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Night & Day 

Wednesday, Apr 14 1999
April 14
Tony! Tony! Tony! Millennial anxiety is spectacularly realized in Tony Kushner's two-part theatrical epic Angels in America, when, at the end of the first part, an angel crashes through a Manhattan ceiling to visit a young man ravaged by AIDS. In Angels, subtitled "A Gay Fantasia on National Themes," Kushner found a rare measure of comedy, grace, and redemption in a century's worth of ugliness and uncertainty; the action takes place in 1985, as the world begins to sense doom in AIDS and the implosion of political ideologies. So much has happened since Angels and the Berkeley Rep productions of Kushner's similarly philosophical Slavs! and Hydriotaphia that it will be fascinating to see what the playwright chooses to address in a public presentation. His talks are as famously fast-moving and all-encompassing as his dramas, and as the year 2000 inches ever closer, he's got a wealth of material to work with. Kushner will read from some of his work, followed by an onstage interview with KQED Forum host Michael Krasny, at 7:30 p.m. at Chabot College, 25555 Hesperian, Hayward. Admission is $10-12; call (510) 786-6914.

Join the Circus Voices from the past echo in the modern dance works of Stephen Pelton, a thoughtful choreographer with a knack for historical narrative. America Songbook paired the lonely laments of Civil War soldiers with the drunken roar of an Industrial Age dance hall; The Hurdy-Gurdy Man gave us World War II and Hitler bellowing at an appreciative crowd. With "Animal Acts," another theatrical outing for the Stephen Pelton Dance Theater, the choreographer spins new dances and repertory works into a story about a European circus troupe that falls on hard times after the Second World War. Pelton reprises his Hurdy-Gurdy Man solo in "Acts," which opens with The Training of My Tigers, based on a story by New Zealand writer Janet Frame; Pelton dances it solo, accompanied by Baguette Quartet accordionist Odile Lavault. The show begins at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 2) at the Z Space Studio, 1360 Mission (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is $12-15; call 437-6775.

April 15
Staff of Life The Holocaust and World War II are more than 50 years behind us, but we're still discovering just how much music sustained people when the world was crumbling around them. Despite its corniness, the real-life story of the singing Von Trapp family adapted to The Sound of Music continues to resonate, as does The Harmonists, this year's feature film about the mixed Jewish-gentile singing group whose breakup was precipitated by the Nazi rise to power. Now, Voci Women's Choral Ensemble brings us "Beneath the Whiteness of Your Stars: Musical Reflections on the Holocaust." This is music performed not by famous singing groups, but by regular folk, including an arrangement of Yiddish songs from the concentration camps and ghettos. Michael Isaacson's choral cycle Cradle of Fire features arrangements of five Holocaust songs; Viktor Ullmann's Five Folksongs for Women's Voices was written in the Terezin Ghetto in 1942. Violist Michelle Dulak, pianist Danielle DeSwert, and cellist Lyn Fulkerson accompany the ensemble at the concert, which begins at 7:30 p.m. at Temple Sinai, 2808 Summit, Oakland. Admission is $12-16; call (510) 663-9113. Voci also performs at 3 p.m. Sunday at Temple Sherith Israel, 2266 California, in San Francisco.

April 16
Bring in Spring The old ad slogan "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature" probably wasn't inspired by the Greek myth of Demeter, although it easily could have been. The harvest goddess, sometimes referred to as Mother Earth, wasn't happy when Hades ran off with her daughter, Persephone, and as punishment for his trickery, Demeter wrathfully forbade crops to grow until a nervous Zeus intervened, telling Hades that if he didn't let Persephone at least visit her mother, they'd all be doomed. The three months that Persephone spends with Hades is winter, the myth suggests; we can enjoy nature's bounty when Persephone and Demeter are reunited. The myth of Demeter (fleshed out more thoroughly, one hopes, than it is here) is included in an international collection of stories about spring that Combined Art Form Entertainment, or CAFE, stages word for word in the musical production Spring Returns. Among the other accounts of seasonal rebirth is a Yugoslavian tale of a dead man who returns to pay his debt. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sunday) at the Next Stage, Trinity Episcopal Church, 1620 Gough (at Bush), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 673-0304. Spring Returns also shows April 30 through May 2 at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F.

Drawn That Way Just try to make it through this weekend's WonderCon comic book and animation convention without thinking about that snotty comics store owner from The Simpsons. Actually, Simpsons artist/writer Bill Morrison will be attending the convention, and if he plans to take notes for future episodes involving the store owner and his network of online pals, he won't lack for material. Not that there won't be some nominally cool stuff: Dark Horse will introduce the artist for Betty Page Comics and the writer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Japanese anime tables should satisfy the cravings of American converts. Eventually, though, amid the middle-aged connoisseurs debating the finer points of Captain America, the 12-year-old boys swarming around the new video game displays, and the meet-and-greet with Star Trek: Deep Space Nine actress Chase Masterson, the geek alarm is bound to ring. Doors open at noon (also 10 a.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. Sunday) at the Oakland Convention Center, 550 10th St. (at Broadway), Oakland. Admission is free-$12; call (510) 762-2277.

April 17
If You Love Something, Set It Free, Etc. The Eco-Motion Parade is always a big draw at the annual Berkeley Earth Day celebration, where participants demonstrate non-polluting modes of carless transportation ranging from stilt-walking and Rollerblades to strange new contraptions dreamt up by amateur engineers. This year, however, the parade may be upstaged as approximately 20,000 local schoolkids release thousands of butterflies that they have been raising especially for the event. After this bit of colorful chaos, the culmination of valuable life and lepidopteran lessons, nature children can console themselves with Eco-Art activities, a climbing wall, veggie treats, and the Berkeley Farmer's Market Family Farm Day, which offers close encounters with livestock rather than butterflies. The parade begins at 11 a.m., followed by the fair, at Martin Luther King Park, Allston & MLK Jr. Way, Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 654-6346. Not to be outdone, the Strybing Arboretum Earth Day Celebration also offers a wide range of educational activities. At booths strategically placed throughout the garden, nature lovers can learn to pot a plant, look at flowers under a microscope, or create a terrarium. The celebration begins at 11 a.m. at the Strybing Arboretum and Botanical Gardens, Golden Gate Park, Ninth Avenue & Lincoln Way, S.F. Admission is free; call 661-1316, ext. 314.

He's Come Unstrung Something funny happened to Chris Whitley after he released two accomplished, if overproduced, albums of electrified roots music about the open road. He went home to his father's Vermont farm, unplugged himself, and in one day recorded Dirt Floor, a reflective album that not only echoes his acoustic debut, Living With the Law, and the breakaway single "Big Sky Country," but improves on it. His label is at a loss to explain why this latest release is selling better than Whitley's previous efforts, but the unadorned beauty of Whitley's National steel guitar and husky, heartfelt vocals might have something to do with it. Acoustic guitarist Josh Rouse, whose Rykodisc debut Dressed Up Like Nebraska offers tales from his own nomadic existence, opens for Whitley at 10 p.m. (and at 8:30 p.m. Sunday) at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $10; call 621-4455.

April 18
Veracruzin' on a Sunday Afternoon Marriage is a machete-juggling, bottle-balancing act of faith in "jarabe nayarita," an apt metaphor and one of many vivid variations danced by Ballet Folklorico "Quetzalli" de Veracruz. Accompanied by violins and the six- and 12-string guitars of its musical group Cascabel, the company's repertoire hints at the influences of Spanish colonizers (whose crisp flamenco steps punctuate the jarabe) and the rolling rhythms of Afro-Caribbean and Cuban immigrants. Veracruz, an eastern gulf state of Mexico known for its pre-Columbian pyramids, is also the home of "La Bamba," a complicated number in which each couple ties a long red ribbon into a bow with their feet. Look for these and the candlelit procession of the Virgin at the show, which begins at 3 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $14-26; call (510) 642-9988.

April 19
Baker's Dozen Ever since the mid-'80s onset of AIDS, lots of sick people have found comfort from a little old lady who liked to bake, and friends of hers who liked to garden. Medicinal marijuana activist Mary Rathburn (aka Brownie Mary) was known for spiking brownie batter with donations from local pot dealers, and distributing the goods to AIDS patients on San Francisco General's Ward 5A and other folks suffering from chronic illnesses. Rathburn passed away over the weekend after suffering consecutive falls, but her memory is alive and well. "Viva Variety," which organizer Steve Murray hopes to turn into a monthly gay variety show, will celebrate Rathburn's life and work, and proceeds will benefit the Brownie Mary Fund. Actor Doug Holsclaw reprises his comic solo performance Hand Gestures tonight; expect funny stuff from stand-ups Scott Capurro and Danny Williams as well, along with rhythmic footwork from members of the Barbary Coast Cloggers, opera and Broadway selections from singers Richard Nickol and David Cummings, and a word from Mary's pal Dennis Peron. The show begins at 8 p.m. at Theater Rhino, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $20-25; call 861-5079. P.S. Consider this a prelude to Tuesday's 420 Hemp Festival, billed as a 15-band "extravaganja" and rave with snacks by the Hemp Seed Cafe and a performance by Grateful Dead keyboardist Vince Welnick. The show begins at 4:20 p.m. at the Maritime Hall, 450 Harrison (at First Street), S.F. Admission is $18-20; call (510) 486-8083.

April 20
The Eyes Have It Who are the Residents, anyway? And why should you care? First, the hard part: Nobody really knows who they are. Ever since they moved here from Louisiana back in the early '70s, they've refused to reveal their true identities, and have covered their faces with bloodshot, top-hatted eyeball masks when they've played. They don't do interviews, and all band business is handled through their management office, Cryptic Corp., which the band members may run, even though they deny it. Still, the Residents, who took their name from a record label's rejection letter, matter not so much for who they are but what they do, which is vigorously shake the foundations of pop culture. Starting with their refusal to play the celebrity game, the band has deftly dismantled and reconstructed cherished musical traditions with multimedia pranks and spooky, synth-based rock. They've done rock opera and played Vegas, composed for Pee Wee's Playhouse, and tweaked John Philip Sousa marches, Hank Williams ballads, and Elvis, turning the King into a ragged, tuneless fright. The Commercial Album was a collection of noisy one-minute jingles, and now, with Wormwood, they've taken on the Bible. The Residents perform at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $25-28; call (510) 642-9988.

About The Author

Heather Wisner


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