Coming this spring: From Norwegian music to stories of Appalachia to a melodic salute to the Arab Spring

From the biodiversity of the planet, explored in an all-day course, to the East-meets-West music of the Bustan Quartet, diversity in all its forms is celebrated this spring at Berkeley. Events starring notable women (local entrepreneur Yoshi Akiba, dramatist Zahra Noorbakhsh, associate justice Kathryn Werdegar and awarding-winning author Isabel Allende) provide a variety of female voices. New exhibits offer a view into the worlds of Andy Warhol, reclusive artist Ray Johnson, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender artists of the past 150 years.

This short list only scratches the surface; events may change and new events will be added daily. Visit the Critic’s Choice website for a full listing and to learn the latest.

Women at the top

Diversity conference flyer

Third Annual California Diversity & Leadership Conference, Feb. 2-3

Cornel West, best-selling author of Race Matters and professor of African American studies at Princeton University, and Donna Brazile, veteran Democratic political strategist, will present the keynotes at the Third Annual California Diversity & Leadership Conference, Deconstructing the California Glass Ceiling (Thursday-Friday, Feb. 2-3, 8 a.m., Martin Luther King Jr. Student Union).

I-House presents A Conversation with Yoshi Akiba: Bridging Cultures in Business, Art and Life as part of its International Women’s Day Celebration. A Bay Area artist and entrepreneur, Akiba is known for her award-winning jazz clubs (Yoshi’s) in Oakland and San Francisco (Wednesday, March 7, 7:30 p.m., International House).

Kathryn Werdegar

Kathryn Werdegar, March 20

The Jefferson Memorial Lecture, titled Living With Direct Democracy: The California Supreme Court and the Initiative Power — 100 Years of Accommodation, will be presented by Kathryn Werdegar, associate justice of the California Supreme Court (Tuesday, March 20, 4:10 p.m., International House, Chevron Auditorium).

A spectrum of artists

Meet celebrities and other fabulous people in Andy Warhol: Polaroids, a diverse selection of portraits taken by Warhol in the 1970s and ’80s with his favorite camera, the Polaroid Big Shot (Wednesday-Sunday, through May 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Berkeley Art Museum).

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The collagist Robert Warner has arranged the contents of 13 “Bob Boxes” given to him by reclusive artist Ray Johnson in Tables of Content: Ray Johnson and Robert Warner Bob Box Archive. The collages, letters, drawings, beach trash and other found objects reveal Johnson’s stream-of-consciousness approach to the matter and memory of everyday life (Wednesday-Sunday, Jan. 27-May 20, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Berkeley Art Museum).

Heap of Birds sculpture

Sculpture by Edgar Heap of Birds, exhibit Jan. 16-Feb. 11

Edgar Heap of Birds, professor of Native American studies at the University of Oklahoma and artist of Cheyenne and Arapaho descent, will exhibit two new series of monoprints, Dead Indian Stories and Personal Notes (exhibit: Tuesday-Saturday, Jan. 25-Feb. 11, 1-4 p.m., Worth Ryder Art Gallery, 116 Kroeber Hall; opening: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 4 p.m., Worth Ryder Art Gallery; artist talk: Wednesday, Feb. 15, 7:30 p.m., 160 Kroeber Hall).

Australian performance artist Stelarc discusses his work, which often involves medical instruments, prosthetics, robotics, virtual reality systems and the Internet to explore alternate, intimate and involuntary interfaces with the body in The Comatose, the Cadaver & the Chimera: Alternate Anatomical Architectures (Monday, April 2, 7:30 p.m., Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall).

The multimedia exhibit A Place at the Table: A Gathering of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Text, Image and Voice explores the role of Americans who, over a span of more than 150 years, have embodied a rainbow of diversity but have one thing in common — a non-normative sexual orientation (daily, April 5-July 9, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Bancroft Library).

Art in the City montage

Art/City symposium, March 16


Art in the city

The Art/City symposium will examine how the Downtown Berkeley Arts District serves as bridge between city and university, especially in light of the relocation, in the near future, of the Berkeley Art Museum. Participants include BAM/PFA director Larry Rinder, Arts Research Center director Shannon Jackson and Magnes Collection director Alla Efimova, as well as a host of Bay Area arts and civic leaders (Friday, March 16, 9:30 a.m., Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way).

Harmony abounds

Bustan Quartet

Bustan Quartet, March 23

The Israeli Bustan Quartet performs the work of its predecessor, Bustan Abraham, a group of Israeli and Palestinian musicians who used their Western and Middle Eastern classical training and instruments to create a unique form of musical expression (Friday, March 23, 12:15, Hertz Hall).

The poetry of Mahmoud Darwish and the melodies of Marcel Khalife sing of the shade of grapevines, the bright eyes of loved ones, the heartache that can be healed and love that can be returned — all in Fall of the Moon: A Homage to the Poet Mahmoud Darwish and a Salute to the Arab Spring (Sunday, April 22, 7 p.m., Zellerbach Auditorium).

Early music

Harpsichordist and conductor Davitt Moroney leads an evening of The Polychoral Splendors of Renaissance Florence. The program’s centerpiece will be a performance of Alessandro Striggio’s Missa sopra Ecco si beato giorno in 40 & 60 voices (Friday and Saturday, Feb. 3-4, 8 p.m., First Congregational Church of Berkeley).

Soprano Alana Mailes performs 17th-century Italian and French opera arias and cantatas by Caccini, Peri, Monteverdi, Rossi, Lully, Charpentier in Songs of Persephone (Wednesday, April 18, 12:15 to 1pm, Hertz Hall).

Later music

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra

Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, March 30 and 31 (photo Dave Hoffman)

The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and the UC Choral Ensemble perform Richard Einhorn’s Voices of Light, featuring Carl Theodor Dreyer’s 1928 silent film masterpiece, The Passion of Joan of Arc (Saturday, March 31, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall). The orchestra’s second program features Jennifer Higdon’s Grammy Award- and Pulitzer Prize-winning Percussion Concerto with Colin Currie, Aaron Copland’s Fanfare for the Common Man, Joan Tower’s Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman and Prokofiev’s Symphony No. 5 (Friday, March 30, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Second annual Ojai North!

The Ojai North! six-concert series kicks off with a performance of Alfred Schnittke’s Piano Quintet by Leif Ove Andsnes, with members of the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra. Also on the program is Dmitri Shostakovich’s late song cycle Six Poems of Marina Tsvetaeva, Op. 143 with mezzo-soprano Christianne Stotijn (Tuesday, June 12, 7 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

The same evening, the orchestra will perform Leos Janáček’s String Quartet No. 1, ‘After Tolstoy’s The Kreutzer Sonata,’ featuring actor Theodore Jansen in readings from Tolstoy arranged for string orchestra and narrator (Tuesday, June 12, 9:30 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Lief Ove Andsnes

Lief Ove Andsnes, June 12 (photo Felix Broede EMI Classics)

Composer Reinbert de Leeuw joins 15 musicians from the Norwegian Chamber Orchestra at the piano for this Bay Area premiere of his cycle of 21 songs Wundershönen Monat Mai (‘In the Merry Month of May’) (Wednesday, June 13, 7 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Later that evening, Marc-André Hamelin performs Charles Ives’s Concord Sonata (Wednesday, June 13, 9:30 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Norwegian composer Bent Sorensen’s Piano Concerto No. 2, ‘La Mattina’ will have its Bay Area premiere in this program, which also includes Icelandic composer Haflidi Hallgrimsson’s Poemi, with violinist Terje Tønneson, and Alban Berg’s early Four Songs, sung by Christianne Stotijn. Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 21 in C major, Op. 53, ‘Waldstein’ concludes the program (Thursday, June 14, at 7 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Franz Liszt’s Elegy for cello, harmonium, harp and piano opens the final concert of the Ojai North! series, which also includes Claude Debussy’s Danses Sacre et Profane for strings and solo harp, and a selection of spirited cabaret songs by William Bolcom (Thursday, June 14, 9:30 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Other voices

Heir to the Afrobeat musical legacy, singer Seun Kuti leads his father’s band, Fela’s Egypt 80 (Thursday, April 19, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Jazz vocalist and three-time Grammy winner Dianne Reeves brings her three-octave range and distinctive phrasing to Cal Performances (Friday, May 4, 8 pm., Zellerbach Hall).

Beautiful words

Lunch Poems poets

(L-R) Richard Berengarten, April 5; Louise Glück, March 1

The spring Lunch Poems series includes a reading by Louise Glück, former U. S. poet laureate and writer-in-residence at Yale University (Thursday, March 1, 12:10 p.m., Morrison Library). The series will also offer the first Bay-Area reading in almost 20 years by contemporary British poet Richard Berengarten (Thursday, April 5, 12:10 p.m., Morrison Library).

Story Hour in the Library features Isabel Allende, acclaimed author of 19 books translated into 35 languages (Thursday, April 12, 6 p.m., Morrison Library).

Live theater

Ishi, the last of the Yahi

Ishi: The Last of the Yahi, March 2-11 (photo courtesy of the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology)

Fresh from successful runs in San Francisco and New York, Zahra Noorbakhsh performs her smartly comic one-woman show All Atheists Are Muslim, telling your regular, everyday story of “boy meets girl meets thousands of years of cultural tradition and religious doctrine” (Friday, Feb. 10, 8 p.m., Durham Studio Theater, Dwinelle Hall).

On the centennial of Ishi’s arrival at the University of California, acclaimed playwright and director John Fisher’s Ishi: The Last of the Yahi tells the story about the last remaining member of the Yahi tribe (Fridays and Saturdays, March 2, 3, 9, & 10, 8 p.m., and Sundays, March 4 & 11, 2 p.m., Zellerbach Playhouse).

BareStage Productions presents Stephen Sondheim’s macabre musical Sweeny Todd (Friday, Saturdays and Sundays, April, 13-22, 8 p.m. and Saturdays, April 14 & 21, 2 p.m., Choral Rehearsal Hall, Cesar Chavez Student Center).


Marina of the Zabbaleen movie poster

Marina of the Zabbaleen, Feb. 16

Le mystère de la tour Eiffel traces the escapades of carnival worker/millionaire heir Achilles Saturnin as he battles the international crime syndicate known as the Ku-Klux-Eiffel. Ken Ueno, Matt Ingalls and Hadley MacCarroll will provide live musical accompaniment to Julien Duvivier’s late-silent adventure masterpiece (Saturday, Feb. 25, 6 p.m., Pacific Film Archive).

Adapted from Denise Paran’s biography, Lula, Son of Brazil is a tribute to Luis Inácio Lula da Silva, who rose from poverty in northeastern Brazil to become president of the world’s fifth most populous nation (Wednesday, Feb. 8, 7 p.m., 141 McCone Hall).

The documentary Marina of the Zabbaleen explores the world of 7-year-old Marína in the Muqqattam recycling village in Cairo, Egypt. The film also tells the story of the resourceful Zabbaleen, a Coptic Christian community of recyclers whose entrepreneurial waste-management system produced one of the highest recycling rates in the world (Thursday, Feb. 16, 5 p.m., 340 Stephens Hall).


David holt

David Holt, Feb. 12 (photo Cal Performances)

Four-time Grammy Award-winner David Holt combines his skills as narrator, musician and historian into an all-age-friendly performance of Songs & Stories of Appalachia (two shows: Sunday, Feb. 12, 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., Wheeler Auditorium).

The quintessential American humorist Garrison Keillor, best-known for his hugely popular radio program A Prairie Home Companion, appears for one performance only (Wednesday, March 7, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).


The Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service will host Berkeley’s 31st Annual Review of the Presidency, a roundtable discussion on the president’s performance during the preceding year and what to expect in the year to come (Monday, April 2, 7:30 p.m., 105 Stanley Hall).

World in flux

As the United States and Israel reach a dangerous turning point in their relations with Iran, a panel of distinguished analysts will discuss The Iranian Crisis: Is War Inevitable? — including how the crisis might affect the American presidential elections (Monday, March 19, 4 p.m., Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall).

Evan Osnos, staff writer and correspondent in China for The New Yorker, will examine how Chinese citizens are seeking to redefine their identities in ways that were not previously available to them, in China: The Age of Ambition (Friday, May 4, 5:30 p.m., 105 North Gate Hall).

Disillusioned visuals

Book cover of Valley of Shadows and Dreams

Valley of Shadows and Dreams, exhibit through May 15

With photography by Ken Light, adjunct professor of journalism, and text by Melanie Light, the book Valley of Shadows and Dreams explores the light and dark side of California’s Central Valley, a place whose problems —  environmental degradation, a severe real-estate bubble, the abuse of illegal immigrants — are unfortunately relevant nationwide (exhibit: Monday-Friday, through May 15, 8 a.m.-5 p.m., Northgate Hall; author talk and book signing: March 16, 6 p.m., Northgate Hall).

In The Idea of Cuba, Alex Harris, professor of public policy and documentary studies at Duke University, presents his photographs of contemporary life on the island (Thursday, Feb. 16, 4 p.m., Women’s Faculty Club, lounge).

Nurture nature

Tom Spargo, inventor of the RainSaucer standalone rainwater-harvesting system, will discuss how personal rainwater collection is crucial to solving the world’s water crisis in Rainwater: What Is It Good for? Absolutely Everything! (Saturday, February 18, 1 p.m., UC Botanical Garden).

The conference Sustainable Mobility and Cities: Marrying Technology and Policy explores the debate on how to shrink the huge (and growing) environmental footprint of urban transport, which accounts for about a third of energy consumption and CO2 emissions in U.S. cities (Thursday, Feb. 23, 8 a.m., David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way).


Evolution is the Only Explanation, March 3 (copyright Larry Jon Friesen)

The all-day course Evolution Is the Only Explanation explores the biodiversity around us — from complex courtship behaviors of animals to bizarre ornamentation and display, extraordinary adaptations to severe conditions and unusual means of communicating, eating and reproducing (Saturday, March 3, 2050 Valley Life Sciences Building).

Michael Pollan, food writer and professor of journalism, and Dan Glickman, former secretary of agriculture and currently a senior fellow at the Bipartison Center, will participate in a panel discussion on the U.S. Farm Bill, which is up for renewal this year (Thursday, April 5, 6:30 p.m., Wheeler Hall, Auditorium).

Witness the first partial solar eclipse in a decade through specially designed solar telescopes. Astronomers will be on hand to answer questions (Sunday, May 20, Lawrence Hall of Science: planetarium demonstrations 1-4 p.m; live eclipse viewing on the plaza 5-8 p.m.).