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.
Up in Smoke Anyone who ever wanted to mess up Joe Camel's ugly mug will be pleased with the S.F. Mime Troupe's Revenger Rat. It's the story of a struggling cartoonist who makes a Faustian pact with a tobacco company that agrees to use his work if his main character, a giant, politician-eating mutant rat, smokes its brand in every panel. Joe Camel is beaten back, and Revenger Rat ultimately exacts his price for the upswing in teen smoking in this production, which was commissioned by the S.F. Health Department as part of Proposition 99, defunded by Gov. Wilson, and then re-funded after political pressure and a protracted court battle. The show begins at 2 p.m. in Dolores Park, Dolores between 18th and 20th streets, S.F. Admission is free; call 285-1717.
Can You Handel It? The San Francisco Opera Center beckons prospective operagoers as well as regulars with the West Coast premiere of Handel's Ezio and reduced ticket rates for its 1997 showcase. Mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Bishop takes the trouser role of Ezio, captain of the Roman Emperor Valentiniano's army, while sopranos Peggy Kriha Dye and Kristin Clayton are Fulvia and Onoria, respectively, the women vying for his love, and tenor Stuart Skelton plays Massimo the traitor. Ezio, sung in Italian with English supertitles, begins at 8 p.m. (also April 29, May 1 and 3) at the Ira and Leonore S. Gershwin Theater, 2350 Turk, USF campus. Admission is $20-30; call 864-3330.
In the Key of B If the hills are alive with the sound of music, chances are you're standing in Berkeley right about now, where the Celebration of Youth Arts kicks off with all-schools band and orchestra concerts, followed Sunday by a youth arts village with dance, drama, and music performances, plus poetry, rappers, and DJs from Berkeley High's new radio station. Also on Sunday, People's Park celebrates 28 years with a pro skateboard demonstration, comedy by the Funky Nixons, food booths, and live music by Cajun group Frog Legs, reggae band the Root Connection, and others. The Celebration of Youth Arts begins today with concerts at 1:30 and 3:30 p.m. in the Berkeley Community Theater, 1930 Allston; an opening parade and festivities begin Sunday at noon in Civic Center Park, MLK & Allston, Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 644-7746. (An all-star concert featuring Berkeley High alum like Charlie Hunter, the Kito Gamble Sextet, and others begins Sunday at 5:30 p.m. in the Florence Schwimley Theater, MLK & Allston. A donation of $25-40 is requested.) The People's Park event begins tomorrow at noon in the park, Haste & Telegraph, Berkeley. Admission is free; call 845-7194.
Foaming at the Mouth Drinking today benefits the youth of tomorrow in the case of the 14th annual International Beer Festival, a fund-raiser for the Telegraph Hill Cooperative Nursery School featuring unlimited tastings (whoa!) of over 75 international beers and microbrews, live music, and food from several upscale local restaurants. The event begins at 8 p.m. at Fort Mason, S.F. Admission is $25; call 421-3313.
Come and Get It Food Not Bombs celebrates 17 years of feeding folks with Soupstock, a day of free food, free performances, and free live music by Stone Fox, Rebecca Riots, Mental Souljahz, MDC, and the Angry Newts. Kids can avail themselves of a circus performance tent and craft area, while adults are treated to speeches by former Black Panther Killu Nyasha, medical-marijuana advocates Pebbles Trippet and Dennis Peron, author/journalist Norman Solomon, a Big Mountain Coalition spokesperson, and former political prisoner Bo Brown. Information tables staffed by lefty political groups and a canned/dried food drive for the Dineh tribe of Big Mountain serve as reminders that FNB isn't just dishing up soup. The festival begins at 11 a.m. at the Band Shell in Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free (bring a food donation); call 985-7087.
Better Than a Poke in the Eye Destiny Arts will present self-defense demonstrations and a community resource fair will offer a slew of information as San Francisco Women Against Rape stages a rally for Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Members of SFWAR, Asian Immigrant Women's Advocates, Mujeres Unidas y Activas, and Street Survival Project will speak, followed by an open-mike survivor speak-out; all presentations will be translated into Spanish, Cantonese, and American Sign Language. The rally begins at 12:30 p.m. in Dolores Park, Dolores between 18th and 20th streets, S.F. Admission is free; call 861-2024.
Beef: It's Not What's for Dinner Fourth-generation Montana dairy rancher Howard Lyman will discuss the life-threatening illness that prompted him to re-evaluate the heavy use of chemicals in his industry and change not only his career but his whole way of life. Lyman, who's now a vegan environmentalist and director of the national campaign Eating With a Conscience, will speak about sustainable agriculture and organic farming at 11 a.m. in Conlan Hall, Room 101, 50 Phelan, CCSF campus (free; call 239-3580) and at 8 p.m. at the Unitarian Center, 1187 Franklin, S.F. (donation; call 510/653-7966).
Nostalgia! The good old days are back, reinvented as musicals and punctuated for excitement. The touring Broadway production of Grease!, a good girl/bad girl relic set in the '50s, is populated with relics from the '70s: Mackenzie Phillips is Rizzo, Sally Struthers is Miss Lynch, and Adrian Zmed is Danny Zuko (remember Dance Fever? T.J. Hooker? Grease 2? No? That's OK). The touring production of FAB!, meanwhile, is the Heather Brothers' musical comedy about teen trauma in the '60s, with gals in minis, boys in Beatle boots, and songs emulating that era's pop hits. This marks the American debut of the English show. Grease! opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through May 11) at the Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor, S.F. Admission is $15-62.50; call 776-1999. FAB! previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through June 8) at the Alcazar Theater, 650 Geary, S.F. Admission is $19-50; call 441-4042.