Downtown is the place today to have some free holiday fun and mix in a little protest. First up, the Art Institute holds its annual Wreathing of the Lions, in which giant evergreen wreathes are placed on the adamantine felines on the museum's front steps at Michigan and Adams; the program starts this morning at 10, with live music, hot cider, and free admission to the Art Institute for the first 200 revelers. Call 443-3600 for more. Then if you hike over to Daley Plaza, you can join the Animal Rights Mobilization's March Against Fur. "If you don't want animals trapped, gassed, anally electrocuted, strangled, and their necks broken, join us," invites mobilization director Barbara Chadwick, who's pushing to "make compassion the fashion." The group annually uses the biggest shopping day of the year to make its point; the march departs at noon from the corner of Dearborn and Washington and travels on State Street and North Michigan Avenue, hitting various furriers along the way. It's free, but be careful--this is how Ricki Lake got into trouble. Call 993-1181 for information. After a nice social disturbance, you have time for some chow (nothing sentient, please) before heading back to Daley Plaza for the city's annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Hizzoner and an all-star lineup of guests--from Miss America, Heather Whitestone, to Commonwealth Edison's Louie the Lightning Bug--will celebrate with music and speeches before greeting Santa Claus and lighting the tree at dusk. The ceremony lasts from 4 to 5 PM, and the tree will be located on the west end of the plaza at Washington and Clark. For more information, call 744-3315.
Standing on the Fingernails That Are Gripping the Edge is a triad of performance-art pieces hitting the Lunar Cabaret tonight at 10. The show includes Stuffed Animals, by Rennie Sparks, about "a woman, her pet chipmunk, and the urge to kill everyone"; Kiss Piece, by Julie Laffin, who says it pays "homage to both pictorial space and old flames"; and Vaginal Architecture, described as a "sound improvisation and critical analysis of, well, medical terminology," by Terri Kapsalis. The Lunar Cabaret--the new home of the Maestro Subgum-Curious Theatre collective--is located at 2827 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $6; call 327-6666.
Richard Nickel fought to save Chicago's architectural landmarks, and he created painstaking photographic records of the interiors and exteriors of our great buildings. Tragically Nickel became a martyr to his cause when he was accidentally killed during the demolition of Adler and Sullivan's Stock Exchange Building. The recently published They All Fall Down: Richard Nickel's Struggle to Save America's Architecture is journalist Richard Cahan's account of Nickel's life, including no fewer than 90 samples of his photography. Cahan will give a slide lecture on Nickel at noon today during a booksigning at Architectural Artifacts, 4325 N. Ravenswood. It's free. Call 348-0622 for more information.
The Neville Brothers are in town tonight for a special occasion--a high-toned benefit for the School of the Art Institute. It's in the museum's Rubloff Auditorium; tickets cost $50 to $60 and are available only by phone at 629-6514. A preshow reception starts at 6 PM with drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and music by local bands Primal Connection and Twang Bang. The Rubloff's entrance is on Columbus between Monroe and Jackson. For more, call 889-5100.
For The Eight: Reindeer Monologues, playwright Jeff Goode takes on the disintegration of privacy and the media frenzy associated with the Clarence Thomas hearings, the Paula Jones affair, and the O.J. Simpson trial to conjure up a red-letter North Pole scandal, rocking the fur-lined booties of "America's only unstained myth." The show plays tonight at 7 for an opening-night gala at the Zebra Crossing Theatre, 4223 N. Lincoln; tickets cost $20 and proceeds benefit the Dolphinback Theatre. It plays again tomorrow, Monday, November 28, at 7:30, and then every weekend through December 18. Regular tickets are $10.50; actors with a head shot and resume get a $3 discount. Call 334-1758 for information and reservations.
Some astronomers investigate black holes, some supernovas. Others dutifully focus on more tedious questions. "Astronomers are often asked what celestial events could have been seen by the Magi, or wise men, mentioned in the Book of Matthew," the folks at the Adler Planetarium say. While we suspect the astronomers in question wonder whether this was what they went to graduate school for, they've dutifully trotted out Star of Wonder, a sky show that conjures up astronomical phenomena credulous ancients could have taken as signs of a divine birth. The show is included with admission to the planetarium, which is $4, $2 for seniors and kids, and free on Tuesdays. It's at 1300 S. Lake Shore Drive; hours are 9 to 5 daily, 9 to 9 on Fridays. Call 922-7827 for show times.
Art Spiegelman's first work since the two volumes of Maus--which told the story of the Holocaust in the form of an epic comic strip--is an illustrated version of The Wild Party, Joseph Moncure March's underground classic from the jazz era. The book, written in rhymed free verse, is the story of a vaudeville chorus girl's wild night; Spiegelman has fashioned 75 black-and-white drawings to illustrate it. He'll talk about the book and show slides of his drawings tonight at 7:30 at the Old Town Barbara's, 1350 N. Wells. It's free; call 642-5044 for details.
The Illinois Coalition Against the Death Penalty established the Mary Alice Rankin Memorial Lecture Series to honor its founder through a series of talks on issues related to the death penalty. Tonight's speaker is Trib columnist Eric Zorn, who's been pounding away at the Rolando Cruz case for some time and is credited with helping get the questionably convicted murderer a new trial. The event begins with a reception at 6:30 in the Schmitt Academic Center of De Paul University, 2320 N. Kenmore. Tickets are $12, $5 for students. Call 419-0252 for details.
The Fire This Time--filmmaker Randy Holland's volatile documentary on the LA riots in the wake of the Rodney King verdict--received the Golden Apple at the Educational Film and Video Festival but was turned down for broadcast by PBS. A member of the Coalition for Public Television will be on hand at tonight's screening of the film to attack WTTW for rejecting it; it starts at 7 at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division. Admission is $5, $2.50 for Filmmakers members. Call 384-5533.
The Chicago Cultural Center's contribution to Day Without Art--the international memorial to artists who've died of AIDS--is six hours of free performances in the GAR Rotunda, on the second floor of 78 E. Washington. The lineup includes dancer Terri Reardon, singer Jamie O'Reilly, pianist Donny Nichilo, and several others; each will perform at the start of the hour for 15 minutes, leaving the next 45 silent for reflection. The event runs from 11 AM to 5 PM; you can enter and leave as you wish. Call 346-3278 for more.
In 1907 a German food company created Reklamemarken, posters of its product reduced to stamp size, as an advertising gimmick. The stamps became a fad for a few decades, with companies all over Europe creating the tiny bits of hype. Eighty examples of this footnote in the history of 20th-century product marketing, from the collection of Western Illinois University professor Allan Schindle, are on display in the Goethe Institut's Modernism in Miniature: An Exhibition of German Advertising Stamps of the 1920s. It runs through December 23. The institute, at 401 N. Michigan, is open Tuesdays through Fridays noon to 6 and Saturdays 10 to 3. Admission is free. Call 329-0915.