Cy and David's Picks: A Composer at 80, an Uncomfortable Comedy About Race, and a Magical, Musical World

The cast of Young Jean Lee's The Shipment (left-right) William Hartfield, Nican Robinson, Howard Johnson Jr., Nkechi Emeruwa, and Michael Wayne Turner III ( Photo: Pak Han/Crowded Fire)

KQED's Cy Musiker and David Wiegand share their picks for great events around the Bay Area this week.

Sept. 29: Another great American composer known for groundbreaking work in minimalism is turning 80. We mentioned Steve Reich a few weeks ago -- now it's Philip Glass’ turn. And you can celebrate his still-dexterous fingers as he joins four other pianists to play all 20 of Glass' piano études. He's working with a terrific team, including the Bay Area's  Sarah Cahill, jazz pianist Aaron Diehl, and Jenny Lin. Glass does a pre-show chat with Stanford Live’s executive director Chris Lorway; I hope he talks about his days driving cab in New York. Tickets for this Bing Hall Concert are scarce, so act fast. Details here.

Richard Clifford and Derek Jacobi in 'Measure and Dido' coming to the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center and Weill Hall at Sonoma State
Richard Clifford and Derek Jacobi in 'Measure and Dido' coming to the Napa Valley Performing Arts Center and Weill Hall at Sonoma State (Photo: Courtesy of Folger Shakespeare Library)

Sept. 24 and 25: Derek Jacobi could have retired after making I, Claudius in 1976, and people would still be talking about how good he was in that BBC series. But he’s still working (Vicious with Ian McKellen), and he’s the biggest star in a touring show from the Folger Shakespeare Library, a fascinating mashup of Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure with Purcell’s opera Dido and Aeneas. Jacobi stars with his partner Richard Clifford, who also directs the show, and musicians of the Folger Consort. This is a coup for the North Bay. The Napa Valley Performing Center in Yountville gets the world premiere, Saturday. Details here. And then Weill Hall at Sonoma State in Rohnert Park gets the second performance. Details here.

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Sept. 23-Oct. 9: A musical adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. Is Jane Austen rolling in her grave? Well, at least there are no zombies. This production from the scrappy IAM Theatre is also a chance to support a local favorite. The songs in Pride and Prejudice the Musical are by Rita Abrams, the former Mill Valley schoolteacher priced out of town a few years ago, and the composer of the hit song “Mill Valley.” Details for this North American premiere are here.

Sept. 23-25: The Paul Dresher Ensemble is always pushing the boundaries of music and theater. This time, they've enlisted percussionist Steven Schick (artistic director for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players) to shake and bang on a battery of one-of-a-kind instruments in what they're calling "Schick Experiment," directed by Rinde Eckert. The instruments are as expressive as Schick himself: everything from a piece of sheet metal on a pogo stick to the Hurdy Grande, the Field of Flowers, and the Peacock (a deconstructed pipe organ). The idea seems to be to have fun with sound. We radio people applaud. Details here.

Sept. 22-Oct 15: Young Jean Lee wrote her play The Shipment back in in 2007, but it feels totally fresh today. It’s about racial stereotyping in American culture, and it premiered before President Obama was inaugurated, before Black Lives matter, and before #OscarsSoWhite, yet Lee told me that she’s shocked at how little has changed since then. “It’s much more disturbing to me now than it was back then," she says. "You know the issues that it’s addressing hurt more, because we should have gotten further by now." Lee said she loves the dynamic of how mixed audiences (black and white) watching the show end up also watching each other, trying to gauge how to react. Maybe you should bring a friend. Details for the show's run at Crowded Fire Theater are here.

Richmond Art Center Celebrates its 80th Anniversary
Richmond Art Center Celebrates its 80th Anniversary (Photo: Courtesy of Richmond Art Center )

Sept. 23-Nov. 12: Another 80th birthday now, this time for one of the Bay Area’s best and most innovative art centers. The Richmond Art Center celebrates with the show Making Our Mark by some of the great artists who’ve shown there, and their students, featuring work by Hung Liu, Christopher Brown, Squeak Carnwath, Enrique Chagoya, William T. Wiley, and more. This evening the RAC celebrates its role teaching art to thousands of local school kids, with a Back to School Community Celebration with art-making and food. Tomorrow the Del Sol Quartet plays music by Terry Riley at 2pm -- just ten bucks for that. Details for the gallery show and other goodies are here.

Sept. 23: Dead Prez is the duo of M1 and stic.man, and their music mixes social justice with pan-Africanism. In fact they make Public Enemy look like pussy cats, with lyrics like “You wanna stop terrorists, start with U.S. imperialists.” When he was on Comedy Central, Dave Chapelle opened each episode of Chapelle's Show with an instrumental version of the Dead Prez song “Hip-Hop.” They haven't released an album in a while, but I'm glad they're touring. Details for their show at the Uptown Nightclub in Oakland are here.

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