In recent years the Museum of Science and Industry's Omnimax Theater has taken up-close-and-personal looks at everything from fire (Ring of Fire, about volcanoes) and ice (Antarctica) to various species of large-toothed mammals (Beavers, Rolling Stones at the MAX). Speaking of dental endowments, the theater's new offering, Search for the Great Sharks, opens today. It follows the experiences of two shark experts, Eugenie Clark and Rodney Fox, the latter of whom had a little tete-a-tete with a great white 30 years ago. The film is projected onto the giant theater's 76-foot-diameter screen every 50 minutes from 10 to 3 Monday through Thursday and 10 to 4:40 Saturday and Sunday; there are also shows at 7 and 8 Friday and Saturday night. Tickets are $4 ($3 for kids and seniors) over and above the general museum admission of $5, $4 for seniors, and $2 for kids. The Omnimax price is higher on Thursdays, when general admission is free. The museum is at 57th Street and Lake Shore Drive; call 684-1414.
The goal of the Blues University lecture series, organizers say, "is to expand the understanding of blues music as the foundation of American musical expression and further the appreciation of blues as an art form unique to the African American experience, putting it in context within a continuum of musical expression." Blues U. 101, a four-week multimedia introduction to the genre, begins today at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton, and runs for the next four Saturdays starting at 1 PM. Speakers include NewCity blues writer Dave Witter and local promoter and Blues University capo Steve Pasek. The class costs $40; register at 943-9090, ext. 482, or call 604-1665 for more info.
The anticasino groups who've come together under the rubric Coalition for a Casino Referendum think putting casino gambling to a statewide vote will put the kibosh on the growing industry. Tonight's performance of Stage Left Theatre's take on Steven Dietz's Boomtown is serving as a fund-raiser for the new coalition; appropriately enough, it's the story of a small town in Colorado hit by lightning in the form of legalized gambling. The show starts at 8 at the American Blues Theatre, 1909 W. Byron (at Lincoln). The $35 ticket includes a postshow reception; call 787-2729, ext. 209.
The 20th Century Railroad Club holds it annual "do it yourself" train trip to Indiana in honor of the fact that the South Shore Line is America's last electric interurban train line. This year's trip departs on the South Shore from the Randolph Street Terminal, at Randolph and Michigan, at 10 AM today. It stops first in South Bend to see the new station; then it backtracks to New Carlisle, where this group'll stop to eat at the city's Home Cafe and spend a couple of hours watching "freight and passenger action on Conrail's busy main line." Round-trip fare is $20; brunch should be about $8. Call the group at 829-4500, or just show up at the station.
Get an update and some more background on the wrongly convicted Guildford Four at In the Name of the Father . . . The Story Continues, a discussion today about Britain's shenanigans in Northern Ireland; other subjects will include the Birmingham Six and the H-Block Three. The featured speaker is Jeanne Bishop, from American Protestants for Truth About Ireland; also putting their two cents in will be two representatives of the Irish American Student Association, Erin Maher and the Reader's own Tom Terranova. It's free (though the student association won't turn away donations) and starts at 2 today at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace. Call 296-6377 for more.
As the streets of south central Los Angeles erupted into violence after the verdicts in the Rodney King beating case, actor and former Chicagoan Gregory Alan-Williams found himself the sudden rescuer of a Japanese man set upon by a mob. His experiences during the riots and his thoughts about being black in a society still uncomfortable with the race issue make up A Gathering of Heroes: Reflections on Rage and Responsibility. Alan-Williams reads from it today at 2 at the Hyde Park Kroch's and Brentano's, 1530 E. 53rd St. (288-0145), tonight at 6 at Barnes and Noble, 659 W. Diversey (871-9004), tomorrow night at 7 at Waterstone's Booksellers, 840 N. Michigan (587-8080), and Tuesday night at 7:30 at Barbara's Bookstore, 1100 Lake in Oak Park (708-848-9140).
A new outbreak of anti-Semitic vandalism in the Chicago area has the Holocaust Memorial Foundation of Illinois shocked. "I have always heard of anti-Semitic incidents in other places, but when you experience it then you will never forget the pain," says Rabbi Moshe Francis, dean of the defaced Kollel Institute. Tonight at 7:30 the foundation is bringing in a speaker from the state's attorney's office to discuss the vandalism, proposed hate-crimes legislation, and other issues. Hate Crimes in the 90s takes place at the Mayer Kaplan Jewish Community Center, 5050 Church in Skokie. Admission is $5, $3 for members. Call 708-677-4640.
You can take your pick of places to watch Schindler's List sweep the Oscars tonight. At the tacky but appropriate Planet Hollywood, there's a $30-a-head ($25 for Cinema Chicago members) benefit for the Chicago International Film Festival. The one price gets you food and drink and opportunities to win some big-ticket prizes (like a trip to Hollywood) with your Oscar predictions. It starts at 7 at 633 N. Wells. Reservations are required; call 644-3400. A few blocks away, in the Dome Room of Excalibur, 632 N. Dearborn, Women in Film/Chicago is having its own extravaganza. The $20 ticket ($15 for members) benefits the group's educational and promotional activities. Networking begins at 6:30; call 467-0500 for details. The awards show, by the way, starts at 8 on Channel Seven.
The School of the Art Institute's ongoing lecture series examining the work of artist Joseph Beuys continues tonight with a slide presentation and talk by Douglas Davis, a videomaker and installation artist who has collaborated with Beuys. He talks at 6 in the auditorium of the school, which is at Columbus and Jackson. It's $3, free to seniors and to students and staff of area colleges. Call 443-3711 for more.
Pianist Richard Fields, who the Sun-Times's Robert Marsh once said "belongs in the front rank of American pianists," is the featured performer in the Chicago Sinfonietta's world premiere of Concertino for Piano and Wind Quartet by Swiss composer Heinrich Sutermeister tonight. The program also includes guitarist Sharon Isbin performing Rodrigo's Fantasia para un gentilhombre and the Sinfonietta, directed by Paul Freeman, making runs at Vorisek's Symphony in D Minor and the suite from Carmen. It's at Orchestra Hall, 220 S. Michigan, at 7:30. Tix are $12-$30. Call 857-1062 for details.
The new Theater Oobleck play, The Making of Freud, takes the 1962 John Huston film Freud, which starred Montgomery Clift and was allegedly written by Jean-Paul Sartre, as its starting point. Playwright David Isaacson, who proffered the fairly hilarious farce Embrace the Serpent by Marilyn Quayle and Her Sister and Theater Oobleck last year, intertwines scenes in New York, Vienna, and Hollywood and appearances by everyone from Wittgenstein and Freud to Marlon Brando and Sabu. It opens tonight at 8 at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division, and will run at the same time Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through May 14. It's $6, "more if you've got it, free if you're broke." Call 784-8983.