The Chronicle’s guide to notable arts and entertainment happenings in the Bay Area.
Star-studded NEA Jazz Masters show to bring national spotlight to SFJazz
ODC celebrates more than half a century as a dance powerhouse
Alvin Ailey dancers finally return to Bay Area with ‘Revelations’ and more
If there’s one dance experience that never fails to inspire, it’s Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s “Revelations,” which they give as the finale of almost every Ailey program. That’s why Bay Area audiences will be thrilled to know that the company is finally returning to Cal Performances after a COVID-19 hiatus, resuming an annual residency that began in 1960. And this time they are bringing a strikingly diverse repertory.
For old-school fans, there’s a program of all-Alvin Ailey choreography, including the showstopping solo celebrating Black women, “Cry.” Other programs showcase the Ailey company at the forefront of new choreography, with works by Jamar Roberts, Aszure Barton and Rennie Harris. Opening night gives tribute to Robert Battle’s 10th anniversary as artistic director with his dances set to Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder and more.
On every program: that signature strength and grace of the Ailey dancers.
Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Thursday, March 29-31; 8 p.m. Friday, April 1; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday April 2; 3 p.m. Sunday, April 3. $37-$110. Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley. 510-642-9988. calperformances.org
Lang Lang tackles Bach’s ‘Goldberg Variations’
Pianist Lang Lang has made his name as a virtuoso with a big, splashy keyboard style — a performer whose goal always seems to make things broad and dazzling. So Bach’s “Goldberg Variations,” with its emphasis on delicacy and tact, would seem to be an oddly counterintuitive repertoire choice for him.
Yet here he is, on tour with the composer’s 80-minute collection of variations on an evocative series of harmonies (a piece that Lang recorded a couple of years ago with characteristic sumptuousness). If nothing else, his recital, presented as part of the San Francisco Symphony’s “Great Performers” Series, promises to be a compelling clash of temperaments.
Lang Lang: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 30. $350-$400. Davies Symphony Hall, 401 Van Ness Ave., SF 415-864-6000. www.sfsymphony.org
‘Miami Vice’ pilot is the essence of 1980s cool
The Alamo Drafthouse plans to screen the two-hour pilot for “Miami Vice,” a highly-successful television show that ran for five seasons (1984-1989), so go see it. But this recommendation comes from someone who has never seen the show, not once, not even for a few seconds while channel surfing. (There wasn’t much channel surfing in the 1980s.)
So why recommend it? For sociological reasons. If you want to understand an era, one must glimpse at what was considered cool at the time. This show, at least for the first couple of years, was coolness itself. Even if you didn’t watch “Miami Vice,” it was impossible to escape its influence.
Watch the show to immerse yourself in a key cultural document of a strangely confident era: In the 1980s, nobody ever had to say, “Hey, it’s going to be OK” — they just assumed it.
“Miami Vice” (1984) pilot episode: 3 p.m. Friday, April 1. $10. Alamo Drafthouse. 2550 Mission St, SF www.drafthouse.com/sf
‘Juliet of the Spirits,’ Fellini’s first color film, screens at BAMPFA
This influential 1965 film was Federico Fellini’s first color feature, and he made strong use of the medium in this fantastic tale of a woman, unhappy in her marriage, who turns to spiritualism.
Somewhat unbalanced by what she believes to be her husband’s infidelity, she finds herself living in a world in which spirits become visual and communicate with her directly. The film stars Fellini’s wife, Giulietta Masina, and though “Juliet of the Spirits” is sometimes called a female answer to Fellini’s “9½,” which explored a man’s fantasy life, the movie plays more like an unconscious, elliptical exploration of Fellini and Masina’s troubled marriage, as imagined from Fellini’s perspective.
Nino Rota (“The Godfather,” “Romeo and Juliet”) wrote the score.
“Juliet of the Spirits”: 4 p.m. Sunday, April 3. $10-14. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, 2155 Center Street, Berkeley. www.bampfa.org
‘The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy’ exhibition celebrates legendary San Francisco troupe
Fayette Hauser’s 2020 book, “The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy,” tells the story of the legendary performance troupe that dominated San Francisco from 1970 to 72 with its extreme hippie glamor and reinventions of theatrical conventions. As an original member of the group, Hauser writes with a voice of experience that brings you inside the LSD-tinged antics at the old Palace Theater.
Now, Hauser’s book comes to life in a new exhibition at the James C. Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Public Library’s Main Branch, which includes photos, posters and ephemera from both private collections and the Hormel archives.
“The library has made life-size photos of members of the group that are on display,” Hauser told The Chronicle. “When you go in, there’s a case that has a replication of Scrumbly’s vanity altar with a big mirror. The show really reflects the ‘too much is never enough,’ motto of ours.”
One of the standout pieces from the show is Hauser’s “Cosmic Gypsy” costume, which she was famously photographed wearing by San Francisco photographer and author Clay Geerdes. With its fringe skirt resembling waves of grass, poof sleeves and exaggerated Letty Lynton shoulders, it’s a fabulous symbol for the repurposed decadence that became the Cockettes’ aesthetic signature.
“I always thought what we did was very high art, even though we were trashy in our living,” Hauser said. “We were trash, but we were pure trash.”
Programming for the exhibition includes an author talk with Hauser on March 31, a Cockettes film night April 28, a performance with Hauser and the Vau de Vire Society May 26 and a cabaret night with fellow Cockette Scrumbly Koldewyn. For details check the SFPL website.
“The Cockettes: Acid Drag & Sexual Anarchy”: Noon-6 p.m. Sunday; 9am-6pm Monday; 9am-8pm Tuesday-Thursday; noon-6 pm Friday; 10am-6pm Saturday. Through Aug. 11.Free. San Francisco Public Library Main Branch, 3rd floor. 100 Larkin St., SF 415-557-4400. sfpl.org
SF native Christopher Chen takes meta-theater to radio with ‘The Podcaster’
If you’ve ever heard an arts segment on NPR, you might feel déjà vu listening to the opening exchange of Christopher Chen’s “The Podcaster,” an audio play released earlier this month on Audible. There it is, the classic measured, unemotional public radio voice, from interviewer and artsy interviewee alike! For a while, your only reminder that you’re not actually listening to NPR is the precise sculpting of the actors’ voices.
Chen, a San Francisco native, frequently gets meta in his plays, with performers and scenes themselves questioning their own truth. Most recently, his ACT Zoom show “Communion” made you wonder at what extent actor Stacy Ross was playing her real offstage self. Now, in “The Podcaster,” when the radio host mysteriously disappears, it’s not immediately clear whether that act is supposed to be its own work of art.
Lee Sunday Evans direct.
“The Podcaster”: $7.95. Available to stream on demand at www.audible.com
— Lily Janiak
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