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Inventing Asian theater

FRI 8/8

San Francisco is home to both an active Asian community and a dynamic youth theater culture. It's no surprise, then, that the two would eventually meet, coming together with the vibrancy of a dancing lion in S.F.-based company Youth for Asian Theater. The local high school students who call YFAT their own create original productions that address Asian-American themes typically left out of Western stagings: Past shows have tackled issues ranging from Angel Island immigration to the academic pressures applied to As-Am teens to the clash between a traditional Chinese cook and her KFC-loving daughter-in-law.

YFAT's new summer production, "East Side Story," plays tonight only. A pupu platter of original short plays and monologues, "Story" is written, directed, and performed by the company's 24 young members. The varied pieces range in length from 10 to 30 minutes each, and are appropriate for audiences of all ages. (The only problem is that, as with a sushi dinner, half an hour after the show you'll be hungry for more.) "Story" takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. at the Herbst Theater in the War Memorial Building, 401 Van Ness (at Grove), S.F. Admission is free; call 831-5849.
-- Jack Karp

Enter the Dragon
Ancient athletics afloat

SAT-SUN 8/9-10

Each summer on the Oakland Estuary a Taoist priest enacts a venerable ritual, darkening the pupils of ceremonial dragon heads to symbolically awaken the mythical creatures. Not everyone would want to rouse a fire-breathing lizard -- but not everyone's familiar with dragon-boat racing, either. The pastime began 2,000 years ago when Chinese fishermen paddled down the Mi Lo River in an attempt to save drowning poet Qu Yuan. Qu Yuan didn't make it, but the sport sparked by his demise did, and now each year athletes battle for paddling supremacy in 18-meter rowboats decorated with paint-and-sculpture dragons.

The California International Dragon Boat Festival boasts cultural performers, Eastern crafts and food, and, of course, many floating dragons to admire. The awakening ceremony starts at 9 a.m. Saturday at Jack London Square, Broadway & Embarcadero, Oakland. Admission is free; call (510) 452-4272 or visit
-- Joyce Slaton

All Washed Up
Kids make a clean getaway

SUN 8/10

We don't know about you, but every time we think about making soap we picture that Fight Club scene in which the characters steal leftover lard from a liposuction clinic to manufacture their upscale suds. "Science of Soap" can't promise anything as exciting -- Brad Pitt will be nowhere in evidence -- but kids ages 7 to 10 can transform vegetable-based oils, salt, and lye into take-home cakes of soap. This three-hour workshop manages to sneak a science lesson into a hands-on event that looks for all the world like a crafts demo. The class begins at 1 p.m. at the Crissy Field Center, 603 Mason (at Halleck), S.F. Admission is $15, and preregistration is required; call 561-7752.
-- Joyce Slaton

Park Place


That big, beautiful park -- we love it, but how much do we really know about it? Chris Pollock knows a lot: He's the author of San Francisco's Golden Gate Park: A Thousand and Seventeen Acres of Stories. His "History of Golden Gate Park" lecture, slide show, and vintage postcard exhibit starts at 7 p.m. at the Richmond Branch Library, 350 10th Ave. (at Clement), S.F. Admission is free; call 666-7166.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser


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