Pulling Strings The question posed by the San Francisco Art Commission is "What Is the Difference Between Stripping and Playing the Violin?" Exotic dancers Daisy Anarchy and Tho Vong will perform on Market Street and the Masaoka Orchestra will play in United Nations Plaza in a performance series designed to generate dialogue on the subject. Unionizing efforts are the most obvious local common denominator, but a panel discussion with sex industry activists, held at 7 p.m. at the SEIU Union Hall, 1390 Market, S.F., will challenge arguments based on aesthetics, moral climate, and class distinctions. Anarchy dances at noon on Thursday along Market between Fifth and Steuart streets; Vong dances at noon on Tuesday along Market between Castro and Church. The orchestra performs March 7 and 27 at noon in United Nations Plaza, Market between Seventh and Eighth streets, S.F. Admission to all events is free; call 252-2486.
Cool and Composed Happy audiences will be belting out show tunes long after they've left the theater if 42nd Street Moon's weekend show "From Alpha to Omega" does its job. This fund-raiser inaugurates the troupe's fifth Composer-Lyricist Festival with a collection of hits from upcoming productions, including Cole Porter's sweet serenade "You're the Top" and George Cohan's wartime anthem "Over There," along with novelty songs the season won't feature, like "Destry Rides Again" and "So Long 174th Street," which wasn't as catchy as "42nd Street," evidently. The Saturday performance includes a party with desserts, champagne, and door prizes. Tonight's performance begins at 8 p.m. (also 8 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday) at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $25-35; call 861-8972.
All the Way Live The San Francisco/New York Young Choreographers Exchange, titled "Live From New York," is a bicoastal contemporary dance jam working off six degrees of separation. On the East Coast, Nicholas Leichter, praised by the New York Times for his kinetic and amusing movement style, has danced with Ralph Lemon, whose company played S.F. Performances in '94; Ellis Wood, a UC Berkeley grad whose parents teach dance there, has performed with Stephen Petronio (who visits this spring), and dances here with Molly Rabinowitz as part of Rabinowitz's acrobatic trio Liquid Grip. On this end, the OnSite Dance Company reprises part of its athletic performance installation The Motionarium, while Sten Rudstrom offers his dance-theater piece Theater of Cruelty and Jon Weaver does Cell. Program A begins at 8 p.m. (also Friday; Program B runs Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m.) at the ODC/S.F. Performance Gallery Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F. Admission is $11.50-12.50; call 863-9834.
Baited Breath The story of horticulturist Lue Gim Gong is told by the three women in his life in local writer Ruthanne Lum McCunn's novel Wooden Fish Songs. In a series of staged concert readings, two sets of three professional actresses will alternate in the women's parts: Pine Sol pitchwoman Diane Amos and Gina Marie Fields play Sheba, a descendant of slaves who commiserates with Lue about oppression; Lisa Kang and Mitzie Abe play Lue's talented mother; and Kathleen Conry and Kathy Garver play Fanny, a religious New England spinster with a passion for Lue. The show starts at 6 p.m. (also March 12 at City College) at Knuth Hall, Creative Arts Building, SFSU campus, 1600 Holloway, S.F. Admission is free; call 282-8813.
Double Time Not only do some dramas last from just 15 minutes to 15 seconds, people like singer Nick Cave and illustrator Edward Gorey lead secret lives as playwrights. Surprised? The Misery/Loves Company production "Double Nickels on the Dime" showcases 15 very short works in an hour and a half, from Cave's and Gorey's creations to pieces by some of theater's finest scribes: Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Christopher Durang, and David Mamet, among others. Even Woody Allen gets in on the act. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through March 15) at the Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, S.F. Admission is $7-15; call 566-2578.
Between the Eyes Oliver Mayer pulls no punches in Blade to the Heat, his story of three Latino boxers sparring in the ring and out for a middleweight championship in 1959. Thick Description stages the Northern California premiere of this Obie Award-winning drama about latent homosexuality in the boxing world; the repressive environment of the times emerges through music and action as Wilfred Vinal (Noel Benoza) ruffles reigning champ Mantequilla Decima (L. Peter Callender) by calling him gay, while Pedro Quinn (Joey Pacheco-Ponce) considers his identity and his relationship with a Jackie Wilson impersonator (Colman Domingo). The show previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through March 16) at New Langton Arts, 1246 Folsom, S.F. Admission is $12-16; call 550-7250.
Ban the Bomb Old folkie Utah Phillips, former U.S. Sen. Alan Cranston, South African choir Vukani Mauethu, and physicist Dr. Michio Kaku are among the featured guests at the conference "Abolition 2000: Closing the Circle on Nuclear Weapons." Over 40 social justice and environmental organizations, part of Abolition's international network of over 700 citizens' groups, sponsored this kickoff for Northern California's campaign to support a treaty eliminating nuclear weapons within a specific time frame. Food will be served, lectures and workshops given, and entertainment provided at the gathering, which begins at 9:30 a.m. at Laney College, 900 Fallon, Oakland. Admission is $5-10; call (510) 328-8080.
Lens Crafter Photographer John Gutmann has said his photographs of America in the '30s may appeal to young people because the old days look foreign now, much as the landscape looked to him when he first arrived in the United States from Weimar, Germany. The now-91-year-old photographer switched from painting to photography after acquiring a Rolleiflex camera, but when he established San Francisco State University's photography program in 1946 he taught the medium as a fine art; he also initiated the film series "Art Movies" in 1949, as well as taught drawing, painting, and design. Gutmann's view of his newly adopted country, chronicled in The Restless Decade: John Gutmann's Photographs of the Thirties, was less grim than the social realism of contemporaries Dorothea Lange or Walker Evans, and more surreal. The exhibit "John Gutmann: Parallels in Focus" honors the photographer's teaching career and includes the photo series Talking Pictures. It opens at 1 p.m. (and is up through March 20) at the Art Department Gallery, Arts and Industry Building, SFSU campus, 1600 Holloway, S.F. Admission is free; call 338-6535.
Caught in a Headlock Fashionably detached city kids are exposed to an entirely different brand of irony and posturing at the World Championship Wrestling Superbrawl VII. They call it "Where the Big Boys Play"; these boys include "Nature Boy" Ric Flair, the Liberace of show-biz wrestling, who boasts "To be the man ... you have to beat the man. Woooooooo!" And Madusa, a lady kickboxing champ who tears up turf on a pink Harley. Producer Ted Turner obviously embraces P.T. Barnum's adage "There's a sucker born every minute," and with good reason, because even in the Bay Area, people will shell out for pay-per-view and floor seats to an event that relies on every lame stadium show and cable-access convention known to man. If you want to see a truly threatening grappler, stay home and rent the Andy Kaufman story. The brawl begins at 3:30 p.m. at the Cow Palace, Geneva & Santos, Daly City. Admission is $12-50; call (510) 762-2277.
Gray Matter Too few scientists will ever achieve the popular acclaim of Dr. Oliver Sacks. The neurologist and author of The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, An Anthropologist on Mars, and Awakenings, which was made into a film with Robin Williams and Robert De Niro, has endeared himself to so many by managing to translate the complex circuitry of the brain into an engaging read without offending scientific sensibilities or leaving the layperson hopelessly mired in jargon. Paul Chutkow interviews Sacks about his research at an isolated, colorblind community in the Pacific Islands for his new book, The Island of the Colorblind, at 8 p.m. in the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $16; call 392-4400.
Portrait of a People While the veracity of Russian newspaper Pravda has often been questioned, few would dispute that photojournalist Yevgeny Khaldei supplied it with an earnest study of his countryman over 30 years. Khaldei's combat photographs of World War II are considered among Russia's best, and his remaining body of work -- prewar portraits of workers, postwar portrayals of Russian urban and rural life -- offers a detailed look at Russian history from the 1930s to the 1960s. "Russia in Black and White: The Photojournalism of Yevgeny Khaldei" brings over 100 of Khaldei's black-and-white photos to the West Coast for the first time. The exhibit opens at noon (and is up through July 17); the 80-year-old Khaldei discusses his work with gallery owner Robert Koch tomorrow at 7 p.m. at the Jewish Museum, 121 Steuart, S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 543-8880.
Roach Approach We've all heard the one about cockroaches being the only critters capable of surviving a nuclear winter, but author/biologist David George Gordon has compiled lots of other fun facts and fiction about America's least favorite house guest in his book The Compleat Cockroach. For example: The cockroach has three times as much protein as chicken meat. Delicious! Cockroaches also have unusual mating rituals, perhaps to compensate for their marginal sex appeal. Roaches preceded humans in the evolutionary timeline, and have lived through every big moment in history since, from the passing of the dinosaurs to the invention of the Roach Motel. Gordon talks about the creepy crawlers at 7:30 p.m. in the auditorium of the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 750-7128.