March 3–April 2: Here's another tribute to a late singer-songwriter; this time it's blueswoman Alberta Hunter (1895-1984). San Francisco's Jewelle Gomez (Waiting for Giovanni) has written Leaving the Blues, a play about Hunter, her music, and her life as a lesbian artist, with a big focus on Hunter's relationship with her partner Lottie Tyler. Hunter quit music for years to work as a nurse, then came out of retirement at the age of 82 and became more popular than ever. Gomez wrote the play with actress Desiree Rogers in mind for the lead, who often works with the LGBT-focused New Conservatory Theatre Center. That's where this show gets its world premiere. Details here.
March 5: We're featuring still another singer-songwriter now. Do you detect a theme? Gabriel Kahane writes and plays tunes that are a blend of art song, pop, and cabaret, and he's set Craigslist ads to music in a song cycle he’s calling Craigslistlieder, including ditties like “Half a Box of Condoms.” Kahane comes by his love of this classic genre naturally: His dad is pianist and conductor Jeffrey Kahane (formerly music director for the Santa Rosa Symphony), and son Gabriel is writing songs that somehow both celebrate and mock the old lieder tradition. At this week's concert, Kahane also sings Schumann’s song cycle, “Dichterliebe,” which is just gorgeous, and selections from recent recordings. Details for Kahane's Sunday concert at SFJAZZ are here.
March 3–April 2: Here’s a play about Roe v. Wade that is not a courtroom drama. It’s a modern history play about the very complicated life of Sarah Weddington, the lawyer who successfully fought to make abortion legal; and the equally complicated life of her client Norma McCorvey, who died a few weeks ago, and who famously campaigned against abortion later in her life. Playwright Lisa Loomer says when she wrote the piece for its premiere at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, she and her collaborators all assumed Hillary Clinton would now be president, and she says the show is all the more timely now that we've elected a president who’s pledged to appoint justices who will overturn Roe. In a recent interview, Loomer talked about how her own thinking about abortion changed as she wrote the play. “The awful thing about being a human being," she said, "is that we have to make terrible choices. And the play made me very wary of people who would seek to make my choices seemingly easier than they are, or to tell me, you don’t need to choose, just do what I tell you to do.” There will be pre- and post-show discussions at many of the performances with people working on the issues of women’s health and reproductive rights. Details for Roe at the Berkeley Repertory Theater are here.
March 7: Big Thief’s new album is called Masterpiece, a title which takes a lot of guts when it's also your first album as a band. But it's darn good, with all the songs by vocalist and guitarist Adrianne Lenker (who spent time at the Berklee School of Music). She and Buck Meek are the core of the band, with Max Oleartchik on bass, and James Krivchenia on drums. The title track is pretty rocking, but other songs stray down indie folk and country roads in surprising ways. Catch them in a small club while you still can. Details for Big Thief's gig at the Rickshaw Stop on Tuesday are here.