Around this time each year Saint Sabina's Catholic church holds a fund-raising event in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Past speakers have included names like Harry Belafonte and Cornel West; this year's guest is actor and director Sidney Poitier, whom King called, in 1967, "a man of great depth, a man of great social concern, a man who is dedicated to human rights and freedom...a man who, in the words we often hear now, is a soul brother." He'll speak tonight at 8 as part of a program hosted by Father Michael Pfleger, the south-side church's outspoken pastor, at Christ Universal Temple, 11901 S. Ashland in Chicago. Tickets are $50 and $100; proceeds benefit the church's outreach centers. For more information call 312-321-2800 or see www.saintsabina.org.
The bad movie pitch is an old joke--"It's like Terms of Endearment crossed with Rollerball!"--but with the dreck that comes out of Hollywood, even the most improbable premise could be worth millions. Today's Winter Pitchfest pairs a story consultant with each would-be Joe Eszterhas, who'll get to practice pitching and get professional feedback on their ideas. It's today from 2 to 5 at the Screenwriters Group, 1803 W. Byron in Chicago. Admission is $10 and reservations are required; call 773-665-8500 for more.
Trevor and Drew Orsinger became interested in firehouse dogs in 2000 after a visit with John Pawelko, their old track coach from Saint Ignatius College Prep. Pawelko, who also worked as a firefighter at Engine 18, across the street from the school, introduced them to the station's rottweiler, Sadie, and started telling stories about her exploits. On the way home the brothers realized the tales were worth writing down and began the research for The Firefighter's Best Friend: Lives and Legends of Chicago's Firehouse Dogs. The book chronicles the 300-odd dogs that have served the Chicago Fire Department since the Great Fire of 1871--including Bear, who lost a leg after being attacked by kids in the neighborhood around Engine 4, and Bozo, who led his engine company through a smoke-filled house to find a child. Trevor will read from and discuss the book (some proceeds from which go to the Illinois Fire Safety Alliance's camp for kids who've been burned) today at 3 at Barnes & Noble, 1441 W. Webster in Chicago. It's free; call 773-871-3610.
Robert Mugge, who's made some 20 documentaries about music and musicians, turned to film in the late 60s, after a pipe burst in the D.C.-area head shop where he staged plays and multimedia happenings. After snagging the first youth grant fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities and attending graduate school at Temple University, he was well on his way to a big-time movie career--or so he thought. "I thought I'd make feature films and make fun little music films on the side," he said in a 1999 interview. "But I kept getting funding for the little music films and they got bigger and bigger." He'll appear at tonight's 5:15 screening of Robert Mugge's Personal Guide to the Blues (Part Two), a selection of documentaries sponsored by Mississippi Public Broadcasting that includes performances by Willie King, Abie "Boogaloo" Ames, Jackie Bell with Bernard Jenkins, Eddie Cotton, Big Joe Williams, B.B. King, and others. (Mugge also spoke at the showing of Part One on Thursday, January 15.) It's at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State in Chicago. Tickets are $8; call 312-846-2800 or see the movie listings for more information.
Until they were kicked out last summer, about a hundred Albany Park day laborers regularly waited for jobs in an old CTA bus turnaround on Pulaski just south of Foster. The structure was demolished while the workers were negotiating with the city to establish a permanent workers' center; as an alternative, the city offered them a parking lot at Addison and Central Park. "Most of them are members of the Albany Park community and need to have a place to wait that's accessible to them," says a spokesperson for the Jewish Council on Urban Affairs, one of the hosts of today's Rally for Day Laborers. "They have to wait out in the cold to get jobs. They don't have any guarantee that when they get a job they'll even be paid....We want to help create a center where employers will be accountable, and also help workers get training." They're holding the rally on Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday because "we and other interfaith organizations realize that this is all part of the same struggle for justice that he was concerned with." The event will include stories from recent immigrants and an interfaith prayer vigil. It starts at 10 AM at the parking lot on the northwest corner of Argyle and Pulaski in Chicago. Call 312-363-0960 or see www.thefrictioninstitute.org/daylabor/.
About ten years ago composer-lyricist Mark Hollmann teamed up with librettist (and Reader contributor) Jack Helbig to write a musical called Wild Goat. Inspired by Menander's Dyskolos ("The Grouch"), about a hard-working man whose life turns upside down when his daughter falls for a rich kid, the project was back-burnered in the mid-90s after Hollmann moved to New York, where he went on to rack up a 2001 Obie and a 2002 Tony for Urinetown. Tonight at 7 as part of Theatre Building Chicago's monthly Monday Night Musicals series, Wild Goat will have its Chicago premiere in a concert reading directed by Sheldon Patinkin. The $5 admission includes a preshow party at 6 and another one following the performance across the street at Chicago Fine Arts. It's at 1225 W. Belmont in Chicago, and reservations are recommended. Call 773-327-5252 for more information.
"[Saddam] Hussein's cruelest policies and most notable massacres were motivated primarily by the war with Iran, but it was his determination to maintain Iraq's secular character that accounted for his hard-line policies against religious activists," wrote In These Times senior editor and Tribune op-ed columnist Salim Muwakkil in a December 24 editorial on the Iraqi dictator's capture. "In fact, the same people who declared war on the U.S. also counted Hussein as an enemy. His ouster and public humiliation helps make their point that only an Islamic jihad can rebuff 'crusading imperialists.'" Muwakkil will kick off the East-West University's free "East-West Perspectives" series with a lecture on U.S. foreign policy tonight at 6 at the university, 816 S. Michigan in Chicago. Call 312-939-0111.
David Cale and Jonathan Kreisberg's new country and western musical, Floyd and Clea Under the Western Sky, is about a down-on-his-luck singer-songwriter who's inspired to make a comeback when he starts keeping company with a young female singer. Tonight's free concert reading of the play, which starts at 7, features Cale as the lead and Kreisberg on guitar; it launches "New Stages," the Goodman Theatre's series of new works, which runs through Sunday. Before the show, at 6, there'll be a reception and discussion moderated by Tribune theater critic Chris Jones with playwrights Rebecca Gilman and 2003 Ofner Prize recipient Brett Neveu, whose new play, Heritage, will be staged on the 25th. The theater's at 170 N. Dearborn in Chicago; call 312-443-3800.
"We stand for the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighborhoods and diverse districts, the conservation of natural environments, and the preservation of our built legacy," reads the charter of the Congress for the New Urbanism. Founded ten years ago by a coalition of architects dedicated to stopping sprawl, the CNU now has more than 2,300 members in 20 countries. On January 1 it moved its headquarters from San Francisco to Chicago--because it's relatively convenient to both coasts and, says a spokesperson, "Chicago's record of urban innovation and its stimulating culture make it a natural location." Tonight's panel, On the Nature of Creativity: Chicago as City and Garden, will discuss the city's role as a leader in urban design. Speakers include new CNU president (and former Milwaukee mayor) John Norquist, Harvard chair of urban planning and design Alex Krieger, and UIC architectural historian Robert Bruegmann. It's part of the "Great Conversations" series sponsored by the University of Chicago's Graham School of General Studies, and it runs from 5:30 to 7 at the Gleacher Center, 450 N. Cityfront Plaza in Chicago. Admission is $20; for more call 773-702-1682 or see grahamschool.uchicago.edu.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/courtesy Darlene Fillis.