Friday 2/21 - Thursday 2/27
21 FRIDAY Last year writer and Newcity.com editor Frank Sennett wrote an article for Booklist about nearly forgotten spy novelist Donald Hamilton, whose Matt Helm series was once so popular eight million books were in print. On behalf of Hamilton, Sennett was fielding queries from publishers interested in releasing the final book in the series (which began in the 1960s and petered out in the late '80s) when one asked if Sennett himself had ever written any fiction. "Like every cliched journalist, I had a novel in my desk drawer," he says. The manuscript in question was Nash, Rambler, a mystery about a Northwestern University journalism student who gets in over his head while following a story in southern California. A rewritten version just came out under the Gale Five Star Mystery imprint. Sennett, who lived in Chicago until 1998 and is now based in Spokane, will read from the original tonight at 5:30 at After-Words, 23 E. Illinois (312-464-1110). It's free.
"Much of the contemporary dance presenting that's going on right now in the U.S. is dominated by work from New York and abroad," says Phil Reynolds, executive director of the Dance Center of Columbia College. "But there is in fact a wealth of very interesting new work coming out of the west coast, and San Francisco is the hub of that." The Dance Center's new "Into the West" series features three cutting-edge Bay Area companies, including Robert Moses's Kin (which makes its Chicago debut on March 6) and the Joe Goode Performance Group (March 20). The series kicked off last night with Sara Shelton Mann--whom Reynolds calls "a seminal force in the Bay Area scene"--and her company Contraband performing the evening-length Feast of Souls--part two of her multimedia trilogy, Monk at the Met. Additional performances are tonight and tomorrow, February 22, at 8 at the Dance Center, 1306 S. Michigan. Tickets range from $20 to $24; for more information call 312-344-8300 or see the Critic's Choice in Section Two.
22 SATURDAY The Ford Center for the Performing Arts sits on the site of the old Iroquois Theater, where a fire killed over 600 people in 1903, just five weeks after the venue opened. In 1926 the Rapp and Rapp-designed Oriental Theatre movie palace opened on the site; it fell into disrepair in the 70s and closed in '81. The restoration, which won a 1999 award from the local chapter of the American Institute of Architects, is a destination on three different tours all starting at 10 AM today in conjunction with the city's Theater Fever weekend. A free city-sponsored behind-the-scenes tour starts at the theater, 24 W. Randolph; other free backstage tours will take place simultaneously at the Chicago, Noble Fool, Cadillac Palace, and Goodman theaters. Call 312-742-1079 for more information. The Chicago Architecture Foundation's walking tour of the north Loop theater district costs a sawbuck ($5 for students and seniors) and covers the exteriors of the Goodman, Oriental, and Noble Fool as well as the interior of the Chicago. That tour starts at the south end of the latter at 175 N. State; call 312-922-3432. The $50 Chicago Neighborhood Tours entry includes lunch and a bus trip that will head south to the New Regal Theater, then hit the Chicago and the Oriental. It leaves from the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington (312-742-1190). For more on Theater Fever, which includes half-price tickets to downtown shows as well as free performances, classes, games, and workshops, call 312-742-1079, go to www.chicagoplays.com, or see the listings in Section Two.
In 1992, playwright Doug Wright (the author of Quills) met Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in a Berlin suburb. Born Lothar Berfelde, the elderly Mahlsdorf had lived through both the Nazi and Communist regimes as a cross-dresser and had recently written an autobiography. Wright spent two years interviewing Mahlsdorf and accompanying him on book tours. Eight years later he hooked up with director Moises Kaufman at the Sundance Theatre Lab to develop a solo show about his life, I Am My Own Wife. The piece, starring Jefferson Mays, is now being workshopped at About Face Theatre's Festival of New Plays (see the sidebar in Section Two); it opens tonight at 7:30 and runs through March 16 at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. Tickets are $20, and Wright and Kaufman will lead a discussion of the play after the February 26 performance. For tickets call 312-397-4010 or go to www.aboutfacetheatre.com.
23 SUNDAY Each Holy Week the south Philippine island of Marinduque swarms with local men wearing colorful outfits and wooden masks known as morions. Carrying wooden swords, lances, and noisemakers, they roam the streets making birdlike sounds intended to scare the children and entice the ladies. Christian in origin though unsanctioned by the Catholic Church, the annual festival expresses both atonement and gratitude for favors granted by God, and today the Filipino American Historical Society of Chicago will give a presentation called Behind the Mask: Penance and Thanksgiving. The event--part of the Field Museum's "Cultural Connections" series--will be offered twice, from noon to 2 and from 4 to 6, at the American Indian Center, 1630 W. Wilson. Tickets are $17 ($10 for teachers and students); call 312-665-7474.
24 MONDAY Kartemquin Films' 1988 documentary Golub showed its subject, Chicago native Leon Golub (then 63), hard at work on White Squad X, part of a series of paintings he did in the 80s examining torture, terrorism, and U.S. imperialism. The 12-minute 2002 video follow-up, Late Works Are the Catastrophes, takes its title from a Theodor Adorno quote at the bottom of Golub's more recent Bite Your Tongue, which was inspired by a Vietnam-era photo of a decapitated head stuck on scaffolding, a cigarette in its mouth. Both documentaries will be shown tonight at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington (312-744-6630), starting at 7. At 6 there will be a tour of the ongoing exhibit "Leon Golub: Works Since 1947." Both events are free.
25 TUESDAY "Queen of Gospel" Albertina Walker, who grew up on the south side, was still a child but she knew what she wanted to do with her life after seeing her mother perform with the Dr. Watts chorus. She got her start singing at the Westpoint Baptist Church and in 1951 formed Albertina Walker's Caravans, who had several hits and launched many a gospel career. After 11 nominations, Walker won her first Grammy in 1995. Now in her 70s, she has a new album out called I'm Still Here; she'll discuss her career today with artist, educator, and DuSable Museum founder Margaret Burroughs. It's the final installment in Columbia College's free "Tuesdays with Tradition Bearers" series and takes place from 11:30 to 12:45 at the school's Hokin Annex, 623 S. Wabash (312-344-7459).
26 WEDNESDAY "We think of baseball as essentially an American game that embodies American values," says Northwestern University lecturer and baseball expert Bill Savage. "But American values always come down to who gets to be an American." He points out that Jackie Robinson, who in 1947 became the first black player to sign to the majors, wrote in his autobiography that upon hearing the national anthem at the beginning of the 1947 World Series he thought, "This time...it is being played for me as much as for anyone else. This is organized major league baseball and I am standing here with all the others; and everything that takes place includes me." Savage will examine how identity and transformation play out in baseball narratives at tonight's lecture, Defining American Identity in Baseball Fiction and Film. It's held in conjunction with the exhibit "Baseball as America" at the Field Museum, 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr. (312-665-7400). It starts at 6; admission is $12, $10 for students, seniors, and educators.
27 THURSDAY War against Iraq would cut off monthly government food rations to Iraqi citizens--causing widespread starvation--and cripple electricity-dependent systems such as water and sewage treatment, leading to "epidemic outbreaks of water-borne disease," says the Chicago-based peace group Voices in the Wilderness. The group just published a fact sheet on the humanitarian costs of war, which draws on statistics and information provided by UNICEF and the World Health Organization, among others. VITW coordinator Jeff Guntzel will explain further tonight as part of the Open University of the Left's series The American Empire: Past, Present & Future. It's from 6 to 8 at the Lakeshore Academy Campus Building, 640 W. Irving Park (773-244-1480).