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.
Holiday hambone-ing: For parents, nothing nails down the holiday stretch, when the kids are home from school, like a family-friendly outing that everyone can enjoy. The good news is that Berkeley is hosting such a show, starring one of the Bay Area’s most beloved entertainers. His name is Lance McGee, aka Unique Derique, aka the Clown Prince of Fools. By day, he is a teacher and trauma-informed wellness consultant and mindfulness coach, but his entertainment calling is as a clown who has performed with the Pickle Family Circus, Children’s Fairyland and the Prescott Circus Theatre, and with luminaries ranging from Sammy Davis Jr. to Bobby McFerrin to Jim Nabors. He’s filled venues around the world, but during the holidays, you’ll find him at The Marsh Berkeley performing his holiday show “Fool La La,” an hour-long affair that incorporates his dizzying array of eye-popping skills: circus stunts, juggling, rapid-fire jokes, all-around silliness and incredible body percussion styles, including the African American art known as hambone. Audience participation is encouraged. “Fool La La” is offered at 2 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday and Dec. 27-30. The Marsh Berkeley is at 2120 Allston Way. Tickets are $10-$100 and his show can be live-streamed for $20. Go to themarsh.org.
Freebie of the week: Besides being one of San Francisco’s most revered musical artists, internationally renowned pianist Garrick Ohlsson remains to this day the only American to ever have won the prestigious Chopin Competition, which he captured at age 22 in 1970. Much of his time is spent in the Bay Area, where he is on the faculty of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, but his frequent touring gigs included opening the 2021-22 season of DACAMERA, the Houston-based chamber music and jazz presenting organization. Fittingly enough, his program was an all-Chopin affair, consisting of the Barcarolle in F-sharp Major, the Ballade No. 1 in G minor and the Sonata No. 3 in B minor and winding up with the Waltz in C-sharp minor as an encore. As a holiday offering, DACAMERA is offering a video of that Oct. 29 recital in the organization’s Cullen Theater for free streaming for two weeks. You can register to digitally attend at https://my.dacamera.com/3680/3682.
A famous cease-fire: In the business of war, it seems, there is no room for peace. Thus did one of the most remarkable moments of World War I remain an obscure footnote of history for so long. We’re talking about the Christmas Truce of 1914, which took place during the first year of World War I. On Christmas Day, Allied and German troops acting on no orders, only on their shared sense of holiday compassion, laid down their arms, left their trenches and met in the “no man’s zone.” There, they sang songs, shared food and drink, exchanged gifts, played a game of soccer and even helped bury each other’s dead. The truce is depicted in the touring “radio play”-style musical “All Is Calm: The Christmas Truce of 1914.” The musical was written by Peter Rothstein who, through rigorous research, was able to access notes, letters and diary accounts from some of the thousands of soldiers who took part in the occurrence. Rothstein, a war history buff, says he was surprised that, at first, information on the Christmas truce was so hard to find. But apparently, the military brass did not want it publicized. “… News of soldiers fraternizing across enemy lines would put a human face on the Germans and readily undermine public support for the war,” Rothstein writes on his website. “The heroes of this story are the lowest of the ranks — the young, the hungry, the cold, and the optimistic — those who acted with great courage to put down their guns, overcoming a fear that placed a gun in their hands in the first place.” The touring production lands at Livermore’s Bankhead Theater for one performance, 7:30 p.m. Thursday. Tickets are $20-$100; go to livermorearts.org.
Kung pao laughs: You might not know who Lisa Geduldig is but she is an indelible part of the Bay Area holiday entertainment fabric. In fact, she fills a role almost no one else does, because if you’re dying to get out of the house on Christmas night — when most entertainment venues are dark — and laugh yourself silly at a live comedy show, well, she’s got your back. Geduldig is a longtime Bay Area comedian who’s best known as the founder, host and annual participant of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy, which since 1993 has served up live comedy (with an optional Chinese dinner) three nights a year, including on Christmas. This year’s shows are Friday through Sunday (Dec. 23-25), and although the dinner options are no longer available, you can still book a seat for the comedy shows (or watch them from home, if you’d rather). Among this year’s performers are standup veteran and writer Mark Schiff, who has toured frequently with Jerry Seinfeld and was a regular screenwriter for the sitcom “Mad About You”; Cathy Ladman, known for her appearances on “The Tonight Show,” “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and “Modern Family”; Orion Levine, a veteran of the standup circuit who’s based in Berkeley; Geduldig, and her 91-year-old mom, Arline, who became with a favorite with Geduldig’s audiences when Lisa was hosting regular “Lockdown Comedy” Zoom shows during the pandemic (Arline will appear via video). The laughs start at 6 p.m. each night, one hour after dinner. The New Asia Restaurant, which hosted the event for years, closed during the pandemic so this year’s show will take place at “The Kung Pao Room” at Congregation Sherith Israel, 2266 California St., in San Francisco. Tickets for the live show are $30-$100, and $30-$75 for the live-streamed version. If you can’t make the shows, you can catch the next episode of Geduldig’s “Lockdown Comedy” on Jan. 19. Go to www.koshercomedy.com.
Frivolity with Ferrell: Sure, you can spin that TV remote all around the grid any day this month and probably land on a holiday-appropriate screening of a green-clad, pointy-hatted Will Ferrell going outlandishly over the top in New Line Cinema’s “Elf.” But why not watch Buddy, the gargantuan guy raised at the North Pole who didn’t know for most of his life that he is really a human, look for his real father on a huge screen while the San Francisco Symphony plays the 2003 film score live on the Davies Hall stage? The movie screens twice, at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and 2 p.m. Thursday. The terrace seats are all snapped up, but there are great seats available, $110-$230, at www.sfsymphony.org or 415-864-6000. Here’s a trailer to get you in the mood: https://www.imdb.com/video/vi1804846361/?ref_=tt_vi_i_1