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Night + Day 

Wednesday, Jan 7 1998
january 7
Fencing August Wilson won two Pulitzers for playwriting, in 1987 for The Piano Lesson and again in 1990 for Fences, but within the last year and a half, more attention has been paid to Wilson's voice outside the theater. Wilson, who is black, and New Republic critic Robert Brustein, who is white, got into a heated, and protracted, public debate over race relations and theater last spring after Wilson, in an address at Princeton, criticized black actors who play traditionally "white" roles and white theater companies that stage "black" shows and get grant money that ought to go to black companies. Brustein countered with the argument that divvying up dramatic material according to race could ultimately lead to "separate but unequal" dramatic product and a rollback of civil rights gains. Their formal debate, moderated by Fires in the Mirror playwright Anna Deavere Smith and broadcast on public radio, contained some painful moments, and some ridiculous ones, but was significant for the dialogue it generated, particularly among people who don't usually sit around talking about the arts, a dialogue that Harvardite Henry Louis Gates furthered with his New Yorker article "The Chitlin Circuit." Wilson, who up until that time had mostly sparred with Brustein in print, has continually taken race public in his work. The Black Repertory Group Theater offers audiences the chance to familiarize themselves with some of it when the company stages Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, a musical drama about the conflict between black musicians and a white record company executive in a run-down Chicago recording studio. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 7) at the Black Repertory Group Theater, 3201 Adeline (at Fairview), Berkeley. Admission is $3-12; call (510) 652-2120.

january 8
The Odyssey of Oz Over four decades of tentative peace and outright terrorism, author Amos Oz has given the rest of the world personal glimpses of the upheaval in the Middle East. Oz, a short story writer, essayist, and novelist who was born in Jerusalem in 1939, grew up on a kibbutz when his homeland was being divided and annexed into new and old cities and holy territory was the subject of the Arab-Israeli War; his experience has translated into the vivid poetic prose of books like A Perfect Peace and his most recent effort, Panther in the Basement, a fictionalized account of his youth. Oz, whose work won him the International Frankfurt Peace Prize in 1992, speaks about Israeli literature at 8 p.m. in the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $16; call 392-4400.

Hot Shots The dust has technically settled since the FBI and local police raided photographer Jock Sturges' studio in 1990, but the controversy over the contents continues. A local film-processing lab tipped off the feds that it was developing images of unclothed adolescents and that maybe someone should come take a look-see; authorities confiscated images that could be considered pornographic, but a federal grand jury threw out the case against Sturges. That wasn't the last squabble over Sturges' work, though: Last month, a federal grand jury in Tennessee indicted a Barnes & Noble outlet for stocking a book of Sturges' photos that may violate state obscenity laws. Sturges' work, like the work of photographer Sally Mann, is heavy on artful black-and-white nudes, many of children and extended families, shot in Northern California, west Ireland, and on European nude beaches, often in the waning days of summer. His photos are part of the collections of the Met, MOMA, and SFMOMA; the photographer, who possesses a B.F.A. in perceptual psychology and photography, received his M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute. A new exhibit of his work opens at 11 a.m. at the Robert Koch Gallery, 49 Geary (at Market), S.F. Admission is free; call 421-0122. Sturges will lecture Feb. 11 at 7:30 p.m. at San Francisco Camerawork, 115 Natoma, S.F. Admission is $4-6; call 764-1001.

january 9
Road Rules Paula Vogel's '97 off-Broadway hit How I Learned to Drive careens its way westward for its first production outside of New York City, where it ran for nearly a year to broad critical acclaim. The Magic Theater, which presented Vogel's Pulitzer Prize-nominee The Baltimore Waltz six years ago, has teamed up with Berkeley Rep to produce this second work locally. How I Learned to Drive is the story of L'il Bit, a young woman coming of age in Maryland in the '60s and '70s who learns the rules of the road, and the facts of life, in a rocky, sexualized relationship with her older uncle. A Greek chorus takes the roles of L'il Bit's screwed-up family members, her fellow high school students, and various other folks she encounters in this show, which, despite its risky content, maintains a healthy sense of humor. How I Learned to Drive previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Feb. 27) at the Berkeley Repertory Theater, 2025 Addison (at Shattuck), Berkeley. Admission is $29.50-45; call (510) 845-4700.

Friday! Friday! Friday! The kids over at professional-announcer school live for action-packed events like the U.S. Hot Rod Monster Jam! See monster trucks Grave Digger, Bigfoot, Monster Patrol, Bear Foot, Predator, and Wild Thang race to the finish line! Stand back as giant fire-breathing, transforming robots Galactron and Reptar battle for supremacy! Crane your neck as Team North and Team South racers meet in the Quad Wars, and motocross machines vie for the Cycle Wars title! Try not to bust a gut laughing as local truck owners burn their very own rubber on the Ruff Trux obstacle course! Grab a pen and get an autograph from a real live driver! Dirt-track date, baby! It's motor-ific! The show begins at 8 p.m. (also 8 p.m. Saturday; Sunday begins at noon with a Pit Party) at the Oakland Coliseum, 7000 Coliseum, Oakland. Admission is $8-18; call (510) 762-2277.

january 10
Kids: Try This at Home! That Kramer look-alike teaching your kids how to build a rocket model in your living room isn't actually a mad scientist or a crazy neighbor; he's Paul Zaloom, the host of Beakman's World, a TV science show for curious kids and science-impaired adults. Zaloom will spend the day at the Exploratorium, performing nutty educational experiments like the ones he conducts on the show, and soliciting audience suggestions for a new show in the works. Beakman's World is based on an internationally syndicated Sunday cartoon strip; Zaloom's visit brings the show full circle, since the comic strip's creator, Jok Church, was inspired by the educational science programs conducted at the Exploratorium, and the demonstrations Zaloom will do were created in collaboration with the center's teachers. Find out how to balance eight nails on the head of one nail, or to push a plunger handle through tissue (it's not as simple as it sounds) when Zaloom illustrates scientific principles in three shows, at 11 a.m., 1:30 p.m., and 4 p.m. in the Exploratorium's McBean Theater, 3601 Lyon (at Bay), S.F. Admission is free-$9; call 563-7337.

january 11
Try It, You'll Like It! This is for anyone with secret fly-girl aspirations; anyone who loved Shall We Dance?, Flamenco, and The Tango Lesson; or anyone who feels the need to get off the goddamn couch and get some air. Citicentre Dance Theater offers a free day of classes ranging from street funk/hip hop and Congolese to West African and Afro-Brazilian with live percussion by Carlos Aceituno of Fogo Na Roupa. Community Dance Day, which is open to all levels of experience, begins at noon at the Alice Arts Center, 1428 Alice (at 14th Street), Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 451-1230. Meanwhile, kids and adults are invited to try out ballroom dance, ballet, belly dancing, Pilates, and jazz when Open Studio Day begins at 1 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California (at Presidio), S.F. Admission is free; call 292-1234.

january 12
Not-Quite-Golden Girls First The Dark Side of Camelot, and now this: Documentarian brothers David and Albert Maysles, whose work includes the horrific and fascinating chronicle of the Rolling Stones-Altamont debacle, Gimme Shelter, train their lenses on Jackie O's eccentric aunt, Edith Bouvier Beale, and her equally disturbed daughter Edie (Jackie's cousin), in Grey Gardens. The film, a 1976 entry in the faded glory genre, zooms in on the former debutantes as they recall the good old days and dodder around their decaying 28-room East Hampton mansion, which has become overrun with cats and raccoons and been officially deemed a health hazard by local officials. In his annual movie and video guide, film critic Leonard Maltin describes this portrait of wealthy socialites gone to seed as "tasteless, suspect, but riveting." We couldn't ask for a better recommendation. The film screens at 7:15 and 9:20 p.m. at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is $3-6; call 668-3994.

january 13
Top of the Pops Austin's Silver Scooter have perfected the delicate art of sincere pop songs and pretty balladry, but there are epigrammatic moments, too, on their release The Other Palm Springs, like "You can't keep a good man down/ You can't feed a good man paste." Can't you? The album, recorded in a 24-track home studio by producer Dave McNair, is a simple and satisfying debut from the Texan trio, who were named one of Austin's top 10 best pop bands of 1997 by the Austin Music Awards after playing together for just over a year. They'll find themselves in like-minded company when they perform on a bill with San Francisco acts Dart and Smitten. The show begins 9:30 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $5; call 621-4455.

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Heather Wisner


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