Best Bets: Visual poetry, pet comedy, Handel’s ‘Solomon,’ and more

Gregory Popovich brings his Pet Comedy Theater circus show to the Empress Theatre in Vallejo on March 4. (Courtesy Gregory Popovich Pet Comedy Theater)

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.

Freebie of the week: The concept of “public art” gets a bad rap sometimes. But just because some municipalities ruin a perfectly good wharf or park by erecting statues that look like protozoa that got the worst of a kickboxing match doesn’t mean we should abandon the concept. Especially when it’s of the communal gathering variety. That’s what Oakland has going on Friday when the Mobile Light Art Station pays a visit.

The Station, owned and operated by the Bay Area nonprofit Immersive Arts Alliance, is equipped with projector and audio equipment and from 7-9 p.m. will beam works by six cutting-edge Bay Area artists onto the building known as “The Great Wall of Oakland,” 415 W. Grand Ave. Participating artists include Zeina Barakeh, who’s had images projected in New York’s Times Square and on the Salesforce Tower in San Francisco, as well as Elaine Buckholtz, Can Büyükberber, Heesoo Kwon, Davey Whitecraft, and Ian Winters.

Alameda artist Zeina Barakeh’s projection art “From the Third Half (Cloud Storm)” will be part of a live immersive art event in West Oakland March 3. (Immersive Arts Alliance via Bay City News)

Immersive Arts Alliance director Clark Suprynowicz describes the art/projection effect as “visual poetry which is by turns whimsical, elegiac, subversive, and utopian.” The evening also includes a spoken word performance by Oakland Poet Laureate Ayodele Nzinga, a reading by Roberto Bedoya, author of “The Ballad of Cholo Dandy” (he’s also the Cultural Affairs Manager for the city of Oakland), and dance, music and spoken word performances by students from Oakland School of the Arts.

The show is free. For more information, go to

Pet project: On Saturday afternoon, people will gather in a stately 112-year-old theater that has hosted operas, symphonies and all manner of theatrical productions to watch, well, stupid pet tricks.

But these aren’t any old pet tricks. We’re talking about the world-famous Gregory Popovich Pet Comedy Theater show. Popovich, a fifth-generation Russian circus performer and impresario and graduate of the Moscow Circus School, has built this production around a menagerie of 30 or more pups, kitties, mice, parrots and a miniature horse—all rescue animals—who perform a variety of skits and stunts ranging from eye-popping to giggle-inducing.

Popovich and his team of human entertainers toss in a variety of circus acts — juggling, gymnastics and other feats of agility — for good fun (and because even the most determined pet performer needs a rest now and then).

Popovich and his Pet Comedy Theater have been a popular family show in Las Vegas for years, but at 2 p.m. on Saturday you can catch the production at the Empress Theatre, 330 Virginia St., in Vallejo. Tickets are $17.85-$33.85. Go to

Hershey Felder as George Gershwin. (Photo by Mark Garvin, courtesy of Hershey Felder)

Good-bye to Gershwin: There is a sizable contingent of Bay Area music and theater fans who need no introduction to Hershey Felder. The exceedingly talented musician and storyteller has earned a massive following with his productions focusing on the lives and music of famous composers: Chopin, Beethoven, Leonard Bernstein, Debussy, Liszt, Irving Berlin, and many more.

This weekend, Felder comes to Mountain View to perform his popular show “George Gershwin Alone.” The show touches on Gershwin’s life—the composer tragically died at age 38—and incorporates such classic tunes as “Fascinating Rhythm,” “I Got Rhythm,” “’S Wonderful” and “They Can’t Take That Away from Me,” as well as portions of such musicals as “Porgy and Bess” and “An American in Paris.”

Felder has reportedly portrayed Gershwin more than 3,000 times over the years, but the partnership is nearing an end. The entertainer has said he is retiring “George Gershwin Alone” after this tour.

Performances at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts are 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7 p.m. Sunday. The venue is at 500 Castro St. Tickets are $45-$65; go to

The English Concert, with conductor Harry Bicket at the podium, will perform Handel’s oratorio “Solomon” in Zellerbach Hall this weekend. (Courtesy The English Concert)

Brush up on your Bible studies: Setting aside the much more frequently performed “Messiah,” Handel’s “Solomon” is among the most lush and lavish of the great Baroque composer’s oratorios, based on the life and legendary wisdom of the Old Testament king of Israel.

Great Britain’s preeminent early music ensemble The English Concert, conducted by music director Harry Bicket, returns to Cal Performances at 3 p.m. Sunday to give a complete concert version of it in Berkeley’s Zellerbach Hall.

They are joined by the Clarion Choir, directed by Steven Fox, and a host of soloists of international stature, including mezzo-soprano Ann Hallenberg in the title role. Soprano Miah Persson sings both the role of the Queen and the First Harlot, joined in the latter role by mezzo-soprano Niamh O’Sullivan as the Second Harlot in that famed tug of war over who gets the baby. There is also, of course, the celebrated “Arrival of the Queen of Sheba,” with soprano Elena Villalón performing in that capacity, and tenor James Way as Zadok, the high priest who sings Solomon’s praises.

Tickets, $42-$125, are available at and by phone at 510-642-9988. 

A long-overdue premiere: So you say you’ve never heard of Herbert Franklin Mells? Welcome to the very nonexclusive club. The composer who was the first Black American to earn a PhD. with an emphasis on symphonic music was born in 1908 and died in 1953, a victim of spinal meningitis. A graduate of the University of Iowa who later chaired the music department at Tennessee State, he left a legacy of 10 orchestral works that have never been performed and is known only for vocal works still beloved by many choirs.

Now One Found Sound, an adventurous San Francisco-based orchestra with no conductor or music director is launching, in its 10th year, an ambitious initiative to rectify the situation. Over the course of the next five years, it will unearth works Mells wrote between 1938 and 1945, beginning with Saturday’s 8 p.m. world premiere performance of his Symphony No. 1 in D minor. The concert takes place at Heron Arts, 7 Heron St. in San Francisco’s SOMA district and will also include performances of the Coriolan Overture by Beethoven and Quinn Mason’s “Reflection on a Memorial.”

Tickets, $30 at the door, can be ordered online for $25 at

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