One of the key progenitors of the mbanqua or "township jive" that inspired Paul Simon's Graceland, South African superduperstars Mahlathini and the Mahotella Queens are in town for a show tonight at 8 at Skokie's Centre East, 7701 N. Lincoln. The Ma Khona Tsohle Band backs them up. Tix are $20 and $17. Call 708-673-6300 for more. If you can't make it to the 'burbs, the Queens will give a free performance and talk about their lives in South Africa this afternoon at 12:15 in the second-floor theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. For info call 744-6569.
The first half of a performance double bill at the Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee, features Dolores Wilber in Two Men Are Dead, a one-woman performance piece cum courtroom drama that claims to draw upon "the short stories of William Faulkner, the autobiography of Linda Lovelace, and the art of Pouissant and Kasimir Malevich." She appears with Cleveland performance artist Mike Geither at 8 tonight and tomorrow. Admission is $10, $6 for students and members. Call 666-7737 for details.
From the converted Andersonville funeral home known as the Neo-Futurarium comes a salute to the upcoming holiday--the third annual "LOVE" edition of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind. Promising 30 plays in 60 minutes, the show runs tonight and tomorrow at 11:30 PM and Sunday at 7. The theater's at 5153 N. Ashland; admission is $10. Call 275-5255 for more.
How low will politicians stoop? How about offering kids a pound of free candy to rot their teeth out? That's what 49th Ward alderman Joe Moore, Cook County clerk David Orr, 49th Ward committeeman David Fagus, and state representatives Jan Schakowsky and Carol Ronen are doing at a Valentine's Day party this morning and afternoon at the 400 Theater, 6746 N. Sheridan. Partygoers also get to see the imitation-Disney animated tale The Swan Princess and hobnob with some Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. It's all free. The movie shows at 10 AM and 1 PM. Call 338-5796 or 764-3815.
Jon Sparrman's tastefully draped Gumby de Milo will be on display at Pop Fiction, an exhibit by four artists at the Kozuch on Cortez Gallery, 1511 W. Cortez. You can also see Hillary Isaac's take on the Statue of Liberty, Michael Lotenero's homage to Rembrandt, and Greg Louden's images of the Holy Family. The show opens tonight with a free reception from 6 to 9. Call 862-9616 for details.
Cartoonist Heather McAdams and husband Chris Ligon present their latest film--a 20-minute, 16-millimeter opus called Comes to a Point Like an Ice-Cream Cone--tonight at 8 at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division. They're also showing selections from their found-footage archives, including a performance by Bob Wills and a Tex Avery cartoon. Chris Ligon and the Problems provide opening music. It costs $5. Call 384-5533 for more.
R & B singer Seraiah Carol and the Women's Action Coalition drum corps headline the Lesbian Community Cancer Projects' fourth annual Valentine's benefit. The group says they're expecting 1,000 people at Coming Out Against Cancer, which also includes dancing to music from Madison DJ Sandy Seuser, food, and a chance at massages and I Ching and numerology readings. It's tonight at 8 at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Drive. Tickets are $35 in advance and $40 at the door. Call 561-4662.
At its second annual Reel-a-thon Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art celebrates the work of self-taught artists--creators who work outside of, and seem to be unaffected by, artistic norms. The 12 short films to be shown--ranging in length from 5 to 28 minutes--include Possum Trot: The Life and Work of Calvin Black (he and his wife Ruby carve life-size dolls in the Mojave Desert); a visit with the Reverend Howard Finster; and a profile of Berkeley street haranguer Stoney Burke. The screenings begin at 1 today at Chicago Filmmakers, 1543 W. Division. Admission is $15, $12 for Intuit or Filmmakers members, and $8 for students. Call 759-1406.
According to the folks at the Lunar Cabaret and Full Moon Cafe, singer Claudia Hommel evokes Edith Piaf and the spirit of postwar Paris in her latest show, featuring "songs of Paris seen through the eyes of Cole Porter, Duke Ellington, Vernon Duke, and a peppering of melodies from the salon and music hall of Gabriel Faure and Erik Satie." She appears at 8 Sundays in February at the cafe, 2827 N. Lincoln. It's $7, $5 for students. Call 327-6666 for more.
Today at the Newberry Library dance pioneer Arthur Mitchell speaks on his life in dance--from his debut in the mid-50s as the first black male dancer in the New York City Ballet to the 1969 founding of his own company, Dance Theatre of Harlem, which performs February 14-18 at the Auditorium Theatre. The talk begins at 5:30 at the library, 60 W. Walton. It's $5. Call 255-3510.
The chamber music ensemble known as Cube premieres Prism-Mirror-Lens by Chicago composer Richard Blocker tonight in a show at the Arts Club of Chicago. The group--flutists Caroline Pittman and Janice Misurell-Mitchell; oboist and English horn player Patricia Morehead; guitarist Jeffrey Kust; percussionist Dane Richeson; and conductor and keyboardist Philip Morehead--will also perform music from the opera Orpheus Descending, composed by the Lyric's 1994 composer in residence, Bruce Saylor. The show starts at 7:30 at the club, 109 E. Ontario. Tix? $12 and $8. Call 554-1133. A chocolate and champagne reception follows.
For 17 years the University of Illinois' The Future of Chicago class has introduced students to the diverse flora and fauna of the Chicago political landscape--politicians, social scientists, and civic leaders. This week the class meets twice and the public's invited to sit in. Barry Rundquist, codirector of the Illinois Voter Project, speaks today on Citizen Views of Local Government--The UIC Public Opinion Poll, and businessman Tom Roeser, a rather thorny clump of Republican flora, gives A Republican View of the Future on Thursday. Former alderman Dick Simpson, a poli sci prof at UIC, and urban planning professor Bill Peterman moderate. The free classes are at the university's Newman Center, 700 S. Morgan, at 12:30 PM. Call 413-3780 for more.
The Free Associates--known for Cast on a Hot Tin Roof, their improvisational takeoff on Tennessee Williams--take aim at the Brontes and English gothic fiction in Blithering Heights, which they describe as "a turgid tale of tormented love, sinister secrets and tragic destinies based entirely on audience suggestions." It opens tonight at 7:30 at the Ivanhoe Theater, 750 W. Wellington. Regular shows are Thursdays at 8:15 PM; tickets are $8. Call 975-7171.
Columnists Eric Zorn and Mary Schmich of the Tribune and Tim Unsworth of the National Catholic Reporter explain what they do and how they do it and answer your questions tonight at a program sponsored by the Society of Midland Authors. The $15 event starts with hors d'oeuvres at 6:30 at the 410 Club, the restaurant in the Wrigley Building, 410 N. Michigan. Call 944-7600 for reservations.
P-Form, the quarterly arts and theory mag published by the Randolph Street Gallery, has a new issue out: Feminisms: Women, Change and Art. In a discussion tonight at the gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee, editors Mary Zerkel, Maria Troy, and Craig Harshaw and some of the magazine's contributors, including video maker Ayanna Udongo, will tackle "the contemporary state of feminism, its pluralistic nature, and the art-making process." It's at 8 and costs $3. Call 666-7737.
Hitler's Germany saw the political debauching of all sorts of artists: writers, filmmakers, even dancers. At a free lunchtime lecture Northwestern professor Susan Manning talks about how the work of Mary Wigman, a popular expressionistic solo dancer in the 20s, changed as she began collaborating with the Nazis. The author of Ecstasy and the Demon: Feminism and Nationalism in the Dances of Mary Wigman, Manning speaks at 11:45 at the Mary and Leigh Block Gallery, 1967 South Campus Drive on Northwestern's Evanston campus. Call 708-491-4000 for more.
The organizers of the reading series known as "A Rio Runs Through It" have an antidote to readings that run into the dinner hour: readings that include a nice meal at River North's Rio Latin Tapas. Tonight Jill Breckenridge reads from her books of erotic fiction and poetry, Civil Blood and How to Get Lucky, as guests munch down on blackened chicken, Peruvian potatoes, chocolate plantains, and more. It's $12 and starts at 6:30. Call 708-974-5233 for reservations.