A Viennese Christmas
Cal Performances and Stanford Live launch the season with “Christmas in Vienna,” featuring the acclaimed Vienna Boys Choir.
Proponents of a six-century vocal tradition, these young artists arrive bearing gifts of Austrian folk songs, classical masterworks, holiday hymns and carols. 2pm
Details: 2 p.m. Nov. 26 at Zellerbach Hall, UC Berkeley; $20-$108; calperformances.org; 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28 at Bing Concert Hall, Stanford; $15-$64; live.stanford.edu.
— Georgia Rowe, Correspondent
This bunny will energize your holidays
A beloved holiday dance staple returns to San Francisco this week and it has nothing to do with a certain kitchen tool used to crack open walnuts.
“The Velveteen Rabbit,” a gentle, family-friendly ballet adopted from the 1921 novel of the same title by Margery Williams, has been presented since 1986 by ODC/Dance, with choreography by KT Nelson, former company co-artistic director, music by Benjamin Britten and costumes and sets by Brian Wildsmith. Williams, born in Britain, had already published several novels and short stories by 1920, but “Velveteen Rabbit” was her first children’s book and first book written in America, where she had moved, and it brought her instant fame. The book follows a scruffy stuffed rabbit who dreams of becoming a real rabbit and eventually does so through the love of the young boy who owns it. ODC’s “Velveteen Rabbit,” featuring narration by Bay Area actor Geoff Hoyle, opens Nov. 26.
Details: Through Dec. 11; Blue Cross of California Theater at Yerba Buena Center of the Arts; attendees can meet the rabbit and other characters from the play during weekend shows; $15-$100; odc. dance.
— Bay Area News Foundation
A ‘proud’ fundraiser
The Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation (REAF) is presenting its first live “One Night Only” benefit cabaret show since the pandemic two years ago. The event, which traditionally features performers from touring Broadway shows, this time stars cast members from the Tony Award-winning musical, “Ain’t Too Proud,” and features the theme “Love’s in Need of Love, Today” (taken from the title of the Stevie Wonder hit).
“Ain’t Too Proud,” which debuted at Berkeley Repertory Theater in 2017 before moving on to a hit Broadway run, is based on the story of The Temptations and showcases some of Motown’s best-loved tunes.
Cast members from the Broadway touring production playing in San Francisco through Dec. 4 will perform a variety of Motown and Broadway holiday tunes and other popular songs (but not selections from “Ain’t Too Proud”). Paula West, San Francisco jazz icon, will guest star.
Funds from the event will benefit the Richmond/Ermet Aid Foundation and Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS non-profits. REAF has distributed well over $4.5 million to AIDS service agencies, hunger programs and programs for the homeless to date.
Details: 7:30 p.m. Nov. 28; American Conservatory Theater’s The Strand theater, 1127 Market St., San Francisco; $45-$100; www.reaf-sf.org.
— Brittany Delay, Staff
Holiday stage shows are here
“The Thanksgiving Play”: Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse’s comedy about a school theater director trying to create a Thanksgiving pageant that won’t offend anyone making its way to San Jose. Details: Through Dec. 18; City Lights Theatre, San Jose; $26-$54; www.cltc.org.
“Dear San Francisco”: Club Fugazi’s cabaret circus show by Shana Carroll and Gypsy Snider of the 7 Fingers gets into the holiday spirit with its love letter to the City freshly bedecked with seasonal touches. After a January hiatus, the year-round version returns in February. Details: Through Dec. 31; Club Fugazi, San Francisco; $35-$99 ($79-$175 New Year’s Eve); www.clubfugazisf.com.
A Very Special Holiday Special: Sketch comedy troupe Killing My Lobster homes in on the holidays with its version of an old TV variety special featuring desperate carolers, the most annoying Maccabee, chaos at the Dickens Fair and Ariana Grande and Genghis Khan singing a duet. Details: Nov. 25-Dec. 3 and Piano Fight, San Francisco; Dec. 8-17 at PianoFight Oakland, Oakland; $18.50-$42.50; www.killingmylobster.com.
“Disney’s Frozen”: It may not be strictly holiday themed, but it’s full of snow, it’s a fairy tale, it’s got a reindeer and a snowman, it’s Disney — let it go. The 2018 Broadway musical of the hit Disney movie finally makes its way to SF. Details: Through Dec. 30; Orpheum Theatre, San Francisco; $40.50-$272; www.broadwaysf.com.
“Meet John Doe”: An old Frank Capra film newly adapted for the stage by director Ken Kelleher, “Meet John Doe” is about a newspaper columnist fabricating an unemployed man threatening to commit suicide on Christmas Eve to protest social injustice and having to hire a homeless man to play the part. Details: Through Dec. 18; San Jose Stage, San Jose; $34-$74; www.thestage.org.
“Scrooge in Love”: An upbeat romantic comedy about Ebenezer Scrooge? Sure, why not? Set one year after “A Christmas Carol,” this sequel sees the three Christmas ghosts return, this time to play matchmakers. Details: Nov. 25-Dec. 18; 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa; $19-$48; www.6thstreetplayhouse.com.
Shoshana in December: The titular Shoshana steps out of her monogamous relationship and outside her comfort zone in “the worst month of the year” in this brand new “poly-holiday” musical by the makers of past Custom Made hit “Tinderella.” Details: Through Dec. 18; Custom Made Theatre, San Francisco; $35-$55; www.custommade.org.
Everything is better with puppets
It’s not even December yet, but the annual holiday onslaught of Nutcracker productions is underway, and the one that the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra has lined up looks especially delightful for families. For the past five decades, the ensemble now led by Ben Simon has presented its concerts for free. And they are once again bringing us their annual “Nutcracker Sweet,” playing excerpts from the Tchaikovsky score accompanied and enlivened by the charming antics of Oakland Fairytown’s puppets.
Details: 2 p.m. Nov. 26 at Noe Valley Ministry, San Francisco; 11 a.m. Nov. 27 at Freight & Salvage, Berkeley; 3 p.m. Nov. 27 at Mitchell Park’s El Palo Verde Room, Palo Alto; www.thesfco.org.
— Bay Area News Foundation
Dance Party comes to Berkeley
Part of an illustrious Bay Area musical clan, Orinda-reared multi-instrumentalist Kyle Athayde leads a bi-coastal big band that brings his populist sensibility to orchestral jazz. A commanding improviser on trumpet and vibes who’s known to perform in a duo with New Orleans piano star Sullivan Fortner, he presents his 20-piece Kyle Athayde Dance Party at Berkeley’s Freight & Salvage on Monday as part of a big band double bill.
While he’ll be playing some vibes, Athyade’s main responsibilities, besides writing and arranging the tunes, are conducting the Dance Party’s prodigious ranks, which include tenor saxophonist Dann Zinn, trumpeter Mike Olmos, trombonist John Gove, and Jazz Mafia tuba expert Jonathan Seiberlich . His youngest sibling, the accomplished bassist Eliana Athayde, holds down the orchestra with fellow bassist Logan Kane. The Jazzschool Studio Band, an elite combo directed by revered educator and bandleader Dave Eshelman, plays the opening set.
Details: 7 p.m. Nov. 28; Freight & Salvage, Berkeley; $25-$29; www.thefreight.org.
—Andrew Gilbert, Correspondent
An exhibit for bots with brushes
It’s popular in science fiction to saddle poor robots with the worst manifestations of human behavior – uncaring instruments programmed by evil masterminds or, worse yet, brainiac behemoths who turn sentient and realize we pathetic humans are ripe for plundering. But all that seems kind of harsh. After all, some robots just want to paint. We’re talking about Digit and Spot, a pair of Boston Dynamics-created robots who now have their own exhibit in San Francisco. Well, sort. What happened is that Agnieszka Pilat, a painter known for her evocative creations featuring robots and other technology themes, spent a year or so helping program Spot and Digit – considered state of the art in terms of mechanical dexterity – to create contained works on canvas.
The result is “ROBOTa,” a collection of a dozen or so large oil paintings now on display at San Francisco Gallery Modernism. Pilat says the robots exhibit different styles. She compares Digit’s works to those of the tragic neo-expressionist Jean-Michel Basquiat, and notes that Spot, who is indeed shaped like a dog and paints with its mouth, generated works that have a look of calligraphy to them. While the ideas for the works may have come from Pilat, she says it was up to Digit and Spot to interpret her ideas using their particular mechanical limitations. “Working in close contact with a robot gives the impression of an encounter with another mind,” she says. “It seems that the robot has agency.” Soon, they may need agents, too.
Details: Through Dec. 22; 724 Ellis St., San Francisco; hours are 10am-5:30pm Tuesday through Saturday; free; www.modernisminc.com.
— Bay Area News Foundation
‘Glow’-ing with holiday fun
An annual light exhibition at the Exploratorium has returned, just in time for the holiday season. “Glow: Discover the Art of Life” showcases light sculptures from six artists.
“This year’s Glow exhibition brings pieces that spark curiosity, elevate our perception, and stimulate conversation,” said Kirstin Bach, Interim director of arts at the Exploratorium.
New York Interactive artist and engineer Jen Lewin’s 1,200-square-foot installation, “The Last Ocean,” made from reclaimed plastic debris fished from the ocean, consists of interactive platforms meant to resemble an ice field
Oakland artists Sally Weber and Craig Newswanger co-created “Entangled Attraction,” where 100 points of light appear to orbit each other, and “RayLights,” an installation reflecting mandala-like light patterns.
Pakistan-born artist Anila Quayyam Agha aims for inclusivity with her light-and-shadow installation series “All the Flowers Are for Me,” featuring designs inspired by Persian and Turkish architecture and religious imagery, floral motifs and more. Another light installation is a 50-year-old returning favorite, “Enchanted Tree,” by Burt Libe.
Details: Through Jan. 29; Pier 15, The Embarcadero, San Francisco; 10 am-5 pm Monday through Saturday, noon-5 pm Sunday (closed Thanksgiving); $29.95-$39.95; www.exploratorium.edu.
— Victoria Hsieh, Bay Area News Foundation