Cell Hell As with Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues," the solitary figure in When the World Was Green (A Chef's Fable) has been imprisoned for homicide, and longs for the freedom of the great outdoors. Sam Shepard and Joseph Chaikin collaborated on this tale of an old prisoner who tells a young interviewer of the images of birds, wind, and the open sea that keep him awake nights. Chaikin directs the West Coast premiere of the production, which features actor Alan Mandell, a co-founder of the San Quentin Drama Workshop. The show previews at 8:30 p.m. (also Thursday-Saturday, with regular performances continuing through May 11) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $15-21; call 441-8822.
The Pen Is Mightier Reigning U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass has more than just craft in common with nominees at this year's Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Awards. Hass, who accepts the Fred Cody Award tonight for a lifetime of written achievement, is a San Francisco native and Stanford alum, which means he also meets the contest's other criterion: local. Author Michael Krasny is the keynote speaker at the BABRA Awards ceremony, where literary luminaries like Gary Snyder and Maxine Chernoff -- nominated in nonfiction, fiction, poetry, and children's literature categories -- will sign books and meet their readers. The evening begins at 7 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $10-12; call (510) 525-5476.
Hung Up "Starving artist" takes on new significance with the Homeless Art Project Foundation, whose members dabble in media like fast-food ketchup and used lipsticks, and whose studios double as laundromats and parking lots. Bay Area musician Charlie Colin put the project together after trawling the streets of L.A. for graffiti to use as album-cover art; he began collecting work from homeless artists, whom he repaid with art supplies or cash. Colin found that people forced to scrounge for basic food and shelter will nonetheless set aside time to work on art. He believes viewers get a clearer sense of the issues affecting the homeless from work they create, and intends to raise funds for shelter art programs. Train, Box Set Acoustic Duo, and Black Lab play a local benefit for HAP. Doors open at 8:30 p.m.; the show begins at 9 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell, S.F. Admission is $10; call 885-0750.
True Crime Stories By now, photojournalist Gilles Peress is acutely attuned to the carnage of war: He's trained his lens on clashes in Ireland, Iran, Bosnia, and most recently Rwanda, the subject of his book The Silence. Black-and-white 36-by-54-inch prints from that book, which were first shown at New York's Museum of Modern Art, will be shown on the West Coast for the first time in the local exhibit "The Silence," which also features excerpts from the United Nations report on the Rwandan situation. The exhibit is held in conjunction with "Reporting From the Killing Fields," a conference on genocide, crimes against humanity, and war, which begins at UC Berkeley's Boalt Hall at 8 p.m. tonight with an address by Justice Richard Goldstone, a former chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia, and at Bechtel Engineering Center Friday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., when Peress speaks as part of a panel discussion in the afternoon. "The Silence" exhibit opens with a reception at 4 p.m. (and is up through April 24) in the Graduate School of Journalism's Center for Photography, North Gate Hall, UC Berkeley campus. Admission is free; call (510) 642-3383.
Going Off Too much of stand-up comedy relies on the Differences Between Men and Women, but at brand-new alternative comedy show "Tangent," the idea is to skip battle-of-the-sexes jokes and other lowbrow comedy staples in favor of smarter subjects and a spontaneous narrative approach in which comics get to riff off each other's sets. Gay sensibility distinguishes "Tangent" 's debut, which is hosted by Sabrina Matthews and features drag queen and former presidential candidate Joan Jett-Blakk and Mrs. Doubtfire's Scott Capurro. The show begins at 7 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market, S.F. Admission is $8; call 979-6545.
Night Lights At after-hours hangout Club Aztlantis, the backdrop to Ricardo Bracho's The Sweetest Hangover (& other stds), promoter Octavio Deseo and his friends share gossip and grooves, chemical highs and emotional lows. Playwright Cherrie Moraga contributed the dramaturgy to Bracho's vision of young, queer, ethnic urban subcultures, and served as mentor on this, his first full-length play, which he was commissioned to write through his work with DramaDIVAs. Members of that company, the product of an arts-intervention program for gay, lesbian, bi, and questioning youngsters of color, join a cast of professional actors in the production. The Sweetest Hangover previews at 8 p.m. (also Friday, regular performances continue through April 27) at the Brava Theater Center, 2789 24th St., S.F. Admission is $10-14; call 647-2822.
Pretty in Pink The beastly side of the beauty business emerges at the premiere of The Face by the Door, a black comedy with pink highlights. Writer/actress Kristina Robbins mined material from her real-life sales experience with Mary Kay cosmetics for this solo show about desperate women and greed, lip liner and lust, set on a hot night in Dallas, Texas. Robbins, a founding member of improv comedy troupe Scratch Theater, makes a second debut a few neighborhoods over at the S.F. International Film Festival with a role in the new feature film Dream With the Fishes. Face previews at 8:30 p.m. (and runs through May 3) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia, S.F. Admission is $8-12; call 826-5750.