Idiot Variations In his new musical theater piece, San Francisco writer-performer Rinde Eckert leads his audience through the labyrinth of humor, pathos and confusion that characterizes human experience. A more sophisticated Forrest Gump, Eckert's Idiot skewers the self-righteous philosophy of the social family and celebrates the wordless illumination of the isolated fool. Eckert, whom the New York Times credited with "the most striking performance art ... since the early days of Laurie Anderson," is internationally recognized both for his opera-trained voice and his abilities as a solo virtuoso of new music theater. The Paul Dresher Ensemble presents the premiere of Idiot Variations at 8pm at the SOMAR Theatre, 934 Brannan, S.F.; performances run Thurs-Sat through April 29. Tickets are $10-12; call (510) 843-4011.
Pedalers on Parade Admit it. Every so often -- whenever you catch a glimpse of a raffishly clad bike messenger as he or she breezes past your sterile life and onto the city streets -- you mourn your corporate togs and crave insight into a more daring fashion aesthetic. Not to worry; it's time for Project Open Hand's Third Annual Bike Messenger Fashion Show. In an effort to generate participants and pledge money for the AIDS Bike-A-Thon in May, the country's leading provider of hot meals, groceries and nutritional counseling for people living with HIV and AIDS has rounded up your favorite couriers to modelthe hippest streetwear in their collections. The AIDS Bike-A-Thon, a one-day event for bikers of all ages, raises pledges to support the 2,800-plus Bay Area residents Project Open Hand serves daily. The free fashion show runs from noon to 1 pm in Justin Herman Plaza, Embarcadero & Clay, S.F. Call 834-3197 or 255-4167.
Nordic Goddess Anne-Lise Berntsen's commitment to modernist and contemporary art music sets her apart from other opera singers; her dramatic voice places her among the most sought after performers in Scandinavia. With a program including Schsnberg's Pierrot Lunaire, Mahler's Songs From Des Knaben Wunderhorn and Berg's Piano Sonata, the Norwegian soprano is making a rare U.S. concert performance to benefit the newly formed Norwegian American Cultural Foundation. Bernsten's performance begins at 7:30 pm in the Green Room, War Memorial Opera House, 401 Van Ness, S.F. Tickets are $25; call 986-0766.
Dance Envisions the Cure Four Bay Area choreographers join forces to explore the spiritual and philosophical themes of "cure" and "caring." African American choreographer Philip Jones presents Finally, a Child, a dance work based on a Nietzschean notion of the soul's meta-morphosis; Tomi Paasonen, a former member of the Hamburg ballet, presents While Waiting, depicting the thoughts and emotions of people facing sickness, life and death in a waiting room; Scott West, whose works typically encompass intense athleticism alongside searing intelligence, presents To Have and to Fold; and Yannis Adoniou presents Refills Left: O, a work chronicling the 24-hour observation of a woman who has recently been placed in an institution. Dance Envisions the Cure begins at 8 pm at the Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason Center, S.F.; performances continue through Sat, April 22. Tickets are $16-18; call 392-4400.
Play Desdemona Set in 1660 Restoration London, Daniel Hintzsche's award-winning play explores gender roles at the time women first began acting in Shakespeare's female roles. The production stars Shannon Gallagher, Amy Beth Mordecai, Allen McKelvy and Scott Phillips. Written as a counterpoint to Shakespeare's Othello, Play Desdemona examines the relationship between the era's leading male "heroine" and his young female apprentice. Hintzsche's play, which won first place in the Theatre Memphis New Play competition, wraps classical influences around contemporary psychological and social issues. Desdemona opens at 8 pm at the 450 Geary Studio Theatre, S.F; it plays through May 13. Tickets are $12-15; call 673-1172.
X-pose Bored by yupsters and hipsters? Let provocative local drag legend Miss X transport you to the glamour-dripping era "when queens were king." A 20-year veteran of Bay Area stages, Miss X soars into Eichelberger's exquisitely painted sky room to perform the classic romantic tunes of Gershwin, Arlen and Porter. For a night of dancing and eclectic cuisine, call ahead for reservations. Miss X performs Fridays at 10:30 pm through April 28 at Eichelberger's, 2742 17th St, S.F. Tickets are $8; call 863-4177.
From Sea to Shining Sea Feast on fat sounds when Westwind International Folk Ensemble serves up a slice of history with American Pie, featuring performances by 40 singers, dancers and musicians. American history comes alive as Appalachian clogging and Kentucky running sets (the predecessor of today's square dance) meet pre-Colombian percussion and Hawaiian hula. Especially notable is the ensemble's Shaker Worship Series, the result of 30-plus years of research by the company's founder. Westwind performs at 8 pm at Julia Morgan Theater, 2640 College, Berkeley; performances continue Sat, April 22, at 2 & 8 pm and Sun, April 23, at 2 pm. Tickets are $10-15; call (510) 444-8575 or BASS.
The Big Broadcast The perfect inaugural performance for the newly refurbished Presidio Performing Arts Theatre, The Big Broadcast makes its West Coast premiere as part of the 50th-anniversary World War II Commemorative Community program. The story begins in 1945 with a War Department attempt to raise money by taking the nation's most popular radio show on tour. Interspersed with Sammy Kaye, Glenn Miller and 20 other hits performed by the 10-piece Kool Kats Orchestra are clips of original wartime news reports, including FDR's "Day of Infamy" speech and Eisenhower's report on D-Day. To top it all off, members of the audience will be chosen to participate in an onstage jitterbug contest. The show opens at 8 pm at the Presidio Performing Arts Theatre, Moraga & Arguello, S.F. Tickets for this open-ended run are $19-25, with special veterans and senior tickets from $10-15; call 522-9530.
Earth Day 25 Trying to find a good way to celebrate our mother? It won't be hard; ecoevents abound on both sides of the bay. San Francisco's Earth Day 25 takes place at the Ford Scott Amphitheater in the Presidio with continuous music from 2-6 pm. Performers include a wide spectrum of legendary greats from Etta James to Country Joe MacDonald to the Caribbean Allstars. Wendy Weir and Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead will be signing copies of Baru Bay, their new children's book, from 1-2 pm in the Coral Forest Booth. If that's not enough to distract you, wander over to the adjacent Earth and Global Food Fest to check out environmental demonstrations, the Exploratorium's hands-on activity center and Native American drumming, among other things. Concert- and festivalgoers can park at Crissy Field or take Muni bus #29; free shuttles will run to Fort Scott all day. Tickets are $15-20; call BASS. Across the Bay in Berkeley, the celebration kicks off with the Eco-Motion Parade at 11 am in Martin Luther King Park, Allston & MLK Jr. Way. The fair runs from noon-5 pm and features performances from Wild Mango, Project Bandaloop, Teokali, Country Joe MacDonald and the Prescott School Clown Troupe. In addition, Earth First!er Judi Bari and environmental author Harold Gilliam will speak, and internationally known wood sculptor Shane Eagleton will display a 35-foot giant redwood sculpture covered by carvings of extinct and endangered species. The Berkeley event is free; call (510) 548-7377.
Fieldwork The Field, a New York City-based arts organization, is visiting San Francisco to offer a workshop and town meeting. The Field's workshop is designed as a safe environment for dance, theater and perform-ance artists to present works-in-progress and receive critiques from their peers. The town meeting is designed as a forum for artists to tell Field staff about living and making artwork in San Francisco, as well as air their common complaints and fears in a time when federal funding for art is decreasing. The workshop takes place from 10 am-1 pm at Theater Artaud, 450 Florida, S.F. A $10 donation is requested; space is limited. Call 647-2200 for information. The free town meeting runs from 3 pm-5 pm at Dancers' Group/Footwork, 3221 22nd St, S.F.; call 824-5044.
It's Reigning Men If Earth Day and Fieldwork left you sated with enough do-gooding for the week, check out the 1995 Mr. S.F. Leather Contest, hosted by Irwin Kane, Leather Daddy X and Lurch. Cabaret singer Cynthia Manley will be on hand for a rousing rendition of "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," so get out your mink oil and head over to the It's Reigning Men contest at the Russian Center, 2450 Sutter, S.F., at 8 pm. Tickets are $15-25; call 974-6020.
Ten Reasons to Riot The first and best reason to riot is what's rumored to be the DNA Lounge's last live alternative rock show before management switches over to a new dance format. The second is sometime Austin art-band the Seemen's new robotic perform-ance, duly titled Ten Reasons to Riot. The troupe promises death-defying art hijinks incorporating the Seemen themselves, the audience (all of whom become "Seemen" upon crossing the DNA threshold), "a 15,000-volt wall of exploding neon" and new robots, Lurch and Stretch. If you're up for some high-risk entertainment, check it out. Doors open at 9 pm at the DNALounge, 375 11th St, S.F. Tickets are $7; call 626-1409.
The Wild Party In 1994, Pulitzer-winning writer and cartoonist Art Spiegelman rediscovered the classic 1928 jazz-age poem and published the tale in a book of starkly beautiful black-and-white drawings. Now Larry Reed, artistic director of Shadowlight Productions, offers a work-in-progress performance of the poem, complete with candlelit sets and an original jazz score composed and played by guitarist Bruce Forman. Written by Joseph March, The Wild Party is a timeless, hard-boiled tale of love and betrayal. The concert reading is part of Theater of Yugen's Monday-night series and will be followed by two Kyogen comedies, The Melon Thief and Tied to a Pole. The reading starts at 8 pm at Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa, S.F. Tickets are $10; call 621-7978.
Farmcore The Red Vic offers a glimpse of a different kind of American history with a screening of three punk-rock videos. Started in the 1970s as an environmental-art project and model urban farm, the Farm thrived as a community garden/thrash space until it went belly-up in 1987. The first featured video is Farmcore: The Punk Rock Years, a documentary depicting the staff's struggle to keep the Farm open. Featuring DOA, No Means No, Social Distortion, Sister Double Happiness and more, Mike Kavanaugh's hourlong documentary gives a good picture of San Francisco's underground music scene as its potency waned. The other two videos are Greta Snyder's four-minute Hardcore Home Movie, featuring the Bad Brains, and Dirk Dirkson's 15-minute Dead Kennedys Live. Screenings are at 7:15 & 9:15 pm at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $5.50; call 668-3994.