It’s Showtime!

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We shine the spotlight on some of Sacramento’s best performers and the season’s must-see shows.

Stephanie Gularte

Actress and founding artistic director, Capital Stage

Taking a critical look at Stephanie Gularte’s life these days, one cannot help but give it four stars. She and fellow actor Jonathan Rhys Williams got married in December&emdash;in Maui. More and more people are subscribing to Capital Stage, the city’s newest professional theater group whose creation she spearheaded two years ago. Through Nov. 5, she is starring in the Sacramento premiere of Rebecca Gilman’s Boy Gets Girl for Capital Stage aboard the Delta King in Old Sacramento.

Not long ago, however, the Sacramento State graduate was making a name for herself in Bay Area theaters. In a bid to know my level of competitiveness in a bigger market, she auditioned for and landed several plum parts, including Evelyn in Neil LaBute’s The Shape of Things (a role she later reprised for Capital Stage). Working in the Bay Area was really a valuable experience for me, and a successful one, too, she says. Ultimately, it allowed me to think that I really do want to make Sacramento my artistic home.

Gularte was born in Merced in the 1970s but considers herself a Northern California gal. Her father’s family has Portuguese roots and her name is pronounced with a silent e at the end. I get called Gular-tay a lot, but I answer to both. She also answers the call as a frequent actor and director, and full-time artistic director, for Capital Stage. Which theatrical role does she prefer?

They each are fulfilling in different ways, she says. As an actor, I get to experience the challenge of creating a character, discovering that character’s role in making sure the bigger story is being told, and then, of course, enjoying the ultimate thrill that comes from the immediacy of performing before a live audience. Directing gives her the pleasure of collaboration. And as artistic director, I am involved with the productions from their infancy all the way to opening night.

Gularte’s neighborhood: East Sacramento
Favorite Capital Stage production: The Woman in Black, adapted by Stephen Mallatratt from Susan Hill’s novel. The play was a wonderful example of the power of live storytelling, and it was downright scary!
Role she’s played that fits her best as a person: Jill from Jane Martin’s Jack and Jill. As the years pass, she grows up, gets a little perspective. She remains a flawed work-in-progress, but she learns to open up her heart and calm down a bit.
If she could act with any person in the world, that person would be: John Malkovich. I think it would be a thrill to experience working off his energy.
How tough is it to make a living as a performing artist in this city? Part of the mission of Capital Stage is to play an integral role in creating more opportunities for actors, directors, writers and designers so that our talented artists will stay here in our community.
What she sees herself doing 10 years from now: I expect to be attending my daughter’s college graduation and leading one of the nation’s most innovative theater companies.
Favorite food: Her husband’s chili verde
Favorite movie: The Godfather (a nice little story about family)
Favorite book: 1984 by George Orwell
What others say about her: I just really admire what she’s done out there at the Delta King. First of all, she went equity (employing members of the Actors Equity Association), which I’m always approving of so that there are more places to work in this town.&emdash;actor Kurt Johnson

Saffron Henke

Actress, Sacramento Theatre Company and director, STC-2 Young Professionals Company

The thing about Saffron Henke is, yes, Saffron is her real name. Her hippy parents, who raised her on an organic, self-sustaining farm near Iowa City, Iowa, were inspired by Donovan’s hit song Mellow Yellow when they christened their kid.

With a name like that, she was destined to be a character. In last year’s Sacramento Theatre Company production of The Syringa Tree, a one-woman show set in South Africa and focusing on apartheid, Henke played more than 20 characters of various ages and gender. I was on the stage for an hour and a half; never left, never drank any water, nothing, she says. With that play more than any others, I felt like I was in service to a bigger message. . . . I love that I could see it made a difference to the audience.

Her performances in The Syringa Tree, Arranged Marriage and other STC productions have won over local critics. Henke has another role to play in real life, however: director of STC-2, the company’s education program for youths ages 11 to 20. It’s pretty amazing, she says. I love it, love it, love it. Asked which she prefers, acting or teaching, she says they both are very satisfying pursuits.

Why I really enjoy acting is I find it a challenge intellectually, emotionally, psychically&emdash;it uses all parts of myself. With teaching, it’s kind of a different thing because it does engage you on a lot of levels. But with acting your goal is to sort of use yourself as a tool or a conduit to bring the characters to life and share it with the audience. Whereas with the kids, it’s really about those ‘Aha!’ moments for them. It’s really not about you.

Henke’s neighborhood: Oak Park, baby!
Role she’s played that fits her best as a person: Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing (She’s very mentally quick, not afraid of confrontation, and she’s very loyal.)
If she could act with anyone in the world, that person would be: Joseph Fiennes, because he gave Gwyneth Paltrow the Oscar in Shakespeare in Love. I don’t think she could have come off as well as she did in that movie without the work he was doing.
How tough is it to make a living as a performing artist in this city? I have been blessed. My situation is so unique thanks to STC and Peggy Shannon (STC’s artistic director).
What she sees herself doing 10 years from now: I want to do a lot in the interim, including meeting someone and starting a family. Twenty-five years from now, I imagine myself a captivating old lady with a stick who’s walking on the beach and is a philanthropist.
Favorite food: Who has time to eat?
Favorite movie: The Princess Bride
Favorite book: Raise High the Roof Beams, Carpenters&emdash;Seymour: An Introduction by J.D. Salinger
What others say about her: Saffron Henke is one of the most talented and versatile actresses I have had the pleasure of working with. [She] is a consummate professional and a beautiful young woman. STC has been lucky to have her as a company member for the past three seasons. &emdash;Peggy Shannon

Kurt Johnson

Actor, B Street Theatre regular and acting instructor

For many of Kurt Johnson’s 13 years in Sacramento, the characters he played were of the goofy, shy, sincere, romantic nature. Lately, though, he has been a heavy. Anyone who saw him as creepy cop Bill in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero at the B Street Theatre is unlikely to forget the performance. Johnson enjoys being the bad guy, he says, because you don’t get to curse people out in real life as much as you want to.

A twinkle in his blue eyes accompanies that statement, and a spirited laugh follows. Off stage, the 37-year-old actor is as personable as any of his good-guy characters that have charmed B Street audiences.

He has an enormous appeal, even when he plays an awful person, says Buck Busfield, B Street’s co-founder and producing artistic director. There’s something about every character he plays that’s extremely likable. Even as Bill in Lobby Hero, Johnson found every aspect of humanity in this guy.

In addition to appearing on stage, Johnson runs an acting school with his wife, Tanya Domasky&emdash;Pompaneous Studio. He also does voice-over work and TV commercials, appears in films and TV shows, and last winter co-starred in a movie made regionally: Something in the Clearing. (The plot, Johnson says, involves a couple who find Jesus Christ after their son is kidnapped by devil worshippers.) He has a degree in computer engineering, but hasn’t had any real work (his words) since he was a copy boy many years ago at a law office.

It wasn’t bad, he says. It was actually interesting to do kind of mindless work. Out of a four- or five-hour shift, I was only working the copy machine about an hour and a half. So I got to read plays, hang out and do that kind of thing.

Johnson’s neighborhood: West Sacramento
Favorite B Street productions: Dennis McIntyre’s National Anthems, Lobby Hero and Jeff Daniels’ comedy Escanaba in Da Moonlight (People literally fell out of their seats. No joke. Fell into the aisle.)
Role he’s played that fits him best as a person: If I knew who I was, I’d be on ‘Oprah.’ You try to find a way to sympathize with every part you play, even the jerks and wimps. And then you juice it a little. My actual life is a little boring for the stage.
If he could act with any person in the world, that person would be: Clint Eastwood or Robert Redford. ‘Cause they’re directors, too, and if they liked me, they might give me a job someday.
How tough is it to make a living as a performing artist in this city? You have to diversify. I’ve been lucky to work pretty consistently.
What he sees himself doing 10 years from now: Looking for work.
Favorite food: Diet Coke. It’s probably not food, but I feel the need to confess my addiction. Two liters a day!
Favorite movie: Raising Arizona
Favorite book: East of Eden by John Steinbeck
What others say about him: Kurt, in my opinion, there’s no one better than Kurt. He can do anything.&emdash;Buck Busfield, B Street Theatre co-founder

Jack Hansen

Dancer and assistant ballet master, The Sacramento Ballet

When Jack Hansen glides into the coffeehouse, anyone without her head buried in a poetry book would peg him as a dancer. A poster boy for perfect posture, this poised and handsome 34-year-old commands attention in person and, especially, on stage as a star dancer with The Sacramento Ballet.

The company’s co-artistic director, Ron Cunningham, is a veteran choreographer who when talking about Hansen positions him on a pedestal. He’s probably one of the best partners in the world, Cunningham says. The women just die to dance with Jack because they know they’re safe. With a small touch of the hand, he can put them back in balance.

Kirsten Bloom has danced countless times with Hansen, including when he was her high school prom date in Florida. Since he joined The Sacramento Ballet in 2000, the two have been paired in numerous showcase roles. For last spring’s Modern Masters program, they shared the stage in Agnus Dei, which Hansen choreographed specifically for Bloom. He is such an awesome dance partner, she says. I can be totally free to express the movement and take it to the extreme because he is totally capable as a partner.

Partnering is my thing, Hansen says. For me, using Balanchine’s terminology, ballet is woman. When the guy is standing behind the woman, he has to make her be the most beautiful thing in the world. That was the mentality I had growing up (as a dancer since age 5). You were to make sure that if she hit the ground, you were supposed to be on the ground before she got there.

Why would this highly regarded performer, whose rsum includes affiliations with The Washington Ballet, New York Theatre Ballet and American Repertory Ballet, be content to remain in Sacramento? What I love about this place is the sense of home, he says. There is no pretension here, there is no attitude. Everyone is here to do their job and they are having a wonderful time doing it. There’s nothing negative, really, about this company.

Hansen’s neighborhood: Natomas
Favorite Sacramento Ballet production: Ron Cunningham’s Romeo and Juliet
Role he’s played that fits him best as a person: The naked man in Cunningham’s Carmina Burana. He is a man stripped of all hope, looking for happiness in life and love. Fortune shows him the way to both.
If he could dance with anyone in the world, that person would be: Gelsey Kirkland, a 1970s star of American Ballet Theatre with Mikhail Baryshnikov. When she stepped on stage, everything was about that ballet.
How tough is it to make a living as a performing artist in this city? It is a bit of a struggle. . . . I have to say that dancers do it for the love of the art more than the money, but we do still need to pay the rent like everyone else.
What he sees himself doing 10 years from now: Retired from dancing, but still teaching and serving as ballet master. I’d also love to be raising my kids with my partner.
Favorite food: A very rare filet mignon
Favorite movie: Moulin Rouge
Favorite books: Wicked and Son of a Witch by Gregory Maguire
What others say about him: Jack is a fantastic, wonderful man in so many ways. He has many, many good qualities [and] is just a dream to work with.&emdash;Ron Cunningham, The Sacramento Ballet co-artistic director

Susan Lamb Cook

Cellist, Sacramento Philharmonic

Asked what she might consider for an alternate career, Susan Lamb Cook states emphatically, What? Me not in the music business? You have got to be kidding!

Indeed, it is difficult to imagine her doing anything else. She earned a bachelor’s in music and master’s from the University of Iowa, has a performance degree from the Hochschule für Musik in Vienna (where she lived for nine years) and is an artist affiliate in cello and chamber music at the University of California, Davis. She is extensively involved with the Sacramento Youth Symphony as program director and coach and has many recordings to her credit, including a recent release by the Gold Coast Trio. She also plays cello for the Sacramento Philharmonic, whose 2006–2007 season opens Oct. 14 with Andr Previn’s Night Thoughts.

He was kind enough to offer a smile, Lamb Cook recalls about the day she passed Previn on a Vienna sidewalk. I remembered this each time I was able to see him conduct the Vienna Philharmonic.

Back in the States, Lamb Cook played for a few years with the Sacramento Symphony before it went bankrupt in 1997 and has been a steady presence with the orchestra that succeeded it. The Sacramento Philharmonic has done well to maintain a small but stable season over the past 10 years, she says. However, ideally it should reflect the growth of the Sacramento area with an expansion of its season.

Meanwhile, she will stay busy with a myriad of other musical experiences and, at home, continue her passionate pursuit of pesto. My family gives me a hard time about the amount of basil that I plant in the garden, she says. One year, each of these plants looked like a shrub the size of an exercise ball.

Lamb Cook’s neighborhood: Greenhaven/Pocket
Favorite cello concertos: They include those by Edward Elgar, Antonín DvoŒák and Dmitri Shostakovich.
Five classical music pieces everyone should try to hear: The adagietto movement from Gustav Mahler’s fifth symphony; the Goldberg variations by Johann Sebastian Bach; etude Opus 10, No. 3 by Frdric Chopin; the quintet in C major, Opus 163 by Franz Schubert; and the humming chorus from Giacomo Puccini’s Madame Butterfly.
How tough is it to make a living as a performing artist in this city? Very difficult to impossible. Performing artists must have great flexibility in their schedules and in what sort of work they are willing to take on. [Some] have what we call ‘day jobs.’
What she sees herself doing 10 years from now: Exactly what I am doing now.
Favorite food: Pesto, roasted vegetables, Gruyère and a glass of vino rosso
Favorite movie: Shakespeare in Love
Favorite book: Tender at the Bone by Ruth Reichl
What others say about her: She’s a reassuring face to see among the players. Always full of warmth and joy, and at the same time possessing tremendous musical skill and taste.&emdash;Michael Morgan, conductor and music director of the Sacramento Philharmoni

 

Malcolm MacKenzie

Baritone and opera singer

He has sung at the Bastille in Paris and in Finland’s Savonlina Festival. He has performed more than 20 roles with the Los Angeles Opera, last year made his debut with the New York City Opera and has appeared in many productions in cities in between. Yet when asked what is his favorite place, Malcolm MacKenzie replies, Home to my girls. That’s where I always want to go.

Home is in Davis, where the 38-year-old MacKenzie lives with his wife, Heather, and their daughters Madison, 8, and Megan, 5. If he were not an opera singer, MacKenzie says, he would be a full-time house husband and stay-at-home dad. That’s my other job, anyway!

In mid-September, MacKenzie appeared as Guglielmo in the Sacramento Opera production of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Cosi Fan Tutte. I’m happy anytime I get to sing Mozart, he says. It’s really a joy. Cosi can be a difficult opera to balance dramatically and musically, but if it works, it’s really a magical thing. Coming gigs include operatic roles in Dayton, Ohio and San Diego.

Meanwhile, MacKenzie intends to spend some quality time at home, where what’s playing on the speakers may be a surprise. You’re much more likely to hear disco in my house than opera, he says. Of course, I do listen to opera, but it’s not the background music. My kids wouldn’t put up with it!
 
MacKenzie’s neighborhood: Davis
Favorite Sacramento Opera role: I suppose I’d have to say that my favorite was Don Giovanni, just because I love to play that rogue!
His dream role: Scarpia from Tosca. Without a doubt. I love to play the bad guy, and he certainly is the baddest. When those horns blare before Scarpia’s first entrance, I get chills. Every time!
If he could sing with any person in the world, that person would be: I’ve been lucky in my career to have worked with many major stars and feel I’ve learned something from all of them.
For someone new to opera, what operas are must-sees? I always encourage people to see Bohème, Tosca, The Barber of Seville or The Marriage of Figaro as a first opera.
What he sees himself doing 10 years from now: I’m too superstitious to answer that question.
Favorite food: I’m an equal opportunity eater. I think that’s a prerequisite for being an opera singer. But let’s say pizza.
Favorite movie: I’m of the Star Wars generation and often use The Force.
Favorite book: Lately, Stephen King’s Dark Tower series
What others say about him: Malcolm is a consummate artist&emdash;the real deal. Not only are his singing and musicianship rock-solid, he’s a versatile actor, appearing in both comic and dramatic roles annually with us since 2002. We are fortunate to have someone like Malcolm literally down the road from us.&emdash;Timm Rolek, artistic director of Sacramento Opera

 

Up–and–Comers in the Local Performing Arts Scene

In her early work with The Sacramento Ballet, Annali Rose Clevenger was considered by Ron Cunningham to be a very modest young dancer. He and wife Carinne Binda, co-artistic directors of the ballet, told Clevenger that she lacked a sense of risk.

She took that to heart and started going over the edge, Cunningham says.

In early 2005, Clevenger starred in Romeo and Juliet, a breakthrough experience for the young Santa Cruz native. As Juliet, she suddenly exploded into being this dynamic artist who had something to say, Cunningham says.

Co-star Jack Hansen says working with Clevenger was an absolute dream. It really was. She was scared to death of me, because she thought I was this untouchable kind of person. This was her first major role, doing Juliet, and I wanted her to succeed. We worked nonstop. I think for her, she had the youthfulness of Juliet. It was just a matter of working on a more dynamic partnership. And she was beautiful. She was absolutely beautiful for the part.

Clevenger is one of many rising stars on the local performing-arts scene. Others include:

Eugene Chan,
a lyric baritone who has a small role in the coming Sacramento Opera production of Aida: One of the joys of my job is to watch and encourage the development of local talent, says Timm Rolek, Sacramento Opera’s artistic director. Eugene has the potential to develop into a major artist, and someday I hope to be able to say he started with Sacramento Opera.

Anthony d’Juan,
who is well-known to B Street patrons and for his work with the Martin Luther King Jr. Project: I would consider him&emdash;I hope no one else is insulted&emdash;the hardest-working actor in Sacramento, says B Street veteran actor Kurt Johnson. He’s a writer&emdash;he’s got a film script going, the guy writes a play a month, it seems like&emdash;and he’s acting all the time as well. You never see him and say, ‘What’s going on?’ and he says, ‘Nothing.’

Dan Flanagan, violinist with the Sacramento Philharmonic: He has got to be one of my favorite players in the orchestra, says philharmonic assistant conductor Ming Luke. This guy downs dozens of spicy Buffalo wings at a time and loves watching old movies. On top of that, he’s a fantastic musician and doesn’t settle for anything but the fullest commitment to music.

Jerry Lee, a singer who has appeared often with Magic Circle Theatre in Roseville and has sung with the Sacramento Philharmonic: If he continues doing what he’s doing now, he’s going to be a real star, says Michael Morgan, the philharmonic’s music director and conductor. He is as impressive a talent for musical theater as I have ever seen anywhere at his age. And I’ve seen many. As much as he deserves all his fans in our area, he deserves many more and will have them. He has the makings of a real star. I’m proud to even know him.

Christina Elmore
, Alexander Dominitz, Jessica Goldman and Maggie Roesser, college students who have performed with the Sacramento Theatre Company and its youth program, STC-2: All of these talented, bright, young performers are destined for major careers in the arts, says Peggy Shannon, STC’s artistic director.

Stage 10 Alert

Grab a date and whip out your wallet, as Sacramento’s performing-arts scene is positively bursting with must-sees this fall.

As days shorten and temperatures finally begin to cool, the city’s theater, dance and music organizations are preparing to engage your minds and warm your hearts with many high-quality productions. Hulking monsters, burning witches and creepy stalkers, dancing birds, Daffy Duck-esque office workers and an American superhero&emdash;they all are beckoning you to sit back and enjoy the talented artists who bring them to life. If your tastes are more highbrow, a world-premiere composition by Andr Previn should be music to your ears.

Choices! So many choices! Which means it’s time to prioritize. What are the fall season’s must-see performances?

1. Lune, Pronounced Looney
B Street Theatre • Sept. 17– Nov. 5

Producing artistic director Buck Busfield has lined up a killer cast, a veritable B Street All-Stars, for this world-premiere comedy that is inspired by Looney Tunes cartoon characters and takes place within the fictional Acme Corporation. Put your ears on high alert for sharply delivered zingers being said by Greg Alexander, Kurt Johnson, Jason Kuykendall and Elisabeth Nunziato. According to Busfield, There is no one better in town [than those four actors]. They’re going to be fantastic.

B Street commissioned Kira Obolensky to write Lune. Two of her other works, Lobster Alice and Hate Mail (which she co-wrote with Bill Corbett), were smash hits at the midtown theater. It’s going to be really fun, Johnson says. And the good times won’t stop there: Busfield, as he often does, is writing the theater’s annual holiday play, which means B Street will stage two world premieres this fall, both likely directed by Busfield.

2711 B St.; (916) 443-5300; bstreettheatre.org


2. Where the Wild Things Are

The Sacramento Ballet • Oct. 26–29

The adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s childhood tale about a little boy, Max, with a big imagination will require several Sacramento Ballet dancers to portray nasty, hairy creatures and wear 12-foot costumes.

You’ve got to make these monsters come alive, says Ron Cunningham, the ballet’s co-artistic director.

Otherwise, it’s just dead fur.

Odds are Cunningham and Co. will be carry it off superbly in a program that also includes legendary choreographer George Balanchine’s Western Symphony and Cunningham’s own Etosha, which he was inspired to create years ago after watching a TV documentary about Namibian wildlife. As for Wild Things, choreographed by Septime Weber, featured dancer Jack Hansen says, It’s a wonderful children’s ballet. I think Sacramento definitely will love it. Cunningham adds, Sendak speaks to kids in just an extraordinary way.

Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St.; (916) 552-5800; sacballet.org

3. Andr Previn’s Night Thoughts
Sacramento Philharmonic • Oct. 14–15

Andr Previn is a giant of the classical and contemporary music scenes, a conductor of some of the world’s most acclaimed orchestras, a four-time Oscar winner and a renowned jazz pianist. How did he come to write something for the Sacramento Philharmonic? Michael Morgan, the philharmonic’s music director, says he has been friends with Previn’s assistant, Ellyn Kusmin, since she and Morgan were students at Oberlin College. Had it not been for that personal connection, I never could have approached a musician of such stature to write a piece, Morgan says.

The work, which Morgan predicts will last 15 to 20 minutes, is in honor of highly acclaimed local artist Wayne Thiebaud. It ranges from meditative to rhythmic and is, as you would expect, expertly orchestrated, Morgan says. For the most part, it’s quite lyric and as immediately approachable as Mr. Thiebaud’s art. The program also includes Maurice Ravel’s hypnotic La Valse, which Morgan (who will conduct the entire program) calls one of the ultimate orchestra showpieces; Antonín Dvorák’s Carnival Overture; and Franz Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 96.

Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St.; (916) 732-9045; sacphil.org
 
4. Let the Eagle Fly
California Stage • Sept. 15–Oct. 8

Ray Tatar does not suffer foolish musicals gladly. Because there’s very little training in new musicals, American musical theater, which is an American art form, is being killed by the American musical theater community, California Stage’s artistic director says. What we usually get in music theater today is the songs are all sing-song, talk-song, they’re repetitive and the story is innocuous. I can’t remember who wrote this: ‘You want to say something stupid? Say it in song.’

Tatar sings a different tune with Let the Eagle Fly, a musical by Julie Shannon based on the life and struggles of farm-labor activist Csar Chávez (1927–1993). The songs are wonderfully written and lyrical, Tatar says. They are integrated with the community it’s for and about, and it has a story that teaches us something about heroism. You wonder: How does a little labor leader from San Jose, who’s trying to fight a huge conglomerate of grape growers throughout the state, become an American superhero? This play tells how it happened.

Shannon wrote the musical with help from Chávez’s granddaughter, Julie Chávez Rodriguez. Tatar will co-direct with Richard Falcón, and performances will feature live music.

The Space at California Stage, 1723 25th St.; (916) 451-5822; calstage.org

5.
Picnic
River Stage • Oct. 14–Nov. 5

Frank Condon, River Stage’s founding artistic director, is a soft-spoken man on a big mission. It’s my intention to do the work of our great American playwrights&emdash;as well as the new ones, he says. No small part of that quest will be met with the staging of Picnic by William Inge, who also wrote Bus Stop and the screenplay for Splendor in the Grass. The Pulitzer Prize-honored Picnic, which premiered in 1953, takes an intimate look at a group of lonely women in Kansas whose lives are upturned when a handsome stranger comes to town.

It has to do with the underbelly of the American dream, Condon says. It’s funny, it’s exciting and, from our perspective, it’s very interesting, too&emdash;looking back 50 years at the heartland of our country. Adrienne Sher will direct. In 1955, Picnic was adapted by Hollywood and boasted a big-name cast, including William Holden, Rosalind Russell, Kim Novak and, in his big-screen debut, Cliff Robertson. [The film version] captures the whole essence of that working-class town, Condon says. Even though it perverts the play, it’s a good film.

River Stage Performing Arts Center, Cosumnes River College, 8401 Center Parkway; (916) 691-7364; riverstage.org

6. To Kill a Mockingbird
Sacramento Theatre Company • Oct. 4–Nov. 5

I would say that this is a book almost every American has read or will read in their lifetimes, says Peggy Shannon, STC’s artistic director, about the 1960 novel by Harper Lee. It is a profound story about the ills of racism, the power of family and the beauty of reaching out to help our fellow man (or woman). It is archetypically American. And it is one hell of a story.

Set in the 1930s in a small Alabama town, Mockingbird tells of a black man falsely accused of murder, the white lawyer (Atticus Finch, played in the 1962 film version by Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his performance) who defends him and Finch’s precocious daughter, 6-year-old Scout. The play was written by Christopher Sergel and will be directed by Philip Charles Sneed. STC will follow this familiar work in November and December with a world premiere by Velina Hasu Houston, the race-focused and somewhat mystical The Peculiar and Sudden Nearness of the Moon.

1419 H St.; (916) 443-6722; sactheatre.org

7. Boy Gets Girl
Capital Stage  • Sept. 23–Nov. 5

In Rebecca Gilman’s critically touted play from 2000, Theresa’s seemingly innocent blind date with Tony backfires when he quickly transitions from suitor to stalker. As she struggles to steer clear of Tony, Theresa engages in a series of frank conversations with Les, an aging filmmaker who puts an intriguing spin on modern sexual politics.

What I think is really exciting about [the play] is that it works on a couple of levels, says Stephanie Gularte, Capital Stage’s artistic director who will star as Theresa. No. 1&emdash;and this is key&emdash;is it is always entertaining. It’s a psychological thriller, and it’s very on-the-edge-of-your-seat storytelling. And 2, because it deals with a really important social issue (the objectification of women) that will make people leave the theater thinking about it and talking about it. Gularte’s husband, Jonathan Rhys Williams, will direct.

Delta King Theatre, 1000 Front St., Old Sacramento; (916) 995-5464; capitalstagecompany.com

8. Aida
Sacramento Opera • Nov. 17–21

It’s all about Egyptian love as Sacramento Opera presents this audience-pleaser from the lively and spirited mind of 19th century Italian composer Giuseppe Verdi. Hope Briggs, making her Sacramento Opera debut, stars in the title role. The cast of this classic, not to be confused with the rockin’ and rollin’ Elton John/Tim Rice version that Music Circus staged this summer, is rounded out with Oksana Sitnitska as Amneris, Gustavo Lopez Manzitti as Radames, Don Sherrill as Ramfis and Ralph Cato as Amonasro.

It is a love triangle set against political intrigue, all sung to some of Verdi’s most popular melodies, says Timm Rolek, Sacramento Opera’s artistic director, who will conduct the performance. Over the past century, producers have used the famous march at the end of Act 2 to parade everything out but the kitchen sink. Our staging will be different from our previous two productions (the last one was in 1996) because this one will be an animal-free Aida.

Sacramento Community Center Theater, 1301 L St; (916) 737-1000; sacopera.org

9. Gotta Dance!
A Camellia Symphony collaboration with regional dance troupes • Nov. 4

Tap is on tap, as are ballet and tango, in this high-energy performance that features dancers from the Folsom Lake Civic Ballet, IMPACT Contemporary Dance Company and Sound Out Tap Company. The accompanying music, performed by Sacramento’s longest-operating orchestra, will include songs from Singin’ in the Rain, Maurice Ravel’s Daphnis and Chlo and Igor Stravinsky’s The Firebird.
The Camellia Symphony will be conducted by its music director, Allan Pollak.

Memorial Auditorium, 1515 J St.; (916) 929-6655; camelliasymphony.org

10. The Crucible

Sacramento State Department of Theatre & Dance • Oct. 13–29

Sacramento State’s Department of Theatre & Dance celebrates its 50th anniversary with a classic American play from the 1950s, Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. The venerable playwright set his sharp criticism of the anti-communist rampage of Wisconsin Sen. Joe McCarthy in 17th century Puritan New England, where 19 citizens and even two dogs were executed for alleged witchery. Assistant professor Gina Kauffman will direct. This fall, the department also will present a performance by S/BAD, Oct. 19–29; Joe Turner’s Come and Gone, Nov. 3–19; and a faculty dance concert, Dec. 7–19.

Sacramento State’s University Theatre, Shasta Hall, 6000 J St; (916) 278-6368; csus.edu/dram

Honorable mentions:

Comedian Carlos Mencia at Memorial Auditorium, Oct. 12; humorist David Sedaris at the Crest Theatre, Oct. 28; California Musical Theatre Broadway Series’ Sweet Charity, starring Roseville native Molly Ringwald, at the Sacramento Community Center Theater, Nov. 1–12; Annie by Runaway Stage Productions, Nov. 3–26.

Honorable mentions outside the city limits:

Oklahoma! at Garbeau’s Dinner Theater in Rancho Cordova, Sept. 9–Nov. 12; Laura at the Chautauqua Playhouse in Carmichael, Oct. 13–Nov. 18;  Myth, Propaganda and Disaster in Nazi Germany and Contemporary America by the University of California, Davis, Department of Theatre & Dance at the Mondavi Center’s Studio Theatre, Oct. 27–Nov. 5; Oliver! by the Davis Musical Theatre Company at the Hoblit Performing Arts Center in Davis, Nov. 10–Dec. 3; and Peter Pan by Imagination Theater in Placerville, Nov. 10–Dec. 17, and by El Dorado Musical Theatre, Nov. 10–19.

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