May arts, music and events calendar
A.C.T. performances, Alice in Wonderland. Carnaval, CAAMFest, Cinco de Mayo. Ballet, bikes, bluegrass, books. The list goes on — there’s so much going on in the Bay this month and it’d be a shame to let it go to waste. Get your dance on, your theater on, your weird on. We’re here to help you get where you need to go to enjoy the uniqueness all over the Bay Area!
Alice in Wonderland (May 3-4) at Walnut Creek
Alice in Wonderland is a story you’re probably familiar with — but have you seen it with puppets? DLUX Puppets involves handcrafted, intricately detailed puppets — some that take 250 hours to design — ranging in size from two feet to seven. They have life-like features and an array of personalities that portray Alice in Wonderland’s classic characters. Along with the actors and puppets are an animated, digital video backdrop, recognized tunes to fit the story and an inspiring social-emotional learning message. DLUX Puppets will be moving to Las Vegas this summer, so catch a performance before the company leaves the Bay Area. Tickets are $17 and can be bought online. Take BART to Walnut Creek and walk 10 minutes to the Lesher Center for the Arts.
Cinco de Mayo (May 4) at 24th St. Mission
Mexican and Latino foods, music, dance and artistry for the entire family will be found at the 15th annual Cinco de Mayo festival. There will be artists performing throughout the day — featuring Mexican songs as well as salsa, latin jazz, latin rock, pop and other latin rhythms — along with vendors providing diverse foods and crafts. Admission is free. Take BART to 24th St. Mission and walk 6 minutes to 1142 Valencia St.
Artwork courtesy of Bay Area Book Festival.
Bay Area Book Festival (May 4-5) at Downtown Berkeley
Authors and book lovers will get to unite at the fifth anniversary Bay Area Book Festival, where downtown Berkeley will transform into a literary extravaganza. There will be over 250 authors attending the festival — from national book award winners, New York Times top 10 authors, and international writers — along with keynote speakers and Giridharadas (Winners Take All) in conversation with Robert Reich. The outdoor fair will feature booksellers, independent authors, reading lounges, local eats and entertainment for all. Admission to the fair is free; tickets to programs are $5-$15 and can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and the festival welcome center will be at the BART plaza.
Dance Series 02 (Ends May 5) at Montgomery St.
Master dance maker and former Smuin Choreographer-in-Residence Amy Seiwert is returning for a quarter-century celebration featuring her signature choreography. Seiwert has pushed the boundaries of dance by collaborating with artists of other disciplines and experimenting with all of its various forms and expressions from a classical base. She is now Artistic Director of Sacramento Ballet, and will return to help Smuin celebrate this milestone anniversary. The San Francisco Chronicle has described her as “keeping founder Michael Smuin’s legacy of unabashed showmanship alive.” Tickets are $34-$81 and can be bought online. Take BART to Montgomery St. and walk 5 minutes to Yerba Buena Center for the Arts.
How Weird Street Faire (May 5) at Montgomery Street
Thousands from across the world will gather in downtown San Francisco to celebrate peace, creativity and weirdness. Nine stages of electronic music will provide beats to dance to, and there will also be performances, food, unique vendors and visionary art. This year’s theme is “Time Warp: A Love Story” and attendees are expected to come in costumes inspired by the 1880s and 1980s. Magic passes are $15 online or $20 at the faire. Take BART to Montgomery Street and walk 6 minutes to Howard and 2nd Streets.
Kimono Refashioned (Ends May 5) at Civic Center/UN Plaza
Kimono Refashioned takes a look at kimonos — their materials, forms, techniques and decorative motifs — and how they have inspired designers for more than 150 years. The Asian Art Museum, in partnership with the Kyoto Costume Institute, present this exhibition which focuses on the ways that kimono structure, fabric and concept have influenced Western garments. The exhibition features over 35 garments that show how kimono continue to be an inspiration for contemporary designers in Japan and beyond. Tickets are $20-$25 and can be bought online. Children under 12 and members have free admission. Take BART to Civic Center/UN Plaza and walk 5 minutes to the Asian Art Museum.
Shstakovich Trilogy Program 08 (May 7-12) at Civic Center/UN Plaza
Alexei Ratmansky’s “Shostakovich Trilogy” returns to SF Ballet after its critically acclaimed 2014 SF Ballet premiere. The trilogy is a SF Ballet co-commission with American Ballet Theatre and is made up of three distinct ballets — Symphony #9, Chamber Symphony, and Piano Concerto #1 — set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s orchestral works. See what the San Francisco Chronicle calls “a masterpiece” and what The New York Times describes as “fascinating, poetic, and enigmatic.” Tickets range from $35-$298 and can be bought online. Take BART to Civic Center/UN Plaza and walk 9 minutes to War Memorial Opera House.
Bike East Bay, the organization behind Bike to Work Day, focuses on promoting healthy, sustainable communities by making bicycling safe, fun and accessible. Bicycling is a safe choice for people of all cultures, ages, abilities and backgrounds, and the East Bay is a leader for accessible bikeways and streets that accommodate the needs of all users. On the 25th annual Bike to Work Day, bikers can visit an energizer station in the morning to pick up a free bag. After the work day, there will be Bike Happy Hour celebrations and after-parties. It is free to participate.
Artwork courtesy of CAAM.
CAAMFest 2019 (May 9-19)
The Center for Asian American Media (CAAM) is a nonprofit dedicated to presenting stories that convey Asian American experiences to the broadest audience possible. It runs an annual film festival — CAAMFest — that happens every March in the Bay Area, and it’s the nation’s largest showcase for new Asian American and Asian films. This year’s festival will include galas, special presentations, comcast narratives, documentaries, new directions and shorts. Events will be held at venues all across San Francisco and Oakland; the schedule can be found here. Tickets range from $12-$500 and can be bought online.
SF Contemporary Music Players (May 10) at Civic Center/UN Plaza
Julius Eastman’s politically powerful and sonically persuasive works are the inspiration behind San Francisco Contemporary Music Players’ performance, “Guerilla Sounds: Julius Eastman’s Legacy.” The “CROSSROADS” series has two major commissions: one is a new work by American composer Sidney Corbett and another is a SFCMP commission from Bay Area composer, pianist, and improviser Myra Melford. Also featured is Brazilian-Californian composer Fernanda Aoki Navarro and artist LJ White. Tickets range from $15-$60 and can be bought online. Take BART to Civic Center/UN Plaza and walk 11 minutes to SFJAZZ.
Weightless - The Strand (Ends May 12) at Civic Center/UN Plaza
Sisterhood, love, betrayal, and rebirth are all coming to stage in “Weightless,” a rock opera created by Oakland-based indie rock band The Kilbanes. A.C.T.’s Young Conservatory have commissioned The Kilbanes — which are composed of the married duo Kate Kilbane and Dan Moses — to create a new musical for young actors. Check out a performance of “Weightless” at The Strand, an institution that’s more than 100 years old. Tickets are $15-$70 and can be bought online. Take BART to Civic Center/UN Plaza and walk 1 minute to The Strand Theater.
The Importance of Being Earnest (Ends May 12) at Downtown Berkeley
Oscar Wilde’s most popular play has been entertaining theatre-goers for over a century, and it’s coming to the stage at Aurora Theatre Company. Ernest is the irresistible bad boy of London society, and everyone is in love with him. The problem is — Ernest doesn’t exist. He and his lover are tangled in a web of lies, and Wilde fills the story with delicious bon mots and unlikely situations. The London Telegraph described the story as “the most perfect comedy in the English language.” Tickets can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 2 minutes to Aurora Theatre.
Photo courtesy of A.C.T.
Vanity Fair (Ends May 12) at Powell Street
“Vanity Fair” comes from acclaimed playwright Kate Hamill and is based on William Makepeace Thackeray’s classic 19th century novel. Hamill’s story pops with 21st-century spirit, and focuses on character Becky Sharp. Becky may not have been born with wealth or status, but she’s willing to do anything to attain both. She’s armed with fierce wit and charm, and manages to forge her own path through London’s high society. See what The Wall Street Journal describes as “a masterpiece of creative compression that is at once arrestingly original and faithful to its source material.” Tickets range from $22-$125 and can be bought online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 8 minutes to A.C.T.’s Geary Theater.
Press Here, The Musical (Ends May 12) at Downtown Berkeley
Audience members will get to take an ever-changing, magical journey with actors in this original production of Press Here the Musical, inspired by Hervé Tullet's award-winning picture book, Press Here. Colorful dots will cavort and juggle onstage and the power of imagination and interactivity will be shared. Recommended for ages 3 to 103. Tickets range from $17-$28 and can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 2 minutes to the BACT Berkeley Center, The Osher Studio.
Gold: The Midas Musical (Ends May 12) at Downtown Berkeley
Princess Lydia is motherless, and turns to her father for love. Instead of treating her kindly, King Midas grows meaner, more distant, and greedier by the day. However, he learns a valuable lesson about family when the gods grant him the power to turn everything into gold. The Bay Area Children’s Theatre is offering a modern musical re-telling of the Greek legend of King Midas, recommended for ages 8 and up. Tickets are $17-$28 and can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 2 minutes to the BACT Berkeley Center, The Osher Studio.
Florence and The Machine (May 15) at Concord
Florence and The Machine are known for their raw, emotive music and full power performances. The group has a total of six Grammy nominations under their belts and are on their U.S. tour titled “High as Hope.” Christine and the Queens will open their Concord show. Tickets range from $35-$675 and can be bought online. Take BART to Concord and walk, bike or take a cab or rideshare to the Concord Pavillion.
Kings (May 16-June 16) at Ashby
“Kings” is a whip-smart political satire that centers on Sydney Millsap, a new member of congress who sees how money corrupts politics. She’s on a mission to do something about it, but a career senator and two ambitious lobbyists react to her efforts. See the dark comedy that Metro Weekly describes as a “snappy addition to the growing canon of fiction that pulls back the curtain on how the sausage gets stuffed in Washington, D.C.” Tickets range from $7-$40 and can be bought online. Take BART to Ashby and walk 5 minutes to the Ashby Stage.
Photo courtesy of Smuin Contemporary Ballet.
Dance Series 02 (May 17-18) at Walnut Creek
Master dance maker and former Smuin Choreographer-in-Residence Amy Seiwert is returning with a world premiere titled “Renaissance,” set to the music of Oakland-based group Kitka. “Renaissance” explores music from Eastern European traditions as it honors the strength of community and women standing together. Also on the bill is “The Best of Smuin” and Smuin’s inaugural program “Dances with Songs.” There will be a post-show meet and greet. Tickets range from $58-$75 and can be bought online. Take BART to Walnut Creek and walk 10 minutes to the Lesher Center for the Arts.
Artwork courtesy of Freight & Salvage.
4th Annual Berkeley Bluegrass Festival (May 17-19) at Downtown Berkeley
Freight & Salvage is celebrating its fourth year of the Berkeley Bluegrass Festival, which is programmed by Grammy-award winner Laurie Lewis and The Freight’s program director Peter Williams. Bluegrass leaders, along with up-and-coming artists and music fans will come together for a weekend of concerts, jams, free workshops and activities like a youth jam and family squaredance to kick off the summer music festival season. Some of this year’s performers include The Earls of Leicester, Hot Buttered Rum, and Laurie Lewis. Tickets range from $5-$100 and can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 3 minutes to Freight & Salvage.
The Jungle (Ends May 19) at Powell Street
The Jungle is a short-lived, self-governing society that emerged within a refugee camp in Calais, France. The residents there are resilient, hopeful — they enjoy freshly-baked naan and milky chai together and have created a world with warm hospitality, amidst squalor and danger. This intimate and critically acclaimed production puts the audience directly into the subject matter of those who have inhabited this desolate patch of land in France. To accommodate the performance’s unique staging, the Curran will be transformed and reduced to an intimate 600 seats. Tickets can be bought online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 7 minutes to the Curran.
Far, Far Better Things (Ends May 19) at North Berkeley
Geetha Reddy’s new play is inspired by Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities,” and tells the story of two women — a Latina domestic worker and a young South Asian doctor — separated by class, race and the unspoken rules of modern womanhood. “Far, Far Better Things” shows these two women as they strive to balance their responsibilities to their children, to themselves and to each other. Tickets range from $10-$30 and can be bought online. Take BART to North Berkeley and walk 28 minutes to Live Oak Theater, or take a bus, cab or rideshare.
Artwork courtesy of Carnaval San Francisco.
Carnaval San Francisco (May 25-26) at 24th St. Mission
Carnaval will be enlivening San Francisco with a Grand Parade that will kick off at the corner of 24th and Bryant Streets. There will be adorned floats that will depict multicultural themes and host performers who will engage and entertain the crowds. Music and dance of the Bahamas, Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Mexico, Polynesia and more will be heard and seen through the streets. The festival will be held on May 26 and 27 on Harrison Street between 16th and 24th Streets. Admission is free. Take BART to 24th St. Mission and walk 10 minutes to 24th and Bryant Streets.
Artwork courtesy of A.C.T.
Rhinoceros - The Geary Theater (May 29-June 23) at Powell Street
French playwright Eugene Ionesco was one of the foremost playwrights of the theater of the absurd. His piece “Rhinoceros” focuses on a rhinoceros rampaging through a village square. At the local cafe, people argue over what actually happened — was it actually a rhino, or just fake news? An everyman named Berenger grapples with this question and faces a desperate choice: either take a stand against armored brutes, or join the mindless herd. Tony Award-winning director Frank Galati is behind this all-new adaptation about power, conformism and mass culture. Tickets are $15-$110 and can be bought online. Take BART to Powell Street and walk 8 minutes to A.C.T.’s Geary Theater.
Union Square Wine Walk (May 30) at Powell Street
Shop, sip, and savor! Don't miss the Union Square Wine Walk happening May 30th from 5-8 pm at premier SF art galleries and retailers. Tickets are only $25 in advance! Click here to sign up.
The Good Book (Ends June 9) at Downtown Berkeley
“The Good Book” centers around the most influential book in Western history: the Bible. This play weaves together three distinct yet connected stories: a devout young man struggling to reconcile his belief with his identity; an atheist biblical scholar trying to find meaning as she faces her own mortality; and the creative journey of the Bible itself. Tickets can be bought online. Take BART to Downtown Berkeley and walk 3 minutes to Peet’s Theatre.
Hans Hofmann: The Nature of Abstraction (Ends July 21) at Downtown Berkeley
Hans Hofmann was one of the most significant figures of postwar American art, and played a pivotal role in the development of Abstract Expressionism. This exhibition presents a fresh, eye-opening look at Hofmann’s prolific and innovative artistic practice. It brings together nearly seventy works that span all of Hofmann’s career; there will be paintings and works on paper from 1930 through the end of Hofmann’s life in 1966. Numerous masterworks from BAMPFA’s distinguished collection, along with many seldom-seen works from both public and private collections across North America and Europe will be on display. Admission tickets range from $11-13. Admission is free for BAMPFA members; UC Berkeley students, faculty, staff; 18 and under; one adult per child 13 and under; and artists in the BAMPFA collection/MATRIX.
Photo courtesy of Oakhella’s Facebook page.
Oakhella Festival (Ends Aug. 18) at West Oakland
Who’s hella excited for Oakhella? Oakhella originally launched as a micro-music festival, but then grew into a community organization seeking to preserve the cultural fabric of Oakland while also welcoming newcomers into the community. April 28th marked Oakhella’s season opener, but there will be events throughout the summer until August. Oakhella events feature performances, visual art, DJ sets, food trucks and local vendors from the Town. Check the Oakhella website for May events.