Fall Arts Picks 

Highlights from the 2019-2020 Arts Season

click to enlarge Inferno Theatre is staging Metamorphoses.

Inferno Theatre is staging Metamorphoses.

Art, BART, and the WWE

Self-taught artist Luis Estrada lives around the corner from the newly redesigned Richmond Main Street/Richmond Visitor Center, right next to the BART station. Since 2004, he's been creating paintings at the city's NIAD (Nurturing Independence through Artistic Development) Center, which works with artists with disabilities. His color-filled canvases, swirling with images inspired by the daily weather forecast, the day's BART schedule, or the plot of an episode of World Wrestling Entertainment, are the current featured exhibit of Richmond's 2019 Art in Windows Program, "Art Through Transition." Through Oct. 12, see the work displayed in the Visitor Center's windows, or, 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, tap on the lobby doors to enter and view the paintings close up. — Janis Hashe

Free closing reception and community dialogue, Oct. 12, 1600 Nevin Plaza, Richmond. RichmondMainStreet.org

Air From Other Planets

San Francisco's ever-adventurous Left Coast Chamber Ensemble presents "Air From Other Planets," a disparate program that includes Schoenberg's groundbreaking Second String Quartet from 1908 and C Major String Quartet, K. 465 by Mozart, who was a primary influence on Schoenberg. Accompanying these masterworks are two world premieres, bassoonist Jamie Leigh Sampson's Waving Goodbye for guitar, voice, and string quartet, and Berkeley guitarist John Schott's Movement for Viola And Guitar (Eye Contact). Known as an invaluable creative force on the Bay Area improvised music scene, Schott makes a rare foray into classical music inspired by guitarist Michael Goldberg, who's performing the piece with Left Coast's Phyllis Kamrin. The ensemble presents the same program Nov. 4 at the SF Conservatory of Music. — Andrew Gilbert

Nov. 2, The Hillside Club, 2286 Cedar St., Berkeley, BHCweb.wixsite.com/hillsideclub

Biss And Beethoven

It's been a multi-year endeavor; pianist Jonathan Biss is near to completing his nine-year, nine-disc project to record and perform all 32 of Beethoven's piano sonatas. In honor of the composer's 250th birthday, Biss returns to Berkeley this season to perform the full cycle — a monumental endeavor that begins this month with the first of three appearances this season. His first performance, 8 p.m. Sep. 21 in Hertz Hall, includes the Waldstein sonata; the next afternoon at 3, Biss continues the journey in a performance that features Beethoven's Appassionata. That's just the beginning; Biss will return in December and March with programs devoted to the remaining sonatas. — Georgia Rowe

Sep. 21 and 22, $34-76, Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley, 510-642-9988, CalPerformances.org

Sitkovetsky Joins Gold Coast

Under violist and Artistic Director Pamela Freund-Striplen, the Gold Coast Chamber Players often pair top Bay Area classical musicians with touring artists and ensembles. The chamber music group launches its 2019-20 season in Lafayette and Piedmont with a special guest: acclaimed Russian violinist Dmitry Sitkovetsky, who joins Freund-Striplen, violinist Grazia Raimondi, cellist Luigi Piovano, and pianist Bernadene Blaha in a program devoted to Robert Schumann. The program features the composer's Violin Sonata No. 1 in A minor for violin and piano; Fantasiestücke for cello and piano, and Piano Quintet for piano and string quartet. Kai Christiansen gives a pre-concert talk 30 minutes prior to each performance. — Georgia Rowe

Sep. 14, Lafayette Library Community Hall; Sep. 15, Piedmont Center for the Arts; $15-45; 925-283-3728; GCCPMusic.com

Bring Me an Avocado

The Oakland-made Bring Me An Avocado explores the hardships of everyday life for people who are victims of crime. It incorporates Oakland's diversity into an intimate story about grief, family, and friendship. The story picks up as Robin (Sarah Burkhalter) is coming home to a surprise party that her loving husband George (Bolivian actor Bernardo Peña) is carefully orchestrating with Robin's sister Greece (Molly Ratermann), her best friend Jada (Candace Roberts) and their two daughters (California Poppy Sanchez and Michaela Robles). Due to an unfortunate series of events, Robin is the victim of gun violence and a loving reunion turns into a night spent at the ER with Robin in a coma. At its best, the movie feels unpretentious and real; the performances avoid melodrama and deliver raw vulnerability. Writer and director Maria Maella depicts the complexity of loss, which extends beyond sadness to include boredom and even fun. But perhaps the film's biggest accomplishment is that it manages to tell a story about a topic rarely explored in mainstream American cinema: betrayal. — Maria Leon

Sep. 29, $15, Opera Plaza Cinema, 601 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, 415-771-0183, SFLatinoFilmFestival.org

MC Hammer, Tony! Toni! Toné

In the early '90s, two Oakland acts dominated the charts: MC Hammer and Tony! Toni! Toné. Hammer, of course, will forever be known for his Rick James sampled "U Can't Touch This," but was always a diverse artist who straddled the lines between hip-hop and R&B with several other hits. His 1990 record Please Hammer Don't Hurt 'Em has sold more than 18 million copies and is the top selling rap album of all time. Tony! Toni! Toné had a string of R&B hits from 1988 till 1993, and still managed to chart up until they broke up in 1997. The first time the group reunited was in 2003, but it wasn't with the entire lineup. They come to the Oakland Arena with the full original lineup. As for Hammer, he's sporadically released music ever since the '90s, in additional to doing work as a minister. He's all ready to go in full on MC Hammer mode for the Oakland Area. — Aaron Carnes

Oct. 12, $42-167, Oakland Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, TheOaklandArena.com

Mott The Hoople at the Fox

Mott The Hoople's claim to fame may have been the David Bowie-penned glam rock song "All The Young Dudes," but even without that '70s-defining tune, the UK band was amazing, fusing rock 'n' roll with strong R&B elements. The band only had a few other songs chart in the states, but was pretty big in the UK. The group has done some reunion gigs this past decade, but it hasn't toured the states since 1974. Not only that, but this tour — its first time in the states in 45 years — marks the return of guitarist Ariel Bender who left the band in 1974. Keyboardist Morgan Fisher rejoined the band for this tour as well. This tour is also in support of Mott The Hoople's final record, The Hoople, released in 1974, just before Bender left. — Aaron Carnes

Nov. 3, $49.50-129.50, Fox Theater, 1807 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, TheFoxOakland.com

Call Her Madam President

Feminist icon Mary Woolley comes to feisty life in Bryna Turner's Bull in a China Shop, opening Nov. 8 at Berkeley's Aurora Theatre. Inspired by actual letters between Woolley and her lover Jeanette Marks, Turner's comedy-with-benefits explores her presidency of Mount Holyoke College, where she wanted "to stop training pious wives and start giving women a real education," as well as her 55-year relationship with Marks. As a portrait of a time when women were still fighting for the right to vote, and higher education for women was considered "dangerous" by many, Woolley's story resonates strongly in our own time of backlash. Trust the Aurora Theatre to create an evening that provokes both laughter and post-show conversations. — Janis Hashe

Nov. 8-Dec. 8, 2084 Addison St., Berkeley, 510-843-4822, AuroraTheatre.org

Ovid and the Climate Crisis

Not the 2002 Mary Zimmerman play, director/designer Giulio Casare Perrone's adaptation of Ovid's Metamorphoses uses the humans, animals, plants, and mythic creatures of the original to tell a story of their quest to save the Earth's ecosystem from being destroyed by global warming. Perrone sees the Bay Area's diversity of life as symbolic of life everywhere on the planet, all of which is threatened by humans' refusal to take immediate action against the crisis. In his work, the character Gaia summons her powers to fight back against man's heedless destruction of the natural world. Perrone's designs for the Inferno Theatre show are created using natural, sustainable and recycled materials. Original music will accompany the text. — Janis Hashe

Oct. 11-27, Studio Azul, 2525 8th St., Berkeley, and Oct. 13 & 20, David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-825-0449, InfernoTheatre.org

Georgia On Our Mind

There's nothing quite like the soulful sounds of Georgia. No, not the Southern state known for its rich red clay, but the ancient land in the Caucasus at the crossroads between Western Asia and Eastern Europe. The all-male Basiani Ensemble is an extraordinary choir dedicated to the otherworldly awe-inducing sonorities of Georgia's ancient vocal polyphony. Encompassing hymns, monastic chants, epic ballads, and folk songs, the repertoire is steeped in sacred traditions that have played a central role in the survival of Georgian culture in the face of neighboring empires. The songs feel elemental, embodying faith, resistance, and an abiding love for the mountainous terrain of their homeland. — Andrew Gilbert

Nov. 15, First Congregational Church, 2345 Channing Cedar Way, Berkeley, CalPerformances.org

Hair-Raisingly Beautiful Music

Since making its NorCal debut at the 2014 Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, the Ukrainian band DakhaBrakha has become a regular presence on the Bay Area scene. Familiarity has not made its music any less strange and arresting. Born out of an avant-garde theater company in Kiev, the quartet is steeped in traditional Slavic music and wields an international arsenal of instruments, including cellos, accordion, hurdy-gurdy, didgeridoo, trombone, and sundry percussion implements. Its polyphonic vocals are even more striking than their theatrical garb, as the three women often perform decked out in wedding dresses or traditional village dresses, topped off with towering black fur hats. They can sound impossibly sweet or ferociously guttural in the space of a phrase, while laying down grooves as lean and propulsive as a funk rhythm section. One needn't understand a syllable of Ukrainian to be transported by DakhaBrakha's hair-raisingly beautiful body of music. — Andrew Gilbert

Oct. 8-9, Freight & Salvage, 2020 Addison St., Berkeley, TheFreight.org

Maná at Oakland Arena

There is no bigger band in Mexico than Maná. In fact, it is the most successful rock band in all of Latin America and has sold more than 40 million records. The group plays romantic pop-rock songs that get stuck in your head and will have you singing along midway through your first listen. The band formed in 1986 in Guadalajara, as Mexico was in the midst of a rock 'n' roll resurgence. By 1987, it had already scored a deal with PolyGram, and later, Warner Music. Through the rest of the '80s it toured hard throughout all of Latin America, making a name for itself. In the early '90s, the group started topping the charts, even cracking the US market. Throughout its career, it has honored a formula of well-written, heartfelt love songs that are vulnerable, but still rock. — Aaron Carnes

Nov. 30, $79-$387, Oakland Arena, 7000 Coliseum Way, Oakland, TheOaklandArena.com

Mulatu Astatke at UC Theatre

Jazz came to Ethiopia through the filter of traditional Ethiopian music, meaning it incorporated scales found there, but much less common here. The man responsible for what's known as Ethio-jazz is Mulatu Astatke. His style was diverse by the very nature of his background. He grew up in Ethiopia, around all the traditional music of his country, but was sent to the UK to study engineering as a young man. He devoted much of his study time to music. Later he moved to the states and enrolled in the Berklee College of Music in Boston. He took a major interest in the jazz and Latin music he heard around the east coast. He recorded his first two albums in 1966 in New York. In the early '70s, he returned to Ethiopia along with all this global influence and changed the musical atmosphere there. — Aaron Carnes

Dec. 20 & 21, $42.50-67.50, UC Theatre, 2036 University, Berkeley, TheUCTheatre.org

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