A Wing and a Prayer British director Angus Balbernie was dreaming of flight patterns, film noir, and the murderous treachery of MacBeth when he began work on the musical movement-theater show A Thousand Grey Birds. Composer Mark Growden, whose own live shows and textured original scores share that dark theatrical beauty, collaborated with Balbernie to create a soundscape for traditional and homemade instruments, bodies, and voice. In this very organic creative process, spread over Balbernie's two-month local residency, performers including Kim Epifano collaborators Brenton Cheng and Angela Bausch helped shape the director's theatrical "tasks" into blocks of experimental theater and contact improv so mutable that no one quite knows for sure what will transpire until the show opens at 8 p.m. (and runs through July 31) at Venue 9, 252 Ninth St. (at Folsom), S.F. Admission is $10-15; call 289-2000.
Word Up First came Woodstock, then Wigstock and Terrastock; now there's Litstock, a four-hour celebration of the city's literary scene, from North Beach beat to poetry slams. Bear in mind that this isn't Beatstock, although the jazz combo Delectric will provide finger-snapping atmospherics. No, there's a wider range of writing in store, from novelists like April Sinclair (I Left My Back Door Open) to monologuists like Josh Kornbluth (Red Diaper Baby) to commentators like radio host Ian Shoales to cartoonists like K Chronicles author/illustrator Keith Knight, who reveals all in Dances With Sheep. Even journalists will see some action. Each writer gets 10 minutes of stage time to read work, and local publishing houses and indie bookstores will be setting up booths on the sidelines. Tapas bar the Thirsty Bear provides refreshments at the show, which begins at 4 p.m. at the Band Shell in Golden Gate Park, S.F. Admission is free; call 536-8152. Speaking of indie bookstores, the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association hosts Books by the Bay, which features booths from 45 of its members. Amid the usual street fair fare (food booths, kids' activities), look for a poetry hour and readings from authors including Anne Lamott, Roy Blount Jr., Po Bronson (who also reads at Litstock), and Robert Hellenga. It begins at 10 a.m. Saturday at Pier 32, Embarcadero between Bryant and Brannan, S.F. Admission is free; call 927-3937.
Candid Camera Whether it's a Brazilian shantytown shadowed by an island prison or a Hindu settlement in Bangladesh, the "Mother Jones International Fund for Documentary Photography Awards" sidestep the well-worn routes of tourist travel in favor of lesser-known territory. Like the annual World Press International exhibit, entries are drawn from remote corners of the globe, and chosen for their ability to tell a story through indelible images. This year's winners include American photographer Donna DeCesare, whose Shadow Dreams and New Youth Vision series traces the spread of L.A. gang culture to Central America and the Caribbean; Lebanese photographer Samer Mohdad's My Arabias, on the Middle Eastern Arab diaspora; and Chinese photographer Li Lang's photo essay on a community of mountain people in China. The show opens with a reception at 6 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 27) at Gallery 16, 1616 16th St. (at Rhode Island), S.F. Admission is free; call 665-6637. (A free slide presentation with award winners will be held Thursday at 7:30 p.m. at S.F. Camerawork, 115 Natoma, S.F.)
Merry Old Souls In the grand tradition of Irish wakes and Dia de los Muertos, the Buddhist Bon Festival, also known as Obon or the Festival of Souls, pays tribute to the dead by making enough noise to wake them. Traditionally, the last day of the thousand-year-old Japanese festival is celebrated with the Bon Dance, a dusk-to-dawn party alive with the joyful sound of pounding taiko drums, foot stomping, singing, and clapping. Our local version isn't so protracted, but crowds of women and girls in silk kimonos and men and boys in happi coats will still pay their respects with an outdoor dance that the public, costumed or not, is invited to join. Dance instructors Mme. Michiya Hanayagi and Mme. Yoshiko Fujimoto will show neophytes how it's done. There will be pockets of stillness, too, in the adjoining Tanabata Festival display, an ancient romantic tradition built around the legend of the Princess Weaver Star (Vega) and the Cowherd Star (Altair), whose celestial passion was cut short by the king of the heavens after the pair neglected their chores (teens everywhere, take note). Bamboo branches bedecked with romantic poems and wishes will hang in the plaza at the dance, which begins at 5:30 p.m. at Japan Center, Post & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is free; call 563-5220.
Top of the Pops Think of mop-topped college kids barreling down Sunset Strip toward the beach in a battered old Volkswagen, wiping their dark sunglasses on their paisley sleeves and arguing about who's better, the Standells or the Byrds, and you could imagine that one of those kids would strike a compromise by forming Lilys. That's not how guitarist Kurt Heasley did it, but his ear for the best '60s garage and mod music is uncanny in someone who missed its first go-around. "Dimes Make Dollars" is a hip-shaking, hand-clapping combination of dirty riffs and honeyed harmonies, accented by banjo, organ, and tambourine, and that's just the beginning of The 3 Way, the last thing Heasley did before he became the last regular member of the band's ever-changing lineup. L.A.'s Beachwood Sparks, a psychedelic foursome who recently opened for Beck, do double duty opening for Heasley and then standing in as his band; the Tyde opens at 9:30 p.m. at Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St. (at Texas), S.F. Admission is $7; call 621-4455.
Hot Wax French synth fanatics Pills have dropped off the Wax Trax! Records Mastermix Tour, so we won't hear the live version of their Run Lola Run hit "Rock Me" anytime soon, but the remaining international attractions should be enough to placate turntable loyalists citywide. Deee-Lite's Supa DJ Dmitry is the best known of the bunch, although his trance-y "Don't Talk Me Down" is a big jump from the thick-soled funk of his "Groove Is in the Heart" days. Dmitry represents New York along with hard-house club circuit DJ James Christian and the electronic duo Expansion Union, who parlayed their affinity for funk-laced drum 'n' bass into a movie hit of their own (Blade's "Playing With Lightning"). Australian acid breakbeat combo Frontside, whose silly titles include "Kate Moss Is Not Too Thin," join in -- doors open at 9 p.m. at the Justice League, 628 Divisadero (at Hayes), S.F. Admission is $15; call 626-1409.
Terpsichore in Tennis Shoes Some of the freshest developments in contemporary dance can be found at Summerfest, the July series now under way at the Cowell Theater -- some of Summerfest's best from past seasons, meanwhile, play this week's lunchtime showcase Festival of Bay Area Dance. RAPT Performance Group dancers, critical favorites at last year's Summerfest, test their strength, agility, and trust in one another with an eye-popping combination of gymnastics and acrobatics on a Tuesday bill with the interdisciplinary physical theater company the Foundry, which has stretched way beyond its ballet base. Additional highlights include Lea Wolf and Co.'s transformation of ordinary objects into strange icons (Wednesday), the Asian-American-Scottish influence at play in Unbound Spirit's tribute to Scottish burial chambers, set to taiko (Thursday), and Capacitor's confluence of capoeira, circus arts, and modern dance (Friday). The series begins at 12:30 p.m. with the dance companies of Kelly Wadlegger and Danny Nguyen (and runs at 12:30 p.m. daily through Friday) at Yerba Buena Gardens, Mission & Third Street, S.F. Admission is free; call 978-ARTS.
Fakin' It The tale of master forger Elmyr de Hory naturally brings to mind the classic art-heist caper How to Steal a Million, which pits a wily, well-to-do painting forger against a suspicious inspector. Born to a family of Hungarian aristocrats, de Hory studied painting in Munich and Paris until the German conquest and Russian occupation of Hungary ushered in his starving artist days. Around 1946, de Hory apparently decided that the best way to make his living was to copy famous artists, so he drew or painted an estimated 1,000 works in the styles of Chagall, Lautrec, Matisse, Monet, and Picasso. So meticulous was his work that it hung in museums, galleries, and the homes of collectors like Texas billionaire Algur Hurtle Meadows, who bought seven Modiglianis and three Matisses. "Fake: Vintage Forgeries by Elmyr de Hory" demonstrates his mastery of multiple styles and a singular deception -- it opens with a reception at 5:30 p.m. (and runs through Aug. 21) at Terrain, 165 Jessie (between Second and Third streets), Second Floor, S.F. Admission is free; call 543-0656.