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Friday 9

Artist Paul Le Greco is an expert on military history, has served as inspector general of the Illinois State Militia, and reportedly bears an uncanny resemblance to Ulysses S. Grant. But his chief metier is casting miniature pewter soldiers and constructing re-creations of famous battles. One of the most ambitious of these is his 500-figure Battle of Shiloh, based on the battle in which an initially rebuffed Grant eventually persevered, at the cost of about 10,000 lives. Shiloh was created at Le Greco's own Military Miniature Museum in Galena and has traveled to the National Gallery in Washington. Today it'll be at the Illinois Artisan's Shop, along with Le Greco himself, on the second floor of the State of Illinois Center, 100 E. Randolph, from 11 to 1:30. The exhibit will stay up through the end of August. Admission is free; the gallery's open 9 to 5 Monday through Friday. Call 814-5321 for details.

Mandy Patinkin's unlikely hit album--an offbeat collection of cabaret songs--was called Dress Casual, but tonight the star of stage (Evita) and screen (Yentl, The Princess Bride, Dick Tracy) will be hosting a decidedly noncasual affair: Marshall Field's annual fashion extravaganza A Cause for Applause. The pricey event--tickets are $35-$100--will include a showing of fall trends, a tribute to designer Bob Mackie, and a performance by Patinkin. It starts at 5:30 at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State, and benefits the Evening Associates of the Art Institute, the Business and Professional Association of the Chicago Symphony, the Junior Council of the Children's Memorial Hospital, and the Arts Forum of Urban Gateways; the $100 ticket gets you into a private party with Patinkin afterward. Call 902-1500 for information.

If what you like about neighborhood fests are the contests, the Wrightwood Summerfest is for you. The southwest-side neighborhood fest--Wrightwood is the area bounded by Western, Kedzie, 75th Street, and 87th Street--starts at 6 tonight, at 11 tomorrow, and at 10 Sunday and goes to 11 each night. Though there'll be the usual display of artisans' wares and selection of food, the heart of this fest is competition. Tomorrow at 11:30, kids 3 to 6 can bring their Big Wheels in for the Wrightwood 500 race; at 5:30, there's a Pickle Puss contest for people over 13 who think they can eat a pickle faster than anyone else. There's also a sidewalk coloring contest (ages 5 to 12, Sunday at noon), a basketball free-throw contest (all ages, 2:30 Sunday), and a whistling contest (all ages, 5:30 Sunday). The festival is in Hayes Park; enter at 83rd and Sacramento. It's free. Call 476-2546.

Saturday 10

More volleyball news! The first annual Sand Blast Beach Volleyball Tournament--a fund-raiser for the American Cancer Society--starts at 9 today at North Avenue Beach. Organizers will have 30 "courts" ready for more than 150 four-player teams, who've paid $100 to enter (the grand prize: a trip to Europe). The tournament will run through the afternoon. It's free to watch; call the society at 372-0471, ext. 300 for more info.

Dispatch from the outer bounds of minor celebrity appearances: TV actor and "vision care advocate" Alan Thicke will talk about the importance of regular eye checkups and sign autographs in a promotion for Sears Optical and the National Society to Prevent Blindness, at 11 AM today at the Oak Brook Center Sears, on Route 83 between Roosevelt and Cermak in Oak Brook. Call 708-843-2020 for details. It's free.

Sunday 11

If you missed the Charles G. Dawes Croquet Tourney in Evanston last weekend, fear not: recognition on the hushed, cool-rooted greens of malletdom is still within your grasp. But it'll cost you. The Tanqueray Sterling Vodka Croquet Tournament today benefits Open Hand Chicago, a meals-on-wheels program for AIDS patients. The place is the grounds of the John J. Glessner House at 1800 S. Prairie; two- to six-person teams from various nightclubs, restaurants, and other businesses--including last year's defending champions, a team from Shelter--begin vying at 2 for the Golden Mallet. Teams can still register; cost per team is $300 (remember, this is a benefit) and "creative costuming" is encouraged. Spectators pay $10; admission includes a buffet. Call Open Hand at 271-4175 for more info.

Monday 12

What do Jean Stapleton, one-time presidential candidate John Anderson, John Denver, Steve Allen, and The Hundredth Monkey author Ken Keyes have in common? They all believe in world federalism and have embarked on a campaign to revitalize the UN by expanding its powers. Tonight the Chicago chapter of the World Federalist Association is presenting Tad Daley, a fellow at UCLA's Rand Graduate School of Policy Studies, who'll talk about Seizing the Moment: Reforming the United Nations in the 90s. Daley will speak at the Central Church of Chicago, 18 S. Michigan, ninth floor, at 7 PM. It's free. Call 427-5409 for details.

Tuesday 13

Sacred Dance is a "universal, interfaith network" that thinks of dance as "a universal language of worship and celebration." A bunch of sacred dancers will be roosting at Barat College, 700 E. Westleigh in Lake Forest, for the next six days for Celebrate Diversity, the national festival of Sacred Dance. "In our society," says organizer Diane Smagatz-Rawlinson, "we often separate the mind from the body from the spirit. Sacred dance can provide the chance to connect the three into a unified whole again." Members of the group will teach workshops Wednesday through Saturday at Barat College; $25 one-day passes are available to the public every day save Thursday, when there's a $15-a-head workshop for kids from 12:30 to 3:30. There are also several public performances: the first is the Dances of Universal Peace, an audience-participation-required dance event tonight at 8 at Trinity College, 2065 Half Day Road in Deerfield. It's free, preceded by an introductory forum at 7. A show by the Lakeshore Chapter of the Sacred Dance Guild tomorrow night starts at 7:30 at the Josephine Louis Theatre at Northwestern, 1979 Sheridan in Evanston; tix are $6. Saturday at the Louis Theatre, also at 7:30, is a concert by the workshop faculty; tickets for that are $12, $8 for students and seniors. Friday night at 7 Sacred Dance members will present works-in-progress at North Shore Unitarian Church, 2100 Half Day Road in Deerfield; admission is free. Call the festival at 708-432-2811 for details.

Wednesday 14

The fact that our former president could barely bring himself to say the word "AIDS" seems to have set the tone for current United States policy--or lack thereof--toward the disease. A different, more humanistic approach is taken by the Dutch, who have laws that allow them to provide clean needles for drug users among other things. They also have different attitudes toward things like homosexuality, drug use, and cohabitation, says Dr. Rob Tielman, a professor of sociology at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands and copresident of the International Humanist and Ethical Union. He'll talk tonight, courtesy of the local Free Inquiry Network, about Dealing With AIDS Humanistically: The Differences in a Humanist Society. The talk starts at 8 at Ann Sather's, 929 W. Belmont. It's $2. Call the network at 708-386-9100 for more information.

Thursday 15

"Prison Pictures," two weeks of features and documentaries on life behind bars, kicks off at the Film Center tonight with The Big House, one of the seminal examples of the genre. "Contemporary audiences," says Alissa Simon, the center's assistant director, "were reportedly astonished by the film's almost clinical depiction of life inside. . . . Scenes which now serve as standard prison-film iconography--new inmates being fingerprinted, photographed, and issued prison garments . . . --were then fresh and startling." The 1930 film shows tonight along with Laurel and Hardy's Pardon Us, a loopy parody of the genre that sees the undynamic duo incarcerated for illegally brewing beer. The program shows once, at 6. Tomorrow are two women-behind-bars classics, John Cromwell's Caged at 6 and Caged Heat, Jonathan Demme's first major film, at 8. Admission is $5; the center is at Columbus and Jackson. Call 443-3737 for details.

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