Best Bets: ACT’s ‘Big Data,’ international guitar greats, and more 

Colorful dances are part of the fun at Redwood City’s 13th annual Lunar New Year celebration on Feb. 24. (Courtesy Redwood City)

Freebie(s) of the week: Lunar New Year celebrations are nearing their close for 2024 but a couple of noteworthy celebrations for the Year of the Dragon are this weekend. The biggest is in San Francisco, which hosts one of the nation’s largest and most popular Lunar New Year parades in the country. It kicks off at 5:15 p.m. Saturday at Second and Market streets, wraps around Union Square and winds up 1.3 miles and about three hours later at Kearny Street and Columbus Avenue. Bleachers are set up along the parade route, but the seats have long since sold out.

Meanwhile, Chinatown hosts a street fair from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday with more than 120 booths selling food, art and more and a variety of dancing, music and other entertainment (the stage is at Grant Avenue and Pacific Street). Needless to say, there will be a major impact on foot and vehicle traffic. Do yourself a favor and take public transportation and be prepared for crowds. More information is at

A smaller but no less enthusiastic celebration is offered from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday at Redwood City’s Courthouse Square, 2200 Broadway. The 13th annual event will include lion dancers, martial arts demonstrations, taiko drumming and other live performances. Plus, admission to the San Mateo County History Museum will be free this day, and kids arts and crafts activities are being offered. More information is at

“Big Data,” an artificial intelligence-themed play by Kate Attwell, is getting its world premiere at American Conservatory Theater. (Courtesy Kevin Berne/American Conservatory Theater)

Too much information: The last time South African-born, London-based playwright Kate Attwell premiered a play at American Conservatory Theater, the result was “Testmatch,” a biting, riled-up affair that jumped between two scenarios – a present-day women’s locker room in which rival cricket players from India and England confront each other, and Colonial-era India, in which two male British trading company officials (played by women) demonstrate the casual racism and cruelty inherent in Colonialist regimes.

Now Attwell is back at ACT with what looks to be another memorable world premiere. “Big Data,” opening this week at ACT’s Toni Rembe Theater, could not be more topical, as it tackles the question of whether artificial intelligence, personal technology, and the harvesting of personal data is having a bigger impact on our lives and our identities than we are willing to admit. The comedy/drama centers on two couples (a brother, a sister, and their respective lovers) and a mysterious man known as M who inserts himself into their lives and relationships. A surprising announcement by the siblings’ parents forces everyone to face the direction their lives have taken.

According to ACT, Attwell came up with the idea for “Big Data” when she was in San Francisco with her previous play, and she took in a Mozilla-sponsored pop-up interactive exhibit titled “The Glass Room,” which examined technology’s pervasive impact on society. Directed by ACT Artistic Director Pam MacKinnon and starring BD Wong as M, “Big Data” runs through March 10.

Tickets are $25-$130; go to 

San Francisco Ballet will revive its memorable take on the classic “Swan Lake” beginning Feb. 23. (Courtesy Erik Tomasson/San Francisco Ballet) Credit: Erik Tomasson

Dances times 2: Bay Area dance fans won’t want to miss two events this weekend. For one, San Francisco Ballet is reviving “Swan Lake,” which dates to 1877, features Tchaikovsky’s iconic score and holds special meaning for the company. Then-artistic director Helgi Tomasson was in his third season at the position in 1988 when he mounted a new take on the classic that helped propel the troupe into the ranks of the world’s major companies. Tomasson made significant changes when the company staged it again in 2009; that version will be onstage, under artistic director Tamara Rojo, beginning Friday. The 2 ½-hour production runs through March 3 at the War Memorial Opera House. Tickets are $29-$495. Go to

Meanwhile, Part 2 of the 19th annual 2024 Black Choreographers Festival comes to San Francisco’s Dance Mission Theatre for two performances this weekend. Titled “Here & Now: New Voices/New Works,” the event offers dances by Krystal Bates & Haseem Bivins, Gabriele Christian, Ashley Gayle, Marianna Hester, Ebonie Barnett, ArVejon Jones, Coral & Jetta Martin, Justin Sharlman with Shawn Hawkins, Natalya Shoaf, Dazaun Soleyn with Algin Sterling and Jamie Wright.

Performances are 7:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the theater, 3316 24th St. Tickets are $15-$30; go to

Italian virtuoso Luca Stricagnoli is one of four guitarists the Omni Foundation presents Thursday night at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco. (Courtesy Meg Pfeiffer)

Plucking and picking and strumming and such: Just how many ways are there to play a guitar? Get the beginning of an answer to that at the Herbst Theatre in San Francisco Thursday night as the Omni Foundation for the Performing Arts presents International Guitar Night, an annual touring event in its 24th season that celebrates the glorious diversity of the acoustic guitar.

Coming onstage first individually and then joining together as a group are four artists from four countries who each possess a distinctive style. From Italy we have the young finger-style virtuoso Luca Stricagnoli, a music video sensation on the internet and an inventor responsible for the reversed triple neck guitar.

Also featured is the Brazilian artist Marco Pereira, a soloist, arranger, composer and recording artist strongly influenced by jazz and Latin-American music. From Vietnam comes Thu Le, who remains the youngest person ever admitted to the National Conservatory of Music in Hanoi (she entered at age 7!), bringing her mix of classical and contemporary styles to the stage. And the Australian Minnie Marks excels at rock, blues and roots music and amazes her audiences when she also manages to play the drums simultaneously with her guitar.

Concert time is 7:30 p.m. Find tickets, $50-$60, at and check out this video.

Berkeley Symphony Music Director Joseph Young has programmed a “French Reverie” concert for his Symphonic Series lineup. (Courtesy Berkeley Symphony)

Oui, oui to Debussy: Music director of the Berkeley Symphony Joseph Young wants to send us all into a “French Reverie,” and he’s bringing his saxophone-playing sibling Robert onstage to help him do it. The Symphonic Series concert with that title, taking place at 4 p.m. Sunday at the First Presbyterian Church of Berkeley, will feature French compositions from the Impressionist era up to the contemporary.

We’ll hear Claude Debussy’s shimmering symphonic poem “Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun” and Louise Farrenc’s Symphony No. 3 in G minor, and Dr. Robert Young, a professor of saxophone at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, will be front and center for Guillaume Connesson’s “A Kind of Trane,” a work inspired by the great John Coltrane that blends classical elements with jazz.

Tickets are $40 for general admission. Find them at or call (510) 841-2800. 

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