Fix the Radio The Fire Department is supposed to save buildings, but late in June an errant big red truck smashed through the front of Radio Valencia. Luckily, no humans were hurt, but the space itself is in critical condition. Insurance alone isn't enough to cover the whopping repair bill, so a diverse array of musicians who've played at the Radio -- Trance Mission, Barbara Manning and the S.F. Seals, Virginia Dare, the Dark Hollow Bluegrass Band, the Crooked Jades, Lisle Ellis, Graham Connah, and others -- are coming together for a benefit. Here's the when and where: 8 p.m. at the Paradise Lounge and Transmission Theater (next door), 11th St & Folsom, S.F. Tickets are $10; call 826-1199.
Writing by the Dock of the Bay Q: What do Sam Shepard, Anna Deavere Smith, Claire Chaffee, and David Henry Hwang have in common? A: They're all alumni of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, an event that frequently springboards local talent to national attention. Since 1976, the festival has helped over 200 authors craft and present their work. This year's crop includes Nilo Cruz, Bonnie Greer, Julie Hbert, Brighde Mullins, Elena Penga, and Erin Cressida Wilson. Cruz's A Park in Our House opens the festival at 8:30 p.m. at the Magic Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg D, S.F. Shows continue Wed-Sun through Aug. 13. Tickets are $8; call 775-9638.
Instant Theatre Bay Area Theatre-sports' First Annual Summer Improv Festival spans nearly four weeks -- that's a lot of spontaneous activity. Thankfully, the nonstop, unpremeditated thespianics involve many ensembles -- True Fiction Magazine, Fratelli Bologna, Los Angeles Theatresports, and more. A performance by Matt Smith and Ed Sampson's Stark Raving Theatre starts off a series of events (including classes and competitions) at 8 p.m. at Bayfront Theatre, Fort Mason Center, Bldg B, S.F. The festival continues through Aug. 26. Tickets are $8; call 824-8220.
Twinkie Junkies "Chubby but likable" is how one reviewer recently described dancer/playwright Luis Alfaro. "Porcine but talented," another weighed in. (Ouch.) Partly in response to these condescending compliments, the L.A.-based Alfaro (whose past works include Bitter Homes and Gardens) has put together a new program, titled Cuerpo Politizado. In one sequence, Alfaro Rollerblades through a gay ghetto; in another, he literally and metaphorically gorges on American culture in the form of various Hostess treats. As the Bay Area Dance Series draws to a close, Alfaro will be joined by S.F.'s own Nao Bustamante, who shows off her hourglass figure (with a little help from some strapping tape) in America, the Beautiful. Binge and purge at 7:30 p.m. (also Fri, Aug. 4, at 8 p.m.) at Laney College Theater, 900 Fallon, Oakland. Tickets are $5-15; call (510) 889-9550.
Lifelong Case of the Blues To dig to the roots of blues, one can pick up Alan Lomax's The Land Where the Blues Began, a mammoth tome and recent National Book Award winner. But quicker and easier ways are available: One can mosey on out of the library and hear the slick licks of Lomax's pal Honeyboy Edwards, who played and traveled with the legendary Robert Johnson and is still around to talk about it. Recently named "one of the top blues performers under forty" by Living Blues magazine, the 80-year-old Edwards just finished his debut recording for Sony, though a six-decade retrospective of his career is available via a smaller label -- Earwig Records. Hear his famed slide-guitar magic at 9:30 p.m. at Ace Cafe, 1539 Folsom, S.F.; Fruteland Jackson and Alvin Youngblood Hart open. Tickets are $9; call 621-4752.
Pusherman Shame it took the freeze-dried irony of Pulp Fiction and Quentin Tarantino to revive it, but 20 years since its heyday, blaxploitation is back. Packaging militant black activism as entertainment, the genre broke ground with male and female African-American cinematic heroes, and (sometimes) feminist and class critiques. One of blaxploitation's holy trinity of flix (the other two are Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song and Shaft), Gordon Parks Jr.'s Superfly celebrates pimping and dealing with big hair, huge guns, humongous polyester collars, and pre-MTV collage sequences set to the sultry funk of Curtis Mayfield's soundtrack. Whereas Shaft (directed by Parks' dad) serves up "a black private dick who's a sex machine with all the chicks," Superfly's protagonist is "a dude with a plan to stick it to the Man." See him in action at 7:15 & 9:15 p.m. at the Red Vic, 1727 Haight, S.F. Part of a blaxploitation series, Superfly screens through Aug. 7. Tickets are $5.50; call 668-3994.
Highly Illogical Prick up your pointy Vulcan ears, the Creation Star Trek Convention is beaming into town. Considering half the original show's cast have written autobiographies to settle the score with William Shatner and his Enterprise-size ego, he probably won't be there. But since Shatner made fun of Trekkies on Saturday Night Live, they probably don't want him around anyway. Avery Brooks, Marina Sirtis, James Doohan, Robert Duncan McNeill, Garrett Wang, and poet/director Leonard Nimoy will be on hand to oversee a variety of highly illogical behavior, including trivia and costume contests, merchandise auctions, and movie previews. The alien communication lasts from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (and continues Sun, Aug. 6) at Nob Hill Masonic Center, 111 California, S.F.. Tickets are $17.50-20; call (818) 409-0960.
Nuclear Scars Fifty years after the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings, the cultural fallout lingers. The Hiroshima/Nagasaki Commemorative Film Program takes a long, close look at what U.S. history books would rather ignore and forget: nuclear devastation perpetrated by America. Judy Irving and Chris Beaver's Nagasaki Journey portrays the bomb's effects from American and Japanese perspectives, while Akira Iwasaki's Hiroshima -- Nagasaki, August 1945 documents the tragedy itself. Two other documentaries -- Jon Else's Day After Trinity and David Brown's Bound by the Wind -- look at science's role in a nuclear age. The screening starts at 1 p.m. at the Exploratorium, 3601 Lyon, S.F. Free with museum admission ($2.50-9); call 563-7337.
Photogenic Pooches Andr Kertsz, Robert Adams, Daido Moriyama, Annie Leibovitz, Edward Weston, Henri Cartier-Bresson, Keith Carter, Bruce Weber, Gay Outlaw, and Sylvia Plachy have all aimed their cameras at dogs. The proof: These photographers -- and the canine-obsessed William Wegman and Elliott Erwitt -- are included in "All Dogs," a group show at Photos Gallery. To celebrate the publication of The Dog Addressed, a new book edited by gallery owner Ruth Silverman, famous snapshots of boxers, wolfhounds, spaniels, and mutts are on view from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at 403 Francisco, S.F. The exhibition continues Wed-Sat through Sept. 16. Free; call 986-4149.
Sunny Indoor Fun Formed 20 years ago, the Jamaica Association of Northern California aims to bring together transplanted Bay Area Jamaicans and to educate the American public about the country's culture. Both goals -- and plenty of food, awards, games, and reggae -- are on the agenda when the nonprofit JANC celebrates Jamaica's 33rd year of independence with a dinner and dance benefit. The party starts at 7 p.m. at Cathedral Hill Hotel, 1101 Van Ness, S.F. Tickets are $30; call (510) 464-1300.
In Defense of Offenders Though cynical politicians frequently exploit the flaws in California's criminal justice system for votes, the public rarely hears about success stories. "Record Breaker" -- a new downtown art display by Ruth Morgan -- takes a look at six people who have survived prison and turned their lives around. With past convictions ranging from first-degree murder to minor drug offenses, Morgan's six subjects include a barber, a cook, and the assistant sheriff of San Francisco. Presented by Market Street Art in Transit, the resulting collages of mug shots, candid snaps, and autobiographical texts can be seen all day and all night (through Sept. 25) on 24 kiosks up and down Market Street in downtown S.F. Free; call (510) 845-3332.
Rock 'n' Rara Combining rara -- rhythmic street music accompanied by portable petro drums, bamboo trumpets, tin coronets, and gourd rattles -- with electric bass and guitar, Haiti's 10-piece Boukan Ginen are known for their politicized, anti-military anthems. Led by versatile vocalist Eddy François (of Boukman Eksperyans), the combo also incorporates compa, reggae, and African pop into their sound. Hear them perform songs from their acclaimed new LP Jou a Rive at 9 p.m. at Caribee Dance Center, 1408 Webster, Oakland. Tickets are $12-14; call (510) 835-4006.
Summer Camp Jeopardy for poor souls suffering from pop- and camp-culture damage, "Quiz Bang" stumps and amuses contestants and audiences alike. Hosted by Quiz Master Leigh Crow (aka Elvis Herselvis), with Quiz Mistress Birdie Bob-Watt playing the Vanna White role, the "gayme" show's categories include "Bette Davis Bon Mots," "TV Transsexuals," and "Hair Don'ts." Learn the answers to vital questions (ex.: "What is Debbie Reynolds' real name?") and help separate mildly sick kitsch amateurs from truly twisted professionals at 8 p.m. at the Cable Car Theatre, 430 Mason, S.F. Tickets are $10; call 956-8497.
Real Rock When Courtney Love sings in that dull, rotten rasp that she's "fake," who can argue? Money can buy you Love, but if you like rock that's real, Sleater-Kinney's Corin Tucker is for you. "[Tucker] may have the most distinctive, demanding voice in pop music today," writes critic Greil Marcus, "and once you've learned to hear it, every inflection, every silence, tells secrets and wrestles demons." Each syllable Tucker sings is a struggle between rage and vulnerability -- her high-pitched, choked-up voice turns seemingly innocent couplets like "Angels in the skies/ Watch you with their eyes" into threats. The thing is, packed with raw body/emotion metaphors, Sleater-Kinney's debut LP sports not one, but two awesome singer/guitarists: Tucker (formerly of Heavens to Betsy) and Excuse 17's Carrie Brownstein (whose "Last Song" is the LP's strongest, most harrowing cut, no small feat). Like Team Dresch's Personal Best -- the only other vital, original U.S. indie album out this year -- Sleater-Kinney's twin guitar/vox dynamics are a model of female collaboration; more important, they pack a wallop. Hear them, along with Dub Narcotic and Emily's Sassy Lime, at the Bottom of the Hill, 1233 17th St, S.F. Tickets are $5; call 621-4455.