East Bay Fall Arts Preview
Culture lovers, clear your calendars! From an audacious theatrical sequel to A Doll's House to a vibrant vocal extravaganza featuring a Zimbabwean a cappella group, Diablo offers 154 must-see opportunities to take in a show this season.
Australian electro-pop outfit Tame Impala headlines Oakland’s Treasure Island Music Festival on October 14.
Jordi Vidal/Redferns/Getty Images
Classical Music & Opera
by Sue Gilmore
5 Events Not To Miss
1. 9/29–10/7: The Abduction from Seraglio
Alluring music, brilliant vocalism, and slapstick comedy combine in the Mozart work that opens the Livermore Valley Opera season. The story follows Pasha Selim, who has captured Konstanze for his harem. Bankhead Theater, Livermore, lvopera.com.
2. 10/7: Sandeep Das and the HUM Ensemble: Delhi to Damascus
Travel with tabla player Sandeep Das (known for his work with Yo-Yo Ma’s Grammy Award–winning Silkroad Ensemble) via centuries’ worth of classical music from India and Syria. Hertz Hall, Berkeley, calperformances.org.
3. 11/10: Daniel Barenboim and his West-Eastern Divan Orchestra
A plea for peace in the Middle East is on the program, along with Strauss’ Don Quixote and Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 5, as conductor Daniel Barenboim brings the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra—made up of musicians of Israeli, Palestinian, and Arab heritages—to Berkeley for its West Coast debut. Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, calperformances.org.
4. 11/16: Requiem for a Dream
Richard Marriott’s “Requiem for Ghost Ship”—a cello concerto commemorating lives lost in the 2016 warehouse fire in Oakland—anchors this Oakland Symphony concert. The theme continues with the Brahms Requiem and Leonard Bernstein’s “Take Care of This House.” Paramount Theatre, Oakland, oaklandsymphony.org.
5. 12/8–12/9: Philharmonic Fire with Patrick Dupré Quigley
Patrick Dupré Quigley, of the Grammy-nominated Seraphic Fire ensemble, conducts the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra and Chorale. Two Bach cantatas highlight the program, which includes music by Vivaldi. First Congregational Church, Berkeley, philharmonia.org.
Community Arts Youth Orchestra Winter Concert
One way to spark children’s interest in classical music is to show them kids actually performing it. Walnut Creek’s Community Arts Youth Orchestra (CAYO) features a bevy of talented youngsters—elementary school students in the intermediate ensemble, and middle and high schoolers in the advanced group—who play string, woodwind, brass, and percussion instruments impressively well. Music director and conductor Rem Djemilev selects a repertoire infused with energy to entice the young artists—and audiences. Bring the family to CAYO’s winter concert, featuring classical performances by the youth orchestras, chamber ensembles, and soloists. —Virginia Shannon
December 4, Shadelands Art Center Auditorium, Walnut Creek, communityarts.org.
Meet Chad Goodman
The Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra's passionate new conductor wakes up the classical world.
An invigorating blast of fresh air hits the Contra Costa Chamber Orchestra (CCCO) this fall with the arrival of Chad Goodman. The artist makes his debut as the music director of the 41-year-old community orchestra on September 29 and 30, leading a program titled How to Make It in America.
Before winning his prestigious post, Goodman served as assistant conductor of the Peninsula Symphony. (He has also worked as a rehearsal assistant for several San Francisco Symphony guest conductors.) Other factors that carried weight in the CCCO’s decision to hire the rising star: his age (Goodman just turned 29) and his founding of Elevate Ensemble, a four-year-old chamber group that holds concerts in Bay Area art galleries, yoga studios, private homes, and dance halls.
If that sounds like the antithesis of a stuffy classical music stereotype, that is Goodman to a T. Wordless bows to audiences before he raises the baton are not his style, nor does he expect concertgoers to bury their heads in program notes before the show.
“Not everybody wants that,” he says. “So, what I do is talk. I’m not doing lectures—just [speaking for] one or two minutes before each piece about some things I find absolutely fascinating: why the piece was written, what was going on in the world while the composer was writing, or maybe even just why this piece of music means so much to me personally. It’s all about making connections with the audience.”
A Baltimore native with a bachelor’s degree in trumpet from New York’s Eastman School of Music, Goodman came to San Francisco State University to get his master’s in 2011 and fell in love with conducting and the Bay Area. He has deep respect for the foundation CCCO has established and is eager to build upon it.
“I am very hungry for this,” he enthuses. “I want to work with these musicians, to shape what they are doing, refine things, and bring them to their highest possible levels—and get that out into the community.”
CCCO performs at Antioch’s El Campanil Theatre November 10. For more information, visit contracostachamberorchestra.org.
Click here to watch a video of Goodman conducting Elevate Ensemble.
Theater & Dance
BY MORGAN MITCHELL
5 Events Not To Miss
1. 9/6–10/21: A Doll’s House, Part 2
For its 50th anniversary season, Berkeley Rep is coproducing playwright Lucas Hnath’s Tony Award–nominated comedy. The audacious work picks up where Ibsen’s seminal drama A Doll’s House left off, and achieves exhilarating results. Roda Theatre, Berkeley, berkeleyrep.org.
2. 10/18–11/4: Dancing Lessons
Not your typical romantic comedy: Center REP’s new play follows Ever, a young professor with Asperger’s syndrome, who must convince Senga, a dancer with a potentially career-ending injury, to teach him how to dance. Margaret Lesher Theatre, Walnut Creek, centerrep.org.
3. 10/26: An Intimate Evening with Axis Dance Company
The revolutionary Axis Dance Company—which creates contemporary works highlighting collaborations between able-bodied performers and those with physical disabilities—previews two innovative pieces: Flutter, by choreographer Robert Dekkers, and Marc Brew’s Quartet No. 1, which explores the emotional journeys of two women in isolation. Berkeley Ballet Theater, Berkeley, axisdance.org.
4. 11/16–11/17: Compagnie Käfig: Pixel
Brazilian urban dance melds with hip-hop and circus arts in this daring production. The company’s 11 dancers interact with lights and lasers in an elegant examination of the virtual versus reality. Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley, calperformances.org.
5. 11/29–12/16: Great Expectations
Following the summer success of Sense and Sensibility, Town Hall Theatre Company brings Great Expectations to the stage, with eight actors portraying dozens of characters in the classic Charles Dickens tale. Town Hall Theatre, Lafayette, townhalltheatre.com.
Bay Area Children’s Theatre
A local institution since 2004, the Bay Area Children’s Theatre (BACT) stages captivating plays based on beloved children’s stories. This fall, the company’s Berkeley shows include The Cat in the Hat/El Gato Ensombrerado—an innovative bilingual production (running through November 4) that features sets and costumes reminiscent of Dr. Seuss’ iconic illustrations—and Wonderland: Alice’s Rock and Roll Adventure, a modern interpretation of Lewis Carroll’s classic tale (November 17–January 6). Both shows are suitable for elementary-age kids. BACT also caters to babies and toddlers with its Theater for the Very Young and drama-inclined youth via classes and camps. —V.S.
BACT Berkeley Center, Berkeley, bactheatre.org.
Meet Marcus Gardley
With works steeped in history and regional sensibility, an Oakland-born playwright returns home.
Welcome to the year of Marcus Gardley.
From the West Coast premiere of Dance of the Holy Ghosts at Oakland’s Ubuntu Theater Project in March to the Off-Broadway debut of The House That Will Not Stand in July, the playwright’s works have brought lyrical prose, transporting music, and a sense of history to theatergoers in the East Bay and across the country.
“I identify as a Bay Area playwright, so for me to be so embraced by my community and my home, there’s nothing greater,” says Gardley, 40. “We’re seeing an incredible resurgence of artists from the Bay who are making stories all over the world. It’s great to be in that company, and it’s great to come home and share art with audiences.”
Gardley—who grew up in Oakland and currently lives in Los Angeles—has plenty of reasons to return to the East Bay, including an encore run of his acclaimed drama Black Odyssey at Cal Shakes. A reimagining of Homer’s The Odyssey set in Oakland with a Gulf War veteran as its protagonist, the play was described as “a love letter to the Bay Area” in a review of the initial 2017 show.
“I knew after I had done the first production [of Black Odyssey] in Denver that it needed to be placed in the Bay Area,” Gardley says. “I really wanted to celebrate our diversity and complexity.”
Also on his calendar: The world premiere of Berkeley Rep’s new musical Paradise Square in December. The show centers on a group of black and Irish American citizens working for racial equality in New York during the Civil War and uses era-appropriate songs by “the father of American music,” Stephen Foster, to help tell the story.
“Paradise Square is doing all of the stuff I love [to do] in drama, like reexamining music and bringing into focus characters from history and giving them voice,” Gardley says. “It has been one of the most thrilling and rewarding collaborations of my career, and I’m looking forward to showing this to the Bay Area.”
Black Odyssey runs through October 7 at Bruns Amphitheater in Orinda; Paradise Square runs December 27 through February 17 at Berkeley’s Roda Theatre. To buy tickets, visit calshakes.org and berkeleyrep.org.
BY DEBORAH KIRK
5 Events Not To Miss
1. 9/8–12/9: Archaeology in Reverse
The Mills College Art Museum presents work by acclaimed artist Catherine Wagner, the head of the school’s photography department, who turns her lens on museums’ behind-the-scenes spaces. The show challenges viewers to think about how art is seen in a given setting. Mills College Art Museum, Oakland, mcam.mills.edu.
2. 9/30–12/16: Her Room/Her World
The Bedford Gallery is literally in the pink this season, thanks to artist Portia Munson. The centerpiece of her show is an installation consisting of thousands of bright pink objects designed to appeal to women and girls, offering a provocative look at how femininity is packaged, marketed, and consumed. Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek, bedfordgallery.org.
3. 10/11–11/16: Matters at Hand
The gallery shows at Creative Growth Art Center—a trailblazing nonprofit serving artists with disabilities—are often among the Bay’s most inspiring exhibitions. Fall’s Matters at Hand features three-dimensional pieces such as sculptures, ceramics, and textiles. Creative Growth Art Center, Oakland, creativegrowth.org.
4. 10/13: ArtWalk Livermore
For one day, downtown Livermore is transformed into a bustling art fair, with more than 200 artists displaying their works. Expect live music and performances, plus opportunities to shop, wine, and dine. bothwell.lvpac.org.
5. 10/13/18–2/17/19: The World of Charles and Ray Eames
The husband-wife design team of Charles and Ray Eames brought a fresh, stylish sensibility to everything from furniture and architecture to film. The Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) celebrates their visionary work in this comprehensive exhibition. OMCA, Oakland, museumca.org.
Richmond Art Center
The East Bay’s largest visual-arts organization, Richmond Art Center draws residents from across the region to its four galleries and popular classes. Kids can find endless creative inspiration here—from summer camps teaching art forms such as printmaking, sculpture, and video game design; to a Fall Family Day on October 20, where children and parents can collaborate on art projects; to a gingerbread house–building workshop on December 8. Among the fall exhibitions that may pique young interests: Califas: Art of the U.S.–Mexico Borderlands, which includes an activity book designed to help children ages 8 and up relate to the material, and What Knot, featuring pieces made from fibers including human hair, shredded money, and zip ties. (Both shows run through November 16.) —V.S.
Richmond Art Center, Richmond, richmondartcenter.org.
Meet Larry Rinder
The veteran curator continues to take the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive to thrilling new levels.
This year marks Larry Rinder’s 10th anniversary as director and chief curator of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA)—a milestone that was celebrated this spring at a gala called, appropriately, There’s Something About Larry.
Indeed, there is something special about Rinder. Not only did he oversee the plans for BAMPFA’s spectacular 2014 reincarnation into a world-class architectural gem, but he has also brought a dynamic, often unconventional approach to the curation of exhibitions.
Visitors to the inaugural exhibition at BAMPFA’s new headquarters in downtown Berkeley got an exhilarating glimpse of what makes Rinder such a creative force. Titled The Architecture of Life, the show featured works that spanned genres and millennia, presented in a nonlinear fashion that challenged museumgoers to make their own connections between the works. He has used this unorthodox approach to great effect in more recent offerings, including the sweeping two-part Way Bay exhibition, which highlighted Bay Area artists.
“Every show has its own spirit,” says Rinder, whose impressive credentials include top positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York and the California College of the Arts. “I’ve always felt that it’s important to trust art to speak for itself.”
This fall, BAMPFA presents several shows that bear Rinder’s distinct imprint, including Harvey Quaytman: Against the Static and Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein. Early next year brings Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction, a celebration of the great German-born artist who once taught at UC Berkeley.
Rinder sees BAMPFA’s role as a multidisciplinary nexus—a “bridge” between the Cal campus and the greater community. “We want the experience here to be welcoming, as comfortable as a café,” he explains. “We want to be a cultural town square.” Under his guidance, BAMPFA has become just that.
Harvey Quaytman: Against the Static is on view October 17 through January 27; Dimensionism: Modern Art in the Age of Einstein is on view November 7 through March 3. For more information, visit bampfa.org.
Pop Music & Jazz
BY anna armstrong
5 Events Not To Miss
1. 10/13–10/14: Treasure Island Music Festival
Back after a year off, this two-day festival sets up camp at its new home in Oakland. More than two dozen wide-ranging artists—including Tame Impala, A$AP Rocky, Courtney Barnett, and Santigold—continue the popular event’s tradition of eclectic lineups. Middle Harbor Shoreline Park, Oakland, treasureislandfestival.com.
2. 11/7: Nobuntu
This all-female a cappella quintet from Zimbabwe has earned acclaim for its vibrant patchwork of traditional folk songs, Afro jazz, and gospel. Besides the sublime vocals, the ensemble also incorporates dance and ancestral instruments into its riveting performances. Bankhead Theater, Livermore, lvpac.org.
3. 12/3: Neko Case
Touring in support of her superb new solo record, Hell-On, indie singer-songwriter Neko Case (known for her work with The New Pornographers) headlines the gorgeous Fox Theater—a perfect venue for Case’s rich alto and unconventional, fairy tale–like songs. Fox Theater, Oakland, thefoxoakland.com.
4. 12/5: Justin Timberlake
Singer, dancer, actor, and all-around powerhouse Justin Timberlake brings his Man of the Woods tour back to the Bay Area—this time in Oakland. Expect the set list to eschew J.T.’s boy-band legacy by focusing solely on his post-NSync solo work. Oracle Arena, Oakland, oraclearena.com.
5. 12/31: Brian Culbertson
Ring in the New Year with celebrated contemporary-jazz, funk, and R&B musician and composer Brian Culbertson at the legendary Yoshi’s nightclub in Jack London Square. Yoshi’s, Oakland, yoshis.com.
Disney’s Frozen Sing-Along—Special Movie Edition
For better or worse, the songs from Disney’s Frozen have provided a ubiquitous soundtrack in many families’ homes for close to five years. Now children can take that musical obsession a step further by attending a screening of the Academy Award–winning animated film this fall—with the added interactive thrill of actors portraying protagonists Elsa and Anna on the stage, leading the crowd in rousing renditions of “Let It Go,” “For the First Time in Forever,” and other much-loved numbers. Lyrics are projected onscreen, and costumes are encouraged. —V.S.
November 17, Del Valle Theatre, Walnut Creek, lesherartscenter.org.
Meet Madeline Kenney
On her stirring album, Perfect Shapes, the Oakland expat explores staying true to yourself.
Whether it comes to her musical style or career path, singer-songwriter Madeline Kenney refuses to be boxed in. She challenges the rigid expectations forced upon women in the realms of work, art, motherhood, and relationships on her excellent new record, Perfect Shapes (available October 5 on Carpark Records).
“I wrote Perfect Shapes when I was contending with the expectations I was feeling from several directions,” explains the 26-year-old Kenney, a longtime member of the Oakland arts community who recently relocated to North Carolina, due in part to the high cost of living in the East Bay. “The specificity of the situations is there in the songs for me, but I tried to obscure them a bit so that the base feelings would become … easier to identify with for any listener.”
Kenney received well-deserved attention after last year’s release of her first full-length album, Night Night at the First Landing, earning her a place on the influential music website Stereogum’s 40 Best New Bands list of 2017. At the time, much was made of her circuitous route to music—which included studying science in her home state of Washington (where she earned a degree in neuroscience), moving to the Bay Area to bake bread, and nannying for families in the Oakland hills. But those varied paths now inform the songs on her latest record.
Perfect Shapes is a work of breezy vibrancy—an eclectic soundscape anchored by Kenney’s taut lyrical imagery and warm vocals. On the repeat-worthy track “No Weekend,” with its graceful blend of voice and glistening guitar, she expresses weariness with the seemingly never-ending war for herself.
“I am worn too thin,” she sings.
“I can’t battle all that I begin.”
Tinged with moments of self-doubt and uncertainty, the album reflects Kenney’s willingness to be vulnerable—and also her strength as she answers societal expectations with a defiantly ambiguous shrug of her shoulders.
Click here to watch Kenney’s video for “Overhead,” a single from Perfect Shapes.
Check out a month-to-month guide to additional fall arts events in the East Bay here!