Improvised theater can be terrifying, for the folks onstage as well as the ones shelling out their hard-earned money in the hopes that the seats of the actors’ pants are screwed on tight enough to put on a good show. But the Un-Scripted Theater Company’s current show is scary for an entirely different reason: For the third year running, the Bay-straddling improv ensemble presents Fear, a Halloween show wherein no two shows are alike. The two-hour thriller is made up afresh each night, inspired by audience suggestions. Will the central spook be agoraphobia, vertigo, or terrorists? You make the call.
The group has given Shakespeare, musicals, bingo, Survivor, and Christmas shows the spontaneous treatment; take in one of Fear’s last two performances, at LaVal’s Subterranean (1834 Euclid Ave., Berkeley) this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., and see how adept the actors are at the art of the creep-out. Tickets cost $7 for students and seniors, $12 for everyone else. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Visit Un-Scripted.com for advance ticket sales and other details. –StefanieKalem
He’s postmodern, he’s synesthetic, he’s the author of Song of the Andoumboulou, Bedouin Hornbook, and Discrepant Engagement: Dissonance, Cross-Culturality, and Experimental Writing. Prolific poet Nathaniel Mackey reads in 201 Galileo Hall, Saint Mary’s College (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). …Firm up your subjunctives with El Grupito, the Spanish-language reading-and-snacking group, at Diesel (Wed., 7:30 p.m.). … Spoken word gets competitive at the Berkeley Poetry Slam, where winners cash in, at Berkeley’s Starry Plough ($5-$7; performer signups begin at 6:30 p.m.) (Wed., 8:30 p.m.). …Behind so many good movies lurks a book. In conjunction with the Orinda Film Festival, Orinda Books hosts a discussion of Ernest Gaines’ novel A Gathering of Old Men, source of the film Murder on the Bayou, in which a Cajun meets his maker (Thu., 7 p.m.). …From hit men to smog to Bollywood, Suketu Mehta tracks his hometown’s progress in Maximum City: Bombay Lost and Found. Get the buzz about Mumbai at Barnes & Noble Walnut Creek (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). …He’s only 26, but critics hail satirical storyteller Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi as a brand-new sage. His debut novel The Last Song of Dusk mixes magic and sardonic wit, and he talks about it at Cody’s Telegraph (Thu., 7:30 p.m.). …Got divination? Edward Shaughnessy discusses the centuries-old bamboo-strip manuscript of the Zhou Yi, a portion of the I Ching, in 3401 Dwinelle Hall at UC Berkeley (Fri., 4 p.m.). …The Three Bears meet the Monkey King at the Oakland Public Library’s bilingual Cantonese/English story hour (Sat., 11 a.m.). … Spooks on the USS Hornet? You decide. Photographer Steve Pristavok of the local spook-hunting group Ghost Trackers discusses the art and science of capturing phantoms on film at Alameda’s Spellbinding Tales (Sat., 7 p.m.). — Annelie Rufus
If television is the drug of the nation, what happens when Television the band is on drugs? Or the New York Dolls, for that matter, glammed out and tripping on whatever it is that caused the Move to claim they could hear the grass grow? Strap on a costume and head to the French Fry Factory/Endocrine Company Warehouse (278 4th St., Oakland) to see the Cuts try and work all that out. Get there early enough to see the blues-beltin’ mama-fronted Von Iva. Also appearing: Time Flys and Muppets/Sesame Street cover band the Dead Hensons. 9 p.m., $5.–Stefanie Kalem
See how many hipsters it takes to change a regime at the Ivy Room’s Election Party. The Connexion and the Papercuts play, and DJs Kitty and Jacob will spin soul and party music with the TVs on so you can see the tallies. No cover, with crazy drink specials if you’re wearing one of those “I Voted” stickers. 21 and up. 858 San Pablo Ave., Albany. 510-524-9220.— Stefanie Kalem
Halloween may be this weekend, but the moon is celebrating a few days early with an eerie total lunar eclipse. If the sky is clear and with the proper atmospheric conditions, la luna will appear as a glowing, dark-orange orb. Tonight, the Chabot Space & Science Center in the Oakland Hills offers an evening (7:45-10:45 p.m.) of eclipse events on its observatory deck and in the Ask Jeeves Planetarium.
A total lunar eclipse occurs when the sun, Earth, and the moon are lined up, with Earth in the middle. The Earth’s shadow blocks the sun’s light from reflecting on the full moon. But some light still gets to the Moon, refracted and filtered through the Earth’s atmosphere. The composition of dust and ash in the atmosphere is what causes variations in the color of the eclipse it could be anywhere from bright yellow to dark gray. Recent volcanic activity at Mount St. Helens could have a darkening effect on this lunar eclipse.
Tonight’s events at Chabot include telescope viewing and access to exhibits, plus hands-on activities at this state-of-the-art learning center, which opened in Joaquin Miller Park in 2000. A separate ticket will get you into the planetarium for a lecture on the history and lore of lunar eclipses with astronomer Ryan Diduck.
This celestial event (the last total lunar eclipse until 2007) can be safely viewed with the naked eye. The total eclipse will begin just after 7:20 p.m. and last for an hour and twenty minutes, with the midpoint at 8:04 p.m. 10000 Skyline Blvd., Oakland, 510-336-7300 or ChabotSpace.org. Admission: $10 adult, $7 youth, students & seniors. Lecture: $6 adult, $5 youth, students & seniors. — Annika Dukes