Of the dozens of performances and exhibitions I've been fortunate enough to cover for KQED during the past year, several stand out as events I don't think I'll ever forget. Looking ahead, there are a fair number of shows in the coming year that I don't intend to miss. Here, then, is my "Don't List."
Shows I Don't Think I'll Ever Forget
Geir Jordahl's mesmerizing exhibition of atmospheric, vertical-panorama photographs of landscapes, skies and trees at Modernbook Gallery coincided with the publication of his beautiful, limited-edition book, Searching for True North.
Northanger Abbey at the Pear Avenue Theatre revealed the literary side of the theater's artistic director, Diana Tasca, who is a frequent performer at the Pear and on other local stages. Tasca's clever and thoughtful adaptation of Jane Austen's novel managed to put the writer's words first without tying the hands of director Rebecca Ennals, who sent her actors dancing about the Pear's small stage.
Bach at Leipzig at Shakespeare Santa Cruz was the best theatrical production I saw all year (until The Arabian Nights, that is; (see below). It had terrific acting, a smart script by Itamar Moses (whose Yellowjackets was a disappointment) and is sure to remain the funniest play I will ever see about backstabbing Lutheran organists in the Age of Enlightenment.
The Arabian Nights at the Berkeley Rep brought the year to a close with wit, humor and poetry flowing in equal measures. The run has been extended until January 18, 2009, so don't let this jewel pass you by.
Shows I Don't Intend To Miss
In January, the great Willie Nelson returns to the Fillmore for another one of his legendary five-night runs. This year his guitarist son Lukas opens the show. For tickets and information visit thefillmore.com.
February looks to be Andy Warhol month in the Bay Area, thanks to a pair of shows opening on Valentine's Day at the de Young and the San Jose Museum of Art. The San Francisco show focuses on pop music and pop stars, from Presley to Jagger, while the San Jose exhibition concentrates on prints. For more information, visit sjmusart.org and famsf.org/deyoung.
In May, over Memorial Day weekend, Aptos Village Park just south of Santa Cruz fills with fans attending the Santa Cruz Blues Festival. In 2008 Bonnie Raitt was the highlight, especially when she jammed with old Chicago bluesmen Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. This year the lineup is still being worked out, but rumor has it that Ruthie Foster, who stole the San Francisco Blues Festival this year, may be on the Santa Cruz bill. For tickets and information visit santacruzbluesfestival.com.
Summer brings more than 100 paintings and photographs by Georgia O'Keeffe and Ansel Adams to SFMOMA for an exhibition by two artists whose work is more similar than their different mediums would suggest. For tickets and information visit sfmoma.org.
In November, Dragon Productions in Palo Alto presents Warren Leight's Tony Award winning Side Man, a memory play about the end of the big-band era. For tickets and information visit dragonproductions.net.
What were your favorite performances and art events of 2008? What's on your calendar for 2009? Let us know!