Simon Says He's nicknamed "the lion of Soweto," but Simon "Mahlathini" Nkabinde sounds more like the frog or the goat of Soweto. His gruff, groaning bass vocals (think Wolfman Jack singing in Zulu) temper the buoyancy of Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens, a 30-year-old South African outfit specializing in mbaqanga (um-ba-KON-ga), an irrepressible amalgam of electric township pop, gospel-tinged African choral music, and rhythmic acoustic jazz that emerged during apartheid's long reign. Crowds invariably leave these shows grinning and sweaty after the Queens' swinging harmonies, whistle-blowing, and choreographed stage show set the movement in motion. DJ Doug Wendt spins and a special guest opens the show at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $20; call 346-6000.
Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It The boundaries separating nortenos and surenos fall away in Mission: APosible!, a theater project that brought 50 kids involved in Mission turf wars together with writer Cherrie Moraga, playwright Octavio Solis, and local actors and artists. Brava! for Women in the Arts supervised the process, which involved selecting class sites, soliciting safety tips and advice from local social service agencies, and paying kids from warring factions to attend eight weeks of classes together and share the same stage while they wrote about and performed theatrical vignettes based on their own lives. Ellen Chang directs the montage of experiences in a show beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, Building A, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $2-10; call 641-7657 ext. 4.
Ladies and Gentleman, We Have a Wiener If it's half as funny as Waiting for Guffman, Bindlestiff's bad-theater satire In Search of the Greatest American Hot Dog will have been worth the effort. It looks promising: Writers Paul Laudenslager and J.J. White skewer all manner of thespian conceits in this story of an addled director and an amateur cast whose attempts to create America's greatest play incorporate Mamet without the profanity, "meaningful" nude performance art, PC bits, and acts of violence. Better still, Hot Dog's creators insist that theirs is a production with no socially redeeming value whatsoever; they only want to make people laugh out loud. Anyone who's ever suffered through a bad night at the theater knows how much material these folks have to work with. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 30) at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St. (at Howard) S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 974-1167.
Feet First Former Boston Ballet dancer Heidi Guenther's recent death at the age of 22, from heart failure linked to an eating disorder, provoked an uproar outside the ballet world but little noise from the inside, since ballet is one business where weight issues extend beyond the cosmetic, and matter enough to ensure a kind of complicit silence. Lise Rubenstein finished filming her documentary Silver Feet in 1985, about the time former New York City Ballet star Gelsey Kirkland claimed in her autobiography Dancing on My Grave that choreographer George Balanchine encouraged dieting and pills as far back as the '60s, so that he could "see the bones." Delving into the complicated history of ballet's body politics and the extremes to which dancers will go to improve their professional odds takes longer than Silver Feet's one hour, but this doc does at least hint at ballet's cutthroat competitiveness as it follows three young local dancers preparing for a big audition at the San Francisco Ballet school all the way to a "Where are they now?" postscript. Silver Feet and performance short Zync, Cynthia Pepper's film about three dance prodigies in rehearsal and performance, air at 8 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.
Sitting Pretty While this summer's other tourists were jockeying for the perfect shot of Sacre Coeur or the Eiffel Tower, Bay Area photographer Alan Blaustein was strolling through the gardens of Luxembourg, Dauphine, and the like, capturing a more tranquil and verdant side of France. Blaustein will be showing over 40 of his chestnut-hued albumin prints of French gardens, along with his hand-colored photos of benches, a meditative series that Chronicle Books culled into last year's calendar Bancs de Jardins. Keep an eye out for the gardens of novelist Emile Zola and the studio space of painter Paul Cezanne in this otherwise restful, celebrity-free exhibit. The show's opening reception is at 6 p.m. ("Le Jardin" is up through Aug. 31) at Mulligan-Shanoski Gallery, 747 Post (at Jones), S.F. Admission is free; call 771-0663.
Functional Flair Art and craft still aren't interchangeable in most people's minds, despite the best efforts of craftspeople and local artists like Jason Mecier, who recasts the whole debate by making and selling art made from the traditional craft medium of beans and noodles. At the American Craft Council Craft Fair, exhibitors present a persuasive case for craft as art, ranging from Joseph Shuldiner's willow and paper lamps and John Gilvey's glass tree frog paperweights to the mermaid figurines adorning Susan Garson's coffeepots and the hand-painted portraits on David Urso's cameo pins. Then there's the Arts & Crafts, Art Nouveau, and Vintage Western Sale, which offers furniture, art, books, jewelry, clothing, and collectibles dating back to the arts and crafts movement of the 1890s-1920. The ACC Craft Fair opens at 10 a.m. (also Saturday and Sunday) at the Herbst and Festival pavilions, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free-$12; call 896-5060. The Arts & Crafts Sale begins tomorrow at 10 a.m. (also 11 a.m. Sunday) at the Concourse Exhibition Center, Eighth Street & Brannan, S.F. Admission is $6; call 599-3326.
Lady Madonna Patricia Reedy & Dancers' evening-length performance At What Moment Did She Become, Freely and Willingly, the Mother of God? goes after institutions, among them mental health facilities and the Catholic Church, that Reedy charges with holding women back. In 12 sections, and with 12 "holy cards" created by 12 local artists showing in an adjoining exhibit, the company launches into a modern choreographic essay on the emotional tug of war among hope, fear, love, and anger, buffeted by members of its youth mentoring dance program Jump! and collaborators like sound designer Amy X Neuberg. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. (also Saturday) at the Cowell Theater, Building A, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $14-18; call 621-7797.
Check-Out Time Twenty years after police in riot gear forcibly evicted elderly Filipino and Chinese tenants of the International Hotel, in the 10-block stretch of Chinatown once known as Manilatown, locals who remember that time and those who learned of it later will be commemorating the event with educational and cultural activities. Filmmaker Curtis Choy screens his documentary Fall of the I-Hotel at today's International Hotel Conference and Symposium, where workshops on race relations, low-income housing, justice for immigrants, and gentrification will link past and present problems. A walking tour of old Manilatown, a public mural and street-art display, and a dinner honoring the community's manongs, or "respected elders," are slated in conjunction with the conference, which begins at noon at St. Mary's, 660 California (at Grant), S.F. Admission is free; call 995-4903. Pearl Ubungen Dancers & Musicians have woven live KPFA coverage of the eviction into a performance piece using postmodern dance, original music, historical text, and projected images (9:30 p.m. show only) in an exploration of home and the role of the manongs, the first immigrants to resettle locally. The dance performance previews Friday at 8 p.m. and premieres tonight and tomorrow night at 8 and 9:30 p.m. on Jackson Street, between Kearny and Columbus, S.F. Admission is free but donations are requested; call 543-0520.
My Kid Could Do That Photo Metro's "Pin-Up Show" further blurs the line between serious artistes and wine-and-cheese mooches by offering wall space to anyone who ever took a picture. As Photo Metro magazine Publisher Jo Leggett describes it, "This is not a precious show. This is a free-for-all." Here's how it works: Show up at the gallery sometime before or during the 7-10 p.m. hanging time with a photo or photos you've taken yourself; pay $2 each for nails to hang framed prints, $1 each for pushpins to hang unframed work; display your work wherever there's room. Arriving early is probably wise, since space is available on a first come, first served basis, and there are no size or quantity limitations to what each person can hang. Artists may also add or delete work (their own, that is) throughout the duration of the exhibit, and the gallery will take a 25 percent commission on any work it sells, so now's the time to start preparing that earnest rap about the interplay of light and shadow, blah, blah, blah. The show is up through Aug. 30 at Photo Metro, 17 Tehama (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is free; call 243-9917.
Artistry in Motion In keeping with this weekend's craft theme (see Friday), performing artist Sha Sha Higby presents costume as art with her solo work In a Pool of Stones. Higby integrates Western modern dance with Eastern cultural dance in her meditation on the divisions between animal and human life, dream and waking life. Her slow, deliberate pace gives viewers ample opportunity to absorb the myriad elements to her costume, a painstaking and incredible creation using paper, silk, wood, lacquer, ceramics, and gold leaf. The museum's exhibiting her costumes as well. The performance begins at 8 p.m. at the Craft & Folk Art Museum, Building A, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 775-0991.
Order Up Monaco's Music for Pleasure offers New Order fans a pretty good idea of how New Order would sound if they had made it through the '90s intact. It's all here: the moody, atmospheric synth; the introspective vocals; the dance beat-driven pop that sounded so fresh 10 or 15 years ago; and the distinctive, high-in-the-mix bass that Peter Hook marked New Order albums like Power, Corruption, and Lies with. Hook is one half of Monaco; the lesser-known half is guitarist David Potts, a former recording studio grunt. Monaco is a long jump from the deep gloom of Warsaw and Joy Division, Hook's first prominent bands, but the bass player could be doing worse than sounding like a capable, if uninspiring, version of his former self. Tonight's show begins with a guest opener at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $15; call 346-6000.
Opera the Faye Way Playing a diva seems entirely within Faye Dunaway's range, but when she takes the stage as the late coloratura soprano Maria Callas in Master Class, the star of Barfly won't be hitting the high notes. Dunaway plays Callas as teacher in this National Company touring production of Terrence McNally's Tony Award-winning play. It's a role that doesn't require any singing, although Dunaway will be putting singers Kevin Paul Anderson, Suzan Hanson, and Melinda Klump through their paces as she plays a wry and passionate mentor to their aspiring students. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 24) at the Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor (at Golden Gate), S.F. Admission is $17-47; call 776-1999.