You're sitting on the Metrobus, gloomily swaying back and forth to the syncopated rhythm of tires hitting badly paved streets. The newspaper is folded in your lap in that clumsy road-map fashion. It looks like spontaneous and thoroughly unintentional origami, a dying swan with bent wings. Your hands are smeared with newsprint. There will be no more reading on this commute. Then, just as you've resigned yourself to staring at cigarette ads and pretending the person next to you doesn't exist, you see a poster on the bus wall much unlike the others. There's a colorful painting on one side, the kind that could be turned in all directions and still look upside down. There's some text next to it that reads: Rain Towards Morning The great light cage has broken up in the air,

freeing, I think, about a million birds

whose wild ascending shadows will not be back,

and all the wires come falling down.

-- Elizabeth Bishop


Without knowing it, you've just received a dose of culture, a subversive slice of the highbrow in a rumbling, grumbling public transportation vehicle. You've actually had to think about what you read and what you saw. Bishop's words are a far cry from "You've Come a Long Way, Baby," and that painting, Frank Stella's "Moby Dick," looks better than that Lotto advertisement by miles. And miles. And miles.

Somewhere in San Francisco, George Evans is smiling. He's smiling because he knows this happens every day, in 16 cities across the United States and it's exactly what he intended when he started Streetfare Journal, a series of six posters designed for display in public buses. "I wanted to encourage people to read, that's an important thing to do," says Evans. "I wanted them to be able to appreciate art in perhaps a way they didn't get a chance to."

After receiving a National Endowment for the Arts grant for his poetry in 1984, Evans decided to "give something back to the public since I had received public money." He approached Transportation Displays Inc., the nation's largest bus advertising network, with the idea of posters featuring poetry and art from both the known and unknown. TDI donated not only space, but also the manpower to mount the posters. Since its inception, Streetfare has displayed 700,000 posters featuring such names as recent Nobel Prize-winning poet Octavio Paz, and artists Frank Stella and James Rosenquist. There are currently 14,000 buses rolling across U.S. cities carrying the visual treats, which are changed twice a year. The latest series was installed earlier this month.

"Streetfare reaches every age group, every educational level, every background," says Evans, who chooses the artwork and poetry himself. "Because it hits such a wide variety of people, it's going to have a different impact on people. But it's there, and I think that's good. There's no blank spaces on the buses. You can't argue with that."

Black Theaters Unite While sifting through thousands of grant requests to the D.C. Commission of Arts and Humanities theater panel, John L. Moore got more than a little frustrated. The former singer-artist-actor, now an associate director at the Washington Project for the Arts, noticed a conspicuous absence of applications from African American theaters. "And I also realized that there were no black companies producing on a regular basis," he says. "After three years of sitting on that panel, I decided something needed to be done."

What Moore has done is form the African Continuum Theatre Coalition, which will present itself to the public this Saturday with "First Act: A Showcase of Washington's Black Theatres," at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts. "This is the first phase of operation for the coalition, to let the community know {black theaters} are out there," says Moore.

Moore says the coalition, which currently includes seven organizations and over 40 individuals as members, will next concentrate on providing management assistance and "strengthening audience development."

"We're looking towards the latter part of the 1990s, to actually have a facility or space or place of operation where two or three organizations can operate ... and actually perform there," says Moore. "And we hope that these organizations are producing, on a regular basis, works by and for African Americans."

Saturday's showcase will present the following organizations: Creative Ascent, Encore Theatre Company, Enough Said Children's Theatre, Everyday Theatre Youth Ensemble, HOME Theatre for New Columbia, Serenity Players and TM/2 Productions. Cost for the 7:30 p.m. show, which will feature 15-minute sketches or scenes from the companies' repertoires, is $12 in advance (available at Ticketplace and Wonderful Things), $15 at the door. For information call 202-832-6249.