Packwood's Predecessor A Northeastern Republican senator is implicated in a sex scandal in Louisiana, but it's not his fault; he went there to clean up some bad business in the Bayou, and was set up in the process by local Democratic leaders. If the plot of Irving Berlin's 1940 musical satire Louisiana Purchase sounds familiar, it's not because the show's been staged so often -- it was all but forgotten until Carnegie Hall revived it last year, with the ballads, Latin rhythms, and big-band swing of its era intact -- so it must be the real-life exploits of America's elected officials that give Purchase its modern resonance. 42nd Street Moon's production previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 11) at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $15-18; call 861-8972.
Ghost Writers The late Lafcadio Hearn was known as a morbid kind of guy, so Theater of Yugen's multimedia dramatization of his life, Wandering Ghost, Visions of Lafcadio Hearn, would probably suit him just fine. Hearn, a half-blind Greek-Irish immigrant to America, made a name for himself in the 1800s as a journalist with a taste for macabre assignments, ranging from tales of Manhattan social life to New Orleans voodoo culture. His subsequent move to Japan and marriage to a local woman yielded Kwaidan, a collection of Japanese ghost stories he translated from his wife's childhood. Yugen's Miko Lee and Michael Edo Keane use puppets, dance, masks, projections, movable screens, and Hearn's own writing in the production, which previews at 8 p.m. (also Thursday; regular run continues through May 18) at the Noh Space, 2840 Mariposa, S.F. Admission is $10-20; call 621-7978.
Good Woodsmen Adult Video News recently conferred best actor honors on industry star Ryan Idol, whose film credits include Idol Eyes, Idol Worship, Idol Thoughts, and so on. That kind of professional acclaim makes Idol a natural for the role of gay porn icon Jack Hawk in Ronnie Larsen's Making Porn, an off-Broadway hit returning to the Bay Area. The seven-member cast explores the ins and outs of the gay porn business in the play and in the new film Shooting Porn, which is scheduled to play this year's San Francisco Gay and Lesbian Film Festival. Bay Area audiences may remember Larsen from previous work Scenes From My Love Life. His next project is based on the Jenny Jones/Scott Amedure murder case. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 18) at the Cable Car Theater, 430 Mason, S.F. Admission is $25; call 956-8497.
Are You Experienced? One of ballet's bitter paradoxes is that after an arduous lifetime of honing their technique and accumulating experiences that color their performances, professional dancers over 40 find themselves relegated to coaching or character parts even if they're still in great form, while younger dancers get the pyrotechnic roles. There should be more companies like Jiri Kylian's Netherlands Dance Theater III, a company for strong, seasoned professionals (NDT I is the core company, while NDT II is for dancers aged 17-22, representing in all the full spectrum of dance). Former American Ballet Theater principal dancer Martine van Hamel and soloist Kristine Elliott, former Joffrey dancer Gary Chryst, and a coterie of internationally recognized performers demonstrate the benefits of maturity in a program of new works beginning at 8 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday) at Center for the Arts Theater, 701 Mission, S.F. Admission is $18-24; call 392-4400. Van Hamel and Elliott also speak at a program illustrated with film and video clips of their careers at 4 p.m. Saturday in Center for the Arts' main theater. Admission is $12; call 978-ARTS.
Road Ready Medea Project creator Rhodessa Jones performs an excerpt from her work Big Butt Girls, Hard-Headed Women at the Radical Performance Fest, the third annual, traditionally SRO benefit for the Tenderloin outdoor theater event the In the Street S.F. Street Theater Festival. Jones will be joined by, among others, the High Risk Group performing Places Queers Make Where Everybody's Welcome, juggler and shtickster Sara Felder providing commentary on Passover, DJ Vanka spinning socially conscious funk and hip hop, and fire-shadow puppetry done by Wise Fool Puppet Intervention. The festival begins at 8 p.m. at Crucible Steel Gallery, 2050 Bryant, S.F. Admission is $7-15; call 285-9734. (Wise Fool Puppet Intervention makes a separate foray to the Tenderloin with a performance featuring giant puppets, masks, stilts, music, and a shopping cart stage and sculptures in "From My Window: A Folkhistory of the Tenderloin" Sunday at 1 and 3 p.m. at the Corner of Golden Gate and Jones. Admission is free; call 550-6928.)
Oh, Superman Battlestar Galactica actor Richard Hatch is making a weekend of it: He'll be putting in appearances at comic-book convention WonderCon and at the Whole Life Expo, a marketplace dedicated to natural health and personal growth. What else links these otherwise unrelated events? Dark Sister author Lynn Andrews speaks at the Expo -- Poison drummer and Sisters of Mercy writer Rikki Rockett appears at WonderCon; Recovery of Your Inner Child author Lucia Capacchione speaks at the Expo -- Mallrats writer/director Kevin Smith does WonderCon; Brain States author Tom Kenyon speaks at the Expo -- X-Files artist Charlie Adlard appears at WonderCon. And both events are loaded with product: At the Expo, it's books, snacks, and health and beauty aids, while at WonderCon, it's books, games, and an art auction benefiting Literacy Volunteers of America. The Expo begins at 2 p.m. (also 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday) at the Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 Eighth St., S.F. Admission is free-$105; call (800) 551-EXPO. WonderCon begins at noon (also 10 a.m. Saturday, 11 a.m. Sunday) at the Oakland Convention Center, 10th Avenue & Broadway, Oakland. Admission is free-$35; call (510) 464-1120.