Jon Stewart: New Jersey native, actor, and comedian Jon Stewart honed his skills in the shark-filled-water-like atmosphere of New York City's comedy clubs, moving through the ranks to score appearances on HBO's Young Comedians Special and Late Night with David Letterman. Those appearances led to a brief stint hosting MTV's short-lived You Wrote It, You Watch It, then to his own talk show, the surprisingly titled Jon Stewart Show. It aired on MTV for a season in a half-hour format, then expanded to an hour when Paramount picked it up for national syndication (it was later canceled). The comedian recently signed a three-year contract with Miramax Films, and his first starring-role film, Wishful Thinking (with Drew Barrymore and Jennifer Beals), is due out next spring. Stewart performs his latest stand-up show, Jon Stewart: Unleavened, tonight and tomorrow night at 8:30 at the Coconut Grove Playhouse (3500 Main Hwy.); tonight's show will be taped for HBO, while tomorrow's show will be broadcast live on the cable network. Tickets cost $15. Call 442-2662. (GC)
Men Smash Atoms: New York City performance-art provocateurs and techno-industrial music-makers Men Smash Atoms have deconstructed Hamlet for the Shakespeare on Lincoln Road festival and presented various multimedia installations at Miami Beach's nightclubs, while similarly making their dent on the art and club scenes in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Sydney, and Manhattan. The troupe's two performance artists, Nicodemus and Anitra, hail from Berlin, where he studied mime and filmmaking and she was a dancer, singer, and all-around party girl. They are currently recording an album on New York's Decoder Records label. Tonight at 10:00 at Bash (655 Washington Ave., Miami Beach), the duo presents a new show that combines mile-a-minute grooves with bits of operatic drama. Admission is $10. Call 538-2274. (GC)
Skankin' Pickle: It's pretty obvious that ska bands like to have fun -- if they didn't, they'd be playing some dour-pussed musical form. Not that skasters don't take their music seriously. Take Skankin' Pickle: The Bay Area's wackiest skankers blend ska, metal, and funk with a reggae derivative for consciousness-raising music with a sense of humor. How else could they make a career out of tackling serious issues such as racism while making pickle puns and doing a cover of the Vapors' "Turning Japanese"? Skankin' Pickle hold their own tonight in support of their latest release, the Green Album (on the band's own Dill Records), at the Edge (200 W. Broward Blvd., Fort Lauderdale), with openers the Rudiments. Tickets for this all-ages show cost nine dollars. Doors open at 8:00. Call 954-525-9333. (GC)
Pasion Gitana: Flamenco wonder Joaquin Cortes made his American debut two years ago at a Miami Beach street fair, where the dancer briefly displayed his virtuoso moves and killer physique to a crowd that screamed for more. Tonight Cortes is back in Miami on his first multi-city U.S. tour, with a full-length spectacular featuring fifteen dancers and a twelve-piece flamenco orchestra taking the stage at 8:00 at the Jackie Gleason Theater of the Performing Arts (1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach). The company will perform Pasion Gitana (Gypsy Passion), a show consisting of ten dances, all but one choreographed by Cortes, set to different flamenco rhythms -- bulerias, solea, tango, and others. Cortes's lusty good looks have brought the fashion world calling -- he's been featured in Vogue and other fashion rags, and Giorgio Armani designs his costumes -- but it's his daring dancing that has deservedly brought him rock-star status in his native Spain. A gypsy trained in classical ballet as well as flamenco, Cortes's style is brash and athletic; he combines high leaps and multiple pirouettes with the Spanish dance's aggressive heel stomping. Tickets range in price from $30 to $50. Call 673-7300. (JC)
Miami Pops: The Art Museum at Florida International University (University Park Campus, SW Eighth Street and 107th Avenue, Primera Casa, room 110) opens its 1996-97 season with the exhibition "Miami Pops: Pop Art from Miami Collections," displaying more than 25 works by Robert Indiana, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Andy Warhol, and many others; it runs through November 20. As part of tonight's opening reception, respected curator and art writer William S. Lieberman, the chairman of twentieth-century art at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art, will conduct a lecture titled "Before Pop: From Sargent to Stettheimer," focusing on American artists from 1900 to 1929, at 8:00 in room AT-100. Admission is free. Museum hours are Monday from 10:00 to 9:00, Tuesday through Friday from 10:00 to 5:00, and Saturday from noon to 4:00 (the museum will be closed on Monday, November 11). Call 348-2890. (GC)
Tim Rollins and K.O.S.: Over the last decade, South Bronx public school teacher Tim Rollins and the teenage-artists' collective Kids of Survival have created artworks based on their personal take on books commonly read in school, like The Red Badge of Courage. Through art, they have explored themes such as illiteracy, drug abuse, artists' roles in the community, and -- as their work gained widespread recognition in the Eighties -- the business of art. Works by Rollins and K.O.S. are included in the exhibition "Youth Matters," at Miami-Dade Community College's Wolfson Campus Centre Gallery (300 NE Second Ave.) through October 25. Today the artists will be in town for several events. At 2:00 they will talk about their art during a tour of the Centre Gallery show. At 5:30 they will be on hand at a reception in their honor at the South Florida Art Center (1659 Lenox Ave., Miami Beach). And tonight at 8:00, the film The Art & Life of Tim Rollins + K.O.S, directed by Dan Geller and Dayna Goldfine, makes its Miami premiere (it has been shown only once before, earlier this year in New York) at the Alliance Cinema (927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach). Admission to the movie is six dollars; the exhibition talk and reception are free. For more information about any of these events, call 674-8278. (JC)
Jon Stewart: See Thursday.
International Ballet Festival of Miami: Miami Hispanic Ballet plays host to the first-ever International Ballet Festival of Miami, taking place tonight at 8:30 at the Dade County Auditorium (2901 W. Flagler St.). The festival features performances by the top dancers from some of the world's most respected companies, including the Ballet Nacional de Espana; Mexico's Compania Nacional de Danza; the Colorado Ballet; Colombia's Ballet de Cali; the Caracas, Venezuela-based Ballet Nuevo Mundo; the Ballet Concierto Dominicano; the Buenos Aires, Argentina company Ballet Teatro Colon; the Tennessee Ballet; and Miami's Momentum Dance Company. Another performance takes place tomorrow at 3:00. Tickets cost $18, $32, and $38. Call 547-5414. (GC)
Nosferatu/Pandora's Box: The Cinema Vortex film series this weekend features two classic films of German Expressionism from the Twenties. F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu (1922) screens today at noon at the Alliance Cinema (927 Lincoln Rd., Miami Beach); this dark, superbly atmospheric film, starring the utterly eerie Max Schreck, is still the most chilling retelling of the Dracula story. Tomorrow at the same time and place, Vortex screens G. W. Pabst's Pandora's Box (1929), in which the recently rediscovered Louise Brooks lights up the screen as a prostitute who catches the eye of Jack the Ripper. Admission to each film is four dollars. Call 531-8504. (GC)
Jimmy Breslin: Pulitzer Prize-winning New York journalist Jimmy Breslin looks back at his life and career in his book, I Want to Thank My Brain for Remembering Me: A Memoir. Breslin tells his life story in a series of flashbacks, including his recent successful surgery to repair a brain aneurysm, his rocky childhood in Queens, and his stellar career as a reporter and columnist, all the while confronting mortality and the meaning of his life. Books & Books hosts an evening with Breslin tonight at 8:00 at the Coral Gables Congregational Church (3010 DeSoto Blvd.). Admission is free (but tickets are required). Call 442-4408. (GC)
Mideastern Dance Exchange Open House: Get into the rhythm of international dance styles as the teachers and students of the Mideastern Dance Exchange (350 Lincoln Rd., ste. 505, Miami Beach) host an open house. Mini-workshops and performances in belly dance, samba, capoiera, and a variety of dance styles will be held throughout the day. Admission is five dollars (refreshments included). The open house runs from 3:00 to 6:00. Call 538-1608. (GC)
International Ballet Festival of Miami: See Saturday.
Pandora's Box: See Saturday.
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Fairchild Tropical Garden Tram and Walking Tours: Celebrate the autumnal equinox with a tromp through nature at Fairchild Tropical Garden (10901 Old Cutler Rd.). Walk or ride and get a glimpse of rare plants and trees such as the petticoat palm, the gingerbread palm, and the cannonball tree. The ongoing tram tours run every hour on the hour Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 4:00. Walking tours depart at 11:45 Monday through Friday and 1:45 on Saturday. Garden admission is eight dollars. Call 667-1651. (GC)
Love Letters: The New Theatre (65 Almeria Ave., Coral Gables), which has remained active all summer with its acclaimed production of Terrence McNally's Love! Valour! Compassion!, starts its fall season with a production of A.R. Gurney's Love Letters. This "sort of play," in the words of the playwright, tells the story of a man and woman who have an enduring, long-distance love affair, conducted through a series of eloquent letters. This production features a different set of actors each week, with David Kwiat and Kimberly Daniel performing tonight through Sunday. The play runs every Tuesday through Thursday at 8:00, with Saturday and Sunday matinee at 3:00 through October 13; every Thursday through Saturday at 8:00 with Saturday and Sunday matinee at 3:00 October 17 through 27. Tickets cost $20 (with a second ticket for half-price) for Tuesday through Thursday shows; $25 for Saturday and Sunday shows. Call 443-5909 for reservations. (GC)
Gravity Kills: Now that nine inch nails has made industrial music commercially acceptable, a bevy of sound-alike bands are cashing in on NIN's success (Trent Reznor is doing it himself with his own Nothing Records label). Among these bands is Gravity Kills, a four-man, St. Louis-based group signed to TVT Records (Reznor's former label, wouldn't you know). Gravity Kills works within the same music aesthetic as NIN: Write good rock tunes with dark lyrics, catchy hooks, pulsating rhythms, and infectious choruses, then manipulate the hell out of the whole thing with loops, samples, and mechanical grind (NIN, Stabbing Westward, and Love & Rockets producer John Fryer was even brought in to mix). And the band's been getting quite the push from TVT: "Guilty," the first single off their self-titled 1996 debut, made it onto two movie soundtracks (last year's Mortal Kombat and Seven), and their latest single "Blame" is the first off the Escape from L.A. soundtrack. Sounds like a physics formula for success. Gravity Kills performs tonight at Respectable Street Cafe (518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach) with Republica and Love in Reverse. Tickets to this eighteen-and-over show cost ten dollars. Showtime is 8:00. Call 561-832-9999. (GC)
Love Letters: See Tuesday.