february 19
Maybe She's Born With It ... Maybe It's Snap-On Gender, beauty, power, and place are considered in the Davies Forum lecture series and the exhibit "Big Tools and the Women Who Use Them." The lectures begin tonight with "American Beauty," a historical overview of fashion and feminism by USC history department chair Lois Banner, and continue with such topics as "Beauty Queens on the Global Stage: Gender, Contests, and Power," a comparative analysis of beauty pageants in West Africa and Texas (March 26), and "The Biology of Beauty," natural scientist Randy Thornhill's findings on genetics, beauty, and biology. Printmaker Katherine Aoki pokes fun at tool company machismo and the phallic implications of tool size with an installation featuring monoprints of fictitious hardware. The show's subtheme, "Men Who Clean," substitutes men's housekeeping magazines and linoleum cuts of men running household appliances for the standard tool-wielding nubiles on trade show calendars. The lecture begins at 7 p.m. in the McLaren Center, USF campus, 2350 Turk, S.F. Admission is free; call 422-6147. The exhibit opens at noon (and is up through March 29) at the Berkeley Art Center, 1275 Walnut, Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 644-6893.

Pulling Strings The question posed by the San Francisco Art Commission is "What Is the Difference Between Stripping and Playing the Violin?" Exotic dancers Daisy Anarchy and Tho Vong will perform on Market Street and the Masaoka Orchestra will play in United Nations Plaza in a performance series designed to generate dialogue on the subject. Unionizing efforts are the most obvious local common denominator, but a panel discussion with sex industry activists, held at 7 p.m. at the SEIU Union Hall, 1390 Market, S.F., will challenge arguments based on aesthetics, moral climate, and class distinctions. Anarchy dances at noon on Thursday along Market between Fifth and Steuart streets; Vong dances at noon on Tuesday along Market between Castro and Church. The orchestra performs March 7 and 27 at noon in United Nations Plaza, Market between Seventh and Eighth streets, S.F. Admission to all events is free; call 252-2486.

february 20
Cool and Composed Happy audiences will be belting out show tunes long after they've left the theater if 42nd Street Moon's weekend show "From Alpha to Omega" does its job. This fund-raiser inaugurates the troupe's fifth Composer-Lyricist Festival with a collection of hits from upcoming productions, including Cole Porter's sweet serenade "You're the Top" and George Cohan's wartime anthem "Over There," along with novelty songs the season won't feature, like "Destry Rides Again" and "So Long 174th Street," which wasn't as catchy as "42nd Street," evidently. The Saturday performance includes a party with desserts, champagne, and door prizes. Tonight's performance begins at 8 p.m. (also 8 p.m. Friday, 6 p.m. Saturday, and 2 p.m. Sunday) at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $25-35; call 861-8972.

All the Way Live The San Francisco/New York Young Choreographers Exchange, titled "Live From New York," is a bicoastal contemporary dance jam working off six degrees of separation. On the East Coast, Nicholas Leichter, praised by the New York Times for his kinetic and amusing movement style, has danced with Ralph Lemon, whose company played S.F. Performances in '94; Ellis Wood, a UC Berkeley grad whose parents teach dance there, has performed with Stephen Petronio (who visits this spring), and dances here with Molly Rabinowitz as part of Rabinowitz's acrobatic trio Liquid Grip. On this end, the OnSite Dance Company reprises part of its athletic performance installation The Motionarium, while Sten Rudstrom offers his dance-theater piece Theater of Cruelty and Jon Weaver does Cell. Program A begins at 8 p.m. (also Friday; Program B runs Saturday and Sunday at 8 p.m.) at the ODC/S.F. Performance Gallery Theater, 3153 17th St., S.F. Admission is $11.50-12.50; call 863-9834.

Baited Breath The story of horticulturist Lue Gim Gong is told by the three women in his life in local writer Ruthanne Lum McCunn's novel Wooden Fish Songs. In a series of staged concert readings, two sets of three professional actresses will alternate in the women's parts: Pine Sol pitchwoman Diane Amos and Gina Marie Fields play Sheba, a descendant of slaves who commiserates with Lue about oppression; Lisa Kang and Mitzie Abe play Lue's talented mother; and Kathleen Conry and Kathy Garver play Fanny, a religious New England spinster with a passion for Lue. The show starts at 6 p.m. (also March 12 at City College) at Knuth Hall, Creative Arts Building, SFSU campus, 1600 Holloway, S.F. Admission is free; call 282-8813.

february 21
Double Time Not only do some dramas last from just 15 minutes to 15 seconds, people like singer Nick Cave and illustrator Edward Gorey lead secret lives as playwrights. Surprised? The Misery/Loves Company production "Double Nickels on the Dime" showcases 15 very short works in an hour and a half, from Cave's and Gorey's creations to pieces by some of theater's finest scribes: Eugene Ionesco, Samuel Beckett, Christopher Durang, and David Mamet, among others. Even Woody Allen gets in on the act. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through March 15) at the Exit Theater, 156 Eddy, S.F. Admission is $7-15; call 566-2578.

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