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Friday 13

The three wise men, says Adler Planetarium senior astronomer Eric Carlson, were actually the leading astronomers of their day; they even served as advisors on star matters to local rulers. The planetarium's current "sky show" Star of Wonder rewinds time on a computer-driven star map to take a look at the heavens around the time of the birth of Christianity. "The show gives modern explanations of what the [Star of Bethlehem] could have been, but we also try to discover how these things might have been experienced by the magi as they made their journey," says Carlson, the show's author. "Star of Wonder" plays daily through January 2 (the planetarium is closed Christmas but open New Year's Day). The show schedule changes weekly; call 332-0304 to find out when it's playing on a particular day. Tickets are $3, $1.50 for kids 6 to 17 (there's another sky show, "Winter Star," for kids under 6, admission $1.50), and free for seniors. The planetarium's at 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive.

For 30 years, a group of Chicagoans has been raising money to buy presents for needy kids at Christmas; this year's Santa Claus Anonymous dance party--which last year drew 3,000 people--is tonight at Ka-Boom!, 747 N. Green, starting at 6 and running to 10. The $25 ticket ($20 in advance) gets you two drinks, a cocktail buffet, door prizes, and live music. You can get tickets through Ticketmaster (559-1212) or the club; for details call 794-7763.

Saturday 14

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio Foundation is celebrating the holidays by offering free tours of Wright's Oak Park residence, 951 Chicago Ave., today and next Saturday. The tours will concentrate more on Victorian holiday customs--the house will be in full Christmas regalia--than on architecture, and they'll be conducted by local junior high students. You have to pick up the free tickets some time before the tour at the Oak Park Visitors Center, 1558 Forest, open daily from 10 to 5 and at 9 AM on tour days. Shuttle buses will run from the corner of Lake and Marion (a block away from the visitors center, where there's free parking) to the house at 9 AM; the tour takes two hours. For more info call 708-848-1500.

A performance by the Great Ubaldo, a sing-along with Jamie Mayhew and Stan Winiarski, and of course an appearance by the man in the red suit himself are all part of Wisdom Bridge Theatre's annual Santa on Howard Street party today. It runs from 10 to noon at the theater, 1559 W. Howard; there'll also be story-theater stuff, drinks and treats, and more. It's free. Call 743-0486 for details.

The mercurial and peripatetic comedian and activist Dick Gregory is in town tonight for a benefit performance for the Emanuel Congregation, a 103-year-old reformist synagogue at 5959 N. Sheridan. Gregory was a politically minded satirist in the 60s and early 70s; later he branched out into political and social activism, with a particular emphasis on food: he went on hunger strikes, created his own brand of Slim-Fast--called the "Bahamian Diet"--and generated a lot of publicity helping a young New Yorker who weighed in excess of 600 pounds lose weight. He'll talk about that and a lot of other things tonight at 8 at the synagogue; tickets are $15-$100. Call 561-5173 for details.

Sunday 15

"'Book' means 'mass-produced bestseller' to most people," says former bookbinder Erika Rubel. "We hope to remind the public that a book can be a complete work of art, with input from talented binders, papermakers, illustrators, and writers." Rubel, now a store manager for Powell's Bookstore, organized The Art of Crafting Books, a free daylong bookmaking orgy at Powell's north-side store, 2850 N. Lincoln. More than 20 artists and organizations will be around to display papermaking and marbling, calligraphy, bookbinding, and book restoration; there'll also be handmade books for sale, a chance to make your own custom paper, and showings of the film The Mark of the Maker, a half-hour documentary on papermaking. It goes from noon to 5; the film shows at 1:30 and 3. There's a concurrent exhibit of bindings up at the store December 9 through 22. Call 248-1444 for more info.

Monday 16

It's your last two chances to see the Chicago Bar Association's 68th annual Christmas revue Christmas Spirits. The show this year, a satirical takeoff on the Broadway musical City of Angels, was written by Julian J. Frazin of the Cook County Circuit Court and E. Leonard Rubin of Willian Brinks Olds Hofer Gilson & Lione, as it has been for the last 20 years (with a little contributing help from other lawyers). The show runs through tomorrow night in the International Ballroom of the Chicago Hilton and Towers, 720 S. Michigan. Tickets are $85, including dinner (at 6:30) and show (at 8). The undertaking is a benefit for the United Charities Legal Aid Bureau, the largest legal-aid operation in the area. Call 347-1580 for ticket info.

Tuesday 17

Hard to believe The Nutcracker's been a holiday tradition in Chicago for a quarter of a century. The 25th-anniversary production of the fanciful dreams of a little girl who apparently had too much to eat for Christmas Eve dinner continues tonight at the Arie Crown Theatre, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive. The ballet, with nearly 150 cast members--including more than 80 local kids--is directed by Larry Long, was choreographed by the late Ruth Page, and was scored by the even later Tchaikovsky. Tix are $13-$30; 2 PM and 7 PM shows run nearly every day through Tuesday, December 31. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster (559-1212) and at the Arie Crown box office.

Wednesday 18

More holiday revelry: the World's Largest Office Party, complete with thousands of guests and celebrity bartenders galore, takes place tonight in Oak Brook and Friday in Chicago. A $5 donation tonight ($6 on Friday) goes to the Ronald McDonald Children's Charities. The party tonight is at the Hyatt Regency Oak Brook, 1909 Spring Road, from 5 to 9; call 708-573-1234. The Chicago edition is at the downtown Hyatt, 151 E. Wacker, from 3:30 to 9:30; call 565-1234. Both bashes have tons of live music, activities, and free Coke and nonalcoholic beer; there'll also be plenty of food and drink for sale.

When the Chicago Bar Association members aren't putting on holiday musicals, they're playing in a symphony orchestra. Tonight, the CBA Symphony Orchestra will perform Engelbert Humperdinck's "Dream Pantomime" (from Hansel and Gretel), the overture to Idomeneo by Mozart, and Strauss's "Radetzky March." (No word on "Dance of the Hours," billable or otherwise.) The show is in Corboy Hall at the John Marshall Law School, 321 S. Plymouth, at 6. Tickets are $5, $3 in advance, $2 for students. Call 554-2008 for more.

Thursday 19

Don We Now . . . XIII is the Windy City Gay Chorus's 13th annual holiday concert. This one's special for two reasons: (1) it celebrates the release of the group's first recording, Don We Now . . . Holiday Favorites, and (2) the shows tonight and tomorrow are a collaboration with the Chicago Children's Choir. The groups will sing separately and then together, closing with a rousing "Hallelujah" chorus. The two ensembles sing at the Preston Bradley Center, 941 W. Lawrence, with a scheduled starting time of 8:07 each night. Tickets are $16-$36, available from People Like Us Books (3321 N. Clark), the Unabridged Bookstore (3251 N. Broadway), Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark), chorus members, and Ticketmaster (559-1212). Only the last, however, will charge you for the privilege. Call 404-9242 for details.

Words and Music is a "late night concert" devised by Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Jim True, who has composed musical settings for poetry by Yeats, Dylan Thomas, and E.E. Cummings. They'll be performed by True, Michael Smith (who composed the music for The Grapes of Wrath), pianist and accordion player Willie Schwartz, and bassist Larry Gray; "Words and Music" continues at 11 PM tonight and tomorrow following performances of Steppenwolf's production of A Summer Remembered. They're free, and you don't have to have seen the play to get in. Steppenwolf is at 1650 N. Halsted. Call 335-1650 for more info.

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