Merry Olde England If England's still sore about losing the revolution, it hardly shows in "Britain Meets the Bay," a mostly genteel invasion distinguished by exhibits like "British Architecture: Ancient and Modern" (American Institute of Architects, 130 Sutter, through May 30) and the group photo show "Focus on Your World" (Herbst International Exhibition Hall, the Presidio, through May 18), the Tartan Ball (April 12, Hyatt Regency Hotel), various sporting events, and theatrical productions. The only potential for conflict comes from today's debate between Oxford/Cambridge teams and university teams from Berkeley, Stanford, and Santa Clara (held at Stanford in Palo Alto), and lawyer Norman Macleod's lecture "The British Side of the American Revolution" (4:45 p.m. at the Commonwealth Club, 595 Market). Call (800) 915-BMTB for prices and a complete schedule of events.
Bury Olde England And if British rule, or cuisine, isn't your cup of tea (see Wednesday), the Scottish Cultural and Arts Foundation presents "Britain by the Way," a proudly uncivilized series of alternative events that gets under way with Kevin Di Pirro's storytelling monologue Through Shite to Shannon, a comic drama about a young American's exchanges with a slew of colorful characters on his journey through Ireland. The fun continues with a counterpoint to the traditional Tartan Ball, the Tartan Bollox, where Celtic scholar Steve Blamires' slide show sheds some light on the clan system, a new Scottish queen is crowned, Glasgow's DJ Claudio spins discs, and guests encounter nouveau Scottish cuisine like deep-fried pizza and Mars bars (April 12, Edinburgh Castle). Other highlights include a drunken, vitriolic election day kiss-off to the Tories (May 1, Edinburgh Castle); spoken word and play nights in the next two months; and a club night against the U.K. Criminal Justice Act, with Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh (May 3, venue TBA). Through Shite to Shannon opens at 8 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday) at the Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary, S.F. Admission is $8; call 522-9621 for a complete schedule of events.
A Piece of the Rock The husband-and-wife team of Len and Chrissty Knittle drives experimental power rockers the Knittles, who in turn steer Planet Iris: Space Age Now, a rock opera created in collaboration with the band's Rodent Records labelmates Natural Fonzie, Static Faction, EMJG, and the Burners. A rotating stage, video projections, and a set featuring tropical plants and a waterfall made from recycled materials add to this futurist evening-length tale of an evil preacher who runs amok, cloning mutant life and wreaking intergalactic havoc. The show begins at 10 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday) at the Lab, 2948 16th St., S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 864-8855.
Party LINES Alonzo King's LINES Contemporary Ballet Company is about to celebrate 15 years of success in a notoriously difficult business, and that's due in no small part to King's stellar dancers, whose fearless, rhythmic attack make King's physically punishing, classically based modern choreography take flight. King's first collaboration with jazz great Pharaoh Sanders was 1994's Ocean; his new one is an as-yet-untitled world premiere, to be shown this week with King's 1996 work Klang. The show opens with a gala performance (and continues through April 13) at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $10-125; call 978-ARTS.
Creature Feature No one knows what Eloise will do at "Pet Talk," a night of performances about pets benefiting the SFSPCA. Author/actor Josh Kornbluth has prepared his first-ever turtle monologue and comedian Marga Gomez will describe life with her Jack Russell terrier; Bob Ernst, Liz White, and Karin Jaffie will also perform. Contraband Artistic Director Sara Shelton Mann will be dancing, naturally, partnered by SPCA adoptee Eloise, a dog with no previous theater credits whose part is still being worked out in rehearsals. Treats, prizes, and surprises that may include pets are also part of the scheduled entertainment. The performance begins at 8:30 p.m. (also Saturday) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $15; call 826-5750.
Wild Man Paul Seydor's film about a film The Wild Bunch: An Album in Montage was a contender in this year's Academy Award race for best documentary (short subject), and though the film didn't win the coveted statuette, it has generated such interest that the Castro Theater has paired it with its subject, Samuel Peckinpah's famous western The Wild Bunch, on a double bill. SF Weekly's Michael Sragow will speak with Seydor, a Peckinpah scholar and the author of Peckinpah: The Western Films -- A Reconsideration, at a Q&A session following the 8 p.m. showing at the Castro, 429 Castro, S.F. Admission is $4-6.50; call 621-6120. (Seydor will also sign copies of his book this week at area bookstores; see "Readings" under Calendar, Page 31.)
A Solstice With Soul SOMA ushers in the solstice with a block party titled simply "Spring," and a live show by the band Soulstice. Hyperdelic and the Lone Buffalo plan a light installation to complement soundscapes by DJs Ammon, Laron, Polywog, and Professor Smith, among others. The Dragon Boy Crew will demonstrate tai chi and yoga technique against a backdrop of contemporary surrealist art by Alonso Smith, Brian Goggin, Eric White, Judd Burgeron, and Kim Edward Black. Organizer Andy Hasse says hors d'oeuvres (maybe sushi) are part of the party picture too. "Spring" begins at 4 p.m. at the Minna Street Gallery, 111 Minna, S.F. Admission is $10; call 995-4949.
Thai Story Thai "archaeological" dances, reconstructed from various eras in that country's history and performed in traditional costumes to live music played on old-style instruments, are a highlight at the Thai Arts Festival. Along with more modern examples of Thai music and dance, festivalgoers can expect swordplay demonstrations and a full-body boxing exhibition. Cultural objects will be shown and gifts sold; hungry visitors can chow down on plates of Thai specialties at indoor or outdoor picnic tables. The festival, a benefit for Thai Buddhist temple and arts center Wat Buddhapradeep, begins at 10 a.m. at the Hall of Flowers, Ninth Avenue & Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $3-5; call 615-9528.
Winds of Change Traditional Irish wakes are the stuff of legend, but the Irish also created the American wake, named for natives who left Ireland for America during the Great Famine. Because emigrants weren't expected to return, a village would throw them a party with the best Irish dance and music it could muster, to send them off with a vivid memory of their roots. Westwind International Folk Ensemble re-creates an American wake in "American Times," a homage to this country's vibrant, multiethnic cultural history. Dressed in period costumes, the 50 singers, dancers, and musicians whirl through a klezmer music and dance suite featuring a Hasidic line dance and a Freylekhs circling dance; a North Atlantic whaler's hornpipe; Mexican Nortenos; Appalachian folk clogging; swing jazz; and the latest in a long line of American dance crazes: a step dance, cousin to tap dance, performed by guest artists Unity, a Fremont high school step dance team. Westwind performs at 2 and 8 p.m. (also 2 p.m. Sunday April 6 and 13, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday April 12) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $13-17; call 621-7797.
Stripped Down Chicago performance artist David Sedaris came to attention of audiences with "Santa Land Diaries," the bitterly funny account of his experiences as a Macy's elf that marked his debut on National Public Radio's Morning Edition. His early monologues and radio pieces were collected in Barrel Fever, which cemented his national reputation. Sedaris turns his thoughts to an American nudist colony, among other subjects, in his new book, Naked, which he reads as part of the Solo Mio year-round series. The reading begins at 7:30 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $14; call 392-4400. (Sedaris also reads and signs copies of Naked Tuesday at 6 p.m. at Rizzoli Bookstore, 117 Post, S.F. Admission is free; call 984-0225.)
Where's the Fire? Don't expect 101 Dalmatians at the 101st anniversary of the Old Firehouse; resident spotted pup Maddie LaFlame will greet guests, but the main events at this celebration are the tap-dancing, singing, activities, and door prizes awarded every hour for rides on the 1955 Mack fire engine. The Victorian firehouse, formerly known as SFFD Engine Company 33, closed its doors in 1974, but the building has been preserved and transformed into a museum with memorabilia dating back to the days when San Francisco used fire horses. The party begins at 11 a.m. at the Old Firehouse, 117 Broad, S.F. Admission is $3 per family benefiting the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation and Firefighters in Schools or a new unwrapped toy for the San Francisco Firefighters Toy Program; call 333-7077.
New Bards Hit the Boards Tales untold emerge as ThroughLine playwrights mount a reading series of original works in progress. Jeff Schwamberger traces the arc of life's travels in The Bones of Oedipus, which kicks off the series, followed on Tuesday by Loren Kraut's Last Bus to Jupiter, in which a brother and sister battle over how best to care for their increasingly senile aunt, a former TV actress. This refreshing antidote to Melrose Place poisoning was established four years ago to nurture and review new work. Local actors assume various roles at the readings, held Mondays and Tuesdays in April and May at 7 p.m. at the 450 Geary Studio Theater, 450 Geary, S.F. Admission is a suggested $5 donation; call 474-6799.
Something Wild Sumatra is most likely known around these parts as a place where coffee comes from, but the Indonesian island is also home to dense rain forests, a volcanic mountain range, and dazzling wildlife. In their lecture "Saving Sumatra: Land of Elephants, Tigers, and Hornbills," Wildlife Conservation Society biologists Dr. Margaret Kinnaird and Dr. Tim O'Brien will describe their investigation of the red-knobbed hornbill population in the Tangkoko-Dua Sudara National Park. The sanctuary is the world's most populated harbor of hornbills, a tropical bird recognized in local religious rites for its habit of mating for life. The lecture will also document the damage unlimited hunting and use of forest products has done to animal and plant life in nearby Sulawesi. The evening begins with a cocktail reception at 6:30 p.m.; the lecture begins at 7:30 p.m. at the California Academy of Sciences, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $6-10; call 750-7128.