As everyone knows, 2020 has been, uh, challenging. It was an unusual spring; it's been a weird summer; as autumn rolls around it seems clear that it, too, will be a strange season. Arts organizations have been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. They've had to adapt; to go virtual; and face the very real threat of disappearing altogether. Nevertheless, arts persist. And though some groups are delaying their seasons until 2021, there are still plenty of options for fall. Below are some highlights of the upcoming season. Many events will take place in cyberspace. Some groups are not yet sure exactly when — or in what format — their events will take shape. This year more than ever, plans change and evolve swiftly, so readers are advised to check with organizations directly for the latest details. For continuing coverage, check our arts and entertainment page, subscribe to our Weekend Express email (sign up here) and browse event listings (or submit your own).
Kicking off its 90th season, the venerable Palo Alto Players presents a show that mixes the ancient with the oh-so-modern: the comedy "An Act of God," performed via livestream through Sept. 20. Written by David Javerbaum and based, fittingly enough for these online times, on a Twitter feed, the show stars the energetic Emily Scott as God, with support from her two "wing men" : the deferential angel Gabriel (Steve Schwartz) and the peskily curious angel Michael (Brandon Silberstein). This divine trinity (with the actors streaming from their respective homes) leads a webinar, through which God can communicate directly with humanity, clear up some misconceptions and offer an updated version of the Ten Commandments. She may even let you know which book in the Old Testament she finds funnier than The Book of Mormon and "The Book of Mormon." Though the 90-minute one-act play, directed by Debi Durst, was originally planned to hit the Palo Alto stage in June, it works quite nicely in Zoom form, including making use of the chat function. Due to explicit language and adult themes, the suggested viewing age is 16 and up. Other Palo Alto Players autumn plans include "Allegiance" (Nov. 6-22); paplayers.org.
From Stanford Live: As of early September, the full details on Stanford Live's upcoming season have not yet been released, but many plans are percolating. Starting Sept. 27, the campus-based organization will begin presenting an HD virtual concert series filmed in Bing Concert Hall and featuring the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Garrick Ohlsson, Vân Ánh (Vanessa) Võ, and the Kronos Quartet. Other performances filmed remotely will be made available, along with a Stanford Live podcast, a virtual book tour event with comedian Colin Quinn, an "interactive theater experience" with 600 Highwaymen, and more events still in the works. Artist Constance Hockaday, in association with Stanford Live, is developing the podcast project "Artists-in-Presidents: Fireside Chats for 2020," for which she has invited 50 artists to present fireside chat-inspired addresses (with guidance from presidential speechwriters) along with the presidential campaign; live.stanford.edu.
From Los Altos Stage Company: While it has a full slate of shows scheduled for the year, as of early September, Los Altos Stage company was "in a holding pattern" and not yet sure in what format it would present its planned autumn shows ("Tiny Beautiful Things," Sept. 24-Oct. 18; "I and You," Nov. 4-29) in order to best follow Santa Clara County's health guidelines, Managing Director Ed Sengstack said; losaltosstage.org.
From the Pear Theatre: The Pear will be presenting an eight-person production of the ancient Greek comedy "Lysistrata," filmed live outdoors and streamed online (Oct. 2-Nov. 8). "Somewhere" is planned for Dec. 4-20. Meanwhile, the Pear Improv Crew will perform its next show on Sept. 26 via Zoom, and "Hamlet’s Ghost," written by Pear Playwright Guild's Neva Hutchinson, will receive a Zoom reading Sept. 25-26; Thepear.org.
From Dragon Productions Theater Company: The Dragon has a number of autumn events, including an adaptation of Trevor Allen's "The Creature" as an episodic podcast (starting Oct. 8) and visual poems, with original animations (Starting Oct. 17). "All We Have to Fear...," an original, online immersive experience set in an 8-bit world, combines video gameplay with live actors and artists. The production will be available in October through November. Other plans include an Agatha Christie audio book club (Tuesdays, Sept. 15-29), "Live at the Dragon," circus shows and more; dragonproductions.net.
From EnActe Arts: Online upcoming productions include the family drama "Swapna" (Sept. 12) and "Letters to a Daughter from Prison" (Oct. 16-18); enacte.org.
From Peninsula Youth Theatre: "Stories on Stage" shows for children are moving online for autumn, including "The Wizard of Oz" (Oct. 9-10) and "My Father’s Dragon" (Nov. 6-7); pytnet.org.
TheatreWorks Silicon Valley is delaying the start of its official 51st season until March. However, it's offering a smattering of theater from a distance, including access to a streaming-video performance of "Hershey Felder as George Gershwin Alone" on Sept. 13 and an online workshop reading of "Pandora," by playwright Laurel Ollstein Sept. 24-28; TheatreWorks.org.
From the Community School of Music and Arts: Online concerts hosted on CSMA's YouTube channel include faculty members Vong Bringhurst (voice, Oct. 10) and Yulia Fomicheva (cello, with pianist Keisuke Nakagoshi, Nov. 7), and Sarah Cahill (piano, Dec. 19); arts4all.org.
The annual United Nations Association Film Festival will be held virtually this year, screening 60 documentary films from around the world online Oct. 15-25 with the theme of "The Power of Empathy"; unaff.org.
Galleries and museums
Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection: Museums From Home
Stanford University's Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection have both been closed since shelter-in-place orders were issued this spring and will remain shuttered for the time being. But their Museums From Home program is offering a variety of new ways to experience art at the two institutions, even when it's not possible to be there in person.
Earlier this month, the Cantor rolled out its first virtual tour, which offers a look at "The Medium is the Message: Art Since 1950" exhibition. The self-guided tour provides a three-dimensional "visit" inside the gallery, with controls on the virtual tour that give users a 360-degree look at each room in the gallery, and allow them to get a closer look at the art on display and click on wall text for each piece. A Cantor spokesperson said that the museum plans to launch more virtual tours this fall.
The tour rounds out a robust collection of videos of artist talks, discussions, new and archival lectures and online activities that offer deep dives into both individual works of art and overarching themes, including a "micro-video" series that tackles one painting at a time from the Anderson Collection. Cantor Arts Center and Anderson Collection, Stanford museum.stanford.edu.
"Peninsula Photo Contest" (Sept. 12-Nov. 15), online only, at the Palo Alto Art Center; cityofpaloalto.org.
Virtual Great Glass Pumpkin Patch (Sept. 24-Oct. 4). Online only for 2020; greatglasspumpkinpatch.org.
"Rise Up! The Fight for Women's Suffrage" in-person outdoor exhibition through Jan. 31. Related to the exhibit are a series of online discussions: "Elected Women Speak Up" (Sept. 12); "Women’s Suffrage in Santa Clara County" (Sept. 17) and "Race and the Suffrage Movement" (Nov. 10) at the Los Altos History Museum; losaltoshistory.org.
"Reaching for the Sky," works by Jim Caldwell through Sept. 15; "Women in High Chroma" works by Chandrika Marla (Sept. 17-Oct. 23) in-person exhibits at Art Ventures; artventuresgallery.com.
"Escape from Covid19" group show (through October) in-person exhibition at Gallery House. Also viewable online; galleryhouse.art.
"Artworks by Mary Stahl" through Sept. 26; Karen White "Open Spaces" (Sept. 30-Nov. 1) in-person exhibits at Viewpoints Gallery; viewpointsgallery.com.
The Pacific Art League will host its 99th anniversary show starting Oct. 2; pacificartleague.org.
Pace Gallery hosts Leo Villareal's "Harmony of the Spheres" through Oct. 10; pacegallery.com.
In-person exhibitions: "Nathan Oliveira: Muse"; "Seeking Nature" group show. Virtual exhibition: "Surreal Art for Surreal Times: The Salvador Dali Collection" at Pamela Walsh Gallery; pamelawalshgallery.
Bookstores, libraries and more
Palo Alto Library: Palo Alto Reads
Last month, the library kicked off Palo Alto Reads, a monthlong program aimed at encouraging the community to read and discuss a selected book that has themes relevant to our region. This year's selected book, "The Color of Law: A Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America" by Richard Rothstein, explores institutionalized racism in housing and city planning through redlining and other practices that segregated communities along racial lines. Rothstein's research includes a look at how in the late 1940s, the city of Palo Alto fought efforts to build integrated housing near Stanford University.
In addition to reserving a copy of the book from the library, readers can learn more about "The Color of Law" by watching a video of a virtual conversation with Rothstein that took place last month. Palo Alto Reads runs through Sept. 15; paloalto.bibliocommons.com.
Books Inc. (Mountain View and Palo Alto) virtual author events include: Kevin C. O'Leary (Sept. 15); City Arts & Lectures Presents Yaa Gyasi (Sept. 22); Ronny Joseph Lvovski with Michelle Tam (Sept. 23); City Arts & Lectures Presents Claudia Rankine (Oct. 1); booksinc.net.
Kepler's virtual author events include: Story Time with Drew Daywalt (Sept. 15); Online Evening Literary Seminar: The Brief and Frightening Reign of Phil, George Saunders (Oct. 12 or 14); Rick Riordan (Oct. 13); Namwali Serpell with Carmen Maria Machado (Oct. 19); Online Evening Literary Seminar: Let's Pretend This Never Happened, Jenny Lawson (Nov. 9 or 11); Online Evening Literary Seminar: A Manual for Cleaning Women, Lucia Berlin (Nov. 30 or Dec. 2); keplers.org.
Stanford University's online author events and seminars include: Daniel Yergin "The New Map: Energy, Climate, and the Clash of Nations" (Sept. 14); Talks with the Artists: An Interview with fnnch (Sept. 17); 30th Annual Jonathan J. King ; Webinar – How Exercise Helps Us Find Happiness, Hope, Connection, and Courage in the Time of COVID (Sept. 23); Lecture, When Breath Becomes Air: A Conversation with Lucy Kalanithi (Oct. 6); events.stanford.edu.
Oshman Family Jewish Community Center: Book Fest in Your Living Room
To say that 2020 has brought numerous unexpected events is a tremendous understatement. But of the things most of us can say they never expected to happen, on the positive side, that might include the experience of watching a renowned author discuss their work from the comfort of one's own home. The Oshman Family Jewish Community Center is hosting "Book Fest in Your Living Room," which features virtual discussions with two respected authors who will share thoughts on their most recent books.
Jodi Picoult will talk about her new work, "The Book of Two Ways: A Novel," in conversation with Judy Blume on Sept. 23. The following week, on Sept. 30, author Deepak Chopra will discuss his newest book, "Total Meditation: Practices In Living the Awakened Life."
Other events from the Oshman Family JCC: Community Conversations Presents Terrific Tastings: Piemonte on the Palate (Sept. 13); Community Conversations Presents a Rosh Hashanah Cabaret (Sept. 22); Community Conversations Presents The Wonderful World of Rodgers and Hammerstein (Oct. 27); paloaltojcc.org.
Santa Clara County Libraries online events include: Yangsze Choo, "The Night Tiger" (Sept. 12). sccl.bibliocommons.com.
Menlo Park Library online events include: Bridget Quinn, "She Votes: How U.S. Women Won Suffrage, and What Happened Next" (Sept. 21); Menlo Park StoryFest, featuring storytellers sharing tales from around the world, for adults and children ages 5 and up. (Thursdays, Oct. 1-29); Author Gayle Romasanta, "Journey for Justice: The Life of Larry Itliong" (Oct. 8); menlopark.org.