Best Bets: Faith Ringgold at the de Young, new works by female composers, global dance fest and more

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.

Pianist Sarah Cahill conceived of her The Future Is Female project as a way of promoting the work of women composers of the past and the present. (Photo courtesy Miranda Sanborn)

Paving a path forward for females: Berkeley-based pianist Sarah Cahill, in addition to being a writer, educator, lecturer and classical radio show host, has long been known and celebrated as a champion of new music, much of it commissioned by herself. Since 2018, however, she has also been a tireless advocate for music by women composers, founding a project called The Future Is Female, which has so far presented more than 70 compositions from around the world dating from the Baroque to the present time. Joined by Canadian soprano Rose Hegele, who is renowned for exploring the far reaches of vocal technique, Cahill will present some recently commissioned works from her project at a recital at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Center for New Music, 55 Taylor St. in San Francisco. On the program are Regina Harris Baiocchi’s “Piano Poems,” inspired by her own poetry as well as the works of Gwendolyn Brooks and Richard Wright; and Iranian composer Aida Shirazi’s “Albumblatt,” which involves techniques deployed directly on the piano strings. Composer, pianist and record producer Mary D. Watkins’ “Summer Days” and Theresa Wong’s “She Dances Naked Under Palm Trees,” inspired by a Nina Simone song, complete the program. Find tickets, $15, at

Bass Kirk Eichelberger is one of a quartet of opera singers who will be performing at an “Opera in the Vineyard” event in Livermore. (Photo courtesy Dean Artists Management)

Sipping while they sing: Livermore Valley Opera’s wildly popular “Opera in the Vineyard” open-air event is pretty close to selling out, as it does every year, but a couple dozen seats remain at this writing for the 5:30 p.m. fundraiser Sunday at Retzlaff Vineyards, 1356 South Livermore Ave. Attendees bring their own picnic dinners and can purchase bottles from the winery for the three-hour extravaganza, which this year features lighter music from “Les Miserables” and “West Side Story” as well as arias from composers such as Mozart, Puccini and Bizet. The lineup of professional performers includes soprano Liisa Dávila, mezzo-soprano Kathleen Moss, tenor Alex Boyer and bass Kirk Eichelberger, and they will be accompanied by pianist Varvara Milinder. The gates open at 5 p.m., and tickets are $80, $50 of which is tax-deductible. Find them at

Faith Ringgold’s 1967 work “American People Series #18, The Flag Is Bleeding” will be on display at the de Young Museum as part of a retrospective exhibition focusing on the influential artist opening Saturday. (Photo courtesy Artists Rights Society/ACA Galleries/Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco)

American images: There is something fitting about a retrospective exhibition devoted to the legendary African American artist Faith Ringgold opening at the de Young Museum in San Francisco while the groundbreaking presidential portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama are still on display there. Ringgold is a giant among 20th and 21st century American artists, a versatile and insightful painter, sculptor and quilt maker who masterfully captured the issues and temperament of a changing America, from the Great Depression to the Harlem Renaissance, from civil rights and feminism to war protests and her own evolution as an artist, activist and mother. Few artists have displayed her knack for reflecting on such complex and turbulent times with evocative works that are of the moment yet brimming with perspective. “Faith Ringgold: American People” is the first West Coast retrospective of the New York artist and is said to be the most comprehensive collection of her works to date. It includes samples from the artist’s major artistic developments, from her civil rights-centered “American People” series to her “Feminism Series” and her famed story quilts, reflecting on her life and times in Harlem and other matters. The exhibition runs Saturday through Nov. 27 at the de Young (the Obama portraits are on view there through Aug. 14), which is located in Golden Gate Park. Admission is $6-$15 (visitors are encouraged to purchase timed advance tickets online). Go to

Tango dancers Maxi Copello and Raquel Makow are among the performers slated to take the stage at the Peninsula International Dance Festival. (Photo courtesy Maxi Copello and Raquel Makow)

Going global: The Peninsula Ballet Theatre is marking its 55th anniversary season not with a celebration focused on its own artistry and history but with a nod to the truly international flavor of the Bay Area dance scene at large. The result is the inaugural Peninsula International Dance Festival, which will be presented at 7 p.m. Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday at the San Mateo Performing Arts Center. Nearly a dozen troupes representing dance styles from around the world will perform as part of the festival; all told, some 160 dancers will be strutting their stuff. PBT directors say the idea for the global dance celebration began forming several years ago when the company started offering hip-hop dance classes in addition to its classical curriculum and saw there was an appetite for the genre. It was a reminder that the Bay Area has a staggeringly rich and diverse arts scene — and that is what is being celebrated this weekend. Among the troupes performing are the tango team of Maxi Copello and Raquel Makow; Native American dancer and teacher Eddie Madril; Filipino folk dance troupe Parangal; the classical Indian company Chitresh Das Institute’s Youth Dance division; Bollywood performers Gurus of Dance; hip-hop dance company Tribe and Poise’n; and of course, Peninsula Ballet Theatre, among several others. Tickets for the Saturday and Sunday recitals are $35-$65 each, go to

Elissa Beth Stebbins and Christopher Daftsios star in the world premiere of “Nan and the Lower Body” at the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto (Photo courtesy Tracy Martin/TheatreWorks Silicon Valley)

The play about the Pap smear: Playwright Jessica Dickey has been heralded as one of freshest voices in contemporary American theater, and part of her magic seems to be that she keeps coming up with ideas for plays that you’re naturally going to want to see. In “The Convent,” she focused on a group of women who decide to live like nuns in the Middle Ages; in “Row After Row,” she centers on Civil War reenactors; “The Rembrandt” is about a museum guard who decides to violate all protocol and physically touch a famous painting; and “The Amish Project” is built around the 2006 mass shooting at an Amish one-room schoolhouse in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. “Nan and the Lower Body,” Dickey’s new play getting a world premiere at TheatreWorks Silicon Valley this week, offers another compelling storyline, and one with a personal connection. The comedy/drama follows Dr. George Papanicolaou, the physician credited with inventing the Pap smear, a valuable test that can detect cervical cancer and other maladies, and his assistant Nan Day. According to reports, the real-life Nan Day was Dickey’s grandmother, and she did indeed study vaginal cancer, though she never worked with Papanicolaou. But when you are as clever and creative as Dickey, you’ve earned the right to play with the truth. “Lower Body” is in previews through Friday, with the main run slated for Saturday through Aug. 7. Performances are in the Lucie Stern Theatre in Palo Alto. Tickets are $25-$95; go to

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