Bay Area Best Bets For The Weekend | July 18 – 21

Conductor Sarah Hicks will lead the San Francisco Symphony in a concert that commemorates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. (Photo courtesy of Sarah Hicks)

The Bay Area is a hub of artistic expression, attracting artists, writers and musicians from around the globe to live, work and create. We highlight some of the offerings here.

• The devil you say: Mystery has long shrouded the life and death of Robert Johnson, the legendary Delta blues guitarist and singer who died at age 27 in 1938, a suspected victim of a poisoned drink poured by one of the long string of husbands he’d cuckolded. Chief among the probable myths is that he achieved his mastery after selling his soul to the devil at “The Crossroads,” the intersection of highways 49 and 61 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Fact has been separated from fiction now, thanks to the intensive research that has just produced“Up Jumped the Devil: The Real Life of Robert Johnson” (Chicago Review Press, $30, 336 pages) by Bruce Conforth and Gayle Dean Wardlow. Hear blues scholar Conforth discuss the book at 7:30 p.m. July 17 at Green Apple Books on the Park, 1231 9th Ave., San Francisco.

• In a galaxy close, close by: Let the San Francisco Symphony, under co-host Sarah Hicks’ baton and with the able assistance of her co-host, astronaut Leland Melvin, Berkeley-based vocalist Tiffany Austin and videographer Jose Francisco Salgado, take you on an audio voyage to the moon and back at Davies Symphony Hall. Their July 19 concert, a celebratory salute to the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, will be filled with music by Ravel, Richard Strauss, John Williams (excerpts from “Star Wars” and “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”) and James Horner’s title music from “Apollo 13,” among other selections. The music starts at 7:30 p.m., but pre-show events featuring real astronauts and scientists and an interactive space exhibit begin in the lobby at 6:15 p.m., 201 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco, $49-$129, 415-864-6000, www.sfsymphony.org.

• San Francisco Jewish Film Festival: Yes, there is a documentary about “Fiddler on the Roof” on opening night, but the depth and breadth of programming takes this acclaimed annual film series way beyond any sense of the traditional. Its scores of feature films and documentaries look at everything from contemporary romantic life to politics to history and political correctness. Screenings and events run July 18-Aug. 4 in San Francisco, Palo Alto, Oakland, Albany and San Rafael. Admission prices vary, but most individual screenings cost $11-$14; a schedule, tickets and more information is at ww.sfjff.org.

• Amy Seiwert’s Sketch Series: Acclaimed dancer and choreographer Seiwert has made her mark in Bay Area dance with her involvement with ODC, Smuin Ballet, Sacramento Ballet and her own company, Imagery. This weekend she returns with the ninth installment of her Sketch series, featuring brand new works by herself, Ben Needham-Wood and Stephanie Martinez that are intended to take risks and challenge perceptions. Performances are at 8 p.m. July 17-20 at ODC Theater in San Francisco, and special efforts will be made to make the shows more accessible to sight- and hearing-impaired attendees. Tickets are $25-$35; odc.dance.

Francis Jue and Emily Kuroda portray a couple who represent the last two people to speak a dying idiom in “The Language Archive” at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley. (Photo by Alessandra Mello/TheatreWorks Silicon Valley)

• “The Language Archive”: TheatreWorks Silicon Valley kicks off its 50th season — its last under founding director Robert Kelley — with Julia Cho’s sad but funny play about how powerful words are — especially when we lose them. As a desperate linguist struggles to save a dying language, he neglects the emotional needs of those closest to him. The production runs through Aug. 4 at Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Tickets are $40-$100 at 650-463-1960, theatreworks.org 

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