august 6
That's the Spirit Robyn Hitchcock's song "My Wife and My Dead Wife" could have been inspired by Blithe Spirit, fellow Englishman Noel Coward's 1941 comedy about a man whose second marriage is disrupted by the mischievous ghost of his first wife. The songwriting team of Timothy Gray and Hugh Martin adapted Blithe Spirit into the musical High Spirits. 42nd Street Moon, the company that unearths forgotten musicals, stages a concert version of High Spirits, which jabs at British class consciousness with witty repartee and songs including "Something Is Coming to Tea" and "I Know Your Heart." The show previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 24) at the New Conservatory Theater Center, 25 Van Ness (at Market), S.F. Admission is $15.50-18.50. Call 861-8972.

Simon Says He's nicknamed "the lion of Soweto," but Simon "Mahlathini" Nkabinde sounds more like the frog or the goat of Soweto. His gruff, groaning bass vocals (think Wolfman Jack singing in Zulu) temper the buoyancy of Mahlathini & the Mahotella Queens, a 30-year-old South African outfit specializing in mbaqanga (um-ba-KON-ga), an irrepressible amalgam of electric township pop, gospel-tinged African choral music, and rhythmic acoustic jazz that emerged during apartheid's long reign. Crowds invariably leave these shows grinning and sweaty after the Queens' swinging harmonies, whistle-blowing, and choreographed stage show set the movement in motion. DJ Doug Wendt spins and a special guest opens the show at 8 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $20; call 346-6000.

Your Mission, Should You Choose to Accept It The boundaries separating nortenos and surenos fall away in Mission: APosible!, a theater project that brought 50 kids involved in Mission turf wars together with writer Cherrie Moraga, playwright Octavio Solis, and local actors and artists. Brava! for Women in the Arts supervised the process, which involved selecting class sites, soliciting safety tips and advice from local social service agencies, and paying kids from warring factions to attend eight weeks of classes together and share the same stage while they wrote about and performed theatrical vignettes based on their own lives. Ellen Chang directs the montage of experiences in a show beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the Cowell Theater, Building A, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $2-10; call 641-7657 ext. 4.

august 7
Ladies and Gentleman, We Have a Wiener If it's half as funny as Waiting for Guffman, Bindlestiff's bad-theater satire In Search of the Greatest American Hot Dog will have been worth the effort. It looks promising: Writers Paul Laudenslager and J.J. White skewer all manner of thespian conceits in this story of an addled director and an amateur cast whose attempts to create America's greatest play incorporate Mamet without the profanity, "meaningful" nude performance art, PC bits, and acts of violence. Better still, Hot Dog's creators insist that theirs is a production with no socially redeeming value whatsoever; they only want to make people laugh out loud. Anyone who's ever suffered through a bad night at the theater knows how much material these folks have to work with. The show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 30) at Bindlestiff Studio, 185 Sixth St. (at Howard) S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 974-1167.

Feet First Former Boston Ballet dancer Heidi Guenther's recent death at the age of 22, from heart failure linked to an eating disorder, provoked an uproar outside the ballet world but little noise from the inside, since ballet is one business where weight issues extend beyond the cosmetic, and matter enough to ensure a kind of complicit silence. Lise Rubenstein finished filming her documentary Silver Feet in 1985, about the time former New York City Ballet star Gelsey Kirkland claimed in her autobiography Dancing on My Grave that choreographer George Balanchine encouraged dieting and pills as far back as the '60s, so that he could "see the bones." Delving into the complicated history of ballet's body politics and the extremes to which dancers will go to improve their professional odds takes longer than Silver Feet's one hour, but this doc does at least hint at ballet's cutthroat competitiveness as it follows three young local dancers preparing for a big audition at the San Francisco Ballet school all the way to a "Where are they now?" postscript. Silver Feet and performance short Zync, Cynthia Pepper's film about three dance prodigies in rehearsal and performance, air at 8 p.m. on KQED Channel 9.

august 8
Sitting Pretty While this summer's other tourists were jockeying for the perfect shot of Sacre Coeur or the Eiffel Tower, Bay Area photographer Alan Blaustein was strolling through the gardens of Luxembourg, Dauphine, and the like, capturing a more tranquil and verdant side of France. Blaustein will be showing over 40 of his chestnut-hued albumin prints of French gardens, along with his hand-colored photos of benches, a meditative series that Chronicle Books culled into last year's calendar Bancs de Jardins. Keep an eye out for the gardens of novelist Emile Zola and the studio space of painter Paul Cezanne in this otherwise restful, celebrity-free exhibit. The show's opening reception is at 6 p.m. ("Le Jardin" is up through Aug. 31) at Mulligan-Shanoski Gallery, 747 Post (at Jones), S.F. Admission is free; call 771-0663.

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