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Arts educators inspired theater talent; now he serves youth

Sun, 4 Dec 2016 22:03:43 UT

“I want to be of service to the next generation’s artistic potential,” he says, his brow furrowed and his gaze direct. The 26-year-old San Franciscan is eager to share credit for his success, but his own hard work, charisma and silky, three-octave voice are what landed him on Broadway. By “our,” Jackson refers to the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company, or SFBATCO, an informal young-actors’ troupe he co-founded in 2013 and helps manage bicoastally. [...] by “reflecting perspectives,” he means engaging artists and audiences of all ethnicities, genders, ages and creeds. Through mid-January, he plays the lothario Kodaly in San Francisco Playhouse’s “She Loves Me,” the 1963 Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick musical that inspired the movie “You’ve Got Mail” and earned eight Tony nominations for its 2016 Broadway revival. In Seattle with “Motown” this June, Jackson broke a bone in his right foot running down a spiral staircase to a curtain call. “I did not know that black people were doing stuff like that,” he says. Jackson honed his gifts through Young People’s Teen Musical Theater Company and in high school at San Francisco’s Ruth Asawa School of the Arts, then earned a bachelor’s degree in musical theater at Carnegie Mellon University. “My mom, having a son who was on the honor roll, was like, ‘You should do something smart, like be a doctor,’” he jokes, then turns pensive. Luck favors the prepared, and Jackson’s skill and dedication were obvious during a demanding rehearsal for “She Loves Me.” Even on the 10th run-through with Nancy Zoppi, as daffy dame Ilona, Jackson displayed a dancer’s ease and a singing voice that director Susi Damilano describes as “an incredible instrument.” The score’s infectious melodies won him over, and his two elaborately choreographed numbers showcase his vocal range and his comedic chops. [...] back on both feet — just in time to add nifty tapping to “She Loves Me” — he’s moving at full speed while he performs seven shows a week and co-directs “Cinderella.” While Jackson freely admits that taking the challenge has him “kind of scared,” it “feels like the next evolution of my training, not just as an artist, but as a human.” “They’re flipping it upside down,” says Young, who directed Jackson in a Ruth Asawa school production of A Raisin in the Sun. Rehearsing at the African American Art and Culture Complex, where the Shakespeare company and SFBATCO are in residence, the co-directors worked out new staging for what the “neo-soul R&B musical,” including updated sound effects, refreshed dialogue and choreography by Raisa Simpson. Drag stepsisters flanked Amanda Christine Ajisebutu’s evil stepmother, and they delivered a rendition of “Bad Mama” that was hilarious even at that early stage. “Cinderella’s” inspiring theme of empowerment is still central, says Stanford senior Samantha Rose Williams, 21, who plays the title role.



Minerva’s horoscope for week of Dec. 4

Sun, 4 Dec 2016 08:01:00 UT

Minerva’s horoscope for week of Dec. 4 Venus chases Mars into airy, intellectual Aquarius. What will their change of venue mean to you? Venus and Mars are the ultimate “fun couple,” so perfect for the holidays. Aries (March 19-April 18) What with Mars and Venus frolicking in your friendship house, the phone rings off the hook. Taurus (April 19-May 19) Those dumbos who want to write you off as a single-minded workaholic will be forced to think again. With rebellious Mars and voluptuous Venus in your fame house, you feel passionate and want to party. Cancer (June 20-July 21) With Mars and Venus settled into your hormone house, you’re ripe for adventure and new experience. [...] who can resist the goddess of love and beauty? The combination of his gladiatorial energy and her allure is formidable. 20 With Mars and Venus adding sugar and spice to your gingerbread house, expect to do some major tweaking. 20 Mars and Venus, that classic “can’t live with them, can’t live without them” couple, have lots to say about how you express both your energy and your creativity in the areas of travel and higher education. 19 Delilah meets the Gladiator in your money sector. The sexy sojourn of Mr. Aggressive and Ms. Adorable in your sign is a potent reminder of what a hottie you really are. Pisces (Feb. 18-March 18) A lively rerun of the romantic days of yesteryear plays at a theater near you. The rendezvous of lusty Mars and amorous Venus in your house of secrets hints at an exciting past. There’s lots of mutual magnetism, but it takes very careful handling. Look for a Pisces or Scorpio.



Minerva's Sunday Horoscope: 12/4/16

Sun, 4 Dec 2016 06:01:00 UT

STARCAST: Venus chases Mars into airy, intellectual Aquarius. Darling! Together again! What will their change of venue mean to you? Hint: Venus and Mars are the ultimate "fun couple," so perfect for the holidays. Gather your mistletoe while you may




Dear Abby: I like him so much I want to ruin his relationship

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 08:01:00 UT

Dear Abby: I like him so much I want to ruin his relationship Can you please tell me how to deal with this? I want to be his friend, but if I could, I would love to be more than friends. Because your mother feels you aren’t ready to date, imagine how restrictive she’ll become if she knows you may be influencing this boy to break up with his girlfriend. [...] furthermore, if word got around your school that you’re the kind of girl who would deliberately cause a breakup, your reputation would be trashed. Bridget always gets her father a gift and card for his birthday. Am I wrong to feel hurt for never having been acknowledged after 25 years, or should I just let it go? The time to have mentioned it was years ago, and the person who should have said something to Bridget was her father. How do we make amends? If your dear friends live far away, pick up the phone and apologize. If they live close by, arrange to meet for lunch or dinner and offer the apology in person.



Horoscope for Saturday, 12/3/16 by Christopher Renstrom

Sat, 3 Dec 2016 06:01:00 UT

ARIES. (March 19 - April 18): Who knows where that friend request came from, answer it anyway. Just because you haven't any history doesn't mean you can't start making some.




Donald Trump secures his ties with scotch tape

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 19:30:28 UT

President-elect Donald Trump's tie caught a bit of wind Thursday as he landed in Indianapolis, which gave onlookers a peep into his styling hacks — using scotch tape.




Muslim comedian Mo Amer sits next to Eric Trump on flight

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 18:54:29 UT

Arab-American comedian Mohammed "Mo" Amer might have a new set to write.




‘Hamilton’ CD features songs by Alicia Keys, Sia, Usher

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 18:10:54 UT

NEW YORK — The Broadway megahit “Hamilton” has already spawned a best-selling cast album, a PBS documentary and a book about its creation. The 23-track “Hamilton Mixtape,” set for release Friday, Dec. 2, features covers by such artists as Usher, Kelly Clarkson, Nas, Ben Folds, Alicia Keys, Ashanti, John Legend, Sia, Common, Wiz Khalifa, Queen Latifah, the Roots, Jill Scott and Busta Rhymes. The album features songs from the show that have been reworked with new arrangements and new lyrics, as well as demos that never made the show, remixes and new songs like “Immigrants (We Get the Job Done).” Highlights include Legend reimagining “History Has Its Eyes on You” as a gospel anthem, Clarkson turning “It’s Quiet Uptown” into a power ballad and TV host Jimmy Fallon channeling his inner Broadway with “You’ll Be Back.” The mixtape is in many ways a return to the roots of the project, which began as a collection of songs inspired by hip-hop artists. The mixtape arrives after the cast album has sold more than 2 million copies and won a Grammy for best musical theater album. Producer and DJ llmind, who produced four tracks on the mixtape, said the biggest challenge of putting together the new album was maintaining the integrity of the original songs while also making them new and fresh.



‘La La Land’ named best film by New York film critics

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 18:07:21 UT

The top award came as something of a twist after the critics’ early choices leaned toward Barry Jenkins’ coming-of-age portrait “Moonlight” and Kenneth Lonergan’s grief-filled drama “Manchester by the Sea.” “Manchester by the Sea” took best actor for Casey Affleck, best screenplay for Lonergan and best supporting actress for Michelle Williams. Chazelle’s film, starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling, also led the Critics’ Choice Awards nominations on Thursday with 12 nods. Best first film was a tie between Kelly Fremon Craig’s teen comedy “The Edge of Seventeen” and Trey Edward Shults’ micro-budget family drama “Krisha.”



‘Writing to Save a Life,’ by John Edgar Wideman

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 18:00:44 UT

The Louis Till File is John Edgar Wideman’s meditation on the life and death of Emmett Till’s father. Here, Emmett and Louis Till, and many more, are enlisted to help us understand a particular dimension of American racism: the persistent theft of black fathers and sons, murders without remedy, and unceasing loss. A fact that few of us know, even those of us who know Emmett’s story intimately, is laid bare; Louis Till, nicknamed Saint, was executed by the U.S. Army for the rape of an Italian woman during World War II. [...] s is an American story. The Western literary canon is invoked wherever useful, most poignantly in his contemplation of the poetry Ezra Pound wrote while imprisoned in the same military prison as Louis Till. The visual landscape of black American life is also finely wrought, from glistening limbs and Bermuda shorts to the oversize cars of the ’50s and the machinery of the Argo corn company where Mamie Till labored. Wideman is a master of quiet meditation, a sort that can turn into brooding at the most pointed moments. Here, he broods with cool and sometimes terrifying landscapes: vast bodies of water, robbed graves, mounds of hair, books. Wideman frames the book with a present concern; His own son is serving a life sentence, his brother, too, and millions more. [...] it is an argument about the national shame of so much black loss, one unburdened by stories about which one is innocent and which one is guilty. Imani Perry is a professor at the Center for African American Studies at Princeton University.



Recommendations from A Great Good Place for Books

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:37:55 UT

Recommendations of recent books from the staffs of a rotating list of Northern California independent bookstores. In another enjoyable addition to the Jack Reacher series, the hero is sent to Germany with a team of FBI and CIA agents to track down a suspected terrorist. Funny, clever and very weird, Magary’s fantasy world is a thoughtful and surreal existential survival tale. Seattle dweller Eleanor Flood has lost her creative way and is on the brink of losing her mind and her husband. Semple is back with trademark razor wit, deadpan humor and a lot of heart. The stories of the six children whose lives are forever changed unfold with humor and insight. Always hilarious, smart and a bit grumpy, Bryson tours Britain again, 20 years after “Notes From a Small Island.” Exploring ancient texts, artifacts and mythology, Beard’s fascinating history is both accessible and engrossing. She was the girl who got so depressed and fat after her mom died that she had to be removed from her bedroom by crane.



‘Serious Sweet,’ by A.L. Kennedy

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:37:40 UT

In “Serious Sweet,” her eighth novel, she burrows deep into the lives and minds of two anguished but sympathetic misfits as they ricochet separately around London over the course of a particularly fraught 24-hour period that keeps throwing up obstacles to their meeting. If that sounds grim, rest assured that this agonizingly penetrating novel is at heart an oddball love story that features what is probably Kennedy’s most hopeful ending yet. The novel’s 24-hour time frame and multifaceted portrait of the city in which its two protagonists live and work evoke James Joyce’s “Ulysses” and Virginia Woolf’s “Mrs. Dalloway” — and in fact, their itinerary includes many of the London locations featured in Clarissa Dalloway’s wanderings. Kennedy’s ticking time line closely tracks her characters’ odyssey by toggling between an omniscient third-person point of view and their italicized interior monologues. (This running commentary unfortunately tends toward the realistically repetitive.) Flashbacks to unhappy backstories make it clear why these people are so damaged. For a snappy sartorial snob always careful with his outward appearance, soiled trousers are a major calamity. Distraught about his role in implementing ruthless social policies that have devastated the poor, he lacerates himself for his spinelessness in work and in love, and for his chronic absenteeism when it comes to his beloved daughter, his conscience and a fledgling new relationship initiated through the mail. On top of this, he frets about the “disgrace and disgrace and disgrace” that may soon befall him for traitorous steps he has finally taken to redress his blind bureaucratic obedience — in other words, for trying to be a decent person in a nasty world. “Serious Sweet” captures her exhausting efforts to stay positive, even if it means mustering anger instead of self-hatred in the face of setbacks. [...] even harder to parse are the murky political power plays, plots and counterplots between Jon, his insidious boss, and a tenacious rogue journalist, which mainly convey an uneasy sense of malevolence. In welcome contrast, scattered throughout “Serious Sweet” are vignettes that capture benevolent scenes around London — including good Samaritans rushing to the aid of a woman pulled down by her dog on an escalator at London Bridge train station, and an older mother and son happily enjoying the view atop a double-decker bus.



Recommended reading, Dec. 4

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:36:56 UT

The Last Shift Poems A Life in Poetry In two new posthumous collections, scrupulously edited by Levine’s devoted friend and fellow poet Edward Hirsch, we see the range and depth of his emotions, literary scope and political passions. Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement Lowery provides an anthropological examination of how civil rights protesting, long dormant, has been revived. The result is a vivid timeline of the movement from its origins to the present day. Mister Monkey On the surface, Prose’s novel makes highly entertaining theater out of a children’s musical. Underneath, the book is as serious as the characters are about their obsessive concerns: climate change, evolution and disintegration, failure and loneliness. Graywolf Press; 358 pages; $26 Szalay’s interesting conceit is to string nine separate stories together about men at different ages to form a composite portrait of white European manhood.



Literary guide

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:36:44 UT

2 p.m. Diesel, 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur. 4 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. 11:30 a.m. $115 singles; $175 couples. Winter Cookbook Extravaganza Georgeanne Brennan, Heidi Gibson, Nate Pollak, Cal Peternall and Alanna Taylor-Tobin are featured. 1 p.m. Diesel, 5433 College Ave., Oakland. Bill Ayers “Demand the Impossible! A Radical Manifesto.” Commonwealth Club, 555 Post St., S.F. (415) 597-6705. www.commonwealthclub.org. 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Genny Lim, Nellie Wong The poets read followed by an open mike. 7 p.m. Bird & Beckett Books & Records, 653 Cheneryt St., S.F. (415) 586-3733. www.birdbeckett.com. Kepler’s Books and Magazines, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. An Optimist’s Guide to Thriving in the Age of Accelerations. 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. 7 p.m. City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. (415) 362-8193. www.citylights.com. Elaine Petrocelli & Friends “Holiday Gift Book Review.” Koret Auditorium, S.F. Library, main branch, 100 Larkin St., S.F. www.sfpl.org. 7 p.m. Book Passage, 51 Tamal Vista Blvd., Corte Madera. Michael Goorjian “What Lies Beyond the Stars.” Julian Guthrie “How to Make a Spaceship: A Band of Renegades, an Epic Race, and the Birth of Private Spaceflight.” 7 p.m. Books Inc., 301 Castro St., Mountain View. In Deep Radio Angie Coiro welcomes Cleve Jones, author of “When We Rise.” 7:30 p.m. Kepler’s Books and Magazines, 1010 El Camino Real, Menlo Park. Scott Savitt Crashing the Party: An American Reporter in China. 7 p.m. City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus Ave., S.F. (415) 362-8193. www.citylights.com. David Thomson “Television: A Biography.” In Search of the Good Life by the Golden Gate. 7 p.m. Barbary Coast Restaurant, 478 Green St., S.F. (415) 362-8193. www.citylights.com. 7 p.m. Books Inc., 2251 Chestnut St., S.F. (415) 931-3633. www.booksinc.net. John Pomfret “The Beautiful Country and the Middle Kingdom.” West Marin Review Artists read from and discuss new work. 7:30 p.m. Green Apple Books on the Park, 1231 9th Ave., S.F. (415) 742-5833. www.greenapplebooks.com. Bay Area Women Writers Alyss Dixon, Lluvia de Milagros Carrasco and Arielle Schussler are featured. 7 p.m. Octopus Literary Salon, 2101 Webster St., Oakland. www.oaklandoctopus.org. George Mitchell, Alon Sachar, Jeffrey Bleich “A Path to Peace: A Brief History of Israeli-Palestinian Negotiations and a Way Forward in the Middle East.” 6 p.m. Diesel, 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur. The Unconventional Raising of a Champion. Erin Gleeson “The Forest Feast Gatherings.” [...] Known as Guru Road, a Testament Inscribed in Sone Tablets by Dewayne Williams. 3 p.m. Diesel, 2419 Larkspur Landing Circle, Larkspur. Writers with Drinks Michael Krasny, Daryl Gregory, Anne Raeff, Variny Yim, Vidhu Aggarwal and Garrett Caples are featured. 7:30 p.m. $5-$20.



A selection of first sentences from new books, Dec. 4

Fri, 2 Dec 2016 17:36:34 UT

This was — oh dear God — this was not what he’d — nonononono. “Serious Sweet,” a novel by A.L. Kennedy The story begins with its ending. “Custer’s Trials: A Life on the Frontier of a New America,” now in paperback, by T.J. Stiles R2-D2 refused to work. “George Lucas: A Life,” by Brian Jay Jones