All Hallows, All Saints, All Souls, Samhain, Todos Santos, Dia de los Muertes ... by any other name, to us, Halloween and the cluster of celebrations around the old Celtic lunar new year after harvest, adopted by the Christian Church as holidays.
Until recently, Halloween in particular has been mostly a North American affair, at least in modern times—a children’s holiday, and a night for imaginations (and behavior) to run riot ... carnavalesque, for northern cultures which lack that tradition.
Lately, there’s been both controversy and mayhem, both reactions missing or exaggerating the purpose of the holiday, captured by Berkeley Renaissance poet Robin Blaser: “so eerie: ‘must get rid of Halloween—/it’s pagan,’ say these clowns of/tailor-made, cardboard transcendence,/ignorant of All hallows coming up,/deaf to this laughter with the ultimate ...”
But in between the tailor-made consumer extravaganza of Halloween superstores and the suppressed blow-out of the Castro, the Bay Area offers a few appropriate ways to celebrate, whether en famille or as adults—or adults only.
Though much of the action passed with last weekend, Halloween, All Saints and the next few days will see a few unique events.
• On Halloween itself, 7 p.m. in San Francisco’s Union Square, Larry Reed’s Shadowlight Productions will present, for free, Greek shadowmaster Leonidas Kassipides, himself the grandson of a shadow puppeteer. He will be performing The Metamorphosis of Karaghiozis, with live clarinet, strings and dumbek, the comic adventures of a popular hero of the period Greece was dominated by the Ottoman empire.
• Closer to home, Ashkenaz complements the theme with a Balkan Halloween, featuring Greek folk music and Rebetika by the Disciples of Markos and Yalozis, at 8 p.m. ($10 with costume, $12 without).
• The silver screen, which spread spookiness, as well as gross horror, around the globe, will feature “a deadpan feast of the undead” at the Pacific Film Archive, with The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price, at 7:30 p.m., and Murnau’s great silent masterpiece of darkness and light, Faust, with musical accompaniment by brilliant Dutch jazz and comedy orchestra the Willem Breuker Kollektif at the Palace of Fine Arts for the SF Jazz Festival at 8 p.m. ($10-20).
• Truly carnavalesque will be “Frightmare on 8th Street,” Cherie Carson’s aerial dance performance, when “creatures of the night crawl, fly, float, hover.” The show is at Studio 12, 2525 Eighth St., 7 p.m. on Halloween and Nov. 2-3 ($5-13, call 587-0770 or see www.movingout.org).
• Creaturely, but in reverse: a Pet Masquerade Party (and contest), 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at 151 Vermont, Ste. 9, in San Francisco (415) 241-9176.
• Helen Adams’ All Souls Eve will feature a celebration of the late, fey Scottish poet, who was closely associated with Berkeley and San Francisco Renaissance poets Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan, with performances of her eerie, funny modern ballads and her (and her sister Pat’s) ballad opera, “San Francisco’s Burning” (1960). Composer Warren Jepson and many others, including poets Michael McClure and Diane DiPrima, will appear for the publication of A Helen Adam Reader, 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Unitarian Center, Franklin at Geary in San Francisco ($5; info on the Poetry Center’s website, www.sfsu.edu/poetry).
• On stage Thursday and Friday, The Hypnodrome in San Francisco will feature plays drawn from the original repertoire of Parisian Belle Epoche Grand Guignol ($20; $69 for the Shock Box, (800) 838-3006). In Alameda, Virago Theatre Company stages Mankind’s last Hope and popular Teatro Zinzanni goes ZinZombie on Halloween with a masquerade ball in their tent on San Francisco’s Embarcadero.
• Berkeley’s Starlight Circle Players hold their second annual Samhain Allhallows Concert fundraiser, with a plethora of bands (including The Questionably Sane), with masquerade, tarot, art and “taverna treats by the pyrate chefs of Drunken Dragon Inn,” Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Fellowship of Unitarians, at Cedar and Bonita ($15-35, volunteers free, email@example.com).
• Though the Dia de los Muertes festival was last weekend in Fruitvale, Oakland’s Chapel of the Chimes has a community altar by artist Patti Goldstein through Nov. 6; families are invited to place offerings. 4499 Piedmont Ave., 9-5 p.m.
• For a quieter alternative, African-American poet and playwright Amiri Baraka will read at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday in Wheeler Hall, on the UC campus, and perform next week with the Chicago Arts Ensemble’s Roscoe Mitchell at San Francisco’s Victoria Theatre (see the Poetry Center Website, above).
A Halloween connection? Baraka, writing as LeRoy Jones, in his famous “In Memory of Radio,” eulogizing Orson Welles’ broadcast character: “Who has ever stopped to think of the divinity of Lamont Cranston?/Only Jack Kerouac, that I know of, and me ... ‘Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men? The Shadow knows.’/O, yes he does/O, yes he does/An evil word it is,/This Love.”