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Making Waves: 100 Artists Putting the East Bay on the Map

A master list of musicians, artists, writers, dancers, directors, actors, and poets shaping the culture, all from the East Bay.



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Boots Riley, with Jermaine Fowler and Terry Crews

Photo: Pamela Gentile/SFFILM

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Daveed Diggs with spoken-word artist Rafael Casal in Blindspotting

Photo: Ariel Nava/Lionsgate

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Nijla Mu'min

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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Marcus Gardley in Black Odyssey

Photo: Devin Berne/Cal Shakes

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Sadie Barnette

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Work by Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik

Photo: Sana Javeri Kadri

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Work by Woody de Othello

Photo: Courtesy of the artist/Jessica Silverman Gallery

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Work by Marisha Farnsworth

Photo: Courtesy of the artist

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Tommy Orange

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38. Nijla Mu’min
Gate-crashing filmmaker | Oakland
This year the East Bay–raised writer-director injected a much-needed dose of diversity into SXSW with Jinn, her debut feature film, about a 17-year-old girl whose mother converts to Islam. The film received the Jury Recognition Award for writing and earned Mu’min a spot on Filmmaker’s 25 New Faces of Independent Film list.

39. Justin Tipping
Under-heralded auteur | Born in El Cerrito
Like his childhood friend Ryan Coogler, Tipping has used the East Bay as a cinematic muse: His powerful but largely overlooked 2016 feature debut, Kicks, which showed at Tribeca, was a poetic and gritty look at life growing up in Richmond; standout supporting roles for Oakland’s Mahershala Ali and Richmond’s Donté Clark, plus a soundtrack full of Yay Area bangers, give it all the components of a Bay Area cult classic.

40. Dan Krauss
Adaptable storyteller | Oakland
Krauss, 45, brought a compassionate eye to the dizzying moral complexities of end-of-life care in his Oscar-nominated 2016 short Extremis, filmed at Highland Hospital. Now the UC Berkeley lecturer is wrapping his first studio feature, a fictionalized version of his acclaimed war doc The Kill Team. The Afghanistan-set thriller stars Alexander Skarsgård and Nat Wolff.

41.-42. Kelly Duane de la Vega, Katie Galloway
Sociopolitical filmmakers | Oakland/Berkeley
The artistic partners behind the 2016 documentary The Return, a hit at Tribeca, excel at painting three-dimensional portraits of those on the fringes of society—the poor, the incarcerated, the people left behind. Galloway’s latest, The Pushouts, picks up where the seminal 1994 high school doc School Colors left off, following high school dropouts and their encounters with the criminal justice system.

43. Daveed Diggs
Midas-touched actor | Born in Oakland
What’s a rapper turned Broadway star to do after winning a Grammy, a Tony, and the hearts and minds of America? If you’re Diggs (at left, with Bay Area spoken-word artist Rafael Casal), you keep repping the Bay. Working with Casal, Diggs co­wrote and starred in Blindspotting, about an ex-con who comes home to Oakland, which garnered major buzz this year at Sundance. The film will get a wide release this summer from Lionsgate.

44. Itamar Moses
Broadway’s late bloomer | Born in Berkeley
Berkeley High’s most famous playwright (his ode to his alma mater, Yellowjackets, premiered at Berkeley Rep in 2008), Moses long ago graduated to the national limelight—his Bach at Leipzig and The Four of Us have been staged across the country. But last fall, he entered the national consciousness in an even bigger way: The musical The Band’s Visit, whose script he adapted for the stage, became a surprise hit on Broadway, where it’s running through this fall.

45. Philip Kan Gotanda
Pan-Pacific playwright | Berkeley
One of the preeminent Asian American voices in American theater (After the War, The Avocado Kid, The Wind Cries Mary), Gotanda has settled into his career’s second act as a professor of theater at UC Berkeley—but that doesn’t mean his influence has waned. A revival of The Dream of Kitamura was staged at Zellerbach this spring, and last fall, Los Angeles’s East West Players recruited Danny Glover to reprise his role as the lead in Gotanda’s 1999 play Yohen. Closer to home, Gotanda’s adaptation of Rashomon was recently staged by Ubuntu Theater Project.

46. Jonathan Spector
Script flipper | Oakland
It’s been a busy year for Spector, the prolific East Bay playwright: In March, Aurora Theatre staged his anti-vaxxer satire Eureka Day, about obnoxious parents at a liberal Berkeley prep school; this month, Custom Made Theatre hosts the world premiere of Good. Better. Best. Bested., about a horde of Las Vegas hedonists begrudgingly confronting a major international catastrophe. As in previous works (FTW, Adult Swim), Spector uses incisive wit to point out hypocrisy and interpersonal tensions in a fundamentally Bay Area way.

47. Ariel Craft
Theater revisionist | Berkeley
Craft, 29, has already left her mark on Bay Area theater through biting reinter­pretations of the classics, such as her 2016 staging of The Awakening for the Breadbox, the company she founded in 2012; last year’s Phèdre at Cutting Ball, where she’ll take over as artistic director this summer; and, memorably, the highbrow-lowbrow Frankenplay MacBitch, also from 2017.

48. Marcus Gardley
The Bard of the Bay | Born in Oakland
This appears to be the year that Gardley, the hugely influential playwright behind The House That Will Not Stand and Love Is a Dream House in Lorin, takes his Bay Area curtain call: In the fall, Cal Shakes will reprise his widely acclaimed Black Odyssey, and in March, Ubuntu Theater Project staged a moving rendition of his Dance of the Holy Ghosts. Beloved as Gardley is here, though, he’s now a national figure after serving for several years as playwright in residence at Victory Gardens Theater in Chicago.

Page four: Art