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Night + Day 

Wednesday, Jan 27 1999
January 27
Deco Dance Romain de Tirtoff's ladies were lovely, long-stemmed beauties, dramatically accessorized with ropes of pearls, matching greyhounds, ostrich fans, and sumptuous wraps trailing languorously behind them. Tirtoff is the Russian-born painter better known as Erte, the name he created for himself from the French pronunciation of his initials, long before artists with single names were popular. What most people know of the remarkable and prolific designer are the Jazz Age fashion drawings he did for Harper's Bazaar during the relative calm between two world wars, and the lavish sets and costumes he created for opera, theater, and cabaret -- the Folies-Bergere in Paris and George White's Scandals in New York. The historical context and lesser-known personal details emerge in an Art Deco Society slide-show lecture delivered by the similarly one-named Erte expert Stephan. The lecture begins with a no-host cocktail reception at 7 p.m. at the Hotel Rex, 562 Sutter (at Mason), S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 982-DECO.

January 28
Add It Up The post-boomer generation got its Big Chill two summers ago with Grosse Pointe Blank, a black comedy about a hit man who attends his high school reunion. It was packed with requisite '80s elements -- excessive irony, geeky dancing, John Cusack -- and set against a quintessentially '80s college-radio soundtrack that begins and ends with two versions of the Violent Femmes hit "Blister in the Sun." The Femmes, a folk-punk trio whose careers were launched after the Pretenders caught them busking outside a Milwaukee theater, should be so much more than a nostalgia act, but it's been four years since they've released a record, and nothing else they've done has approached the cult appeal of their eponymous 1982 debut, which secured their spot in rock history and inextricably linked them to that era. In song after song on that arguably perfect record, singer Gordon Gano teased and tormented, venting his anguish with a ragged howl and a torrent of smart, funny, mean lyrics. After smartass songs like "Add It Up," the follow-up album Hallowed Ground, with its old-time religious overtones, came as something of a surprise. So what have they been doing since Guy Hoffman (one of the original Bodeans) replaced Femmes drummer Victor DeLorenzo? Find out at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $21.50; call 346-6000.

January 29
Welcome to Neverland Once upon a time, before self-help books and Julia Roberts came along, J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan was still a magical tale about man-eating crocodiles, fairy dust, and a boy who stubbornly refuses to surrender to an unimaginative adulthood. In 1911, seven years after he wrote the play, Barrie fleshed out Pan's characters and the story itself in the novel Peter and Wendy, and it's that work that inspires a 3-D musical production of the same name by New York theater collective Mabou Mines. With an oversized pop-up book set as a backdrop, seven puppeteers manipulate Japanese bunraku puppets and Balinese wayang kulit shadow puppets representing Captain Hook and his pirates, the Darling family, and their dog Nana, whose voices are done by actor Karen Kandel. Fiddle player Johnny Cunningham performs his original Celtic score live onstage throughout the action, accompanied by singer Susan McKeown. The show, for viewers age 9 and older, opens with a preview (and runs through Feb. 21) at the Florence Schwimley Little Theater, 1920 Allston & MLK, Berkeley. Admission is $19.50-35; call (510) 845-4700.

Are You Ready to Trock? Not since last month, when Mark Morris roasted the holiday chestnut that is The Nutcracker, have audiences seen ballet parodied so lovingly, by such fine dancers, as they're about to see with the return of Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo. The all-male company, which dances both male and female roles, has worn out truckloads of indelicately large pointe shoes since 1974, when they began poking fun at the Russian old school with stage names like Mikhail Mypanserov (sound it out) and revamping the classical repertoire. This time, along with fine-feathered dramatic standards including The Dying Swan and Swan Lake Act II, the Trocks divine camp value in selections from Petipa's Gypsy romance Paquita. Modern dance, every inch as guilty as ballet of taking itself overseriously, gets its turn when the Trocks spoof the Merce Cunningham-John Cage collaboration Variations IV. The show begins at 8 p.m. (also Saturday, preceded both nights at 7 p.m. by a "Sightlines" discussion) at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, Berkeley. Admission is $24-42; call (510) 642-9988.

Swing That Thing Austin, Texas, is the place for barbecue joints, swimming holes, and cold beer beading up with perspiration on a hot night. It's also home to the Hot Club of Cow Town, who, like their neighbors the Asylum Street Spankers, would sound just fine at an old-fashioned barn dance. The all-acoustic string trio makes lively work of Texas swing tunes, Bob Wills favorites like "End of the Line," and Tin Pan Alley standards on its album Swingin' Stampede. Stand-up bass player Billy Horton Fiddler anchors fiddler Elana Fremerman's lilting melodies and guitarist Whit Smith's expert fingerpicking. (Squirrel Nut Zippers fans will like 'em too.) Andrea Hurley and her Very Attractive Band open for the Hot Club at 9:45 p.m. at the Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berkeley. Admission is $6; call (510) 841-2082. The Kuntry Kunts open for the Hot Club at 10 p.m. Saturday at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $7; call 861-5016. "Swing for Choice," meanwhile, features the local talents of Steve Lucky & the Rhumba Bums and Lavay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers in a swinging dance and cocktail party benefiting the California Abortion Rights Action League. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 1, at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F. Admission is $25 ($50-100) with pre-show reception and entertainment); call 546-7211.

January 30
Fookin' Grrreat, Man! Scotland's national poet, a famously hard-drinking philanderer and the son of a struggling tenant farmer, gets his due at Burns Night '99, a boisterous annual birthday party. Robert "Rabbie" Burns, himself a failed farmer but successful scribe, won the affection of his countrymen and the rest of the reading world for poems and songs that speak eloquently of hardscrabble living, natural beauty, love, and trouble. Beginning with Poems, Chiefly in the Scottish Dialect, Burns' works celebrate local color ("Tam O'Shanter," "Auld Lang Syne," "Address to a Haggis") along with more universal themes ("My Love Is Like a Red, Red Rose"). Bagpiper Harold Wilkes plays the party, where Burns' poems will be read, his songs performed, and a haggis presented with a great flourish. It all begins at 8 p.m. at the Edinburgh Castle Pub, 950 Geary (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $5; call 885-4074.

Ire Britain recently launched its second inquiry into the events of Jan. 30, 1972, the day a nonviolent civil rights march in Northern Ireland's Derry ended in chaos as British paratroopers opened fire on the participants, killing 13. In the aftermath of the shooting, which came to be known as "Bloody Sunday," family photos were culled for the newspapers. Trisha Ziff, a former Derry resident, has curated those photos, along with the victims' personal possessions and shots of the conflict itself, taken by Gilles Peress and other international photographers who happened to be in a bad place at a good time that day. The result is a touring exhibit called "Hidden Truths: Bloody Sunday 1972," which runs locally through March 21 and features related events like a panel discussion Feb. 20, a performance of the play Just Another Sunday March 11-13, and a reading March 20. Kevin Conmy, consul general of Ireland, and Sinn Fein representative Rita O'Hare are among the guests slated to attend the exhibit's opening reception at 4 p.m. at Somar Gallery, 934 Brannan (at Ninth Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 820-3207.

January 31
This Is Not a Love Song Punk's not dead, but since Johnny Rotten turns 43 this week, we can safely say that it's getting closer. At the "Ballroom Blitz Johnny Rotten Birthday Party," DJs Shindog and Damon will be spinning the Sex Pistols and PiL, taking us back to that long-ago time when Sid was still alive and the boys were sneering at royalty and stomping on Bambi. Rotten, ne Lydon, did it his way all right, abetted by consummate PR man Malcolm McClaren and outre garb from his Sex shop. Speaking of which, "Ballroom Blitz" will be giving away punk prizes (a kick in the teeth, perhaps?) to the best outfits and hairdos, so fans will want to dig out those plaid pants and start ratting, bleaching, liberty spiking, and otherwise damaging what's left of their tresses. The party begins at 9 p.m. at the CW Saloon, 911 Folsom (at Fifth Street), S.F. Admission is $4-6; call 339-8350.

February 1
On Fire That ring of authenticity in the characters playwright and actor Anna Deavere Smith portrays comes from her unusual methodology: Smith tape-records interviews, then re-enacts those sessions verbatim, paying special attention to how people move and sound as well as what they say. A cacophony of voices emerged in her one-woman show Fires in the Mirror: Crown Heights, Brooklyn and Other Identities, in which Smith adopted the accents and postures of rioters, social commentators, community leaders, and relatives of the victims in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, after racially motivated riots broke out between blacks and Hasidic Jews in 1991. She used the same painstaking approach for another portrait of racial tension in America, Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, which dug deep into the experiences of blacks, whites, and Korean-Americans around the time of the Rodney King riots. Her most recent work, House Arrest, deals with national identity as reflected in presidential leadership -- it debuted last year at D.C.'s Arena Theater. Smith returns with a new lecture, "Snapshots: Glimpses of America in Change," which begins at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.

February 2
Walden Out West From Vietnam to Newt Gingrich, political cartoonist Garry Trudeau has turned the unbearable into funny-pages material with Doonesbury. More political than daily strips, more narrative-driven than political cartoons, and too contentious for some editors' liking, Doonesbury has become a genre unto itself, where political leaders are lampooned with graphic icons (remember the beatbox for "Rapmaster Ronnie" Reagan?) and stock characters Mike, Zonker, and Duke have actually aged since their football-playing days at Walden, a fictitious Ivy League school reflecting Trudeau's alma mater, Yale. While other strips have made passing references to political and social issues, Doonesbury characters, though mostly left-leaning, have had actual dust-ups over feminism, welfare reform, gay rights, and the tobacco lobby. (It's vaguely ironic that Trudeau, who hammered on affirmative action in a series of strips about a college reunion, is speaking at the college where the debate has been most heated.) Doonesbury is the first comic strip to earn a Pulitzer and one of the few to have been rendered as a Broadway musical. Trudeau speaks at 8 p.m. at Zellerbach Hall, Bancroft & Telegraph, Berkeley. Admission is $8-16; call (510) 642-9988.

The British Invasion Relatives wave family members off and wait wistfully by the shore for their return in Sergeant Early's Dream, a haunting suite of dances set to traditional Irish and Scottish folk songs. Weaving ballet with folk dance steps, the piece suggests a hard life in the Old World and anxiety about migration to the new one, as dancers brawl, mourn, carouse, and fall in love in a series of vignettes. The ballet, choreographed by Rambert Dance Theater's Christopher Bruce, will surprise people who didn't think they liked ballet, and offer a strong start to the San Francisco Ballet '99 season. The "Best of Britain" program matches Dream with The Invitation, Sir Kenneth MacMillan's 1960 dramatic portrait of lost innocence, and Gala Performance, Anthony Tudor's over-the-top comic ballet about clashing egos; this season's highlights also include full-length productions of Othello and Giselle, and the premiere of Mark Morris' Sandpaper Ballet. The season opener begins at 8 p.m. at the War Memorial Opera House, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $10-115; call 865-2000.

About The Author

Heather Wisner


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