Category Archives: Events
A new play by MacArthur Fellow and Tony Award-winner Mary Zimmerman is always a reason to celebrate. Her Metamorphosis, Arabian Nights and White Snake have thrilled Berkeley audiences, myself included. These plays represent her sublime ability to take timeless, legendary tales and imbue them with stage magic and emotional resonance. Yet her adaption and direction of Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, a co-production of Berkeley Rep and Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre Company, for all of its achievements, never reaches the heights of her most brilliant productions.
Treasure Island (1881-1882) was one of the first adventure stories written for boys, and it’s still a terrific yarn. It’s a coming-of-age story set in the mid-1700s in which young Jim Hawkins, who is also the narrator, (excellent John Babbo) sails on the schooner Hispaniola seeking pirate treasure (X marks the spot). Jim ultimately uses his courage and wits to challenge that most infamous brigand, the amoral yet amiable peg-legged, crutch-toting, parrot-shouldering Long John Silver (great Stephen Epps, Tartuffe, Accidental Death of an Anarchist, The Miser). … Continue reading »
When Berkeley-based comedian W. Kamau Bell went to San Quentin State Prison last fall he expected a tough dystopia, thanks to the images accumulated through what he calls “prison porn.” Bell found something very different.
He went to prison to make an episode of his new CNN series, “United Shades of America” (broadcast on Sundays at 7 p.m.). In “United Shades,” Bell “explores the far corners of our country and its various groups and subcultures.” In the first episode, he seeks out and speaks to Ku Klux Klan members, encounters that veer from frightening to hilarious to disquieting. The San Quentin episode first aired on May 1.
But before the Sunday broadcast, Bell and a small CNN crew went back to San Quentin for a special preview screening for prisoners, many of whom appear in the show. Berkeleyside was the only media invited to the preview.
“I walked in here afraid, and you all made fun of me,” Bell, who lives in Berkeley, told about 200 prisoners who came to the screening. … Continue reading »
INDEPENDENT BOOKSTORE DAY Books and Berkeley: never did two words fit more easily together. Saturday, April 30, is a day to celebrate independent bookstores as 420 bookstores around the country, including many in Berkeley, will host authors and readings and other events. Famed and funny science writer Mary Roach will appear at 3 p.m. at Pegasus Downtown at 2349 Shattuck Ave. Roach will do an AMA (based on Reddit’s “Ask Me Anything” series). “Science quandary keeping you up at night? Want to know what happens when you place a chameleon on a mirror?… Mary Roach can answer your non-pertinent questions. “You can get homemade dog treats at Mrs. Dalloway’s all day, become your favorite literary character by dressing up in costume (provided) and taking your picture at Books, Inc., at 1491 Shattuck Ave., or join in the unveiling of the large transportation collection at Moe’s Books on Telegraph Avenue — and hear songs about trains. Check the website of your local bookstore for more details. … Continue reading »
When Caribbean rhythms seduce a jazz musician, Cuba is usually the alluring culprit. But for multi-instrumentalist Rob Ewing the loping grooves of Jamaica have proven irresistible. An accomplished drummer and skilled trombonist who performs every Sunday with the Electric Squeezebox Orchestra at Doc’s Lab in North Beach, Ewing holds down the bass chair in three reggae combos, including the 10-piece Pavlov’s Band, the five-piece Reggae On the Radio, and the trio Junior Reggae, which plays Jupiter every week in May as part of the pub’s Tuesday Jazzidency series.
Featuring Steven Blum on keyboards and drummer Jason Levis, Junior Reggae is an instrumental ensemble that was born in Berkeley. Ewing and Levis have been making music together since their undergrad days in Boulder at Naropa University (where they both studied with piano legend Art Lande). Since arriving in the Bay Area in the early aughts, they’ve played in a variety of settings together, but it was reggae that forged their connection as a rhythm-section tandem. As the director of the Jazzschool Community Music School, Ewing was on hand when Levis, an associate professor at the California Jazz Conservatory, needed a bassist for a reggae class. … Continue reading »
One of the doughtiest of British film genres is the ‘eccentric Brit’ comedy-drama. From The Full Monty to Kinky Boots, UK filmmakers have long been drawn to tales featuring starchy, conservative Britons trapped in uncomfortable or awkward situations that force them to, well, become a little less starchy and conservative.
Dough (opening at Landmark Theatres Albany Twin Cinema on Friday, April 29) is the latest example of the style. Directed by television veteran John Goldschmidt, the film stars Jonathan Pryce as Nat Dayan, an orthodox Jewish baker clinging to an ailing family business in London’s rapidly gentrifying East End.
The awkward situation comes in the form of Sudanese immigrant Ayyash (Jerome Holder). A Muslim refugee from Darfur, young Ayyash is employed by big time pot dealer Victor (Ian Hart) to sell wacky tobacky – but only if he has a ‘cover job’ to serve as a front. … Continue reading »
BILLY COLLINS AND AIMEE MANN Poet Billy Collins and singer-songwriter Aimee Mann collaborate for an evening of poetry, acoustic music and conversation about the creative process, in a Cal Performances concert at Zellerbach Hall Sunday. Collins is a former Poet Laureate and the inaugural recipient of the Poetry Foundation’s Mark Twain Award for Humor in Poetry. Grammy-nominated Mann had a first brush with stardom in the ’80s in the band ‘Til Tuesday. Her songs featured in Paul Thomas Anderson’s film Magnolia. 7 p.m., Sunday, April 24, Zellerbach Hall. … Continue reading »
If you don’t know the players involved, the SF String Trio’s name might lead you to expect a polite new addition to the Bay Area chamber music scene. That would be wrong. Featuring master improvisers and commanding virtuosos who project the energy and intensity of a power trio, the collective with guitarist Mimi Fox, violinist Mads Tolling and bassist Jeff Denson makes its Bay Area debut 8 p.m. Wednesday at Freight & Salvage.
“We aim to disrupt people who are sipping wine,” says Fox with a wicked chuckle. “We aim to start trouble. All of us try to play our instruments to the full measure of what each can offer.”
Fox established herself as one of the Bay Area’s most formidable guitarists more than two decades ago, joining the ranks of jazz’s guitar royalty while performing and recording a multi-generational array fret stars from Charlie Byrd, Kenny Burrell, and Mundell Lowe to Charlie Hunter, Stanley Jordan and Patty Larkin. With 10 albums to her credit as a leader or co-leader, she released a definitive statement with 2006’s Perpetually Hip on Steve Vai’s Favored Nations label. A double CD, the first disc captures Fox stretching out with a stellar quartet featuring bassist Harvie S, pianist Xavier Davis and drum maestro Billy Hart (the subject of a career-honoring retrospective at the Healdsburg Jazz Festival in June), while the second disc is a solo tour de force, a format she’s made a central part of her career as a performer. … Continue reading »
A world premiere of a Mark Morris work, the first fully staged performance of an opera in 270 years, a restaging of a groundbreaking collaboration between John Adams, Lucinda Childs and Frank Gehry, a residency by London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, a choral festival, and a complete cycle of Beethoven string quartets are among the highlights of the 2016-17 season of Cal Performances.
At the core of the 111th Cal Performances season are what executive and artistic director Matías Tarnopolsky calls “three strands of artistic exploration”: inclusion, innovation and immersion. The inclusion theme kicks off with the season opening world premiere of Mark Morris Dance Group’s “Layla and Majnun,” with music performed by The Silk Road Ensemble with the voices of Azerbaijan’s Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova, with sets and costumes by British artist Howard Hodgkin. … Continue reading »
If you were one of the tens of thousands to attend the first Bay Area Book Festival in downtown Berkeley last June, you’re certainly looking forward to the second edition, June 4-5. If you missed it, don’t make that mistake this year. Nearly 300 authors will be speaking, performing, reading, signing and mingling at the free festival which takes over dozens of downtown venues.
The festival schedule, with nearly 100 sessions, is now online.
There are several new features in the festival. Culture Ireland is funding a special Tribute to Ireland one year after the tragic balcony collapse. Novelist Colm Tóibín (Nora Webster, The Master, Brooklyn) will be in conversation with UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks on the Sunday morning of the festival. On Thursday, June 2, two days before the full-blown festival, spoken word artist Saul Williams will be performing at the Freight & Salvage, together with jazz musicians Black Spirituals and poet Chinaka Hodge (the Williams evening costs $18; the main festival is free). … Continue reading »
CAL DAY There are only 400 separate events to choose from at this year’s Cal Day. Many of them are specifically aimed at prospective students, but plenty provide Berkeleyans with a chance to dip into the variety of pursuits and interests to be found on the UC Berkeley campus. At Wurster Hall, for example, the College of Environmental Design will be displaying their extensive collection of artist and pop-up books. If you want to get more hands on, they’re also hosting a “Build a Box City!” event for kids. Rather get to grips with this year’s presidential election? At LeConte Hall professors Paul Pierson, Gabriel Lenz and Eric Schickler will help you make sense of what’s going on. There’s also a men’s tennis match (Cal vs. Stanford!), music of every description (Cal Band to John Cage to African drumming to Chopin to carillon), tech talks, and a closing Cal Day concert by indie band Built to Spill in Memorial Glad from 4-7 p.m. Cal Day, 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., throughout the UC Berkeley campus, Saturday, April 16. … Continue reading »
Of the several new music venues slated to open this year in Berkeley, the Back Room will probably be the comfiest.
With room for 100 people at most, the brick-walled site at 1984 Bonita St. is occupied by sofas, loveseats, and a Steinway grand piano.
Owner Sam Rudin describes the music he plans to book as “whatever would fit aesthetically into your living room — if you had a very big living room.” That means primarily acoustic blues, jazz, folk, bluegrass, and classical.
Rudin, a longtime Bay Area-based pianist, is modeling the venue after his old stomping ground, the original Freight & Salvage Coffeehouse. As a young musician in the 1980s, Rudin frequently brought his self-described “boogie blues and jazz” to the Freight’s small stage on San Pablo Avenue. When the venue expanded, eventually opening its current 440-seat space on Addison Street in 2009, it left a void, Rudin said.
“When it moved to the current place, folks like myself just couldn’t make it there anymore,” he said. … Continue reading »
The 99-year-old UC Theatre went dark 15 years ago when Landmark Theatres decided closing it was more sensible than investing six figures in a needed seismic upgrade. But last Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, the UC Theatre was rocking with a three-concert stand by Grateful Dead tribute band Dark Star Orchestra.
There was nothing easy about the path to Thursday’s opening. David Mayeri, president of the Berkeley Music Group, the non-profit behind The UC Theatre Taube Family Music Hall (the full name), had devoted seven years to the $6 million project (he still has $600,000 more to raise), and fighting plenty of naysayers. Three false starts in March, however, were the last stumble for the project before it finally opened last week. … Continue reading »
A crowd of intrepid young scientists brushed off Saturday morning rain to participate in the Berkeley BioBlitz. The BioBlitz was designed to be an intensive study of biodiversity on the UC Berkeley campus, and was one of over two dozen BioBlitz events held around California to celebrate the National Park centennial.
Photographer Kelly Sullivan put on her rain gear to chronicle the day for Berkeleyside.
Using the iNaturalist app, 32 different observers logged 290 observations of a total 54 species. The rain brought out the amphibians: the two most observed species were the California Slender Salamander (seven observations) and the Arboreal Salamander (six observations). … Continue reading »