Lots of good things come in boxes -- new shoes, birthday presents, and, in the case of the Oakland Box Theatre, phat shows. Formerly known as the Black Box Theatre and Gallery, the theatre (1928 Telegraph Ave, Oakland) recently substituted "Oakland" for "black," in an effort to prevent confusion with the Black Dot Artist Collective, another swell, Oakland-based arts organization.Regardless of the name change, the two-year-old nonprofit's ambitious mission to serve the entire East Bay arts community with a plethora of youth programs, theatrical productions, performances, live music, film festivals, community events, and visual art exhibitions remains the same. According to Box cofounder Steve Snider, the outgrowth of this egalitarian mission statement is an exciting 2004 events calendar, which includes the launch of several regular events, featuring everything from rock to reggae, poets to songwriters.
This Friday's Break-a-Leg Talent Showcase, an Amateur Night at the Apollo-style showcase including freestyle contests, battle rapping, and a $100 booty, is an taste of what to look for in the upcoming year.
The monthly event, organized by Bottom of tha Bassment Productions, works as a kind of "hip-hop flea market," allowing local artists to hook up with talent scouts and producers, cultivate a following, and push homemade CDs. According to Bassment headman Rich "Igor Beats" Gray, the hope is to support one of Oakland's remaining viable venues and help talented local artists get a leg up. Although the showcase is geared toward lyrical wordsmiths, anyone willing to pony up $25 can perform. "You can tap dance or put on a magic show, but basically," Gray says, "you got ten minutes to woo the crowd."
While the lineup occasionally has space for last-minute MCs, the best way to assure you'll perform is to become a Break-a-Leg regular, since would-be performers who attend prior shows earn preference. Doors open at 8 p.m.; show starts at 9, and cover is $10. Info: 510-451-1932 and OaklandBox.com -- Joy White
DC to AK
Far from the Washington Monument, the other DC throbs in Edward P. Jones' Lost in the City, a short-story collection about African Americans in the capital. Discuss it with Bookshop Benicia's Contemporary Book Group, which always welcomes new members (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). ... Who dares call the Tri-Valley anything but a literary hub? Local authors convening for schmoozing, sips, and snacks at Livermore's Rios Lovell Winery include biographer Grace Devinich, mystery novelist Ann Parker, historian Anne Homan, and political-thriller scribe Kathleen Antrim. Fee is $12, reservations required; call 925-443-4354 (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Ever wonder whether those nude sadhus actually want their mugs depicted in magazines? Award-winning freelancer Gary Crabbe hosts a $20 travel-photography seminar at Easy Going, including instructions on asking strangers to let you snap them. To preregister, call 510-843-3533 (Thu., 7 p.m.). ... If you think knitting needles are nursing-home fodder, Stitch 'N' Bitch author Debbie Stoller will gladly unravel your mind. The founder of NYC's first Stitch 'N' Bitch knitting group, whose fave creations include cell-phone cozies and woolly bikinis, Stoller purls at Barnes & Noble Walnut Creek (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). ... Fianchetto your bishop when the Berkeley Public Library's chess club convenes at South Branch (Fri., 3 p.m.). ... Ass-whupping elf Drizzt Do'Urden is back and armed with razor-sharp scimitars in R.A. Salvatore's The Lone Drow. Ask the author whether Drow rhymes with "wow" or "throw" at Barnes & Noble Dublin (Fri., 7:30 p.m.). ... Bay Area erotica bard M. Christian (above) has written fondly of feet and breathtakingly of bondage. He'll read from his latest short-story collection, The Bachelor Machine, at the Other Change of Hobbit (Sat., 6 p.m.). ... What stands between you and your first published novel? Berkeley author Teresa LeYung Ryan says it's joining, networking, conferencing, and dreaming, as revealed in her sliding-scale workshop at Boadecia's (Tue., 7:30 p.m.). ... Alaska's fiddling poet, Ken Waldman, performs with a band at Freight & Salvage: This ex-college prof and author of Nome Poems is also a plane-crash survivor (Tue., 8 p.m.). -- Anneli Rufus
Ritual de lo Habitual
Rob Brezsny has made a career out of converting cynical snarks into astrological devotees by infusing his horoscopes with a worldly wit. So it's no surprise that Brezsny's own favorite astrologer, Berkeley's Antero Alli, is also concerned with marrying the metaphysical to the humdrum. Since 1977, the author and filmmaker has been performing what he calls Paratheatrical Research, bringing together components of theater, dance, and standing zazen meditation to create art and performance based on internal experience. In his latest book, Towards an Archeology of the Soul, Alli writes that a ritual is any activity that concurrently enhances consciousness of environment and self, as opposed to routines, which decrease this awareness. Learn more about why both are important when he appears at 5 p.m. at Alaya Bookstore (1713 University Ave., Berkeley) to talk about "ritual without dogma," followed by a book signing. Call 510-548-4701 or visit www.paratheatrical.com for further info. -- Stefanie Kalem
Local Film showcase at the Parkway
Awful-party movies are a particularly interesting subgenre. Sometimes they're wryly amusing, as in Mike Leigh's Abigail's Party; sometimes they're downbeat, like Bruce Beresford's Don's Party. But they're always tense, awkward occasions, with plenty of opportunities for actors (and over-actors) to let their hair down and get their ya-yas out.Jovani Milton Prince's Sinfully Sane is a case in point. In his shot-on-video feature, a group of friends throw a birthday party for Howard (well-played by David K. Brown), who has just returned from a mental institution. Howard's discomfiture is obvious from the first moment he's on screen. Cocktails are gulped, people excuse themselves and meet in other rooms, and resentments bubble up. Think Neil LaBute without the pretentiousness. How could it ever end happily?
Prince, who wrote, produced, acted in, and directed Sinfully Sane in LA (and who, it should be noted, is an employee of this newspaper), will be on hand to introduce the film at the Parkway Theater's Local Filmmakers' Showcase at 9:15 p.m. PicturePubPizza.com -- Kelly Vance
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