The Peking Circus comes out of a 2,000-year-old Chinese tradition: relics dating back to around 200 BC show likenesses of acrobats and contortionists, and by 220 AD entertainment shows called Pai Hsi, or "the hundred acts," included juggling and magic as well. The modern version, one of China's premiere cultural ambassadors, has never before been performed in America. Chicago shows continue tonight and tomorrow at the New Regal Theater, 1645 E. 79th St. Look for the traditional opening parade, juggling, balancing acts, lots of acrobatics, and the circus's famous "bicycle jamboree" with a dozen performers tiered on top of a single bike. Performances are today at 10 AM and 8 PM, and tomorrow at 11 AM and 7 PM; tix are $7.50 to $21. Call 721-9301 for details.
Organizer Victor Podagrosi calls Playground Playhouse "a children's version of free Shakespeare in the park." It's the summer series of the Chicago-based Child's Play Touring Theatre, which tours across the country putting on plays written and performed by children. In it the group takes the character of a particular park and builds plays around it. The series continues today with a performance at 11 in Calumet Park, 9801 S. Avenue G. Shows on Monday take place at 10:30 AM in Harrison Park, 1824 S. Wood, and at 1:30 and 2:15 PM at McKinley Park, 2210 W. Pershing. They're free. Call 235-8911 for more.
The summer street-fair season hits its stride today with two to choose from. The neighborhoody and somewhat low-key Oz Park Festival, Lincoln at Webster, brings together the annual melange of Shakespeare, live jazz, kid stuff, arts and crafts, and the usual broad palette of foodstuffs. It's open from noon to dusk today and tomorrow; there's a requested donation of $3 for everyone over 10. Call 880-5200 for more. In contrast there's Northalsted Market Days, a chaotic, half-mile-long sidewalk sale that usually attracts about 250,000 people over its two-day run. There'll be music on three stages and lots of food, art, clothes, and drinks from noon to 9 today and tomorrow on Halsted between Belmont and Addison. Admission is free; call 868-3010 for more.
In keeping with its ten-year-old commitment to "furthering the growth and appreciation of jazz" Jazz Unites presents Jazzfest '92, two days of music starting today at the South Shore Cultural Center, 71st Street and South Shore Drive. There'll be music and history workshops each day at noon; headliners tonight are Stanley Turrentine, Eddie Harris, and Von Freeman; tomorrow the Ray Brown Quartet, Lorez Alexandria and the Jazzmasters, and Andy Bey. The music lasts from noon to 8 both days, and it's all free. Call 734-2000.
Idao, an acronym that stands for Independent Designers of Art Objects, is a new gallery founded by graphic artist Kirsten Robberson and painter Kara Hughes; the pair say they'll show anything they can get their hands on, including fine and primitive art, art by local and international artists, and works from trained and untrained artists. Their first show is called Plethora after the number and variety of works represented, from paintings and drawings by Rodrigo Avila to Mexican masks by Eugenio Sosa to furniture by Hans Vanderhill to jewelry by Jennifer Donald. The gallery's free grand opening happens tonight from 7 to 11 at 2324 W. North. Call 235-4724 for more.
We can see an enthusiastic in-line skater looking forward to the Skate, Rattle & Roll races, held outside of the Museum of Science and Industry today. But to start it all off at 8 AM? Sheesh. The four different races begin with a 6.2-mile run for experienced--and awake--skaters, followed by a roll for novices at 9 over the same distance, a relay race at 10 for employees of skate retailers, and a 2K roll at 10:45 for families and kids. The postrace party at 11:30 features drinks, raffles, and awards. Entry fees range from $10 for the 2K roll to $15 for the 6.2-mile events and $35 for the relay. Organizers will have the racetrack marked off just west of the Museum of Science and Industry, 57th Street and Cornell Drive. Call 404-2292 for more.
Today the Holocaust Memorial Foundation begins a course on teaching the Holocaust, an intensive five days of study open to educators and any interested individuals. The instructor is foundation education director Leon Stein, who's also chairman of the history department at Roosevelt University. The Holocaust: Content, Significance, Teaching Strategies runs today through Friday from 9 to 3:30 at the foundation, 4255 Main in Skokie. The $100 tuition includes books. Call 708-677-4640 for more.
John Fink, former editor of Chicago magazine and the Chicago Tribune Sunday Magazine, has come up with a new mystery, Libel the Dead, which tells the story of an editor of a trendy New York magazine who travels to LA to calm down a TV talk-show host who wants to sue the magazine over an article about her written by a less-than-reliable writer. Romance and murder ensue. Fink will autograph copies from 5:30 to 7 PM at Kroch's and Brentano's, 516 N. Michigan. It's free, but you have to buy the book ($17.95) because Kroch's won't let you bring your own copy. Call 321-0989 for more.
It's poetry night again at HotHouse. This week's edition of the Guild Complex-sponsored Wednesday series of workshops, readings, and open mike nights starts at 5:45 with the Prose Exchange, a free workshop, followed by a reading at 7:30 on the subject of What Kind of Man Writes Poetry? Jim Banks, Tom Mladik, Dave Kodeski, Larry Winfield, and Steve Seddon will provide answers to that question, with an open mike afterward. It's $4, $2 if you plan to read yourself. HotHouse is at 1565 N. Milwaukee; call 235-2334 for more.
The hottest guitarist in Chicago--a man many people view as the most incendiary guitarist since Hendrix--was raised by sharecropper parents in Louisiana and educated by Muddy Waters and the records of John Lee Hooker. Thirty years on he's become a blues patriarch himself, recording an album here, touring with Eric Clapton there. You can stop by Buddy Guy's Legends at 754 S. Wabash tonight at 9 and wish its proprietor a happy 55th at the club's birthday bash for Buddy. His brother, Phil Guy, and the Chicago Playboys will play, with special guests expected. It's $5. Call 427-1190 for more.
The promise of the potential of downtown's cavernous Chicago Cultural Center takes a step closer to reality today with a brown-bag luncheon sponsored by Friends of Downtown. There are plans afoot to create a network based at the center that would provide performance and exhibition space for local arts groups as well as help organize touring shows. The city's Cultural Affairs planning director, Jim Law, will give an update at noon today at the Coffee House on the first floor of the center, 77 E. Randolph. It's free. Call 977-0098 for more.
Gylan Kain, Felipe Luciano, and David Nelson were the Original Last Poets, a late-60s band of musico-poetico-politico entertainers whose dizzying amalgam of jazz, blues, poetry, and beat has earned them the credit of creating some of the first Or-rap. Right On! The Original Last Poets, a documentary by Herbert Danska, captures the Poets in their Lower East Side stomping grounds in 1968. Word is that the film hasn't been shown for 15 years; it's playing at Facets Multimedia, 1517 W. Fullerton, tonight through next Thursday at 7 and 9, Sunday at 5:30 and 7:30. Admission is $5; call 281-9075 for more.