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Friday 2/8 - Thursday 2/14

8 FRIDAY Bill Fick's large linoleum prints of grotesque, multilegged creatures making lewd gestures and brandishing weapons share wall space with Dana De Ano's drawings of hybrid, stunted animals and people from fairy tales and coloring books at Gallery 312, 312 N. May, where Ordinary Icons opens tonight with a free reception from 5 to 8. Featuring the work of eight artists as well as a video program, the show also includes Alan Harmon's "Source of the Nile Playing Cards," a set of oversize screenprinted cards inspired by his religious work in Uganda, and Doug Huston's layered images of flora and fauna. The show runs through March 23, and gallery hours are Tuesday through Saturday from 11 to 5; call 312-942-2500.

When a 34-year-old raised in Waukegan takes up the search for his biological father, who he knows lived in the Detroit area two decades earlier, the resulting odyssey provides fodder for theater that explores questions about family and race. Writer and performer Michael Fosberg plays a wide range of characters in his solo show Incognito, including his southern grandmother and his brassy, voluptuous British girlfriend. The performance starts tonight at 7 at the Top of the Park Penthouse of Regents Park, 5050 S. Lake Shore Dr. (51st and East End). The $25 admission benefits the Urban Life Center and includes hors d'oeuvres, wine, and a silent auction. Reservations are required; call 773-363-1312.

The images of blossoming plant life on display in Steppenwolf Theatre's second-floor gallery, 1650 N. Halsted, aren't all roses, but the exhibit is called Bed of Roses to complement the many rose garden scenes in Steppenwolf's main stage production of Maria Arndt, a mother-daughter drama. Featured works include photographs by Reader contributor Jim Newberry, prints by David Solzman and Sandra Frank, Erica Erdmann's screen prints and etchings, and Carrie Notari's painted glass jars full of seeds, dirt, and photographs of poppies. The exhibit is sponsored by Anatomically Correct and there's a free opening reception tonight from 5:30 to 7:30, with music by jazz group Fish Triad. The show runs in tandem with Maria Arndt through March 31 and is open to the public one hour prior to all performances. Call 312-514-1802 for more information.

9 SATURDAY Hollywood has consistently depicted white cavalry coming to the rescue of settlers on the western frontier, but often the soldiers were black. After the Civil War, one in five U.S. Army soldiers was African-American. Between 1866 and 1912, black soldiers fought in 85 percent of conflicts with Native Americans, some of whom dubbed them "buffalo soldiers," likening their fighting spirit to that of the Plains buffalo. Today at 3 Anthony Powell, the grandson of a buffalo soldier, lectures on the men who escorted settlers, guarded mail, protected herds of cattle, strung miles of telegraph wire, and rebuilt army posts. His slide presentation accompanies an exhibition of his collection of memorabilia, which Powell obtained from his grandfather and his contemporaries. The Buffalo Soldier: The African American Soldier in the U.S. Army, 1866-1912 opens today in the main gallery of the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th (773-947-0600), and runs through April 7. Museum hours are Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5 and Sunday from noon to 5. Admission is $3 for adults, $2 for students and seniors, $1 for children ages 6 to 13; kids under six get in free, and it's free to all on Sundays.

10 SUNDAY Chicagoan Shirlee Taraki spent 25 years in Afghanistan, married to a government official in Kabul. She later moved to Evanston, and has dedicated her life to helping Afghan women. In 1988 she founded the Afghan Women's Task Force, which hosts a benefit today from 1 to 4 at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State. The event benefits the Afghan Institute of Learning and Help the Afghan Children, Inc., and includes a screening of Kandahar, Mohsen Makhmalbaf's film about a girl who escapes an oppressive life in Afghanistan by moving to Canada, only to be haunted by a suicidal note from her sister who stayed behind. "In real life this was the filmmaker's friend," says Kulsum Ameji, who planned the benefit. Raising issues about gender and the treatment of women, the film will be used as a springboard for the panel discussion that follows. The suggested donation ranges from $20 for students to $100 for "benefactors." For reservations, call 847-390-0320 or E-mail ghareebchand@yahoo.com.

11 MONDAY Tonight at 6:30 a cast of 30-odd women, including Sun-Times columnist Laura Washington, poet and performance artist C.C. Carter, University of Chicago professor Lauren Berlant, and Ninth District Representative Jan Scha-kowsky, takes the stage at the Harold Washington Library Center for a performance of Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues to benefit the Chicago Foundation for Women and the Lesbian Community Cancer Project. General admission is $75; pricier tickets ($125 and up) include a postshow reception with the performers. It's in the auditorium of the library at 400 S. State; call 312-266-1176, ext. 24, for tickets and information.

12 TUESDAY Asian and Asian-American students comprise 6 percent of Columbia College's 9,000 undergraduates, and today for the first time the school is hosting a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration that's open to the public. Starting at 11:45, the sidewalk outside 623 S. Wabash will come alive with dancers from the Chicago Chinese Cultural Center, who'll perform a traditional lion dance. Columbia students and staff will give away literature on various Asian cultures, as well as lucky red envelopes. Anyone can post a New Year's message on the Japanese wishing tree and people who venture into the building through the Wabash entrance will be showered with confetti to evoke the Thai custom of spraying water to bring in the new year. The free entertainment lasts until 2. Call 312-344-7813.

13 WEDNESDAY As part of its "Art and Social Change" series, the University of Chicago's Center for Gender Studies presents Duel, an interactive performance by Law Office, at 7 in the first-floor theater of the Reynolds Club, 5706 S. University. Law Office is a Chicago artists' collective whose previous productions have included Beer Garden, Sex Party, and Ten White Male Painters Paint the Same Painting. Tonight, four actors will depict the problem-solving styles of gunslingers and gangbangers, engage the audience in mock duels, and provoke a discussion of honor, ego, and settling disagreements. It's free; call 773-702-9936.

14 THURSDAY Lots of marriages end up on the rocks, but few begin on ice. This Valentine's Day at 8:45 AM, a bride and groom elected by viewers of Fox News in the Morning will exchange vows at the ice rink at Millennium Park (Michigan and Randolph) in the city's ninth annual Wedding on Ice. The public is invited to watch from the sidelines; the nuptials will be broadcast live on Channel 32.

When European explorers entered the land of the Aztecs, they found not gold but something better: treasure troves of cacao seeds. Since then, cacao and chocolate have become part of the global economy as agricultural product, confection, and token of love. Sales of chocolate in the U.S. alone amount to $13 billion a year. Chocolate, an exhibition that allows museum visitors to explore the ecology, economics, and culture of chocolate, opens today and runs through December 31 at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. Museum hours are 10 to 5 daily. Tickets for the exhibit are $6 on top of the basic museum admission of $8 for adults, $4 for children, students, and seniors Wednesday through Sunday--the museum is free Mondays and Tuesdays through the end of February.

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