From the assassination of President Lincoln at Ford's Theatre to the recent Moscow theater hostage crisis, a trip to the playhouse can be a real blood bath. Fortunately, at the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, audiences can rest assured the violence is re-created -- and only onstage. Thrown by the Playwrights Foundation, an organization founded in 1976 to foster new theatrical works with the support and feedback of other playwrights, the event offers audiences 11 diversely eloquent plays (seven full-lengths, penned by national and regional playwrights, and four shorts by Bay Area writers), three of which will ambush viewers alternately with humor and horror. Mickey Birnbaum's Bleed Rail showcases a disastrous slaughterhouse accident that sparks a journey through working-class America; Peter Sinn Nachtrieb's Lamb & Jelly exposes how a monthly dinner among friends goes wrong once an animal gets sacrificed; and Sarah Hammond's Green Girl is about green-thumbed Elizabeth Slaughter, who struggles to save her loved ones from impending violence in an agrarian town that is eerily littered with the ashes of the deceased.
Each performance is presented raw, in an early stage of inception, affording attendees the opportunity to engage the play as it is being created. Additional highlights include concentrated rehearsals, script-in-hand readings, round-table discussions, and an artists' retreat.
The festival opens with Bleed Rail Friday night at 8 (and performances continue through Aug. 7) at the Magic Theatre, Building D, Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 263-3986 or visit www.playwrightsfoundation.org.
-- Josh Rotter
Bad Is Good
British playwright Howard Brenton once nearly got his director thrown in jail: During those crazy '80s, England's moral majority made a fuss over a buggery scene. But we're just catching up to Brenton across the pond. In the West Coast premiere of 1979's Sore Throats, decades overdue, an ex-housewife seeks to escape her abusive past. Another playwright might have her get a job, but Brenton has her screw underage boys. That's a good chap. Sore Throats previews Thursday at 8 p.m. (and continues through Aug. 21) at the Last Planet Theatre, 351 Turk (at Hyde), S.F. Admission is $10-18; call 440-3505 or visit www.lastplanettheatre.com.
-- Michael Leaverton
Performance art straight outta Panochtitlan
Los Angeles takes a lot of heat around here; it's like San Francisco's promiscuous older sister. We are smaller, and more independent. But Sis has some tricks up her sleeve (she's been around the block, right?), and tonight, she shows us something that we might not have found on our own: Butchlalis de Panochtitlan is a performance group of Latina butches with intelligently irreverent attitudes.
Teenage Papi: The 2nd Coming of Adolescence finds them comparing the experiences of "racialized female masculine bodies" to neighborhoods in their sprawling hometown; "Interracial Desire" is Montebello, "Family Guilt-Latino Queerness" is East Los Angeles, and "Gentrification" is Silver Lake, natch. The mother of all butches, Judith Jack Halberstam, calls the members of Butchlalis "some of L.A.'s coolest vatos." The show starts at 8 p.m. at Galería de la Raza, 2857 24th St. (at Bryant), S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 826-8009 or visit www.galeriadelaraza.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
These shoes were made for rocking
Anyone obsessed with band names can understand the instant appeal of the Whoreshoes. This pun is worth making, and it's all the funnier for being stuck on an all-girl gang of country music pickers. Decked to the nines in tight vintage dresses for the femmy members and Hank Williams chic for the lady who looks like Elvis, the 'shoes habitually hit the stage with banjos blazing and not an ounce of pretension in sight. This is not to say they're only out for a good time -- although the quartet enjoys seeing the world through beer goggles, it's the music that matters, and high-quality multi-instrumentalism is common at these 'hos shows. Beehive hairdo? Check. Washboard? Check. What more do you need? The Shut Ins, the Lariats, and Toshio Hirano open at 9 p.m. at Amnesia, 853 Valencia (at 20th Street), S.F. Admission is $7; call 970-0012 or visit www.amnesiathebar.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
The idea of jazz in the park, whichever park, has a fierce hold on the American weekender, and the North Beach Jazz Fest doesn't hold back, with two days of Latin and New Orleans jazz among the fluttering trees in Washington Square Park. But the clubs aren't neglected: Outfits like the Brazil Nuts (a supergroup of the city's Brazil bands) and the Push (a pocket-jazz five-piece) are playing weeknights up and down Grant Street. The festival starts Wednesday at 7 p.m. with the Realistic Orchestra (and events continue through Sunday at various venues in the city) at the San Francisco Italian Athletic Club, 1630 Stockton (at Union), S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 971-7577 or visit www.nbjazzfest.com.
-- Michael Leaverton