Two hundred and fifty speakers, a book and literature fair, performances, various receptions, and panels with names like "Postmodernism/Postindustrialism/PostMarxism" and "The PLO-Israel Accord: Peace Plan or Bantustan?" are all on the agenda at the fourth annual Midwest Radical Scholars and Activists Conference this weekend. Registration for the convention begins at noon today in the student union (aka Mertz Hall) of Loyola University's lakeshore campus, 6525 N. Sheridan; things kick into gear at 1 with a "miniconference" on Karl Marx. (The book fair starts at 5 tonight.) Conference activities continue tomorrow from 10 to 8:30 and Sunday from 12:30 to 2:30. Registration is $15-$50; call 384-8827.
There are only two theatrical entertainments in town that obligate the cast to take a shower after every performance: Cannibal Cheerleaders on Crack and Oleanna. In the former's case, the reason is the many and diverse fluids flung about during the performance. With the latter--written by David Mamet and presented with stomach-churning gusto at the Wellington Theater--it's just the filth of the play that the actors need to get off their skin. Mamet's work posits the male as well-meaning Milquetoast, the female as schemer, manipulator, and ultimately fascist in an uneven power struggle--so uneven, in fact, that the male's only recourse is violence. The show's in an open run at the theater, 750 W. Wellington, with performances Tuesdays through Fridays at 8, Saturdays at 6 and 9, and Sundays at 3 and 7. Tickets are $29.50-$36.50. Call 975-7171 for more.
Bob Guccione's bloated, absurd movie Caligula features over-the-top performances by Malcolm McDowell (as the incestuous, warped emperor), Helen Mirren, and Peter O'Toole interpolated with X-rated scenes. It's been out of circulation since 1987, when all prints of it were destroyed; now Penthouse has made a new, uncut print of the two-and-a-half-hour film. The first theater in the country to get it is the Village Theatre, 1548 N. Clark, which is showing it at midnight Fridays and Saturdays through the end of January. Admission is $5; call 642-2403.
The Howard Brown Health Center gives out its "Friends for Life" awards tonight to activist Ron Sable, center volunteers Suzanne Deveney and Edward Cavaliere, center staffer Jose Narvaez, and Open Hand Chicago. The occasion is the AIDS support provider's annual benefit gala, A Masked Ball. Dress is black tie or costume; tickets are $175, $325, and $550 and include dinner, dancing, the awards ceremony, and a performance by Nora Dunn. There's also a $60 ticket that covers just dessert and dancing. It's at the Westin Hotel, 909 N. Michigan. Things get under way at 6:30. Call 871-5777, ext. 353.
The Lookingglass Theatre Company is also throwing its annual fund-raising event, The Mad Hatter's Ball!, tonight. The troupe, which has combined daring literary adaptations, fine acting, and mixtures of dance, song, and acrobatics into its productions, will revive several scenes from its seminal version of Alice, adapted from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, for the event tonight. Fifty bucks gets you the show, dinner from Yvette's, big-band music, an open bar, a reading of a Lewis Carroll poem by John Mahoney, and a game of croquet with characters from the play. For $125 you get a champagne reception at 6:30 as well. (Higher increments get you even more stuff.) It's all at the Winter Garden, 311 S. Wacker, starting at 7. Costumes are encouraged. Call 477-9257 for more.
In conjunction with its three-day symposium Science & Art: Creativity, Motivation, and the Joy of Learning, the Chicago Academy of Sciences is offering a program this afternoon that will see a panel of musicians, authors, entertainers, and teachers talk about learning and creativity. Your host is Aaron Freeman, star of stage, TV, and radio; he'll be talking with University of Chicago psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, 16-year-old violinist Jennifer Koh, and others. It's at the Ambassador West, 1300 N. State, from 2 to 4 and costs $18 at the door, $15 in advance, $12 for academy members. Call 549-0606, ext. 3077.
In ads for its new Super Crown bookstore at Diversey and Halsted, the Crown Books company writes, "We wanted more room to stock classic hardbacks, contemporary fiction, unheralded authors and a greater selection in almost every category." Of course, Crown Books has made a mint by cutting prices on best-sellers and keeping as few other books around as possible. Many stores actually consider it their charter, as opposed to a new sales strategy, to keep a broad selection of books on hand; they're known as independent bookstores, and shopping at Crown Books is as good a way as any to hasten their demise. Super Crown, 801 W. Diversey, is open Monday through Saturday 10 to 10, Sunday 10 to 8. Call 327-1551.
The Art Institute of Chicago oversees a permanent collection of nearly a quarter of a million artworks; 350 of the most notable--including some rarely seen because of their fragility--make up a new retrospective exhibit, Chicago's Dream, a World's Treasure: The Art Institute of Chicago, 1893-1993. The show represents every department of the museum, from paintings to textiles, and includes special salutes to the museum's core collection and notable donors. It runs through January 9. The museum's open 10:30 to 4:30 Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday; 10:30 to 8 Tuesday; 10 to 5 Saturday; and noon to 5 Sunday. It's at Adams and Michigan. The suggested donation is $6.50, $3.25 for students, seniors, and kids; Tuesdays are free. Call 443-3600.
Interested in doing volunteer work for a small, not-for-profit arts organization? You might be able to find one tonight at Articipation, the Arts Bridge's annual get-together for potential volunteers and small arts organizations. Groups including the Alyo Children's Dance Theatre, American Women Composers, the Chicago Ensemble, the Guild Complex, Hedwig Dances, and the Latino Experimental Theatre Company will talk about what they do and what they need volunteers to do and answer questions. It starts at 5:30 at the Bank of Chicago/Lakeshore's Uptown office, 1050 W. Wilson. It's free. Call 907-2183.
Health Care Reform: What Will It Do for Us/to Us? What Are We Going to Do About It? is a free roundtable discussion tonight sponsored by the Guild Complex. It'll focus on how the president's plan "will serve the needs of the people in our community who have been least well served by the present system--the poor, the unemployed, minorities, women, the homeless, and AIDS patients." The panel includes WBEZ health expert Quentin Young, health care activist Victor Sidel, union organizer Susan Barkulis, and others. They'll convene in Chicago room A of the Chicago Illini Union at UIC, 818 S. Wolcott, at 7. Call 278-2210.
To install Frank Stella's nine-ton abstract metal sculpture (called The Town-Ho's Story, after a chapter of Moby Dick) in the lobby of the Metcalfe federal building (77 W. Jackson), movers spent three days removing a lobby window, dismantling the sculpture, craning the pieces into the building, and rebuilding it. Today Lynn DaCosse, fine-arts officer for the U.S. General Services Administration in Chicago, will give a 45-minute slide lecture on the mighty logistics involved. It's at 12:15 at the Chicago Architecture Foundation's lecture hall, just off the lobby of the Railway Exchange Building, 224 S. Michigan. Admission is $2, free for members; bag lunches are welcome. Call 922-3432. The Metcalfe federal building is open 8 to 4:30 weekdays.
The 1893 World's Fair wasn't just a big carnival of buildings and shows, writes fair scholar Frank Cassell: "Never before in American history had so many reformers been brought together in one place, and never before had they enjoyed such access to national and international publicity." Chicago '93: A Forum for Issues, a monthlong series of programs and films at the Chicago Cultural Center, will focus on labor, race, and women's issues that emerged from the fair. Today at 12:15, you can see a concert of labor songs from the turn of the century sung by Tecora Rogers. And at 5:30 there's a talk by Cassell and more music, from the McFarlane Singers. Both events are in the second-floor theater of the center, at 78 E. Washington, and both are free. Call 346-3278.