Catholic Boy Comeback Restless energy and a keen eye are two of Jim Carroll's best attributes, although his heroin habit nearly eclipsed both. Back in the '60s, Carroll was a hoops-shooting, smartass NYC kid whose athletic and academic skills had to compete with his drug use, which began early in his teen years and dragged into the '70s. Carroll laid bare his experiences with drugs, sex, and crime in a brutally honest and funny journal, which became The Basketball Diaries. He turned from poet to musician with the encouragement of Patti Smith, and created some edgy, punk-influenced underground classics, including the autobiographical "People Who Died." After a stint with Bay Area band Amsterdam (he kicked heroin in Bolinas), he moved back to Manhattan, and to writing. Carroll airs his talent for lyrical irony in a spoken-word show -- the Killer B's open at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Admission is $12.50; call 885-0750.
Know Your 'Wrights Broadway's next big thing may be breaking out soon, and you could say you saw it first at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival 19, a series of staged readings of new plays and plays in progress, overseen by Artistic Director Jayne Wenger. Sam Shepard, Anna Deavere Smith, and David Henry Hwang are among the more than 200 playwrights who have used the series as a public training ground. This year's installment includes Holly Hughes' Snatches of Saginaw, a narrative on growing up gay in America, and Robert Alexander's A Preface to the Alien Garden, a deconstruction of inner-city turmoil that blends hip-hop and sci-fi styles. The first performance, Brighde Mullins' Topographical Eden, takes place on All Souls Day 1976 at the Buddha Buffet in Las Vegas. It begins at 8:30 p.m. (the fest continues through Sept. 22) at the Magic Theater, Fort Mason, Bldg. D, S.F. Admission is $9; call 263-3986.
Proud, Part 2 The New Conservatory Theater Center's first series of works by gay playwrights saw sold-out houses and extended runs, and generated a second season, called "Moving Forward With Pride." Among the works scheduled for this round are Edwin Sanchez's erotic drama Trafficking in Broken Hearts; The Lonely Planet, Steven Dietz's take on love and fear in the age of AIDS; and the opening production, Fortune and Men's Eyes, John Herbert's 1967 story of incarcerated Canadian youth, which previews at 8 p.m. (and continues through Oct. 26; the "Pride" series continues through July 19, 1997) at the NCTC, 25 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $16-20; call 861-8972.
Voices of Experience Studs Terkel's books Working, Race, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Good War have relayed various aspects of the American experience as told to him by Americans. His latest, Coming of Age, examines the familiar themes of life and work in the 20th century. Oral historian Sydney Lewis, who has worked with Terkel, and who interviewed kids aged 13 to 19 for her most recent book "A Totally Alien Life Form" -- Teenagers, will have an onstage conversation with Terkel about his dealings with the people, both for his books and on his 38-year-old talk-radio show. The conversation begins at 8 p.m. at Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $16; call 392-4400.
Hootin' and Hollerin' Before Reverend Horton Heat there was Ronnie Dawson, but this week marks their simultaneous appearance. Dawson, nicknamed "The Blonde Bomber," is one of the original rockabilly masters. His rock 'n' roll guitar swing, perfected over four decades, is embellished with blues and country licks, and his influence shows in a second wave of rockabilly players, among them the Cramps (who covered his hit "Rockin' Bones") and fellow Texan Heat. The Reverend isn't really a man of the cloth, but the religious fervor and trashy good humor he and his band bring to twangy old-style rockabilly is genuinely touching. Sleepy LaBeef opens for Dawson at 10 p.m. at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St., S.F. Admission is $5; call 626-1409. The Lunachicks and Reacharound open for Reverend Horton Heat at 8 p.m. at the Warfield, 982 Market, S.F. Admission is $15; call 775-7722.
Fools Rush In If It's a Wonderful Life had been a musical comedy, it might have been Shlemiel the First. Based on the play and short stories of Isaac Bashevis Singer and set to klezmer, the buoyant violin-driven music of traditional Jewish celebrations, Shlemiel tells the tale of a frazzled angel who is supposed to distribute a bag of fools evenly throughout the world but accidentally drops his entire load on the town of Chelm. The fool Shlemiel is sent from Chelm to spread the word but gets lost in town and winds up seeing his life in a new way. American Repertory Theater Director Robert Brustein and choreographer David Gordon collaborated on the show. It previews at 8 p.m. (and continues through Oct. 13) at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary, S.F. Admission is $14-47.50; call 749-2228.
Rebel Reads It's no secret that Maya Angelou's I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings holds a top spot on the fundamentalists' library hit list for its "pornographic" content, but who would have suspected Roald Dahl's James and the Giant Peach? Folks in Stafford County, Va., did, and removed it from library shelves because, some said, it "encouraged children to disobey their parents." The San Francisco Library celebrates Banned Book Week with a rare-book auction at 4 p.m. today and the sale of over 100,000 books from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday at Fort Mason Center, S.F. Admission is free for regular events, $15 for the auction; call 557-4257.