By Emma Silvers
By Gary Moskowitz
By Alee Karim
By Ian S. Port
By Ian S. Port
By Derek Opperman
By Emma Silvers
By Alee Karim
While best known in the proto-feminist world for her SCUM (Society for Cutting Up Men) Manifesto, Valerie Solanas rocketed to more widespread fame by way of a play she wrote that never reached the public eye. Up Your Ass was a script Solanas handed over to Andy Warhol hoping the eccentric arts facilitator would eventually produce it. Paranoid and suspecting that the inflammatory material was an attempt to generate obscenity charges against him, Warhol took the script and ignored it. Equally paranoid and suspecting that Warhol's neglect was an attempt to sabotage her career and censor her message, Solanas did what any struggling playwright might do in a similar circumstance: She shot Andy Warhol. Warhol recovered, only to die later of complications; one year later, after serving a three-year prison sentence, Solanas died of pneumonia in a Tenderloin hotel, with her play still missing amid the detritus of Warhol's sprawling estate. While content restrictions imposed by Congress prevent the NEA from funding any production of this witty but coarse work, which makes mincemeat of "men, married women, and other degenerates," director George Coates decided the history of radical theater would be incomplete without at least one production of Solanas' play. In a similar mind, Arthur Miller agreed to have his rarely performed condemnation of artistic censorship and personal surveillance, The Archbishop's Ceiling, paired with Up Your Ass. Both plays will be staged in repertory at the multimedia hippodrome that is George Coates Performance Works (110 McAllister at Leavenworth). Up Your Ass begins Wednesday, Jan. 12, and runs through April at 8 p.m.; The Archbishop's Ceiling begins Feb. 24 and runs through March at 8 p.m. Tickets are $16; call 392-4400.
On 1998's The Villain That Love Built, the Billy Nayer Show dug into a labyrinth of aural catacombs that offered extreme exhilaration, but only at the cost of grave peril. Even in the glittery corners where veins of the BNS's lyrical humor spread out like a lifeline to the surface, the apprehension of darkness and collapse remained. On the newly released Return to Brigadoon, the Billy Nayer Show floats, as the whimsical cover art might suggest, just above the Earth's crust, dipping its musical toes in cloud banks and ether, rushing over treetops and horizons lined with bells and brass. However, the lyrics are far from airy. In a catalog already littered with mythic characters like Mr. Satan Butterwolf, the Bunny King, Scottsy, and a truck-driving dude named Christ, singer/songwriter Cory McAbee has admitted themes of more grand biblical proportion into Brigadoon. On the apocalyptic "Day of the Lie," McAbee lightly sings, "Death to the pain and truth that remains/ Let honesty mercifully die/ Long live the day of the lie/ The soul is dead/ Long live the flesh." The tongue twister of "Weasel Heart" ("I want to be buried in a box of pine/ I want to be pined for with a box of berries") is given a histrionic twist in "Caesar and Barry" ("I've come to praise Caesar not to bury him/ I've come to bury Caesar not to praise him/ I've come to praise Barry not to seize him"). In keeping with the antithetical tension so masterfully created by McAbee and musical director Bobby Lurie, even the sweet afternoon lullaby of "Little Boats" takes on an epic quality. In Brigadoon, it appears, nothing is entirely as it seems: Only the old favorites "Window" and "Apartment #5" (both gratefully reprised from the out-of-print The Billy Nayer Show) and the misanthropic crowd-pleasers "ABCs" and "Billy's" are played straight, with both lyric and intent aimed at the same cut of the psyche. The Billy Nayer Show celebrates its record release Wednesday, Jan. 12, at the Sweetwater in Mill Valley at 9 p.m. Tickets are $12; call 388-2820. And on Thursday, Jan. 13, at Amoeba Music at 6 p.m. Admission is free; call 831-1200. And later that night at Bottom of the Hill with Storm and Holcombe Waller opening at 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $8; call 621-4455.
Approaching the Year of the Dragon, it has become clear to some lovers of flounce and circumstance that a Dragon "queen" will be needed to preside over the festivities. Enter Dragon Lady 2000, a beauty contest judged in three parts: lounging lingerie, fetish evening, and show-your-moneymaker talent. The following week, a Bruce Lee look-alike will be chosen as the Dragon Lady's companion. Paparazzi are welcome. Dragon Lady 2000 will be held on Thursday, Jan. 13, at the Stud at 10:30 p.m. (contestants must sign up between 9 and 10 p.m.). The Bruce Lee look-alike contest will be held on Thursday, Jan. 20, at 10:30 p.m. Tickets for each show are $6; call 313-4196.
If congas could talk, which they do under the steady stroke of young conguero Johnny Blas, you might hear sweaty rumors of courtyard dances in Puerto Rico with bare bulbs swinging in the breeze and slick mustachioed playboys watching their marks from under the eaves. You might hear of family secrets, open-ended celebrations, and street-wise hustles, and after you've heard it once, you might want to hear it all over again. On King Conga, Blas and his hungry young guns bring a modern, cinematic scope to the dance floors in Los Angeles, via New York and by way of a long line of traditions. Johnny Blas performs on Friday and Saturday, Jan. 14 and 15, at Mr. E's in Berkeley at 8:30 and 10:30 p.m. Tickets are $12; call (510) 848-2009.