31 Things to Do in October: Frankenstein in Berkeley, John Waters in Oakland, a Napa Beer Festival and More

blues brews and bbq

A Napa festival pours beer instead of wine, the Mill Valley Film Festival is back and John Waters is hosting a Halloween Meltdown in Oakland. What spooktacular things will entice you out of the house this month?

Planet Earth Fights Back

phyllis thelen
Photo Courtesy of Phyllis Thelen

One of Marin’s cultural treasures, experimental artist Phyllis Thelen opened a new show at MarinMOCA in September. The long-time San Rafael resident and founder of Art Works Downtown places nature at the heart of a new show that brings awareness to the environmental tipping point we are facing. With all new works depicting environmental disasters, Thelen’s sculptures and “wallworks” allude to the results of human impacts –pollution, overpopulation and more – on Our Mother and only terrestrial home while demonstrating our precarious perch and power to fight back. “For over fifty years, Marin has provided a safe and supportive environment for me and my art,” Thelen says. “That is why I feel so free to expand my mission to celebrate and defend nature into the political arena. The earth is in trouble and it is important for each of us to  save it.” This show is one small step to give the earth a voice while helping protect it from ourselves, through November 7.

Oct 1 Bacchae Before

Bacchae before life
Photo courtesy of Hope Mohr Dance

With a dance theater project inspired by the tragedies of gender reveal parties and Anne Carson’s BakkhaiHope Mohr Dance returns to live performance with an ancient story of the murder of Pentheus, King of Thebes, at the hands of his own mother, through October 2.

Oct 2 Blues, Brews and BBQ

blues brews and bbq

Downtown Napa shifts its focus to beer with a day dedicated to the frothy beverage with 12 microbreweries including Saint Archer and Hop Valley, paired with an ideal culinary partner, plus eight bands such as I*Ko Yaya, Andre Thierry and the Marshall Law Band, and maybe some zydeco if y’all behave.

Oct 3 The Heart

San Francisco’s Antenna Theater

A series of events organized by San Francisco’s Antenna Theater means an opportunity to join in watching a contrail heart as it emerges above the Golden Gate Bridge or support many of the theater’s wishes of love or help create a royal barge for Queen Calafia, the fictional queen of the island of California, first introduced by sixteenth-century poet Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo.

Oct 4 Elements of Nature

elements of nature

A three series collaboration between Oakland-based SLATE Contemporary and Cornerstone’s onsite SBHG Gallery means a show featuring five local, mixed media artists including Robert Buelteman, who utilizes a unique high voltage electricity and a fiber-optically delivered light system to cast plants in photographs, through November 7.

Oct 5 HellaSecret

The secret comedy lineup is brand new and back at Public Works in San Francisco’s Mission District with a two drink minimum (hello, can of Jack Daniels Tennessee Honey!) and a fully seated show.

Oct 6 Double Trouble 

Enrique Chagoya’s satirical creations and his partner, Kara Maria’s canvases are part of a combined show that explores themes of immigration, ecological collapse and power conflicts between humans and the natural world, through January 2, 2022.

Oct 7 Mill Valley Film Festival

mill valley film festival

Back for its 44th year, MVFF will once again feature online and in-person screenings and events throughout the Bay Area, including at CineArts Sequoia in Mill Valley and at Christopher B. Smith Rafael Film Center in San Rafael as well as a selection of films at the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, through October 17.

Oct 8 Kitchen Gizmos & Gadgets

kitchen gadgets

Over 3,000 kitchen utensils and food pamphlets from the quirky collection of food and wine writer and editor Kathleen Thompson Hill reflects an obsession with antique kitchen utensils but provide a window into cultural, social and economic trends throughout the ages in a show at the Napa Museum, through November 28.

Oct 9 Johan Hagemeyer

Johan Hagemeyer

A life-changing meeting with Alfred Stieglitz turned a fruit farmer, who first arrived in the US in 1900, into a renowned photographer whose work was widely influenced by his circle of friends, many of whom’s work appears in this exhibition, through November 14.

Oct 10 Renaissance Faire

The joust may be a favorite highlight of an event in Hollister dedicated to life from 1300-1700 in Europe but themed weekends mean Oct 9-10 are dedicated to German mercenaries and their ilk as they ring in the harvest season with ale and delights from the Alamanni, Teutons and Goth tribes.

Oct 11 Dance Film Festival

Over a hundred long- and short-form films, a mix of in-person and virtual experiences, capture the essence of movement and its practitioners and includes Australia’s “Firestarter: The Story of Bangarra” and the California premiere of “Coppelia,” which combines live-action dance with animation, through October 24.

Oct 12 High Water

Unmoored by internal tidal shifts, artist Karima Cammell looked for a place to make a safe landing, utilizing our very human power of transformation to face down anxiety, discord and fear through art which is presented at the Holton Studio Gallery in Berkeley, through October 30.

Oct 13 The Doobie Brothers

Harmonizing since 1971’s eponymously named album, the band from San Jose make an appearance in Mountain View alongside Michael McDonald who has joined the band.

Oct 14 Meet Us Quickly With Your Mercy

Meet Us Quickly With Your Mercy
Photo courtesy of RJ Muna

The second in a trilogy of outdoor aerial public art performances and a world premiere in San Francisco addresses the devastating effects of mass incarceration, with choreography by Jo Kreiter and research and text by 2020 Pulitzer Prize finalist Rahsaan Thomas, who lives behind bars at Marin’s San Quentin State Prison, through October 17.

Oct 15 Nocturne-X


A new program from local arts non-profit Grey Area invites visitors into a multi-sensory journey of a massive alien forest of extraterrestrial flora that responds to touch, sound, and movement, each in its own unique way, through January 15.

Oct 16­ Halloween Meltdown

Filmmaker John Waters will host a seasonally-themed Oakland event complete with 12+ garage rock acts such as Osees, the Mummies, the Gories and Seth Bogart, among others, and a costume contest hosted by Oakland musicians Brontez Purnell and Shannon Shaw, through October 17.

Oct 17 The Well Known Strangers

the well known strangers
Photography by Penni Gladstone

Opening for Bill Kirchen at Novato’s Hopmonk Tavern, San Francisco’s country soul band is on tour in support of their latest EP “King Tide.”

Oct 18 Temple Grandin

The autism and animal behavior specialist and professor of Animal Science at Colorado State University discusses personal experiences and her new book, Navigating Autism: 9 Mindsets For Helping Kids on the Spectrum, to empower parent and child mindsets and develop the full potential of every child.

Oct 19 Sandor Katz

Food nerd and culinary maker alert: the king of fermentation is hosting an online event to discuss his newest book, Fermentation Journeys: Recipes, Techniques, and Traditions from Around the World, and regale viewers with a show and tell from his home kitchen in a virtual event. 

Oct 20 Flower Power Happy Hour

Ferry Building flowers

Buff up your outdoor holiday tablescapes with floral designer Sharla Flock of Sharla Flock Designs, Bloom Tuesday, and The School of Bloom hosts who hosts a hands-on workshop with seasonal and locally grown blooms, paired with wine from the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant.

Oct 21 Chef Bryant Terry

The Chef-in-Residence at the Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD), sits down with  Check Please! Bay Area Producer Cecilia Phillips for a conversation about food justice and his new book, Black Food, followed by a tasting of some of his favorite dishes.

Oct 22 Dancing Lessons

A Broadway dancer and a science professor, each coping with physical and emotional challenges, forge an unexpected friendship in a heartfelt play at Petaluma’s recently reopened Cinnabar Theater, through October 31.

Oct 23 Fun Run

Though there are two days  dedicated to discussion and debate around cell-cultured meat, poultry and seafood at scale, the second day of the Cultured Meat Symposium opens with a run for charity down San Francisco’s Embarcadero.

Oct 24 Javelins and Jack-o-Lanterns

jack o lantern event

A family event at Nick’s Cove invites guests to carve pumpkins, set them on spikes, then watch jack-o-lanterns emerge atop the javelins as the sun sets over Tomales Bay.

Oct 25 Jungle

What started as an electronic music project by British producer duo Josh Lloyd and Tom McFarland morphed into a band that is releasing its third album, Loving in Stereo,  that might be more disco and danceable for 2021 audiences.

Oct 26  Fidelio

Beethoven’s single opera, often considered a precursor to his Ninth Symphony, considers issues of liberty and justice through its protagonists, Leonore and Florestan, that were roiling Europe at the time of its writing.

Oct 27 Take 3

Photo courtesy of RAWdance
Photo courtesy of RAWdance

A virtual event from RAWDance includes two works, Shadow (part 1), a much-delayed world premiere that explores our ever-expanding digital debris, and The Healer, a meditation on health and wellness dedicated to choreographer Katerina Wong’s late aunt, through November 7.

Oct 28 The Immortal Reckoning

The Immortal Reckoning

A fully immersive, haunted experience from the minds behind The Terror Vault updates performance for the spooky season with a supernatural adventure, through October 31.

Oct 29 Continuity


Like Interactive Van Gogh, the teamlab project at the Asian Art Museum invites participants to step into a lush imagery ecosystem, this version drawn from nature and East Asian art, of a moving landscape of blooming flowers and darting fish, through November 29. 

Oct 30 Below the Lighthouse

The first solo exhibition in the U.S. of the work of New York-based artists Zakkubalan,  a.k.a. Neo S. Sora and Albert Tholen, features their 2017 collaboration with composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, async – volume – , a 24-channel video installation that serves as a portrait of the composer and his creative process, and new work created in response to San Francisco’s David Ireland House, through February 19, 2022.

Oct 31 Frankenstein

Mary Shelley’s classic story of love and loss (dare we say a love story?) is presented by a corp of actors and puppeteers who will create a silent animated film in real time while an immersive score is performed live by four musicians in Berkeley.

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Christina Mueller

Christina Mueller is a long-time Bay Area food writer. She hails from the East Coast and has spent way too much time in South America and Europe. She discovered her talent as a wordsmith in college and her love of all things epicurean in grad school. She has written for Condé Nast Contract Publishing, Sunset, and the Marin Independent Journal, among others. She volunteers with California State Parks and at her child’s school, and supports the Marin Audubon Society, PEN America, and Planned Parenthood. When she is not drinking wine by a fire, she is known to spend time with her extended family.

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