‘Tis the season (fall) for arts, and one of San Francisco’s most eagerly awaited events is also one of its most intimate. Anywhere else in the world, prowling around an artist’s studio and peppering them with questions about their practice would land you in Bob Ross Jail. But here, as they have for 48 years, hundreds of ArtSpan Open Studios participating artists with throw open their garage doors, barn doors, warehouse doors, and just pain door doors to let you peek at their creative mis-en-scenes.
Each of the four official Open Studios weekends—kicking off Sat/22 and continuing through November 13—spotlights different areas and studios for a roundelay of delectation. It’s a true celebration of the resilience of our arts scene, despite those out-of-town naysayers, and a far cry from a couple years ago, when valiant, quarantined artists gave tours of their spaces via Instagram (which was pretty cool nevertheless).
Check the schedule to artfully work your way around the city:
Weekend 1 (South/East): October 22-23
Weekend 2 (South/West): October 29-30
Weekend 3 (Central): November 5-6
Weekend 4 (North): November 12-13
BUT WAIT THERE’S MORE! This weekend Sat/22 and Sun/23, 11am-6pm, is also the Hunters Point Shipyard Open Studios, featuring more than 120 artists showing you what they got. This is truly an old-school slice of SF artistic life (I am so jealous) and I can’t wait to get out there and cruise through the old buildings, then grab something to eat. The studios will remain open online through November 9, in case you want a second look.
LIT CRAWL! If you’re wondering why some of your favorite bars, restaurants, stores, laundromats, etc. around Valencia Street are ringing out with the spoken and written word on. Sat/22, it’s because massive literary festival Litquake is winding down with its infamous Lit Crawl (5pm-9pm), bringing authors to as many spots as possible. It’s a poignant one, as Lit Crawl co-founder Jane Ganahl has announced she will step down this year, with co-founder Jack Boulware stepping down in 2023. Who will be the next ruler of the Litquake??
MORE EVENTS OF NOTE
WED/19-NOVEMBER 5: THE RED SHADES: A TRANS SUPERHERO ROCK OPERA Adrienne Price’s extravaganza is shaping up to be a must-see. “Set in 1966 against the backdrop of The Compton’s Cafeteria Riot, The Red Shades is an unholy mashup of herstory, magic, mischief, gossip, hearsay, imagination, raw emotion, movement, music, and unapologetic trans politics.” OK! Various times, Z Space, SF. More info here.
THU/20: KIND OF BLUE REVUE A burlesque show set to live music? It’s a real rarity in this day and age, with the power to transport you to another, more glamorous and “adult” time and place. This unique revue is launching in Oakland, with performances by P.No Noir, Redbone, Vyxen Monroe, The Wily Minxes, Franki Fictitious, and more, plus the smooth stylings of the Big Blu Soul Revue with Viveca Hawkins. 8pm, Crybaby, Oakland. More info here.
THU/20-NOVEMBER 5: SQREAM Prepare to wash out some bloodstains while you die laughing. It’s an immersive ’90s horror parody musical drag experience, with scream queens slashing their way from Ghostface to Bride of Chucky. From the warped mind of D’Arcy Drollinger, of course. Various times, Oasis, SF. More info here.
FRI/21: THE HALLUCI NATION In the 2000s, electronic duo A Tribe Called Red sparked a movement of Native American artists who wove traditional sounds into techno and EDM tracks. Now they’re back, performing under a new name and providing the same great energy to the Public Works dance floor. 9pm-2am, Public Works, SF. More info here.
FRI/21-SUN/23: ASTIANATTE We need more harpsichord! A baroque opera composed by Leonardo Vinci and based on legends from Homer’s Iliad, which premiered in Naples in 1725 and has not been performed in the modern era, is being resurrected by the Arts Minerva company. Contralto Jasmine Johnson in the role of Andromaca leads the cast, with Matthew Dirst conducting from the, yes, harpsichord. Various times, ODC, SF. More info here.
SAT/22-SUN/23: SAN FRANCISCO TROLLEY DANCES This amazing free event delivers exactly what its name promises: Dance companies take over SF public transport, and transport you into another world of movement. This year, the 19th, includes a new destination: Chinatown, where, astoundingly, the trolley dances have never reached. But you can catch them all over the city as well. (Reserve your tours online). Various times and locations, SF. More info here.
SAT/22: POP-UP MAGAZINE This is one of the events I love the most—so it makes sense, somehow ,that this installment of the “live magazine” concept (complete with in-depth feature stories, intense journalistic reporting, humorous sidebars, and even ads) is “Love Stories.” With Ryan O’Connell, Sarah Kay, Victoria Canal, and more—plus of course the magic Magik*Magik Orchestra. 7:30pm, Paramount Theatre, Oakland. More info here.
SAT 22-OCTOBER 30: NURSING THESE WOUNDS Take in an immersive, poignant dance experience from KulArts that uses contemporary movement to investigate the effects of colonialism on Pilipinx health and labor, as seen through the eyes of a traveling Pilipinx nurse. Choreographed and created by Alleluia Panis. Various times, Brava Theatre Center Cabaret, SF. More info here.
SAT/22 DRUNK THEATRE Shakespeare wept, then took another swig: “A comedian takes five shots of whiskey in a row and tries to perform an improvised play with five sober comedians. What could go wrong?! Drunk Theatre is the entirely improvised, unpredictable, and crazy comedy show that’ll kick your weekend into overdrive.”
SUN/23-MON/24: DEATH CAB FOR CUTIE My friend Patty Riek is a big fan, so here’s what she wrote about the foursome: “Pre-COVID, indie band Death Cab for Cutie (a Bay Area favorite from Bellingham, Washington) scheduled a show for February 2020 at August Hall. The show’s cancellation marked the first wave of the music shut down. During lockdown, lead singer Ben Gibbard conducted a series of live streamed acoustic music sessions where he played and answered fan questions to make us all feel a little more connected. As the world slowly emerged, Death Cab for Cutie rescheduled their 2020 show for October of 2021 at Napa’s Oxbow RiverStage where they played to an enthusiastic, but small crowd, in the pouring rain. After all of that, Death Cab for Cutie is entitled to the grand return of their Asphalt Meadows Tour. The September 16 album drop preceded the September 22 tour start. Opening for Death Cab for Cutie is Yo La Tengo, the Hoboken based indie rock veterans. 6:30pm, Fox Theatre, SF. More info here.
SUN/23: DESI COMEDY FEST: DIWALI SPECIAL Celebrate the holiday of lights at the biggest South Asian Comedy festival, featuring hilarious acts like San Francisco stand-ups Abhay Nadkarni and Samson Koletkar, as well as South African comedian Kaneez Surka. 6pm and 8:30pm, Palace Theater, SF. More info here.
SUN/23: WE LOVE PRINCE WOLF! Beloved queer nightlife denizen, rabble-rouser, and DJ Prince Wolf suffered a terrible sudden health crisis recently, and has been hospitalized. but the community is coming through to help him with the bills and recovery—come to this afternoon beer bust at the Lone Star with an all-start lineup of DJs including Robin Malone Simmons and Kelly Naughton, and donate to help here. 2pm, Lone Star, SF. More info here.
SUN/23: UNCOMMON GROUND: ANTHOLOGY LAUNCH The fifth anthology of BIPOC writings from the Write Now! Program, edited by Shizue Seigel, draws from roots in Native America, Africa, Asia, Latin America, the Caribbean, and the Muslim world to express contemporary lived experiences, especially after/in isolation. The question put to writers: What emotional, cultural and practical skills are needed to sustain a career as a creative artist of color? 2pm-4pm, Koret Auditorium, San Francisco Public Library. More info here.
SUN/23: “JUST ADD HEATHER” She sings! She cooks! It’s bananas! This “culinary cabaret” features “the world’s first singing desert chef” Heather Thiel mixing up a batch of Pumpkin Spice Baby Cakes while singing live on stage, accompanied by a full band and the Just Add Heather dancers. What a treat. 7pm, DNA Lounge, SF. More info here.
MON/24: THE LEGENDARY PINK DOTS Goddess bless the acid-heads who made me sit in the dark and listen to LPD, Coil, and Psychic TV when I was in college. I almost can’t believe the Dutch psychedelic-folk outfit are touring without much fanfare, since they have been integral to millions of young peoples’ conversion to experimental rock tricked out with heady blips, bleeps, and bloops. 7:30pm, The Chapel, SF. More info here.
MON/24: GRACE CATHEDRAL SOUND BATH Immerse yourself in the ambient sounds of musicians Egemen Sanli, Phoenix Song, Sam Jackson, and special guest musician Destani Wolf as they take over the cathedral’s MASSIVE sacred space for a soul-cleansing experience. Sitting or laying down tickets available. 7pm-8:30pm, Grace Cathedral, SF. More info here.