Friday, December 16, 2016

Travel: Trip to Manhattan, New York

View from the Staten Island ferry

During a whirlwind, four-day trip to Manhattan, I enjoyed some of the sights, fashions, a Broadway show and views of everyday life there.

Photographs by Stephanie Wright Hession

Hello Manhattan!

On my way to the iconic Empire State Building

Gorgeous view from the Empire State Building

Couture gowns from the 1940s designed by Christian Dior at The Met's Costume Institute

Some pieces designed by Alexander McQueen at the 
The Met's Costume Institute

Dramatic scene in the Arms and Armor galleries of The Met Museum

Honoring those who perished on that horrible day

From the ashes we rise

Spied this beauty from my cab

Morning commuters

Typical street scene in Manhattan

On the way to Brooklyn

Another perspective

Delicious street food

“Cut Up/Cut Out” exhibition opens at the Bedford Gallery December 18

"Untitled" by Karen Margolis

For the exhibition “Cut Up/Cut Out” at the Bedford Gallery, more than 50 local, national and international artists employed road maps, laser paper, metal, plastic, rubber and other media to explore various methods of cutting and piercing.

December 18, 2016-March 5, 2017. Opening reception for the artists, 3-5 p.m., Sunday, December 18. (The gallery will be closed December 23-January 2, 2017.) 

Bedford Gallery, Lesher Center for the Arts, 1601 Civic Drive, Walnut Creek. (925) 295-1417, See website for admission prices.

"Winter in the City" by Claire Brewster

“Haciendo Papel Picado/Making Paper Cutouts,” (1998), by Carmen Lomas Garza

"Artforum 50 Hindsight, Mask Series," (2014) by Francesca Pastine

"Coringa," by Margaret Griffith

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

42nd Street Moon presents "Scrooge in Love," December 7-24

With its holiday presentation, "Scrooge in Love!," starring Jason Graae, 42nd Street Moon ponders what happens after "A Christmas Carol." 

Taking place one year later, it follows Scrooge's quest to find Belle, his lost love. Jacob Marley and new spirits help him along the way.

Marines' Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter St., S.F. Tickets: (415) 255-8207,

Monday, December 5, 2016

Smuin Ballet's "The Christmas Ballet" December 7-24 in SF and more

Smuin Ballet’s “The Christmas Ballet” offers a fun alternative to the typical holiday show.


"Christmas in New Orleans"

"Christmas Island"

December 7-11: Mountain View Center for the Arts, 500 Castro St., Mountain View. (650) 903-6000 and December 15-24 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts, 700 Howard St., S.F. (415) 912-1899

Images courtesy of Smuin Ballet

Friday, December 2, 2016

The African-American Shakespeare Company’s, “Cinderella,” December 22-24, in S.F.

The African-American Shakespeare Company presents “Cinderella,” which it co-produced with the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company. 

If you have not seen this delightful production of "Cinderella," don't miss it this holiday season.

Samantha Williams plays Cinderella in the 2016 production from the African-American Shakespeare Company, co-produced by the San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Company.
December 22-24, in S.F. Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F. (415) 392-4400,

"Irving Berlin's White Christmas," the musical, December 14-24 in S.F.

Kailtlyn Davidson (left) and Jeremy Benton (right) from "Irving Berlin’s White Christmas"

Trista Moldovan (left) and Kaitlyn Davidson (right) from “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”

Cast members from “Irving Berlin’s White Christmas”

December 14-24. SHN Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor St., S.F. 888-746-1799,

Photos: Kevin White 

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Anthropologie, Walnut Creek

Anthropologie’s first concept store emits its eclectic, Bohemian chic vibe throughout 30,000 square feet on two floors, complete with outdoor balconies lush with plants.

It intermingles vignettes of whimsical, thoroughly modern living spaces, decor accents for the home and women's fashions. You'll also find succulents and garden-themed wares from Terrain and bridal gowns from BHLDN Weddings, both sister brands.

With this store, Anthropologie has created an imaginative interior and a relaxed, friendly atmosphere that encourages browsing and lingering.

Anthropologie & Company, 1149 South Main St., Walnut Creek. 

(925) 932-0112,

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Cirque du Soleil's "Luzia" opens November 17 in S.F.

Cirque du Soleil’s “Luzia” takes you on a fantastical journey through Mexico. A celebration of the country’s rich culture, grand architecture and magnificent landscapes, the production features performers dressed as hummingbirds, Monarch butterflies and other creatures.

Acrobats take to the silks, acrobatic wheels and more in a dreamy world of light and rain. The show derives its name from the words luz and lluvia, which mean light and rain in Spanish. 

Nov. 17-Jan. 29, 2017
Beneath the Grand Chapiteau (Big Top)
Ticket prices $49 and up
AT&T Park-Parking Lot A
Corner of Third and Channel streets, S.F.

Images courtesy of Cirque du Soleil

Friday, November 4, 2016

San Francisco locations featured in Alfred Hitchcock's film "Vertigo"

Alfred Hitchcock loved San Francisco and the Bay Area. Today it's still easy to find locations featured in his films including "Vertigo." 

The English director set one of the most dramatic scenes from the film at Fort Point. Although when Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) falls into the water, and is rescued by John Ferguson (Jimmy Stewart), it's actually a set at Paramount Studios in Hollywood.

Another scene takes place in the cemetery of Mission Dolores.

Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak) also visits a gallery in the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.

Douglas Morrisson Theatre presents, “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” December 1-11

Welcome the holidays with the beloved story of George Bailey and the profound events that occur in his hometown of Bedford Falls on a life-changing Christmas Eve. Directed by Kendall Tieck, the play is performed as a radio broadcast set in the 1940s by cast members Andrea Lea Martzipan, Danny Martin and Alicia von Kugelgen. Adapted by Joe Landry from the screenplay by Frances Goodrich, Albert Hackett, Frank Capra and Jo Swerling. “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” opens Thursday, December 1 at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward.

Andrea Lea Martzipan, Danny Martin and Alicia von Kugelgen in “It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play,” at the Douglas Morrisson Theatre in Hayward. Photo by Terry Sullivan.

The Castro Valley Public Library also offers a sneak peek of the production 7-8 p.m., Tuesday, December 6. Watch a scene from play and then talk with the actors about the show. Attendees of this event will receive a two-for-one coupon for a full performance of the show.

December 1-11. $15-$29. Douglas Morrisson Theatre, 22311 N. Third St., Hayward. Discounts available for theatre goers younger than 30, older than 60s, H.A.R.D. residents, TBA, KQED members and groups of 10 people or more. Box office: 510-881-6777,

Castro Valley Library, 3600 Norbridge Ave., Castro Valley. 510-667-7900

Monday, October 31, 2016

“A Promise Not to Forget: Dia de los Muertos 2016,” at SOMArts, S.F., through November 5

San Francisco performance artist Guillermo Gómez Peña, poet Maya Chinchilla and Dr. Loco and the Rockin’ Jalapeño Band will take to the stage at the closing reception of “A Promise Not to Forget: Dia de los Muertos 2016.”

Photo courtesy of Rio Yañez

The 17th annual Day of the Dead exhibition at SOMArts Cultural Center joins traditional Mexican altars with contemporary art installations. It features approximately 25 altars created by more than 50 artists. Curated by René & Rio Yañez, who are father and son, they chose the theme “A Promise Not to Forget” to honor ancestors and those who have lost their lives to senseless violence.

This year’s exhibition is dedicated to three individuals: Silvia Parra, an activist, poet and musician from San Francisco, Cynthia Wallis, a Bay Area theater director, photographer and the late partner of René Yañez and Martha Rodriguez, a San Francisco visual artist who participated in several of SOMArt’s Dia de los Muertos exhibitions throughout the years. 

Some of the altars and installations on display also honor those killed at the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and serve as a tribute to the queer and Latin victims from that tragedy.

Through November 5. Closing reception, 6-9 p.m., Saturday, November 5. Tickets to closing reception: $7-$10 sliding scale admission.

SOMArts, 934 Brannan St., S.F. Noon-7 p.m., Tuesday-Friday; 11 a.m.-5 p.m., Saturday and 11 a.m.-3 p.m., Sunday. (415) 863-1414,

“Hairspray” at Montgomery Theater, San Jose, December 2-11

Mix up your holiday lineup with Marquee Productions' presentation of “Hairspray,” directed by Kevin R. Hauge. This energetic, beloved musical promises an evening of mirth and merriment. Travel back to Baltimore in the 1960s to see how spunky teenager Tracy Turnblad overcomes obstacles and pursues her dreams. Directed and choreographed by Kevin R. Hauge with musical direction by Amie Jan and vocal direction by Andrew Ford.

December 2-11. $35-$30. Montgomery Theater, 271 Market St., San Jose. 408-288-5437.

Image courtesy of the CMT San Jose.

The historic Cary House Hotel, Placerville-Haunted or not?

Upon entering the lobby of the Cary House Hotel, I asked the desk clerk about its haunted reputation. Since working at the four-story red brick building, which dates to 1857, she said she hadn't seen any otherworldly apparitions. But she'd heard plenty of ghostly accounts.

Purportedly, most occur in specific rooms on the second floor of this hotel, located on Main Street in Placerville in El Dorado County. I can't confirm or deny this—these rooms were booked during our stay, and we didn't encounter anything ethereal. But a chill did come over me while walking through the halls of the second floor on the way to the balcony.

Several notable guests have stayed here including William “Buffalo Bill” Cody, Mark Twain, Levi Strauss, Ulysses S. Grant, Bette Davis and Elvis Presley.

The Cary House Hotel. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession

A series of stained glass panels depicting mining, rural and wildlife scenes, antique furnishings, rich wood walls and a grand staircase give the lobby its Victorian elegance. 

The lobby. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession 

We pulled back the metal gate of the tiny, vintage elevator and arrived at our king-size room on the fourth floor. Yellow walls, an ivory chenille bedspread and twin windows covered with white curtains and lace sheers gave it an airy feel. An ornate wooden dresser and mirror, a floral painted lamp and other antique pieces added to its charm. An alcove made an inviting reading space with its pair of wing back chairs.

Upstairs staircase in the Cary House Hotel. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession 

A door near the breakfast room leads outside to a courtyard, where hotel guests and customers of neighboring shops relaxed at tables and chairs, shaded by green market umbrellas and back dropped by an ivy-covered wall and the sound of a tiered fountain. Back at the hotel, guests can spy downtown Placerville from the second-floor balcony.

The adjacent courtyard. Photo by Stephanie Wright Hession 

Step out of the lobby and you're on Main Street, with an assortment of cafes, restaurants, wine tasting rooms, galleries and shops.

For dinner, the selection includes Z Pie's gourmet pot pies and the Heyday Cafe's pizza, panini and entrees such as chicken Milanese and filet mignon.

Cary House Hotel, 300 Main St., Placerville. (530) 622-4271. 40 rooms and suites, all non-smoking, 2 wheelchair accessible. Rates: $102-$199. Children welcome. Dogs welcome in specific rooms.