First the troops rushed in to drive out a ruthless demagogue who once enjoyed U.S. support. Then came cursory stories of civilian casualties. But in the end, nothing much has changed in . . . the Persian Gulf? No, actually it's Panama we're talking about. The 1989 Panama affair is the subject of a documentary in progress (Invasion in Panama is the working title) being produced by the California-based Empowerment Project, the folks responsible for the acclaimed Coverup: Behind the Iran Contra Affair. To raise money to complete the film, there'll be three local screenings of a 35-minute sample reel this weekend: today at 1 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Circle Center, 750 S. Halsted, and at 7 in room 202 of the University of Chicago's Cobb Hall, 5811 S. Ellis; and tomorrow at 7:30 PM at DePaul University's Schmitt Academic Center, 2323 N. Seminary, room 154. Following the screenings, director Barbara Trent and former CIA man Philip Roettinger will speak on American interventionism. Call 427-2533. There's a requested donation of $5-$10.
The fabulously entertaining Chicago Gay Men's Chorus presents The Wizard of Oz this weekend in full, campy regalia. Mimi Manners plays Dorothy, but everyone else in the cast, naturally, is male, including the Wicked Witch and her nemesis Glinda. Shows are at 8 PM tonight and tomorrow at Lane Technical High School, 2501 W. Addison. Tickets are $13, and more info is available at 477-9380.
Concerned citizens rally against racism and brutality by Chicago's finest today in Bridgeport, longtime home to the Daleys and a neighborhood often in the news for race crimes. Sponsored by the Task Force to Confront Police Violence, the speakers and marchers gather at noon at 35th Street and Lowe Avenue. Call 235-0070 for information.
They're Lego naturals: the State of Illinois Center from the inside out; the Chicago River west from Michigan Avenue, complete with drawbridges and Wendella tour boats; your own architectural fantasy plopped onto the vacant lot across from Marshall Field's downtown. But competitors in the local arm of the national Lego Building Contest certainly needn't limit themselves to hometown designs. The contest runs from 1:30 to 3:30 today at the Express- Ways Children's Museum (435 E. Illinois) and gives teams of up to five members a shot at a free trip to the surrealistic Legoland Park in Denmark. (There'll be other prizes, too, including top-of-the-line Lego sets.) Registration is $10 per person, $8 for museum members. All Lego blocks are provided, and participants can take them home. Space is limited, so preregister at 527-1000.
Dusky-skinned, turban-wrapped, camel-riding, gun-toting terrorists--the images of Arabs that flash across our television screens are enough to make some of us think that the waiter delivering our plate of falafel is out to get us. The broadcast industry's efforts to rid entertainment programming of racist stereotypes haven't extended to Arabs, says Dr. Jack Shaheen, author of The TV Arab, who joins Channel Two reporter Jim Avila, the Sun-Times's Ray Hanania, and others in a seminar on Images of the Television Arab at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 800 S. Wells, today at 2. Suggested donation is $3 for adults, $2 for students, and $1 for seniors and kids under 13. Call 987-1500 for information.
Alice Walker admirers can treat themselves to dramatizations of three unpublished short stories today when the Touring Theater Ensemble of North Carolina makes its Chicago stop in Hyde Park. Walker wrote Roselily, Everyday Use, and The Welcome Table--all stories of the struggle of poor black women--specifically for the ensemble, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Greensboro sit-ins at the segregated Woolworth's lunch counter. The ensemble performs Down a Lonesome Road at 3 at Saint Thomas the Apostle Church, 5472 S. Kimbark. Proceeds benefit Clergy and Laity Concerned's efforts to end institutional racism in schools and businesses. Get advance tickets, $10-$25, from Guild Books, 2456 N. Lincoln; Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark; or the New World Resource Center, 1476 W. Irving Park. More info at 899-1800.
Get control of yourself! Biofeedback--hooking up to electronic gizmos that monitor your temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and other body functions while you mentally manipulate each of them--has been scientifically linked to the relief of a whole slew of ills, from tension headaches to skin problems. Tonight at 7, biofeedback expert Dr. Phyllis Carpenter demonstrates the technique in hopes of interesting you in her upcoming class at Grant Hospital, 550 W. Webster. Call 883-3777 for information. It's free.
The New York Times described London Fields as "Bonfire of the Vanities crossed with Gravity's Rainbow as narrated by Al Goldstein and Jonathan Swift." The novel is the latest from Martin Amis, who reads from it at 7:30 PM at Barbara's Bookstore, 3130 N. Broadway. Free; 477-0411.
Shanghai Conservatory graduate and international performer Shang-E Fan plays traditional Chinese music on the 21-string gu-zheng this afternoon at 1 in a free concert at the University of Illinois at Chicago, room L060 of the Education, Communications, and Social Work Building, 1040 W. Harrison. Call 996-2977 for information.
Only 4 percent of philanthropic dollars go to programs that specifically benefit women, despite the fact that households headed by women make up by far the largest category of families in poverty. The Chicago Foundation for Women, founded just five years ago, has been helping to close this gap by directing its dollars to Chicago-area organizations that serve women, from programs to build grass-roots leadership among immigrant women to activity centers for Girl Scouts. Tonight's benefit honors Pulitzer Prize-winning syndicated columnist Clarence Page and Illinois comptroller Dawn Clark Netsch and includes international cuisine plus entertainment by Chicago pop-jazz singer Bobbi Wilsyn. It runs from 6 to 9:30 at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Tickets are $75; reserve them at 922-8762.
Skirts in Vienna were swirling to The Blue Danube, painters were romanticizing the Austrian landscape, and architecture--from private villas to monumental public buildings--was dominated by the classical revival style. While the Biedermeier period is largely remembered today for its heavy, neoclassical furniture, that style actually embraced the whole culture. Get a taste of the opulent era in Biedermeier in Austria: 1814-1848, an exhibit of furniture, paintings, costumes, literature, and more organized by the Chicago Athenaeum. It opens today at Gallery II in the Santa Fe Center, 224 S. Michigan. The free show runs through June 6; the gallery is open Monday through Saturday 9 to 6. Details at 829-9606.
Botanical illustrations, paintings, prints, and sculptures of plant life, birds, deer, foxes, and other life forms associated with the great outdoors are the natural subjects of the fifth annual Nature Artists' Guild Show at the Morton Arboretum. Most of the work in the show is by artists trained in the arboretum's botanical illustration program; their work promises to be not only aesthetically pleasing but scientifically accurate, having passed the scrutiny of professional naturalists and botanists. The artists will be giving demonstrations, and small items will be available for purchase. Parking costs $3 per car, but the show is free; it's open today through Sunday noon to 5. The arboretum is on route 53 in Lisle, just north of I-88. Call 708-968-0074 for information.