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Bay Area arts, 5 shows you should know about

Bay Area arts, 5 shows you should know about

There are some great shows to see and hear in the Bay Area this weekend, here’s a partial rundown.

Celebrating old-time music

The Bay Area may be the capital of high-tech and 21st-century social media communications, but its devotion to old-time music remains intact. Berkeley in particular has long nourished a busy scene of bluegrass, Americana and like-minded musicians, and is home to the annual Old Time Music Convention, which returns this weekend. Featuring five days of concerts, contests, workshops, jams and square dancing. The Convention kicks off at 8 p.m. Sept. 21 with a party and square dance at Berkeley’s Ashkenaz club. From Thursday through Sunday, there is a steady stream of daily and nightly events at the Freight & Salvage club and a variety of indoor and outdoor venues around Berkeley. The musicians represent a wide range of Bay Area and national acts, including the Corn Potato String Band, Piedmont Bluz, New Vintage Revelers, Alice Gerrard, Ann Savoy, Earl White Stringband, Tatiana Hargreaves and many more. 

Details: Sept. 21-25; various venues; opening party $18-20, Freight concerts, $28-$32;,

Flying high with Atticus Finch

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about a kind and decent lawyer, Atticus Finch, raising two kids while confronting recalcitrant Depression-era American racism in the courtroom, was one of those books you were grateful to be assigned to read in school. Between Lee’s unique writing, the historical tale being told and the enriching relationship between Finch and his kids, “Mockingbird” remains an unforgettable literary experience. The 1962 movie version was no disgrace either – it’s hard to think of a more satisfying screen version of  Finch than Gregory Peck. The book has also made its way to the stage – it received a fine production by Walnut Creek’s Center Repertory Company in 2011 – with the most recent adaptation penned by famed playwright, screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin in 2018. That adaptation, directed by Broadway hitmaker Bartlett Sher, is now playing in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Theatre. Tackling the role of Finch in this production is Richard Thomas (best known as John-Boy from TV’s “The Waltons), who seems a perfect choice to tackle a timeless character like Finch. Expect Sorkin’s remake to honor the original story while infusing observations about contemporary racial attitudes.

Details: Through Oct. 9; $56-$256 (subject to change);

— Bay Area News Foundation

A dance about almost everything

San Francisco-based Dancing Earth’s new multimedia production touches on a myriad of themes, from renewable energy and cultural heritage to togetherness and community to finding humor in a society that seems bent on destroying itself.

“Between Underworld and Skyworld” uses dance, storytelling, singing and music, puppetry, and striking multimedia imagery to tell the story of young people from all types of cultures seeking humor, resilience and common ground in a apocalyptic world. Along the way, the delve into such themes as the search for sustainable energy and lifestyles, and ways to bridge cultural divides.

Dancing Earth, founded and directed by Rulan Tangen, is a San Francisco performance group that works with writers and performers, including Native Americans, people of color and others whose stories and talents are not often experienced in mainstream arts productions.

“Between Underworld and Skyworld” will launch the new season at San Francisco’s Presidio Theatre.

Details: 7 p.m. Sept. 24, 2 p.m. Sept. 25; Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Ave., San Francisco; $25-$45;,

—  Randy McMullen, Staff

Brilliance blossoms at San Jose

City Lights Theater Company in San Jose kicks off its 40th season with “Every Brilliant Thing,” the hit feel-good show that’s about, um, sadness.

The show, created by Duncan Macmillan and Jonny Donahoe, is about a kid whose mother suffers from depression and is in the hospital after “doing something stupid,” as his father puts it. So he begins crafting lists to give to his mother of all the brilliant and wonderful things he can think of, from fun movies to ice cream to laughing the milk out of your nose. As the protagonist grows older he constantly updates the list and finds new ways to deal with his mother’s illness.

Although “Brilliant” is usually presented as a solo show, City Lights’ production is technically a duo performance, with Tasi Alabastro performing the speaking part and Dane K. Lentz signing in American Sign Language. Also, some audience participation is encouraged, as the actors engage audience members to share their own “brilliant things.” Also the show will, unlike most theater presentations, work with general admission seating, as a means to promote the informality of the production.

“Brilliant” originated as a short story by Macmillan, an English playwright, and was developed into an 80-minute solo show with the help of comedian Donahoe. It premiered at the 2013 Ludlow Fringe Festival, and has been performed around the world ever since. HBO also created a film adaptation of Donahoe’s performance of the work on Broadway. It’s still available to stream on HBO Max.

Details: Through Oct. 16; City Lights Theater, San Jose; $26-$54;

— Randy McMullen, Staff

Sculpture Fair making waves

For the third year, Menlo College will host the Silicon Valley Sculpture Fine Art Fair, featuring 30 works from local and national artists that will be sprinkled across the college campus. Guests are invited to roam the grounds and take in the evocative and provocative works.

The theme for this year’s fair is water — timely, with the state in the midst of a prolonged drought. But the theme goes deeper than that, and is meant to raise awareness of such issues as the acidification of the ocean, the fragility of its ecosystems, and the monumental impact water has on every as aspect of life.

In addition to sculpture viewing, the three-day fair will also be present film screenings on Saturday, as well as a panel discussion on art and sustainability concerns. Can sculptors create environmentally friendly works? Can they help reduce our carbon footprint?

If you are just into the art, and find yourself drawn to a particular work, know that the fair will also be auctioning selected sculptures on Sunday.

Details: Noon-6 p.m. Sept. 23, 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Sept. 24, 10 a.m.-3 p.m.Set. 25; Menlo College, 1000 El Camino Real, Atherton; $25-$35,

— Brittany Delay, Staff

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