When Christy Haubegger started the lifestyle magazine Latina in 1996, she figured if it didn't fly, she could always fall back on her education -- notably, her Stanford law degree. But raised as she'd been on a steady diet of women's magazines featuring a pale, unchanging parade of Anglo beauties, she was determined to bring something new to other Hispanic/Latina women. Listening to her speak at her alma mater last year, it was impressive how effortlessly she seemed to integrate social consciousness and a taste for glamour.Haubegger's story is of a piece with that of poet/Cal State Northridge professor María Elena Fernández, a first-generation American raised in Los Angeles by Mexican parents. Fernández, raised Catholic and dutiful, was supposed to grow up to be both traditional and successful -- read demure. But she really wanted to be a cha-cha, an LA Latina notable for high heels, heavy makeup, and smooth, hairless legs; a club-hopper bent on big-hair beauty. So she ran away to Yale, as far from her family as she could get, where she was simultaneously initiated into the mysteries of depilation and deconstruction, waxing and women's studies. How to reconcile all these seemingly disparate feminine ideals? And what about becoming the straitlaced professional her parents were hoping for, when what Fernández really wanted was to be a writer?
Just as Haubegger found a way to get glamour and Latina pride on the same page (Latina is the fastest-growing magazine of its kind), Fernández discovered that she could simultaneously be sexy, a feminist, a writer, and a teacher. Now she's put together a funny, warm autobiographical solo show detailing the journey -- a show that has sold out houses from Albuquerque to Denver. Northern California gets its first taste of Confessions of a Cha-Cha Feminist this month at La Peña as Fernández -- who cut her teeth doing poetry readings -- portrays herself, friends, and family members in a performance that critics have called "great fun." According to Fernández, the show really resonates with teenage women, but it should strike a sympathetic chord with anyone who has ever struggled with whether shaving her armpits makes her a bad feminist or not, and anyone faced with the loving agonies of growing up bicultural. Confessions of a Cha-Cha Feminist plays Saturday, March 15 only at La Peña, 8 pm. Tickets are $12, $10 for students. For more information call 510-849-2568. -- Lisa Drostova
When people think about comedians, they visualize New York and Los Angeles. But Oakland has seen its fair share of comics make it to the big time -- showstoppers such as Mark Curry and Luenell, the "bad girl of comedy." The Bay Area Black Comedy Competition is far and away the most prominent local showcase for new talent. This year's finals are Saturday at 8 p.m., at Oakland's Paramount Theatre (2025 Broadway). Hosted by comedian Don "DC" Curry, a previous winner, the big laff-off will see six finalists compete for the title. Tickets ($25, $35.50, and $39.50) from 510-465-6400 or www.paramounttheatre.com -- Lee Hubbard
Groaning Room Only
You can't keep a good ghost story down. The Woman in Black, adapted by Stephen Malatratt from Susan Hill's book, has been scaring the pants off theatergoers ever since it was first staged in England in 1987. The two-character play tells of a man, convinced that his ancestral home is haunted by the title ghost, who hires an actor, a disbeliever, to reenact the haunting. The Broadway West Theatre Co. production, starring Troy Johnson and James Hiser under the direction of Mary Galde, opens Friday, March 14, then plays Thursdays through Sundays through April 12. $20 ($15 students, seniors, and on Thursdays). Broadway West is at 4000-B Bay St., Fremont. Reservations: 510-683-9218 or www.broadway-west.com -- Kelly Vance
The Green Scene
So this hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold walks into a bar, see, and ends up sitting next to a dominatrix. What follows is a cockle-warming tale about love across borders, and ... Wait. You say The Tramp and the Roughrider is a historical production? The tramp is John Muir, cofounder of the Sierra Club and Muir Woods' namesake? And the roughrider is President Teddy Roosevelt, creator of the first national wildlife refuge? Oh.
Well, then. The play will be performed Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Gary Soren Smith Center at Ohlone College (43600 Mission Boulevard, Fremont) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Wildlife Refuge System. Call 510-792-0222 for further information. -- Stefanie Kalem