Local News Matters Arts & Entertainment newsletter

End your week with a bit of culture to unwind and refresh. Sign up for our surprising and inspiring options in our weekly newsletter, delivered on Thursdays with news about Bay Area arts and entertainment.

Whether your skin is black, white or another shade, Black lives do matter — not just in police confrontations, but in Bay Area entertainment.

Everyone, in fact, can gain insights and pleasure from theater, comedy, films, concert/interview performances or book discussions.

Just a handful of highlights should prove that, though Juneteenth is long gone and COVID-19 has closed down thousands of in-person venues, a wealth of material is still available. online.

Theatrically speaking, many companies have resorted to streaming what originally were planned as in-person performances.

Consider, for instance, “The Niceties,” a play written by Eleanor Burgess and directed by Leigh Rondon-Davis that’s being livestreamed by Berkeley’s Shotgun Players. It depicts a Black student and a white professor and a clash about slavery’s effect on the American Revolution — as well delving into feminism and misogyny.

Tickets are offered on a pay-what-you-can scale for four 7 p.m. shows, July 9-12, with suggested donations ranging from $8 to $40.


Chris Riggins hosts “Black Laughs Matter.” (Courtesy photo)

Everybody could use some laughter in their life

Rather support African American comics while you’re lying back and enjoying them? “Black Laughs Matter,” an hourlong virtual comedy show from San Francisco kicks off at 8 p.m. every Saturday, just might make you cackle, chortle, chuckle, giggle, guffaw, howl, roar or titter.

The regular host is Berkeley native Chris Riggins, who’s opened for Dave Chappelle and Mos Def and performed at Cobb’s Comedy Club in San Francisco and SF Sketchfest.

The show’s lineup changes weekly, with each Zoom presentation being limited to 100 laughers (reservations available at http://sf.funcheap.com/blm). It’s free, but donations are appreciated.


Movie time with Smith Rafael Film Center

Prefer serious movies?

Through the Smith Rafael Film Center’s Rafael@Home streaming series, a bundle of three Black-oriented documentaries can be viewed now, at your convenience, safely, for one price, $15 (https://rafaelfilm.cafilm.org). And you needn’t stay six feet away from your television.

Featured in the cinematic trifecta are:

• “I Am Not Your Negro,” a film that examines Black history and current race relations in America from the vantage point of texts by author James Baldwin that look at the assassinations of three of his friends, Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and Medgar Evers.

“The Pieces I Am” documentary looks at the work and life of legendary storyteller Toni Morrison. (Courtesy photo)

• “Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am,” which looks at the Nobel Prize winner’s life from her writing’s jump-start because no one took a “little Black girl” seriously to her role as an editor of iconic African American literature. The documentary includes interviews with the likes of Angela Davis and Oprah Winfrey.

• “Whose Streets? We Will Not Go Quietly,” which probes the Ferguson, Missouri, uprising that followed the death of Michael Brown by police.


Music to my ears with Audra McDonald

Prefer to bask in extraordinary vocals coupled with some crisp conversation?

For 25 bucks (and a $3.50 service fee), you can watch and hear soprano/actor Audra McDonald — who grew up in Fresno and who’s managed to win a record-breaking six Tony Awards, two Grammy Awards and an Emmy so far. The show, part of the Seth Rudetsky concert/interview series, will be online live at 8 p.m. July 12 and 3 p.m. July 13 (https://thesethconcertseries.com).

Seth Rudetsky has a lively chat with actor and soprano Audra McDonald. (Photo courtesy of The Seth Concert Series)

Google Chrome on either Windows or Mac computers is required to watch the stream.

McDonald, who’s appeared with most major American orchestras and made her Carnegie Hall debut with the Michael Tilson Thomas-led San Francisco Symphony, in addition to her theatrical work, has had recurring roles on television’s “Private Practice,” “The Good Fight” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.”


Turning the page with four Black authors

Lastly, an online event aimed at younger book lovers is “Black Girls Have Something to Say.” The 6-7 p.m. July 14 show will be both a panel discussion — with four black authors, Lisa Moore Ramee, Mariama Lockington, Janea Marks and Alicia Williams — and a book launch for Ramee’s new novel, “Something to Say,” a tale about an 11-year-old that’s about finding your voice and your people.

The event is sponsored by Kepler’s Literary Foundation and is free, though donations are suggested. Tickets and more information are available at https://bit.ly/3inCNFB.