The slam poetry scene continues to be a forum for people to speak out about social issues that affect our local and global communities. One topic that can't be addressed enough is the reality of AIDS and its ever-changing target demographic. AIDS is currently a major killer of black men aged 25 to 45, and black women are contracting the virus at an alarming rate -- more than any other female population. Globally, the African continent is being ravaged by AIDS/HIV. It is estimated that there are more than 25 million people in Africa living with AIDS. The results are complex and numerous, ranging from orphans to economic strain. What can you do about it? Well, the legendary Berkeley Slam and its ringleader Charles Ellik are partnering with AIDS Walk San Francisco to host an open slam that will serve as a preliminary round, with the top five poets advancing to the semifinals held at July 18's AIDS Walk SF event. "The beauty of the slam is that it encourages all kinds of people -- not just poets -- to speak forcefully in public on topics that matter," Ellik says. The overall winner will perform on the main stage at the SF AIDS Walk in front of more than 25,000 people. So say it loud!
The rules are simple. Two poems -- keep 'em original and under three minutes -- with at least one of the pieces dealing with AIDS. Potential ties will be broken with "sudden-death haiku." Competition is open to everyone, and poems will be judged by the audience. So not only is this your chance to experience the best poetic event within walking distance of Ashby BART, it's your opportunity to put a game face on and speak on it! Admission is free, and the show starts at 8:30 p.m. Aspiring readers should get there at 7:30 for a chance at the first seven guaranteed slots, with the remaining eight poets selected by lottery.
The Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley. Information on the Berkeley Poetry Slam: BerkeleyPoetrySlam.com. Info on AIDS Walk SF: Melissa Brunell at 415-615-9255 or AIDSWalk.net -- K'yinde Marcelous
What do a pastor's wife, a woman awakening from a coma, a burlesque dancer, and a debt-imprisoned (really) girl from the future have in common? On the surface, only that they were born in the short fiction of students at SF State's Graduate Creative Writing program. But Four Echoes , a show closing up this week at the Ashby Stage (1901 Ashby Ave., Berkeley), proposes to find what other ties might bind. As part of Shotgun's Theater Lab program, Rebekah Anderson, Erin Jourdan, Vanessa Kulzer, and Margaret Rodriguez pulled their protagonists out of the safe confines of the page, and set them about exploring their lives onstage. Monday and Tuesday at 8 p.m. Free with a suggested donation of up to $15. 510-841-6500. -- Stefanie Kalem
Oberlin College in Ohio has given us coeducation and Liz Phair. The small, private university was also the birthplace, in 1972, of contact improvisation, which grew out of the movement studies of Steve Paxton (right). Now, the dance form -- whose main tenet is that its participants maintain a constant physical connection -- is a worldwide movement of its own. This Friday, the Sixteenth Annual West Coast Contact Improvisation Festival lands at Eighth Street Studios (2525 Eighth St.) in Berkeley, for five days of classes, discussions, performances, jams, and one-on-one sessions. $350 for a five-day pass, $75 per day (includes evening performances). WCCIF.com -- Stefanie Kalem
Circus Chimera has lots of things -- clowns, acrobats, trapeze artists, motorcycle stunts, magic, etc. What the Oklahoma-based circus doesn't have is expensive costumes and live animals (and, therefore, no animal-rights protesters). It also doesn't have the attention-deficit approach of Cirque du Soleil, or an ounce of that show's pretension. The nonetheless impressive one-ring affair rolls into the Portola Middle School grounds, on Moeser Lane in El Cerrito, this week to benefit the Cerrito Theater renovation project. Visit CerritoTheater.org for a schedule and list of authorized ticket sellers (if you buy tickets from the circus, your $6-$10 will not go to the theater). -- Stefanie Kalem
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