march 12
Robots, Roots, and Real Life From scavenged industrial scraps, sculptor Kenji Yanobe creates interactive mechanical contraptions inspired by the Japanese animation tradition manga otaku. Manga's technology and pop-culture elements emerge in Yanobe works like Foot Soldier (Godzilla), an operable, monster-size work with legs. "Survival System Train and Other Sculpture by Kenji Yanobe" will be shown as part of a new series of exhibits that includes "Britain Meets the Bay," prints by Belfast Print Workshop members Bill Penney and Eddie Rafferty; "Organically Grown," a group show of works that graft art to nature (highlights include science jokes artist Olav Westphelan gathered from German labs); and Pepon Osorio's multimedia installation "Badge of Honor," which tells of a real-life father-son relationship through a boy's crowded bedroom, a father's sparsely furnished jail cell, and video footage of their conversations projected onto the wall separating the rooms. In conjunction with the exhibits, Center for the Arts presents "Manga Culture Panel Discussion," featuring Yanobe, author Fred Schodt, and Giant Robot magazine editor Eric Nakamura, at 2 p.m. Saturday in the Center's Forum. The exhibits open at 11 a.m. (and are up through June 1) at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is free-$5; call 978-ARTS.

How You Say ... Funny? In The Foreigner, an off-Broadway comedy hit penned by the late Larry Shue, a shy Englishman visiting a country inn pretends he doesn't speak English so that he may have some privacy, but his ruse backfires. Vaudevillian elements like mistaken identities and evil villains get major comic juice from Greater Tuna stars Jaston Williams, who plays Englishman Charlie Baker, and Joe Sears, as the inn's proprietor, Betty Meeks. The show begins with a preview at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 3) at the Marines Memorial Theater, 609 Sutter, S.F. Admission is $25-37; call 771-6900.

Mapped Out All Souls' Day, the time-honored feast date when the Roman Catholic Church prays for the departed suffering in Purgatory, is also the day on which Brighde Mullins sets her coming-of-age play Topographical Eden. In the not-unpurgatorial environs of Las Vegas on a hot and dusty Nov. 2, 1976, Honey's search for her mother at the Buddha Buffet of the Ground Zero Hotel and Casino is diverted by the sudden appearance of an intriguing tattooed woman about to ride off into the sunset on a Harley. In trying to decide which route to take, Honey finds herself in a kind of existential limbo. Jayne Wenger (Why We Have a Body) directs the world premiere of Topographical Eden, which begins with a preview at 8:30 p.m. (and runs through April 13) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $15-21; call 441-8822.

march 13
Who Are the People in Your Neighborhood? Mary Ragusin O'Shea and Sharon Johnson, childhood friends who grew up in Eureka Valley before it became the Castro (and who later worked for gay political candidates), credit two main factors with the area's transformation from a quiet, working-class neighborhood to a gay mecca: the GI Bill and automobiles, which they say led to urban flight and suburban development. O'Shea and Johnson are just two of dozens of people producer Peter Stein interviewed for The Castro, the next segment in KQED's locally focused Neighborhoods series. Stein combines archival materials and contemporary footage with interviews and commentary from comedian Marga Gomez, author Allan Berube, World War II vet Stuart Loomis, and others, paying special attention to local and national political and social factors that helped shaped the area's character. The world premiere screening of The Castro is held at 7 p.m. at the Castro Theater, 489 Castro, S.F. Admission is a $50 donation benefiting KQED; call 553-2337 for ticket information. The segment will also screen Saturday at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 9.

Leading the Way Bastard Out of Carolina author Dorothy Allison reads new work and singer Ronnie Gilbert performs excerpts from American Agitator, her one-woman show about Mother Jones, the union activist the magazine is named after, at "An Evening to Remember," a benefit for community nonprofit groups coalition the Progressive Way. A silent auction of books signed by their authors will be held, and refreshments will be served at the event, which begins at 7 p.m. at St. John's Presbyterian Church, 2727 College, Berkeley. Admission is $20-50; call (510) 559-9184.

Bad Director! No Encore! Flogging the director after a mediocre show is an option, for once, at the Fratelli Bologna "Praise and Punishment Show." Bologna brothers Richard Dupell, William Hall, and John X. Heart make a slight departure from their regular format to present competitive improv with Keith Johnstone's Gorilla Theater, in which five improvisers direct one another in theatrical scenes based on audience suggestions. At the end of each scene, viewers decide whether the director should be praised or punished. And while actual beatings are, in truth, discouraged, the alternatives -- performing one minute of solo mime, for example -- make corporal punishment sound attractive. Local actors, comics, and TV and film directors will put their professional reputations on the line during surprise guest appearances. (Fratelli Bologna also performs at the San Francisco Comedy Group Summit this weekend; see Slap Shots, Page 4.) The show opens at 8 p.m. (and continues on Thursday nights through May 29) at the Bayfront Theater, Building B, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $10; call 285-4328.

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