6 Bay Area arts and entertainment events to check out this week

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Composer Nina Shekhar Photo: Courtesy Nina Shekhar

The Chronicle’s guide to notable arts and entertainment happenings in the Bay Area.

Left Coast Ensemble premieres cello duo by composer Nina Shekhar

A world premiere performance of a new piece is always an exciting event, and one of the things that makes it even more delectable is a chance for all the participants to discuss it afterward. That’s how you get the composer’s perspective on what you’ve just heard — what they intended, how it came across — and compare it with your own.

The upcoming online concert by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble offers such an opportunity. Nina Shekhar’s commissioned cello duo “if these walls” will have its first performance thanks to cellists Leighton Fong and Tonya Tomkins, after which all three will dissect the proceedings in a live-streamed Q&A with the audience.

The program, aptly titled “Cello Heaven,” also features Shekhar’s cello solo “Cajón,” as well as an excerpt from an archival recording of Clarice Assad’s 2018 premiere “Lemuria.”

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble: 7:30 p.m. Monday, March 22. Free, $25 donations encouraged.  leftcoastensemble.org

— Joshua Kosman

Eddie Izzard and Judi Dench in “Six Minutes to Midnight,” a prewar drama. Photo: Amanda Searle , Cinequest

Sonoma International Film Festival

The mostly virtual event will screen three films at the Sonoma Skypark drive-in, beginning with the opening night film “Six Minutes to Midnight,” starring Judi Dench and Eddie Izzard in a World War II-era mystery.

Also benefiting from a big screen experience is the Russian special effects film “Spacewalk,” about two cosmonauts preparing for the world’s first spacewalk in 1965 (Friday, March 26); and the comedy “The Comeback Trail” (Saturday, March 27), set in ’70s Hollywood, starring Robert De Niro. Tommy Lee Jones and Morgan Freeman. That latter title serves as the closing night film (virtually) on Sunday, March 28.

All of those titles are available online, as are dozens of other features and documentaries.

Sonoma International Film Festival: March 24-28. Online, with select films at Sonoma Skypark, 21870 Eighth St. E, Sonoma. sonomafilmfest.org

— G. Allen Johnson

The cast including Julia Brothers (far left) playing Maeve in San Francisco Playhouse’s “Dance Nation” rehearse in their studio on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019 in San Francisco, Calif. Photo: Liz Hafalia, The Chronicle

Veteran actor Julia Brothers essays the solo show, with ‘I Was Right Here’

Actor Julia Brothers can play a fin-de-siècle Russian so romantically thwarted she never un-balls her fists. She can play a crook trying to go straight, an acerbic wit leavened by a heart of gold. She can play God as a David Bowie lookalike. She can play a preteen dance student, expertly embodying childhood’s lack of self-consciousness: the hair chewing, the jaw dangling open.

Now, she performs her first solo show. “I Was Right Here,” a San Francisco Playhouse commission, recounts her journey of loving and losing, from flickering memories of youth to the sobering reality of now, as she visits an aging parent.

Brothers was among the first actors with Bay Area theater connections to come down with COVID last year, so it’s a particular joy to see her back on her feet and making new art.

Padraic Lillis directs.

“I Was Right Here”: Begins streaming Saturday, March 27. Through April 17. $15-$100. 415-677-9596. sfplayhouse.org

— Lily Janiak

Conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen Photo: Hiroyuki Ito

Salonen’s Houston Symphony debut will be streamed live for Bay Area audiences

Esa-Pekka Salonen is busy working with his colleagues at the San Francisco Symphony to reinvent concert life for the pandemic and beyond — but that doesn’t mean his outside activities have been completely sidelined.

The conductor is set to make his debut appearance with the Houston Symphony, and fortunately, Bay Area music lovers will have a chance to witness the event from afar. One of the three scheduled concerts is slated to stream live, bringing a little Texas ambience into California homes.

Salonen will be wearing both his composer and conductor hats, leading a program that includes his “FOG,” a 90th-birthday tribute to architect Frank O. Gehry, as well as music by Bach and Beethoven.

Houston Symphony Presents Esa-Pekka Salonen: Live-streamed concert. 6 p.m. Saturday, March 27. $20. houstonsymphony.org

— Joshua Kosman

Berkeley author Kate Schatz Photo: Karen Santos

Berkeley Symphony celebrates its hometown with new music and video series

One of the marks of a truly essential artistic organization is its ties to the local community — ideally, you have the sense that it’s an undertaking that couldn’t quite happen anywhere else.

The Berkeley Symphony has always been a distinctively localized endeavor, and even in the absence of live orchestra concerts it continues to celebrate its hometown. The latest example is “Real Berkeley,” a series of four free YouTube videos paying tribute to the city.

The initial offering, “Rad Women,” is curated by writer Kate Schatz, and features chamber music by three female composers: Berkeley native Gabriella Smith, Reena Esmail and Clara Schumann.

Real Berkeley: “Rad Women”: 4 p.m. Sunday, March 28. Free. berkeleysymphony.org

— Joshua Kosman

Art from the exhibition ‘The Walt Disney Studios and World War II’ at the Walt Disney Family Museum. Photo: Walt Disney Family Museum

S.F.’s Walt Disney Family Museum looks at film studio’s WWII projects

During World War II, Hollywood film studios joined the Allied cause by creating propaganda and training films, hosting war bond drives, and imbuing messages of morale into prestige projects.

A special exhibition at San Francisco’s Walt Disney Family Museum, curated by World War II historian Kent Ramsey, explores Walt Disney Studios’ work during the period when more than 90% of its output consisted of war-related projects. At the same time, Disney and a group of studio artists embarked on a Latin American Goodwill Tour on behalf of the industry, a trip that resulted in the 1944 feature “The Three Caballeros.” 

The exhibition, on view through May 1, includes 550 examples of rare historical objects and film clips on display.

Given the varied output of the studio, and some of the now famous World War II products they produced including the 1943 Academy Award-winning Donald Duck short “Der Fuehrer’s Face,” these are rich fields for the museum to mine.

“The Walt Disney Studios and World War II”: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. $15 general admission. Walt Disney Family Museum, 104 Montgomery Street in the Presidio, S.F. 415-345-6800. waltdisney.org

— Tony Bravo

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