Maus in the House Although his children's book Open Me ... I'm a Dog! charms with a wagging pop-up tail and soft, furry panels, Art Spiegelman isn't really a kids cartoonist. Ever since his '60s-era editorship at Raw, an anthology of cutting-edge comics and graphic design, Spiegelman has uncovered for his mostly adult audience the overlooked history and surprising potential of illustration. His graphic novel series Maus told the serious tale of his strained relationship with his father, a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz, and was one of the rare creations of its kind to win a Pulitzer. His experimental bent also emerges in his editorship of Exquisite Corpse, a surreal chain story created by comic-strippers including Matt Groening, Robert Crumb, and Peter Bagge, who were only allowed to look at the three preceding panels before adding their own to the story. Spiegelman's illustrated lecture tonight will probably address the controversies of his career as well, including a certain Easter-tax time New Yorker cover depicting a crucified bunny, and Tijuana Bibles: America's Forbidden Funnies 1930s-1950s, his illustrated history of the once-popular pornographic comic pamphlets. Spiegelman speaks at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.
Brave New Worlds Two of the dance world's better companies play with narrative thread -- and the lack of same -- in two evening-length works running locally this week. The last time we saw the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company was in Still/Here, a piece based on tales of survival from people with AIDS, cancer, and other life-threatening illnesses (the same piece prompted a fiery cultural debate after The New Yorker's Arlene Croce categorized it as "victim art"). Now, Jones has created We Set Out Early ... Visibility Was Poor, which isn't overtly "about" anything, but is meant to invoke the communal experience of witness. The show begins at 8 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $18-36; call (510) 642-9988. Meanwhile, Montreal's dynamic and theatrical O Vertigo company offers more narrative than is its custom with La Béte (The Beast Within). Here, a dour Victorian-type lady writer is suddenly corralled by some very wild characters; we're left to sort out whether they're her literary creations, or incarnations of her (and our) inner demons. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sunday) at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $18-28; call 392-4400.
Would You Buy a Used Car From These People? Forget the witches and monsters and ghouls from the haunted houses of your youth, and imagine instead that you've been cornered by a pack of mustachioed slimeballs. They're wearing polyester leisure suits. They have very bad breath. They smile and call you "little lady," and they won't let you go until you plunk down your money for a beat-up Olds with a busted transmission. Eeek! That's the sort of horror awaiting guests at the "Haunted Used Car Lot," an art installation and costume party where guests show up wearing the most tasteless outfits they can muster and proceed to spend the evening torturing one another until the "Creepy Used Car Salesman Costume Contest" is over and two of them have been crowned king and queen of the lot. Illustrator David Fremont, whose recognizable public work has included rock posters for Beck and Guided by Voices, collaborated with Flower Frankenstein, proprietor of the art gallery Kitty Katty's (formerly Scairy Hairy Toys) to create the "cars," which are smallish paper constructions with soft, squeaky animal-toy heads. Guests can pick up a fake mustache at the door and wander through the shiny pink confines of the lot beginning at 8 p.m. at Kitty Katty's, 3804 17th St. (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-6543.
Good to Go The Lorraine Hansberry Theater's '98-99 season opener marks the first time August Wilson's Jitney has been produced on the West Coast, but not the first time the company has performed his work -- past seasons have seen Joe Turner's Come and Gone and the Pulitzer-winning Fences. Jitney is the seventh chapter in Wilson's decade-by-decade, 10-play cycle chronicling 100 years of African-American history and culture. Because the Hansberry primarily stages work by black playwrights, this production also adds a kind of footnote to Wilson's battle last year with the New Republic's Robert Brustein over the divide between black and white theater. In this installment, set in Wilson's hometown of Pittsburgh in the '70s, a group of gypsy cab drivers has carved out a business in the black neighborhoods spurned by established companies; when their business falters, the drivers are forced to consider their options. Jitney previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Nov. 22) at the Lorraine Hansberry Theater, 620 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is $22-26; call 474-8800.
Better Than Your Average Grammy Oh, sure, the Soy Bomb guy was funny and everything, but Wammies '98, SF Weekly's local music awards show, has just upped the ante with sanctified performances by Circus Redickuless (the Molotov Malcontent breathes fire and walks on glass!), plus free-form jazz poetry from Beth Lisick Ordeal, Rube Waddell's gut-bucket blues, and salsa courtesy of Mazacote. Presenters go live all the way, scorning lame banter and teleprompters, while bands vie for the title in categories from soul/funk to punk to Americana/roots. The famous Bacardi-breathing Aquamen and Me First & the Gimme Gimmes (featuring members of NOFX and the Swingin' Utters) rock the post-show party. The Wammies begin at 8 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $10; call 474-0365.
Plugging the Unplugged More evidence that First Amendment benefits don't come cheap: the Spitfire Tour, a caravan of musicians, actors, and activists speaking on social issues. Rage Against the Machine's Zach de la Rocha helped organize the tour and its talent roster, which shifts slightly with each stop. One thing that never changes, however, is the nightly speech about personal responsibility delivered by Kennedy, whose peculiar talent is MTV VJ (and whose vision of personal responsibility includes working under a pseudonym). Booking the anti-abortion, anti-gun control GOP supporter is meant to open debate -- "People need not accept the spoon fed irrational crap during their intellectually formative years," as Kennedy herself correctly notes -- on an otherwise left-leaning tour that includes moderator and former Nirvana bassist Krist Novoselic speaking on free speech and censorship, actor Woody Harrelson on hemp and the environment, activist Todd McCormick on medical marijuana, Spearhead's Michael Franti on social change, and X singer Exene Cervenka on society's toll on mental health. The show incorporates music, video, and a Q&A session with the audience, and begins at 5 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $16-24; call (718) 522-7171.
Rendezvous With a View Look to the west for Noe Valley shops banked by Twin Peaks; turn south and watch the fog creeping in from the Sunset and drifting across Daly City; to the east, industrial ships and a distant, hazy glimpse of Oakland; to the north, the city, the Bay Bridge, and on very clear days, the Golden Gate Bridge. The Bernal Heights Fiesta on the Hill affords views in every direction, although some of these will require a scramble up the backside of Bernal's big hill or the adjacent plateau at Holly Park. The fiesta itself shows off the comfortable and generally sleepy neighborhood, where a slew of artists and craftspeople live and will be setting up shop. Fair standards include international food booths and a live music stage with bands including Johnny Nitro and Kombo Kwela, as well as a pumpkin patch and carnival games for kids. The party begins at 11 a.m. on Cortland Avenue between Ellsworth and Bennington, S.F. Admission is free; call 206-2140.
The Public Life of Privates Let's just get this out of the way right now: vagina. Get used to hearing it said out loud, again and again, because playwright Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues are devoted to that part of a woman's anatomy and its multiple roles. Ensler mentions up front that plenty of people aren't comfortable with the word itself, but despite what folks might guess, the monologues aren't so much New Agey touchy-feely as hilarious, tragic, and frank. Ensler interviewed hundreds of women, collecting private nicknames that vary by region, and culling a breadth of experiences, from a 6-year-old girl with questions to a 72-year-old woman who hadn't been "down there" since 1953 ("No. It had nothing to do with Eisenhower," she demurred). She adds an interview with Whoopi Goldberg and her own observations on the birth of her granddaughter. The original New York staging this spring featured readings by Winona Ryder and Glenn Close to benefit agencies combating domestic violence; this time, Ensler takes the stage alone at a benefit for Brava! for Women in the Arts Theater Center. The show also features music by Tuck & Patti and a post-show dessert reception. It begins at 8 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $125-500; call (510) 843-8048.
Four Songwriters and a Microphone Songs of heartbreak and loneliness, as well as the occasional ode to a great ballplayer, sound about right for an all-acoustic guys' night out with, in descending order, singer/songwriters John Doe, Pete Droge, Glenn Phillips, and Steve Poltz. While his X bandmate and ex-wife Exene hits the road with the Spitfire Tour (see Sunday), Doe returns from the X reunion to the rootsier, road-weary storytelling sound of John Doe Thing, minus the loud guitars that threatened to drown him out when he played Kilowatt last year with a couple of young punks. Droge, on the other hand, has only gotten louder with his album Spacey and Shakin, on which he moves away from his debut hit "If You Don't Love Me (I'll Kill Myself)" and dips into his new thesaurus and the psychedelia of the Pebbles back catalog. Jewel songwriting collaborator Poltz and Phillips, better known as Toad the Wet Sprocket's frontman, join in. The show starts at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $13; call 885-0750.