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San Francisco Spotlight: December 2008

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James Carpenter and company in A Christmas Carol
(© Kevin Berne)
Yes it's December, and San Francisco is in holiday mode. American Conservatory Theater's artistic director Carey Perloff joins forces with Paul Walsh to write an adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic, A Christmas Carol (December 4-27). Meanwhile, the Center Repertory Company also presents A Christmas Carol (December 11-21) for its 11th consecutive year at the Lesher Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek. And Marin's Ross Valley Players present a unique take on this 172-year-old story by staging A Christmas Carol: A Solo Performance (December 11-24), with actor Ron Severdia portraying more than 40 characters.

Go uptown with the San Francisco Ballet for its annual and exquisite staging of The Nutcracker (War Memorial Opera House, December 11-28). Or go for a more downtown production at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, which hosts the Dance-Along Nutcracker, December 13 and 14). At the Lorraine Hansberry Theatre, Stanley E. Williams directs Black Nativity (December 11-28), a heart-lifting production that cleverly combines soul-inspiring gospel music with wild humor, written by Arvis Strickling-Jones. David Sedaris' hilarious The Santaland Diaries chronicling the humorist's days as a Macy's elf, is being presented by the Crazy Elves production company at the at the Phantom Gallery in Santa Rosa, December 5-14. Meanwhile, Berkeley Rep brings international origami sensation Ennio in for the holiday season, December 20-31.

Prefer some holiday music? The Christmas Revels (Scottish Rite Theater, December 12-21), directed by David Parr and produced by California Revels, is one gigantic concert that blends ancient folk rituals, songs, and dances throughout the evening. Or get your groove on with The Coverlettes Cover Christmas directed by Randy Craig at the Aurora Theatre Company, when the famously fictitious girl group The Coverlettes reunite for a holiday show (Aurora Theatre, December 16-23). Meanwhile the Alameda Civic Light Opera presents Sounds of the Season, a holiday concert performed by the ACLO's leading men, to be presented at Rhythmix Cultural Works, December 13 and 14.

While those productions warm your heart, Pegasus Theater company's HollyDay Show (December 11-21) leans toward holiday dysfunction as Santa, Ms. Claus and Rudy Red-Nose enlist the help of psychotherapy to cure their holiday blues. The annual production of the beloved Wrapping Paper Caper by Jeff Raz and Liebe Wetzel makes its way to The Marsh, December 7-January 4, where a trail of packing peanuts take a detective on a whimsical journey. The Theatre of Yugen promises to leave you breathless this holiday season with Mr. YooWho's Holiday mixing European clown and mime with Japanese Kyogen and Yiddish absurdism (Noh Space, December 12-28).

Here's something unusual: Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party (SF Playhouse, December 3-January 17), the world premiere by Aaron Loeb that begs the all-important question of whether one of the country's most popular presidents was gay. Directed by Chris Smith, the audience gets to decide the order the order of this three-act play, determines the fate of a rural third grade teacher who outs Abe as gay at the annual Christmas Pageant. Another gay-themed tale this month is the musical fairy tale Zanna Don't! (New Conservatory Theatre, December 5-January 18), set in a world where same-sex pairings are the norm and intolerance for heterosexuals is rampant. Composer Jake Heggie reunites with and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade for the thought-provoking chamber opera, Three Decembers (Last Acts), (University of California, Berkeley, December 11-14). Based on an original play by Terrence McNally, this Cal Performances production tells the story of a famous actress and her strained relationship with her two grown children, one of whom is a gay man whose partner is dying of AIDS.

Intersection for the Arts presents its 2008 Hybrid Festival of New Works (December 11-20), where the longest-running alternative art space's Living Word Project joins with the Hybrid Project to create a festival that brings together live music, Hip Hop, spoken word, and experimental theater with new live music theater works from artists Denizen Kane, Lauren Whitehead as well as first time theatre pieces from spoken word artists including Youth Speaks' Jason Mateo in his first solo piece.


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