Women on the Verge of an Aesthetic Breakthrough July 7, 1994, the first play in the monthlong women's performance series the Working Women's Festival, is actually written by a man, Pulitzer finalist Donald Margulies, but it addresses a personal-professional life-balancing act that may strike a chord with some women. Kate (Suze Allen) is a doctor working at an inner-city clinic during the O.J. Simpson affair; the disparity between the lives of her patients and her family eventually leads her to an emotional breakdown. Other festival highlights include Wilma Bonet's alternately comic and heartbreaking one-woman show about the death of her 7-year-old daughter, Good Grief, Lolita!; Seattle comedy troupe Pulp Vixens in a spoof of women-in-prison dramas, Innocent Heat; and storyteller Brenda Wong Aoki in the autobiographical street-life saga The Queen's Garden. The series kicks off tonight at 7:30 p.m. with July 7, 1994, followed by Shakiri in And My Children's Children, a movement theater piece about the Middle Passage, at 9:30 p.m. Performances continue through March 29 at the 450 Geary Studio Theater, 450 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $12-50; call 673-1172. Meanwhile, choreographer Jo Kreiter dances with sculpted "flying" poles and former Margaret Jenkins dancer Mercy Sidbury embarks on a terpsichorean journey through the deserts of the Southwest in the female choreographers' showcase Women on the Edge. It begins at 8 p.m. at the Brady Street Dance Center, 60 Brady (at Market), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call (510) 465-3144. Check upcoming calendar listings for more Women's History Month events.
One-Hour Martyrizing Joan of Arc led soldiers into battle against the English before she was accused of being a witch and burned at the stake; Courtney Love has been called a witch and worse, and has led an army of lawyers into battle against filmmaker Nick Broomfield's new movie Kurt and Courtney, which portrays her in such an unflattering light that it's the modern equivalent of burning her at the stake. Hence Impact Theater's new show, Live Through This: The New Story of Joan of Arc, which invokes Love's presence with songs from the Hole album scattered throughout the piece. Makes sense to us! In an attempt to attract younger audiences, playwright Melissa Hillman plays down direct references to the French vs. English clash in her retelling of the tale, and retools the language to create a fast food- and slang-slinging Joan for the '90s. Jessica Meyers, of Impact's Sexual Perversity in Chicago production, is Joan in this show, which begins at 8 p.m. at Eighth Street Studios, 2525 Eighth St. (at Dwight), Berkeley. Admission is $5-10; call (510) 464-4468.
Strung Out Maybe the irony of scary clowns has worn off, but puppets and puppet shows are suddenly weirdly popular in these parts, for reasons that have yet to fully reveal themselves. The latest in a string of puppet shows (hell, puppet festivals, when you count the smutty adult puppetry Wise Fool orchestrated over Valentine's Day weekend) is Once Vaudeville, in which Philadelphian performer Kevin Augustine uses (eeek!) life-size foam rubber puppets to tell the story of vaudeville performer Matty, and his struggles to maintain both family and career. When Matty's son inherits the dying vaudeville act and Matty's nearly dead sidekick Jimmy, audiences are treated to a showdown between man and puppet. Actually, a scary clown serves as a liaison between the puppets in this show, which also incorporates butoh dance and is just a ventriloquist's dummy away from being fashionably horrifying. The performance opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through April 4) at City Cabaret, 450 Geary (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $15; call 931-9707.
Lasting Laugh "Old school" hardly begins to describe the comedians booked for Veterans of Comedy Wars: A North Beach Reunion: These guys go waaay back; so far back that they all played the Purple Onion and the Hungry i when they were good places for a comic to be seen, before they became a punk and a strip club, respectively. The biggest name in the "Veterans" lineup is probably Don Knotts, whose bug-eyed shtick cracked up the old folks on The Andy Griffith Show and tickled the kids in The Ghost and Mr. Chicken. Knotts sort of fell off the entertainment world radar after the '70s, but two of the comedians appearing with him have enjoyed a renewed popularity. Fred Willard was delightful in last year's community-theater parody Waiting for Guffman as the dim but enthusiastic travel-agent-cum-thespian Ron Albertson, a nice sequel to his work in The History of White People. Shelly Berman, an enormously popular Kennedy-era comedian, meanwhile, has been all over the Internet lately since someone began circulating an excerpt from his decades-old book A Hotel Is a Place as a letter to the editor; the book, for anyone who missed it, is a droll parody of the hospitality industry, containing exchanges like the following: "Q: What does it mean when the hotel manager looks at you with tears in his eyes and says 'I'm really very sorry?' A: Nothing." Comics Bill Dana, Jack Riley, and Ronnie Schell, an SFSU alum, also appear at this benefit for the State Athletic Scholarship Fund, which is hosted by Mayor Willie Brown and begins at 8 p.m. at the McKenna Theater, 19th Avenue & Holloway, SFSU campus. Admission is $15-100; call 338-2467.
If the Spirit Moves You Axis Dance Company won't be the only thing moving this week as Center for the Arts inaugurates a new round of exhibits. Alan Rath's "New Robotic Sculpture" show includes Robot Dance, a kinetic installation of robot couples fitted with 5-foot arms made with shoulder, elbow, and wrist joints; and Friends and Acquaintances, a collection of tripod-mounted, computer-controlled, smartass creations with a penchant for unfurling their long metal tongues at onlookers. Rath's robots share the space with painting, installation, and print exhibits opening today, followed by this evening's showcase "Fierce Spirits & Hearts on Fire: Celebrate the Power of Women." The Loco Bloco Dance and Drum Ensemble, Will Power and Mohammed Bilal of hip-hop band Midnight Voices, SHE Girls Rock Band, and gay and lesbian theater collective Drama Divas are among the youthful talent slated to perform. And on Tuesday, Bill Shannon and Axis Dance Company, which spotlights work by variously physically-abled dancers, bring crutches, mime, and break-dancing to the stage in a "Keeping Critical" performance series and discussion about the aesthetics of awkwardness. The galleries open at 11 a.m.; "Fierce Spirits" begins at 6 p.m.; and Axis Dance Company performs at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 978-ARTS.
The Chronicles of NARMia "I left my heart in San Francisco," declares Garageland singer/guitarist Jeremy Eade in "Fire Away," "and I'll be fucked if I'm going back." As it turns out, Eade will be back when Garageland plays a crazy-full bill tonight at a National Association of Record Merchandisers (NARM) showcase. Sprung from New Zealand's Flying Nun Records, the label that foisted Tall Dwarfs on the world, Garageland offer more echoes of the Pixies than the new, unreleased Frank Black album in a bracing blend of chiming guitars and ghostly choruses met with blistering percussion, a moody outlook, and traces of reverb. Notable, too, are Texas trio Fastball, whose sophomore album All the Pain Money Can Buy gives rampant insecurity and a yen for escapism and the open road a tuneful polish that has "road movie soundtrack" written all over it. The Flies, the Ghost of Tony Gold, JoJo, Action Plus, Gloritone, and Systems of a Down join in the show, which begins at 9 p.m. at the Paradise Lounge, Folsom & 11th Street, S.F. Admission is $5; call 861-6906.
Hip-Hop Happening Call it a busier-than-average day in the life of Will Power, Renaissance man. The longtime Fillmore resident has kept himself occupied teaching literature classes with Writer's Corp and drama with Midnight Shakespeare, and is now overseeing the production of 2017, his hip-hop musical about AIDS in the African-American community playing at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater and featuring his hip-hop band Midnight Voices among the 30-member cast. He and the band recently released their third CD, Howling at the Moon, and will give the folks who missed their performance at the Center for the Arts opening (see Saturday) a taste of their style during an improv jazz and hip-hop set with DJ IJ on the turntables. The show begins at 9 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $5; call 861-5016.
In Bloom Huge floral designs will spill over the entryways at "Bouquets to Art," while more modest arrangements may be found in less obvious spots, peeking out of corners and crevices, or poking their heads up from under paintings at the Legion of Honor. Over the next four days, nearly 100 floral designers will converge on the museum, where they'll scour their surroundings until they find the perfect place to create designs inspired by a favorite work of art or a wash of good natural light. The public is invited to watch them in action, although the allergy-prone are advised to arrive drugged to combat the pollen from thousands of roses, carnations, tulips, and the like. Among the lectures to be presented throughout the day during the show's run: Kim Haworth's "Backyard Bouquets," today at 10 a.m., for locals who actually have yards. The show opens to the public at 9:30 a.m. (through Friday) at the California Palace of the Legion of Honor, 34th Avenue & Clement, S.F. Admission is $7; call 750-3504.