Pride of Place Latino History Month shifts into high gear this week, beginning with the exhibit "Five Decades of Mexican Photography," a survey of Manuel Alvarez Bravo's influences on other photographers, including his wife, Lola, whose portraits of Frida Kahlo were influential in their own right. Also today, Amalia Hernandez's 65-member music and dance company Ballet Folklorico de Mexico returns to the Bay Area with Oaxacan welcoming dances and music in Guelaguetza. At Saturday's Neighborhood Cultural Festival the music leans more toward Peruvian folkloric, and Sunday's Festival de las Americas, the annual outdoor party celebrating the independence of several Latin American countries, features for the first time rock en espanol by bands including Venezuela's Dermis Tatu and East L.A.'s Los Illegals. The exhibit opens at noon at the Mexican Museum, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free-$3; call 441-0404. Ballet Folklorico performs at 8 p.m. (also Thursday) at the Berkeley Community Theater, 1930 Allston (at Milvia), Berkeley. Admission is $15-35; call 433-9500. The Neighborhood Cultural Festival begins at 9 p.m. Saturday at Pena del Sur, 2870-A 22nd St. (at Alabama), S.F. Admission is a $5 donation; call 550-1101. Festival de las Americas begins at 11 a.m. Sunday along 24th Street between Mission and Potrero, S.F. Admission is free; call 642-2772.
Play Rites Fargo fans won't want to miss opening night of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival XX, when Deke Weaver unveils The Crimes and Confessions of Kip Knutzen: A Hockey Way of Knowledge, a comic trip through Minnesota's hot dishes and frozen tundra, as a 1979 high school hockey team tries to maintain its winning record. Jayne Wenger, who directs Crimes, also oversees the festival, which has developed and presented new work by over 250 playwrights since its inception, Sam Shepard and Anna Deavere Smith among them. This year's highlights also include Nina Siegal's A Falsifying Bell, in which a woman whose husband is leaving her confuses the men from the moving company with the denizens of her vivid fantasy life. The festival opens with Crimes at 8:30 p.m. (and continues with work by Siegal, Prince Gomolvilas, Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, Rickerby Hinds, and Michelle Carter, through Sept. 21) at the Magic Theater, Building D, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is a $9 suggested donation per show; call 263-3986 for reservations.
Book-Buying Without Bank-Breaking Expressed as haiku (really bad haiku, to be sure), the Friends of the Library Book Sale might sound something like this: "New and used books sold/ Over 1,000 titles/ Raffle, auction, stills." This annual event, billed as "the largest book sale west of the Mississippi," benefits the S.F. Public Library system by offering reduced rates on a variety of donated titles, as well as collectors editions of Life maga-zine and MGM movie stills from The Philadelphia Story, The Picture of Dorian Gray, and others. A silent auction of rare books begins on opening night, and a mountain bike, concert tickets, restaurant certificates, and a hotel getaway are among the raffle prizes. The event begins at 4 p.m. (and continues through Sunday) at Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $15 on opening night, free the other days; call 557-4257.
It's a Gas Medea, the Musical meets As the World Turns in Route 80: Cars, Cows, and Caffeine, a comic drama about an emotional cross-country road trip. Medea's Erin-Kate Whitcomb, a one-time stand-up comedian with a gift for physical comedy, wrote this meditation on family, dating, love, sex, and death. She and co-star Elaine Tse, a soap opera actress and Yale drama alum, play multiple characters dotting the landscape. Amy Resnick (Why We Have a Body) directs the show, a premiere work opening Theater Rhino's 20th season. Route 80 previews at 8 p.m. (also Friday, continuing through Oct. 11) at Theater Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $12-22; call 861-5079.
Circuit Jamming All systems are go for the NTT New Media Minds Forum "Intelligence, Technology, and ARTificial Society: Who or What Are We Becoming?" Last year's series found guests like composer Laurie Anderson at the crossroads of art and technology; this year's lineup opens with Jaron Lanier speaking on humanity's relationship to computers. Lanier might be considered the modern equivalent of a Renaissance man; as a computer scientist, he coined the term "virtual reality" and founded the first VR company, VPL Research Inc., but his experience as a pianist and a specialist in unusual instruments led him to experiment with virtual reality in musical performance, and to write about technology and culture for Wired and Spin. The series, which continues with musician Thomas Dolby Robertson (Oct. 9) and the panel discussions "A Cyber-Feminine Perspective" (Sept. 25) and "Virtual Communities and Virtual Worlds" (Oct. 22), begins at 7:30 p.m. at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $13-18; call 978-ARTS.
The Dope on White Punks The usual suspects -- Iggy, Exene, Deborah Harry -- are lined up against the wall at "Search and Destroy: Punk Photography 1976-79." (The unusual suspects in this venture are beat poets Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who provided Search and Destroy magazine's initial funding.) In honor of the re-publication of V. Vale's punk tabloid, which chronicled the punk movement of the late '70s, the Lab has mounted an exhibit of reprinted photos from Search and Destroy and beyond by photographers like Charles Gatewood, and has curated original video footage of bands including D.O.A. and the Dead Kennedys. In conjunction with the exhibit, the Neanderdolls, Jumbo Shrimp, and Polkacide play a benefit Sunday at the Kilowatt (3160 16th St. at Albion; 8 p.m.; $5-20); other related programs happen at the Lab, including "Rare Punk Films," which screens Mindaugis Bagdon's Louder Faster Shorter, Marc Huestis' X-Communication, Richard Gaikowsky's Deaf/Punk, and more Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. Exene and the Kennedys' Jello Biafra host a spoken-word salon Sept. 25 at 5 p.m., and Biafra, Vale, and younger punks like Tribe 8's Lynn Flipper weigh in as the "Panel of Punks Discuss '21st-Century Punk Principles and Ethics' " Oct. 1 at 8 p.m. The exhibit opens with a reception tonight at 7 p.m. (and is up through Oct. 11) at the Lab, 2948 16th St. (at Capp), S.F. Admission is free; call 864-8855. Also, Exene's band, Auntie Christ, headlines a show with Hectare and Stone Fox Sept. 25 at 8 p.m. at the Bottom of the Hill (1233 17th St. at Texas; $8; 621-4455). If the exhibit leaves you wanting more, "Influenza II," Gail Butensky and Erik Auerbach's photos of bands including Television and Devo, is up through Nov. 15 at Aquarius Records, 1055 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 647-2272.