"Polka music is happiness" is the motto of the International Polka Association, and at its Silver Anniversary Polka Festival at the Ramada Hotel O'Hare this weekend the group will do its best to prove the point. Nightly music from the likes of Eddie Blazonczyk's Versatones, Dick Pillar's Polkabration Band, and Lenny Gomulka's Chicago Push takes place in the hotel ballroom from 6 PM to 2 AM tonight and tomorrow and 1 PM to 10 PM Sunday; other activities include afternoon "poolside polka parties" (today from 1 to 4 and tomorrow from noon to 4) and "pajama jam sessions" (from 2 AM to 5 AM tonight and tomorrow night). The poolside and pajama sessions are free; admission to the prime-time shows is $10 a night. The Ramada Hotel O'Hare is at 6600 Mannheim in Rosemont. Call 254-7771 for details.
There are a couple of interesting art openings tonight. Quivering Line is brought to you by a band of vets from the defunct Art-O-Rama who call themselves Colson's Truck Group. Paintings, sculpture, and furniture, all exuding "mystique, sarcasm, and raw power" (or so they say), will be up this weekend only. The reception's tonight from 6 to 10; tomorrow and Sunday the exhibit is open noon to 7. It's free. The group's loft space is at 2525 W. Moffat; call 708-788-9316. Senses of Sensuality runs through August 29 at Woman Made Gallery, 4646 N. Rockwell. Twenty-three participating artists have contributed paintings, photography, and sculpture, including an "edible man" covered with fresh fruit tonight and hard candy for the remainder of the show. Yum. There's a reception tonight from 7 to 10, and a meet-the-artists session Sunday from 1 to 3. Both events are free; 588-4317.
Author Herman Melville once wrote of Moby Dick, "It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ship's cables and hawsers. A polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it." This month Mark Kenward continues his "multidisciplinary interpretation" of the 1851 epic that includes story telling, dance, sounds, and projected images. It plays tonight and the next three Fridays at 9:30 downstairs at Cafe Voltaire, 3231 N. Clark. It's $6; call 338-2337.
River North will be covered with artists and food this weekend. At the Gold Coast Art Fair, which runs from noon to 10 through tomorrow, more than 500 artists from 30 states will show off their wares. It takes place between State and Franklin, Ontario and Superior, and admission is free; 787-2677. Close by is the Taste of River North, on Superior between LaSalle and Wells, with delicacies from 40 or so local restaurants, entertainment from street performers, music, and fun for kids. Admission is free, and it runs from noon to 8 today and tomorrow. For info, call 645-1047.
Marcia Wilkie's monologues, chronicling the myriad types of alienation society inculcates in its young, has made her a favorite performer at variety shows like Milly's Orchid Show and 11 Minutes Max! and at the Blue Rider Theater Festival. Her new one-woman show of recent stories is called This Girl I Knew; it opens tonight at 11 at the Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark, and runs Fridays and Saturdays at 11 through September 4. Tix are $8; call 871-1212.
Bluesman Frank Pellegrino--aka "The Man in the Hat"--and his musical home, Kingston Mines, are throwing The Man in the Hat's Birthday Bash today to benefit the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless. Performers include Pellegrino, Billy Branch, Eddy Clearwater, Charlie Love, and Robert Covington; also, Sugar Blue has donated some signed harmonicas to be auctioned off throughout the afternoon. The show runs from 2 to 9 at the club, 2548 N. Halsted. Tickets are $12.50. Call 435-4548 for info.
With Pope John Paul II currently in Colorado, Dignity/Chicago, a Catholic gay and lesbian group, is holding a prayer vigil here to protest the church's continuing campaign against homosexuality and display some solidarity with Dignity/Denver. The Circle of Solidarity and Hope takes place at the Second Unitarian Church, 656 W. Barry, at 6 tonight. It's free. Call 296-0780.
Writing and producing Wisdom Bridge Theatre's latest offering, A Hot Summer Night, is a crop of 21 local teenagers. The group's been meeting daily for six weeks on the piece, which the theater describes as "a creative exploration in drama, music, and movement to illustrate the issues of urban violence that surround today's youth." The result plays tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 at the theater, 1559 W. Howard, with postshow discussions both nights. Tickets are a breezy $2. Call 743-6000 for details.
Maxine Chernoff's last collection of short stories, Bop, won her awards from the Friends of American Writers and Southern Review. (She's also published the novel Plain Grief and five collections of poetry.) Her new set of stories is Signs of Devotion; she'll be reading from it tonight at Barbara's Bookstore, 1800 N. Clybourn, at 7:30. It's free; details at 664-1113.
This week's Chicago Architecture Foundation lunchtime walk is Towers of Finance, a 45-minute trip up the architectural canyon that is LaSalle Street. The walk meets today at 12:15 at 209 S. LaSalle. It costs $3. Call 922-3432 for more.
As laws dealing with AIDS sufferers continue to evolve, the John Marshall Law School is sponsoring a lecture today called AIDS: Civil and Criminal Rights and Responsibilities. Professors Michael Closen and Mark Wojcik preside at this monthly "Lunch With Law" event. It's $12, which includes a box lunch, at the school, 315 S. Plymouth. It starts at 12:15; call 987-1420 for info.
The same six-woman team that wrote Reinventing Home--which was about reassessing "the tired old relationship between femininity and domesticity"--is back with Reinventing Love, a collection of essays on "the joy and heartbreak of first love, the sensual thrills of lust and orgasm, the complex issues of power and money between lovers," and more. Four of the authors--Carroll Stoner, Magda Krance, Janice Rosenberg, and Janice Somerville--will be at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, to talk about the book at 7:15 tonight. Call 769-9299.
Time's running out to see the work of sculptor Mary Brogger at the Chicago Cultural Center. Brogger's medium is fine steel, which she filigrees into damask and tapestry patterns that cast light in various neat-o ways. Mary Brogger: Installation is up in the center's first-floor Michigan Avenue Galleries through August 15; admission is free. The Cultural Center is at 78 E. Washington; it's open 10 to 7 Monday through Thursday, 10 to 6 Friday, 10 to 5 Saturday, and noon to 5 Sunday. Call 346-3278 for details.
"I wrote this play as if it were a vendetta, an eruption of thoughts and feeling," says Stuart Allen. "I was looking for divine guidance, I guess, to bring it all to the surface." He's talking about Angels, which he describes as a dark comedy about "AIDS, death, love, addiction, pink balloons, and Bambi." Allen knows whereof he speaks: he's an HIV-positive recovering crack addict. The show plays Thursdays through Sundays at 8 through September 4 at Puszh Studios, 3829 N. Broadway. Admission is $12, $10 for those who are HIV-positive, unemployed, or in recovery. Call 327-0231.
The HotHouse is presenting a Marshall Vente Jazz Festival tonight and the next two Thursday nights. Vente is the host of the "Jazz Tropicale" show on radio station WDCB and fronts a quintet that mixes Brazilian, Caribbean, and other Latin influences with jazz. He'll be playing with Anna Dawson, Jim Batson, Caleb Drake, Scott Mason, and Isidro Perez; shows start at 8:30 at the club, 1565 N. Milwaukee. Cover is $8; call 235-2334.