Worth A Look

See Pacific Art League's new digs, Bayer Ballet shows off young dancers, Bay Choral Guild's puts poetry to music, TheatreWorks does Sondheim

This week in Worth A Look, check out the Pacific Art League's newly retrofitted building during the First Friday art walk, the Bayer Ballet shows off its young dancers, the Bay Choral Guild sets the great poets to music, and TheatreWorks closes out its 2013-14 season with Sondheim's "Marry Me A Little."

Art: Pacific Art League revamped

The Pacific Art League has been participating in Palo Alto's monthly "First Friday" art walk for years. However, according to Seth M. Schalet, PAL's executive director, this coming Friday is special.

That's because it is the "first 'First Friday'" that the Pacific Art League will observe from within the organization's newly redesigned and renovated building.

For the past 14 months, the 93-year-old PAL has been in temporary digs on Forest Avenue, while its long-time downtown headquarters at 668 Ramona St. underwent earthquake retrofitting and an interior redesign.

Everything has been redone, according to Schalet. Brand new gallery lighting and a new floor plan, which will allow for more natural light to penetrate the building, mean the entire space will be brighter than ever before. This will be of benefit for visitors to gallery events such as the upcoming First Friday, as well as students who take art classes at the PAL.

"It will be a much better experience," Schalet says.

The building has also grown by about 5,000 square feet, increasing in size from around 7,500 square feet to 12,500.

All of this was done in coordination with the Palo Alto Historic Resources Board to ensure that the building's "historic integrity" was not dramatically altered. The Ramona Street building was constructed in 1926, and was occupied by the Windsor Cabinet Shop for many years before the Art League moved there in 1965. The facade demonstrates an interesting combination of architectural styles -- recalling Spanish Colonial Revival, Mission Revival and Craftsman aesthetics, according to the PAL website.

Schalet says he is excited to be back in the building and hopes many will come to the June 6 First Friday event, which will feature three separate exhibitions. In honor of the recently finished renovation, a juried exhibit, titled "Wet Paint," focuses on two-dimensional works in various types of paint media, such as oil, watercolor and acrylic. "Re|Structure" features four Bay Area artists -- including a sculptor, an abstract painter, a mixed-media artist and a printmaker. And finally, the Corridor Gallery will feature a solo showing of abstract landscape painter Ron Andrews, who works mainly in watercolor.

"We are thrilled for the membership to be able to continue our First Friday tradition in our beautifully renovated building," Schalet says, adding that he anticipates plenty of people -- both PAL members and others in the community -- will want to see the new space. "With our location and the visibility of our (renovation) project, we know that community interest will be high, in both seeing the building and experiencing our curriculum and programs."

The Pacific Art League, located at 668 Ramona St., will be open to the public on June 6 for the monthly First Friday art walk in Palo Alto. Admission is free. For more information visit pacificartleague.org or call 650-321-3891.

--Nick Veronin

Dance: The kids can dance

Like any proud parent, Inna Bayer of the Bayer Ballet Company wants her children -- or, more precisely, her students -- to have the chance to shine. As such, the Mountain View-based ballet company and school is inviting the public to its "Springtime Novelettes" recital this weekend, so that the community might see just what the young Bayer dancers are capable of.

On June 7 and 8, Bayer student dancers, age 6 and up, will perform in a program featuring variations on some of the most celebrated ballets of all time -- including Flames of Paris, Le Corsaire, Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty.

These are "masterpieces of classical ballet and unique character dances," Bayer says through a thick Ukrainian accent.

Bayer says that inviting the community is important. The students could practice all their lives and never demonstrate what they've worked so hard to learn except for their parents and close friends. But what would be the point of that?

Performing before a live audience is part of what ballet -- and all of the performing arts for that matter -- is about. Bayer explains. "This is why we perform. It is good for the students. It makes them happy. It makes them proud."

It is good for the community, as well, Bayer reasons. It turns other children on to the possibility that they, too, could be ballet dancers, she says. Plus ballet can be inspiring to people of all ages -- no matter the age of the performers. "It's always a good thing to see dancing youth on stage in beautiful costumes," Bayer says.

Springtime Novelettes will show twice -- on June 7 at 5:30 p.m. and June 8 at 2:30 p.m. -- at the Menlo-Atherton Center for the Performing Arts, at 555 Middlefield Road in Atherton. Tickets are $25. For more information, visit bayerballetacademy.com or call Brown Paper Tickets at 800-838-3006.

--Nick Veronin

Music: Singing sonnets

The Bay Choral Guild often deals in sacred song -- hymns and other songs of praise, often plucked from religious songbooks. In it's upcoming performance, dubbed "Poet's Corner," the 35-year-old chorus plans to keep things more secular, though according to BCG Artistic Director Sanford Dole, the formula behind the works his group will sing remains the same.

It's just that instead of setting the words of Psalms or Corinthians to music, the Bay Choral Guild will be performing words by the worlds great poets, which have been molded into song. "You use the words that are there to suggest the mood of the piece," Dole says. The words suggest mood, melody and rhythm, among other things, he explains. "Then the composer takes that idea and tries to enliven those words."

The words of Rainer Maria Rilke, Edna St. Vincent Millay, William Blake, e.e. cummings and William Shakespeare will be set to music and sung by the Bay Choral Guild's experienced singers in a concert at First Baptists Church of Palo Alto on Sunday.

Dole explains that the music for each piece was inspired by the poetry it incorporates. The performance will feature Paul Hindemith's "Six Chansons," Emma Lou Diemer's "Verses from the Rubaiyat," and even a piece by Dole, titled "Invitation to a Voyage," inspired by the poetry of Charles Baudelaire.

Dole says that this is the first time the Bay Choral Guild has produced a show with this specific theme. "It's going to be a great concert," he says.

"Poet's Corner" will play in Campbell on June 6, San Francisco on June 7 and concludes it's three-show run at the First Baptist Church of Palo Alto, 305 N. California Ave., Palo Alto, on June 8 at 4:30 p.m. Tickets range from $5 to $25. A 30-minute lecture will precede each concert. For more information go to baychoralguild.org.

--Nick Veronin

Theater: 'Marry Me A Little'

TheatreWorks is closing out its 2013-14 season with the Stephen Sondheim musical, "Marry Me A Little."

The musical, directed by Robert Kelley, TheatreWorks' artistic director, follows two lonely New Yorkers -- a man and a woman -- as they while away their days in separate apartments, thinking about each other. The two have no idea they live just a floor away. Sharon Rietkerk and A.J. Shively play the lead characters, who are only ever identified by the pronouns "her" and "him."

Rietkerk has appeared in musicals with TheatreWorks and other theater companies, like the San Jose Repertory Theatre and Berkeley Playhouse. Some of her past plays include "Little Women" and "Mrs. Hughes." She worked alongside Shively in TheatreWorks' 2012 production of "Triangle."

Shively made his Broadway debut in 2010, when he starred as Jean-Michel in "La Cage Aux Folles." He has also appeared in several movies, including "Hairbrained," "Syrup" and "Le Poison.

The Arts Council of the Silicon Valley presented Kelley, who founded TheatreWorks, with the Legacy Laureate award in 2012 for his lifetime of artistic achievement. The Bay Area Theatre Critics Circle presented him with both their Paine Knickerbocker award for lifetime achievement and for his direction of TheatreWorks' productions of four different performances. After 44 years, Kelley has directed over 150 productions with TheatreWorks.

Craig Lucas, the playwright behind "Marry Me A Little," collaborated with director and producer Norman René in 1981 to create the musical. The two created many more theater productions together, including "Blue Window" and "Prelude to a Kiss." For the latter production, Lucas was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize in drama and René won the Obie Award (which recognizes Off-Broadway productions) for best director.

The show's musical director, William Liberatore, is a music and choir teacher at Gunn High School.

"Marry Me A Little," begins previews at the Mountain View Center for Performing Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View, on Wednesday, June 4. The play runs every day of the week, except Mondays, through June 29. For tickets and information, call (650) 463-1960 or visit theatreworks.org.

--Kayla Layaoen

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