Clawing Their Way to the Top Eastern seaboard crabs just feel naked without Old Bay, or so the folks at McCormick, which makes the seafood seasoning, would have us believe. They're hoping to extend its popularity beyond the shores of the Chesapeake Bay by running a nationwide "Old Bay Neighborhood Challenge." Chefs from restaurants in six different parts of the city will compete for prizes at a public lunchtime cook-off, which will be judged by local culinary authorities; unwashed eaters will select a separate "People's Choice" and will be offered free tastings, spice samples, and recipe giveaways. It begins at noon at Justin Herman Plaza, Market & Steuart, S.F. Admission is free; call (800) 733-6318.
Bring the Noise Bearded Lady co-founder and performer Harriet Dodge and poet/musician Ras Mo join Los Tricksters, Drama-DIVAS, and Latinas in Theater for "Mission Noise," an evening of performance capping a summer-long arts education program in the Mission. Dodge goes solo in excerpts from her show Muddy Little River, using movement and monologue to tell stories of peer pressure and purity of heart; Mo, the director of Dominican dance and music company DISAP, specializes in Dominican folklore. DramaDIVAS and Latinas in Theater base theatrical work on their experiences as minority artists, and Los Tricksters draw on history and culture for a multimedia look at labor and consumption. The show starts at 7:30 p.m. at Southern Exposure, 401 Alabama, S.F. Admission is $3-5; call 863-2141.
Battles On and Off the Canvas The tug of war between artistic integrity and public opinion is fought in British playwright Howard Barker's dark comedy Scenes From an Execution. Written first as a radio play for the BBC, it tells the story of an artist commissioned by the city fathers of a late-16th-century Venetian town to paint a large-scale work celebrating their army's victory against the Ottoman Empire. When she turns in a technically adept but controversial depiction of the savagery of war, officials don't know whether they should applaud her ability or condemn her for treason. There are plenty of real-life precedents to invoke in this history-based tale of an artist's resistance to creating state-supervised propaganda. Scenes opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Sept. 15) at Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St., S.F. Admission is $10-14; call 267-1836.
Loud as the Rolling Sea The Afro Solo Festival's main event is the appearance of longtime political activist Dick Gregory, who works his experiences as hunger striker, nutritionist, comedian, and 1968 presidential candidate into a larger description of the African-American experience in his one-man show, Dick Gregory Live!!! The animated Gregory is hardly the only reason to catch this third installment of Afro Solo: Several African-American artists use story, monologue, movement, and music to put individual stamps on a collective experience. The weekend-long performance schedule begins with soprano Dr. Helen Dillworth singing the stirring African-American national anthem "Lift Every Voice" and a libation led by Dr. Dorsey Blake and continues with Michael Lange in The Legacy of Malcolm X Revisited: The Ballot or the Bullet and Maxine Wyman's Sapphire's Song, among other offerings. A Saturday symposium centers on the topic "Reaching Landings, Turning Corners, and Sometimes Going Into the Dark: How Black Theater Reflects Black Culture."The fest begins at 8 p.m. at ODC Performance Gallery, 3153 17th St., S.F. Admission is $12; call 621-7797. Gregory performs at 6 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25; a pre-show reception begins at 4:30 p.m. at First Congregational Church, 432 Post, S.F. Admission is $20-25; call 621-7797
Anarchy From the AK The antidote to political convention hyperbole may be found, however briefly, in dreams of anarchy, making the AK Press show sound pretty good right about now. The locally based publisher produces and distributes anarchist books and tapes of all sorts, from Noam Chomsky's Secrets, Lies and Democracy to Zeke Teflon's Complete Manual of Pirate Radio. Epitaph Records, no stranger to civic dissent itself, considering its refusal to slap parental warning labels on its punk rock records, has released Better Read Than Dead, a punk/metal/rock compilation CD benefiting AK Press and perhaps summed up best by Chumbawumba's "Safety Pin Stuck in My Heart." Contributors Propagandhi, who put anti-fascist vegetarian politics to a snappy punk beat, play a CD release party and benefit with Deadmates the Gary Floyd Band and Bjsrn Baby Bjsrn at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Admission is $7; call 885-0750.
Beyond the Burr The Scottish invasion continues with Fest on the Fault Line '96, an ambitious, 10-day performing arts festival patterned after Edinburgh's Fringe Festival. An international microcosm of Scottish natives, expatriates, and admirers will be staging shows, singing songs, slugging whisky, and slagging Brits (and probably talking about Trainspotting, but that's another story). To counter the stereotype of aggro kilt-wearing, bagpipe-playing northern Kingdomers, organizers Allen Aitken and Alan Black offer the "Shaken Not Stirred II" spy party in honor of Scotsman and original Bond man Sean Connery; an evening of work by Scottish authors like Irvine Welsh, read in accents ranging from Glaswegian to cockney and titled "You Can Stick Your Fuckin' English Up Your Arse!"; art exhibits, spoken word, theater, and concerts. The Fest officially begins with a ceilidh, a traditional dance party with Celtic band Storm in a Teacup, at 9 p.m. at Edinburgh Castle, 950 Geary, S.F. Admission is $5-7; call 771-4440. See box, Page 26 for comprehensive Fest listings.