Ah, the singular delights of fall. The air is clear, crisp leaves crackle underfoot, kids head back to school and arts organizations throughout the land draw back the curtains on a new season bursting with performances and events.
From films that take us on international journeys to visual art that explores the world right outside our doors, music festivals that light up the night to theater productions that illuminate and inspire, this autumn boasts an impressive line-up of both homegrown and exotic art. We've sorted through hundreds of events to bring you some of this fall's finest arts happenings. Read on for our top picks in each genre, plus a shortlist of other productions, screenings, readings and exhibitions worth catching. And it doesn't stop here: Our arts coverage at PaloAltoOnline.com/arts, events listings at PaloAltoOnline.com/calendar and Weekend Express email (sign up at PaloAltoOnline.com/express) feature many more arts and entertainment events each week.
What does your community mean to you, and how do you connect to it? In an upcoming group exhibition at the Palo Alto Art Center, 13 artists tackle these questions in works that range from photographs and drawings to maps and installations. As part of "Front Yard/Backstreet," Joel Daniel Phillips offers intimate charcoal and graphite portraits of the residents of Palo Alto's Buena Vista Mobile Home Park, while Kate Pocrass uses data from Palo Alto residents to create a "happiness map" of the city and Matt Gonzalez assembles collages from found materials to reflect the street grids of the urban landscape. The exhibition kicks off on Friday night, Sept. 18, with a party at the Art Center from 7-10 p.m. There, you'll discover a live performance by artists Robin Lasser and Adrienne Pao, hear music by Old Broads Rule and get a chance to take part in interactive activities with the artists of the Mobile Arts Platform. No matter where you live or how you relate to your neighborhood, "Front Yard/Backstreet" offers a chance to think about your surroundings in a whole new light.
Where: Palo Alto Art Center, 1313 Newell Road
When: Sept. 19-Dec. 13
Info: Go to goo.gl/sxrz2u or call 650-329-2366.
More art worth a peek:
• "Vive les Arts," Pacific Art League, now through Sept. 24: pacificartleague.org
• "Constructive Interference," Anderson Collection, now through March 21: anderson.stanford.edu
• "Collective," Gallery House, Sept. 22-Oct. 17: galleryhouse2.com
• "Great Glass Pumpkin Patch," Sept. 29-Oct. 4, Palo Alto Art Center: greatglasspumpkinpatch.com
• "Showing Off: Identity and Display in Asian Costume," Cantor Arts Center, Oct. 14-May 23: museum.stanford.edu
• ""Mining the Ancient," Cantor Arts Center, Oct. 14-Aug. 29: museum.stanford.edu
United Nations Association Film Festival
Now in its 18th year, the United Nations Association Film Festival (UNAFF) returns to Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and Stanford this fall, bringing with it 60 documentaries that will change the way you see the world. The festival was first launched to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the UN's signing of the Universal Declaration of Human rights. Through this year's theme, "Running Out of Time," UNAFF explores a wide range of topics that span the globe and shed light on critical and fascinating stories that aren't always covered in mainstream media. Among the films featured in the 2015 line-up are the science-in-action film "Antarctic Edge: 70 Degrees South," which looks at climate change in the fastest winter-warming place on the planet, and "Circus Without Borders," which tells the story of two circus troupes from Canada's arctic and West Africa that come together for an unusual cultural collaboration. Though some of the films are hard-hitting, others are downright funny: Don't miss the seven-minute animated short, "Worse than Poop!," which addresses a the serious issue of carbon dioxide emissions with a less-than-serious tone.
Where: Various locations
When: Oct. 15-25
Cost: Full festival pass: $180. Single session ticket: $10.
Info: Go to unaff.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
More fall film festivals:
• Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival, various locations, Oct. 10-Nov. 8: svjff.org
• Silicon Valley African Film Festival, Community School of Music and Arts, Oct. 16-18: svaff.org
• 3rd i's South Asian Film festival, CineArts Palo Alto Square, Nov. 1: thirdi.org
For those who missed Burning Man this year or for burners having trouble returning to the real world here's another chance to lose yourself in a heaving mass of bodies, music, large-scale art and all-day, all-night revelry. Drop down the rabbit hole for a day or two at Beyond Wonderland, where dance music meets light shows, pyrotechnics, psychedelic art, costume-clad performers and more. The action is spread across three stages, but there's just as much action offstage, where costumed festivalgoers interact with LED-charged sculptures and with one another. This year's line-up of international electronic artists includes Calvin Harris, Kidnap Kid, Arty and Laidback Luke offering up trance, house, ambient and more. VIP ticket holders have access to private cabanas and bottle service, but you don't need those special perks to make Beyond Wonderland a weekend to remember. Oh, and you can forget the rental RV and the sand goggles; Mountain View's a a bit more hospitable than Black Rock Desert.
Where: Shoreline Amphitheatre, 1 Amphitheatre Parkway, Mountain View
When: Sept. 26-27
Cost: General admission tickets start at $115 for one day, $199 for two days.
Info: Go to bayarea.beyondwonderland.com.
More concerts to catch:
• "Bing Outside / In," Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, Sept. 26: live.stanford.edu
• Darcy James Argue's "Real Enemies," Bing Concert Hall, Stanford, Oct. 2: live.stanford.edu
• Anat Cohen Jazz Quartet, Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Oshman Family JCC, Nov. 14: paloaltojcc.org
• California Pops Orchestra's "Classic Broadway," Smithwick Theatre, Foothill College, Nov. 15: calpops.org
• Bay Choral Guild's Carmina Burana, First Baptist Church, Palo Alto, Nov. 21: baychoralguild.org
For an evening of bracing contemporary ballet, there's no better company on the West Coast than San Francisco's Smuin Ballet. The stylish, high-energy group brings its Dance Series One to Mountain View this September with five performances featuring two world premieres and an audience favorite. On the program are new works by Smuin Choreographer-in-Residence Amy Seiwert, who brought her "Objects of Curiosity" to the peninsula in March, and Smuin dancer and choreographer Ben Needham-Wood, whose premiere is set to an original score by composer and cellist Ben Sollee. Rounding out the program are company founder Michael Smuin's lyrical "Bouquet," set to Shostakovich, and "French Twist" by choreographer Ma Cong. First created for Smuin ballet in 2010, "French Twist" draws inspiration from the children's cartoon "Tom and Jerry," contrasted with music by French film composer Hugues Le Bars. Smuin Ballet is known for offering varied programs and surprising audiences with highly technical ballet that's a far cry from the classic Swan Lake.
Where: Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.
When: Sept. 24-27
Info: Go to goo.gl/6tal4L or call 650-903-6000.
More fall performance highlights:
• "Wrestling Jerusalem," Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Oshman Family JCC, Sept. 20: paloaltojcc.org
• "Or," Dragon Theatre, Oct. 2-25: dragonproductions.net
• Guru Shradha's "Kelucharan Keerti Sampradaya" Indian dance, Cubberley Theatre, Oct. 4: brownpapertickets.com/event/2188627
• TheatreWorks' "Proof," Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 7-Nov. 1: theatreworks.org
• West Bay Opera's "Rigoletto," Lucie Stern Theater, Palo Alto, Oct. 16-25: westbayopera.org
• Broadway by the Bay's "Kiss me, Kate," Fox Theatre, Redwood City, Nov. 6-22: broadwaybythebay.org
• Palo Alto Players' "Clybourne Park," Lucie Stern Theater, Palo Alto, Nov. 7-22: paplayers.org
• Tangonero Argentine Tango ensemble, Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Oshman Family JCC, Nov. 17: paloaltojcc.org
Anna Deavere Smith
MacArthur fellow, Tony and Obie Award-winner, actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith is widely considered one of the foremost voices in contemporary theater. This October, the celebrated performer comes to Stanford not once or twice, but four times, bringing three different shows that tackle the issue of race. On Oct. 14, she'll appear at Stanford's Cubberley Auditorium with "Twilight: Los Angles, 1992," a solo show written shortly after the Rodney King beatings and subsequent riots, in which Smith delivers monologues based on interviews she conducted with individuals from the chief of the LAPD to instigators of the violence. One week later, she returns with "Letter from a Birmingham Jail," a recitation of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s famous defense of nonviolent resistance. For this performance, Smith will be joined by violinist Robert McDuffie. Then on Oct. 26, Smith appears in conversation on art, race and citizenship with writer Frank Rich. Finally, on Oct. 30, she'll give a performance of "The Pipeline Project," an investigation of the so-called "school-to-prison pipeline" by which undeserved and minority students are funneled into lives of incarceration. Don't miss a chance to catch this seminal figure of American drama.
Where: Various locations, Stanford
When: Oct. 14, 21, 26 and 30
Cost: Varies by date
Info: Go to live.stanford.edu or call 650-724-2464.
More top-notch talks:
• Comedian Lisa Lampanelli, Fox Theatre, Redwood City, Sept. 19: foxrwc.com
• Author Anne Beattie, Kepler's Books, Menlo Park, Sept. 23: keplers.com
• An Evening with ballerina Nina Novak, Western Ballet, Mountain View, Oct. 3: westernballet.org
• "My Kitchen Year" with food writer Ruth Reichl, Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Oshman Family JCC, Oct. 7: paloaltojcc.org
• "Oddball Comedy & Curiosity Festival," Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, Oct. 10: theshorelineamphitheatre.com
• Author Margaret Atwood, Fox Theatre, Redwood City, Oct. 12: keplers.com
• Comedian Paul Reiser, Schultz Cultural Arts Hall, Oshman Family JCC, Oct. 29: paloaltojcc.org