In Cal Shakes' upcoming production Sweet Thunder, playwright Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa teams with American Conservatory Theater master's program students and local community organizations that help queer youth to adapt A Midsummer Night's Dream to the mean streets of San Francisco. This groundbreaking approach to theater and community activism will be discussed tonight at 7:30 at the Orinda Library (24 Orinda Way) as part of the ongoing Community Conversation series. In addition to Aguirre-Sacasa, queer youth org program directors Andrew Niklaus and Derrick Miller-Handley will speak; Cal Shakes' Sean Daniels moderates. Free; CalShakes.org -- Eric K. Arnold
Every week, Oakland's Nomad Cafe, a haven for wi-fi geeks, tech-enabled tea-sippers, and eco-friendly Web surfers, changes up its program -- becoming much more like a traditional coffeeshop -- with the Nomad No-Mic, an unplugged spoken-word session for the poetically inclined. Since the atmosphere is 100 percent acoustic and none of the sounds are amplified, it isn't called an open mic, although the proceedings do fit the typical open-mic format. Signs-ups begin at 6:30 p.m., and writers and poets are encouraged to present their metered verses or literary musings, as long as they don't exceed five minutes in length. In addition, a different spoken-word artist is featured each week. It's a great way to wind down after a long workweek, and recharge your spiritual batteries for the upcoming weekend. For more info, visit NomadCafe.net -- E.K.A.
Murder ballads are big these days -- and no, we're not talking about Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly." Check the Friday Night Hayride tonight (9:30) at the Stork Club in Oakland, where the Pine Box Boys spin musical tales of guilt, repressed longing, and revenge in filtered bluegrass style. They're joined onstage by acoustic trio Kemo Sabe, which plays punk-folk campfire melodies; alt-country crooner Bob Harp; and the San Antonio Kid, a Texas native specializing in upbeat honky-tonk. It's all part of the Stork's latest revival of its weekly Americana showcase (formerly known as the Tuesday Night Hayride), which, rumor has it, is really knockin' 'em dead. $5. 2330 Telegraph Ave., Oakland, 510-444-6174 or StorkClubOakland.com -- Kelly Vance
At its best, contemporary dance is uplifting to the spirit. Dancers also frequently get off the ground and soar into the air -- not just literally, but figuratively. For those reasons, Uplift seems like an especially apt title for the Kendra Kimbrough Ensemble's Ninth Annual Repertory Concert. The ensemble sees dance as no less than a "holistic cyclone of expression" and remains as committed to multiculturalism as it is to presenting new and exciting works. In addition to African-American dance forms, the company's choreography is often inspired by Afro-Brazilian, African, and Hindustani culture. Fittingly, tonight's event not only features a new work by Kimbrough, but performances by the Dimensions Extensions Performance Ensemble, EMESé (Messengers of the African Diaspora), South American folkloric expert Isaura Oliveira, and guest choreographer Rosangela Silvestre. 7 p.m. at Oakland's Malonga Casquelourd Center (1428 Alice St.), $7-$18. KStarProductions.org or 510-801-4523. -- E.K.A.
Big Sandy, notorious ladies' man of rockabilly, steps up to the mic in Albany this afternoon with his Fly Rite Boys for a very special show -- it's Ivy Room owner Bill MacBeath's birthday. Does this mean drinks on the house? Dunno -- ask the bartender. Regardless, the all-things-billy quintet -- which has hit every truck stop and chili joint from Bakersfield to Boston -- will undoubtedly have a few tricks up its collective sleeve for the gig. It takes place at the customary late-weekend cocktail hour of 4 p.m., and it's a mere $10 for all the twang you can eat. The Ivy Room is at 858 San Pablo Ave. (at Solano Ave.) 510-524-9220; IvyRoom.com -- K.V.
SoVoSó is an acronym for "from the SOul to the VOice to the SOng," and it has continued the Bay Area tradition of a cappella vocal ensembles begun by the Bobs and Bobby McFerrin's Voicestra. In fact, its annual holiday show Seasonings has become something of a tradition itself. Now in its fourth year, Seasonings returns to Yoshi's (510 Embarcadero West, Oakland) tonight for a festive, family-friendly evening with some special surprises: SoVoSó alumni Destani Wolf and Norman Pitters and circus acts from Tandy Beal's Mixed Nutz will appear, and singers from Young Performers International will do a preperformance show in the lobby. 8 and 10 p.m.; Yoshis.com -- E.K.A.
Ajanta Restaurant at the head of Solano Avenue in Berkeley (510-526-4373) is generally recognized as one of the finest Indian eating places in the Bay Area, and has regularly sponsored cooking classes and produced cookbooks for diners eager to wade into the deep waters of spicy Indian cookery. Ajanta owner and chef Lachu Moorjani's latest cookbook is called Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India. He'll appear this evening (7:30) at Black Oak Books in Berkeley (1491 Shattuck Ave., 510-486-0698) to talk about Udaipuri Murg Masala, Bhé ki Tikki lotus-root cakes, and anything else that comes to mind. BlackOakBooks.com -- K.V.
Was Steve McQueen the coolest movie action hero of all time? Some say so, citing his built-in anti-authoritarian attitude, the way he handled cars and motorcycles, and his calm menefreghismo under fire. All of the above are on full display in The Getaway, director Sam Peckinpah's 1972 adaptation of noir novelist Jim Thompson's tale of Doc McCoy, hardened recidivist, who waltzes across Texas with shotgun in hand, trailed by goons. The Getaway plays tonight only (7:30) at the Pacific Film Archive on the UCB campus. Critic Greil Marcus introduces. BAMPFA.berkeley.edu -- K.V.
Culture Spy - February 23, 2:42 PM
What the Fork - February 23, 2:12 PM
Culture Spy - February 19, 1:45 PM
What the Fork - February 15, 2:00 PM
Culture Spy - February 15, 10:30 AM