Autumn’s a mixed bag. On one hand, I’m sad to see days get shorter, colder, and my 15 minute walk to work potentially wetter. Though my beloved flip-flops are worn less frequently as October rocks in, there are copious hat & scarf combos to get me out of bed, cider & spiced pies to warm me, and my 3-legged wonder cats Paxton & Lincoln get über snuggly. And then we have the Arts.
Fall marks the beginning of many performing arts organizations new seasons and I’ve been salivating at the lineup. They have really out done themselves this year. There’s a new air of collaboration, education and an element of adventure to this Autumn and many groups have really dialed it up. And, so maybe we should too? Venture out of our comfort zones? I challenge and encourage you to commit to attending three new organizations this year. Or three types of events you don’t normally attend (for me I’m working on a list of visual arts I’m going to try out, I’ll post those next month.) And, why not take with you three friends or family members as you explore your cultural landscape a bit closer? Below are just my top 11 choices (Spinal Tap taught me the best things go up to 11) for unique local performing arts events happening in the next few months, but there are many, many events beyond these that are worth exploring. In no particular order… my choices to help you fall forward are…
St. Petersburg String Quartet – presented by The San Jose Chamber Music Society: I’m going to let you in on a secret. I have a massive musical crush on Shostakovich. He’s dreamy. And dramatic. So visual. I know he’s dead, and that sounds creepy, but his music is alive. I get weak in the knees (good thing we have seats, no?) when I hear his stuff. When Shostakovich is on the program I clear my calendar and the St. Petersburg String Quartet plays Shostakovich about as well as you’ll ever hear him played. I know, some of your snob meters are registering off the charts right now, but you’re just scared, and that’s okay, I was too once. I’m not an expert on classical music by ANY means. Until I heard Classical music live, I didn’t get it at all, I thought it was for falling asleep to be perfectly honest. Now, I know differently and I’m here to help you overcome your fear. Three things will help you to reconsider that meter rating: 1) Le Petit Trianon in San Jose is a good acoustic venue, not too big, not to small and so while you get that fantastic physical live vibration in the air when you attend a concert there, you don’t have to dress to the nines or even dub it a special occasion type of event 2) SJCMS usually has a pre-lecture to give you a few pointers on what to listen for and inform you as to how the political or social environment influenced a composers work. This let’s you know you’re not alone in perhaps your “ignorance” about certain works and makes it an enriching evening. 3) This is world-class musicianship, if you are going to take a “risk” make it a calculated one with the odds in your favor. Treat yourself to the best of the best. October 2nd.
Cabaret at San Jose Stage: If there’s one thing I enjoy, it’s the excuse to dress just a little sexier than you might normally feel is appropriate. Enter Cabaret. Bustier? Leather skirt? Something with a bit of lace? It’s all good because Weimar Germany would want it that way. Plus the cast will likely trump you with regard to scandalous clothing and dance moves. This is a great venue for this show and the heart and history (as well as the sexy/seedy) of this show should come through in style as the Stage has done well in the past with its darker, edgier pieces. Plus you can bring your drinks into the theatre which adds to the “rebellious” nature, also at the heart of this play. September 28th – October 23rd.
United Nations Association Film Festival – UNAFF: The UNAFF comes to Stanford for the 14th year and this year’s theme is Education is a Human Right. This is one of the best, most educational, eye-opening film festivals in the area. The caliber of films is amazing (many have gone on to win Oscars) the social message is important and true, some of them can be a bit of a downer, but it’s really a fantastic festival, and affordably so. What I enjoy about UNAFF the most is it’s not overwhelming. You can see most if not all of the films if you want to. You don’t have to choose from 200 films that are during the day or past your bedtime. Its an accessible, manageable schedule for the most part and even if you just attend one or two sessions, you’ll walk away wanting to change the world and in many cases being handed simple tools to enact that change. October 21st – 30th.
Issac Bustos presented by The South Bay Guitar Society: Of all the music out there I think watching a single, solo, acoustic guitarist burns the most calories. Hear me out on this. Having made attempts to play guitar, I can tell you it’s not easy. You gotta move those digits. I calculated I burned 19 calories trying to play Twinkle Twinkle. A 90 minute concert of much higher caliber probably burns, oh let’s just round-up to 1,000. WATCHING them burn 1,000 calories has to burn at least 100. It’s seriously a workout. So I say skip the gym and check out Issac Bustos. The South Bay Guitar Society has a varied season and any of their concerts would give your soul a workout, but I choose Nicaraguan born Iassac as he is an advocate of new music and plays many new, contemporary works. Don’t forget to stretch before the concert, you don’t want to pull a muscle. November 12th.
August: Osage County at City Lights Theatre Company: Interesting, contemporary, urban and alternative theatre can be seen at City Lights almost every week of the year. I’ve directed a Tracy Letts play, read a few others, and he’s one of the most celebrated contemporary playwrights in many years. If you want to be on the cutting edge of theatre, this is a good place to start. Okay, it’s the deep end, but once you get over the shock you’re likely to make it out alive, and stronger for it. Make sure you plan to have drinks after, if this is anything like his other plays, you’re going to need to talk it out before you’re going to get any sleep. I missed August Osage County when it was in SF last year, so I’m super thankful that City Lights has brought this to my backyard. I think they’ll do a great job with this twisted black comedy. Think very black and probably very twisted. Get a sitter, this one isn’t for the kids. It’s rare I can walk into a play without some idea about plot and spoilers, and if I can just make it to Thursday without anyone telling me about this, I should get a super intense, “untainted” if you will, experience. September 22nd – October 23rd.
Left Coast Live – Local Music Festival: There’s a vibrant local music scene in the South Bay, and the folks at Left Coast Live get a whole lot of that talent together for one fantastic festival. There’s a laid back, hip, non-judgemental vibe that allows you to wander in and out of bars, art galleries, restaurants, hotel lobbies, and parking lots to take in bands that you might not know and in many cases want to. The weather is better and parking is too than that other city-that-shall-not-be-named who claims to corner the market on groovy local music. There’s something for everyone at LCL and I even discovered some places to eat downtown that I didn’t know existed at last year’s festival. It’s a great showcase for a scene that people are always saying is about as alive as Santa. Well ho ho ho to all you doubters. Christmas comes early this year. October 8th to be exact.
Evolutionary Revolutionary – UC Santa Cruz at The Flint Center: One part panel discussion with some of the best and brightest minds, one part live orchestrated multimedia presentation (Frans Lanting’s Life: A Journey Through Time, with music by Philip Glass played by Symphony Silicon Valley.) I think this might be the event I’m most excited about this fall. The origins of life and the future of research will be explored scientifically and artistically. Anytime Art and Technology intersect I get a bit turned on. I know. Too much information. But seriously, I was born at Stanford, geek is in my DNA. I first heard Philip Glass in Koyaanisqatsi (my parent rented it on Beta, thank you very much) and really enjoyed his score to the film Kundun, I’m a big fan of multimedia and I believe I’ve already covered that I’m a big nerd, so honestly this could be the big hit of the season for me. October 15th only.
Roger Daltrey – San Jose Civic: The San Jos Civic officially celebrates 75 years this October and has just been beautifully renovated. There’s a lot of history in the building but I have never, ever actually seen a concert there. I’ve also never seen Roger Daltrey live (he’s probably pushing 75 too, no?) I’m a huge fan of restored music venues and The Who and so I’m very much looking forward to trying to get a ticket to experience his 2011 tour as it stops through town. He will be playing his Tommy album which is excellent. The chords on Pinball Wizard make me smile from ear to ear. As it turns out, I’m a sucker for some good old-fashioned rock and roll, what can I say. Tommy can you hear me? Yes, he can, October 21st.
Sister Cities at Dragon Productions Theatre Company: I read this script a while back and it gave me chills. I can not WAIT to meet these characters in person. For those of you who haven’t seen a show in a theatre with under 50 seats, intimate, in your face theatre, do yourself a favor and try it. This play could be a phenomenal first experience (or 100th, either way.) I’m usually not one for theatre that makes you cry uncontrollably, but this might be the exception. I know most of these girls in this show and they are forces to be reckoned with. With such great material and talent, I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out in the flesh. Bring tissue just in case and get tickets early, they will sell out. September 29th October 23rd.
Jim Lehrer – presented by the Commonwealth Club: Jim Lehrer is many things, but above all else, he is a great storyteller. This conversation with David Kennedy, focuses on his experiences as moderator for 11 presidential and vice presidential debates and is sure to be full of humor and delightful, intelligent insights from Jim’s perspective. If you’ve never heard him speak, you’re in for a treat. If you have, then you know he’s a national treasure. You’ll want to just hug the man afterwards. Promise. Or of you can’t make it, download the CWC podcasts for free. October 19th.
Holiday Program – Smuin Ballet: For years now I’ve seen clips, photos, and read descriptions of The Christmas Ballet that performs each year in Mountain View. A slightly satirical and more sultry answer to the traditional Nutcracker I always say it looks great. And, then I never go. This year… I’m going. Plain and simple. Paired with two new works this might just be a new holiday tradition! December 7th-11th.
Annnnnndddd scene. Enjoy your fall forward.