Summer performing arts guide: dance, theater, music & more

  • by Philip Mayard
  • Tuesday May 28, 2024
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ODC/Dance Summer Sampler
ODC/Dance Summer Sampler

From theatre stages to picturesque parks and scenic outdoor locales, the Bay Area's cultural landscape blossoms in the summer. Whether it's Davies Symphony Hall or an alfresco performance under Stern Grove's eucalyptus canopy, San Francisco is the perfect place to experience world-class artistic experiences this summer.

FACT/SF Summer Dance Festival  

FACT/SF Summer Dance Festival

FACT/SF Summer Dance Festival includes eight premieres over two weekends. The first weekend features works by FACT/SF and Jenna Riegel (Amherst, MA). The second weekend is a mixed bill with works by FACT/SF, local choreographers, and visiting artists from Los Angeles and Chicago. FACT/SF is also presenting pop-up performances around San Francisco on July 27. A highlight of this year's festival is "Half Time, Full Out," a high-energy dance routine inspired by halftime shows, aerobic gymnastics competitions, and cheerleading. Ticket prices TBA, August 16-25, ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street.

ODC/Dance Summer Sampler
ODC/Dance's annual summer mixed-bill program includes "10,000 Steps: A Dance About Its Own Making," a world premiere by choreographer Catherine Galasso built on the self-imposed constraint of exactly 10,000 steps, and the revival of Brenda Way's "A Brief History of Up and Down." $29-104, July 18— 21, ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street.

State of Play: ODC Theatre Summer Festival
State of Play brings together early works-in-progress to fully staged evening-length dances. Additional events include "Revelry," a benefit in support of ODC Theater, and State of Play Workshop, a dance and movement-based workshop facilitated by State of Play artists. Single tickets 0-$80, Day Passes $80, Festival Passes $300, August 1-4, ODC Theater, 3153 17th Street.

Ishami Dance Company at the Fresh Meat Festival of Trans & Queer Performance  

Fresh Meat Festival of Trans & Queer Performance

Now in its 23rd year, the Fresh Meat Festival of Trans & Queer Performance will feature voguing superstars, deaf theater visionaries, queer salsa champions, Trans-Americana music, Taiko, hip-hop, comedy, South Asian contemporary dance, Bomba music and dance, and more. Advance sliding scale tickets, June 21-23, Z Space, 450 Florida Street.

Marin County Fair: Out at the Fair
Make the trek across the Golden Gate for the annual Marin County Fair. A special "Out at the Fair" day features entertainment by LGBTQ+ artists including Erica Ambrin & the Eclectic Soul Project, story time with Polly Amber Ross & Friends, Derek Jameson, the Glam Show with Polly Amber Ross & Friends, and DJ Cisco. $15-30, July 5, Marin Civic Center, 10 Avenue of the Flags, San Rafael.

Zaccho Dance Theatre's Aerial Arts Festival  

San Francisco Aerial Arts Festival
Zaccho Dance Theatre's 10th annual Aerial Arts Festival features two evenings of performances, a youth matinee, and a site-specific installation by Flyaway Productions designed for the fire escapes at the Fort Mason Center. The festival also includes dance performances by a vast range of local dance artists and companies, young performers from circus and aerial training programs, and an aerial arts film festival. Ticket prices TBA, August 16-18, Fort Mason Center for Arts & Culture, 2 Marina Boulevard.

Kronos Quartet (photo Lenny Gonzalez)  

Kronos Quartet

Kronos Quartet commemorated its 50th anniversary in 2023-24 with a 50-city international tour. Now, the ensemble returns home to San Francisco for a four-night celebration, featuring world premiere works, a vast range of special guest artists, and the farewell performances of retiring violinist John Sherba and violist Hank Dutt after 45+ years with the groundbreaking string quartet. $25-75, June 20-23, SFJazz, 201 Franklin Street.

Merola Summer Festival performers Nicholas Phan (photo: Club Soda Productions) and Elizabeth Hanje  

Merola Summer Festival
San Francisco's renowned Merola Opera Program will again offer a full summer of programming, showcasing up-and-coming opera stars from around the world. The season kicks off with "The Song as Drama" at the intimate Taube Atrium Theater. In July, the artists will perform a program of excerpts from "Faust," Pagliacci," "La bohème" and others, with full orchestra accompaniment at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Concert Hall. They return to the Conservatory in August for a fully staged production of Mozart's "Don Giovanni." The season concludes with Merola's popular grand finale performance at the War Memorial Opera House. $10-65, various San Francisco locations,

San Francisco Symphony's film & orchestra concerts  

San Francisco Symphony
The San Francisco Symphony's packed summer season kicks off with the orchestra's annual July 4 celebration at Shoreline Amphitheatre, "Defying Gravity," featuring songs from "Wicked." The season progresses with special guest performances with 12-time Grammy Award winner John Legend, pianist/singer-songwriter Ben Folds, and the San Francisco Gay Men's Chorus. Special pop performances include a Beatles tribute night and "The Trailblazing Music of Joni Mitchell, Carole King, & Carly Simon."

The Symphony's popular film nights this summer include "Disney: The Sound of Magic," and an evening with composer Justin Hurwitz, who conducts his Academy Award-winning score for "La La Land," live-to-film. If you're a traditionalist, the symphony's summer season also includes classical performances at Davies Hall, including works by Beethoven, Barber, and Tchaikovsky. Tickets start at $25, various Bay Area locations,

Stern Grove Festival  

Stern Grove Festival
Now in its 87th year, Stern Grove is the nation's longest running nonprofit festival. Reserve your tickets (released one month prior to each performance), pack a picnic basket, and don't forget to bring a jacket; when the fog rolls in, the grove can get very chilly. The 2024 season features acts from across the musical spectrum, including Canadian pop duo Tegan and Sara, Los Angeles rock band Chicano Batman, the San Francisco Symphony, classic soul band the Commodores, Jamaican saxophonist Masego, British electronic duo Franc Moody, and American legends like Lucinda Williams, Herbie Hancock, and Chaka Khan. General admission is free but tickets required, June 23-August 25, Stern Grove, Wawona Street.

'The Cher Show' (photo: Broadway SF)  

The Cher Show

For six decades, Cher's music, fashion, confidence, and campy over-the-top persona have deeply resonated with the LGBTQ community. "The Cher Show" is a celebration of her enduring influence as a trailblazing entertainer, featuring a whopping 35 smash hits, and of course, countless Bob Mackie-designed gowns. $46-144, June 19-23, Curran Theatre, 445 Geary Street.

Stephen Sondheim and George Furth's groundbreaking musical comedy broke new ground with its bold sophistication, profound insights into modern relationships, and razor-sharp wit. The show features classic Sondheim songs like "The Ladies Who Lunch," "Side by Side by Side," and "Being Alive." $55-224, June 5-29, Orpheum Theater, 1192 Market Street.

'Company' (photo: Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade)  

Fellow Travelers
Opera Parallele stages the west coast premiere of an operatic adaptation of Thomas Mallon's novel "Fellow Travelers." The tender love story of two gay men, which gained legions of new fans through the recent Hulu miniseries, doubles as a political thriller unfolding against the backdrop of the McCarthyism. June 21-23, $50-120, students $30, Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Avenue.

The Glass Menagerie
Tennessee Williams' seminal masterpiece explores the faded dreams and harsh realities facing the Wingfield family in St. Louis during the Great Depression. Bay Area theatre veteran Jomar Tagatac and SF Playhouse Producing Director/Co-Founder Susi Damilano return to the Playhouse stage as Tom and Amanda. $15-125, through June 15, San Francisco Playhouse, 450 Post Street. (Read our review.)

'Soul of the City'  

The Lehman Trilogy
"The Lehman Trilogy" dramatizes the rise and fall of the Lehman Brothers financial firm over nearly two centuries. From the firm's humble beginnings as a small fabric shop to its collapse as a major Wall Street bank in 2008, the play explores themes of wealth, success, and the American dream. $25-129, through June 23, American Conservatory Theater Toni Rembe Theater, 415 Geary Street.

Soul of the City
"Soul of the City" showcases the cultures of San Francisco's vibrant Chinatown, Japantown, and Fillmore neighborhoods through traditional Japanese theater, spoken word, Afro-Asian American jazz, and visuals. At the production's core are stories of identity, unity, and peace, illuminating the city's spirit of magic, transformation, and activism. $25-60, June 1-2, Presidio Theatre, 99 Moraga Avenue.

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