Performance for the week of February 12-18, 2003 

From theater to spoken word to comedy to variety -- stand and deliver.

Tough Love
Valentine's Day with Aya de Leon

"We interrupt this bullshit love poem to bring you an important announcement: Valentine's Day has been canceled. This is not a test," says spoken-word artist Aya de Leon in an authoritative tone. The piece, titled "Valentine's Day," is a bittersweet ode to urban relationships from her debut CD Live at La Peña -- one of many sensitive and startling insights on a collection of word-songs and stories that makes you laugh, smile, wonder, and holler. She tackles injustice, sexism, sensitive guys, cellulite, erotica, deadbeat dads, hard-bodied boys, Mumia Abu Jamal, Vieques, and "affirmative-action programs for women in hip-hop."De Leon, a Harvard graduate, is one of the new woman-of-color writers, a welcome antithesis to today's corporate pop culture. Challenging the status quo with a potent pen and tongue, she speaks truth to power. While growing up in Berkeley, she studied acting with the San Francisco Mime Troupe and became a teen peace activist. In high school during the 1980s, she experienced the rise of hip-hop culture in the East Bay. At Harvard, she joined the Darkroom Writers' Collective in Cambridge to hone her writing. Returning to the Bay Area, she worked briefly as a teacher and youth counselor before giving it up in 2000 to freelance and pursue her artistic inclinations. She dove headfirst into slam poetry, and published the underground chapbooks Love 2K: Sober Love Poems and Prayer Warriors: Poems of Struggle.

This award-winning African-American/Puerto Rican sister, whose first novel is due out next year, has garnered accolades with her one-woman show Thieves in the Temple: The Reclaiming of Hip-Hop. It's helped mature her into a voice of hope and inspiration for a generation besieged by misogyny and violence. De Leon's words are always clear and delivered with pointed passion. This Friday, she celebrates her audio outing by hosting "Love: The Live Version" at La Peña. The two shows will feature Aya and friends: Aurora Levins-Morales, Marvin K. White, Jason "Creative Dwella" Mateo, Sonia Whittle, Hanifah Walidah, Elain Chao, and the poet's mother, Anna de Leon, singing jazz tunes. Showtimes: 7 and 9:30 pm. La Peña Cultural Center, 3105 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. $12. 510-849-2568. -- Jesse "Chuy" Varela

The Real Deal

He's eighteen, he makes females fall over in a faint, he's from Seville, and best of all, he's puro. He's Farruquito, grandson of the late legendary flamenco dancer El Farruco, and proponent of the flamenco puro tradition of Spanish culture, and he's coming to UC Berkeley's Zellerbach Hall Saturday, February 15 (8 p.m.) as part of Flamenco Festival USA 2003. Farruquito -- real name Juan Manuel Fernàndez -- is already being hailed as one of the hottest dancing sensations in Europe, and for his Berkeley show he's appearing with Juana Amaya, a 28-year-old Gypsy dancer from the Andalusian village of Morón de la Frontera, who's famous for her footwork. Tickets are $20-28-36 from 510-642-9988. The dance concert is the latest in Cal Performances' Celebración de las Culturas de Iberoamérica. -- Kelly Vance

My Runny Valentine

Who knows the secret of the human heart? The audience at Friday night's Valentine's Day Cabaret at Julia Morgan Center does. It's a parade of romantic tunes sung by an ensemble from the Shotgun Players stage troupe, served with champagne and chocolates. Couples, singles, and groupings of all types are invited to listen to Stephen Sondheim ballads, Cole Porter torch songs, "My Funny Valentine," and other jazz standards and show tunes -- and for a few dollars more you can dedicate a song from the stage. Childcare is available too. The entertainment is directed by Jonathan Moscone of the California Shakespeare Festival, and it's a benefit for the programs and historical preservation of Julia Morgan Center for the Arts. Tickets: $20 advance, $25 door. 2640 College Ave., Berkeley. Reservations: 925-798-1300. -- Kelly Vance

Let It FLO

A wise poet once wrote, "Words are the wings love needs to fly." If you and your honeypot need some verbal inspiration this Valentine's Day, then look no further than the Black Box (1928 Telegraph Ave., Oakland). Projectile Poetry presents For Lovers Only, an evening of spoken-word and a few tunes for the tender-hearted and lovelorn. Poets from diverse backgrounds drop beautiful science, DJ Funklor woos the decks, and Michael Cirelli MCs the festivities. And to show that it's not just romantic love being celebrated, Golda Supanova poeticizes with her baby son, Mica Kane, and singer Nonameko performs with her dad on guitar. The poetry starts at 9 p.m., the party kicks off at 11. Tickets cost $25 per couple, $15 for singles lookin' for love, and there are special VIP packages available. Call 510-451-1932. -- Stefanie Kalem

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