Western outlaw William Henry McCarty was popularly seen as a bloodthirsty, one-dimensional villain "with no socially redeeming value to him" until Walter Woods's 1903 play Billy the Kid--the first retelling of the young horse rustler's story--spawned the mythology that persists today. "This play turned him into a misguided youth who was misunderstood by society and turned into a vigilante," says American Theater Company artistic director Damon Kiely. "It's a very American idea." In Woods's melodrama, the Kid's 19th-century killing spree was motivated by a desire to avenge the death of his mother, who was murdered by the play's "real" villain. Tonight's staged reading kicks off ATC's three-year-long American Century Project, during which the company plans to produce a play from each decade of the last century. This season's theme is outsiders, and the schedule includes full productions of Sam Shepard's Angel City and Preston Sturges's Strictly Dishonorable. There's a preshow reception at 6:30 at Grizzly's Lodge, 3832 N. Lincoln (across the street from the theater), and a postshow party at Wise Fools Pub, 2270 N. Lincoln, in Chicago. The one-night-only performance starts at 8 at 1909 W. Byron in Chicago. Tickets for the entire evening are $20; the reading alone is $5. For more information call 773-929-1031 or go to www.atcweb.org.
Earlier this summer, while on a 12-city tour of Europe, Free Street's Madjoy Theatrics youth ensemble passed time on Vienna's U-Bahn by singing "Bohemian Rhapsody." To their surprise, they made it through the entire song. The spontaneous performance gave them the idea for tonight's Hit It rock 'n' roll karaoke fund-raiser. Intended to help bankroll a September trip to Germany--during which the group will collaborate with German and West African teens in Hamburg--the event will feature original music by three bands, who'll also play covers the audience can sing along with. And, yes, the 1975 Queen hit is on the playlist. The event starts at 7 at Pulaski Park, 1419 W. Black-hawk in Chicago. Admission is $10, and guests are encouraged to dress as their favorite pop stars. Call 773-772-7248 or see www.freestreet.org for more information.
"The peace movement can write very good protest letters, but they are not yet able to write a love letter," wrote Vietnamese Zen master, poet, and peace activist Thich Nhat Hanh in his 1987 book, Being Peace. "We need to learn to write a letter to the Congress or to the Pres-ident of the United States that they will want to read, and not just throw away." Thich Nhat Hanh--who was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1967 by Martin Luther King Jr. and who lives and teaches at a meditation center in France--will visit Chicago tonight for the first time in nearly a decade to deliver a lecture titled Building a Century of Peace. Doors open at 6:30 and the talk starts at 7:30 at Loyola's Joseph Gentile Center at Sheridan and Loyola in Chicago; tickets are $20, $12 for students and seniors. Call 866-468-3401.
The final entry in the Silent Summer 2003 Film Festival is G.W. Pabst's controversial 1929 flop, Diary of a Lost Girl, which stars Louise Brooks as a girl who's knocked up by her father's assistant and sent to a reformatory, then escapes to find sexual fulfillment working in a brothel. Brooks--whose career went south after the film's release (she ended up living as a recluse in Rochester, New York)--once described the seduction scene as "a ballet, with me as the seductress....When I collapsed in his embrace, he [actor Fritz Rasp] swept me into his arms and carried me off to bed slightly as if I had weighed no more than my silken nightgown and robe." It'll be shown tonight at 8 at the Copernicus Center's Gateway Theatre, 5216 W. Lawrence in Chicago, with accompaniment by organist Dennis Scott. The West End Jazz Band will also perform. Tickets are $10; call 773-205-7372 or see www.silentfilmchicago.com.
Since 1997 5H, a program of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar's International Association for Human Values (the name stands for "health, homes, hygiene, human values, and harmony in diversity"), has built 600 homes, developed 50 model villages, planted 800,000 trees, provided earthquake relief in Gujarat, and trained local youth to lead community development programs in 15,000 Indian villages. This summer's nine-city Celestial Dance Ballet fund-raising tour features two pieces of classical Indian dance choreographed and performed by Karnataka-based bharata natyam dancer Rashme Hegde Gopi. The tour will support the work of 400 new 5H-trained youth leaders in more than 2,000 villages; tonight's performance starts at 6 at National-Louis University's Weinstein Center for the Performing Arts, 2840 Sheridan in Evanston. Tickets range from $15 to $100; call 773-814-2653.
The lowest interest rates in half a century have bred an epidemic of teardowns in Chicago suburbs, but they've also spurred some amazing home improvement projects. The Mount Prospect Historical Society has put together a tour of nine recently revamped houses, including a 1958 raised ranch that now features a two-story foyer with winding staircase and fireplace. The self-guided driving tour runs from noon to 5 today; proceeds benefit the historical society's preservation activities. Tickets, which include a map, are $25 ($22 in advance) and are available at the society, 101 S. Maple in Mount Prospect; home owners and contractors will be on hand to discuss the pitfalls and the glories of renovation. Call 847-392-9006.
"I didn't care what NBC, ABC, or CBS ever thought of me," said comedian, motivational speaker, and MS crusader Tom Dreesen in an interview several years ago. "If I could grace the stage with Frank Sinatra, then I didn't care anymore. You could close the lid on me and life was good." Dreesen, who grew up in Harvey, toured as Sinatra's opening act for 13 years. He'll share his work-related secrets tonight at a Comedy College event called The
Joy of Stand-up Comedy and How to Get There! It starts at 8 at Crush, 2843 N. Halsted in Chicago. It's free, but you must register in advance. Call 773-250-7979 or see www.comedycollegeinfo.com.
"Cooking was easy as long as the weather was calm, but when the weather suddenly changed it turned the galley into a disaster area," says former landlubber Betty Godfrey--who used to get sick in a rowboat--of the three years she and her boyfriend spent circumnavigating the globe aboard their 65-foot yacht, Destiny. Her new book, On the Winds of Destiny, chronicles their adventure from the moment she promised the man she'd later marry, Bob Godfrey--who was stricken with heart disease--that she'd sail around the world with him if he recovered. "The trip was a tremendous undertaking," she writes, "but...I found out you can achieve anything if you have enough guts and determination." The Godfreys, who got engaged when they hit New Zealand, will give a free talk tonight at 7 at the Evanston Public Library, 1703 Orrington in Evanston; call 847-866-0300.
There's a method behind the mad arm waving of orchestra conductors. Lloyd Butler, artistic director of the new Rosemont-based Chicagoland Pops Orchestra, will explain beat patterns for the baton and give the audience a chance to try some of them out as part of From Score Study to Opening Night, a lecture on how conductors prepare for performances. John Williams's music for Star Wars will be the focus of the talk, which will make use of the printed score, recordings, and live piano. It starts at 7 tonight at the Des Plaines Public Library, 1501 Ellin-wood in Des Plaines. It's free, but registration is required; call 847-376-2787.
Each of the seven sections of Breakbone DanceCo's multimedia Logotype series focuses on a symbolic image such as a bar code or the skirted figure that's the universal sign for "women's restroom." Reader critic Laura Molzahn called several of the segments in last year's sold-out performances of the show "serious and intense, addressing the subjects of guns, mental illness, social profiling, and pornography." An encore presentation of the pieces--which feature artistic director Atalee Judy's ferocious signature choreography and are set to equally unforgiving music by the likes of Tool and Einsturzende Neubauten--opens tonight at 8 and runs through next weekend at Ideo-tech, 2000 W. Fulton in Chicago. Tickets to tonight's show are pay what you can; weekend shows are $12. For more information call 773-588-4582 or log on to www.breakbone.com.