Each year as I prepare my Top 20 list of cultural events, I brace myself for a bruising few hours at the end of the selection process when I am forced to shoehorn a couple of dozen top candidates into the final 20 spots. For 2020, the Year of the Pandemic, I figured it’d be a lot easier. Compared to a “normal” year, not that much even happened culturally past the first two months, right? If anything, I’d be desperate to find enough worthy offerings.
Related stories: DONALD’S TOP 20 CULTURAL EVENTS OF 2019
And: DONALD’S TOP 20 CULTURAL EVENTS OF 2018
And: DONALD’S TOP 20 CULTURAL EVENTS OF 2017
Yet here I am once again in the final, agonizing throes of kicking out the last three or four names on my list. It says something about 2020 — and the resilience of artists in general — that so much good happened in such a lousy year.
Granted, many of these events don’t conform to expectations for a list from another year. There’s a pandemic sheen to many of them. I include some just because they are indelible in my memory by representing artistic innovation. Who knew Zoom could be used in so many ways?
A few notes about this annual list:
• The full title, I guess, would be “Donald’s Top 20 Cultural Events of the Year in the Central San Joaquin Valley.” Or, because there’s only one of me and far more offerings each year than I could ever attend (even if I went out almost every night), the most realistic way to describe this yearly endeavor would be “Donald’s Top 20 List Out Of All the Stuff He Manages To Get To.”
• “Cultural” is a pretty broad term, and I have to narrow that down a bit, too: In this case think of it as shorthand for “theater-classical-music-opera-dance-visual-arts.” As in years past, I declare up front that I cover more theater events than anything else because they’re the most likely to have repeat performances.
• I’m grouping my shout-outs by three categories: theater; music/dance/literary arts; and visual arts.
• For 2020, I asked for nominations from readers, and I include some of these on my list.
• As you read my take, remember that 1) I’m just one person; and 2) I love to get feedback. What do you agree with? What do you think I left off?
Here’s my 2020 list. Selections within categories are in alphabetical order.