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Holiday Arts Preview

The Light of Dark Days

The holiday season is upon us, and Christmas carols blare from every department store while garish displays persuade consumers to show their appreciation of loved ones through the purchase of material goods. It is also at this time of year that we are reminded to look past the temptations of material culture and consider the true spirit of whichever holiday we choose to celebrate. Regardless of how we greet this time of year, whether with excited anticipation or with concentrated avoidance, it does present us with a unique opportunity: to experience an abundance of artistic endeavors that celebrate the creative spirit inherent in human being. During this (literally) darkest time of year, the Bay Area provides numerous occasions to experience the rejuvenating power of beauty and laughter.

The Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol
Every holiday has its standard arts events, and for Christmas in San Francisco, they are the San Francisco Ballet’s “The Nutcracker” and American Conservatory Theatre’s “A Christmas Carol”. Though solid standards, however, these are by no means ordinary. “The Nutcracker" narrates through the medium of dance the story of young Clara and her wondrous dream-adventures with the Nutcracker-turned-prince. The San Francisco Ballet presents the Land of Snow and the Crystal Palace of the Sugar Plum Fairy with elegant grace and marvelous costumes, providing a spectacle of beauty for children and adults alike. “A Christmas Carol,” on the other hand, provides the heavily moral, yet no less touching, transformation of the miserly Scrooge as he faces the far-reaching effects of his parsimony. Confronted by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, Scrooge comes to realize that true wealth lies not in hoarding material goods but in providing small kindnesses to those around us. Both “The Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol” are as much a part of the Christmas season as Santa Claus and stockings, and either production is sure to usher in the holidays with splendor and delight.
The Nutcracker runs through Dec 28 and A Christmas Carol runs through Dec 27th

The Christmas Revels
For a family-oriented alternative to the traditional Christmas fare, check out California Revels’ production of “The Christmas Revels" at the Scottish Rite Theatre in Oakland. “The Christmas Revels” portrays an entertaining look at the ancient roots of winter celebrations and their manifestation in Medieval practices. The audience is regaled with songs and carols, dances, and the hilarious antics of the King’s Fool while being invited to participate in sing-a-longs such as “Deck the Halls” (a Welsh New Year’s Eve carol) and the lesser known “Cambrick Shirt", a song traceable back to 15th century Scotland.
The Christmas Revels runs through Dec 21st

Wrapping Paper Caper
Another kid-friendly event is Lunatique Fantastique’s “Wrapping Paper Caper,” in which puppeteer Liebe Wetzel and her black-clad troupe transform everyday packing materials and kitchen utensils into engaging characters. At just under an hour at the Marsh, this production is sure to capture the heart and attention-span of children everywhere, provoking looks of joy and wonderment and unrestrained giggles of glee.
The Wrapping Paper Caper runs through Jan 4th

A P.D.Q. Bach Christmas and Tenderloin Xmas Hustler
On the less traditional and undoubtedly humorous side are “A P.D.Q. Bach Christmas” and the “Tenderloin Xmas Hustler.” Peter Schikele, in his role as P.D.Q. Bach, has provided a gleefully satirical look at classical music since 1965. His Christmas program includes performances of such works as “Joy to the World, Especially Out-Of-Work Musicians” and “Variations on an Unusually Simple-Minded Theme,” promising a stitch in every side. However, he is playing one day only at Davies Symphony Hall, so catch him while you can. While “A P.D.Q. Bach Christmas” is touted as appropriate for children over the age of 12, the “Tenderloin Xmas Hustler”, playing at the Phoenix Theatre, is a more adult production. Let’s just say that it describes itself as “The Pro-Prostitution, Anti-Drug, Christmas Musical Parody”- you be the judge.
A P.D.Q. Bach Christmas plays Dec 20th ONLY and Tenderloin Xmas Hustler runs through Dec 27th

Imagine NYE 09 and San Francisco Symphony’s New Year’s Eve Gala
Finally, if you are looking for an experience to kick off the New Year that combines aesthetic enjoyment with the usual festivities, consider “Imagine NYE 09” at Ruby Skye or San Francisco Symphony’s “New Year’s Eve Gala.” “Imagine NYE 09” introduces spectacular aerial acrobatics and the electronic beats of Kaskade into the traditional mix of decadent culinary treats, champagne, and a confetti and balloon drop. At the other end of the musical spectrum is the “New Year’s Eve Gala” at SF Symphony, offering a selection of musical theatre favorites sung by Jason Daniely and Marin Mazzie and a three-course meal along with champagne and dancing to the Peter Minton Orchestra. Either of these events will certainly herald in the New Year with style and glamour.

As the New Year dawns and the days begin to lengthen, fortify yourselves with some of these treats for the eyes and ears and remember the power of beauty and laughter to help bring us back into the light.

“The Nutcracker”- San Francisco Ballet, December 11-28, 2008
“A Christmas Carol”- American Conservatory Theatre, December 4-27, 2008
“The Christmas Revels”- The Scottish Rite Theatre, December 12-21, 2008
Lunatique Fantastique’s “Wrapping Paper Caper”- The Marsh, December 7, 2008-January 4, 2009
“A P.D.Q. Bach Christmas”- Davies Symphony Hall, December 20, 2008
“Tenderloin Xmas Hustler”- Phoenix Theatre, December 18-27, 2008
“Imagine NYE 09”- Ruby Skye, December 31, 2008
SF Symphony’s “New Year’s Eve Gala”- Davies Symphony Hall, December 31, 2008