Category Archives: Arts
Barbara Oliver, the founding Artistic Director of Berkeley’s Aurora Theatre and an instrumental figure in Bay Area theatre for more than 40 years, passed away peacefully from complications of a stroke on Monday at her Berkeley home. Her family was with her, as they have been throughout the duration of her recent illness. She was 85.
A veteran actress and director, Oliver co-founded Aurora Theatre Company in 1992 and was its Artistic Director until stepping down in 2004.
“Like many people in the Bay Area, my life has been irrevocably changed for the better by having met Barbara Oliver,” said Aurora Theatre Company Artistic Director Tom Ross. “Little did I know that our initial meeting, a job interview 22 years ago, would take me, and hundreds of Aurora Theatre artists, staff, Board members, and patrons, on such a long and significant journey, one that will no doubt continue for many years to come. Trying to distill the legacy that Barbara left as founding Artistic Director is difficult, as she created such a vast foundation, but ultimately, I think that she instilled the belief that we should move forward and grow steadily with absolute integrity, and to show unequivocal fairness to all. Barbara not only preached these messages but personified them. It goes without saying that she was a talented actor, director, and teacher as well. Her passion was endless and she could inspire nearly anyone.” … Continue reading »
Kai Eckhardt is recognized internationally as one of jazz’s most prodigious electric bassists, but few people know the extraordinary sojourn that brought him to Berkeley.
He was born in the Rhineland to a Liberian father and West German mother who settled in Monrovia after fleeing her homeland as an outcast due to having a mixed-race child. Eckhardt returned to Germany by himself at the age of 10, taken in by a foster family, and was already an acclaimed artist when he came to the United States to study at Boston’s Berklee College of Music, which is where guitar legend John McLaughlin recruited him for his expansive trio with Indian percussionist Trilok Gurtu.
It’s not surprising that Eckhardt’s new band Zeitgeist, which performs Friday at the Jazzschool, reflects his global aesthetic. The ensemble has spent the past 18 months playing low-profile gigs and honing a repertoire of intricate original tunes while gradually peeling off personnel. These days Zeitgeist is a world-fusion quartet featuring Eckhardt on bass and vocals, Egyptian-born keyboardist Osam Ezzeldin, El Cerrito High alum Deszon Claiborne on drums, and Australian guitarist Chris Robinson, who’s now based in Benicia.
… Continue reading »
No musical style is as inextricably linked to a particular city as tango is to Buenos Aires. So what happens when you take one of tango’s most acclaimed vocalists and plop her down in the Bay Area? For María Volonté, the result is a burst of inspiration, as she forges ties with some of the region’s finest jazz and Latin American musicians. Which isn’t to say that she’s cut her ties to Argentina. Volonté performs Sunday at the Garden Gate Creativity Center on Claremont Avenue in Berkeley, an early stop on her Wapas tour with Mavi Díaz, the founder of the seminal 1980s all-female Argentine pop band Viudas e Hijas de Roque Enroll. While steeped in different traditions, both women are intensely passionate performers who share a rare gift for self-revelation and playful self-mockery.
Accompanying themselves on guitar, they’ll perform together and separately, playing original material and exploring classic songs by grandes mujeres Violeta Parra, Chabuca Granda and Tita Merello. Volonté’s regular musical partner, harmonica player Kevin Footer, will also join the proceedings (a particularly apt accompanist as Díaz’s father is the late great Argentine harmonica maestro Hugo Díaz). … Continue reading »
Tabitha Soren was driving down Sacramento Street near Stanford Avenue when she spotted a change in a huge tree jutting up in the air.
For months Soren, a Berkeley photographer and former news correspondent for MTV and NBC, had been eyeing the tree. At 60 feet high, with a bifurcated trunk completely covered with leaves and vines, the tree was an arresting sight in the gritty Oakland neighborhood. Soren had long been intrigued by its sculptural qualities, but the tree had always been inaccessible behind a chain link fence. … Continue reading »
I was too young to be aware of the political ferment of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Blissfully ignorant, I’d walk to school each morning in my English schoolboy’s uniform (cap, tie and shorts, regardless of the weather), and return home each afternoon to watch Blue Peter, Crackerjack (“It’s Friday! It’s 5 to 5! It’s CRACKERJACK!”), or Doctor Who. Why worry about Daniel Cohn-Bendit when Patrick Troughton and Jon Pertwee were being threatened by Cybermen and Daleks?
Meanwhile, on the other side of the English Channel, French students were on the verge of toppling their country’s government. The fallout of this fraught moment in history is the subject of Olivier Assayas’ new film Something in the Air (more appropriately titled Après mai in France, in reference to the fateful month when De Gaulle’s government almost fell), opening at Landmark’s Shattuck Cinemas on Friday, May 17. … Continue reading »
Thirty-six years after Boris Eifman began honing his “dissident choreographer” chops as artistic director of Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, a three-show Bay Area premiere of Rodin at CAL Performances revealed that nothing has changed.
And yet, everything is different.
Eifman is no longer shocking his homeland’s ballet traditionalists; his dancers are complex, first-rate artistic tools; there’s even a government-supported “Dance Palace,” slated for completion in 2016 and portending the company’s bold, permanent future.
“My method, my philosophy of theater — I don’t change,” he said, in an interview prior to Saturday’s May 11 performance.
But that doesn’t mean he’s not tinkering with the steps. … Continue reading »
Mal Warwick gives the book a glowing review:
Pick up a copy of Isabel Allende’s new novel, Maya’s Notebook, and get ready for a wild and wonderful ride through the years and up and down the length of the Western Hemisphere. Though structured as a coming-of-age novel of young Maya Vidal, recounting the four seasons of her 20th year, Maya’s Notebook ranges from the glorious madness of Berkeley, where she was born and raised, to the back alleys and casinos of drug-addled Las Vegas and an Oregon rehab center for incorrigible teenagers, to the magical solitude of an island off the Chilean coast. … Continue reading »
By Marcia Tanner
One of the many aesthetic pleasures of ORIGINS:Elemental Forms in Contemporary Sculpture — a provocative group sculpture exhibition now at the Berkeley Art Center through June 9 — is the installation itself. Walking into the light-filled airy gallery, you’re confronted with an artfully composed array of three-dimensional (and a few two-dimensional) forms: large and small, inspired by geometric and organic shapes, abstract or figurative or somewhere in between, mostly using traditional materials and all crafted by hand.
The display has such visual coherence it takes a minute or so to realize that the individual works are very different from each other, and that several artists — twelve to be exact, four women and eight men, all from the Bay Area — are represented here, in mini-solo shows whose close proximity sparks a lively conversation among themselves and with the viewer. … Continue reading »
In 1962, when Joan Steinau Lester was 19 years old and living in New England, she fell in love with a young African-American writer. Her family disapproved, so the idealistic young woman ran off to New York City to join her boyfriend. The young couple married six months later — an act that was illegal in 27 states – and eventually had a son and a daughter.
Raising two biracial children in a world that still regarded segregation as matter of course was not easy, but as the Civil Rights movement gained momentum, prompting a breakdown of racial barriers, society grew more tolerant. Today, one out of every 12 marriages is made up of people of two different races, according to the 2010 census. There are 4.2 million biracial children in the U.S. … Continue reading »
“It’s been a long hard road. Standing here today I feel both relief and excitement,” Lawrence Rinder, Director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive said, speaking on Tuesday in the shell of a building that will one day be a gleaming new cultural center in the heart of downtown Berkeley.
Building work has begun in earnest on converting the Art Moderne former UC Berkeley printing plant on Center St. into a strikingly contemporary museum designed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Plant Construction, who have worked on many museums, including the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, were selected as lead contractors. The parking lot on Addison adjacent to the 1939 building has been largely demolished. Soon, major excavation work will begin, according to David Vogel, project director at EHDD Architecture, who are the appointed executing architects on the project. He spoke at a media preview held in the boarded up building on Tuesday morning this week. … Continue reading »
I’m not speaking from experience, of course, but I have to believe that adapting a play for the big screen isn’t easy. Tough decisions must be made: are you going to film an Olivier-style Shakespearian adaptation, sticking to every jot or tittle of the original text, or are you going to trim a little fat from the edges? Is your adaptation going to be little more than a filmed version of the play (making for a dull and static — if faithful — representation of the original work), or are you going to open up the story and take it places it could never go on stage?
These haven’t proven to be particularly formidable challenges for the good folks at PlayGround and Dances With Light. Based in the Bay Area, PlayGround has produced over 100 short plays since 1994, while Dances With Light has been in the film biz since 1979. In one of the best synergistic developments since one teenager got his chocolate in another teenager’s peanut butter, the two have combined forces for the 2nd Annual Playground Film Festival, screening at Rialto Cinema’s Elmwood at 5:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1 and at the Zaentz Media Center, 2600 10th St., Berkeley at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 4. … Continue reading »
It takes courage to put on a production of Pericles, Prince of Tyre. It’s not one of Shakespeare’s better plays, if in fact Shakespeare wrote the play at all. Yet, Obie Award – winning director Mark Wing-Davey turns the play into what he calls an “extravagant theatricality” and what I call a two-hour street party.
Using a shortened version of the play, first-rate acting, creative staging, inventive effects, original joyful music and sound effects, ingenious costumes and sight gags, Pericles becomes a 21st century tumult — amusing and entertaining at times, but with all that talent and imagination, why didn’t they choose a better play?
Pericles, Prince of Tyre describes Pericles’s episodic journeys over many years, His first stop is Antioch, where hopes to marry a princess, but flees to avoid her incestuous relationship with her father. He then sails to Tarsus, where he saves the city from famine. The governor, Dionyza, is deeply indebted to him. … Continue reading »
Oakland percussion master John Santos has spent the past three decades introducing Bay Area audiences to Caribbean musical treasures, but he’s got something unprecedented in store for Berkeley this weekend.
Havana’s Ernesto Oviedo, the 77-year-old maestro of boleros, makes his U.S. debut under his own name at an intimate sit-down concert Sunday at La Casa de Cultura Brazilian, 1901 San Pablo Ave., accompanied by a top-shelf Bay Area ensemble featuring Santos, Marco Diaz on piano and trumpet, bassist Saul Sierra, guitarist Jose Roberto, saxophonist/flutist Melecio Magdaluyo, and percussionist Javier Navarrette.
Santos featured Oviedo last month at a sold-out SFJAZZ Center performance by his Filosofía Caribeña project, an unexpected addition to a program already brimming with brilliant artists. Although unknown to the vast majority of the audience, he earned a rapturous standing ovation with his soul-bearing renditions of the Latin American standards “Alma Mia” and “Convergencia” (performed as a duo with Diaz). … Continue reading »