may 22
Southern Comfort Watsonville, Calif., found its saint in tree bark and its strength in resistance to cannery management and rebuilding after the Loma Prieta earthquake. Playwright Cherrie Moraga looks at the unwavering faith of a predominantly Mexican community south of Santa Cruz in Watsonville, a work based in part on the two-year strike against a cannery and the discovery of La Virgen de Guadalupe on a tree in a public park. Composer John Santos of the Machete Ensemble provides an original Afro-Latin score; Amy Mueller directs. Watsonville opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through June 30) at Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St., S.F. Admission is $12-16; call 487-5401.

Grand Finale San Francisco Ballet closes out its 63rd season with velocity and verve: New York City Ballet principal dancer Merrill Ashley dances the lead (with Anthony Randazzo) in Balanchine's Ballo Della Regina, originally set to Verdi, and full of the fleet footwork for which she is celebrated. The piece is part of Program VI, which also features Helgi Tomasson's Sonata, a reflection on loss set to Rachmaninov's "Sonata for Cello and Piano in G Major," and Mark Morris' Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes, in which a single dancer breaks from the ensemble for a set of bravura turns. Ashley dances tonight only at 8 p.m. Program VI continues through June 2 at the Palace of Fine Arts, Bay & Lyon, S.F. Admission is $18-85; call 776-1999.

may 23
Trailblazer Tribute Joe Goode tips his cowboy hat to the renegades who shaped the American landscape and spirit in the world premiere of The Maverick Strain. Goode collaborators include the Club Foot Orchestra Quintet, which performs an original score by Beth Custer within the movable units and paintings created for the piece by artist Nayland Blake. The staging allows the audience to experience the work as if it were a set of art installations; viewers can take in one section, then move on to the next. Goode and his six dancers, their sense of humor firmly in place, present this exploration of the pioneer legacy at 7:30 p.m. The Maverick Strain continues through June 2 at Center for the Arts Yerba Buena Gardens Forum, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $14; call 978-2787.

See You in the Funny Papers Last Gasp Eco-Funnies presents the latest installment of its biannual underground comics anthology, Last Gasp Comix and Stories #4, with an artist-studded release party. For 27 years, Last Gasp owner Ron Turner has thumbed his nose at propriety with publications like Zap and Weirdo; for this edition, editor Noah Mass compiled work by Mats Stromberg, Renee French, and others, some of whom are expected to make the scene, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at Kate O'Brien's Irish Bar and Restaurant, 579 Howard, S.F. Free; call 824-6636. Meanwhile, Eightball creator Dan Clowes celebrates the release of his new book, Orgy Bound; he'll be joined by Richard Sala (The Ghastly Ones) and Adrian Tomine (the Optic Nerve series) for an in-store appearance at 3 p.m. at Virgin Megastore, 2 Stockton, S.F. Free; call 397-4525.

Boys to Men One man's cycle of violence is the catalyst for a hard look at male socialization in Spare the Rod. Mark Growden joined Man Alive after he hit his girlfriend; in the group, which seeks to end battery and abuse by males, he began to analyze the way he was brought up and the abuse he was subjected to as a child. This inquiry eventually broadened to include questioning notions of male roles and male superiority. With co-creator Remy Charlip, Growden put together a solo dance-theater piece, which plays at 8:30 p.m. and continues through June 1 at Dancer's Group/Footwork, 3221 22nd St., S.F. Admission is $10; call 824-5044.

may 24
Jam on a Roll Trip hop and hip hop shake hands with house and acid jazz at "Urban Jam IV." DJs Mark Farina of Mush-room Jazz and Felix the Dog of Black Diamond spin deep house and dance discs downstairs, while upstairs, the Mo'fessionals (recent winners of the first Disc-makers Unsigned Band World Series), Los Angelitos, Jungle Biskit, Telefunken, and New Dealers get a groove on. ACME Gallery adds to the underground ambience with a selection of motorcycles, blown glass, and posters from its "Custom" exhibit (on display at 667 Howard through May 31). "Urban Jam IV" doors open at 8 p.m. for this all-ages show; live music starts at 9 p.m. at the Maritime Hall, 450 Harrison, S.F. Admission is $11-14; call (510) 974-0634.

Ol' Blue Eyes Take a gander at a very rare gator: Antoine LeBlanc. On loan from New Orleans' Audubon Zoo, the 9-year-old, blue-eyed, white American reptile is technically not albino, but rather leucistic, or lacking the pigment cells that produce color in the skin. Alligators are rare enough as it is (they're protected under the Endangered Species Act), but Antoine is one of only 18 white hatchlings discovered in a Louisiana swamp in 1987. Our broad-snouted little friend will be visible from an underwater viewing glass as he glides through an 88-degree Fahrenheit pool and basks on an adjoining mud bank through Labor Day at the San Francisco Zoo's newly renovated aviary (which will now showcase a variety of tropical plant and animal life), 1 Zoo, S.F. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily. Admission is free-$7; call 753-7080.

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