Sharin' With Karen Pegged as a ditzy kook after such films as Five Easy Pieces and Trilogy of Terror, Karen Black is more than a character actress. She wrote the country songs that her Tammy Wynette-like character sings in Robert Altman's Nashville, and they're (intentionally) hilarious, a loopy mix of folksiness and existentialism. Black's contribution to the Solo Mio Festival -- A View of the Heart -- might be equally strange, if its source material is any indication. Fusing literature from William Faulkner and Katherine Anne Porter to songs by Bessie Smith, David Bowie, and Black herself, the show plays at 8 p.m. (also on Thursday) at Cowell Theatre, Fort Mason Center, S.F. Tickets are $18; call 392-4400.
Attention Kmart Shoppers Influenced by old Hollywood and Madison Avenue advertisements and pulp fiction iconography, Alexis Smith's collage approach is seductive and subversive. Though Smith's combination of text and commercial material echoes Barbara Kruger, her style is more lively, less ideological. "Commercial Art" shows new work by Smith, along with visual/musical creations by Christian Marclay and an installation by Allen Ruppersberg; the exhibition is open 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. at Gallery Paule Anglim, 14 Geary St, S.F. "Commercial Art" continues through Nov. 11. Free; call 433-2710.
Just Joshing Josh Kornbluth's last solo piece --The Mathematics of Change -- started in S.F. and wound up off-Broadway. The next installment in Kornbluth's award-winning semi-autobiographical series, Pumping Copy focuses on a naive college grad's quest to attain fame and fortune in the lucrative, glamorous field of alternative journalism. Family squabbles and optical problems add to the intrigue. Still in development, Pumping Copy begins three weeks of workshop performances at 8:30 p.m. at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia, S.F. Tickets are $8-12; call 826-5750.
Love Is a Many Gendered Thing Billed as "a chaotic fairy tale for the queer, urban world," Fanci's Persuasion is a same-sex S.F. update on A Midsummer Night's Dream, dosed with weird magical realism. The best things about Charles Herman-Wurmfeld's movie are its vibrant primary colors and Justin Bond's scenery-chewing performance as a stressed-out suburban mom. Fanci plays at 7:30 & 9:15 p.m. (and repeats Friday) at the Red Vic Movie House, 1727 Haight, S.F. Tickets are $3-5.50; call 668-3994.
Open Your Art Celebrating its 20th birthday this year, ArtSpan's Open Studios is S.F.'s largest single annual visual arts get-together, allowing the general public to visit the private studios and homes of over 600 local creators. The show-and-sell event spans a month, and its sites range from converted South of Market warehouse spaces to chichi Pacific Heights living rooms. Featuring music by the Jug Band, an opening reception for the artists involved lasts from 6 to 9 p.m. at SOMAR Gallery, 934 Brannan, S.F. Free; call 861-9838.
Sexual Politics How does homosexuality relate to political and social radicalism? Berkeley professor Leo Bersani's new book, Homos, addresses this question, and his idiosyncratic answers have prompted the New York Times Book Review to counterpoint Homos with Andrew Sullivan's Virtually Normal in a (patronizing) front-page review. Bersani will be joined by a theorist (Judith Butler) and an artist (Nayland Blake) for a discussion at 7 p.m. at Phyllis Wattis Theater, SFMOMA, 151 Third St, S.F. Tickets are $4-8; call 357-4102.
Magic LaWanda "Tell the man with the money to come here and pay me." That's the first thing LaWanda Page said when she entered the studio to make a cameo on RuPaul's debut album. Two decades since her acting heyday as wisecracking Aunt Esther -- the nemesis of Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) on Sanford and Son -- Page is still feisty, and her stand-up routines are filled with words you can't hear on TV. She'll be joined by poet/singer/rapper/lecturer/producer/director Rudy Ray "Dolemite" Moore for an evening of XXX-rated comedy at 8 p.m. at McKenna Theatre, Creative Arts Building, SFSU, 1650 Holloway, S.F. Tickets are $10-12; call 338-2444.
Sitar Man Hailed as "the godfather of world music" by George Harrison, Ravi Shankar has integrated Indian instrumentation with rock/blues (with the Byrds, John Coltrane, and others) and Western classical compositions (with the New York Philharmonic and the London Symphony Orchestra). This year, the renowned sitar virtuoso celebrates his 75th birthday by hitting the road. Accompanied by tabla maestro Zakir Hussain, Shankar performs a benefit concert for the Foundation for Cancer Research at 8 p.m. at Nob Hill Masonic Auditorium, 1111 California, S.F. Tickets are $19.50-30 for the show, $150 for the show plus a reception with Shankar; call (510) 762-2277.
Where's Andy? "Warhol's main strength in filmmaking is as a kind of personality promoter who can pick real performers," Parker Tyler writes in Underground Film. Warhol's best-known film from the Factory era, The Chelsea Girls brings together quite a few "performers," including Gerald Malanga, Briget Polk, speed-freaky Pope Ondine, and Mary Woronov. One of the few cast members still alive, Woronov continues to act and paint, though she has little affinity for Pop Art's ironic, emotionally distant aesthetic. She'll read from her forthcoming autobiography, Swimming Underground, and local singer Omewenne will perform a tribute to Nico at a special 30th-anniversary screening of The Chelsea Girls at 7 p.m. at the Victoria Theatre, 2961 16th St, S.F. Tickets are $10; call 431-5329.