Psychologists walk a peculiar line between art and science. Like biologists and chemists, they use the scientific method; like painters and poets, they aim to uncover truths about human nature that laboratories could never produce. Case in point: Philip Zimbardo's famous Stanford Prison Experiment of 1971, which investigated the impact of putting good people (graduate students randomly assigned to role-play as prisoners and guards) in an evil situation (a simulated prison). When the fake guards started inflicting real abuse, the experiment, staged the same year as the Attica prison revolt, caught flak from ethicists and had to be cut short.
Polish artist Artur Zmijewski blurs the art/science boundary further with his Zimbardo-inspired documentary, Repetition. For the 39-minute hidden-camera film, Zmijewski recast Zimbardo's grad students with unemployed Polish men but retained the concept, and the experiment seems headed for the same result -- before a twist takes the film in a different direction.
For the first time, both Zmijewski and Zimbardo discuss the issues inherent in the two projects, at 6 tonight in the California College of the Arts' Timken Lecture Hall, 1111 Eighth St. (at Irwin), S.F. (The film screens in the college's Logan Galleries through Feb. 21, 2006.) Admission is free; call 551-9210 or visit www.wattis.org.
-- Maya Kroth
The sound of Sondheim
Sure, he's known as the guy who wrote "Send in the Clowns," one of the most recorded -- and most schmaltzy -- songs in the history of easy listening. But Stephen Sondheim also wrote brilliant musicals centered on tricky, peculiar characters and plotlines: a barber who kills his customers and then has them made into meat pies (Sweeney Todd), Lee Harvey Oswald and Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (Assassins), and a high school reunion told in reverse (Merrily We Roll Along). The songs of such stories have not translated into choice elevator music. In fact, the lyric-packed shows come off like episodes of Gilmore Girlsdirected by Quentin Tarantino and set to music. Broadway and cabaret stars Lisa Vroman and Judy Butterfield join a host of other performers at "Simply Sondheim: A 75th Birthday Salute," at which they present some of Sondheim's most popular and least conventional tunes. The salute gets under way at 7:30 p.m. at the Jewish Community Center, 3200 California (at Presidio), S.F. Admission is $60; call 292-1233 or visit www.a-jproductionsonline.com.
-- Brock Keeling
Life Is ...
Come hear the band
Cabaret is less a musical than it is a winky, vaudevillian mise-en-scène of the Weimar era in all its artistic and political excess. The 1966 libretto by Joe Masteroff, based on a Christopher Isherwood book, sucks viewers into the slummy world of 1930s pre-Nazi Germany. The rollicking adaptation tells the tale of chanteuse Sally Bowles and her lover, Clifford Bradshaw; lounge lizards, Socialists, and whores add color to the smoky tableau, performed here by neighborhood thespians the Shotgun Players.
Cabaret opens at 8 p.m. on Friday (and continues through Jan. 15, 2006) at the Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby (at MLK Jr.), Berkeley. Tickets are "pay what you can"-$30 until Dec. 4 and $15-30 thereafter; call 841-6500 or visit www.shotgunplayers.org.
-- Nirmala Nataraj
Get in Line
Billy Crystal's solo play about himself, his family, and his penis, 700 Sundays, sold $593,120 worth of tickets in a single day, a first in San Francisco theater. Wisecracking storytellers may pack houses, but they also write books, and Crystal signs the text version of 700 at 12:30 p.m. at Cody's Books, 2 Stockton (at Ellis), S.F. Admission is free, and the volume must be purchased at the store; call 773-0444 or visit www.codysbooks.com.
-- Michael Leaverton