Esther Parada's Oak Park block was decimated by Dutch elm disease in the summer of 2000, but by then the artist had been studying the ecological and cultural significance of the American elm tree for almost four years. Her new multimedia installation, When the Bough Breaks, looks at the species in the context of American history. The exhibit opens tonight with a free reception from 5 to 8 PM at Gallery 312, 312 N. May in Chicago, and runs through March 13. Call 312-942-2500 or see www.gallery312.org for more information.
Danny Kladis, "Wonder Boy of the Speedway" in the 1940s and the nation's oldest living Indy 500 driver, is among the speakers at today's Speed: A Century of Automotive Racing in Metro Chicago at the Harwood Heights Village Hall. Sponsored by the Harwood Heights Historical Committee, the event includes a look at curator David Wendell's collection of 65 die-cast model racing cars, many of them autographed by legendary drivers, and a chance to participate in model car races. Other drivers and two 1950s champion cars will also be on hand. It's today from 11 to 4 at the Harwood Heights Village Hall, 7300 W. Wilson in Harwood Heights. It's free; call 708-867-0038 for more information.
"Your average country fan will hate this stuff," Bloodshot Records cofounder Rob Miller told the Reader in 1995, a year after he, Nan Warshaw, and Eric Babcock joined forces to release what they thought was a one-off: For a Life of Sin, a compilation of tracks by local "insurgent country" bands. Ten years and more than 100 releases later, Bloodshot brings together label stalwarts the Waco Brothers, Rico Bell, Trailer Bride, the Legendary Shack Shakers, and Jon Rauhouse's Steel Guitar Rodeo (featuring Kelly Hogan and Sally Timms) for Insurgent Visions: Bloodshot Records' 10th Anniversary Art & Music Show. The shows start at 8 and 11:30 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln in Chicago (at press time the early show was sold-out; the late one is sans Trailer Bride). Tickets are $8 in advance, $9 at the door; call 773-728-6000. A related exhibit of art by Bell, the Wacos' Jon Langford, Trailer Bride's Melissa Swingle, the Shack Shakers' J.D. Wilkes, and Bloodshot graphic designers Markus Greiner and Kathleen Judge opens tonight at the OTSFM with a free reception from 5 PM to 2 AM.
Humorless activists, paleta vendors, nosy neighbors, city inspectors, and art tourists collide in the Pilsen-based arts organization Pros Arts Studios' There Goes the Neighborhood, a comedy of errors inspired by gentrification. It opens today at 2 PM at Dvorak Park Auditorium, 1119 W. Cullerton in Chicago, with additional performances at 2 PM on Saturday, February 14, and Sunday, February 8 and 15. There's a suggested donation of $5 for adults and $1 for kids ("more if you've got it, free if you're broke"). For information and reservations call 312-226-7767.
Today at 2 PM, in honor of Valentine's Day, Chicago alderman Tom Tunney moderates A Queer Eye on Marriage, a free discussion of the spiritual meanings of wedlock for lesbians, gays, and bi- and transsexuals. The panel includes
the Reverend Greg Dell (Broadway United Methodist Church), the Reverend Wayne Bradley (Metro-politan Community Church), and lay members from Congregation Or Chadash, Dignity Chicago, and Rainbow Lotus Sangha. It's at Ann Sather's, 929 W. Belmont in Chicago; call 773-262-0099. If talk of love and marriage just makes you want a drink, head over to T's Restaurant and Bar in Andersonville, 5025 N. Clark, where Tunney will be tending the back bar from 7:30 until last call on Wednesday, February 11. Ten percent of the profits from the hooch he sells go to the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless.
Photographer Sarah Gilmore's series "Bound" uses theatrically staged scenarios and digital manipulation to explore how the lives of contemporary women are constrained. In one shot, a scantily clad, gagged woman clutches a naked doll; in another a different woman, herself creepily doll-like and pale, poses blankly in a corset and petticoats. Gilmore's photos, along with the work of more than 60 of her Columbia College classmates, is included in this year's Weisman Scholars Exhibit, a showcase for recipients of an annual grant. The free exhibit opens today and runs through March 13 at Columbia's Hokin Gallery, 623 S. Wabash in Chicago. For more information call 312-344-7696.
The local hip-hop label Gravel, founded two years ago by Evanston native Tim Stroh while he was a senior at the University of Iowa, has produced three CDs so far, including a well-received compilation of local underground tracks called The Chicago Project. Tonight's Gravel Records showcase at HotHouse, part of the club's ongoing "Phat Tuesdayz" series, features Verbal Kent, Iomos Marad, Rusty Chains, Abstract Giants, DJ Striz, DJ Spontaneous, and Treologic. Admission is $5, and you must be 21 or over. It starts at 9:30 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo in Chicago; call 312-362-9707 or see www.hothouse.net.
If Paul O'Neill hasn't yet convinced you that the Bush White House is ruled by a cabal of right-wing ideologues, Eric Alterman and Mark Green just might. In The Book on Bush: How George W. (Mis)leads America, the two progressives offer an exhaustive critique of the administration helmed by "the most messianic, radical, special interest, divisive, and dissembling president of modern times." Alterman, a longtime columnist for the Nation, and Green, New York City's former public advocate (and 2001 Democratic candidate for mayor), will read from and discuss the book today at 12:30 at Borders Books & Music, 150 N. State in Chicago. It's free; call 312-606-0750.
Four years ago Kyle Irwin helped produce Mondo Exhibito, a loose-knit collection of art and performance events, in the Viaduct Theater's raw, cavernous space. Since then the theater's been spiffed up, but last summer, after co-owner Rob Whitaker mentioned to Irwin that he missed the anything-goes quality of the early days, Irwin offered to resurrect the project. Since August he and a handful of others have been staging a series of happenings under the rubric Mondo every other Wednesday in the theater. On the docket tonight are the fledgling Dirt Road Theatre Group, who'll present a short play consisting of three surrealist games; music by the Tom Farrell Group and John Eichleay; and a slew of visual artists and DJs. MC Gordon Gartrell hosts. It's $5 and starts at 8 at the Viaduct Theater, 3111 N. Western in Chicago; you must be 21 or over to attend. Call 773-509-2927 or see www.chicagomondo.com.
Set in a lesbian nightclub apparently seething with forbidden lust, Patricia Kane's new comedy Pulp is a trashy celebration of lesbian pulp fiction from the 1950s. In conjunction with the play's world premiere run, About Face Theatre's Pulp Literary Festival celebrates the source material with three days of free postshow events. Following tonight's 8:30 performance, members of the Chicago Kings stage an Inside the Actors Studio-style discussion of drag culture. Tomorrow, Sara Ranchouse Publishing founder and pulp maven Sally Alatalo performs, and on Friday, February 13, UIC historian John D'Emilio talks about queer pulp cover art. The show runs through March 20 at Victory Gardens Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln in Chicago; tickets cost $25 to $28. Call 773-871-3000 or see the theater listings for more.
"The town itself is the central character," director Tony Vezner says about The Laramie Project, opening tonight at the Theatre of Western Springs. Based on interviews done in the aftermath of the 1998 murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming, the play features eight actors in 70 roles. "It could be anyone's hometown, but these are also real people," Vezner says. "We've actually spoken to some of them, so we've gotta get it right." The Laramie Project runs through February 22, with performances at 8 Thursdays through Saturdays, 2:30 on Sundays, and additional shows at 7:30 on February 15 and 2:30 on February 21. The theater is at 4384 Hampton in Western Springs. Tickets range from $16 to $19; call 708-246-3380.