From Milwaukee to Israel to Australia, you can visit them all from the comfort of your theater seat right here in SF. We've got three shows and one festival for you this week, and one of them is absolutely free. Thing is, you actually have to read this whole column, and not just this paragraph, to get to the free stuff. We know, there's always a catch.

at American Conservatory Theater
We just love hearing about schoolteachers who hit it big. It gives us hope that one day our high school English teacher will crawl out of the beleaguered California public school system and rise to the heights of, say, Princess Diana...or Sting...OK, bad examples. Playwright William Gibson has a knack for glorifying teachers. First he churned out The Miracle Worker -- you know, the Helen Keller story that's a staple of community theaters everywhere. More recently he took on the story of Golda Meir, a Russian-born Milwaukee schoolteacher who became Prime Minister of Israel in 1969. Coined the "Iron Lady" of Israeli politics, Meir was one of two women to sign the Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel in 1948 and had a series of intense government posts, though her PM career was somewhat eclipsed by the Yom Kippur War. Brief history lesson over. Actress Tovah Feldshuh, who originated the role in this solo show and garnered a 2004 Tony nomination for it, returns for this engagement at A.C.T., thus sparing us the sight of Valerie Harper, who takes up the national tour in October. Previews begin on Saturday.

Golda's Balcony