Fall arts preview: Strings, Sings & Bing | September 14, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

Cover Story - September 14, 2012

Fall arts preview: Strings, Sings & Bing

New works and new venues in 2012-13 arts season

by Rebecca Wallace

New worlds and new works will mark the new arts season on the Midpeninsula in 2012-13. Stanford University will get a sleek contemporary concert hall, while the Palo Alto Art Center readies for thoroughly spruced-up surroundings.

Meanwhile, the Pacific Art League stands by to rev up on major renovations, and Dragon Productions is prepping to move into a brand-new theater a few cities north.

And premieres keep the arts lively and innovative this season. To name a few: a musical version of "The Importance of Being Earnest," a new guitar concerto, fresh one-act plays, and a new exhibit of sculptural installations built from such diverse materials as discarded wood, piano keys, instrument strings and an iBook computer.


True classical-music aficionados on the Peninsula and beyond have Jan. 11 marked, circled or alarmed on their calendars and phones. That's opening night for the new $112 million, 844-seat Bing Concert Hall at Stanford University.

Stanford Lively Arts (recently rechristened "Stanford Live") will start its new season that night: a little late, but with many luminaries set to attend. Michael Tilson Thomas will conduct the San Francisco Symphony, with the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Stanford Chamber Chorale, Stanford Taiko and Stanford Symphony Orchestra also scheduled. Actor/writer Anna Deavere Smith will be master of ceremonies.

The next day, a free open house will take place during the day, followed by an evening ticketed concert by Los Lobos.

Stanford Live, long known as a presenter of music, dance and theater performances, is focusing on classical music in the new venue's inaugural year. Officials promise that more world music and dance will return in later seasons.

Other musicians on the Bing schedule this season include: the Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra in January, February and March; pianist Emanuel Ax on Jan. 22; the Mingus Big Band on Jan. 25; cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Kathryn Stott on Jan. 27; South African singer Vusi Mahlasela on Jan. 30; the modern chamber band Alarm Will Sound on March 16; and multimedia artist Laurie Anderson with the Kronos Quartet on April 20 and 21.

Stanford composer Jonathan Berger will introduce two new chamber operas on April 12 and 13 with soprano Heather Buck, New York Polyphony and the St. Lawrence String Quartet.

Ticket prices vary. For season details, go to live.stanford.edu or call 650-725-ARTS.

For those who prefer a small cafe to a showy hall, Red Rock Coffee in downtown Mountain View continues its eclectic lineup of singers and songwriters. A bigger name than usual (especially for those of us who were Toad the Wet Sprocket fans in the '90s) is the singer Glen Phillips, who sings with the aforementioned alternative band and also tours on his own.

Phillips is scheduled to play two gigs on Nov. 3 at Red Rock, which is at 201 Castro St. While most of the shows at the cafe are free, $25 tickets are on sale for these two. Go to redrockcoffee.org or call 650-967-4473.

Many music ensembles have world premieres planned, including the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, which is introducing the young composer Michael Gilbertson's Concerto for Guitar & String Orchestra. An SFCO commission, the work will feature solo guitarist Ben Pila and be performed Feb. 23 at the First United Methodist Church of Palo Alto at 625 Hamilton Ave. Go to sfchamberorchestra.org or call 415-692-3367.

The orchestra is conducted by longtime local music man Benjamin Simon, who is also music director of the Palo Alto Chamber Orchestra (pacomusic.org), one of the many respected youth musical groups in the area.

PACO regularly performs local concerts, along with the El Camino Youth Symphony (ecys.org), the California Youth Symphony (cys.org), the Cantabile Youth Singers (cantabile.org) and the Ragazzi Boys Chorus (ragazzi.org).

Other highlights of the upcoming music season include:

The Aurora Singers

This community chorus hosts its annual winter concert on Dec. 15 at the Unitarian Universalist Church. 505 E. Charleston Road, Palo Alto. aurorasingers.net

Bay Choral Guild

The season includes a multifaceted work by the English composer Gabriel Jackson paying tribute to the Spanish pilgrimage route Camino de Santiago de Campostela. The choral group will sing it, together with cello and percussion, in Palo Alto in March. baychoralguild.org

California Bach Society

This Palo Alto choral group begins its season by singing J.S. Bach's Mass in B Minor with a Baroque orchestra, on Oct. 13 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave., Palo Alto. 650-485-1097, calbach.org

Chamber Music San Francisco

The Szymanowski Quartet performs Feb. 11 to start off the February-May series in Palo Alto, followed by violinist Sarah Chang on March 11. Concerts are at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. 415-759-1756, chambermusicsf.org

Fortnightly Music Club

The free season-opener on Oct. 14 features music by local composer Nancy Bloomer Deussen, including her "San Andreas Suite" with the pieces "Saratoga," "Belmont Hills" and "Palo Alto." At the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. fortnightlymusicclub.org

Ives Quartet

The Palo Alto quartet's season includes February performances of San Francisco composer David Conte's Quartet No. 2, which he wrote for the group. Concerts in Palo Alto and San Jose. 650-224-7849, ivesquartet.org


This San Francisco choral and instrumental group will give only one concert in Palo Alto this season, performing Marc-Antoine Charpentier's "Nativity Pastorale" on Dec. 7. At the First Lutheran Church of Palo Alto at 600 Homer Ave. 415-265-2948, magnificatbaroque.com


The Miro Quartet starts the chamber-music festival's winter series with a program of Beethoven's "Razumovsky" quartets on Sept. 30, and the Danish recorder player Michala Petri presents Baroque chamber music on Feb. 10. Summer concerts are in Palo Alto and Atherton; the winter series is in the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton. 650-330-2030, musicatmenlo.org

New Century Chamber Orchestra

Last year, soprano Melody Moore starred in the world premiere of Christopher Theofanidis' "Heart of a Soldier" at San Francisco Opera. This month she'll solo with the New Century Chamber Orchestra to mark the 100th birthday of English composer Benjamin Britten. She'll sing a program including Britten's "Simple Symphony" and "Les Illuminations" on Sept. 18 at the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton. 415-357-1111, ncco.org

Palo Alto Philharmonic

The orchestra season-opener is set for Oct. 20, with mezzo-soprano Alexandra Mena soloing in De Falla's "El Amor Brujo." The program also features Brahms' "Academic Festival Overture," Prokofiev's "Lieutenant Kije" and Rimsky-Korsakov's "Capriccio Espagnol," performed at Cubberley Community Center Theatre, 4000 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. paphil.org

Peninsula Women's Chorus

The chorus globe-trots this winter with a multinational holiday program including music by Polish composer Krzystztof Penderecki, Argentinian composer Emilio Dublanc and Filipino composer Saunder Choi. Performances on Dec. 8 and 15 in Palo Alto and on Dec. 16 in Menlo Park. pwchorus.org

Peninsula Symphony

This year at its holiday concerts with the Stanford Symphonic Chorus, the symphony will perform Faure's Requiem and Mozart's "Solemn Vespers" on Nov. 16 and 18. At Stanford University's Memorial Church. 650-941-5291, peninsulasymphony.org

Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra

Famed pianist Emanuel Ax joins the period-instrument orchestra Nov. 8 to play Beethoven's fourth piano concerto on the fortepiano. The concert, which also features the master's fourth symphony, will be at the Center for Performing Arts at Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton. philharmoniabaroque.org

Redwood Bluegrass Associates

The Kathy Kallick Band kicks off the season Oct. 27 with a concert celebrating the band's new album, "Time." RBA promises a newly remodeled venue with a new stage and floor, and padded chairs. At the First Presbyterian Church, 1667 Miramonte Ave., Mountain View. 650-691-9982, rba.org

Saint Michael Trio

The threesome delves into the mind and music of Felix Mendelssohn with a concert that weds performance with commentary, slides and demos. The free concert (reservations recommended) will be on Oct. 26 at Stanford University's Dinkelspiel Auditorium. saintmichaeltrio.com

San Francisco Early Music Society

It's all about the oboe on Sept. 21, when the society presents Les Delices ensemble playing 17th-century oboe music by Francois Couperin, Francois Chauvon and other composers. At the First Lutheran Church, 600 Homer Ave., Palo Alto. 510-528-1725, sfems.org

Schola Cantorum

For its November concerts, Schola teams up with student a cappella group Stanford Talisman to perform music by composers from the Southern Hemisphere: Stephen Leek, Christopher Marshall, Douglas Mews and David Hamilton. Palo Alto performances this season are at the First Congregational Church of Palo Alto, 1985 Louis Road. 650-254-1700, scholacantorum.org

Soli Deo Gloria

Christmas comes on Dec. 8 this year with the choral group, who will sing J.S. Bach's "Christmas Oratorio" with Orchestra Gloria at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Palo Alto, 505 E. Charleston Road. 888-SDG-SONG, sdgloria.org

Stanford Jazz Workshop

Tickets go on sale next May for the summer flurry of concerts, workshops, classes and jam sessions that make up the annual festival of jazz at Stanford University. 650-736-0324, stanfordjazz.org

Stanford Music Department

The late composer John Cage gets the royal treatment next month for a celebration of his 100th birthday. Stanford faculty pianist Thomas Schultz will perform Cage's piano works at a concert on Oct. 11, and the music department will host a Cage symposium with a panel discussion and chamber concert on Oct. 12. Both events are in Campbell Recital Hall. music.stanford.edu

Twilight Concert Series

Free outdoor concerts happen in parks around Palo Alto each summer, organized by the city. Details should be up next year at cityofpaloalto.org.

World Music Day

June 16, 2013, also known as Father's Day, is the big date next year for this free downtown Palo Alto music festival. Now in its fifth year, the local event was the brainchild of organizer Claude Ezran, inspired by the original World Music Days in France. pamusicday.org

Other local venues for live music include:

The CoHo Stanford Coffee House

The indie scene here includes the South Bay Acoustic Meetup on Sept. 21, when acoustic musicians tote in their guitars, violins, harpsichords and other stringed instruments for a jam session. 459 Lagunita #1, Stanford University. 650-721-2262, coho.stanford.edu

First Congregational Church of Palo Alto

Concerts this season include renditions of Bruckner's Mass in D Minor and Haydn's "Little Organ Mass" on Nov. 18, given by the Congregational Oratorio Society and Orchestra with resident organist Joe Guthrie. The Ragazzi Boys Chorus sings a Christmas concert on Dec. 1, and Oxford Street Brass contributes "Cowboys and Overtures" on Feb. 24. 1985 Louis Road, Palo Alto. fccpa.org

Community School of Music and Arts

Periodic free concerts include an Oct. 4 world-jazz show featuring the music of bassist Lukas Vesely, who has taught at Stanford Jazz, and South Bay guitarist Neil Kelly. Poet Mina Kelly will join CSMA faculty member Daniel Magay, who plays clarinet, alto sax and flute. 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View. 650-917-6800, arts4all.org

Menlo Hub

Musicians who regularly play at this restaurant include the College of San Mateo Big Band on Mondays and jazz pianist Neil Adler on Wednesdays. 1029 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. 650-321-6882, menlohub.com

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

The guitar gets two nights in the spotlight at the CPA's SecondStage on Oct. 23 and Jan. 30. Los Altos guitarist Josh Friedman will bring along his cohorts Yuri Libezon and Patrick O'Connell, as well as several music students, to play solo and ensemble numbers ranging from classical to modern in "An Evening With the Guitar." 500 Castro St., Mountain View. 650-903-6000, mountainview.gov/mvcpa

Oshman Family Jewish Community Center

San Francisco songsmith Pamela Rose brings her "Wild Women of Song" show to the JCC on Oct. 11, singing jazz and blues and telling tales about the women songwriters of Tin Pan Alley. In March, Rebecca Joy Fletcher conjures up the cabaret days of the 1920s and '30s in her "Cities of Light" vocal and theatrical show. 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. paloaltojcc.org

Museums and collections

After being closed for more than a year for extensive renovations, the Palo Alto Art Center reopens on Oct. 6 at 1313 Newell Road with a dedication, free art activities, tours, and music and dance performances. The spruced-up galleries will hold installations created by contemporary artists in partnership with the community, including photography, audio art and sculpture.

A week before the re-opening, the center will hold its annual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch, which it presents with the art-center foundation and the Bay Area Glass Institute. Some 8,000 hand-blown glass pumpkins made by 30-plus artists will be shown Sept. 25-28 and for sale Sept. 29 and 30, at Rinconada Park at 777 Embarcadero Road. Go to greatglasspumpkinpatch.com.

Across El Camino at Stanford University, the Cantor Arts Center's galleries are continually filled with a changing panoply of exhibits. The calendar includes "Christian Marclay's Video Quartet," a four-channel video projection showing montages that the artist compiled from 700-plus Hollywood movies. All clips in the 14-minute-long project share a musical theme, with the actors singing or playing an instrument. The video installation will be up Nov. 14 through Feb. 10.

Another exhibition looks at the Jameel Prize, an international award given to contemporary artists every two years by a panel of judges chaired by the director of London's Victoria & Albert Museum. The program seeks to encourage debate and learning about Islamic culture. The Cantor's show focuses on prize-winning Algerian artist Rachid Koraichi, whose works are inspired by Arabic calligraphic scripts.

The Cantor is at Lomita Drive and Museum Way on the Stanford campus, and admission is free. Go to museum.stanford.edu or call 650-723-4177.

Anderson Collection

Chuck Close, Richard Diebenkorn, Nathan Oliveira: just a few of the 200-plus artists represented in this large private Menlo Park collection of 20th-century American visual art. Free public tours happen the third Thursday of most months, with reservations required. Upcoming dates include Oct. 18 and Nov. 15. Call 650-854-5160 or email ksaracino@aacollection.com.

Computer History Museum

Calamity predictions flopped on Y2K. But just in case 2012 is actually the end of the world, the museum is hosting a "Doomsday Show," with a live production of the Big Picture podcast and radio show, with skits and interviews with scientists on end-of-world hypotheses, on Oct. 27. 1401 N. Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View. 650-810-1010, computerhistory.org

Los Altos History Museum

It's time for trains on Sept. 22 and 23, when the annual Train Days event brings in scaled renditions of engines and theme cars traversing widespread track layouts. 51 S. San Antonio Road, Los Altos. 650-948-9427, losaltoshistory.org

Museum of American Heritage

Lectures at the museum include a Sept. 20 talk on coin collecting, with Richard Douglas; and an Oct. 18 lecture by Jeff Risberg on design and technology in the 1930s. An exhibit on American innovations from 1901 to 1941 is ongoing through Jan. 13. 351 Homer Ave., Palo Alto. 650-321-1004, moah.org

Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo

"Tortoise Hill," with a big reptile named Edward, is the newest exhibit at the kids' zoo, which houses 50-some species including bobcats, snakes, fish, birds, bats and raccoons. 1451 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. 650-329-2111, cityofpaloalto.org

Stanford University Libraries Special Collections

The latest exhibit of works from the libraries' collection is "Scripting the Sacred: Medieval Latin Manuscripts," which will showcase Western European liturgical texts such as miniature prayer books and examples of script and illustration. The show runs Sept. 17 through Jan. 6 in glass cases in the Peterson Gallery and Munger Rotunda. Green Library, Stanford University. www-sul.stanford.edu/depts/spc/exhibits/index.html


One of the newest gallery spaces in Palo Alto is about to celebrate its first birthday in the city. The Fibre Arts Design Studio, located at 935 Industrial Ave., combines curated exhibition spaces for both group and solo shows with an interior-design studio and a shop selling lots of artsy, designy things: earrings, teapots, handbags, wooden animal figurines.

Now playing in the airy group-exhibition space: "Food," in which 12 artists look at the intermingling of food, life and art. Included are Bernadette DiPietro's batik-painted eggs, farmers-market photography by Maynard Hale Lyndon, and whimsical pasta-themed drawings by Palo Alto graphic designer Sam Smidt. The show is up through Oct. 21.

A solo exhibition by painter Alan Chan is set to open at Fibre Arts Design on Sept. 20. The 2005 Academy of Art University graduate says his work is all about "liminality": transitional periods, "literal and metaphorical space between two naturally opposing forces," gray area. His thick abstract oil paintings make heavy use of what he calls "in-between colors" that are "muted and subdued": the browns, grays and not-quite blacks of a shadowy Earth.

Chan says he lets intuition control his brush, but at the root of everything is also his classic training in traditional painting techniques and his love of Rembrandt.

Chan's exhibition is scheduled to run Sept. 20 through Nov. 4, with an opening reception on Sept. 20. The gallery spaces at Fibre Arts Design are open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to 4 p.m. Go to fibreartsdesign.com.

Also opening this fall is a display of innovative installations by Terry Berlier, an assistant professor in Stanford's department of art and art history. Her sculptures have an unusual mix of environmentalism and music, as in "Where the Beginning Meets the End," in which she's reconfigured a piano into a "circular group-playing device" fashioned from materials she got in a San Francisco dump. Discarded wood is combined with an upright piano, a working iBook computer and other parts.

"When Comes the Sun" plucks out an acoustic version of the Beatles tune "Here Comes the Sun," fueled by solar power. And in "This Side Up, Handle With Care," Berlier has made a wooden-frame model of her own home, with half of it right-side-up and half of it upside-down. In the middle of the model are instrument strings that can be played.

The free exhibition opens Oct. 9 at the Thomas Welton Stanford Art Gallery on campus, then runs through Nov. 18, open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and weekends from 1 to 5 p.m. A reception is set for Oct. 11 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Go to art.stanford.edu or call 650-723-2842.

Bryant Street Gallery

Geometry, kelp and California's central coast inspire artist Tracey Adams, who is showing her mixed-media and encaustic works through the end of September. 532 Bryant St., Palo Alto. 650-321-8155, bryantstreet.com

Gallery House

Lidija Tkalcevic's spirited, curious sculptures of people and animals are in the spotlight with Gertrude Mellon's abstract landscapes through Oct. 13. 320 S. California Ave., Palo Alto. 650-326-1668, galleryhouse2.com

Gallery 9

A starfish windsurfing, a bamboo fountain, the dark silhouette of a woman gazing at the ocean. These are among the images in an all-gallery exhibit called "Water" that runs through Sept. 29. 143 Main St., Los Altos. 650-941-7969, gallery9losaltos.com

Mohr Gallery at the Community School of Music and Arts

Painter James Allison is showing a series called "A Few Seconds From Above," that takes an aerial view of cops and buses at an intersection. He's holding a talk and reception on Sept. 21; the show is up through the end of the month. CSMA, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View. 650-917-6800, arts4all.org

Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts

Audience members or downtown-Mountain View lunchtime wanderers find that the MVCPA spotlights fine arts as well as the performing ones, in its lobby. Upcoming solo shows include the otherworldly black-and-white nature photography of Arthur Cohen on display Feb. 12 through April 15. 500 Castro St., Mountain View. 650-903-6000, mvcpa.com

Oshman Family Jewish Community Center

"Symmetrism," a show of oil paintings by Chinese artist Lu JianJun, marks 20 years of diplomatic relations between Israel and China. The exhibit, one of several scheduled at the JCC this season, will be up Nov. 2 through Jan. 4 at the Schultz Cultural Arts Hall; call 650-223-8699 or email boxoffice@paloaltojcc.org to schedule a viewing. 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto

Pacific Art League

The art league is scheduled to close in early January for major renovations and seismic work. Before that time, exhibitions will include solo shows by oil painter Decker Walker and nature painter Marjory Wilson in November. 668 Ramona St., Palo Alto. 650-321-3891, pacificartleague.org

Palo Alto City Hall

The building also houses periodic art exhibitions in its lobby. From Oct. 3 through Oct. 30, the 22 resident creative types from Palo Alto's Cubberley Studios will have a show of many media called "Graphite, Inks and Other Means," with a reception Oct. 5. 250 Hamilton Ave., Palo Alto. cityofpaloalto.org

Portola Art Gallery

Water scenes — streams, lakes and the Pacific Coast — are major inspirations for fine and commercial artist Jared Sines. His paintings are on display through the end of the month. On Oct. 13, the Allied Arts Guild gallery gathers 25 artists for a "paint-out" at the guild; visitors can watch art in action, then purchase it to take home. 75 Arbor Road, Menlo Park. 650-321-0220, portolaartgallery.com

Smith Andersen Editions

The group show "Gender Specific: Take It or Leave It" spotlights local women's artwork including photography mash-ups, paintings, prints and jewelry through Oct. 31. Associated workshops on mixed-media art (Sept. 29) and Xerox-transfer monotype (Oct. 20) are planned. 440 Pepper Ave., Palo Alto. 650-327-7762. smithandersen.com

Stanford Art Spaces

All nature is interconnected, and it doesn't have to be perfect to be beautiful. These are the themes at the core of Lucy Liew's paintings. While drawing on her life growing up in Malaysia, Liew is unafraid to leave out the spots, wrinkles and other imperfections in her visions, she says. Her paintings will be on display with the season- and nature-themed paintings by Manli Chao and the East-West paintings by Zhang Jingui, through Nov. 8. Paul G. Allen Building, Stanford. 650-723-3622, cis.stanford.edu/~marigros/

Viewpoints Gallery

Somehow, artist Taryn Curiel manages to be minimalist and evocative at the same time, not an easy feat in watercolor and pastel. "Seeing Through Lines," a show of her new work, runs Oct. 2 through Nov. 3, with a reception on Oct. 6 from 5 to 8 p.m. 315 State St., Los Altos. 650-941-5789, viewpointsgallery.com


Composer and writer Paul Gordon is taking on another literary icon. He penned the book to the musical "Emma" (which is based on the Jane Austen classic and was a 2007 hit at TheatreWorks), and the score to the Broadway musical "Jane Eyre" (based on the Charlotte Bronte novel), which earned him a Tony nomination in 2001.

Next April, Gordon and co-composer Jay Gruska will be back at TheatreWorks to premiere "Being Earnest," a 1960s-themed musical version of the Oscar Wilde play "The Important of Being Earnest." The Bay Area got a chance to see an in-progress version of the musical this summer at TheatreWorks' New Works Festival, and now a polished version will be taking the stage on the Peninsula.

Other new and newer productions at TheatreWorks this season will include: the regional premieres of Moises Kaufman's "33 Variations," a play about a musicologist and her estranged daughter, in October; Matthew Lopez' "Somewhere," about a Puerto Rican family and the American dream, in January; and Katori Hall's "The Mountaintop," which imagines the last night of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in March.

Other shows put on by the theater company this season are: the musical "Big River" and the play "Wild With Happy."

TheatreWorks performances are at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts, 500 Castro St.; or at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. Call 650-463-1960 or go to theatreworks.org.

Meanwhile, Dragon Productions is planning to move from its small downtown-Palo Alto space to a new theater in Redwood City's theater district at the end of the year. Work is well underway on the new space, and in the meantime there are two more productions planned in Palo Alto: the Douglas Carter Beane play "The Little Dog Laughed" through Oct. 7, and the Sharyn Rothstein play "March," Nov. 9 through Dec. 2.

For the time being, the Dragon Theatre is at 535 Alma St. and can be reached at 650-493-2006. More information is at dragonproductions.net.

Bus Barn Stage Company

"The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee" (through Oct. 6), "It's A Wonderful Life," "On Golden Pond," "The House of Blue Leaves" and "Avenue Q." 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos. 650-941-0551, busbarn.org

Foothill College Theatre Arts Department/Foothill Music Theatre

The season includes the musical "Spring Awakening," which will open in February. 12345 El Monte Road, Los Altos Hills. 650-949-7360, foothill.edu/theatre

Palo Alto Children's Theatre

This venerable group marks its 80th anniversary this season with a champagne reception on Sept. 15. Its mainstage lineup is: "Sleeping Beauty," "The Wind in the Willows," "Goodnight Moon," "Oliver" and "Pippi Longstocking." 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. 650-463-4930, cityofpaloalto.org

Pear Avenue Theatre

"The Cherry Orchard," "The Real Thing," "Intimate Apparel," "The Apple Never Falls" (world premiere by Bay Area playwright Paul Braverman), "Pear Slices 2013" (new short plays by local writers), "Hanging Georgia" and "Superior Donuts." 1220 Pear Ave., Unit K, Mountain View. 650-254-1148, thepear.org

Palo Alto Players

"Legally Blonde: The Musical" (through Sept. 23), "You Can't Take It With You," "Looking For Normal," "Miss Saigon" and "Boeing Boeing," 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. 650-329-0891, paplayers.org

Peninsula Youth Theatre

CenterStage Musicals performed at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts: "Beauty and the Beast," "Fiddler on the Roof," "The Pirates of Penzance," "Charlotte's Web" and "Legally Blonde." 500 Castro St., Mountain View. 650-988-8798, pytnet.org

Dance and opera

Downtown Mountain View is a prime place on the Peninsula for dance buffs, with several troupes paying regular visits to the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts (perhaps after an interlude at Castro Street's enduringly lively dining scene).

San Francisco's Smuin Ballet will be back again this season for several performances. From Feb. 20 through Feb. 24, the company will present a program that includes "Oh, Inverted World," a work that recently premiered in New York. Choreographed by Trey McIntyre, the work is set to music by the indie-rock band The Shins. Also on the bill are "Cold Virtues," choreographed by Adam Hougland to Philip Glass' Violin Concerto; and the African-rhythm-fueled "Homeless," by the late Michael Smuin.

From May 22 through May 26, the company brings a program that features Smuin's work "Chants d'Auvergne," which is set to 13 traditional French songs arranged by Joseph Cantaloube.

For details about Smuin Ballet's season, call 415-556-5000 or go to smuinballet.org.

Other dance troupes planning performances at the center include Theatre Flamenco on Nov. 3; Pacific Ballet Academy, Nov. 23-25; Western Ballet Company, Dec. 7-9; and Bayer Ballet Academy, Dec. 14-16. 650-903-6000, mvcpa.com.

San Francisco Opera Guild, Peninsula chapter

Opera scholars educate audience members in advance by giving local preview lectures for San Francisco Opera productions. Talks for "The Capulets and the Montagues" and "Moby Dick" are planned for Sept. 25 and Oct. 2, respectively. At First Presbyterian Church of Palo Alto, 1140 Cowper St. 650-329-1374, sfopera.com/Learn/Adult-Programs/Preview-Lectures.aspx

Stanford Savoyards

While a season has not been announced, this student-run company typically puts on Gilbert and Sullivan shows on campus at Stanford University. stanford.edu/group/savoyards

West Bay Opera

This season, West Bay brings this trio to the stage: Offenbach's "Les contes d'Hoffman," Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and Verdi's "Otello." Free previews, with cast members performing highlights of the operas, take place the week before the operas at Avenidas, 450 Bryant St., Palo Alto. Main performances are at the Lucie Stern Theatre, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. 650-843-3900, wbopera.org

Books and film

One of the lords of law lit comes to Palo Alto next week. Author and attorney Scott Turow, he of "Presumed Innocent," "Reversible Errors" and many other books with punchy legal-centered titles, will speak at the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center on Sept. 19, in conversation with KQED radio host Michael Krasny.

Later this month, the JCC hosts veteran Bay Area author Amy Tan, best known for her book "The Joy Luck Club." She will speak with physician and writer Louann Brizendine on Sept. 27 about the connections between science and creativity.

The center is at 3921 Fabian Way in Palo Alto. Go to paloaltojcc.org/arts for information about author talks and other events at the JCC, including concerts and films.

Meanwhile, the group formerly known as the French Film Club of Palo Alto has been branching out beyond its regular movie nights. While the screenings of French films (with English subtitles) continue, the club has also been holding classical-music concerts and other types of events

Movie-night audiences have also gotten bigger: typically more than 100 at each event, according to a recent email from the club. So the group has changed its name to Le French Film Club to be more geographically diverse.

The club is planning events including: a performance by guitarist James Robinson on Nov. 2, and a flute concert by Robert Stallman and Isabelle Chapuis in 2013. Upcoming movie screenings include "Asterix and the Vikings" on Sept. 29 and "La Grande Bouffe" on Nov. 2. Events are at All Saints' Episcopal Church of Palo Alto, 555 Waverley St. lefrenchfilmclub.com

Book Arts Jam

This annual love letter to the art of the book (and to print and paper artists) includes exhibits, artist talks, demos and letterpress printers at work. It's on Oct. 20 this year, at the Lucie Stern Community Center, 1305 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto. bookartsjam.org

Kepler's Books

Big names in upcoming author talks include Salman Rushdie in conversation with Tobias Wolff on Sept. 25, T.C. Boyle on Sept. 26, and Michael Chabon on Oct. 25. 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. 650-324-4321, keplers.com

Palo Alto International Film Festival

Some 75 feature films and shorts are planned for this year's festival, all related to innovation, technology or adventure. Special events include talks, workshops, a short-film contest and free outdoor screenings. Events run Sept. 27 through Sept. 30 in Palo Alto, at the Aquarius Theatre, 430 Emerson St.; the "Festival Village" at 539-549 High St.; CineArts at Palo Alto Square, 3000 El Camino Real; and the Garden Court Hotel, 520 Cowper St. 650-641-8947, paiff.net

Silicon Valley African Film Festival

Films, performances by dancers and African drummers, talks by filmmakers and an awards ceremony are planned for the annual festival, held Oct. 12-14 at the Community School of Music and Arts, 230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View. 415-774-6787, svaff.org

Silicon Valley Jewish Film Festival

The annual festival runs Oct. 20 through Nov. 18 this year, starting with the film "An Article of Hope," about the late Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon, who died in the Columbia shuttle disaster in 2003. His wife, Rona Ramon, will attend the 8 p.m. screening and speak. At the Oshman Family Jewish Community Center, 3921 Fabian Way, Palo Alto. 408-899-6013, svjff.org

United Nations Association Film Festival

The festival celebrates its 15th birthday this year with the theme "Human Dignity." Documentaries from a myriad of countries, exploring topics both weighty and inspiring, will be screened Oct. 18-28 at Stanford University and in Palo Alto, East Palo Alto and San Francisco. unaff.org


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