Arts & Entertainment
Best, um, French film festival
Sacramento French Film Festival
The reason why it’s so tempting to hole up for two consecutive weekends in the Crest Theatre every July is not that the weather outside is so oppressively, unnaturally, godawfully hot. Well, there is that, too. But the real reason is the Sacramento French Film Festival, a local treasure since 2002. First of all, not even San Francisco, which is pretty much the film-fest capital of the universe, has a French-specific festival. Secondly, this one always satisfies because its organizers so obviously care deeply about what they do. Every year, they stock up on classics, new discoveries and racy, disturbing or otherwise provocative midnight movies—yet they still find space and time to exhibit a few locally made, original short films and throw a couple of great parties. Like the nonprofit Alliance Française de Sacramento it benefits, this event is, in short, a tremendous cultural resource. Never mind that sometimes there are mimes in attendance. Fin. At the Crest Theatre, 1013 K Street; (916) 442-7378; www.sacramentofrenchfilmfestival.org. J.K.
Best American Indian Idol
Sacramento’s Mary Youngblood has not had to perform for Paula, Randy and Simon, but the classically trained multi-instrumentalist did just step off the West Coast Powwow Cruise from San Diego to Cabo San Lucas. That’s got to count for something. Actually, her lilting, mellow music opens career doors for her just fine, thank you very much. Youngblood, who is of Aleut and Seminole ancestry, is among the first Native American women to record on the American Indian flute—to smashing results. Her 2003 release Beneath the Raven Moon won a Grammy; she’s picked up Flutist of the Year and Best Female Artist honors from the Native American Music Awards; and her latest recording, Dance with the Wind, has her poised to pick up more NAMA hardware for Artist of the Year and Best Record of the Year in Niagara Falls, New York, on October 6. And she won’t even have to put up with Ryan Seacrest and his hair to do it! See our Web-extra Q & A with Youngblood at newsreview.com. maryyoungblood.net, www.myspace.com/maryyoungblood. M.C.
Best local source for poetry in more than one language
Escritores del Nuevo Sol/ Writers of the New Sun
Escritores del Nuevo Sol, founded in 1993, is dedicated to preserving and practicing the traditions of Chicano, Latino, American Indian and Spanish-language poetry. The weekly workshop-slash-potluck lunches include poets who write in one language—or in more than one. Even more common is “code-switching,” a linguistic term for the free passage from one language to another. But the real treat is at one of Escritores del Nuevo Sol’s monthly readings, when the widest range of the languages of the Americas are on display. Generally scheduled on Fridays, the readings are held at La Raza Galleria Posada, 1024 22nd Street. Don’t miss their annual Día de Los Muertos reading, set for 7:30 p.m. on October 26. (916) 446-5133, www.escritoresdelnuevosol.com. K.M.
Best place to meet Miss Hmong California
Sacramento Hmong New Year celebration
Four days of festivities, need we say more? While Hmong New Year is a time to dance, sing and play games, it’s also an opportunity for the 19 clans in Sacramento’s growing Hmong community to cultivate relationships and preserve deep-rooted traditions. This year’s celebration takes place November 22 to 25 at Cal Expo. You can expect soccer and basketball, and also Tuj Lub, a highly popular game that involves a top, a long piece of string, and a wooden or bamboo pole. Food, dancing and the crowning of Miss Hmong California rounds out the good time. Young men and women usually participate in Pov Pob, a courtship ceremonial ball toss, but nowadays this is done primarily out of custom. As Sacramentan Nou Vang says, “I like to go eat food and see old friends that I haven’t seen for awhile. I think the purpose of the New Year is for men to find wives, but that is a tradition that is long gone.” Sacramento Hmong New Year 2007-08, Cal Expo, 1600 Exposition Boulevard; (916) 821-4576; www.sacramentohmongnewyear.com. S.C.
Best place to soak up soul culture
40 Acres Art Gallery and Cultural Center
Talk about multipurpose—the 40 Acres complex, a centerpiece in the ongoing effort to revitalize Sacramento’s historic Oak Park neighborhood, really does seem to have it all. By mixing a nonprofit art gallery and performance space with a bookstore and coffee shop, 40 Acres has become a balanced presence in the community and destination for the rest of Sacramento. The gallery has a growing permanent collection that prominently features local work, with exhibitions that tend toward a human and humane aesthetic—for example, the upcoming exhibit of works by Argentine native and human-rights activist Claudia Bernardi (Silence Was Hostile and Almost Perfect/El silencio era hostil y casi perfecto, October 16 through December 30). Add to that the variety of programs offered in the performance space (recent offerings have included jazz workshops and lectures on the after-effects of Hurricane Katrina), underground books and a wealth of literary options (including a monthly poetry series), and the back-to-basics atmosphere of a barber shop (the heartbeat of Black American culture)—40 Acres is a small space that has an abundance of soul. 35th Street and Broadway, (916) 456-5080, www.40acresartgallery.org. K.M.
Best reason to practice your Korean
We know you’re just itching to sing some K-pop while sipping on soju. North Korea may have shut down its karaoke bars to keep out foreign influence in the communist state, but Sacramento is as capitalist and democratic as they come, so if you’re looking to sing a rendition of Younha’s “Password 486,” Rurulala will indulge your stardom fantasy. We could go into a complicated essay about why Rurulala is so cool, but it boils down to a few main points: The club features private karaoke rooms so you’ll only embarrass yourself in front of your own friends, and the rooms’ individual music systems feature a large selection of Korean hits with some American hits tossed in for good measure. The club also stays open until 4 a.m. Once you’ve closed down the bars, head over to your friendly neighborhood karaoke joint for some after hours fun. 9721 Folsom Boulevard, (916) 366-3846. S.C.
Best Sacramento legend to (finally) take the stage
The Beebo Brinker Chronicles by Ann Bannon
OK, so she didn’t live in Sactown when she wrote Beebo Brinker, Odd Girl Out or any of the rest of the novels that make up The Beebo Brinker Chronicles. But Ann Bannon, under her real name, Ann Weldy, spent the better chunk of her professional career at CSUS. She retired as an associate dean in 1997 and was honored in 2005 with a Distinguished Faculty Award. The characters Bannon’s lesbian “pulp” novels have proven to have long-lasting appeal—and now they move to the stage. This fall—previews start this week, in fact—The Beebo Brinker Chronicles opens on the New York stage in a production directed by Leigh Silverman at the Fourth Street Theatre. Sacramentans who happen to be in New York can participate in an audience “talk-back” featuring Bannon after the September 30 matinee—or just curl up with a tattered copy of Women in the Shadows and wait for the movie. The Beebo Brinker Chronicles by Ann Bannon, adapted for the stage by Kate Moira Ryan and Linda S. Chapman; www.beebobrinker.com. K.M.
Best reason why teens sneak out on summer Monday nights
Zuclub at Barcode
Ever have a sneaking suspicion that your kid was lying about going to a “study circle” every Monday night during summer? I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but your hunch may have been correct. What’s worse, your teen was probably out bumping and grinding all over members of the opposite sex at Sacramento’s only underage club night, Zuclub, held Mondays during the summer at Barcode. Blasting “the hottest dance beats” and “slappers” (it’s teen lingo, just roll with it) from 8 p.m. until just after midnight, Zuclub lets 14- to 17-year-olds run amok without fear of adult intervention. But rest assured, bouncers will step in if things get a little too freaky. Zuclub closes its doors as soon as public schools open theirs, which means teens are stuck with school dances and “functions out in Meadowview” for the next nine months. 1890 Arden Way, (916) 929-0232; www.barcodesac.com; www.myspace.com/zuclub. G.M.
Best spot for literate queers
Lavender Library, Archives and Cultural Exchange
Don’t mistake the respectable library (10,000 volumes and constantly adding) for the only attraction at Lavender Library, Archives and Cultural Exchange. This GLBT institution has offshoots in just about every area of arts and culture: from monthly movie nights (GLBTQ films, many of which probably didn’t play at your local multiplex) and Second Saturday exhibits, receptions and occasional book sales to providing a meeting place for a number of community organizations, LLACE lives up to the vision of its founders in a myriad of ways. Events vary from the Eclectic? Trash? Book Discussion Group to support groups; from Friday Femmes salons to last June’s exhibit, “They Also Served,” of Sacramento GLBTQ armed forces veterans. With over 600 videos available for borrowing, there’s no reason for boredom—and a nifty, growing Web site lets you search the catalogue from the comfort of home. With titles as highbrow as The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant and as lowbrow as Butch Camp (like that’s gonna help!), there’s something for everyone. 1414 21st Street, (916) 492-0558, www.lavenderlibrary.org. K.M.
Best sustained effort in ethnic theatre
Professional theater: Sacramento Theatre Co.
Community theater: Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra
The Sacramento Theatre Company put together a notable string of racially conscious shows last season. There were classics: Harper Lee’s tale of Southern racial prejudice, To Kill a Mockingbird, and Shakespeare’s tragedy about a biracial marriage, Othello. Also a new play about a “white” couple who have a “dark” baby, The Peculiar and Sudden Nearness of the Moon, by Velina Hasu Houston. Best of all was STC’s Electricidad, drawing on ancient Greek tragedy in the context of a gang-dominated Latino neighborhood, with an intense performance by local favorite Saffron Henke. 1419 H Street, (916) 443-6722, www.sactheatre.org. Community Asian Theatre of the Sierra stages only one production a year, each January in Nevada City. But that single show is consistently a beauty, rivaling those on the area’s professional stages. This year’s effort was Velina Hasu Houston’s Tea; next January they’ll do David Henry Hwang’s Golden Child. (530) 273-6362, www.catsweb.org. J.H.
Best theatrical exploration of ethnicity
Professional theater: The Clean House at B Street Theatre
Community theater: Let the Eagle Fly at California Stage
The B Street Theatre doesn’t often do ethnic shows for grown-ups. But playwright Sarah Ruhl’s The Clean House posed a thoughtful, cutting contrast between career-driven, logical, uptight white Americans (B Street regulars Jamie Jones and Amy Resnick) and laid back, intuitive, sensual Brazilians (visiting actress Maricela Ochoa). Director Nancy Carlin incorporated magical flights of fancy in this curiously absorbing, unconventionally told story. We’d enjoy seeing more shows along this line. 2711 B Street, (916) 443-5300, www.bstreettheatre.org. California Stage, Ray Tatar’s artsy little venue by the Light Rail tracks, pulled off something unusual last fall: an original musical based on the life of farm labor legend César Chávez, featuring a cast of community actors and musicians. The show turned out to be highly watchable, and several songs were toe-tappers. Actor/director Richard Falcon has the Chávez family’s permission to stage Let the Eagle Fly again, sometime in the coming year–this time with more professionals involved. 1723 25th Street, (916) 451-5822, www.calstage.org. J.H.
Best way to strengthen your cultural awareness and your arms
Drum lessons with Sacramento Taiko Dan
With the exception of under-rock-dwellers, everyone in Sacramento has seen Sacramento Taiko Dan—or at least heard their rhythmic rumblings. Whether it’s a half-time show at a Monarchs or Kings game, a school performance for the munchkins, a performance at the Pacific Rim Festival or an appearance at a Women’s History Month event by all-female Taiko troupe Jodaiko, Sacramento Taiko Dan is a local favorite. But in addition to the majesty of a Taiko performance, learning to play the drums is one heckuva workout. Sacramento Taiko Dan offers a variety of one-time workshops and ongoing classes at their Dojo. Whether you hope to become an artisan of the drumming world or simply work up a sweat while making a respectful, traditional and mighty big noise, check out some of these classes in traditional Japanese Taiko drumming. Sacramento Taiko Dan Dojo, 2121 Blumenfeld Drive; (916) 444-5667; www.sactaiko.org. K.M.
Best theatrical comeback
Professional theater: Frank Condon, Director of Urinetown at River Stage
Community theater: Kelton Howard, actor in Yellowman at Celebration Arts
Director Frank Condon, who’s presented many compelling shows on racial/social themes at River Stage, took a long break after wife Kim’s death in 2005. But Condon made a decisive return this year with an outstanding production of the sassy, subversive musical comedy Urinetown. Set in a desperately water-short future, the show features a shamelessly corrupt corporate kingpin, who’s overthrown by that most unfashionable of ethnic groups: the poor. But Urinetown offers no easy solutions–things just get worse after the revolution.
Actor Kelton Howard came up years ago through the Black theater program at CSU Sacramento. Howard left town for several years, but he made a memorable return in the Celebration Arts production of Yellowman, a gritty story about prejudice within the Black community against African Americans whose skin tone is kinda light. J.H.
Best unusual theater performance
Professional theater: Karyn Casl, actress in The Story of Opal at Foothill Theatre
Community theater: Christin O’Cuddehy, actress in Fat Pig at Capital Stage
Versatile actress Karyn Casl, a mainstay at Foothill Theatre, gave an amazing performance as a French-American nature girl living in the Oregon woods. The Story of Opal was a play about moods and textures (rather than story). Speaking in idiosyncratic, fractured syntax tied to physical movement, Casl created an impressionistic stream-of-consciousness. You could feel the dappled sunlight and hear the wind. We’ve never seen a performance quite like it. Casl will be back in new shows by Foothill this season.
Sacramento’s Capital Stage went against the trend toward light summer fare with Fat Pig, a cautionary tale about a difficult, ultimately doomed romance between a 165-pound man and a much heavier woman. Actress Christin O’Cuddehy (who’s the right size for her part) was at the center of the show, and we admired her frank, engaging performance in a role that many actresses would prefer to avoid. J.H.
Best local multicultural festivals
For the last 25 years, the Croatian-American Cultural Center has sponsored a festival in June that includes Croatian food and cultural programs. www.cacc.com.
Festival de la Familia
Held the last Sunday in April, this festival celebrates family in the customs and traditions of Latino/a cultures around the world. www.festivaldelafamilia.org.
Sacramento celebrates its Filipino residents on the first Sunday in June at the Filipino Fiesta with food and cultural activities. Contact Paul Kekai Manansala; email@example.com.
Sponsored by Sacramento’s Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, this festival is held on Labor Day weekend and best known for its incredible food. www.annunciation.ca.goarch.org/festival/index.php.
Juneteenth: A Celebration of Freedom
This festival celebrates a date near June 19, 1865, when word of the end of the civil war and news of freedom from slavery reached African Americans in Texas. www.discovergold.org/juneteenth/.
Long before every corner brewpub started advertising an Oktoberfest, Sacramento Turn Verein was hosting the traditional German autumn festival in their lovely hall. With beer, food, music, and dancing—everything except the traditional horse race—this is one cultural festival that you don’t want to pass up. This year’s fun is set for October 5 and 6. www.sacramentoturnverein.com.
Sponsored by the Asian Pacific Rim Foundation, this street festival in Old Sacramento kicks off the summer with a mid-May celebration of the cultures border the Pacific Ocean. www.pacificrimstreetfest.com.
This is the end-of-summer blowout for Sacramento’s GLBTQ community, held every Labor Day weekend in the “Lavendar Heights” Midtown neighborhood. www.rainbowfestival.com.
St. Patrick’s Day (Lá Fhéile Pádraig)
The annual St. Patrick’s Day parade and party in Old Sacramento is one of several annual events that Sacramento’s Shamrock Club (Fáilte Chun Cumann Seamróige) sponsors. They also put on an Irish Music Festival each fall and offer classes in traditional Irish music, dance and language. home.comcast.net/~iascsac/.
Sacramento Festa Italiana
Generally held in early August, this festival is sponsored by the Sacramento Italian Cultural Society. www.italiancenter.net.
Best passage to IndiaGuild Theater
Nobody loves movies like India. The country tops the world, both in the number of films produced annually and in the number of movie tickets sold. Only a handful of these flicks ever make it to a big screen in Sacramento, but when they do, it’s usually at the Guild Theater. On those weekends, the beautifully renovated Oak Park auditorium augments its usual popcorn-and-candy fare with hot samosas and tamarind sauce. Crowds pack the floor and the balcony to cheer on the actors with an enthusiasm that’s downright foreign to jaded American audiences. Tickets usually sell out in advance and English subtitles are no guarantee, but it’s enough fun to make tourists forget they don’t speak the language. To preview coming attractions, look for posters in the window of Kaveri Indian Groceries on Fulton Avenue or keep an eye on Indiaglitz.com. 2828 35th Street, (916) 736-1185, www.guildtheater.com
Best Hindu humoristTapan Trivedi
For a man who never saw an observational stand-up comic until he moved to America at age 22, Indian comedian Tapan Trivedi has picked up the art with remarkable speed. Trivedi hasn’t met an issue that’s too taboo to joke about, whether it’s his frustration at being mistaken for a Muslim on his birthday (which happens to be September 11), his cultural associations with 7-Eleven convenience stores, or finding pride in the appellation “sand nigger.” His fearless style and unique voice won him second place in this year’s San Jose Improv Comedy Competition and a coveted spot in the upcoming San Francisco Comedy Competition. Currently headlining as “the Hindu” on the Coexist? Comedy Tour he co-founded with atheist comedian Keith Lowell Jensen, Trivedi will travel the country under the guidance of infinite deities—and Google Maps. www.indiancomedian.com, www.coexistcomedy.com. B.C.