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Art Is Our Salvation

Taylor Mac and his A 24-Decade History of Popular Music kick off our annual preview of the season’s best from the stage, the screen, and the dance floor.

Playwright and performer Taylor Mac (center, in headdress).

 
It’s been a tough year.
Brutal. Every day, seemingly, another reason to despair. Sometimes it can feel like the only way to make sense of our troubled times is to turn to people who channel those feelings—the rage, the frustration, the resignation—into something new. A play. A dance. A song. A 24-hour-long, 24-decade-spanning concert-cum-cabaret-cumendurance-art installation. So we say to our artists: Save us. Save us, Taylor Mac, with your over-the-top musical reimagining of 240 years of United States history. Save us, Marc Bamuthi Joseph, with both your choreography and your unique ability to serve as the Bay Area’s preeminent cultural bridge builder. Save us, John Adams and Peter Sellars, with your world-premiering opera Girls of the Golden West, a retelling of the ugly human drama of California’s gold rush. Save us, Pete Nicks, with your no-holds-barred documentary look at the Oakland Police Department, The Force. Save us, Nina Katchadourian, with your multimedia artworks that find humor and insight in life’s unlikeliest places. And save us, Annalee Newitz and Andy Weir, with your novels that look into the future and see more than just despair. Luckily, we live in a place and time where artistic virtuosity can be found around nearly every corner. With that said, we present our guide to the very best of the fall arts season.


THEATER

How Sweet the Sound
San Francisco started Taylor Mac on a winding path to a 24-hour-long American masterpiece. Now he returns to inspire us back. By Kevin Sessums

The Mommy Diaries
Barbara Hammond, the playwright behind Magic Theatre’s Eva Trilogy, steps into the spotlight. By Jordan Winters

The Role He Was Born to Play
John Douglas Thompson in A.C.T.’s Hamlet. By Ian A. Stewart


TV/FILM

Tangled Up in Blue
Filmmaker Pete Nicks trains his camera on one of the bay’s most complex, divisive institutions: the Oakland Police Department. By Elise Craig

The Dude of a Thousand Faces
James Franco returns. By Ian A. Stewart

Endangered Species of the Urban East Bay
Gentrification is a natural force in the new web comedy series The North Pole. By Ayah Mouhktar


VISUAL ART

Life in Minutiae
Stanford-born artist Nina Katchadourian has a keen eye for the overlooked. By Sheryl Nonnenberg

Cheryl Haines’s Safe Harbor
The latest For-Site exhibition offers artists refuge. By Ian A. Stewart

FriendsWithYou’s Gift to Oakland
Technicolor LEDs take over the Oakland Museum’s Great Hall. By Casey O’Brien


BOOKS

It’s the End of the World as We Know It—and They Feel Fine
Bay Area sci-fi hotshots Andy Weir and Annalee Newitz on staring into a—dare we say it?—hopeful future. By Ian A. Stewart

No Sophomore Slump Here
East Bay author Robin Sloan’s latest, Sourdough, is another triumph of imagination. By Linda Lenhoff


DANCE

Impresario of the Undefinable
Dance? Music? Poetry? Marc Bamuthi Joseph is brewing up something unique at YBCA. By Rachel Howard

Their Bodies Are the Canvas
Wendy Rein and Ryan T. Smith are presenting dance’s next generation to the masses. By Rachel Howard

The East Bay’s Prodigal Daughter Returns
Oakland native Kate Weare at the Mission’s ODC Theater. By Rachel Howard


MUSIC

Racism, Nativism, Avarice, and...Song
Opera Auteurs John Adams and Peter Sellars take on the dark side of the gold rush. By Gary Kamiya

Sacramento’s Folk-Metal Genre Bender
On her latest album, Hiss Spun, Chelsea Wolfe takes a turn toward the darkness. By Ian A. Stewart

William Kentridge’s “Surrealist Opera”
A.C.T.’s Geary Theater goes dadaist. By Alex Orlando


ROLL CALL

50 Plays, Films, Art Shows, Concerts, Books, and Dance Performances to Feed Your Fall Culture Binge
Where to go and what to see.


Originally published in the September issue of
San Francisco 

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