With a monthly coffeehouse called the Riff Cafe the Old Town School of Folk Music is trying to create a hip hangout for music-loving teens--complete, they say, with a shrine to Kurt Cobain. The first session, which features an open stage for those who'd like to play or exchange performance tips, runs from 6:30 to 9 tonight at the school, 909 W. Armitage. It's $1. Call 525-3655.
You can catch a trio of Twyla Tharp dances tonight when Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs at Ravinia. In addition to the company's premiere of Fait Accompli, a noted 1983 Tharp work that's set to a demanding percussive score by David Van Tieghem, the bill includes Tharp's much loved Nine Sinatra Songs, her Baker's Dozen, and Margo Sappington's Step Out of Love. The program starts at 8 tonight and tomorrow at Ravinia Festival, Green Bay and Lake Cook Roads in Highland Park. Pavilion tix are $20-$25, with $10 lawn seats available as well. Call 728-4642 for more.
A group of west-side Spanish-language booksellers have banded together to hold a feria del libro this weekend at the corner of 26th and Sawyer, one block west of Kedzie, in Little Village. Their free book fair runs from 9 AM to 8 PM today and tomorrow. Call 226-1406.
Organizers of the Singer's Conference have lined up a bevy of voice coaches, performers, local and national industry weasels, lawyers, and agents for two days of panels, workshops, and performances at the northwest side's Abbey Pub. For the whole shebang it's $175 in advance, $195 (cash only) at the door. Single-day passes are also available, and for only $7 you can hear the Bad Examples headline a Saturday-night singer's showcase that starts at 7. Registration begins this morning at 9 at the Abbey Pub, 3420 W. Grace. Call 409-5444 for a complete schedule of events.
At tonight's session of Chicago's Leather University, Jack Rinella, author of The Masters Manual, National Leather Association cochair Albert Kraus, and Silver Smoke catalogue owners Jesse and Lady Catherine Ramirez will lead an "interactive discussion" on "life and play" in the world of masters and servants, dominants and dominatrices. It's from 9 to 11 at the Chicago Eagle nightclub, 5015 N. Clark, with registration beginning at 8. Admission is $3. Call 878-7517.
What may be Chicago's first foam room opens tonight at Vortex. Homo-foam-ia, as the club has dubbed it, is an idea imported from New York, where dancing in a room full of slippery foam is all the rage. Vortex will be walling off one of its dance rooms for bathing suit-clad patrons to foam it up from 10 PM to 5 AM. Those who want to stay dry can watch from a catwalk. Cover is $12; doors open at 9. Vortex is at 3631 N. Halsted. Call 975-6622 for details.
The Chicago Academy of Sciences' Nature Museum opens its doors at North Pier today. The kid-oriented activities scheduled to take place between noon and 4:30 include testing water samples from the Chicago River and the Ogden Slip, various art projects, and a puppet show. You can also check out a couple of ongoing exhibits: Discovering Women/Seek Out Science looks at female contributions to science, and Go Power looks at energy conservation. The museum is on the third floor of North Pier, 435 E. Illinois. Admission is $3, $2 for kids; free for everyone on Tuesday. Call 549-0606 for more.
For their third-annual Jammin' for the Homeless fund-raiser the folks at Buddy Guy's Legends have put together nine full hours of blues, including music from Sugar Blue, Billy Branch, Pistol Pete, Melvina Allen, and Zora Young. Chicago Bear Neil Anderson will also make an appearance at the show, which benefits the family shelters run by Catholic Charities. The music starts at 3 this afternoon. Legends is at 754 S. Wabash. Tickets are $12 at the door; $10 in advance. Call 427-0333 or 559-1212.
Documentary filmmaker Dorothy Fadiman's new From Danger to Dignity: The Fight for Safe Abortion reminds those of us in liberal big cities--who sometimes forget that most women in the United States still don't have access to nearby abortion clinics--what the procedure was like before it was legal. The film's Chicago premiere is tonight at 7:30 at the Music Box, 3733 N. Southport. A talk by Fadiman follows. The $15 ticket ($12 in advance) benefits the sponsoring Chicago Women's Health Center and Women in the Director's Chair. Call 281-4988 for more or stop by Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark, or 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th, to pick up advance tickets.
A free talk on Challenges Facing the Census Bureau may not be everyone's cup of tea, but policy wonks from public and private social-service agencies whose government grants are based on population are probably delighted at the prospect of hearing Martha Farnsworth Riche, the U.S. Census director, and Dr. Everett M. Ehrlich, a Commerce Department undersecretary, give the agency's view of things and answer questions. It's from 10 to noon today in the auditorium of the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph. Call 353-6251 to reserve a spot.
The Chicago chapter of the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Teachers Network (that's GLSTN, pronounced "glisten"), a support group for gay and lesbian teachers in the Chicago schools that's trying to right homophobic attitudes and develop nonheterosexist curricula, holds a back-to-school get-together tonight at 7 at the Conrad Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln. It's free. Call 792-4140.
Those who think Gump is junk won't be too excited to hear that Winston Groom, the joker whose novel Forrest Gump spawned the movie and the accompanying cottage industry, will talk about his unwanted sequel, Gump & Co., tonight at 7:30 at the Deerfield Borders Books and Music, 49 S. Waukegan in Deerfield. Gump partisans will no doubt note that Groom is a nonfiction writer of some repute: as the coauthor of Conversations With the Enemy, the story of an American POW in Vietnam, he was nominated for a Pulitzer. His appearance is free. Call 708-559-1999 for info.
Those with 75 buckaroos to shell out for the privilege can check out the gallery of rogues competing to succeed Paul Simon at a Democratic Party forum tonight. Officials say that all five announced candidates--Jalil Ahmad, Dick Durbin, Ron Gibbs, Paul Park, and Pat Quinn--will be at the event, which runs from 5 to 7 in the Walnut Room of the Bismarck Hotel, 171 W. Randolph. Call 800-475-3471 for more.
With the Chicago Jazz Festival looming this weekend, you can get an early start at tonight's Jazz Club Tour, which stops at an array of the city's premier jazz joints, from the south Loop (Jazz Showcase, Buddy Guy's Legends) to Wicker Park (Bop Shop, HotHouse) and the north side (The Bulls, Green Mill). Seven bucks gets you admission to all the clubs and bus transportation between them. It's from 6 to 11. Call 427-3300 for details.
The Copernicus Cultural & Civic Center's Taste of Polonia gets under way tonight at 6 with an opening ceremony at Copernicus Plaza that pays tribute to veterans of World War II with a talk from Edward Derwinski, veteran's affairs director under George Bush, and a performance by the Great Lakes division of the U.S. Navy Band. The 16th edition of the Polish fest runs from 5 to 10 tonight, 4 to 11 tomorrow, noon to 11 Saturday and Sunday, September 2 and 3, and noon to 10 Monday, September 4. Though much of the music at the fest will be polka-based, a mass said by Bishop Thaddeus Jakubowski at 11 AM Sunday will feature music from the Ave Maria Choir of Saint Constance Parish. If it's too hot to polka you may want to keep in mind that bingo will be played in an air-conditioned hall. The Copernicus Center is at 5216 W. Lawrence. Admission to the fest is $5, $3 for seniors, free for kids. Call 777-7785 for details.