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Movers & Shakers: In the Spotlight

Written by Jeanne Cooper | Illustrations by Olivia Wise

In honor of Shakespeare Day, April 23, we can agree that all the world’s a stage. Here are some key Bay Area players — guiding lights in the arts, education and climate research — with a look behind the curtain at their latest endeavors.

Brenda Way

Five years after founding Oberlin Dance Collective in 1971, while she was on the faculty of Oberlin College, the artistic director moved her contemporary dance company to San Francisco — and in many ways, never stopped moving. While keeping Oberlin’s “ethos of inclusion,” according to Way, the renamed ODC troupe boasts one of the largest dance campuses in the West, including a school serving some 16,000 students a year, a theater, a clinic for dancers and fitness programs. A veteran of international tours, the company recently expanded into digital programming, which Way calls “a big enhancement. … You can reach a worldwide audience and at $10 a ticket, it becomes more accessible.” But as the longtime Oakland resident prepared for her company’s 50+ Anniversary Gala on April 1 and its Dance Downtown performance series March 31 through April 10 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, Way tells the Gazette, “I think the biggest excitement is that we are performing live.”

Chris Field

Though renowned for his research into carbon removal, the Stanford University ecologist says he had “no clue” that he would receive the 2022 Japan Prize, which honors achievements in science and technology that contribute to peace and prosperity with an award of 50 million yen (about $438,000). “I think it shows an appreciation that we really have a crisis with the climate, and I’m glad to see the focus on solutions being part of the recognition,” he shares. The Portola Valley resident plans to donate “a substantial portion” of the prize, which he’ll receive in the presence of Japan’s Emperor Naruhito in mid-April, to research in reducing wildfire risk. As director of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment, Field says he is also excited about the launch this fall of the university’s school on climate and sustainability: “I’m happy to contribute to making the whole greater than the sum of its parts in this problem area.”

Jessie Fairbanks

Busy wrapping up the lineup for the latest edition of SFFILM Festival, which runs April 21 through May 1, the director of programming since 2021 took a quick break to share impressions from November’s Doc Stories showcase at the Castro Theatre — her first live event in many months. “Our audience was so curious and intelligent and game,” recounts Fairbanks. “We showed some challenging films, and it’s been two very difficult years, so it was incredible to watch the audiences dig in and want to learn more.” A longtime film programmer for Tribeca Film Festival, DOC NYC and other events, the San Diego native started her career making documentaries and hopes to produce more in the future. Though she usually views films well in advance of public release, watching Inventing Anna — the Netflix series about a woman posing as a German heiress — has been a recent “guilty pleasure,” Fairbanks confides. “It was really lovely to watch that series in real time with the rest of the nation and the zeitgeist.”

Tim Bond

Two years after taking the helm of TheatreWorks Silicon Valley, founded by predecessor Robert Kelley in 1970, the artistic director is ready for the April 6 premiere of his first live production, August Wilson’s Gem of the Ocean. Bond first directed it 16 years ago at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, shortly after the playwright had died. “It has a very special meaning for me because of my long friendship with him,” says Bond, noting he is “thrilled beyond belief” to reexplore the work with Greta Oglesby, who played spiritual healer Aunt Ester for his Ashland staging after originating the role for Wilson. Most recently a tenured drama professor at the University of Washington, Bond lived in Sacramento as a teenager, coming to San Francisco to watch shows at ACT and “hang out with the clowns and street performers,” he recalls. “I always imagined I’d end up in the Bay Area.”

Roberta Zarea

When the Portola Valley School District superintendent learned she had been named “Superintendent of the Year” for San Francisco and San Mateo counties in December 2021, “my first reaction was, I don’t feel deserving,” says Zarea. “All of the other 24 superintendents are doing the same heavy lifting and work, so I feel really humbled.” With $49.5 million in construction projects underway, Zarea’s two-school district was among the first in California to reinstate on-campus learning, starting in September 2020 and including a parallel “virtual academy” for those who couldn’t return to the classroom yet. The Michigan native planned to accept the award from the regional Association of California School Administrators on March 25 — 11 days after her district became the first in the Bay Area to drop its mask mandate — with software engineer husband Steven Zarea and school board president Kimberley Morris Rosen in attendance.

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