Social Discourse The party never ends at Word for Word's Fourth Anniversary Festival, where the company introduces Virginia's Woolf's "party consciousness" concept -- that people create temporary minisocieties at social functions -- with a production of three short stories from Woolf's full-length work Mrs. Dalloway's Party, about various unpleasant configurations at a '20s drawing-room gathering. A dinner party takes an ugly turn in Act 2 when the company (with the Latina Theater Lab) stages the "Floor Show" chapter from Julia Alvarez's novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. In this memorable episode, a Dominican girl adjusting to her family's relocation to the States silently commiserates with the bitter flamenco dancers in a restaurant cabaret show, while at the same time watching the drunken wife of their American host make a play for her father. Word for Word's policy of staging literary works verbatim nicely illustrates how language may be used to disguise the seething resentments and abject misery that festive occasions can foster. The show begins at 8:30 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 31) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $13-15; call 441-8822.
The Sound and the Fury Celtic, Roman, Iberian, and Moorish influences assert themselves in Cuadros de Espana/Portraits of Spain in Music and Dance, a flamenco performance by America's oldest Spanish dance company, Theater Flamenco. With Bay Area musical ensemble Conjunto Nuevo Mundo, which performs "Songs of Court and Countryside: Music for Voices and Instruments From Iberia and Iberoamerica" on strings, horns, and a variety of percussion instruments, choreographers Jose Galvan and Miguel Santos unveil three premiere pieces: Solea por Bulerias, the tradition-steeped Aire Gitano/Gypsy Airs, and A Clavo ... A Clavo, a dance set to a martinete rhythm and based on a blacksmith's working song. As the dancers knock out the intricate rhythmic footwork, the musicians evoke the form's nomadic history with a 15th-century Sephardic processional chant, a ballad on the fall of Moorish Granada, a musical prayer to Our Lady of Guadelupe, and the choral triptych Flor de Chanar. The show begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday) at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $19-23; call 392-4400.
Revenge of the Nerds Engineers get to bask in the glory usually reserved for monster-truck drivers and professional wrestlers at the fourth annual Robot Wars, where radio-controlled mechanical contraptions in four different weight categories are pitted against one another and fought to the death. Winners must dodge automated obstacles and attacks from their opponents in order to come out on top. Teams of engineers, software and game designers, parents and kids, and college students have entered over 80 robots in this year's contest, and last year's champions, LaMachine and Biohazard, return to defend their titles. The latest Robot Wars will also feature legged entries and autonomous robots (which aren't radio-controlled). Mystery Science Theater 3000 creator Joel Hodgson, NPR Tech Nation host Moira Gunn, and Mac inventor Jef Raskin serve as judges at the event, which begins at 1 p.m. (also 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday) in Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $5-30; call 453-6305.
Boys' Life There's hardly a better setting for sexual tension than a New England boys school in the early '50s, as demonstrated by Robert Anderson's drama Tea & Sympathy. Director Mimi McGurl has just upped the ante by staging Tea with a mostly dyke cast and the occasional drag queen. McGurl, a Stanford theater doctoral candidate whose directorial credits include George Bernard Shaw's The Dark Lady of the Sonnets and David Harrison's FTM: A Transsexual Journey From Female to Male, tweaks Anderson's exploration of masculinity, femininity, and sexuality by using the piece as a basis for commentary on '90s gender identity. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 30) at Luna Sea, 2940 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 863-2989.
Fair Play Displacement is beginning to seem like a recurring theme this year for the city's Filipino community. Just after the events commemorating the 20th anniversary of the I-Hotel evictions, the fourth annual Pistahan Outdoor Fair and Pearl of the Orient Parade acknowledge former Filipino residents of the Yerba Buena Center area who were pushed out during the neighborhood's development. Six Filipino artists illustrate their experiences and those of the manongs who were among the first Filipinos to resettle in the States at the interactive installation "Walk in My Shoes"; the fair's other highlights include lectures and demonstrations on cultural arts, live folk music and dance performances, food, and themed activity areas like the Children's Art Playland and the Community History Booth; also, recording and film star Sharon Cuneta performs in concert at 8 p.m. tonight at the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium (99 Grove). This year's parade anticipates 1998's centennial celebration of the Philippines' Declaration of Independence with the theme "Eve of Freedom." The fair runs at 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. (also Sunday) in Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission & Third Street, S.F. Admission is free; call 436-9711. The parade begins Sunday at noon at Market & Embarcadero, then travels down Market to Fourth Street.
Sleeping Ugly Despite the chest hair spilling over the tops of the tutus, the ungainly size-12 pointe shoes, and makeup thick enough to scare small children, the dancers of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo really are lovely. The all-male Canadian company, which dances the women's roles in drag, combines virtuoso technique with dead-on physical comedy and a broad knowledge of the classical repertoire as they lampoon ballet warhorses like Sleeping Beauty and relatively modern choreography by Martha Graham and Paul Taylor. The Trocks take advantage of Stern Grove's pastoral setting to skewer Michel Fokine's "The Dying Swan" and Act 2 of Swan Lake, danced here with Stars & Stripes Forever, a spoof of Balanchine's salute to his adopted country, set to the unbearably cheerful music of John Philip Sousa. For this free performance, a word of advice: Pack a breakfast picnic and arrive early (like daybreak), or risk seeing the performance perched on a hill with an obstructed view. A pre-performance talk with the dancers begins at 11 a.m. in the Grove's Trocadero Clubhouse, followed by the performance at 2 p.m. in Stern Grove, 19th Avenue & Sloat, S.F. Call 252-6252.
You Just Might Find You Get What You Need Nobody leaves this year's Rock 'n' Swap without getting something, even if it's only the free scoop of Ben & Jerry's ice cream volunteers will be handing out to each person who attends. The opportunity to score something great is, of course, the main draw for weekend browsers and hard-core collectors alike. Record stores, dealers, traders, and indie labels will be presiding over 70 tables of CDs, albums, and cassettes of every genre, including out-of-print and hard-to-find recordings, imports, and new releases. Posters and other music-related paraphernalia will also be sold at the event, which benefits the adventurous programming of noncommercial college radio station KUSF, and begins at 10 a.m. in McLaren Hall, USF campus, Golden Gate & Masonic, S.F. Admission is $1-2; call 386-KUSF.
Mmmm, Cake MTV viewers will recognize Cake Like's Kerri Kenney from her stint with the sketch comedy show The State, but it's hard to imagine Kenney's band getting heavy rotation on her home station; when Kenney and co-vocalist Nina Hellman launch into "So mad/ So sad/ So bad/ To be adopted," complete with bansheelike backup on Bruiser Queen's lead-in track "The New Girl," there're bound to be some raised eyebrows. The band careens from arty, sarcastic pop to pretty harmonies, with a clean, spare sound more reminiscent of Scrawl than the Breeders, to whom the trio is often compared. Birmingham's Verbena dedicate a song to nobody but themselves with "Hey Come On," which cements the band's reputation as known jokesters and inveterate liars since this kind of infectious, lo-fi pop begs for repeated plays and a spot on the compilation tapes circulated among friends. Songs for Emma open the show at 8 p.m., followed by Verbena and headliners Cake Like, at the Kilowatt, 3160 16th St. (at Albion), S.F. Admission is $6; call 861-2595.
Make Mine Dry Capitalize on $2.80 martinis at Perry's "Martini Madness" to toast the late martini-swilling columnist Herb Caen or still-here author Armistead Maupin, who set some of Tales of the City's action in the bar, which celebrates its 28th anniversary this week. Besides the cheap martinis, guests who turn 28 this year or whose birthdays fall on the 28th day of any month get one free martini. It almost makes the Union Street crowds bearable. Swing band the Martini Brothers kick off the celebration with a set of jazz standards and dance numbers tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at Perry's, 1944 Union (at Laguna), S.F. Admission is free; call 922-9022.
Do Do That Butoh German expressionism and its proponents like dance trailblazer Mary Wigman are given their due for their influence on the Japanese dance form butoh at this year's San Francisco Butoh Festival, subtitled "German Arts and Butoh Dance." Butoh's post-World War II, post-mushroom cloud aesthetic is equal parts natural beauty and unmitigated horror, drawing its stunning visceral power from a slow-motion kaleidoscope of body movement, rather than from the elaborate artifice of more theatrical forms like kabuki. Former Wigman dancer Sondra Horton Fraleigh, Berlin's tatoeba-Theater Danse Grotesque founder Delta Ra'i, and festival performers will delve into the history of both forms and their connection to one another at a symposium kicking off the festival beginning at 7 p.m. in the Asian Art Museum's Trustees' Auditorium, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free. Festival guests Akira Kasai, a butoh pioneer and student of the spoken-word and dance movement eurythmy, and Yumiko Yoshioka, a member of Japan's first women's butoh group, perform Aug. 21-24 at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $13-17; call 392-4400.
Losing My Religion JFK and Fidel Castro, Mother Teresa and Madonna, and other pairs of iconic same-sex couples lock lips in Alex Donis' installation "My Cathedral," an exploration of how we feel and express devotion. Donis, an L.A.-based artist and sometime collaborator with Angeleno performance artist Coco Fusco, uses sound, light, and video to turn his host gallery into a storefront church. Viewers are prompted to consider deified figures from public and personal perspectives, filtered through sexuality, spirituality, and fantasy. If nothing else, the installation should remind guests of Mother Teresa's incredible intestinal fortitude. "My Cathedral" opens at noon (and is up through Sept. 27) at Galeria de la Raza, 2857 24th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is free; call 826-8009. In conjunction with the exhibit, Artists' Television Access will screen Donis' recent video and performance work including Grace and Moscas en Leche on Friday, Aug. 22, at 8 p.m. at 992 Valencia (at 21st Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 824-3890.