¡Viva Pablo! 

Cien años de Neruda

7/11-7/17

Lover, diplomat, activist, exile, and of course, Nobel-winning "poet of the people," Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto (that's Pablo Neruda to you) was born one hundred years ago in Parral, Chile, on July 12, 1904. Young Neftalí first took the pseudonym in 1920 -- in honor of the Czech poet Jan Neruda -- because his family disapproved of his writing. One hopes they eventually went easy on him when they found out how he was spending his time, because Neruda eventually became one of the most revered poets of Latin America. An ambassador to Burma at 23, a loyalist freedom fighter in Spain during that country's civil war, and a fugitive in France during the 1940s and '50s, Neruda (who changed his name legally in 1945) was a writer shaped by his travels. But, when the political situation allowed, he always went back to his native country. He died of leukemia in 1973, just twelve days after a US-backed military coup ousted the democratically elected government of Salvador Allende -- a close friend of Neruda's -- plunging the country into a horrific seventeen-year dictatorship. La Peña Cultural Center and the Friends of Neruda Collective join the worldwide centennial celebration of the writer's life with Semana Nerudiana, a week of musical and literary events. Starting off the week on Sunday is Cien Mil Palabras de Neruda/100,000 Words of Neruda, a community poetry marathon. From noon onward, poets who know it will be reading their favorites by Neruda. They have a lot to choose from, since his bibliography includes more than fifty books. Highlights of the week include a performance by Chilean tenor and guitarist Rafael Manriquez, who will play original compositions to accompany Neruda's poetry; the documentary film Neruda Presente! (Mark Eisner, USA/Chile, 2004); performance of a new work by Chilean composer Claudio Araya, "Neruda y los 100 que volvieron del mar (Neruda and the 100 that Returned From the Sea)"; and Imagine Neruda, an exhibit of artwork commemorating the man of the hour. All events are at La Peña (3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley) except for the Manriquez performance. Info: www.lapena.org or 510-849-2568. -- Nora Sohnen

7/10-8/15

Swung

Will U Like It?

When Shakespeare first staged As You Like It, the romantic comedy was recognizable to Elizabethan audiences as a "Christian" play, not necessarily because of its offstage spiritual conversions, but rather because of such Christian practices as brotherly love, marriage, and tolerance for contrary viewpoints. How all of this will come off when, for its summer production, the all-gal Woman's Will sets the play in swinging '60s London, is surely worth the price of admission. Never mind that performances are free -- it's worth the price of your gas, picnic, and sunscreen. Leslie McCauley directs the play at Bay Area parks through August 15, starting with 1 p.m. shows Saturday and Sunday at Berkeley's John Hinkel Park. WomansWill.org, 510-420-0813. -- Stefanie Kalem

7/9-7/25

Fiddle On

Broadway is reviving Fiddler on the Roof -- the latest production, starring Alfred Molina, has been filling the Minskoff Theatre since February -- so it's no surprise that Alameda Civic Light Opera is opening its "Broadway in the East Bay" series this year with the sentimental favorite based on the stories of Sholom Aleichem. So long as Jewish girls marry shiksas and cultures are threatened by oppression, Fiddler will live on. ACLO's version is directed by Jeff Teague, stars George Mauro as Tevye, and opens at the Kofman Auditorium, 2220 Central Ave in Alameda, this Friday at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $23 in advance (510-864-2256), $25 at the door. ACLO.com -- Stefanie Kalem

7/9-7/10

Circus Pork-Us

Most circuses feature funny-sad clowns and herds of pachyderms. Not The Meat Circus, the adult-themed story of a guy named Jimmy Abruzzo who signs on as a pyrotechnics expert with Sheedy's Circus Extravaganza and discovers sexpots under the big top. Jimmy is portrayed by former Express staffer Tyson Adlao -- and in the interest of full disclosure, almost everyone associated with the production, from playwrights Stefanie Kalem and Gabriel Raines to actors Adlao and Erin Chancy, has toiled for this newspaper. The Meat Circus plays in a staged production, Friday and Saturday (8 p.m.) at Cal Shakes' rehearsal hall, 701 Heinz Ave., Berkeley. For info, e-mail themeatcircus@hotmail.com -- Kelly Vance

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