A name like Sha Sha Higby is appropriate for someone whose work can't be adequately encapsulated in tired pigeonholes such as "painter" or "costume designer." Indeed, her craft -- costumes and sets that look and move like vaporous flotsam and jetsam -- is as elusive as her name. Higby, who studied dance and crafts-making all over Asia on a Fulbright scholarship, describes her work as a painterly manipulation of materials and textures that derives its inspiration from forms as varied as African tribal art, opera, and Japanese Noh theater. Aside from the tempests of color and form that define her pieces, Higby often involves audience members and eschews rehearsals.
In White Sea/Light on Water, Higby teams up with Tuju Taksu, a performance group that uses Balinese masks and stories to cook up a shamanistic excursion into time. But don't expect to see a mere puppet parade -- it'll be more like watching apparitions slither across the stage in a passionate ritual, wherein you only know the footnotes. Fall under their spell at 8 p.m. Thursday through Sunday in the Young Performers Theater, Fort Mason, Building C, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $20; call 868-2409 or visit www.fortmason.org.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Cute Band Alert
Rev up your sweet tooth for this act: Three blondes in satin and ruffles croon songs of the 1920s and '30s. The Paper Dolls have hit the ukulele revival circuit hard, and it's difficult to resist them, all done up in fishnets and insouciant vintage hairdos. But under the frilly panties and tightfitting polka-dot dresses, it's the musical chops on these chicks that really wallop. Perhaps the gals have been studying bands like Rube Waddell or Cotton Candy, which don't appear to take anything seriously but whose skill could only come from years of practice. Ukes are more versatile than people think, and the Dolls take full advantage, strumming their way to pseudo-Hawaiian heaven. The tap-dancing Scenic Sisters open at 8 p.m. at the Argus Lounge, 3187 Mission (at Valencia), S.F. Admission is $2-5; call 824-1447 or visit www.arguslounge.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Bigger Is Better
Fat Bottom breaks the mold
Big Burlesque's Fat-Bottom Revue is easily the hottest act around. The members treat spectators to lap dances ("I think it's important for women to shake their big butts in somebody's face and get paid for it," founder Heather MacAllister quips) and shimmy around in pigtails singing titillating numbers like "Grandma Sold My Panties on eBay." Leonard Nimoy even enlisted the ladies in modeling for his photo exhibit "Maximum Beauty."
Aside from the extra pounds and cleavage, expect the regular jazzy stripper fare as Big Burlesque plays at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 20 at Theatre Rhinoceros, 2926 16th St. (at South Van Ness), S.F. Admission is $15-25; call 861-5079 or visit www.therhino.org.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Although the title and premise -- mobile-home misfits facing eviction -- match the relentlessly profane film by Giuseppe Andrews, Mary Jo Pritchard's Trailer Town is a gentler beast: an honest stage romp staffed by nationally known comedians. Previews start Friday at 8 p.m. (and the play continues through Sept. 17) at the Marsh, 1062 Valencia (at 22nd Street), S.F. Admission is $22; call 826-5750 or visit www.themarsh.org.
-- Michael Leaverton