Handspring Puppet Company Examines Apartheid

Handspring brings Ubu and the Truth Commission to Cal.


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Photo courtesy o Handspring Puppet Company

 

This ain’t The Muppets. The South African troupe Handspring Puppet Company first burst on the scene with the acclaimed Broadway show War Horse, which featured its gigantic horse puppets. The company has single-handedly (though often with both hands) elevated puppetry to a true cultural art form, performing all over the world in shows that often combine theater, art, and music.

Ubu and the Truth Commission was co-commissioned by Cal Performances, and uses puppetry, documentary footage, live actors, and animation to reflect the troubled post-apartheid landscape of South Africa. Using testimonials from the 1996 Truth and Reconciliation Commission that was created to collect the stories from people who had lived under apartheid, Ubu combines history with a dose of inspiration from the 19th century absurdist work of Alfred Jarry. Puppets and actors fuse amid animated chalk drawings and live-action imagery projected onto the back of the stage to set a somber but somehow hopeful tone, leaving viewers with a deeper understanding and appreciation for the history of South Africa. Both a “landmark” work and “deeply immersive,” it’s not to be missed. May 1-3, Tickets start at $78. Zellerbach Playhouse, Berkeley. www.CalPerformances.org

 

Festivals

Viva Cinco de Mayo

A roundup of Bay Area events.

Nothing can replace your favorite Mexican joint on the fifth of May, but if you are looking for a party, here are a few great places to start.

Oakland’s 5 de Mayo Festival: Oakland’s Unity Council promises an “experience for all the senses … para todos los sentidos,” all celebrating the culture and art of Mexico. In addition to food and various venders and live entertainment, La Raza 93.3 will be broadcasting. Sunday, May 3, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Fruitvale Transit Village.

9th Annual Cinco De Mayo Festival, Richmond: Three stages with entertainment as well as dancing horses, food, exhibits, and much more. Alcohol-free, family-friendly. Sunday, May 3, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. On 23rd St., from Rheem to Clinton. www.23rdStreetMA.com

San Francisco Cinco De Mayo Festival: Music, dancers, arts and crafts, and lots of food. Alcohol-free and family-friendly. Saturday, May 2, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. On Valencia between 21st and 24th streets. www.SFCincoDeMayo.com

Chop Bar: This Jack London Square gathering place is transforming itself into a Mexican food and drink emporium for the entire week to celebrate, from May 5 to 10. Food and drink specials daily, like oxtail mole, pescado zarandeado, and various tequila specialties. 247 Fourth St., Oakland. www.OaklandChopBar.com

Otaez Mexican Restaurant: The waitstaff dons traditional Mexican ropas and serves up food and drink specials all night. Live music. Tuesday, May 5. Both locations, 1619 Webster St., Alameda, and 3872 International Blvd., Oakland. www.OtaezRestaurant.com

 

Film & Arts

Sex in the Cities

Forums and films for and about sex workers.

A good alternative title for this event might be Everything You Wanted to Know about Sex Work But Were Afraid to Ask, though this several-day event—which takes place all over the Bay—is mainly focused on the colorful, erotic, sometimes painful, dynamic world of sex work, from the vantage of prostitutes, dancers, porn performers, and everyone in between. Literally. The San Francisco Bay Area Sex Worker Film & Arts Festival provides a forum for workshops, political organizing, skill-building, and good old-fashioned hobnobbing among this community and anyone who shares their passion. East Bay events include comedian Gina Gold at La Peña, hosting Sex Worker Diaries, in association with her TMI Storytelling series (Friday, May 15, 8 p.m. 3105 Shattuck Ave.). On Wednesday, May 20, Omni Commons in Oakland (4799 Shattuck Ave.) hosts “Sex Work Is Not Trafficking,” an evening of discussion and short films for sex workers and their allies who have found themselves caught in the crosshairs of anti-trafficking campaigns. The fest continues at the Omni on the next night, May 21, with readings from the newly published $pread Anthology, a collection from the Utne award-winning magazine by and for sex workers. Log on to www.LoveAndCondoms.EventBrite.com for ticket information and full schedule.

 

Pop Culture

TED Talk, on Alcohol

Brainiacs unite for Nerd Nite.

Nerd Nite began in Boston originally, at a bar, with smart people … smart people who liked to get tipsy and share knowledge, the more arcane the better. Think of it as a drunken TED Talk, if you will. Now it’s a worldwide thing, with Nerd Nites in many major cities. Our humble version is in Oakland, at Club 21, and takes place the last Monday of every month. It’s also the second largest in the Bay Area, and the second oldest. May’s Nerd Nite promises to be incredibly, well, nerdy, with Pasqual Lee, who works for The Mars Institute and will give us the 411 on life on Mars. The SETI Institute, for Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute, will also be in the house (and on the planet, apparently). Then there’s this: erotic bird robots. Oh, yes. Yes, indeed. Be there and be square. Monday, May 25, 8 p.m. $8. Club 21, 2111 Franklin St., Oakland. www.EastBay.NerdNite.com

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