Known for their thought-provoking performances of classical and contemporary works, Harlem’s incredible Dance Theater will perform April 29-30 at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek for two performances only.
As part of the Lesher Center Presents Headliners series, the company will perform resident choreographer Robert Garland’s “Higher Ground” to music by Stevie Wonder. With classical ballet as a base, Garland uses moves inspired by African dance, Motown, social dances and the civil rights movement to weave an energetic ballet across six Stevie Wonder tracks recorded from 1970 to 1976.
Classics on the program include a contemporary staging of Marius Petipa’s Odalisques Variations from “Le Corsaire” and British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s moving pas de deux, “This Bitter Earth”.
The program ends with “Balamouk” by Colombian-Belgian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. The title means “madhouse” in Romanian and comes from French band Les Yeux Noirs’ 2002 album, on which the ballet is based.
Founded more than 53 years ago by legendary dancer and director Arthur Mitchell and master teacher Karel Shook, Dance Theater of Harlem has continued to challenge perceptions and create new opportunities by celebrating black culture. The current 18-member ensemble includes dancers from multiple ethnicities. For tickets, call 925-943-SHOW or visit lesherartscenter.org. The Lesher Center is located at 1601 Civic Drive.
Castro Valley: I was pleasantly surprised to learn that Chanticleers Theater will be presenting live theater again. I’m even happier to say that they now insist that all cast and crew be vaccinated. Many of you will remember all the controversy when the company‘s last production, “The Four Poster” in July 2021, featured a cast of two unvaccinated people.
The Castro Valley Community Theater will perform AR Gurney’s “Love Letters” from April 29 through May 1. The two evening performances will take place at 8 p.m. and Sunday matinee at 2 p.m. Gurney’s touching story recounts childhood friends Andrew and Melissa whose lifelong correspondence begins with birthday party thank you notes and continues as they attend separate colleges, marry different people and live very different lives.
The story is a celebrity favorite because it not only examines a very real relationship, but also because it doesn’t require the actors to memorize their lines and requires very little drama. The Chanticleers production features married couple Matt and Judy Beal in what the company’s new artistic director, Jacob Russell-Snyder, calls a “soft reopening”.
Its season continues with Steve Martin’s comedy “Picasso au Lapin Agile” (from July 15 to 31) and the musical “Little Shop of Horrors” (from October 21 to November 13). At 3683 Quail Ave. in Castro Valley Community Park, Chanticleers has a rich history dating back to 1948. For tickets to “Love Letters,” call 510-510-733-5483 or visit chanticleers.org.
Berkeley: Aurora Theater’s world premiere of award-winning playwright Cleavon Smith’s “The Incrementalist” continues through May 15 in Berkeley with the show streaming online May 10-15. Commissioned by the Aurora, the show follows Thomas, a beloved public intellectual and author, who was brought to UC Berkeley to facilitate conversations about police brutality.
After a member of the UC Berkeley Black Student Union is badly beaten by an officer while peacefully protesting, union leaders Miriam and Raz want immediate action and lament Thomas’ common ground , while Nina, the vice-chancellor of the university, finds herself caught in the middle.
Directed by Dawn Monique Williams, the cast includes Michael Asberry as Thomas, Anna-Marie Sharpe as Miriam, Sam Jackson as Raz, and Cathleen Riddley as Nina. For tickets, call 510-775-2598 or visit auroratheatre.org.
Also in Berkeley: The Actors Ensemble of Berkeley will audition for their July 2-17 production of “Fortinbras” in Berkeley at 1701 Ward St. on April 24 and Playground Playspace, 3286 Adeline St., on April 25. Both take place from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. Performances will take place at the John Hinkel Park Amphitheatre, 41 Somerset Place in Berkeley. Actors will read sides but can also do a 1-3 minute Shakespearean or comedic monologue.
You may remember Fortinbras from “Hamlet.” This is the story of what happened after the scene was littered with bodies. It tells of Fortinbras’ ambition and the importance of truth. Fortinbras is haunted by more than one ghost. For more information and to schedule an audition, email [email protected]
Alameda: There’s still time to catch “La Cage Aux Folles,” which continues at the Altarena Playhouse in Alameda through May 1. If you’ve never seen this very entertaining story of Georges and Albin, Georges runs a popular nightclub offering drag entertainment with Albin as the star performer. Wacky adventures ensue when George’s son announces that he is engaged and that his fiancée’s ultra-conservative parents want to meet his father and mother.
Joshua Beld is Albin and Erick Casanova is Georges. Noah Haydon directs with Armando Fox as musical director and Leslie Waggoner’s choreography. For tickets to Harvey Fierstein’s popular musical, call 510-523-1553 or visit alternatena.org.
Sally Hogarty can be contacted at [email protected] Read more of her reviews online at eastbaytimes.com/author/sally-hogarty.