Larry Kramer’s ‘The Normal Heart’ plays the American Conservatory Theater

Courtesy photoOpening night: American Conservatory Theater presents “The Normal Heart

Who’s in town

Comedian and actor Dov Davidoff, seen on E! Network’s “Chelsea Lately” and NBC’s “Raines,” kicks off a string of comedy shows at the Punch Line. [8 p.m., Punch Line Comedy Club, 444 Battery St., S.F.]

Lectures

Richard Schmierer: The U.S. Department of State deputy assistant secretary for public diplomacy discusses the situation in Syria and U.S. policy on Syria. [7 p.m., World Affairs Council, 312 Sutter St., S.F.]

Consul General Luncheon Series: Gao Zhansheng, China’s consul general in San Francisco, discusses China’s economic rise and the implications for U.S.-China relations. [Noon, World Affairs Council, 312 Sutter St., S.F.]

State economy: A high-level panel looks at California’s economy and assesses prospects for recovery. Speakers include John Chiang, state controller. [6 p.m., Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., S.F.]

“Are We Alone?”: Scientists Dan Werthimer, an extraterrestrial-life seeker, and Geoff Marcy, a planet hunter and skeptic, debate whether life exists elsewhere in the galaxy. [6 p.m., Commonwealth Club, 595 Market St., S.F.]

Literary events

Paul Auster: The poet, translator, editor, author, screenwriter and director appears in conversation with Daniel Handler. “Winter Journal,” a memoir, is his latest book. [7:30 p.m., Herbst Theatre, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.]

Martin Amis: The British novelist, whose latest book is “Lionel Asbo,” appears in conversation with Barbara Lane. [7 p.m., Jewish Community Center, 3200 California St., S.F.]

At the colleges

Artist talk: Collage, video, installation and performance artist Rashaad Newsome discusses his work. [7:30 p.m., San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut St., S.F.]

At the public library

Disaster readiness: The program covers key actions that prepare people for disasters such as earthquakes and fires. [6:30 p.m., Western Addition Branch, 1550 Scott St., S.F.]

Women in art: The program spotlights “Five Fabulous Women Artists of the 1800s” — Mary Cassatt, Berthe Morisot, Marie Bracquemond, Eva Gonzales and Camille Claudel. [7 p.m., West Portal Branch, 190 Lenox Way, S.F.]

Local activities

Opening night: American Conservatory Theater presents “The Normal Heart,” Larry Kramer’s 1985 play about a group of friends who won’t let the truth about an epidemic ravaging the gay community be buried. [8 p.m., 415 Geary St., S.F.]

South Asian cinema: The 2012 3rd i South Asian Film Festival begins. The documentary “The Island President” is the opening-night feature. Director Jon Shenk is scheduled to attend. [7:15 p.m., Roxie Theater, 3117 16th St., S.F.]

Rock giants: Crosby, Stills and Nash perform at the Fillmore. [8 p.m., 1805 Geary Blvd., S.F.]

Book sale: The Friends of the San Francisco Public Library’s 2012 Big Book Sale, a five-day event, begins. Books, DVDs, CDs, books on tape and other media are for sale, for $3 or less. [10 a.m. to 6 p.m., Festival Pavilion, Fort Mason Center, Marina Boulevard and Buchanan Street, S.F.]

Symphony gala: The San Francisco Symphony’s black-tie opening gala features Michael Tilson Thomas conducting, guest violinist Joshua Bell and a big post-concert party. [8 p.m., Davies Symphony Hall, 201 Van Ness Ave., S.F.]

Dining out

Citizen’s Band: The braised Meyer Ranch short rib is recommended today. It is served with twice-baked potato, cipollini onion, smoked bacon, Marin Roots Farm summer chard and natural jus. [1198 Folsom St., S.F.; (415) 556-4901]

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