By Cara Jepsen
8 FRIDAY "I'll be playing harp till my lips bleed," says bluesman Mr. H about this weekend's 48-hour Maxwell Street Blues Marathon. The event, now in its third year, is meant to draw attention to the fact that, while the city sponsors the annual Chicago Blues Festival (also this weekend), it has the site of the original fest--Maxwell Street--slated for the wrecking ball. Musicians of all stripes are invited to jam--as they've been doing most every Sunday afternoon for eight decades--with "Baron of the Blues" Mr. H (who's been on the scene since the 1950s) and a lineup that includes 74-year-old Frank "Little Sonny" Scott Jr. (who will DJ and play his homemade percussive house keys), Bobby "Top Hat" Davis, Jimmie Lee Robinson (who is sure to play his "Maxwell Street Teardown Blues"), and many others. It runs from 9 tonight through 9 Sunday night at Maxwell and Halsted and it's all free. Call 312-341-3696 or visit www.openair.org/maxwell/preserve.html for more.
9 SATURDAY Atlanta-based avant-smut filmmaker Joe Christ--who was nicknamed "Gross Joe" in school--delights in the fact that screenings of his movies have been aborted more than once because of audience walkouts and complaints. His new comedy, My Struggle, about an "inbred Amish man who kidnaps a female tourist to use as fresh genetic stock," includes a turn by Christ as a pipe-bomb-making artist who rescues a mentally challenged woman he finds in a cardboard box. Christ will screen My Struggle and some of his short films tonight as part of the Chicago stop of the Fire Martyrs tour, which also includes sets by the bands Schloss Tegal (from D.C.), Skrol (from the Czech Republic), and Einleitungszeit (from Slovakia). It starts at 9 at the Nervous Center, 4612 N. Lincoln (773-728-5010), and costs $6.
"They're not very funny or good," says Chris Ligon about the plots of a pair of 1960s Beatles cartoons to be screened at tonight's Fab Four film and music extravaganza. But the brightly colored animated sequences of the mop tops playing "Day Tripper" and "And Your Bird Can Sing" make these shortcomings bearable. Also on the bill, Scott Ligon's Hammond-B-3-organ-dominated band Scotty and the Ligonaires, who'll play Beatles songs from all eras. It's tonight at 8 and 10:30 at the Record Roundup, 2034 W. Montrose. Admission is $8; call 773-271-5330.
10 SUNDAY To find today's Echo Pagan Picnic, organizers say to "look for people with drums wearing lots of jewelry." The annual gathering of neopagans--a broad umbrella that covers druidic, Norse, Wiccan, and other types of pagans, most of whom embrace some type of polytheistic nature-based spirituality--takes place from 10 AM to dusk in grove three of La Bagh Woods at Foster and Cicero. It includes drumming, games, a potluck, activities for kids, and a "free stuff table," where you can drop off pagan-related items such as incense, books, or jewelry and pick up something new. Call 773-463-5688.
In early 1997, local actor and onetime carriage driver Ben Byer moved with his girlfriend (also a former carriage driver, now his wife) and their horse to the desert north of LA. After many attempts to find work, Byer finally landed a job as a door-to-door meat salesman, which involved selling low-grade meat "for three or four times what people would pay for it at the store." Says Byer, "There was every reason in the world for people not to buy it. My job was to create a situation where people didn't have an opportunity to refuse it." His new play, Take It Deep, is based on the two and a half years he spent peddling some 75,000 pounds of overpriced dead animal to unsuspecting Californians. AKA Theater Collective's production of the play, which features an original score by Verbow, opens tonight at 7 and runs Thursdays through Sundays until July 15 at the Wing & Groove Theatre in the Flat Iron Building, 19351/2 W. North. Tickets are $12-$15; call 312-409-4273 or see www.meatmen.net for reservations and more information.
11 MONDAY Sigmund Freud, the Marquis de Sade, Luis Buñuel, and Max Ernst are just some of the "consultants" surrealist Czech filmmaker Jan Svankmajer credits in his 1996 film Conspirators of Pleasure, a black comedy about six seemingly normal people who indulge in some extraordinary sexual quirks, including (but not limited to) stuffing bread balls into nasal passages and allowing carp to nibble on toes. It'll be shown tonight at 7 and 8:45 and again on Thursday at 8:45 as part of a Svankmajer retrospective called Alchemist of the Surreal, which began Friday and runs through Thursday at Facets Multimedia Center, 1517 W. Fullerton. Tickets are $7. Call 773-281-4114 or visit www.facets.
org for more.
12 TUESDAY For some, watching four bald, fortysomething Australian men living in a store window might rank right up there with sitting in traffic. It smacks of something the Fluxists did back in the 60s. But folks in Melbourne, Perth, Montreal, London, Ghent, and Wellington, New Zealand, who've watched the members of Urban Dream Capsule showering, eating, sleeping, and otherwise doing their business behind glass, have eaten it up, sending them E-mails and faxes and giving them presents through special slots. The Aussies make their U.S. debut today at noon when they set up house in Sears's curtain-free windows at 2 N. State, where they'll remain through June 25. It's part of Puppetropolis Chicago, the city's international puppet pageant, and it's free. Call 773-722-5463 or visit www.alphalink.com.au/-surreal/ for more on the window; for more on Puppetropolis, which also runs through the 25th, call 312-744-3315 or see the sidebar in the Section Two theater listings.
13 WEDNESDAY Evanston's monthly Reeltime independent film and video forum kicks off tonight with a screening of Divorce Iranian Style, Kim Longinotto and Ziba Mir-Hosseini's 1999 film that documents several weeks in an Iranian divorce court. Sharing the bill is Columbia College film professor Mehrnaz Saeed-Vafa's 1994 video A Tajik Woman, for which Saeed-Vafa interviewed four immigrant Muslim women (including her mother) about their lives. She'll answer questions after the free screening, which starts at 7:30 at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, 1967 South Campus Dr. in Evanston (847-491-4000).
14 THURSDAY It seems like a no-brainer--female convicts who have access to training and counseling while they're inside and supervision and support once they're outside should have lower rates of recidivism and be more likely to lead productive lives than those who don't. That's exactly what UIC social work professor Patricia O'Brien found when she conducted extensive interviews with 18 former prisoners. Their stories are included in her new book, Making It in the "Free World": Women in Transition From Prison, which is aimed at policy makers and prison wardens. O'Brien will discuss her findings tonight at 7:30 at Women & Children First Bookstore, 5233 N. Clark. It's free; call 773-769-9299.
Theater Oobleck has chosen an uncharacteristically short title for its new play, Tedium, a tale of a small theater company and the long, tiresome play that becomes a surprise hit because of the euphoric effect its monotony has on audiences. Shoshanna Utchenik created the puppets and sets for the production, which is based on a story by Mickle Maher. It opens tonight at 8, as part of the city's Puppetropolis festival, and runs through June 23 at Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark. Tickets are a suggested donation of $10, "more if you've got it, free if you're broke." For reservations and more information call 773-561-3039.