Word Up Pair literate kids with published authors and you get Word From the (415), this year's anthology from the San Francisco-based WritersCorps program, part of Bill Clinton's Peace Corps-style domestic service program AmeriCorps. Local and national writers taught poetry, fiction, theater, and other language arts to at-risk youth in schools and agencies all over town; the anthology includes second-year work by 200 writers ages 7 to 23. San Francisco kids give vibrant voice to their encounters with violence, money, family, sex, school, and cultural clashes in this wide-ranging collection, celebrated with readings and a publication party at 5:30 p.m. in the New Main Library's Koret Auditorium, 100 Larkin, S.F. Admission is free; call 252-2546.
Food for Thought A good meal can be tastier still when it's consumed for a good cause, without the hot-stove slavery and dishwashing parts. "Dining Out for Life" enlists the participation of dozens of local restaurants for a citywide eat-a-thon to benefit Visual Aid, a nonprofit that provides programs and services for artists living with AIDS and other life-threatening illnesses. Diners may also register to win a pair of round-trip airline tickets to London. "Dining Out for Life" is held today only, based on restaurant hours. To receive a fax of participating restaurants, call (800) 903-5242; for more information, call 777-8242.
Dances With Cows Dr. Seuss shakes hands with dadaists in Mobius Music's surreal theatrical journey Exit Vacaville. The Mobius Operandi ensemble performs live on Oliver DiCicco's original instruments as audience members walk through this mix of drama and dance, a meditation on "offramps on the road not taken." The narrative traces the life of Penelope, a waitress trapped in Vacaville, from the present back to her childhood, lingering on the divisions between her dreams and her slightly less pleasant real life (including her stint as a "cow-whacker"). Exit Vacaville opens at 9 p.m. (and continues through June 29) at the SOMAR Theater, 934 Brannan, S.F. Admission is $12; call 285-7836.
Stoked for Folk What began as a concert series in 1963 turned into a one-day event at Golden Gate Park's Hall of Flowers in 1976 and ultimately evolved, in the spirit of the '90s, as an inclusive, weekend-long cultural event. Musicians from around the world and around town will gather at the San Francisco Free Folk Festival to perform new acoustic, blues, folk, international, and traditional music and dance in continuous sets. Workshops like "Shape Note Singing" and activities organized around storytelling, craft-making, and dancing let adults and kids experiment with the form. This is a noncommercial festival, although there will be food available and musicians will be selling recordings and other related merchandise. The fest begins at 7:30 p.m. (continuing Friday and Saturday at noon) at Roosevelt Middle School, 460 Arguello, S.F. Admission is free; call (408) 370-7549.
Indigo Gals Denise Perrier, Ledisi, and Lavay Smith pool their talent for solo and group performances in the musical evening "Ladies Sing the Blues." Pickup quintet the Fat Note Band provides a backbeat as the singers, hot local properties all, belt out blues and classic jazz running the gamut from Ella Fitzgerald to Aretha Franklin. Perrier, an alto, has played Dinah Washington and Bessie Smith onstage, and is inclined to their repertoire in clubs; Beach Blanket Babylon cast member Ledisi founded R&B/acid jazz group Anibade, while Smith helped spark the swing revival with her band the Red Hot Skillet Lickers. The show is designed to evoke the bittersweet glamour of the good old days, when wearing impractical, elegant clothing, eating calorie-packed snacks, and smoking and drinking immoderately were just fine. "Ladies Sing the Blues" plays at 9 p.m. at Julie Ring's Heart and Soul, 1695 Polk, S.F. Admission is $8; call 673-7100.
Artist Among Us The Women's Philharmonic, the men's choral ensemble Chanticleer, and the Lily Cai Chinese Dance Company build on the visions of composer and artist-in-residence Chen Yi in "Myths and Poems of China: The Music of Chen Yi." The concert, a first-time collaboration among the three groups, presents the world premiere of Yi's Chinese Myths Cantata, which is performed as three sections: "Pan Gu Creates Heaven and Earth," "NY Wa Creates Human Beings," and "Weaving Maid and Cowherd"; the program also includes A Set of Chinese Folk Songs, Tang Poems, Antiphony (Ge Xu), and Symphony No. 2. The concert is held at 8 p.m. (also Saturday at 8 p.m, Sunday at 7 p.m.) at Center for the Arts Theater, 700 Howard, S.F. Admission is $19-26; call 392-4400.
Hit the Beach Protect Fluffy from bad juju at the Blessing of the Animals, an entertainment highlight at the North Beach Festival, a convergence of the beatnik, house pet, and tourist communities. In honor of the Beat movement that once flourished in the city's Italianate pocket, the festival offers publisher and bookseller stalls along with a spoken-word stage, "Sounding the Beat," at which poets will read to jazz accompaniment. Festival standards -- food booths, arts and crafts, live music stages -- are open alongside arte di gesso, or traditional Italian street painting, and the prize-drawing booth Lotteria North Beach. The festival begins at 10 a.m. (also on Sunday) on the 1200-1500 blocks of Grant, the 500 block of Green, and in Washington Square Park, S.F. Admission is free; call 403-0666.