AIDS Onstage While the Ninth Annual AIDS Update Conference, held this weekend at the Civic Auditorium, speaks to the science and politics of AIDS, the home-grown, Mission-based Fourth Latino/a AIDS Theater Festival addresses matters of the heart. Over 20 national theater groups will perform at the Civic in the AIDS Theater Festival, which is held in the afternoons as part of the five-day conference. Evenings belong to the local voices of the Latino Fest, which kicks off tonight with the safe-sex show "We Will Survive!" featuring Alexis Miranda, Lola Lust, and friends at 10:30 p.m. at Esta Noche, 3079 16th St. ($5). Thursday Al Lujan performs the monologue Deeper Love, Mario Gonzalez dances Aria in Red Ribbon, loana d.p. valencia performs Untitled, and Paul Timothy Diaz dances Dia de los Vivos and One AIDS Death at 8:30 p.m. at Theater Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. ($8). Friday the Alma Delfina Group performs selections from Pieces of the Quilt at 8:30 p.m. at Theater Rhino ($10). And the theater piece Del Otro Lado runs at 8 p.m. Saturday at Mission Cultural Center, 2868 Mission ($5-7). All events are held in S.F.; call 861-5079 for tickets, 554-8436 for more information.
Good Night, Vietnam A traveling model of the Vietnam War Memorial is coming to Berkeley, and while organizers who helped arrange the visit (among them anti-war activist and folk singer Country Joe McDonald) acknowledge that the famously pacifist college town may be an odd place to honor dead soldiers, there's hope that it might work for that very reason. A 50-percent-scale replica of Maya Lin's The Wall That Heals will be installed across the street from the Berkeley Veterans Memorial Building, where a bronze plaque honoring the town's 22 Vietnam casualties was installed in 1996. The exhibit is open 24 hours a day through Sunday, during which the names of the 58,212 fallen will be read aloud, at Civic Center Park, 1931 Center, Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 644-6484.
Zapata Rides Again The San Francisco Mime Troupe has won over even the staunchest of mime-haters with theatrical performances that rely on satire rather than classic trapped-in-a-box pantomime. The company extends its reach further still in a collaboration with Borderland Theater of Tucson in 13 Dias/13 Days: How the New Zapatistas Shook the World, a multimedia comic drama about the Chiapas uprising with video scenography and songs inspired by Mexican popular music. Revolutionary leader Emiliano Zapata figures into this otherwise fictional account of the actual events in Mexico's history. The show opens at 8 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday 8 p.m., Sunday 2 p.m.) at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $15-18; call 978-ARTS, or 512-9025 for "Noche Zapatista" reception information and group tickets.
Dances With Clowns Picture a roomful of clowns shaking their padded asses to a good blues groove and you might get a feeling for "Clown of Creation," an unusual little party where guests dress as clowns and Carnaval troupe A Waking Dream performs under multimedia visuals alongside sets by Blues Fuse, the Freddie Hughes Soul Revue, and Ron Thompson & the Resistors. Poet Piri Thomas, tap dancer Preacher, and cabaret singer Cara Vida will also make appearances; KPFA's Audrey Lee emcees the event and Soul Possee plays DJ. Skip the drugs. "Clown of Creation" begins at 7 p.m. at Cesar's Latin Palace, 3140 Mission, S.F. Admission is $15, $10 for revelers in clown costumes; call 642-5757.
Relatively Dramatic The Royal Family is a behind-the-scenes-comedy about the theatrical Cavendish clan, who writers George S. Kaufman and Edna Ferber loosely based on the Barrymores (the line that produced Drew, whose exploits exude drama). Led by grande dame Fanny Cavendish (DeAnn Mears), three generations of actors juggle their careers in the theater with the demands of love and life outside of it. If viewers are reminded of Stage Door, it may be because Kaufman and Ferber wrote that, too. The show begins with a preview at 8 p.m. (and runs through April 20) at the Geary Theater, 415 Geary, S.F. Admission is $14-47.50; call 749-2228.
It's Orgasmic! If anyone knows how to mix business with pleasure, it's the good people at Good Vibrations, which celebrates its 20th anniversary at a huge party with performances by Annie Sprinkle and Airmale Trapeze, speeches by Isadora Alman, David Steinberg, and Nina Hartley, and an awards ceremony for sex-positive author/editor Susie Bright and others. Friends of the sex toy, book, and video outlet will discuss the sexual evolution of the last two decades on a commemorative videotape which screens at the event, a benefit for San Francisco Sex Information and the Women's Cancer Resource Center. The fun begins at 8 p.m. at the Trocadero, 520 Fourth St., S.F. Admission is $7; call 974-8985.
Wonders Never Cease Wonder bread may be made mostly of air, but stack packages of it into a 20-foot-high tower and surround it with an 8-foot-high maze of cereal boxes, and the pejorative "white bread" almost takes on an air of respectability. Artists' collective 24-7 Research and Development has created an installation that speaks to the plethora of products and the psychology of presentation within consumer culture (complete with piped-in crunching sounds). The exhibit opens at 9 a.m. (and continues through May 25 at Picture, 524 Third St., S.F. Admission is free; call 543-4124.
Pop Life Even the future is loaded with TV references from the 1960s and '70s in the rock opera Suburbia 3000, the third part of the Brite Sleep trilogy that began with The Cereal Killers and The Possession of Mrs. Jones. Enrique's D'Arcy Drollinger wrote and performs in this show about the planet Suburbia, a society inhabited by next-door-neighbor characters from old TV shows -- Helen Roper, Betty Rubble, etc. -- and ruled by a king who looks like Elvis (Elvis Herselvis). A reluctant spiritual leader wearing a Superman costume (Drollinger) inspires a near-revolt and is condemned to death after he encourages people to express their individuality. As in the previous shows, an epic battle rages between the forces of good and evil, a mildly seamy side of Americana is exposed, and trash culture duly asserts itself. Former Cockettes member Richard "Scrumbly" Koldewyn provides musical direction. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through April 26) at the SOMAR Theater, 934 Brannan, S.F. Admission is $14; call 995-4667.
Esther the Protector As the Book of Esther has it, Queen Esther prevented King Mordechai's evil minister Haman from massacring Persian Jews, and at Purim, the Jewish holiday that commemorates the series of events, celebrants are known to throw carnivals and wear costumes representing all three characters. The public is invited to share in Purim merrymaking with "Megilla Madness," a celebration featuring a reading by David Henkin and music by the Cheeseballs at 9 p.m. at Studio 435, 435 Broadway ($20-25; 436-0711); a Purim celebration with a reading, costume parade, carnival, and food fair Sunday at 10 a.m. at Congregation Beth Israel-Judea, 625 Brotherhood (free; 586-8833); and a Purim carnival, with a film on the event's history, clowns and jugglers, arts and crafts, and lots of food Sunday at noon in the San Francisco County Fair Building, Ninth Avenue & Lincoln Way, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free-$2; call 751-9861.
Climb Every Mountain Rookie musher Tim Triumph and his dog team finished the 1995 Iditarod race long after the camera crews had packed up, but Triumph's dogged determination is nonetheless captured on film in Dead Last, a short piece that plays as part of the Banff Festival of Mountain Films. Kayaks and Coconuts, a tale of water sports in Guatemala, and Tsaatan: Reindeer Riders, a documentation of nomadic Mongolian people, are also featured. Short works on snowboarding, rock climbing, and conservation efforts complete the festival program, which stops locally as part of its world tour at 7 p.m. in Wheeler Auditorium, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is $8-10; call (510) 527-1961.
Down in the Valley Because the Precita Valley Community Center is near the park where teen-age couple Sylvia Menendez and Carlos Hernandez were slain nearly a year ago, the center's new mural will be dedicated to their memory. The 30-foot-by-40-foot mural, which was painted by master muralist Susan Cervantes and covers the building's entire facade, focuses on community efforts to curb violent activity, and features among its many subjects portraits of neighborhood children. The San Pancho Bike Club will display a collection of lowrider bicycles and Cruzin' Coyotes will provide the live music at a mural dedication and open house celebrating the center's 75th anniversary. Speakers and poets will visit and refreshments will be served at the event, which begins at 1:30 p.m. at the Precita Valley Community Center, 534 Precita, S.F. Admission is free; call 206-7756.
One Man's Land Sen. Alan Cranston and Earth Island Institute founder David Brower are among the guests who will wax nostalgic about the life and times of photographer Ansel Adams at "Ansel Adams Remembered," a tribute to their friend and colleague and a kind of insider's guide to the upcoming exhibit "Ansel Adams, a Legacy: Masterworks From the Friends of Photography Collection." This exhibit of work by one of America's best-known photographers is comprised mostly of silver gelatin prints of Western landscapes, from the early morning forest of Washington's Mount Rainier to a thunderstorm over New Mexico's Chama Valley Ghost Ranch. The exhibit opens Wednesday, preceded by the tribute, held at 2 p.m. today ($25) and "Cultural Pearls: The Friends of Photography's 30th Anniversary Celebration," held at 9 p.m. Tuesday ($125). Both events take place at the Ansel Adams Center for Photography, 250 Fourth St., S.F.; call 495-7000.
Oscar Wieners It's no good watching the Academy Awards alone: Hollywood goes to a lot of trouble staging those flashy, stupid production numbers and scoring those thousand-dollar outfits, and it wants a big, big reaction, damn it! Jeers, cheers, giggles, groans, and unforgiving fashion commentary will likely be heard at the following locations: "Boulevard of Dreams," a catered fund-raiser for Bay Area HIV/AIDS service organizations, with live entertainment and a vintage Hollywood theme, beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason ($125-150; 252-0173); "Oscar Night at the Fringe," with a no-host bar and snacks, beginning at 5 p.m. at the Exit Theater, 156 Eddy ($10; 673-3847); and "Up the Academy," a lively benefit party to which viewers bring their own snacks and beverages, beginning at 6 p.m. at the Roxie Cinema, 3117 16th St. ($6; 863-1087). Meanwhile, spoken-word poet Justin Chin performs at "Fuck the Academy Awards," in the live-recording series for the compilation Beer, Gits, and Laundry, at 9 p.m. at Brain Wash, 1126 Folsom, S.F. Admission is free; call 255-4866.
Bop on Over On the grand scale of the solar system, Comet Hale-Bopp is but a blazing fragment of dust and gas, one of "billions and billions," as the late Carl Sagan might have said. Still, as scores of scientists and astronomy buffs realize, visible comets make brief and infrequent appearances. Comet researcher Carolyn Collins Petersen, author of Hubble Vision, puts Hale-Bopp in context with stories of comet origins and a description of how comets are transformed once they enter our area of the solar system in her lecture "Tales From the Comet Watch" at 7:30 p.m. at the California Academy of Sciences Planetarium, Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is $3; call 750-7127.