From jugglers to the Jerusalem Quartet, new JCC will be host

Demonstrating an ability to jump through multiple hoops as it launches its inaugural season of arts performances, the new JCC of San Francisco is even bringing the circus to town.

Set to open next month in $80 million digs at 3200 California St., the center will host more than 60 performances and events starting in February under a big top program called the Eugene & Elinor Friend Center for the Arts.

The cultural offerings include

appearances by pop and classical Israeli performers, symphonic and solo concerts, acts by beatbox and other performance artists, literature and lecture series, film showings, dance performances and art shows.

And, come Sunday, March 28, the New Pickle Circus will bring a troop of clowns, acrobats and jugglers to the JCC’s 480-seat Kanbar Hall as part of the center’s Community Celebration Day.

Overall, the 135,000-square-foot building, decked out with a rounded facade of imported Jerusalem stone, will host arts programs in that major hall, two smaller rooms and a second-floor art gallery.

Citing the wide appeal of arts programming in general, Lenore Naxon, director of the Friend Center, says the opening season, which runs through June, tries to reach out to the public through a variety of cultural media.

“We’re in the connection business,” explains Naxon. “Our mission is to be inclusive and diversive.”

To that end, solo performer and actor Danny Hoch will present his acclaimed “Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop” act on Saturday, Feb. 7.

Then on Sunday, Feb. 8, Los Angeles Times book editor Steve Wasserman will moderate a panel discussion entitled “The Next Generation of Jewish American Writing.” Featured authors are Melvin Bukiet, Binnie Kirshenbaum, Dani Shapiro and Aryeh Lev Stollman.

On the visual arts front, the JCC’s K-S Gallery will open in January with an exhibition featuring the work of Jewish folk artist Harry Lieberman, who launched a painting career at the age of 82. On display will be Lieberman’s portrayals of shtetl life and coming to America.

A screening of the 1996 documentary “Blacks and Jews,” in collaboration with the Jewish Film Festival, is set for Tuesday, Feb. 17. It is the first of more than a dozen films that will be shown at the JCC through June highlighting the diversity of Jewish experience by independent filmmakers from around the world.

The a cappella groups, Kitka and Linda Tillery and the Cultural Heritage Choir, will celebrate traditional women’s music with a concert on Thursday, Feb. 19, called “Songs from Mama’s Table.” The event combines music from Eastern Europe with African American songs.

Set for Wednesday, March 3, is a sampling of Israel’s current arts scene called “Israel Non-Stop.” The performance features “Two Stupid Dogs,”

a reflection on urban life as portrayed through dance, rap, poetry and “one very old man.” Also on tap is a West Coast debut performance by the Idan Raichel Project, a popular Ethiopian fusion group.

In time for Purim, the JCC will be the venue on Thursday, March 4, for a jazzy interpretation of the Book of Esther, called “The Whole Megillah, Abridged.”

Classical music will be showcased through a range of concerts. Among them: the spring season of the Pacific Chamber Symphony opening in February, a series of matinee performances by young musicians from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the West Coast debut on Thursday, March 11, of the Jerusalem Quartet.

Then on Saturday, March 20, the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players will perform a world premiere of a specially commissioned chamber piece by Israeli composer Betty Olivero.

Called Bashrav, the piece blends traditional music of North African Jews with Arabic music and both early and modern Western music.

On Thursday, April 1, Bay Area-based humorist Charlie Varon will present an evening of political satire, stand-up comedy and personal stories. His gig is dubbed “The Gentile at the Bat Mitzvah and Other Monologues.”

Come Wednesday, April 14, Israeli novelist and playwright A.B. Yehoshua will appear. He is considered a leader of a “New Wave” of fiction writers in the Jewish homeland.