Friday 3/20 - Thursday 3/26
By Cara Jepsen
20 FRIDAY Can a breakup be made funny? Catherine Crouch pulls it off in her short film Vanilla Lament, a campy lesbian fairy tale that combines live action with a stop-motion sequence starring Barbie. It's one of the locally made pieces that kicks off this year's Women in the Director's Chair International Film & Video Festival. Other films on this evening's program include a study of bicultural identity by the Japanese dance troupe Saltimbanques Butoh, a documentary about local poet and activist Ifti Nasim, and a meditation on daily life in Beirut. The festival runs this weekend and next weekend at several locations. Tonight's opening reception is at 5:30, and the films start at 7 at HotHouse, 31 E. Balbo. A second program starts at 9. Tickets for the reception and screening are $9. Call 773-281-4988 for details.
You have to see instrumental innovator Bill Close's 25-foot Close Long Bows in action to believe them. The graceful, catapult-like stringed instruments tower above the musicians and emit a sound somewhere between an electric harp and a violin. The bows and other unusual musical implements form the foundation of a new show by the MASS Ensemble. MASS stands for "Movement and Sonic Sculpture": "A lot of the instruments we use are big sculptures, so you're forced to move to play them," says ensemble member Holly Quinn. The show opens tonight and runs weekends through April 12, with different guests each weekend; tonight's performance at 8 features the Plasticene theater company. It's at the Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division. Tickets are $12, $8 for students; call 312-243-2366.
21 SATURDAY Kenaf may just be the new hemp. The bamboolike wonderplant takes a mere four months to mature and can be used to make tree-, bleach-, and chemical-free paper. That's what the recently formed Penumbra Media Cooperative puts in its 1940s printing press, which it uses to put out publications such as Chicago Ink. The group, whose goal is to promote access to the tools of media production, will attempt to create some capital this weekend at a book sale and fund-raiser. It's from 10 to 9 today in the basement of Calles y Sue–os, 1900 S. Carpenter. The sale continues tomorrow from 12:30 to 6 at the United Church of Rogers Park, 1545 W. Morse. Admission both days is free; call 773-381-1993.
In Eric Koyanagi's film Hundred Percent, every time Asian-American actor Troy Tashima lands a role he ends up having to feign an exaggerated Chinese accent or perform hackneyed karate moves. It's not much different from what Garrett Wang, who plays Tashima, has encountered in his real-life quest for acting gigs. Today at 3:30 Koyanagi and filmmakers Mina Shum (Double Happiness) and Masahiro Sugano (Hisao) will meet for a free panel discussion about their experiences making films in Hollywood called "The Color Yellow"; it's part of the Asian American Showcase, which runs through next weekend. Koyanagi will be joined by Garrett Wang for a screening of Hundred Percent at 8. Both events are at the Film Center, Columbus and Jackson. Tickets to the screening are $6. Call 312-443-3737.
22 SUNDAY For the last 30 years lesbian author and political activist Joan Nestle has attempted to set the record straight on lesbian sexuality, butch-femme relationships, pornography, censorship, and the diverse lesbian community with her essays, poetry, and short stories. She also helped found Brooklyn's Lesbian Herstory Archives, which were originally housed in her pantry. Nestle will lead a free discussion about her work tonight at 7 at Gerber/Hart Library, 3352 N. Paulina. Call 773-883-3003. She'll also appear tomorrow at 6 at the auditorium of the School of the Art Institute, 280 S. Columbus. It's $5, $3 for students. Call 312-443-3711.
23 MONDAY Soon after I caught Dorothy Dandridge fever a few months ago, I asked the hip slacker working the rental counter at Earwax for Carmen Jones. The video minion glared as if I'd requested a copy of Home Alone. I guess he'd never heard of the all-black 1954 version of the famous opera, or he would have been a bit more impressed. Dandridge's performance in the title role earned her an Academy Award nomination for best actress, making her the first black woman to be so honored. Today's rare, daylong screening of Carmen Jones benefits the DuSable Museum of African American History. Show times are 12:10, 2:30, 4:50, 7:10, and 9:30 at the Chatham 14, 210 W. 87th. Tickets are $5. Call 773-947-0600, ext. 500.
24 TUESDAY A middle-class black college student loses his cool after being accosted on a subway by a white woman who first tries to seduce him and then attacks him with a mouthful of racial epithets while the other riders watch. That's the premise of Amiri Baraka's 1964 play Dutchman; the allegorical drama cemented his reputation as a playwright, just before the beginning of his black nationalist period and the breakup of his marriage to a white woman, Hettie Cohen. Dutchman will be performed by Hodar Productions tonight and tomorrow night at 7 at Voltaire, 3231 N. Clark. Tickets are $7; call 773-486-4978.
25 WEDNESDAY What do you get when you cross a journalist with kids from a New York public high school? Why, a book, of course. In On the Outside Looking In: A Year in an Inner-City High School Cristina Rathbone seeks to turn statistics into individuals--such as Rasheem, an artist living in a homeless shelter, who only wears orange clothes because that's the only color he can "smell." Rathbone will tell the students' stories tonight at 7:30 at Barbara's Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells. It's free. Call 312-642-5044.
26 THURSDAY "I hope that all people who have seen this moon picture will leave the theater feeling refreshed with broad smiles on their faces." That's what Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa told a reporter when asked to describe his 1983 film Madadayo ("Not Yet"). The lyrical story focuses on a retired teacher's relationship with his wife and former students, who celebrate his birthday with him each year. This week marks its first Chicago screening, and after the return of winter this month, we could all use some refreshment. It'll be shown at 6:30 and 9 tonight at Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton. Tickets are $7; call 773-281-4114.