Palo Alto Weekly

Arts & Entertainment - January 13, 2012

Worth a look

Theater

'The Pitmen Painters'

In "The Pitmen Painters," playwright Lee Hall turns from the young dancers of "Billy Elliot" to a gang of 1930s coal miners who become unlikely artists. Set in a mining town in northern England, the story centers on the miners who try to better themselves with art-appreciation classes. Turns out, they appreciate art more when the canvases are theirs.

When the show was on Broadway, the New York Times' Ben Brantley said in a review, "Written partly in response to cuts in arts endowments and education, 'Pitmen' belongs to a fine old British tradition of establishment-challenging theater."

"Pitmen" comes to the Peninsula later this month, presented by TheatreWorks. Directed by TheatreWorks casting director Leslie Martinson, the production previews at 8 p.m. Jan. 18 through Jan. 20, then opens at 8 p.m. Jan. 21.

Shows are at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts at 500 Castro St., with tickets ranging from $19 to $69. For more information, go to http://theatreworks.org or call 650-463-1960.

'Incognito'

When actor Michael Fosberg fills out a census form asking about his ethnicity, his response is far from straightforward. "I jokingly refer to myself as AAA: African-American Armenian," he said last year on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" program.

For much of his life, though, Fosberg would have checked the "white" box without hesitation. That's before he learned — in his 30s — that his father was black. Raised by his white mother and stepfather, Fosberg had never thought that he was anything else.

Fosberg's discovery led to what he describes as "a new, more comfortable relationship with my sense of identity" and "a rich, black heritage." It also led to thoughts about how Americans perceive and think about race. And, ultimately, in 2001, it led to Fosberg's one-man autobiographical play, "Incognito."

As part of his ongoing tour, Fosberg will perform the play in Palo Alto at 8 p.m. this Saturday, Jan. 14, at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center at 3921 Fabian Way. Admission is $20 general and $15 for JCC members.

For more information, go to http://paloaltojcc.org or call 650-223-8609.

Music

The Special Consensus

A veteran bluegrass band from Chicago heads west this month to take part in the local Redwood Bluegrass Associates concert series.

The Special Consensus recently marked its 35th anniversary as a band by releasing the album "35." (Clearly, from some of the freshest-faced photos, not all the members have been in the group that long.) Mandolin, bass, banjo and guitar mingle with vocals in the group's sound. Band co-founder Greg Cahill is still an active member, picking up the banjo and singing baritone and tenor harmonies.

The Redwood series concerts are at the First Presbyterian Church of Mountain View at 1667 Miramonte Ave. (at Cuesta Drive). The Special Consensus performs Jan. 21 at 8 p.m., following a 5 p.m. jam session and the doors opening at 7. The Stockton-based trio Snap Jackson & The Knock On Wood Players will also perform.

There's always plenty to eat at these shows; folks bring pies, cookies and drinks starting at 7. Tickets are $18 in advance and $20 at the door.

The next scheduled concert is a performance by Red Wine, a bluegrass band from Genoa, Italy. For full season details, go to http://rba.org or call 650-691-9982.

Hamed Nikpay

Persian poetry becomes world fusion music in the hands and imagination of Hamed Nikpay, songwriter, singer and player of many instruments.

Nikpay grew up singing and studied Persian classical music. Now he weaves the words of Rumi and other poets into his own blended sound, all the while playing such instruments as the setar, tanbour and oud, which are all stringed.

These experimental and Eastern sounds will fill the Cubberley Auditorium at Stanford's School of Education on Jan. 27, when Nikpay is scheduled to play a free concert. The show is set for 8 p.m.

For more information, go to http://continuingstudies.stanford.edu .

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