the film brings the theme to the sub-continent, where a bereft and guilt-ridden father searches desperately for his missing 12-year-old son. … Continue reading »

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Announcing Uncharted 2014: 2 days spent with the great thinkers of today to find out what’s coming tomorrow

Uncharted 2013-3
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Today, Berkeleyside announced the initial speaker line-up for Uncharted: The Berkeley Festival of Ideas 2014. Among those headlining the festival are Nobel prizewinner Randy Schekman, Pulitzer Prize composer John Adams, marriage equality pioneers Kris Perry and Sandy Stier,
social psychologist Claude Steele, author Adam Mansbach — as well as dozens of other “dangerous thinkers.”

Uncharted, which takes place on Friday Oct. 24 and Saturday Oct. 25, aims to bring participants together with some of the world’s great thinkers for two thrilling days of discussion, debate, and workshops designed to engage and inspire. Much more than a series of lectures, Uncharted is a festival of ideas.

Uncharted is offered at a fraction of the cost of other “ideas festivals.” Right now, those who register to attend can save $100 over 2013 prices.  … Continue reading »

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

Shrek The Musical continues at Berkeley Playhouse through Aug. x. photo Ken Levin
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SHREK THE MUSICAL Shrek the Musical continues at Berkeley Playhouse through Aug. 3, including several performances on Saturday July 12 and Sunday July 13. This “silly, modern-day fairytale,” described as “a visual adventure” and “highly entertaining” by local reviewers, tells the story of everyone’s favorite ogre who goes on a life-changing adventure. Joined by a wise-cracking donkey, this unlikely hero fights a fearsome dragon, rescues a feisty princess and learns that friendship and love aren’t only found in fairy tales. The large adult and youth cast is directed and choreographed by Matthew McCoy with music direction by Rachel Robinson. Visit Berkeley Playhouse for dates and times, including several “pay what you can” performances. … Continue reading »

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‘Code Black’: behind the scenes in L.A. emergency room

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Two years ago I penned an all too brief single paragraph recommendation for The Waiting Room, an outstanding documentary about the emergency room at Oakland’s Highland Hospital, the East Bay’s primary trauma center and public health care facility. The film deservedly ended up being shortlisted in 2013 by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for Best Documentary, but ultimately didn’t make the final cut.

If you were as impressed as I was by The Waiting Room, you’ll get similar mileage from Code Black, a new medical documentary opening at Rialto Cinema’s Elmwood next week, on Friday, July 18. Shot in and around Los Angeles County Hospital – like Highland, a publicly funded facility — the film details the work done by doctors, nurses and interns in one of the country’s busiest emergency rooms. … Continue reading »

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After Stephen Colbert mention, local author Edan Lepucki’s world explodes

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Today is the most important day of Edan Lepucki’s professional life.

Just a month ago, she was an average debut writer, anticipating the July 8 publication of her dystopian novel California. Even though her publisher, Little, Brown had high hopes for the book – it printed 12,000 copies, a large number for a first-time novelist – there was the disturbing fact that Amazon was in a fight with Hachette, the parent company of Little, Brown.

The squabble meant that Amazon had disabled all the “pre-order” buttons on forthcoming Hachette books. It was taking Amazon two to four weeks to deliver Hachette books, instead of the regular one to three days. That did not bode well for Lepucki. … Continue reading »

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Berkeley Spark 2.0: Art, innovation and a kinetic bear

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On Saturday July 19, Berkeley’s Civic Center Park will be filled with artists, idea makers, entrepreneurs and techies from around the Bay Area for the second annual Berkeley Spark, a festival of creative and technological splendor.

From 11 a.m. to 9 p.m., these innovators will host an array of activities and share their ideas with the public. At the event’s “tech corridor,” representatives from All Power Labs will showcase their biomass-fueled power generators. ArtIsMobilUs, Frankentrikes and Infinity Boxes will be there too. Attendees can also participate in a letter-writing project by Letters to the Universe, or share their work at a hip-hop open mic.

For the foodies, organizers are bringing in Drake’s Brewing Co., Dan Cook of The Mead Kitchen, Amy Murray from Revival Bar + Kitchen and Tamales Acapulco to share their specialty drinks and food dishes. … Continue reading »

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Sharing the music in a Berkeley backyard, Cajun-style

Cajun music. Photo: Dorothy Brown
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By Dorothy Brown

It is Monday evening and five folks with fiddles are seated in a circle in the backyard. Four of them are learning a traditional Cajun tune, The Milk Cow is Dead.* There is no sheet music in sight, and nobody expects any. You learn this music by ear.

Joel Savoy is sharing his intimate knowledge of the song, and his expert techniques with the instrument and the style. He plays the tune through, and then breaks it down into phrases that he invites the group to repeat. The notes themselves are the easy part. What makes a good Cajun fiddler is nuance and flair, and Joel breaks that down too.

“You want to get those pulses in there.” “…a little bit bouncier there. Slide into that last note.” This tune has a lot of that, and Joel enjoys that part. “Just slide up to C# and stop when you get there!”

This is how Cajun music has been shared and taught for generations. After a long day’s work, people gather together to play. It is easy to imagine this scene is taking place in Southwest Louisiana, but this is a backyard in Berkeley, California.  … Continue reading »

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