There are ton of shows to see in the Bay Area this weekend. Here are a festival of new musicals, a play by Lauren Yee, an exciting author interview and a concert by an alt-country gem that local arts fans should know about.
Marsh’s new musicals: While The Marsh performance spaces in San Francisco and Berkeley are best known for presenting biographical solo stage shows, it is jumping into the musicals genre for its latest series. “The Festival of New Musical Voices,” opening Sept. 30 at The Marsh Berkeley, features three new musicals and a musical film developed largely through virtual workshops during the pandemic.
The works include “Aphrodisia,” an impressionistic tone poem/musical film by Marsh founder and artistic director Stephanie Weisman and S.F. Ballet principal dancer Wei Wang, and featuring the Voci Women’s Vocal Ensemble; “The Hummingbird,” an autobiographical work by performance artist Kathryn Keats about a woman’s long journey back from an abusive relationship; “Jockamo,” by Wayne Harris and Maggie Wilson, a two-person show (accompanied by a three-piece blues band) about a young White female producer and elderly Black musician pressed to write a song together for a Katrina fundraiser; and “Music & Muses of Margaret Bonds and Langston Hughes,” written and performed by Candace Johnson and featuring San Francisco Symphony keyboardist Marc Shapiro, about the relationship between Bonds, a groundbreaking Black pianist, and Hughes, the celebrated Harlem Renaissance poet and playwright.
David Ford, The Marsh’s acclaimed director, helped develop the shows, which will be offered several times each during the festival.
Details: Through Oct. 10; The Marsh Berkeley, 2120 Allston Way; $20-$100 individual shows, $50 4-show pass; proof of vaccination required for entry, masks required inside venue; themarsh.org.
“The Great Leap”: One of the great things about playwright and San Francisco native Lauren Yee’s comedy/drama is that it feels timely for any number of reasons. It’s about a San Francisco Chinatown basketball star joining an American college team on a “friendship” tour to play a team in China during the time of Tiananmen Square uprising and massacre. The play, presented by American Conservatory Theater in 2019, blends humor, poignant observations about personal and cultural identity and genuine intrigue as it builds to a climactic finish. Now San Jose Stage Company is presenting Yee’s play beginning Sept. 29, starring Monica Ho, Alex Hsu, Tim Kniffin, and James Aaron Ho. Jeffrey Lo directs.
Details: Through Oct. 17; San Jose Stage, 490 S. 1st St.; $32-$54; www.thestage.org.
A chat with literary giant: San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora is getting set to reopen from the pandemic on Oct. 20 with a full slate of new exhibits and events. But in the meantime it is continuing to serve up the sort of compelling streaming content it has featured on its website since COVID closed museums and arts venues around the globe.
A case in point comes this week when MoAD’s website hosts an online interview with Wole Soyinka, the famed poet, novelist, essayist, activist and frequent thorn in the side of the Nigerian government. Soyinka, the first African to win the Nobel Prize for Literature (in 1986), this week published his first novel in nearly 50 years, “Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth,” which reviews describe as part satire, part murder mystery and part political treatise on one his favorite topics — the terrible toll that corruption and tyranny exact on freedom. He has long railed against colonialism and imperialism as well as dictators around the globe and has been jailed twice in his homeland of Nigeria for criticizing the government.
Soyinka, who famously destroyed his American green card after Donald Trump was elected president, should have plenty of interesting things to say when he is interviewed at noon Sept. 30 as part of MoAD’s Conversations Across the Diaspora interview series hosted by Nigerian-born author Sarah Ladipo Manyika. Meanwhile, “Chronicles From the Land of the Happiest People on Earth” will be the subject of MoAD’s online African Book Club Zoom gathering at 5 p.m. Oct. 24.
Details: Wole Soyinka interview, noon Sept. 30; African Book Club, 5 p.m. Oct. 24; both pay what you can, pre-registration required; www.moadsf.org.
— Bay Area News Foundation
Brandi’s back: Anyone who was at the opening night of Napa’s BottleRock festival on Sept. 4 had a chance to see history being made when an inspired bit of 11th-hour programming to replace an ailing performer resulted in just the second live performance ever by the Highwomen, the alt-country supergroup consisting of Brittney Spencer, Maren Morris, Brandi Carlile and Natalie Hemby. The quartet (then featuring Amanda Shires instead of Spencer) released one eponymous album in 2019 — a sublime recording that you can check out on several streaming platforms — and for a variety of reasons has hardly been heard from since. So the brief reunion was a big deal at the festival and on social media.
We can’t guarantee the same kind of magic will occur this weekend when Carlile returns to the Bay Area for a solo show at Stanford University’s Frost Amphitheatre. But we can tell you the singer-songwriter is a terrific artist on her own, blessed with a knack for penning tuneful and insightful songs as well as a versatile and evocative voice that can take on rock, pop and country with equal conviction. Her six albums so far have produced 11 Grammy nominations, and she is releasing a new album, “These Silent Days,” this week.
Details: 6:30 p.m. Oct. 1; Frost Amphitheatre, Stanford University; $69.95-$109.95; proof of vaccination or negative COVID test required for entry; live.stanford.edu.
— Bay Area News Foundation
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