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Friday, January 4

Those suddenly sobered by New Year's Eve excesses as well as 12-step-program vets can participate in an Alcoholics Anonymous weekend retreat starting tonight. The site is the retreat house at the Cenacle convent (AA, of course, is nondenominational), 513 W. Fullerton. Scheduled is nothing more than "a quiet weekend of rest and renewal." Check in between 5 and 6 tonight; dinner starts at 6. The retreat lasts through Sunday; $75 includes accommodations and meals. Call 528-6300 for reservations or details.

The Orpheus Band bills itself as Chicago's newest baroque music ensemble; its second concert this season features violinist David Douglass, known for his work with the Musicians of Swanne Alley, the Parley of Instruments, and the Newberry Consort. Joining him will be Orpheus Band members Laurel Wells and Cynthia Koppelman on baroque violins, Melissa Trier Kirk on baroque viola, Mary Springfels and John Rozendaal on violas da gamba, and group director Kevin Mason on theorbo. The show will include music by William Lawes, Heinrich Biber, William Brade, and others. Tonight's show starts at 8 in the chapel of Seabury-Western Theological Seminary, 2122 Sheridan Road in Evanston. Tomorrow's is at 8 at the Goodspeed Recital Hall, at 59th and Ellis on the University of Chicago campus. Admission is $12, $6 for students and seniors. Call 549-2969 for more information.

It's a truism in the rock 'n' roll business that anyone who's allowed access backstage probably doesn't want to be there. Backstage Pass, a one-act play returning to the Playwrights' Center this week, looks into this netherworld as a reporter takes a rock band through an increasingly tense interview. Timothy Sullens is the reporter; Brian Pudil, Patrick Murphy, Leigh Horsley, and Joe Forbrich are the members of the band. The show, written and directed by Reader contributor Adam Langer, opens tonight and plays Fridays and Saturdays in January; show time is 11 PM. The Playwrights' Center is at 3716 N. Clark; tickets are $5. Call 348-6955.

Saturday, January 5

"Aw, Mom! Who wants to twist? I want to vogue!" Or so some child will be sure to yell as the Kohl Children's Museum presents two days of rock 'n' roll instruction for kiddies. Ostensibly in commemoration of Elvis Presley's birthday (Tuesday would have been his 56th), the program includes sing- and dance-alongs and crafts projects from hound dog masks to cardboard guitars. Dances scheduled include the Twist, the Chicken, and the Mashed Potato. The museum is open from 10 to 4 today, noon to 4 tomorrow; admission is $2.50 per kid. It's at 165 Green Bay Road in Wilmette; call 708-256-6056.

Sturdy Fidel Castro is one of the few world leaders who has spoken out against the U.S.'s extraordinary military buildup in preparation for an invasion of Kuwait. An analysis of Cuba's attitude is the subject of Cuba's Role in the Fight Against the U.S. War in the Middle East, a talk tonight at Pathfinder Bookstore, 545 W. Roosevelt. Speaking will be Estelle DeBates, a union machinist, a recent visitor to Cuba, and the current Socialist Workers Party candidate for city clerk. Things get under way at 7; there's a requested donation of $3. Call 829-6815 or 829-7018.

Sunday, January 6

Everyone knows about MIDI, but few can say what exactly the letters stand for. For the record, it's "musical instrument digital interface," which is a guitar-synthesizer-computer interface device that allows the player to make full use of both the guitar's peculiar harmonics and the synthesizer's almost infinitely variable sound possibilities. The Sherwood Conservatory of Music is offering a free day-long seminar on MIDI and related computer music systems today. Two modern musicians are the featured guests: Gary Fry, a well-known movie and commercial composer and the creator of Geo-Ambience, the walking-sidewalk tone poem beneath the United Airlines terminals at O'Hare, and Terry Fryer, president of Terry Fryer Music Inc., creator of oodles of commercial sound tracks. The program includes performances, panel discussions, and product demonstrations. It runs from 2 to 4:30 at the conservatory, 1014 S. Michigan. Call 427-6267 for more info.

Monday, January 7

Hospital philanthropy is not exactly at the forefront of some people's consciousnesses, which is probably why a talk called The Impact of Philanthropy on Medicine and Health Care is the subject of Northwestern Memorial Hospital's first-ever David L. Everhart Lecture. Everhart was a key leader in Northwestern's growth in the 70s and 80s; delivering the lecture is Dr. Robert Glaser, medical science director of the Lucille P. Markey Charitable Trust and former dean of the Stanford University medical school. It's free, but the hospital requests reservations; call 908-4016. It starts at 3:30 at the Thorne Hall of the American Bar Center, 750 N. Lake Shore Drive, and a reception follows.

Tuesday, January 8

Prospective women entrepreneurs can get a sense of the thrills and disasters ahead at a workshop called Before You Start Your Business sponsored by the Women's Business Development Center today. Running the affair is Sara Shifrin, a consultant to the center; the a two-hour session starts at 1 and costs $10. (The program also repeats Thursday at 5:30 and Tuesday, January 15, at 1.) Tonight from 6 to 8 the Exchange, a support group for women in business, has its monthly meeting at the center; the subject is "Making and Closing the Sale." Admission is $15. The center is at 230 N. Michigan, suite 1800. Call 853-3477 for reservations or details.

Wednesday, January 9

What the heck is going on with the NEA is on the minds of many artists; Michael Faubion, assistant director of the endowment's visual arts program, is in town to lead a discussion on the subject. He's expected to explain the agency's mission in the wake of extreme congressional criticism of certain endowees; he'll also show a sampling of recent grant recipients' works and discuss application information. He appears today at 5:30 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Gallery 400, 400 S. Peoria. Tomorrow night at 7 he'll be at the Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee. Admission to both is free. Call 666-7737.

Now that winter's finally hit, it's time to get in shape for those cross-country ski trips. The Chicago Area Women's Sports Association warns against sore muscles at best and possible injuries at worst. A women's ski exercise workshop--free--will focus on both warm-up stretches and day-to-day "strength-building" exercises. Exercise physiologist Andrea Schwartz will lead the workshop at the Downtown Sports Club, 441 N. Wabash, from 7 to 8 tonight. Call 337-4370 for info.

If the universe has been seeming a little out of kilter of late, it's probably due to the unease almost everyone is feeling about a strange drop in the number of the sun's neutrinos. No, neutrinos aren't that new breakfast cereal--they're by-products of the process by which hydrogen is changed to helium in the sun's core. Anyway, Dr. Stephen Parke of Fermilab, in a talk called Where Are the Sun's Neutrinos?, will discuss a new study that indicates far fewer of the little demons are present than previously thought. Parke's talk makes up the first session of Big Crashes: How Violent Impacts Have Helped Shape the Solar System, one of a bevy of astronomy courses at the Adler Planetarium this winter. It runs 7:30 to 9 each Wednesday night through January 30 and costs $25. Classes on other subjects meet evenings and weekends through March 2; some are single-session presentations, others are as long as eight classes, and prices range accordingly, from $5 to $90. The planetarium is at 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive. Call 322-0323 for more information.

Thursday, January 10

Publishing honcho Brian DeFiore speaks tonight at the meeting of the Society of Midland Authors. DeFiore runs Delacorte Press, the hardcover wing of Dell Publishing; his subject is the current book market. The group meets tonight at 5:30 at the Fellowship Lounge of the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. It's $6 at the door. Call 708-383-7568 for more information.

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