Vsevolod Meyerhold was an iconoclast during a time when to draw attention to oneself was to risk everything. Famed for his work on a number of influential early-20th-century Russian plays, the director used experimental theater as an outlet to explore provocative political and cultural viewpoints, defying his Soviet critics. To dissidents and artists he was a hero. But to the paranoid Stalin, Meyerhold was a menace. By 1940 the dictator had had enough -- he ordered Meyerhold's execution and, 1984-like, expunged all references to his life and work from official records. Meyerhold's tragic end might never have been known had the early-'90s disintegration of the Soviet Union combined with the efforts of Russian academics not come together to bring it to light.
Now Meyerhold gets a thorough reappraisal in the Shotgun Players' The Death of Meyerhold, which analyzes the director's life from his glory days on the czar-era stage to his state-sponsored shooting; a re-examination that also strives to make pungent points about our own era of "patriotic" political oppression. The play opens tonight at 8 (and runs through Jan. 25) at the Live Oak Theater, 1301 Shattuck (at Berryman), Berkeley. Admission is $10-20; call (510) 704-8210 or visit www.shotgunplayers.org. -- Joyce Slaton
Such Pretty Voices This men's group is easy on the eyes and ears
You probably already know something about Chanticleer: People all over the world recognize the 12-man a cappella choral group as one of the best around. In the ensemble's 25 years, its stellar reputation has accompanied its flexibility of style: The group is consistently excellent whether performing a Spanish Renaissance Mass, a Gregorian chant, or a rousing spiritual.
But the big secret is that the men are all fantastically good-looking. They're a diverse bunch, wildly accomplished and quite comfortable in tuxedos, and from the countertenors to the baritones, it's handsome city. Naturally, wolfish leering isn't the reason to attend this year's production of "A Chanticleer Christmas." Just indulge your pure, innocent love of high art. The beautiful music begins at 8 p.m. (also 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 21) at St. Ignatius Church, 650 Parker (at Fulton), S.F. Admission is $25-37; call 392-4400 or visit www.chanticleer.org. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
Tower of Power boogies on in S.F.
Honky pox is not a seasonal affliction -- some stay out of a funk year-round -- but with the onset of winter we should all consider a soul injection. Undisputed masters of boogie Tower of Power provide a most effective inoculation clinic. It's painless, but it may involve some burning.
Some bands have horn sections, but TOP is famous for what can only be called a horn armada. Dozens of musicians have been part of the Oakland-spawned groove unit over the years. It won't be surprising if this show's souled out. It starts at 9 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $32.50; call 346-6000 or visit www.thefillmore.com. -- Jonathan Kiefer
Four poets, flutist/ See ancient arts of Japan/ In wind-swept city. Catch a night of poetry in the ancient style, along with cheap drinks, gorgeous art, and musicians playing the traditional bamboo flute, at "Inspired by San Francisco: An Evening of Haiku and Shakuhachi." The event begins at 7 p.m. at the Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin (at McAllister), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 581-3500. -- Sam Prestianni