Freebie of the week: The Bay Area has long been in love with summer outdoor stage and circus shows. It doesn’t hurt that the San Francisco Mime Troupe and Pickle Family Circus helped establish this trend in their unique styles. The Mime Troupe debuted in 1959 and slowly evolved into the left-leaning political satire performers we see today (they do not do mime). The Pickle Family Circus began in the mid-1970s and introduced legendary clowns Geoff Hoyle and Bill Irwin and helped re-ignite America’s love for circus acts. Cirque du Soleil, today a multi-million-dollar global enterprise, was influenced in its early years by the Pickles, as they were known. The trend continues, thanks to Circus Bella, another locally owned and operated circus company whose executive director and co-founder, Abigail Munn, is a former member of the Pickles, which she joined at age 9. During the summer, Circus Bella and its talented cast of acrobats, jugglers (hand and feet!), aerialists, and, of course, clowns, perform for free at outdoor parks and venues. At noon Friday and noon and 2:15 p.m. Saturday, they’ll be at the Yerba Buena Gardens Festival, on the Yerba Buena lawn on Mission Street, between Third and Fourth streets in San Francisco. The tour runs through July 20; get the full schedule and more details at More free fun is in store when the Mime Troupe kicks off its summer season July 4 (as per tradition) in Dolores Park in San Francisco. Get more information at

Solis on Steinbeck: Octavio Solis is one of the country’s most acclaimed and influential Mexican American playwrights. He’s revered for his plays that blend compelling portrayals of Mexican American and immigrant life with an exploration of the larger forces at work in his characters’ worlds. In “Santos and Santos,” one of his best-known works, the brothers of a family law firm in El Paso deal with drugs, violence, racism and corruption as they try to honor their father’s heritage and forge success in the legal world. Now Solis is bringing his 2019 John Steinbeck-themed work “Mother Road” to Berkeley Repertory Theatre. The play is inspired by — and is something of an answer to — John Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath,” in which a member of the Joad Family farm, seeking an heir to the clan’s property, discovers a young Mexican American migrant worker with whom he embarks on an epic and impactful road trip that revisit themes (for example, migration and survival) Steinbeck tackled in “Grapes of Wrath.” Directed by David Mendizabal, and starring James Carpenter and Emilio Garcia-Sanchez, “Mother Road” plays through July 21 at Berkeley Rep’s Peet’s Theatre. Tickets are $25-$134. Go to

Terrance Kelly and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir perform a Juneteenth concert at the Bankhead Theater on Friday. (Courtesy Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir)

More than a choir: Those who have seen director Terrance Kelly and the Oakland Interfaith Gospel Choir perform know there is far more going on than gospel singing. Kelly’s passion for the sound, message and history of African American gospel music is a force, and he passes that love and energy to the more than 300 singers of all backgrounds that comprise the various branches of the award-winning chorus. On Friday, Kelly and the OIC present a Juneteenth-themed concert at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore. The show will combine traditional gospel numbers, freedom songs, civil rights anthems and offer sing-along opportunities. OIGC, performing for not quite 40 years, has entertained crowds around the world and collaborated on stage or recordings with artists ranging from the Blind Boys of Alabama to the Duke Ellington Orchestra to MC Hammer and Linda Ronstadt. Friday’s concert kicks off at 8 p.m., the Bankhead Theater is the centerpiece of the Livermore Valley Arts Center, located at 2400 First St. Tickets are $25-$35; go to

Orinda Community Park is the setting for a Thursday evening program of free opera music offered by Festival Opera. A repeat concert takes place Sunday afternoon in Walnut Creek. (Courtesy Festival Opera)

Arias al fresco: Opera lovers of all ages, sizes, income levels and predilections for certain composers have a cornucopia of free outdoor celebrations to choose from in the Bay Area this weekend. Festival Opera and Opera San Jose are hosting opera-in-the-park concerts. Festival Opera appears in Orinda Community Park at 6 p.m. Thursday and its home base in Walnut Creek’s Civic Park at 4 p.m. Sunday. Opera San Jose’s show is at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Municipal Rose Garden in San Jose. Lining up for the two East Bay events are Festival Opera artists. Soprano Lila Khazoum, mezzo-soprano Courtney Miller, tenor Taylor Thompson and baritone Liam Daly will dip into material from “La Traviata,” “Carmen,” “The Magic Flute,” “Rigoletto” and more, and a few Broadway tunes as well. Opera San Jose has not announced a lineup of singers. But it's asking folks to register at and offering free Kona Shaved Ice treats for the first 100 people who show up at the registration table (starting at 5:45 p.m.) Operagoers in Orinda and Walnut Creek can avail themselves of treats from nearby food trucks to add to the contents of their picnic baskets. Find information at

Flute and recorder player Jamie Mulfinger will be featured in an evening of Renaissance music and dance at the Trinity Lutheran Church in Pleasanton. (Courtesy Jamie Mulfinger)

Of lutes and strings and singers and things: “Harmony Unveiled: The Secret Music of the Renaissance” is the title of the ambitious, multidisciplinary program lined up for the Trinity Concert Series event at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Pleasanton’s Trinity Lutheran Church. Music director Tim Salaver’s Areté Singers team up with Courtney Ramm’s Ramm Dancers; the vocal trio known as Concerto delle Donne (named after the original Consort of Ladies from the Renaissance period); and instrumentalists Jamie Mulfinger on flute and recorder, Michael Langham on harpsichord and Matthew Xie on lute and Baroque guitar for a journey into one of the richest and most influential periods in the history of music. A 7 p.m. preconcert talk by Xie will highlight the significance of the pieces and offer a “petting zoo” of the period instruments. The music and dance to be performed will include pieces by masters such as Palestrina, Allegri, Josquin des Prez, Michael Praetorius, Frescobaldi and more. Tickets, $5-$20 (free for 12 and under) can be purchased at the door, at 1225 Hopyard Road in Pleasanton, but no one will be turned away for lack of funds. Visit