The American Gandhi A black, homosexual pacifist during the McCarthy era ... can you say "wrong place, wrong time"?! Bayard Rustin was the American Gandhi: He fought racism, militarism, and nuclear war at a time when all were at their peak power. He sang the blues, helped organize the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and actively pursued equality for all. Local artist groups Thick Description, Pomo Afro Homos, and New Langton Arts present Brian Freeman's meditation on Rustin, Civil Sex. You'd think that an exploration of black masculinity, and black gay history would be a direct route to political overload, but Civil Sex's premiere in Washington, D.C., proved otherwise. Freeman researched Rustin via friends, lovers, and colleagues, making the play personal and political, as the title suggests. Civil Sex previews at 8:30 p.m. (opening night is Friday, Nov. 7; the show continues through Nov. 30) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $18-22; call 641-0235.
Orff the Wall In 1958, Michael Smuin was in the S.F. Opera production of Carmina Burana and has been in love with it since. So what has he done? Started his own ballet corps and revived Carmina. Carl Orff, who wrote Carmina, set it to the medieval poems of 13th-century Bavarian monks -- with timpanis and the whole bit. Smuin's interpretation fills the dance with sexual and primal urgings -- it is the '90s, after all. The program will begin with Smuin's 1982 work Stravinsky Piano Pieces, accompanied by pianist Roy Bogas. Carmina Burana opens at 8 p.m. (performances continue through Nov. 16) in the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $25-30; call 441-3687.
Lucky 13 The Film Arts Festival of Independent Cinema is 13 years old this year! "Independent film is the punk rock of the '90s," fest director Mark Taylor quotes fanzine writer Greta Snider; this year's edition, about 80 films and videos, has something for everyone: women, young Asian filmmakers, disabled athletes, queers, families ... you name it. Screenings are at the Castro and Roxie theaters, the S.F. Public Library, the Lab, and Four Walls. Opening night's "In Glorious Black and White" is a collection of short stories written in celluloid: the pupil of her hand in the palm of her eye, Chekhov's Gun, and AIDS drama Don't Run, Johnny are a couple of the local picks. Land of the Sea is the late show tonight, and if you can manage to stay up on a school night you can cut a rug with the El Camino Cha Cha Orchestra at the International Center Ballroom. The festival runs through Nov. 9 -- all day, every day. "In Glorious Black and White" starts at 7 p.m. at the Castro Theater, 429 Castro (at Market), $8-10; Land of the Sea starts at 9:30 p.m. at the Castro, $6-7; the Opening Night Party starts at 9:30 p.m. at the International Center Ballroom, 50 Oak (at Van Ness), $15-20. Call 552-FILM for a complete schedule of events.
Tequila T'kill'ya Bill Romo, president of the Herradura Estate Distillery in Guadalajara, is bringing his tequila to town for a tastin'. Aficionados should come early to hear Romo's informal talk on the legend of tequila-making (accompanied by appetizers). The Left at Albuquerque executive chef will also prepare a five-course Tequila Tasters' Dinner, featuring corn tamales in a lobster habanero stew and lamb en mole, and, of course, five different tequila cocktails. Tasting starts at 5 p.m. at Left at Albuquerque, 2140 Union (at Webster), S.F. Tasting is free, dinner is $35; call 749-6700 for reservations.
Race Matters Stick a bunch of college students in some racial awareness workshops, force them to bare their true feelings on race and prejudice, and what do you get? Local filmmaker Frances Reid's documentary Skin Deep. Pull them back together with people like black studies professor Dr. Laura Head, Asian-American studies lecturer Robert Fung, and other race-relation scholars, and what do you get? Some serious dissecting of Americans' racial attitudes. Director Reid followed students from around the country into their workshops, their dorms, and their homes to see how and why they think the way they do. Tonight's screening of Skin Deep will be followed by a panel discussion with the filmmaker, the subjects, and the scholars. Screening is at 7 p.m. in SFSU's Knuth Hall, 1600 Holloway (at Cardenas), S.F. Admission is free; call 553-2382 to reserve a seat.
Sales Force Buy, sell, trade, hawk, steal, give away ... just show me the money. Money equals commercialism, which brings us to advertising, the "poetry of America." Are advertising ideas really poetry, or manipulation? Thinking, Ltd., Malachy Walsh's new play, is about one scribe's struggle with writer's block and her desperate attempt to convince people that advertising is good for the world. Walsh himself has worked for ad agencies around the country and no doubt is able to shed some light on the minds that create things like "Got Milk?" Thinking, Ltd. opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Nov. 22) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 273-1890.
Bouncy Bouncy New Jersey's Bouncing Souls avoid '90s punk-lite with feet firmly planted in the old school. For the past eight years, the foursome have stayed consistent with a sound that's played in true punk form -- loud, fast, and a big fuck-all to harmony. In spite of a recent label change from B.Y.O. Records to Epitaph, their new self-titled release, chock-full of gritty East Coast punk rock, doesn't disappoint. Sharing the bill are New York's Pietasters, who recently released a full-length effort on Epitaph's subsidiary, Hellcat. The seven-piece ska outfit have a tight horn section that makes showing up a little early well worth it. Mustard Plug open the show at 8 p.m. at Slim's, 333 11th St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10.50; call 552-0333.
Beam Me Up Start Trekkin' takes theater sports to the Starship Enterprise. As if it's not enough to do a parody of Star Trek, these guys go improv with audience suggestions and participation. We hope this translates into no more pacifism, no more equality, and no more nonviolence for the Trekkers. Shows are late-night, meaning the hopelessly devoted will either a) miss out, or b) have to set their VCRs. Start Trekkin' opens at 10:30 p.m. (and repeats Nov. 14 and 21) at the Bayfront Theater, Building B, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $6; call 431-5092.
Portrait of an ... Ackamoor Idris Ackamoor goes solo ... but not alone. For years he's coupled his musicianship, acting, tap dancing, and directing with some of the most brilliant of the creatives: choreographer Bill T. Jones, actress Rhodessa Jones, poet Ntozake Shange, guitarist Vernon Reid, and the late filmmaker Marlon Riggs. Ackamoor finally put his jazz on record with his new CD, Portrait. In between running a few theater companies, teaching in Holland, and studying in Africa, Ackamoor will perform with his quartet -- Fred Harris on piano, Mark Williams on bass, and Al Marshall on drums -- at Radio Valencia tonight (no firetrucks allowed) and Noe Valley Ministry next Saturday, Nov. 15. Shows at 7:30 and 9 p.m. at Radio Valencia, 1199 Valencia (at 23rd Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 292-1850.
We Got the Books This year's San Francisco Bay Area Book Festival is not just about books. It's about cooking, publishing, kids, the Internet, and even bookmaking. Aside from this plethora of seminars, the visiting authors are Ernest Gaines, Wendell Berry, Nikki Giovanni, Mollie Katzen, and Henry Rollins, among others. New this year is the Allen Ginsberg Poetry Cafe, featuring all-day poetry readings honoring the late writer. Readings were programmed by Intersection of the Arts, Youth Speaks, La Pena Cultural Center, and River of Words. The 1991 Youth Speaks Teen Poetry Slam champs Jason Mateo, Sharonna Caractor, and Mario Balcita also will be reading. The event opens at 10 a.m. (also Sunday) at the Concourse Exhibition Center, Eighth Street & Brannan, S.F. Admission is free-$2; call 908-2833.
Step Off, Priscilla DNA brings in the drag kings from New York's DragStrip, Club Confidential, and Club Casanova and all for a good cause. As they say at the House of Dick, "gender bends over backwards at the DragStrip." Father of all drag kings Mo B. Dick will host the debauchery (we hope) of Elvis Herselvis, Juanita More, Cockateila, and Joan Jett-Blakk. Not to mention Rock Candy, Rico Suave Bolla, Fudgie Frottage, and many others. DJ Alvin A-Go-Go spins (with a name like "A-Go-Go," it has to be good). The best part is that partial proceeds will go to three local health organizations: the Godfather Service Fund, the Tom Waddell Clinic, and the Lyon-Martin Clinic. The evening begins at 8 p.m. with drag shows at 9 and 11 p.m. at the DNA Lounge, 375 11th St. (at Harrison), S.F. Admission is $7; call 331-9595, ext. 300.
Run, Don't Walk You've heard of the Ventures -- but do you really know the Ventures? The original surf band's articulate, intense guitar lines, crisp, ringing production, and implacable rhythm section made them one of the most popular groups in the world through much of the early '60s. After forming in Seattle with key member Don Wilson on guitar, their first single, the irresistible "Walk, Don't Run," became a worldwide hit. Form there on in, the band virtually owned '60s instrumental rock. In the now 30 years since their last true hit (the Hawaii Five-O theme, in 1969), the Ventures have continued to tread the boards; they've always been big in Japan, yet they still tour the world, introducing new generations to the thrill of a bass, a drum set, and one wild man with a tremolo pedal. The Swamis open at 8 p.m. at Bimbo's 365 Club, 1025 Columbus (at Chestnut), S.F.. Admission is $15; call 474-0365.
East Meets West The fourth annual Other Minds Festival marries composers and techies from Japan and California for three concerts. A more appropriate name might be the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Concert. The festival opens with Mona-Lisa, a huge multimedia trip put on by four artists: Pamela Z, Donald Swearingen, Laetitia Sonami, and Visual Brains. Pamela Z distorts her voice via electrode bodysuit, Swearingen plays the piano with infrared beams rather than hands, Sonami controls sound with a lady's glove, and Visual Brains provides the eye candy -- as if the other three weren't enough. It's an evening of cross-cultural, cross-technological, cross-audio collaboration. Mona-Lisa begins at 8 p.m. (the festival continues through Nov. 12) in the Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $16-18; call 441-3687.
B Flat Lookin' Sharp So that's what all those chalk-outlined bodies are doing in the Mission. It's not the Mission-turned-Johannesburg, it's just Sam Shepard's new play, Suicide in B Flat -- a comical whodunit about the death of a jazz musician -- on its way to the Justice League Nightclub. The play is set and performed at the bar, which cuts back tremendously in the prop department. The music is live and weaved into the action onstage -- the actors even take breaks at the bar. The musical cast includes local greats Kenny Brooks, Josh Jones, Dred Scott, Marcus Shelby, and Scheherazade Stone and will play a set after the show of pieces inspired by the play itself. Suicide opens at 8 p.m. (and continues through Nov. 19) at the Justice League, 628 Divisadero (at Hayes), S.F. Admission is $10; call 440-0409.
Deja Who? Ever notice how often we say, "You remind me of ..."? Painter/photographer Nancy Webber finds historical portraits that remind her of regular ol' folks, photographs the regular folks, and juxtaposes them with the famous paintings. Not everyone can say he's an Angelo Poliziano look-alike, but Webber's art student Anthony Loveday is featured in her show as a Poliziano double. Is it real, or is it Memorex? Some of the pieces are so similar, it's difficult to believe the photograph vs. the painting. Webber's exhibit, "Deja New," opens at 8 a.m. (and is up through Dec. 19) at the Downstairs Gallery, UC Extension Center, 55 Laguna (at Hermann), S.F. Admission is free; call 252-5221.