Still the One Some writers would prefer to be poked with sharp sticks than suffer through the public agony of performing their work live. That's one reason they're writers, not actors. Then again, there are writers like Spalding Gray or Eric Bogosian who find that the best way to interpret their material is to step out onstage and do it themselves. Both men have been guests of the Solo Mio Festival, which opens its ninth year of solo performances with the "Best of Writers Who Act." That's where emerging artists, coached by writer/performer Anne Galjour, test their writing and stage craft by performing new work for an audience. Sean San Jose, meanwhile, has had lots of performance experience since he began staging Pieces of the Quilt at libraries, schools, and clinics. The original Pieces was a theatrical patchwork with contributions written by Tony Kushner, Edward Albee, and others. Pieces Part II featured selections by Octavio Solis and Erin Cressida Wilson. In Part III, running this Thursday through Saturday, Digital Underground's DJ Fuze, percussionist Josh Jones, and singer Scheherazade Stone add music to the short AIDS-related works. Scottish performer Diane Torr, coiner of the term "drag king," transforms herself in Drag Kings and Subjects, a piece using text and film to invoke the history of cross-dressing (Sept. 30-Oct. 3), and Brenda Wong Aoki offers a personal take on anti-Asian miscegenation laws, Uncle Gunjiro's Girlfriend (Oct. 10-11). Solo Mio opens tonight at 7:30 p.m. with "Best of Writers Who Act" at the Bayfront Theater, Fort Mason, Building B, Third Floor, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $8-10; call 392-4400 for tickets and schedule information.
Feel the Earth Move Before a lone dancer initiates the chain reaction of slippage, stasis, and resistance in the Margaret Jenkins Dance Company's piece Fault, and even before the work slides from the idea of geologic fault lines into the idea of fault in human relationships, viewers can find rumblings of something at a performance installation where Jenkins herself dances with co-conspirators from seasons past. To celebrate the company's 25th anniversary and the San Francisco premiere of Fault, which debuted in Berkeley to critical and public acclaim, designer Tom Bonauro has created a series of 3- to 12-foot-high platforms. Musician Paul Dresher and performer Rinde Eckert will present excerpts from Shelf Life on one, while later Eckert and Jenkins perform part of And So They on another. A video clip of a speaking and gesturing Olympia Dukakis, with whom Jenkins worked on the ACT piece Hecuba, rounds out the installation, as Jenkins performs part of Time After, a forthcoming piece created in collaboration with Dukakis. The evening begins with the performance installation at 7:15 p.m. (also Friday) in the Yerba Buena Center Forum, followed by the show at 8 p.m. (also Friday and Saturday) in the Yerba Buena Center Theater, 700 Howard (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $12.50-25 (Fault ticket-holders get free admission to the installation); call 978-ARTS.
First Tapes From a Nov. 29, 1963, phone conversation between President Lyndon Johnson and then-Congressman Gerald Ford: LBJ: "Happy Thanksgiving! Where are you?" Ford: "I'm home, sir." LBJ: "You mean Michigan?" Ford: "No, no I'm here in Washington." LBJ: "Thank God there's somebody in town!" That's one of the lighter exchanges detailed in Taking Charge: The Johnson White House Tapes, 1963-1964, an exhaustive but engaging transcript of Johnson's administrative phone calls, compiled and annotated by historian Michael Beschloss. Johnson was the first president to have his own calls taped so extensively, and Beschloss, a contributing writer to the Washington Post, has capitalized on the material, offering an insider's look at the day-to-day machinations of presidential politics. Between Beschloss' contextual notes and the actual conversations -- with the Kennedys, J. Edgar Hoover, Martin Luther King, and Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, to name a few -- we see Johnson wheedling favors, mulling over the idea that Castro had a hand in JFK's assassination, and fretting that the war in Vietnam couldn't be won. Former Oakland A's manager Roy Eisenhardt interviews Beschloss about his books and the role of certain other taped phone calls in modern politics beginning at 8 p.m. at the Herbst Theater, 401 Van Ness (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $17; call 392-4400.
Lone Stars A short-lived but significant Texan invasion begins tonight with El Diablo's appearance at "Stinky's Peepshow," and continues tomorrow night with Reverend Horton Heat's Fillmore show. El Diablo members have been instrumental in helping Heat spread the rockabilly gospel: ED's Taz, of the now-defunct Tenderloin, was Heat's drummer once, and the guitar- and bass-playing Blair brothers Toby and Doni toured with Heat as part of the Dallas-based foursome Hagfish. But unlike Heat, whose half-dozen albums get their kick from stand-up slap-bass and the searing Gibson/Gretsch guitars of rockabilly and country swing, El Diablo is the kind of outfit that crams three short, fast, rowdy punk songs onto a 45, and then they're out. Seattle's Bell, followed by the local punk quartet Ain't, open for El Diablo at 10 p.m. tonight at the CW Saloon, 917 Folsom (at Fifth Street), S.F. Admission is $5; call 974-1585. REO Speedealer (who, thanks to REO Speedwagon's legal counsel, are about to shorten their name to just plain Speedealer -- see House of Tudor for more, Page 60), open for Reverend Horton Heat at 9 p.m. Friday at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $15; call 346-6000.
Death Takes a Holiday New Yorker readers may remember director Michael Blakemore's harrowing account of staging the one-act play collection "Death Defying Acts," an essentially death-defying undertaking that was continually hindered by the cast, the backers, and the playwrights (Elaine May, Woody Allen, and David Mamet), all of whom needed lots of personal attention during development. Blakemore, and the off-Broadway production itself, survived that theatrical trial by fire, and "Acts" will make its West Coast debut in the Aurora Theater Company's seventh season opener. Director Tom Ross (who has produced seven Solo Mio festivals and directed A Karen Carpenter Christmas, among other productions) takes Blakemore's place, running actors like Lucinda Hitchcock Cone and Warren Keith through the bitterly comic death-themed dramas. Allen's Central Park West offers the standard adulterous affairs and shrink jokes, while May's abrasive Hotline concerns a suicidal prostitute whose problems stump the novice hot line operator who answers her call for help. In Mamet's An Interview, a sleazy lawyer must defend his profession, and by extension, his life. The show previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Nov. 1) at the Berkeley City Club, 2315 Durant (at Dana), Berkeley. Admission is $20-25; call (510) 843-4822.
Music Men While the San Francisco Opera celebrates the opening of its 76th season with the newly commissioned opera A Streetcar Named Desire, the Gay Men's Chorus is celebrating its 20th with the newly commissioned choral work Q. It's been two decades since the chorus' very public debut on the steps of San Francisco's City Hall, where the formerly informal group of music lovers congregated to sing in honor of slain city officials George Moscone and Harvey Milk. The show begins at 8 p.m. tonight at Davies Symphony Hall, Grove & Van Ness, S.F. Admission is $10-50; call 864-6000. The following day, Streetcar conductor Sir Andre Previn reprises the symphony's opening night gala with "We Got Rhythm: George Gershwin Centennial Celebration," in which he and bassist David Finck do Gershwin hits for a concert benefiting the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and Classical Action: Performing Arts Against AIDS. The concert begins at 7 p.m. Sunday at the Ira and Lenore S. Gershwin Theater, Turk & Masonic, USF campus. Admission is $35-75; call 487-3060.
All's Fair More than the Haight Street Fair, which has become gradually indistinguishable from the city's scores of neighborhood block parties; more than Halloween and Carnaval, which are hugely popular in several other cities; more, even, than its bigger but less kinky cousin the Gay Pride Parade, the Folsom Street Fair says "San Francisco." It does so with the city's language of community, offering a vivid cross-section of lesbian, gay, bi, transgender, straight, leather-S/M, and fetish folks. It confirms the cheerfully unabashed hedonism that the East Coast and the Bible Belt have always suspected of Californians. It's where the city's reputation for sexual openness and creativity manifests itself in the hairy, welt-covered back of a bearish man in chaps all the way down to a little plastic Ken doll done up in a miniature kilt and tiny leather restraints. Enrique, Black Kali Ma, Most Chill Slack Mob, and several other groups entertain throughout the day at the fair, which begins at 11 a.m. on Folsom between Seventh and 12th streets, S.F. Admission is free-donation; call 861-3247.
Sympathy for the Devils They've been accused of snotty-nosed punkishness, and that's just fine by Seattle's Murder City Devils, who wrote the stinging ode "Get Off the Floor" for today's disaffected clubgoers ("If you're not gonna dance/ Get off the floor/ People like you/ Are what the balcony's made for"). The snarling, short-fused blast of punk's first wave stubbornly reasserts itself in the Devils' brew: distorted guitars, the creepy strains of vintage B-movie Farfisa organ, a boom-chugga-boom backbeat, and the plaster-cracking vocals of singer Spencer Moody, who single-mindedly launches himself into songs with a raw, ragged howl worthy of Scratch Acid-era David Yow. KUSF co-sponsors the live show, which coincides with this week's release of the band's second album Empty Bottles Broken Hearts on the Sub Pop offshoot label Die Young Stay Pretty. The Black Market Babies open at 10 p.m. at Cafe Du Nord, 2170 Market (at Sanchez), S.F. Admission is $5; call 861-5016. (To get an idea of Sub Pop's new musical range, take in Saturday's show with the Spinanes, the former duo turned revolving foursome-or-so, whose sly, melodic storytelling draws listeners the way the Devils offer them cathartic release. Itchy Kitty opens the show at 10 p.m. Sept. 26 at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $8; call 621-4455.)
Broadway Babies When Chicago's Broadway revival swept last year's Tony Awards, one of the prizes went to choreographer Ann Reinking, a Bob Fosse favorite who stayed true to Fosse's original showy jazz-dance vision (the Fosse biopic All That Jazz echoes the Chicago song "All That Jazz"). The touring production of Chicago is also long on Broadway history: Charlotte d'Amboise, daughter of the former ballet great Jacques and a Tony nominee herself for her role in Jerome Robbins' Broadway, plays Roxie Hart, the showgirl who kills her lover. Brent Barrett plays Billy Flynn, the lawyer who spins public sympathy in Roxie's favor and ultimately gets her acquitted; like the younger d'Amboise and her dad, Barrett also danced for Robbins, making his Broadway debut as Tony in West Side Story. The show offers a bit of real-life history as well: Reporter Maurine Dallas Watkins covered the murder trials of two cabaret singers for the Chicago Tribune and based her 1926 play on their stories. Chicago previews at 8 p.m. (and runs through Nov. 7) at the Golden Gate Theater, 1 Taylor (at Market), S.F. Admission is $27-72; call 776-1999.