A 15-piece orchestra, classically trained singers, and an internationally renowned production team make it sound like a serious opera. But though Hell: A workshop of an opera in one act is in many ways serious, librettist Eileen Myles told us on the phone recently that "It's funny." She went on, "We had to turn away hundreds of people from our performance in New York, but most of the people who came had never seen an opera before." Even more important, she emphasized, the professional singers involved have by and large never sung lyrics they believed in. "Most of the performers haven't gotten to sing leftist material before. So it's this interesting, two-sided thing." The sweet voices raised in what Myles said is really "an opera to unseat Bush" produce nothing less, she explained, than exaltation.
It's also telling that director Laurie Weeks collaborated on the Boys Don't Cry screenplay, and that the composer, set designer, choreographer, and others involved are acclaimed artists in their own right. Hell begins at 8 p.m. in the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is $9-10; call 978-2787 or visit www.ybca.org. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
Back to School Fast times at Galileo High
Most of us leave high school at a dead run, never to return, except perhaps to drop off a child or pick up a Christmas tree. We forget what it was really like, and those who hold the secrets are traditionally mute, with half-lidded eyes that roll in response to questions like, "How was school today?" In High School, Antenna Theater breaks the silence by taking audiences onto the kids' turf. Wearing headphones, participants trudge through San Francisco's Galileo Academy on a 45-minute self-guided tour, listening to students expound on life on the inside. The talk is surprisingly frank, and the surreal effect of drifting through empty halls and classrooms, devoid of student bodies but ringing with their voices, will take you back better than anything you might find on the WB. Class begins at 6 p.m. on Friday (and runs each weekend through Nov. 7) at 1150 Francisco (at Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $7.50-15; call 332-9454 or visit www.antenna-theater.org. -- Michael Leaverton
Hopping Glad Are you ready for a brand-new beat?
Wild hip-hoppers of all kinds descend on the Bay Area this weekend -- and these folks have never checked the box marked "straight." PeaceOUT: The Fourth Annual World HomoHop Festival sports a diverse bunch of lesbians, gay men, transgendered people, and others, all of them ready to show off their breath control, freaky beats, and musical chops in hip hop's varied musical forms.
Popularity contest winners are locals Deep Dickollective and Katastrophe, plus new-wave freaks Scream Club from Olympia, Wash., but you really shouldn't miss any of the shows. PeaceOUT starts at 7 p.m. on Friday (and continues through Sunday) at 21 Grand, 449B 23rd St. (at Broadway), Oakland. Admission is $10-20; call (510) 444-7263 or visit www.peaceoutfestival.com. -- Hiya Swanhuyser
It may be too much to say that Chris Whitley is carrying on where Jeff Buckley left off, but not by a lot. The two were friends, and both have gorgeous, expressive voices, but Whitley's is grittier than Buckley's was. A National guitar is his constant companion, and its steel strings produce more country-dirt than pop. Jeffrey Luck Lucas opens at 9 p.m. at 12 Galaxies, 2565 Mission (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $12; call 970-9777 or visit www.12galaxies.com. -- Hiya Swanhuyser