Deliberate 

She makes art, not war

8/8-8/10

For someone who earned her BA from Yale with a self-designed degree in environmental studies and theater, and who has worked for Friends of the Earth, Forest Watch, and the Sierra Club, activism is more likely to be deliberate than accidental. And it's never far away from the drama in actress and environmentalist Kathryn Blume's career. Co-creator, with Sharron Bower, of the Lysistrata Project (www.LysistrataProject.com), which inspired more than a thousand simultaneous readings of Aristophanes' antiwar comedy about warriors' wives on a sex strike, Blume was excited to see her dramatic depictions of dissent reach terrestrial proportions in 59 countries and all fifty US states on March 3. The protest play comically uses celibacy as a demonstration of conscientious objection; we'll never know who it might have motivated to adopt its antiwar abstinence stance, but we're aware of a couple of prominent political wives who'd probably never consider bartering "no nukes" for nooky. Although it attracted international publicity and even provoked peaceful thought, the Lysistrata Project didn't realize its ultimate goal of preventing the war. Nor did it draw any juicy acting roles Blume's way. So she decided to create her own. Armed with renewed frustration, and the first to admit that her impatient, intertwined dreams of becoming a star and saving the world were grandiose, Blume decided to parlay her perspective on pioneering planetary performances into a solo show. In The Accidental Activist , directed by Michaela Hall, nothing daunts Blume's irrepressible spirit as she persists in waving her activism and thumbing her nose squarely in the face of apathy. Her irreverent observational humor, punctuated by profanity and populated with multiculti character sketches, is further enhanced by Eliza Ladd's score. Employing such diverse instruments as drums and duct tape, as well as her own voice, Ladd creates an aural soundscape of Blume's interior and exterior reality.

Upon These Boards artistic staging director, Randall Stuart, who directed Berkeley's version of the Lysistrata Project, brings Blume to the Bay Area for the third event of UTB's "Art Is Peace" series, which launches the national tour of The Accidental Activist. Weekend performances are 7:30 p.m. August 8 and 9, and 2 p.m. August 10, at the Aurora Theatre Company, 2081 Addison St. (at Shattuck) near downtown Berkeley's BART stop. Tickets are $20, available online at Frantix.net, or call 415-621-1216 or 866-372-6849. A proportion of the proceeds will benefit Oxfam.org. For more info: TheAccidentalActivist.com -- Pat Katzmann

8/8-8/9

Afro Laffs

Ghana make you chuckle

Michael Blackson doesn't take his "African King of Comedy" mantle lightly. Born in Ghana and raised in Philly, Blackson has appeared on BET's Comic View consistently since 1992, was a highlight of 2000's lackluster blockbuster Next Friday, and finished in the top five at the 2001 Bay Area Black Comedy Competition. He's been compared to Chris Rock and D.L. Hughley, and viewers are warned to sit in the front row at their own peril. Tommy T's Comedy House, 1655 Willow Pass Rd., Concord. 8 p.m. 925-686-6809. -- Stefanie Kalem

8/8-8/31

The Muir the Merrier

From his birthplace in Dunbar, Scotland to the wilds of Hetch Hetchy Valley, environmentalist John Muir's life was legendarily eventful. Musical, too. At least that's how Willows Theatre Company sees it in its production of John Muir's Mountain Days, its annual outdoor musical bio of the great man, now in its third year at Martinez's Waterfront Park. The show, written by playwright Mary Bracken Phillips and composer Craig Bohmler for a cast of sixty, stars Lee Strawn as Muir and Masha Mercant as his wife, Louie Strentzel, under the direction of Richard Elliott. It opens Friday for a run through August 31. Tickets: 925-798-1300. Info: JohnMuirMusical.org -- Kelly Vance

FRI 8/8

Don't Cry for Trees

No, it doesn't star Madonna, and you know deep down that that's a good thing. The Woodminster Summer Musicals production of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice's Evita stars Shannon Day, and even if she can't live up to Patti LuPone's Broadway portrayal (and we're not saying she can't), the epic tale of Eva Perón's rise from poverty to stardom to the president's bed to working-class sainthood is sure to be dramatic given the setting: Woodminster Amphitheater, located in the second-growth redwood forest of Joaquin Miller Park. Evita opens tonight and plays through this weekend and next, plus a Thursday performance, all starting at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $15-$29; buy them at TicketWeb.com -- Stefanie Kalem

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