Fall 2012 coming attractions: Politics, rhinos and ‘the Ave’

Gustavo Dudamel conductor

Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, Nov. 29-30 (Luis Cobelo photo)

This fall’s lineup of events touches the hot-button issues of the day, with experts sharing their perspectives on topics ranging from health care to taxes, the presidential election to California’s fiscal crisis. Cultural lightning rod Camille Paglia takes us on a visual tour from ancient Egypt to the digital age, while conservationist Wendell Berry provides a pastoral alternative to modern life.

The performing arts season gets off to a roaring start with the annual event-sampler, Fall Free for All, and continues to delight with such treats as a staging of Philip Glass’s full-length opera, Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts, programs by the youth ensemble Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, and a journey back in time through Woody Guthrie’s American Song.

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

Election 2012

Theda Skocpol

Theda Skocpol, Sept. 19

Theda Skocpol, professor of government and sociology at Harvard University, will present the Jefferson Memorial Lecture in conjunction with the observance of Constitution Day, Obama, the Tea Party, and the Future of American Politics (Wednesday, Sept. 19, 4:10 p.m., Alumni House).

Former Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm, former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich, former California Gov. Pete Wilson, and Dan Schnur, director of communications for John McCain’s presidential campaign, review President Obama’s first term in office in The Obama Report Card: A Berkeley Law Roundtable Discussion on Obama’s First Term (Friday, Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m., Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco).

A panel of experts looks at campaigning in the age of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in Tweeting Your Way to the White House: Social Media and the 2012 Campaign (Monday, Oct. 1, 4 p.m., Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall).

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Post-election questions are addressed by progressive activist Van Jones in the 16th annual Mario Savio Memorial Lecture, Where are we now? Where do we want to be? How can we get there? (Wednesday, Nov. 28, 8 p.m., Pauley Ballroom, Martin Luther King Jr. Student Center)

Sustaining the Golden State

book cover

Mark Zandi, Sept. 21

Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, presents the keynote at a conference where leading experts and public officials explore the fiscal crisis confronting California’s state and local governments, California’s Fiscal Crisis: Prospects for Pension Reform and Deficit Reduction in the Golden State (Friday, Sept. 21, 8:30 a.m., David Brower Center, 2150 Allston Way, Berkeley).

A yearlong lecture series on “Implementing Health Care Reform in California” opens with the keynote Launching the Exchange in California: Opportunities and Challenges by Peter Lee, director of the California Health Benefits Exchange (Tuesday, Oct. 23, 4 p.m., Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, room 125). Larry Levitt, vice president of special projects for the Kaiser Family Foundation, will present Implementing Medi-Cal (Tuesday, Nov. 27, 4 p.m., Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Sciences, room 125).

A screening of California Forever: Parks for the Future is followed by a panel discussion with the filmmakers David Vassar and Sally Kaplan; Carolyn Finney, assistant professor of environmental science, policy, and management; Caryl Hart, commissioner, California Department of Parks and Recreation; Rolf Diamant, historian, U.S. National Park Service; and J. Keith Gilless, dean of the College of Natural Resources (Thursday, Sept. 13, 5:30 p.m., Bechtel Engineering Center, Sibley Auditorium).

Wealth inequality

Emmanuel Saez

Emmanuel Saez, Dec. 4

Ricardo Lagos, former president of Chile (2000-06), and Robert Reich, former U.S. labor secretary (1993-97), will speak on Inequality in the Americas (Tuesday, Sept. 11, 12:30 p.m., Booth Auditorium, Boalt Hall). Lagos will also discuss his memoir, The Southern Tiger, in which he chronicles Chile’s journey from terror and repression to a thriving open society, and from crushing poverty to one of the wealthiest nations in Latin America, in A Memoir About the Future (Thursday, Sept. 13, 6:30 p.m., 105 Stanley Hall).

Emmanuel Saez, professor of economics and director of the Center for Equitable Growth, focuses on tax policy and income inequality in the U.S. in Income Inequality: Evidence and Implications (Tuesday, Dec. 4, 4:10 p.m., Chevron Auditorium, International House).

Crude films

Blood and Oil movie poster

Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I, Oct. 25

A two-day film series explores how oil profoundly shaped political geographies and popular American imaginations of the Middle East during the 20th century. The series begins with Blood and Oil: The Middle East in World War I (Thursday, Oct. 25, 4 p.m., 340 Stephens Hall). Five more films will be screened throughout the following day: Ageless Iraq, First Oil, Hanah Appel, The Oil Factor and Syriana (Friday, Oct. 26, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 340 Stephens Hall).

Spotlight on Asia

In Hiroshima Maidens, Bikini Islanders, and Lucky Dragons: Contesting War Memories and Promoting Peace in Cold War Japan and the US, Elyssa Faison, professor of history at University of Oklahoma, will explore the complex, emotional and politically charged issues surrounding nuclear weapons in the postwar context (Tuesday, Sept. 11, 4 p.m., Institute of East Asian Studies, 2223 Fulton, 6th Floor).

John Hamre, president and CEO, Center for Strategic International Studies, will explain how our international strategic focus is shifting in Pivoting to Asia: What Does It Really Mean? (Wednesday, Sept. 19, 4 p.m., 223 Moses Hall)

In Countering the Counter-Power: The Political Effects of Internet Rumors and Rumor Rebuttals in China, Haifeng Huang, assistant professor of political science at UC Merced, explores the political influence of Internet rumors in China (Monday, Oct. 22, 4 p.m., Institute of East Asian Studies, 2223 Fulton, 6th Floor).

Sublime and absurd performances

Theatre Rhinoceros

Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinocéros, Sept. 27-29 (Jean Louis Fernandez photo)

Paris’s legendary Théâtre de la Ville brings its production of Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinocéros to Berkeley. In the play, often seen as a commentary on the conversion to fascism by the people of Ionesco’s Romania before the outbreak of World War II, the inhabitants of a small, provincial French town turn into rhinoceroses, except for one Everyman character. In French with English supertitles (Thursday-Friday, Sept. 27-28, 8 p.m. and Saturday, Sept. 29, 2 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Cal Performances opens its doors to the community for the Fall Free for All, a full day of free performances featuring an impressive lineup of artists that includes student and faculty performers from campus alongside stars from international and local stages (Sunday, Sept. 30, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.).

The Mariinsky Ballet and Orchestra (formerly known as the Kirov) presents its signature 1950 production of Swan Lake, featuring Konstantin Sergeyev’s choreography, Tchaikovsky’s timeless music and the singular dancing of Uliana Lopatkina (Wednesday-Saturday, Oct. 10-13, 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 14, 3 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

Scene from Einstein on the Beach

Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts, Oct. 26-28 (Lucie Jansch photo)

Einstein on the Beach, An Opera in Four Acts defies the rules of conventional opera. Instead of writing for traditional orchestral instrumentation, composer Philip Glass chose to compose the work for the synthesizers, woodwinds and voices of the Philip Glass Ensemble. Never performed fully staged in the United States outside of New York City, the five-hour opera will be presented three times (Friday, Oct. 26, 6 p.m.; Saturday, Oct. 27, 5 p.m.; and Sunday Oct. 28, 3 p.m., Zellerbach Hall). Related events include a colloquium with Philip Glass (Friday, Oct. 26, 3 p.m., 125 Morrison Hall) and a symposium (Saturday, Oct. 27, 11 a.m., Zellerbach Playhouse).

The Philharmonia Orchestra performs three concerts under acclaimed principal conductor Esa-Pekka. Helix by Salonen is featured on the first program, which also includes Berlioz’s Symphonie fantastique and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7. (Friday, Nov. 9, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall). Alban Berg’s monumental opera Wozzeck is heard in a concert version on the second evening (Saturday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m., Zellerbach Hall). The Philharmonia closes its residency with Mahler’s epic Symphony No. 9 (Sunday, Nov. 11, 3 p.m., Zellerbach Hall).

The Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Gustavo Dudamel features symphonic music with a Mexican connection: Carlos Chávez’s exotic Sinfonía india; Julián Orbón’s Tres versions sinfónicas; and La noche de los Mayas by Silvestre Revueltas (Thursday, Nov. 29, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall). A second program focuses on South American composers, represented by Argentinean Alberto Ginastera’s Dances from Estancia, Op. 8; the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos’s Chôros No. 10; and Venezuelan composer Antonio Estévez’s Cantata Criolla (Friday, Nov. 30, 8 p.m., Zellerbach Hall). Comprising more than 200 young musicians, the Simón Bolívar Symphony Orchestra is the flagship of the Venezuelan state music education program El Sistema.


Peter Glazer’s musical Woody Guthrie’s American Song uses Guthrie’s own powerful words and over two dozen songs. Guthrie journeys through America, witnessing the Great Depression, the Dust Bowl migrations and a world war (Friday-Saturday, Nov. 9-10 & 16-17, 8 p.m.; Thursday, Nov. 15, 8 p.m.; and Sunday, Nov. 11 and 18, 2 p.m., Durham Studio Theater, Dwinelle Hall).


Rebecca Solnit

Rebecca Solnit, Sept. 13

Story Hour in the Library presents local writer Rebecca Solnit. She is the author of 13 books about art, landscape, public and collective life, ecology, politics, hope, meandering, reverie, and memory, including the bestselling Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas and the award-winning River of Shadows, Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West (Thursday Sept, 13, 5 p.m., Doe Library, Morrison Library).

Vikram Seth’s first novel, The Golden Gate, set in San Francisco in the 1980s, is written entirely in Onegin stanzas after the style of Alexander Pushkin’s Eugene Onegin. A poet, novelist, travel writer, librettist, children’s writer and memoirist, Seth will discuss his work in An Evening in Conversation With Vikram Seth, presented by the Townsend Center for the Humanities (Monday, Oct. 15, 6 p.m., Morrison Reading Room; follow-up discussion, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 4 p.m., Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall).

Wendell Berry, conservationist, farmer, essayist, novelist and poet, is joined in conversation by Michael Pollan, professor of journalism; Robert Hass, professor of English; Miguel Altieri, professor of environmental science, policy, and management; and Anne-Lise François professor of English and comparative literature in a Townsend Center panel discussion  An Agro-Ethical Aesthetic  (Wednesday, Oct. 31, 4 p.m., Wheeler Auditorium). The following day Berry will present a reading and discussion (Thursday, Nov 1, 6 p.m., Berkeley Art Museum Theater, 2621 Durant Ave.).

Lunch Poems features Pulitzer Prize-winning Jorie Graham, who was the first woman appointed as Boylston Professor at Harvard and has held a longtime faculty position at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. The most recent of her dozen collections is 2012’s Place (Thursday, Nov. 1, 12:10, Doe Library, Morrison Library).

Visual statements

Barry McGee

Barry McGee, Dec. 9

This first midcareer survey of the globally influential San Francisco–based artist Barry McGee includes rarely seen early etchings, letterpress printing trays and liquor bottles painted with his trademark cast of down-and-out urban characters, constellations of vibrant op-art painted panels, animatronic taggers and an elaborate re-creation of a cacophonous street-corner bodega, along with many new projects (Wednesday-Sunday, through Dec 9, 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Berkeley Art Museum).

The shape of one’s own protruding nose, and its subtle yet constant presence in one’s visual field, has a lot to do with the way visual art has “shaped up” over the centuries. Artists Ryan and Trevor Oakes, presenting an account of how they arrived at this new drawing method, will illuminate fundamental perceptual truths regarding the spherical nature of human vision in A Tale of Two Eyes, One Brain, One Hand, and One Pen (Sept. 17, 7:30 p.m., Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall). See New Work by Ryan and Trevor Oakes (Tuesday-Saturday, Sept. 12-Oct. 6, noon – 5 p.m., Worth Ryder Art Gallery, 116 Kroeber Hall).

Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg, artists/designers and leaders of Google’s “Big Picture” visualization research group in Cambridge, Mass., discuss what happens when technology is aimed at data sets that range from tropical storms to social networks, from arguments on Wikipedia to expressions of carnal desire in Visualization and the Joy of Revelation (Monday, Oct. 1, 7:30 p.m., Banatao Auditorium, Sutardja Dai Hall).

Intellectual provocateur Camille Paglia speaks about her latest book, Glittering Images: A Journey Through Art From Egypt to Star Wars. Find out why this book may change the way we think about our visual environment in this high-tech age (Wednesday, Oct. 24, 7:30 p.m., Berkeley Art Museum).

Town and gown

The 2400 block of Telegraph Avenue, 1969-1973

The 2400 Block of Telegraph Avenue, 1969-1973, through Jan. 11

The 2400 Block of Telegraph Avenue, 1969-1973 is an exhibit of photographs by Nacio Jan Brown depicting the people and happenings of the “Ave” a few blocks from the Berkeley campus during the vibrant days of the late ’60s and early ’70s (exhibit: Monday-Friday, through Jan. 11, 2013, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.; North Gate; artist talk and book signing: Friday, Sept. 7, 6 p.m., North Gate).

In 1963, the University of California regents hired photographer Ansel Adams and writer Nancy Newhall to depict the university’s future — a collaboration that resulted in the 1967 publication Fiat Lux. This exhibit, Fiat Lux Redux: Ansel Adams and the University Of California, is part of the College of Letters and Science’s “On the Same Page” program for new students (Monday-Friday, Sept. 27-Feb. 28, 2013, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Bancroft Library).

Seasonal rites

Regionally appropriate plants, including California natives and plants from South Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean region and South America, are featured at the Fall Plant Sale (Sunday, Sept.30, members: 9-10:30 a.m., public: 10:30 a.m.-2 p.m., UC Botanical Garden).


Big Game, Oct. 20

The Cal football team takes on Stanford in the annual Big Game, which will be held in the in the recently renovated California Memorial Stadium (Saturday, Oct. 20, time TBD).

Celebrate Creepy Happy Halloween at the Lawrence Hall of Science. Build a pumpkin catapult or visit the Animal Discovery Room to meet the slimiest, scaliest and hairiest critters! (Saturday, Oct. 27, noon-4 p.m. Lawrence Hall of Science).

The University Chorus presents Harvests and Recollections, a program of autumnal songs, including Franz Joseph Haydn, Fall from The Seasons with orchestra and soloists, (Sunday, Oct. 28, 4 p.m., Hertz Concert Hall).

Mark Morris’s classic The Hard Nut — a retro-modern take on the beloved Nutcracker tale — returns to Zellerbach Hall (Friday, Dec. 14, 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 15, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.; Sunday, Dec. 16, 3 p.m.; Thursday, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Friday, Dec. 21, 2 p.m.; Saturday, Dec. 22, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., Sunday, Dec. 23, 3 p.m.).