Category Archives: Arts

Big Screen Berkeley: ‘The People versus Fritz Bauer’

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First, let’s get my minor complaint out of the way: the marketing for The People versus Fritz Bauer (Der Staat gegen Fritz Bauer, opening at Landmark’s Opera Plaza Cinema on Friday, Aug. 26 – no East Bay play dates are currently scheduled) leaves something to be desired. Specifically, a more accurate translation of the film’s original title would be ‘The State Against Fritz Bauer’, which is a far more accurate representation of its content.

Written and directed by Lars Kraume, Fritz Bauer tells the true story of the State of Hesse’s post-World War II Attorney General. A Jewish émigré who fled Germany for the safety of 1935 Denmark (and later, 1943 Sweden), Bauer returned (along with friend and future Chancellor Willy Brandt) to his homeland after the end of the war, determined to bring Nazi war criminals to justice at the hands of a democratized West German judicial system.

Some of those war criminals — including such infamous villains as Martin Bormann, Adolf Eichmann, and Josef Mengele — had, of course, long since fled Europe for South America. Many less prominent former Nazis, however, had settled into the business of rebuilding and governing the new bundesrepublik, insinuating themselves into the reborn country’s business, governmental, and judicial bureaucracies. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Avi Black’s Berkri-la on Ordway

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There are hints of Bali on the southwest corner of Ordway and Gilman. These statues depict musicians you’d see in a baleganjur ensemble featuring a team of interlocking cymbals and drums, an inseparable part of life and death in Bali. Its traditional purpose is to accompany funeral processions. … Continue reading »

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

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‘TWELFTH NIGHT’ FREE IN THE PARK Opening Saturday, Aug. 20, in John Hinkel Park’s amphitheater, and running through Sept. 4 on weekends, is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, “An Acoustic Rock Musical” brought to us — for free — by the Actors Ensemble of Berkeley. Take a picnic and celebrate the end of summer with Shakespeare’s most finely wrought comedy, with rollicking music to top it off. The production is directed by Michael R. Cohen, with music by Jay Africa, and musical direction by Linda Giron. The amphitheater consists of wide stone steps; blankets and/or low lawn-chairs are recommended. Wheelchair accessible, reservations especially for those with limited mobility, call 510-649-5999. Questions: info@aeofberkeley.org. Directions and other information at www.aeofberkeley.org. Weekends at John Hinkel Park Amphitheatre, Aug. 20- Sept. 4 at 4 p.m. Special performance Monday, Sept. 5 (Labor Day), also at 4 p.m. Continue reading »

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One guitar. One week. One song. The Acoustic Guitar Project comes to Berkeley

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If the Acoustic Guitar Project demonstrates nothing else, it offers a potent reminder that no matter where you live there’s nothing like an impending deadline to provide motivational power. A global concert series that’s taking place in 43 cities around the world, the AGP proceeds with a simple conceit. Every selected artist gets a guitar for one week and a commission to compose and record one song on the instrument in that time period, no editing allowed.

What started as a one-instrument lark in New York City in five years ago has quickly ballooned into an international undertaking, with the second Bay Area installment premiering next Saturday Aug. 27 at Freight & Salvage. Curated by Berkeley musician Steve Gallup, a guitarist who spent years touring with the roots rock band Hipshakers, he tapped five local singer/songwriters for the project, including Jessie Bridges, Steve Meckfessel, Jeff Desira, DB Walker, and Jill McAnally. The videos that each artist recorded of themselves playing their song are posted on the project’s website.

“I’ve always liked all kinds of music, but the curatorial process was kind of intimidating,” says Gallup, who settled in North Berkeley about three years ago after decades in Half Moon Bay. “The first person I contacted was Jill McAnally. She and her husband had a big rig they drove for 15 years out of Texas. She’s the real deal and comes by her voice and music in such an authentic way.” … Continue reading »

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Review: ‘An American Heiress: The Wild Saga of the Kidnapping, Crimes, and Trial of Patty Hearst’

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Jeffrey Toobin will be in conversation with Bill Petrocelli at Book Passage in Corte Madera tonight, Tuesday Aug. 16, at 7 p.m.

@@@@@ (5 out of 5)

In early 1974, the United States was in turmoil. Richard Nixon was about to be impeached, the Vietnam War was still grinding on, the OPEC Oil Embargo was underway, and an average of 2,000 bombs had been exploded in the country in each of the three preceding years. Then, on Feb. 4, a 19-year-old woman bearing one of the most famous names in the country was kidnapped in Berkeley. Her grandfather was the press lord William Randolph Hearst, a towering figure in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Patty Hearst, or Patricia as she strongly preferred, was a junior at UC Berkeley. Patricia’s story is brilliantly chronicled in American Heiress by Jeffrey Toobin.

The sensational kidnapping of Patty Hearst

Only the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh Jr. could match the sensationalism of Patty Hearst’s seizure from her apartment. Now, more than 40 years later, the Hearst kidnapping quickly headlined news stories around the country. It was not just that Patricia’s name was famous. The kidnappers were an unknown and mysterious revolutionary band calling themselves the Symbionese Liberation Army. They were the same people who three months earlier had assassinated the universally popular superintendent of Oakland schools, Marcus Foster. … Continue reading »

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How Quirky is Berkeley? Mark Bulwinkle’s sculpture inside the new Mad Monk

Julia Vinograd. Photo: John Storey
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As Berkeleyside reported in July, Ken Sarachan’s resurrection of the old Cody’s bookstore at Telegraph and Haste is open for business. Inside are books and records, and nine painted-metal portrait sculptures by Mark Bulwinkle, depicting iconic Berkeley figures. Sarachan has used Bulwinkle on other projects, and Bulwinkle art decorates the outdoors balcony at Mad Monk as well as the restrooms. … Continue reading »

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

Don Reed's hit show East 14th, 
the first installment in his hilarious coming-of-age trilogy,
extends at The Marsh Berkeley through August 21.

Photo credit: Aaron Epstein
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DON REED IN EAST 14TH AT THE MARSH Bouncing between a Jehovah’s Witness mom and a pimp dad, Don Reed’s childhood in Oakland was colorful to say the least. His show East 14th, which chronicles his teen years in Oakland, is playing through Aug. 21 at The Marsh Berkeley. (The work includes Reed’s story, “I Miss Toni” recently featured on NPR’s podcast Snap Judgment.) Reed is a three-time Emmy nominee, a former warm-up comedian for late night’s The Jay Leno Show, a NAACP triple nominee for Best Actor and Best Playwright, and a Bay Area Theatre Critics nominee. Performances are Saturdays at 5 p.m. and Sundays at 5:30 p.m. The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way, Berkeley. For tickets ($20-$35 sliding scale, $55-$100 reserved), visit The Marsh Berkeley or call 415-282 3055 between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.Continue reading »

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Waking up to Asleep at the Wheel’s Chris O’Connell

Former Asleep at the Wheel vocalist Chris O'Connell plays her first show in Berkeley in three decades Saturday at The Back Room with her band the SmartAlleks
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Chris O’Connell was only 18 when she signed up for the ride of her life. A shy young woman with a big bold voice, she joined Asleep at the Wheel in 1970 when the incipient western swing juggernaut was still shacked up in West Virginia, woodshedding a repertoire of Grand Ole Opry standards. She spent 15 tumultuous years with the band, including nine albums and Asleep’s first Grammy Award, but largely left her performing career aside after leaving the band to raise her daughter.

Since moving back to the East Bay in 2010 O’Connell has gradually started establishing a career under her own name, and she plays her first Berkeley gig in some three decades 8 p.m. Saturday at the Back Room with her band the SmartAlecks and a special guest, pedal steel great Bobby Black.

“I’ve known Bobby for 40 years and have had the pleasure of touring with him and doing plenty of pick-up jobs with him over the years,” says O’Connell, who lives in Alameda. “He played with the Wheel for a time in the ’80s, but we met in Oakland in ’71. The Wheel’s first California demo was done at the studio Bobby and his brother Larry owned in San Carlos. I still have the recordings, including one Tex Ritter song called ‘I Can’t Get My Foot Off the Rail.’” … Continue reading »

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Uncharted Festival of Ideas is back in Berkeley, Oct. 14-15

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The Uncharted Berkeley Festival of Ideas returns to Berkeley on Oct. 14-15 for its fourth year.

Produced by Berkeleyside, the festival is two days of conversations and performances, hands-on workshops, food and drink, as well as a convivial party on the beautiful UC Berkeley campus. Writing about the festival, UrbDeZine described it as: “A delectable spread of ideas on the edge, tapped from the fertile environment of Berkeley and the San Francisco Bay Area.”

Early Bird tickets now available.

As in previous years, 2016 speakers come from a wealth of locations and fields of expertise — from Aminatou Sow, founder of Tech LadyMafia; through Aaron James, Professor of Philosophy, UC Irvine, and the author of the book, Assholes: A Theory of Donald Trump; Iranian-American comedian Zahra Noorbakhsh, and Scott Budnick, Founder of the Anti-Recidivism Coalition, as well as the producer of The Hangover movies. See more speakers at BerkeleyIdeas.com. … Continue reading »

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Sara Strong continues her family’s woodworking legacy

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Woodworking runs deep in Sara Strong’s blood. Her grandfather was a boatbuilder from Finland who came to the U.S. and started a furniture business. As a young child, Strong spent Sundays at his side, watching and learning as he worked in his wood shop. On other afternoons, she did the same with her carpenter father.

Even so, woodworking as a profession is actually fairly new for Strong. She has been in web and graphic design for most of her adult life and, aside from the occasional project, didn’t give the woodworking idea her full attention until just a year and a half ago. Yet it’s no surprise that Strong Wood Studio is growing quickly.

“It’s all just kind of in me. It comes out,” she says as we gaze at a table-to-be in its glue-up stage. The piece rests on her deck, done up with bright orange clamps, waiting to be trimmed, sanded and finished. It looks good, like a woman in curlers getting ready for a night out — you can just tell it will steal the show. … Continue reading »

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Events

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

Herding the Lanterns
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GILMAN ART WALK Four participating studios and seven local businesses are collaborating for the Gilman Art Walk on Saturday afternoon. The four studios — Firehouse Art Collective Gilman Studios, Firehouse Art Collective Toki Building, Potters’ Studio and Makers Workspace — will open their doors for visitors to talk to artists and browse new works. The seven businesses — Whole Foods Markets, Philz Coffee, Doughnut Dolly, T-Rex Restaurant and Bar, Stella’s Studio, Eastern Classics and Farm Burger — will display artworks by artists from Gilman District art studios. The free art walk will run from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, August 6 in the Gilman District, centered around the intersection of Gilman and Tenth Street.  … Continue reading »

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Suzanne Pittson plays Berkeley, and it’s a family affair

Jeff, Suzanne and Evan Pittson bring their Pittson Family Band to the California Jazz Conservatory on Saturday
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Suzanne Pittson made her mark as a jazz vocalist with a series of daring albums exploring compositions by Oliver Nelson, John Coltrane, and Freddie Hubbard. Collaborating with her husband, the resourceful pianist/keyboardist Jeff Pittson, she delivered dexterously scatted lines with her sleek soprano, or sang original lyrics crafted around the contours of surging post-bop themes.

About a year ago, their son Evan Pittson, who was finishing a degree in visual art at City College of New York, asked about sitting in on a gig the couple had coming up in New York City. He had played viola since grade school but the request “came from out of nowhere,” Suzanne says. “I had been thinking to myself I want to go in a different musical direction. We brought him up to play and the audience was mesmerized. I guess this is our new direction.”

Joined by El Cerrito bassist Dan Feiszli and New York-based drummer Dave Meade, the recently formed Pittson Family Band makes its Bay Area debut 8 p.m. Saturday at the California Jazz Conservatory. The concert is part of a rare California tour for the Bay Area natives, who moved east in 2005 when Suzanne landed an assistant professorship at City College of New York, where she’s the director of the jazz vocal program and chair of the music program. … Continue reading »

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‘Put the truth on the wall’: New film follows Berkeley muralist, educator, activist Edythe Boone

Still from the documentary "A New Color” about Berkeley muralist and community activist Edythe Boone
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About a quarter of the way into A New Color, muralist and community activist Edythe Boone is brainstorming with West Oakland middle schoolers about which personal heroes to include in their mural. One student suggests Rosa Parks. Another, Cesar Chavez. Then, a 12-year-old girl suggests adding her mom.

“I love that. Why your mom?” Boone, 78, asks, as the girl explains. “Maybe we can put your mom in the mural. Bring her picture.”

If you live in Berkeley and you haven’t met Boone yet, you’ve definitely seen her work. Splashed across walls all over the Bay Area, her murals often include beloved community members alongside public figures and icons. Her work includes “Music on Our Minds,” on Ellis Street in Berkeley and the “Those We Love, We Remember” AIDS mural in San Francisco’s Balmy Alley. She was also one of the original seven artists of the “MaestraPeace” mural on the Women’s Building in the Mission District.

Read more about Edythe Boone on Berkeleyside.

Directed by filmmaker Marlene “Mo” Morris, A New Color: The Art of Being Edythe Boone follows Boone’s lifelong work as an artist who uses the power of community-led art to advocate for social and racial equality. Long before the Black Lives Matter movement forced police brutality into the national spotlight, Boone has guided people in creating murals that tackle issues of racism, poverty, and violence against young people of color. And though the beginnings of the BLM movement unfold in the backdrop of the film, it hits Boone and her family on a personal level when she learns that her nephew, Eric Garner, has been killed by police on Staten Island. … Continue reading »

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