The Uptown-based youth performance ensemble Kuumba Lynx is sending a delegation to Cuba next month as part of a poetry exchange with a similar group in Havana, but only the adult organizers will actually be making the trip--due to travel restrictions, the kids can't go. So local filmmaker Max Benitez, who's currently shooting a documentary on the group, plans to videotape the teenagers performing poetry about how they feel about being left behind; then he'll go to Cuba and tape their counterparts' response. Kuumba Lynx (which translates loosely from Swahili as "creativity and unity") will perform at tonight's Hip-Hop Documentary Film Festival, a fund-raiser for Benitez's project. It'll feature screenings of Nobody Knows My Name, Rachel Raimist's 1999 video on women hip-hoppers; Danny Hoch's 2001 performance video Jails, Hospitals and Hip-Hop; 50 short films by teens from all over the country; and graffiti art by Phil Spedoro. It starts at 8 at Buddy, 1542 N. Milwaukee, Chicago. There's a suggested donation of $10; call 773-862-5331 for more information.


Today is opening day for the 16th annual Bristol Renaissance Faire, held in a 30-acre woods just over the Wisconsin border in Kenosha County. Re-creating a day in 1574 when Queen Elizabeth visited the English city of Bristol, the fair offers more than 1,000 costumed performers engaging in sword fights, fire juggling, processionals, and mud shows. This year Robin Hood and his band of merry men will also be hanging out, making mischief for the villainous Lord High Sheriff and his crew. There's also music and entertainment on 16 stages; a Kids' Kingdom with games, rides, and crafts; 200 artisans hawking their wares; and victuals that include roast turkey legs and fish-and-chips. The fair, located just west of I-94's Russell Road exit, is open from 10 to 7 Saturdays and Sundays through August 24, rain or shine. Admission is $17.50 for adults and $8.50 for kids ages 5 through 12. See or call 847-395-7773 for more information.

Wade Robson, choreographer to Britney Spears and 'N Sync, is the latest semicelebrity to launch an American Idol-type contest of his own. MTV's The Wade Robson Project will feature 80 amateur dancers battling for a cash prize of over $20,000 and the chance to either appear in a music video, tour with a musical act, or perform live at some event like the Super Bowl halftime show. Open auditions will be held today from 11 to 6 at Vision, 640 N. Dearborn, Chicago, for hopefuls who are 18 or older, are legally able to work in the U.S., and have never been paid for shakin' it. Organizers strongly suggest arriving early to get in line; call 310-752-8877.


Activity and course prices at the Chicago Botanic Garden are sometimes a little stiff, but here's a beautiful bargain. On Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays through October 26, you can buy a round-trip shuttle bus ticket for a ride between the garden and Chicago's Garfield Park Conservatory for a mere $6 ($5 for seniors, $4 for kids 3 through 12). The 90 contemporary Zimbabwean sculptures that make up the exhibit Chapungu: Custom and Legend, a Culture in Stone are split between the two locations, and the gardens are glorious. Shuttles leave from the CBG, 1000 Lake Cook Road in Glencoe, at 10 and 12:45 and return at 2 and 4:30. Shuttle tickets are sold at the information desk in the Gateway Visitor Center. Admission to the garden is free; parking is $8.75 for nonmembers. Call 847-835-8208.

This year Chicago's Gay Pride Parade--with more than 200 floats, decorated vehicles, and marching groups--will be led by Billy Bean, only the second pro baseball player ever to come out. (Glenn Burke, who died of complications from AIDS in 1995, was the first.) Bean, author of the recently published Going the Other Way: Lessons From a Life In and Out of Major-League Baseball, will be accompanied by his partner, Efrain Viega; the parade starts at noon and runs north on Halsted from Belmont to Broadway, south on Broadway to Diversey, and east on Diversey to Sheridan. Call 773-348-8243 or see www.chicagopride for more information.


"There's a feeling among large sectors of the press that certain fundamental inequities are a given, that baseball is always in some sort of dire straits, or always beset with economic injustice. And whenever someone points out that the situation need not be so bad, or the inequities not quite so extreme, they treat such talk as a nostalgic, utopian formulation. And yet what are we really talking about? We're talking about 1993. Not 1953. Not even 1973. 1993." So writes longtime sportscaster Bob Costas in his book Fair Ball: A Fan's Case for Baseball. In '93, he notes, there was no interleague play, no wild cards, no extra tier of playoffs. Next to the Super Bowl, the World Series was the most popular televised sporting event in the country. Then came the strike, and things haven't been the same since. Tonight at 7, Costas will discuss the sad state of the national pastime at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. in Chicago. Tickets are $18, $15 for students and teachers. Call 312-665-7400 for reservations.

"It was wild. One night we had to turn 30 people away," says a spokesperson for the Gene Siskel Film Center about the March run of Bonhoeffer, Martin Doblmeier's documentary about the German theologian and World War II resistance fighter who was part of a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler. The film broke Siskel Center box office records during its weeklong run and has returned for a two-week engagement that ends July 10. Doblmeier, who's also made films about Cardinal Joseph Bernardin and Thomas Jefferson and is working on a television series called Catholics in America, will attend tonight's 7:45 screening at 164 N. State, Chicago. Tickets are $8; call 312-846-2800.



Every Tuesday is free day at the Art Institute of Chicago, and the museum's galleries are open from 10:30 AM until the unusually late hour of 8 PM. In addition to exploring the permanent and ongoing special exhibits, visitors today can listen to gallery talks on the sculpture of Constantin Brancusi (noon) and highlights of the museum's collection (1 PM) or attend a lecture by art preservationist Heather Becker on murals in the Chicago Public Schools (6 PM). The Art Institute is in Chicago at Michigan and Adams; call 312-443-3600 for more information.


Chris Greene makes a living playing saxophone in the pop-rock cover band Trippin' Billies but calls his own group, New Perspective, his creative outlet. He describes the band--which plays a hybrid of funk, soul, and R & B--as "organic, rhythmic, guerrilla jazz." It's organic, he says, because "we make the fusion as organic and cohesive as possible" and guerrilla because "we're fighting the fight to do music on a small scale." Tonight's free concert is part of the Old Town School of Folk Music's ongoing AfroFolk Live series and will feature a cameo appearance by Old Town tap instructor and touring artist Reggio "the Hoofer" McLaughlin. It starts at 8:30 at the school, 4544 N. Lincoln in Chicago (773-728-6000).


Although Independence Day falls on a Friday this year--meaning most people won't have to get up early the next day--Chicago is again staging its Grant Park fireworks display on July 3. The free pyrotechnics start around 9:30 at Monroe and the lakefront and will last about 20 minutes. As usual, the explosions will be set to live music by the Grant Park Orchestra, directed by Christopher Bell and featuring the U.S. Air Force Singing Sergeants; selections include John Philip Sousa's "The Belle of Chicago," Woody Guthrie's "This Land Is Your Land," and Tchaikovksy's 1812 Overture. The fireworks will be simulcast on WFMT and Channel 32. At 7:30 the orchestra (and the sergeants) will also perform selections like "The Star-Spangled Banner" and other American fare at the Petrillo Music Shell at Columbus and Jackson as part of Taste of Chicago (see the sidebar in Music listings for a complete schedule of Taste of Chicago music performances). For more information call 312-744-3370.

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