This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Though we must admit that we're skeptical of any film fest's claim to cover an entire group's experiences, the San Francisco Black Film Festival comes close. The five-day event aims to celebrate the African-American experience as it's portrayed in the movies, and with pictures on everything from the first black biker club in the United States to the history of black women in cinema, the showcase isn't too far off its mark. The program's also doing well with its goal of nurturing up-and-coming directors: Along with a packed schedule of features, shorts, and documentaries, there's a slew of special events — panels, workshops, children's series, and Billy Dee Williams' art exhibit at the San Francisco Art Exchange — to stoke the creative fires and lend support. The SFBFF opens tonight at 6 and runs through Sunday at various venues. Admission is $7-9 (prices vary for special events and passes); call 771-9271 or visit for a complete schedule.

Thursday, June 12, 2003
PlayGround dedicates itself to giving young, dumb, insecure, or otherwise inexperienced writers a chance to work on their material without getting laughed at, at least not out loud. But don't worry: The organization has picked out only the finest seven of the 230 plays it cultivated this year for full-scale production in “The Best of PlayGround,” aka the Emerging Playwrights Festival. The group has assembled a crack team of local directors and performers to bring the material to life — and in a community as rich in writers as the Bay Area, this new batch of dramaturges ought to be excellent. The plays range from Cass Brayton's I'd Like to Buy a Vowel, about a bizarre love triangle, to Martha Soukup's telemarketing comedy Cold Calls. The 18-day fest begins at 8 p.m. at A Traveling Jewish Theater, 470 Florida (at Mariposa), S.F. Admission is $12.50-35; call 987-2787 or visit

Friday, June 13, 2003
Everyone in California speaks Spanglish, from the burliest truck driver to the littlest drag queen, so we should all enjoy Marga Gomez, Carmelita Tropicana, and Monica Palacios in ¡Comedy, Por Favor!, which the three comedians claim will be presented in “English for the Español challenged.” Award winners all, the giants of queer Latina humor have never been onstage together before, so be warned, but not afraid: The performance by these bastard spawn of Mexican producer and comedian Cantinflas is, according to an inside source, “guaranteed to lower cholesterol and improve your partner's sex drive.” Gomez is scheduled to be the grand marshal of this year's Pride Parade — here's your chance to find out why, so you can repeat her jokes to your friends as she rolls by, waving and blowing kisses. Show time is 8 p.m. (and Por Favor! continues through Sunday) at the SomArts Theater, 934 Brannan (at Eighth Street), S.F. Admission is $20-22; call 334-0722 or visit

Saturday, June 14, 2003
God-given talent is important, but great artists aren't born, they're made. Becoming a professional dancer takes dedication, drive, and hours of practice, requirements the young hoofers of Chamberdance have in spades. The local company's performers possess youthful vigor and an unfettered enthusiasm that's contagious. This weekend you can see them in their seventh annual joint concert with the Academy of Ballet, which provides serious training to youngsters with bright futures. This year's program starts with the academy's student demonstration, followed by five works from Chamberdance's repertoire, including Co-Director Richard Gibson's Fanny Elssler Pas de Deux and excerpts from his Songs Without Words, as well as a world premiere by Smuin Ballet's Amy Seiwert. Tonight's show starts at 8 (also 3 p.m. on Sunday) at the Cowell Theater, Herbst Pavilion, Fort Mason, Marina & Buchanan, S.F. Admission is $16-20; call 345-7575 or visit

Sunday, June 15, 2003
Jets to Brazil frontman Blake Schwarzenbach is the kind of artist who inspires a lot of bitter recriminations, but that's because he's so good everyone hates him. Singers and songwriters in particular must constantly ask themselves: Why am I not as talented as Blake? Is it because I'm just an inferior human being? Fortunately, the torment of musicians is the delight of listeners. JTB's first album, Orange Rhyming Dictionary, was amazing and amazingly innovative; its next two, Four Cornered Night and Perfecting Loneliness, were more of the same, only better. The group is still great, its production more interesting (it's one of the band's good tricks to sound both gritty and glossy), and Schwarzenbach, formerly of the madly worshipped Jawbreaker, still sounds like an intelligent punker on a pop trip. John Vanderslice and Whysall Lane open for Jets to Brazil at 8 p.m. at the Great American Music Hall, 859 O'Farrell (at Polk), S.F. Admission is $16; call 885-0750 or visit

Monday, June 16, 2003
Afghanistan wasn't always the troubled nation it is now. A number of chroniclers have recently pointed out that prior to 1980's bloody invasion by the Soviet army, it was a pretty nice place, even for women. Among them is Khaled Hosseini, a practicing doctor who has published a novel, the first to be written in English on the subject of modern Afghanistan. The Kite Runner is described as an old-fashioned narrative of a boy's coming-of-age set against the backdrop of major political upheaval, and the protagonist's friendship with a servant's child. It is already getting strong reviews: Publishers Weekly says, “It is rare that a book is at once so timely and of such high literary quality.” See Hosseini read at 7:30 p.m. at Cody's Books, 2454 Telegraph (at Haste), Berkeley. Admission is free; call (510) 845-7852 or visit

Tuesday, June 17, 2003
The Thin White Duchess needs little introduction, of course, but Patti Smith's latest work reflects some significant changes in her style. While longtime fans remain enamored of the singer's proto-punk screams, Smith's new album is somewhat different. As befits a wise, thoughtful iconoclast, she spends some time on Gung Ho on stuff like, “We got to get off/ Our ass or get burned/ The world's troubles/ Are a global concern.” Although this nurturing side can be an irritant to a lot of anger-is-the-only-cool-emotion type punks, the disc is getting glowing notices from those with a little more upstairs. Smith is simply continuing to do and say whatever the hell she wants, which is what punk's all about. She plays at 9 p.m. at the Fillmore, 1805 Geary (at Fillmore), S.F. Admission is $28.50; call 346-6000 or visit

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