Plenty of us like barbecue, and a whole lot of us like to listen to people jawing while they eat it. But free barbecue, personal stories, and Shakespeare in one evening? By laborsome petition, what's the rub? The rub is that Campo Santo, the LoveLife Foundation, Intersection for the Arts, and California Shakespeare Theater are angling to get Oaklanders to come down Wednesday, from 7 to 9 p.m., to Everett & Jones Barbeque Restaurant in Jack London Square to help kick off something called The Hamlet Project. Hamlet, as you remember, is the Danish guy whose father the king is offed by the kid's uncle, a real slime named Claudius, who turns around and marries Hamlet's mother in a flash and gains not only a wife, a kingdom, and a crown but an annoying, suspicious, and vengeful son. Hamlet, needless to say, is a teenager in a bad spot. There's blood on his relatives' hands. Should he off the new king? Should he kill himself? Should he leave town? Even before he can figure anything out, his girlfriend goes mad and drowns herself in the river. The world around him is violent and unsafe. Whom, exactly, is he supposed to trust?
Hamlet was written four hundred years ago, but the situation of a kid in a treacherous world is as relevant as ever. In fact, playwright Naomi Iizuka, author of such plays as 36 Views, Language of Angels, War of the Worlds, and Polaroid Stories, thinks it fits Oakland so well that she dreamed up Hamlet: Blood in the Brain, a revisioning of the tragedy set in Oakland in the '80s. But she also imagined the Hamlet Project as a community collaboration based on real stories from Oakland residents, which she hopes to get from workshops, interviews, dialogues, and performances.
The play premieres at Intersection for the Arts in San Francisco in November 2006 under the direction of Jonathan Moscone, California Shakespeare's artistic director. Even if you aren't prepared to lay out your own life story as you're eating your ribs, you can join the party and listen to former Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, R&B recording artist D'Wayne Wiggins; Black Panther and activist, lecturer, and writer Ericka Huggins; or Ricky Marshall of Colored Ink tell their stories, watching the play that will become the play. Everett & Jones is at 126 Broadway, Oakland. Free (food and drink provided). For more info, visit CalShakes.org -- Ann Murphy
Prancing proper in B'kly
Keeping up with the Joneses has never been harder, especially when -- as is often the case on shows like Trading Spaces -- the Joneses have a far superior team of decorators. In Decorum, Friday and Saturday at the Eighth Street Studio Theatre (2525 Eighth St., Berkeley), two local choreographers perform in new solo works addressing these themes. Lesley Braithwaite performs a series of vignettes parodying the notion of "picture-perfect," while Katie Faulkner dances out the complex desires behind people's public decisions. Showtime is 8 p.m., and admission is on a sliding scale, $5-$15. E-mail PerfectDecorum@hotmail.com -- Stefanie Kalem
It's not just Buddha Boomers and Born Agains. According to stage guru Susannah Martin, initiator and director of Shotgun Theater Lab's The Faith Project , the apparent global upsurge in religious fervor is no illusion. Martin based her dancing-singing-performing theater piece on the universal human quest for spiritual meaning, using choreography by Krista DeNio and a cast of five. It opens Tuesday at the Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 8 p.m.), and runs Tuesdays and Wednesdays through September 15. Admission is free (donations suggested). ShotgunPlayers.org or 510-841-6500. -- Kelly Vance
Cards, burglary, and opera
Solo Opera was established in 2000 to "make high-quality opera accessible to the public," and has specialized in the operas of Gian Carlo Menotti and other composers since then. This weekend at Lesher Regional Center for the Arts in Walnut Creek, Solo presents a lively pair of "summery" comic chamber operas: the nine-minute A Hand of Bridge (music by Samuel Barber, libretto by Menotti), a vignette of '50s suburbia; and Menotti's farcical The Old Maid and the Thief , both directed by Solo producer Sylvia Amorino, with Alexander Katsman conducting. For more information, visit SoloOpera.org -- Kelly Vance
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