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.

The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.


Some more Simone: The incomparable Simone Dinnerstein, a pianist who rocketed to classical music stardom when she released her achingly beautiful, highly introspective recording of Bach’s famed “Goldberg Variations” in 2007, has been nailing it with every album since, including her latest, “A Character of Quiet,” which she recorded in lockdown in her Brooklyn home last fall. She has now gone back to some Bach for the first half of a virtual concert, professionally recorded in her home, that will be aired by Duke Performances at 5 p.m. Saturday. Following her renditions of selections from Bach’s Mass in B minor and the “St. Matthew Passion,” Dinnerstein will pack the second half of her program with works by Couperin, Schumann and Philip Glass.

Pianist Simone Dinnerstein has recorded a virtual concert in her Brooklyn home that will be presented by North Carolina-based Duke University this weekend. (Courtesy of Lisa-Marie Mazzucco)

Tickets for the concert, which will remain accessible on demand for 72 hours, are $10. Find them at https://dukeperformances.duke.edu. For a taste of her incredible talent, listen and watch Dinnerstein play a Philip Glass etude here: https://youtu.be/GoGxll7fmYk.


Cellist Anne Lerner, left, vocalist Nanette McGuinness and pianist Margaret Halbig will be performing in a digital concert that celebrates the contributions of women composers. (Courtesy of E4TT)

Sisters are composing it by themselves: Three members of E4TT (Ensemble for These Times), an award-winning Bay Area chamber group that focuses on contemporary music, will add a guest violin player for “Rhapsody: Music by Women Composers,” to be livestreamed by the Center for New Music at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. Soprano Nanette McGuinness, cellist Anne Lerner and pianist Margaret Halbig have brought violinist Ilana Blumberg on board for a project that will present a diverse array of works from 10 living female composers. Among them are Pulitzer Prize for music winners Jennifer Higdon, whose “Echo Dash” for violin and piano is on the program, and Caroline Shaw, whose solo cello work “In manus tuas,” will be played by Lerner. Other composers represented at the concert, which will be preceded by a composer talk and a video, are Elinor Armer, Tania Leon, Jessie Montgomery, Marti Epstein, Vivian Fung, Missy Mazzoli and Anna Clyne. An additional work for cello and piano, “Mazovian Dance,” by the late Polish composer Grazyna Bacewicz, is also on the program. Access to the YouTube livestream is free at https://centerfornewmusic.com, but donations are greatly appreciated.


Sketchfestapoca … wait, what? Normally at this time of year we’d be welcoming SF Sketchfest, the annual explosion of comedy, improv theater, wacky interview sessions and all-around zaniness that takes over San Francisco for two weeks in January and fills theaters and clubs with eager fans and every kind of film, stage and TV laugh-meister you can imagine. That’s not happening this year, but organizers have rustled up a compelling replacement. Introducing: “Festpocalypse!” a one-night-only livestreamed event that doubles as a needed shot of comedy in these most unfunny of times as well as a fundraiser to ensure that SF Sketchfest can return someday. Performers/guests include such Sketchfest regulars as Kevin Pollak; Christopher Guest; Maria Bamford; Kids in the Hall; Bob Odenkirk; “SNL” alums like Laraine Newman, Tim Meadows and Rachel Dratch; “Weird Al” Yankovic; Jane Lynch; Kumail Nanjiani; and even Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. What all these people will be doing is anyone’s guess, but it’s bound to be funnier than pretty much anything else going on. The livestreamed show kicks off at 5 p.m. Saturday. Basic access costs $20, but there are ticket packages running as high as $5,000. Go to  www.sfsketchfest.com.


RAWdance will debut its new work “The Healer” on Friday and Saturday, in a co-production with ODC/Dance (Courtesy of Hillary Goidell and Chani Bockwinkel/RAWdance)

Healing steps: RAWdance, the contemporary dance company with roots San Francisco and Hudson, N.Y., is drawn to works that explore spirituality and human inner-resilience. The company’s new work, “The Healer,” was choreographed by company co-artistic director Katerina Wong in memory of her aunt and is informed by aspects of traditional Chinese medicine and healthy living practices. Originally scheduled to debut in March 2020 but canceled by the pandemic, “The Healer” returns as a virtual event that combines aspects of modern dance and holistic health in a presentation that explores ways we can deal with the stress, anger and frustration of current life. “The Healer,” co-presented with ODC/Dance, will be streamed 6 p.m. Friday and 5 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Each show will include an introduction and post-performance Q&A with various artists. Access costs $15-$100 per household; go to rawdance.org or odc.dance.


Literary power couple: Two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Robert Lowell and acclaimed literary critic, author and true crime writer Elizabeth Hardwick were married for 23 years until Lowell ended things by taking up with British heiress and writer Lady Caroline Blackwood. Lowell didn’t exactly soften the blow when he devoted a book, “The Dolphin,” to the marriage and its demise (the tome earned Lowell one of his two Pulitzers). The story of Lowell, who grappled with bipolar disorder for much of his life, and Hardwick is captured in a new two-person play by Lynne Kaufman titled “Divine Madness.” It stars Julia McNeal and Charles Shaw Robinson and will livestream 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday by The Marsh performance venue.

Bay Area playwright Lynne Kaufman debuts her new play “Divine Madness” this weekend via The Marsh. (Amanda Rowan Parker/courtesy of Lynne Kaufman)

It will not be available on demand after those two performances. Access is free, but donations are encouraged. Go to themarsh.org.