Berkeley smacks you in the face with culture. Everywhere you turn, there’s someone peddling hand-crafted works of art, showcasing their own breed of eccentricity or, if you are anywhere near the post office on Durant Avenue, spraying the wall with color — a vivid and visceral yellow, to be specific. Oh, the delights of hobo urine. But here, in Berkeley, the excretum of a homeless person might actually be considered art. Naturally, some may think this bad — the nadir of an already-disintegrating hippie wasteland. For most though, Berkeley’s artistic and cultural tenor is not a dank stream of discard, but rather a wonderfully vibrant and free place. To quote Tristan Tzara in Tom Stoppard’s “Travesties,” you have “the right to urinate in different colors” here.
Theater (theatre if you’re feeling fancy and/or British), film, visual art, music, dance, drum circles in front of Haas Pavilion are found in Berkeley and can be found in spades. Let’s begin with theater. On campus, you can find at least three reliably first-rate institutions for the performing arts — Cal Performances, the department of Theater, Dance and Performance Studies (TDPS to the cool kids) and the student-run Barestage Productions. This fall, all three are staging a season of enriched, diverse content, ranging from the mid-century absurdism of Eugene Ionesco put on by Cal Performances to Barestage’s production of Mary Zimmerman’s take on Ovid’s classic, “Metamorphoses.” If you’re still in a theatrical mood, walk down to Addison Street near Shattuck Avenue where you will find two of the Bay Area’s most dynamic theaters: the Tony Award-winning Berkeley Repertory Theatre and, right next door, the illustrious Aurora Theatre.
If you’re like me and feel like stretching your legs and eating a $5 lukewarm hotdog, then a concert at the Greek Theatre may be on your itinerary. Built in the style of an ancient amphitheater, the Greek Theater not only amplifies the acoustics of any performance but the aesthetic as well, with a breathtaking combination of outdoor scenery and ethereal architecture. With the likes of both new artists such as Gotye and timeless legends like Bob Dylan playing this fall, the Greek Theatre, while not exactly cheap, offers spectacular shows like no other venue can.
It’s difficult to top the Greek. So, if you’re in the mood for something a little more low-key and a little more wallet-friendly, perhaps a $3 movie on campus is the ticket. Since 1964, SUPERB (the Student Union Program, Entertainment, and Recreation Board) has provided our campus with cheap access to a wide range of entertainment — from free concerts on Lower Sproul to cheap movies (like “The Dark Knight,” “Inception” and other non-Christopher Nolan films) to celebrity Q&A’s. For example, Ryan Reynolds, Will Ferrell, Michael Cera and Johnny Depp have all graced Wheeler Hall in the time I’ve been here. Like Berkeley city, SUPERB offers every student access to the one inalienable right Thomas Jefferson forgot — the right to entertainment on a Friday night.
Jessica Pena is the Summer 2012 arts editor.