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What to do this Weekend: Dec. 17-20

by Michelle Konstantinovsky

With just a week’s worth of waiting before Santa’s scheduled appearance, it’s officially time to fully immerse yourself in all things seasonal. While many of the holiday festivities we know and love are virtual this year, plenty of the Bay Area’s best traditions are still in full swing.

Enjoy emerging original work from emerging playwrights 

San Francisco’s Magic Theater is bringing its Virgin Play Festival to virtual audiences this winter, kicking things off with Melis Aker’s When My Mama Was A Hittite. The annual festival unites emerging and mid-career playwrights and offers each writer the resources and time to truly experiment with their voice and style. Aker’s work is no exception: The story focuses on 21-year-old Nur, a young refugee in London balancing her professional ambitions of becoming an actress with personal strife on the homefront. Aker is an accomplished writer, actor and musician from Turkey whose plays for stage and screen have been developed by illustrious institutions like the Cannes Film Festival. 

Thursday, Dec. 17, 8 p.m.


Hear San Francisco high schoolers’ candid take on modern life through art

In October, artist Jeffrey Gibson premiere Nothing is Eternal, an 18-minute commissioned video with musical composition. Now through December 19, the Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts will host this imaginative and melancholic work depicting the American flag in stillness, and on Dec. 17, viewers can tune in for a virtual screening and conversation with Gibson and students from San Francisco’s Burton High School. Inspired by Gibson’s work, the students will screen their own films exploring the social and subjective functions of flags, then speak with Gibson about how their generation is navigating the current world.  

Thursday, Dec. 17, 11:50 a.m.


Learn festive culinary tricks from the legendary Martin Yan

Renowned San Francisco chef Martin Yan is here to help home cooks prepare for the holidays with San Francisco Public Library’s live virtual demonstration, “Yan Can Cook, So Can You!” Yan has promoted the art of Asian cuisine for over 40 years and has written more than 30 cookbooks. Additionally, he was the founding chef of the City’s now-shuttered M.Y. China restaurant and he has hosted the PBS staple, Yan Can Cook since 1978.

Friday, Dec. 18, 2 p.m.–3 p.m.


Go on an abstract journey with Bay Area artist Zio Ziegler

Art lovers now have the opportunity to see a Bay Area creator’s inaugural work in person and online. Ever Gold Projects is exhibiting A Case Against Reality, a two-part solo exhibition of new paintings and sculpture by artist Zio Ziegler that draws its title from cognitive scientist Donald D. Hoffman’s eponymous book, and showcases Ziegler’s inclination towards abstraction. Both parts of the exhibition are now on display, featuring everything from kaleidoscopes of rich tones to bold black marks across a barren white canvas. The paintings are also accompanied by three new monumental and figurative bronze sculptures situated in different physical locations. Explore the virtual exhibition via Ever Gold Projects’ homepage or make an appointment to visit the gallery.  

Now through Friday, Jan. 22


See how San Francisco Art Institute students creatively coped this year 

Deemed a “descriptive document of our graduation in cyberspace,” the San Francisco Art Institute’s 8% exhibit features works from creators Alise Anderson, Christina Aguilera, Gregory Blanche, Mabel Meza, and others, all exploring the digital space to “collectively activate our work on what often felt like an 8% battery.” The exhibition grants students the opportunity to explain the uncertainty, dedication and near-misses of an unprecedented time in history and how this novel moment has inspired and shaped their work. 

Through Monday, Jan. 14


Experience the joyous sounds of the Blind Boys of Alabama

SFJAZZ is continuing its yearly tradition of celebrating the Grammy-winning gospel group Blind Boys of Alabama by rebroadcasting a jubilant holiday concert from 2018. The Blind Boys, which formed in the late 1930s when its members were students at the Alabama Institute for the Negro Deaf and Blind, have collaborated with everyone from Lou Reed to Ben Harper, and will be performing an uplifting collection of classic seasonal tunes for the show. Become a member for $5 a month to get access to this event and others. 

Friday, Dec. 18, 5 p.m.


Get your holiday season mall fix at Hillsdale 

Through next week, Hillsdale Shopping Center visitors have the opportunity to indulge in the holiday rituals many of us may be missing this year. From the festive holiday tree and fountain light show to gingerbread house decorating with Kathy’s Creative Kakes of San Mateo, children and grown-ups alike can partake in all the annual traditions they’ve come to love at the Peninsula destination. For those unable to attend, Santa will be available by appointment for virtual visits through Christmas Eve. Hillsdale is also serving as a collection center for Samaritan House donations of new coats for teens and children, and non-perishable food items to benefit those in need during the holiday season. 

Gingerbread house decorating: Through Wednesday, Dec. 23 (by appointment)

Virtual visits with Santa: Through Thursday, Dec. 24 (by appointment) 

Samaritan House donations accepted through Sunday, Dec. 27, with new coat contributions extended through Sunday, Jan. 24.


Celebrate with the Grace Cathedral community

Fans of San Francisco’s historic Grace Cathedral can stay connected to the iconic landmark and its adoring community this holiday season with “The Bishop’s Christmas Pageant Online,” narrated by Bishop Marc. The reenactment of the Christmas story features hymn singing and holiday images from families and children around the City and diocese. The livestreamed event will include videos of children’s prayers;  costumes are encouraged for viewers at home, so don’t miss the chance to don your angel, shepherd and magi looks for the occasion. 

Thursday, Dec. 24, 11 a.m—12 p.m.


Witness an inventive take on a Christmas classic 

Don’t miss the world premiere of Cal Performances’ special livestreamed adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol by Manual Cinema. The company specializes in  “vivacious hybrids of film and theater,” and this twist on the classic is meant to resonate with modern audiences in a distinctive way. At the center of the play is holiday skeptic, Aunt Trudy, who has been tasked with presenting her family’s annual Christmas Carol puppet show via Zoom from the isolation of her studio apartment during lockdown. Sound strangely familiar? Wait until you see the puppets take on a life of their own and the colorful events that ensue. 

Thursday, Dec. 17 through Saturday, Dec. 19. 


Virtually gather with friends and family at the Dickens Fair at Home

Even 2020 can’t stop this quintessential holiday experience. This year, Red Barn Productions presents “Dickens Fair at Home,” a free online event that brings home the magic of a beloved Bay Area holiday tradition. New content is added to the event site weekly and each weekend includes different delights like Victorian song performances from the Coventry Carolers (with downloadable sheet music), Punch & Judy puppet shows, craft projects, children’s stories, and more. Visitors to the site can also find downloadable recipes such as cinnamon roasted almonds, brandied eggnog and roasted chestnuts. 

Now through Thursday, Dec. 24



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