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Friday 3

A valiant attempt to capture in photographs the decline of traditional American family structures is running at the School of the Art Institute's Betty Rymer Gallery through January 15. The eight photographers involved in Disclosing the Myth of Family document both old- and new-fashioned families and "often contradict the notion of an ideal family structure." The gallery is in the school, at Columbus and Jackson, and is open Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5. Admission is free. Call 443-3703.

At once the greatest and lamest star in any medium ever, Elvis would have been 57 Wednesday. To celebrate, the Kohl Children's Museum is declaring a Rock 'n' Roll Weekend for kids through Sunday. You can make your own instruments--out of cardboard and rubber bands--try on some costumes, and play all the air guitar you want. There're a lot more activities besides, today and tomorrow 10 to 5 and Sunday noon to 5, with something approximating a real rock 'n' roll show by the Royal Rockers Saturday at 2:30. Admission is $3; the museum's at 165 Green Bay Road in Wilmette. Call 708-256-6056 for details.

Saturday 4

Don't know what to do with that Christmas tree? Rather than dumping it in a landfill, drag it down to the Chicago Academy of Sciences Christmas Tree Recycling Center, on Stockton behind the museum at 2001 N. Clark. Chicago Park District personnel will chip it down into mulch for free from 9 to 2 today and next Saturday. Call 549-0606 for details.

More kid stuff: there's a Recycle Rally at the Chicago Children's Museum today and tomorrow. You can bring in broken electrical toys for "Mr. Fix-It" to look at, hear stories about Mother Earth, star in a commercial in the museum's news studio, learn about recycling cards and making paper, and--if you're a member of the museum--set up a booth at the kids' garage sale. The museum is in North Pier Terminal, 435 E. Illinois. The rally runs 11 to 4 both days; admission is $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for kids and seniors. Call 527-1000.

You recall, of course, the tale of Mr. Popper's Penguins: the undeniably thoughtful but somewhat impractical gift of a penguin--from Admiral Perry, no less--begins to cause Mr. Popper problems when the flightless waterfowl's reproductive propensities begin to become apparent. The beloved children's book is the subject of a new musical adaptation by Meryl Friedman (book) and Douglas Wood (songs); it's directed by Ruth Landis as a production of the Lifeline Theatre's Kid Series. The show's designed for kids 5 and up; performances are at 2 PM Saturdays and Sundays through February 9. Lifeline is at 6912 N. Glenwood; tickets are $4 in advance and "pay what you can" at the door. Call 761-4477 for more info.

Sunday 5

Three musicians will be bearing cultural gifts from Northern Illinois University today at the Chicago Cultural Center--soprano Diane Ragains, clarinetist Melvin Warner, and pianist William Goldenberg, all of them on the NIU music faculty, will be proffering an assortment of chamber music pieces at 3 in Preston Bradley Hall. The performance is the first of a free series of NIU artists performing there: on February 2, it's soprano Edna Williams and composer Lee Cloud; March 1, it's the NIU percussion ensemble, the NIU Steel Band, and some players of the Balinese gamelan; and April 5, the NIU Philharmonic's first public concert in Chicago. (The ensemble has been honored as the best campus symphony in America for 12 out of the last 14 years in Downbeat magazine.) The Cultural Center is at 78 E. Washington. Call 744-6630 for details.

Monday 6

An important collection of outsider art--paintings, sculptures, masks, and works on paper from Haiti, Africa, Mexico, and the U.S.--is at the Chicago Cultural Center through January 25. Spirits: Selections From the Collection of Geoffrey Holder and Carmen de Lavallade includes close to 150 works, all from the personal collection of Holder--the noted actor, dancer, choreographer, and painter who won a Tony for directing The Wiz on Broadway and starred in Live and Let Die--and his dancer wife. It's on view in the center's fourth-floor exhibit hall from 9 to 7 daily, to 6 on Friday, and to 5 on Saturday. It's at 78 E. Washington; admission is free. Call 744-6630.

Tuesday 7

Ski? Female? Tonight, there's a free evening of tips and discussion on cross-country skiing for women at the Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark. On hand will be Linda Johanek from the Chicago Area Women's Sports Association, ski instructor Linda Conrad, and Bikes Plus owner Mary Ellen Spirek. Things get under way at 7:15. Call 769-9299 for more.

Wednesday 8

If you're interested in radio, Empire of the Air: The Men Who Made Radio may be for you. The 100-minute documentary, to be broadcast on PBS later this year, was directed by Ken Burns, whose last little endeavor was called The Civil War, an 11-hour-long documentary that drew the largest audience in PBS's history. Burns, coproducer Tom Lewis, and professional nudge Paul Harvey will be at tonight's special $100-a-person preview of the new film, a benefit for a Museum of Broadcast Communications offshoot called the Radio Hall of Fame. For 100 simoleons you get a hobnobbing reception, the flick, and coffee and dessert afterward. Things get under way at 6 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Call the museum for details at 987-1500.

Conservatives are hitting the Supreme Court like boulders blocking the entrance to a cave, and the outlook for a woman's right to an abortion isn't exactly sunny. For the unpleasant details, check out the Reproductive Rights Update tonight at 7 at the Unitarian Church of Evanston, 1330 Ridge in Evanston. The church's reproductive rights task force will be presenting Ann Kuta of the Chicago chapter of NOW to give the legislative outlook. It's free, but if you need child care the church would like you to register a couple of days in advance. Call 708-864-1330.

Old and new members of Second City will go back to their roots as the Compass Players in Hyde Park this month for a show called The Second City, opening tonight, an evening of archival humor from Chicago's greatest contribution to comedy. The University of Chicago's Court Theatre is presenting the greatest-hits revue, starring alums Bruce Jarchow, David Pasquesi, and Peter Burns, who all appeared in The Chicago Conspiracy Trial, Amy Sedaris of Second City Northwest, Kevin Crowley of WXRT's Usual Suspects, and others. Shows are Wednesdays and Thursdays at 7:30, Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 2:30 and 8, and Sundays at 2:30 and 7:30, through February 2. Tix are ten bucks; the theater is at 5535 S. Ellis. Call 702-7005.

Thursday 9

A 12-minute drama of sexual tension between a man and his masseuse and an eight-minute condensation of an eight-hour workday are two of the five world-premiere theatrical performances at the Chicago Dramatists Workshop's showcase Playwrights for the '90s, opening tonight. The workshop promises five plays in two hours, with works by resident playwrights Dan Conway (Rubdown), Michael E. Myers (If Looks Could Kill), Carolyn Nelson (The Gift), Dominic Taylor (But I Get Benefits), and Joe Urbanik (God Shed His Grace) performed by an 11-member ensemble. The showcase plays at 8 PM Thursdays through Saturdays at the workshop, 1105 W. Chicago, through February 8. Tickets are $5 for the first four performances, $10 thereafter. Call 633-0630 for details.

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