Category Archives: Events

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

Linda and the Cultural Heritage Tour
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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 »

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Berkeley honors Eleanor Shapiro during final year of Jewish Music Festival

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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 »

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Pounding sweet sounds with The Lemonhammer

The Lemonhammer
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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 »

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Big Screen Berkeley: ‘Gett, The Trial of Viviane Amsalem’

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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 »

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

3. America's favorite comic strip characters Charlie Brown, Lucy Van Pelt, Schroeder, and Sally Brown (L-R Zac Schuman, Ashley Cowl, Danny Quezada, and Harmony Livingston) go off to play America's favorite pastime in Berkeley Playhouse's production of You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown directed by Christina Lazo. Performed at the Julia Morgan Theater February 19 - March 15, 2015. Photo by Ben Krantz Studio.
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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 »

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Berkeley’s West Branch first ‘net zero’ library in the state

West Branch Library. Photo Richard Friedman
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The West Branch of the Berkeley Public Library, which opened in Decemeber 2013, produced more energy that it used in 2014, and it has been officially anointed as the first “net zero” library in the state and only the third municipal building of its kind in the nation.

“Libraries embody a community’s values,” Jeff Scott, the Director of Library Services, said in a press release announcing the energy savings. “It’s fitting that the Berkeley Public Library’s West Berkeley branch brings together City values of education and sustainability. This is an amazing accomplishment by Berkeley voters, library patrons, a dedicated group of Berkeley Public Library staff and our local design firms and contractors.”

The announcement comes shortly after the release of the library’s annual report, which was full of interesting user statistics, and the library’s major annual fundraising event, the Author’s Dinner, put on by the Berkeley Public Library Foundation (see a photo gallery of the evening below). … Continue reading »

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‘The Dam Keeper,’ a short animated film by a Berkeley studio, nominated for an Oscar

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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 AgeRatatouilleMonsters 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 »

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Mayor paints general picture of progress for Berkeley

Mayor Tom Bates. Photo- Frances Dinkelspiel
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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 »

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When the stars come out: A Night in Berkeleywood

Yes, there's a red carpet at Berkeleywood. Photo courtesy Berkeleywood
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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 »

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BIg Screen Berkeley: ‘Timbuktu,’ a film of beauty, value

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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 »

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CupidCon bar crawl hits Berkeley on Valentine’s Day

La Botella Republic's "Sangria de Amor" is one of the specials you'll find Saturday during Berkeley's first CupidCon bar crawl. Image: Quirkeley
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Downtown Berkeley will host a new bar crawl called CupidCon on Saturday for Valentine’s Day.

Eleven bars and restaurants are set to host events from 1-5 p.m., organizers say, including Perdition Smokehouse and Triple Rock Brewery. Other participating venues include Beta Lounge, BUILD Pizzeria, Bobby G’s Pizzeria, Eureka! burger, East Bay Spice Company, FIVE Restaurant & Bar, La Botella Republic, Revival Bar + Kitchen and Sliver Pizzeria.

The Downtown Berkeley Association organized the free event: “Whether you love or hate this notorious holiday, CupidCon will lift your spirits with the best drink specials downtown Berkeley has to offer.”

Just check in at the Downtown Berkeley BART plaza from 1-2:30 p.m. to pick up your official wristband and scavenger hunt list. Directions for scavenger hunt participation appear below. (NB: Check-in is required to receive drink specials but participation is free.) … Continue reading »

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Getting low with Cornelius Boots and Joëlle Léandre

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From his earliest stirrings as a musician, Cornelius Boots has always gravitated to low, rumbling tones. Since moving to the Bay Area about 12 years ago, he’s created a series of darkly dramatic ensembles, such as Edmund Wells, an unprecedented bass clarinet quartet, and the texture-minded duo Sabbaticus Rex.

In recent years, Boots has focused on mastering an array of bass shakuhachis, and he celebrates the release of his quietly enthralling album Mountain Hermit’s Secret Wisdom with a solo recital 8 p.m. Saturday as part of the Trinity Concert Concerts series, at the Trinity Chapel, 2320 Dana St. The “Heart and Blood” concert is a double bill with a Boots’ frequent collaborator, Mark Deutsch, who performs on his patented Bazantar, an upright five-string contrabass with dozens of sympathetic strings. He invented the instrument to accommodate his passion for new music, free improvisation and North Indian classical music. … Continue reading »

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Dark but bitingly funny: ‘The Lyons’ at the Aurora Theatre

The Lyons. Photo: David Allen
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In the opening act of The Lyons, Nicky Silver’s bitingly funny and undeniably moving play, we are in a hospital room in New York, where Ben Lyon (Will Marchetti) lies terminally ill with cancer, cursing with pain, as his wife Rita (Ellen Ratner, After the Revolution) thumbs through decorating magazines, casually discussing her plans to redecorate their living room after Ben dies. Not your average loving couple merely engaging in bickering banter, Ben and Rita have struggled through 40 years in a difficult marriage burdened by disappointment and regret.

Into the hospital room timidly peeks adult daughter, Lisa (Jessica Bates, After the Revolution) a single mother of two boys, recently separated from her husband. Lisa struggles to cope with her day-to-day life as well as her psychological and alcohol issues. She’s clearly uncomfortable and distressed by her parents, seemingly more because her father’s condition was kept from her for months, than the fact that he is dying. … Continue reading »

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