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Arts & Culture

San Diego weekend arts events: 'Kitschmas,' opera and unity through dance

A golden football player ornament is shown against a Christmas tree, holding a small wreath instead of a football.
Courtesy of Brian and Ryan
An ornament from Brian and Ryan's annual "Kitschmas" installation is shown in an undated photo.

Top picks

Brian & Ryan's 'A Kitschmas Pageant'

Visual art, Music
"A Kitschmas Pageant" is a festive, kitschy and artistic holiday-themed installation and performance spectacular at the Athenaeum Art Center in Logan Heights. On view will be a delightfully low-brow, strange, colorful exhibition of ornaments, animatronics, dioramas, sculptures and more.

The exhibit is informed by the duo Brian & Ryan's commitment to kitsch as an art form.

"By and large, I feel like an artist's responsibility is to shine light onto things that we sometimes overlook."
Ryan Bulis, artist in Brian & Ryan

"I think not having access to much of contemporary art or art museums growing up, most of my exposure to visual culture was through objects and images, comic books, things that many artists probably are inspired by. But I think being able to appreciate something that's mass produced and maybe cheaply produced — or standing in line at 7-Eleven and looking at the gumball machines with the little toys inside and and just appreciating these, the smallest of gestures that somebody designed, that somebody spent time and energy making decisions," said Ryan Bulis. "By and large, I feel like an artist's responsibility is to shine light onto things that we sometimes overlook."


At the opening reception, the artists will be on-site for performances, and will also feature festive DJ sets and performance art from local artists like Joe Cantrell, San Diego New Verbal Workshop, movement and "spectacle" from Yvette Dibos, live, giant sock knitting from Michelle Montjoy and more.

Details: Brian & Ryan: "A Kitschmas Pageant." Opens with a reception 6-9 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1. On view through Dec. 30. Athenaeum Art Center, 1955 Julian Ave., Logan Heights. Free.

For more arts events, or to submit your own, visit the KPBS/Arts Calendar. If you want more time to plan, get the KPBS/Arts newsletter in your inbox every Thursday to see event picks for the weeks ahead.

San Diego Dance Theater: 'Pieces of Us'

Choregraphy by Jean Isaacs, Terry Wilson, Kim Epifano and Randé Dorn will be performed by San Diego Dance Theater for their upcoming production, "Pieces of Us." The dances explore themes of unity and beauty, particularly in the face of division and differences.

"Pieces of Us"
Leo A. Huerta
Dancers from San Diego Dance Theater are shown in an undated photo

SDDT's Light Box Theater is an understated, low-key but lovely space to catch a performance, and SDDT's choreography and shows are approachable, artful and diverse.


Details: "Pieces of Us." 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1 and Saturday, Dec. 2; 2 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3. Light Box Theater, 2590 Truxton Rd. Ste. 205, Liberty Station. $20-$30.

San Diego Opera: 'El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering)'

Theater, Music
Librettist (that's an opera word for "writer") and director Leonard Foglia returns to San Diego Opera for a production of "El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering)." It's a Christmas-themed mariachi opera that follows two women and their families in Michoacán, Mexico, while their husbands are braceros in the U.S.

A production of "El Milagro del Recuerdo" shows a man and a woman, seated, pointing at the sky. Three mariachi performers stand in the background, holding guitars.
Lynn Lane
Performers from a 2019 Houston Grand Opera production of "El Milagro del Recuerdo" are shown.

The music for the opera was composed by Javier Martínez, who is the son of the late José "Pepe" Martínez. Pepe composed several other mariachi operas with Foglia, including "El Pasado Nunca se Termina" and "Cruzar La Cara De La Luna," produced by San Diego Opera in 2015 and 2013.

Details: "El Milagro del Recuerdo (The Miracle of Remembering)." 7:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 1, and 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3. San Diego Civic Theatre, 1100 Third Ave., downtown. $13-$325.

Andrea Beatriz Arango: 'Iveliz Explains It All' One Book, One San Diego Author Event

Newbery Honor author Andrea Beatriz Arango's debut novel, "Iveliz Explains It All," is a captivating novel-in-verse about a seventh-grade girl struggling with mental health, grief and what it means to speak her mind. It's also the One Book, One San Diego selection for teens, and Arango will visit San Diego this weekend for a series of events.

I recently spoke with Arango about the book. Check out the interview here.

Details: One Book, One San Diego Author Event with Andrea Beatriz Arango. In-person: 4 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 1 at the Vista Branch Library, 700 Eucalyptus Ave., Vista. Free. Virtual: 10:30-11:30 on Friday, Dec. 1. Register here.

December Nights

Music, Dance, Food and more
December Nights is upon us again. If you're willing to steel yourself against the transportation woes (this is an understatement) and the crowds, you'll be rewarded with so much art and culture. Museums are open late, and most of them are free during December Nights, plus dozens of performances across ten different stages throughout Balboa Park. Don't miss regular performances in the Casa del Prado Center Courtyard by San Diego Civic Dance Arts, puppet shows at the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theater, the San Diego Gay Men's Chorus and the Santa Lucia presentation from the House of Sweden at the International Cottages Stage. Find the full schedule here.

Balboa December Nights
City of San Diego
Balboa December Nights

Shuttles will run between the City College transit hub, the El Prado and Cabrillo Bridge and various points downtown, plus a free bike valet. Also new this year: ice skating!

Details: December Nights 2023. From 3-11 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday. The "Family Zone" is 3-9 p.m. on Friday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Balboa Park. Free.

Live music picks

Thursday: Aja Monet at The Loft (blues); Oh He Dead and We the Commas at Casbah (soul/rock/R&B); Three Legged Dog, No Car Garage and Buckets at Soda Bar (indie/rock); Luna and Dummy at Belly Up (indie); Clozee at SOMA (dance/electronic).

Friday: Mondo Cozmo at Casbah (indie/rock); Kes and Teddyson John at Music Box (dance/soca/calypso); Highly Suspect at House of Blues (rock).

Saturday: Flim Flam Revue at Whistle Stop Bar (folk/alt); Songwriter Sanctuary featuring Thea the Band, Josh Weinstein and Cheyenne Benton at Normal Heights United Methodist Church (singer-songwriter); Poison Hearts A.C., 12 Gauge Trixie and The Millionaires at Casbah (punk/rock/metal); The Menzingers and Cloud Nothings at Observatory North Park (punk).

Sunday: Memory Leak, Crush23 and Island of Thieves at Soda Bar (TK); Eddie Spaghetti at Whistle Stop Bar (alt/rock/Americana); Me First and the Gimme Gimmes at Observatory North Park (rock/alt).

More art and culture events


"Star of Ocotillo" by Herbert Siguenza
This brand new play, billed as "a new nativity play," is about a young undocumented girl hiding in the desert near the border, and a wealthy couple and their friends who have built a lavish home and lifestyle in the area … and what happens when their worlds collide. Siguenza is one of San Diego's most prolific playwrights, and he will co-direct the production with James P. Darvas.

OnStage Playhouse offers donation-based ticketing, starting at $15, part of their push to broaden their audience and alleviate any barriers to seeing live theater.

Details: OnStage Playhouse: "Star of Ocotillo." Dec. 1-23. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and 5 p.m. Sunday. OnStage Playhouse, 291 Third Ave., Chula Vista. $15+.


San Diego Master Chorale's Messiah Sing
This annual production from San Diego Master Chorale brings the festive classic, Handel's "Messiah" to St. Paul's Cathedral. Bring your own score to sing along, or rent one at the venue — or just sit back and listen.

Details: San Diego Master Chorale: "Messiah Sing." 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 3. St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, 2728 Sixth Ave., Banker's Hill. $0-$30.

Dim Sum & Jazz: Lady Dottie & The Diamonds
Golden Island Dim Sum restaurant continues their long-running Dim Sum & Jazz dinner series with the beloved and award-winning band, Lady Dottie & the Diamonds. They'll cover hits by Billie Holiday, Smokey Robinson, Ike & Tina Turner, Bessie Smith, Etta James and lots more. Dancing is encouraged!

Details: Lady Dottie & The Diamonds - Dim Sum & Jazz. 6 p.m. (seating), 6:30-8:30 p.m. (music) on Friday, Dec. 1. Golden Island Dim Sum, 10660 Camino Ruiz, Mira Mesa. Free admission, dinner sold separately. For reservations, call 858-578-8800.

Lillian Gordis plays Bach
Harpsichord virtuoso Lillian Gordis will perform a set of four Bach preludes and fugues on the harpsichord, a quintessentially baroque piano-like instrument known for its sparkling, plucked tones.

Details: Lillian Gordis plays Bach. 7:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3. St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral, 2728 Sixth Ave., Banker's Hill. $10-$25.

Visual art

Anne Labovitz: 'The Blue Hour'
Currently on view at the Athenaeum in La Jolla is a site-specific exhibition by Minneapolis-based artist Anne Labovitz that feels immersive. Massive, vividly-hued textiles are suspended from the Athenaeum's ceiling beams, and large wall works play with light, color and space.

Artwork from Anne Labovitz's exhibition "The Blue Hour" is shown installed at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in an undated photo.
Daniel Lang
Artwork from Anne Labovitz's exhibition "The Blue Hour" is shown installed at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library in an undated photo.

Details: "The Blue Hour." On view through Jan. 13, 2024. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Athenaeum Music and Arts Library, 1008 Wall St., La Jolla. Free.

'Boundaries Edge' Artist Walkthrough
This group exhibition at the new North County gallery space Techne Art Center features landscape- and boundary-themed work. Local artists Jay Bell, Catherine Ruane, Jennifer Anne Bennett, Adriene Hughes, Melanie Taylor and Rebecca Webb will be on-site Saturday for a walkthrough and discussion of the exhibition.

Details: "Boundaries Edge." 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 2. Techne Art Center, 1609 Ord Way, Oceanside. Free.


Ballet Folklórico de Los Ángeles and Mariachi Garibaldi: 'Nochebuena'
Kick off your holiday traditions with a ballet folklórico and mariachi production about the Christmas traditions in Mexico, featuring folk tales, dance, and music, under the stars at UC San Diego.

Details: "Nochebuena: A Christmas Spectacular." 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 2. Epstein Family Amphitheatre, 9500 Gilman Dr., UC San Diego. $20-$95.