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Friday 20

"Is the racist right on the rise in the U.S.?" asks the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee, a die-hard leftist group, rather rhetorically (not to mention alliteratively). They'll probably try to answer that question at their program tonight at the Random Worlds Cafe, 1935 W. Division. Starting at 7 you can hear Michael Novick, an antiracist activist in LA, and see the video Behind the Burning Cross, a documentary look at the latest shenanigans of the Ku Klux Klan produced by the John Brown Anti-Klan Committee. It's $2, or whatever you can afford. Call 278-6706 for more info.

This year's Rhinoceros Theatre Festival shows off the city's avant-garde theater and performance riches in three venues. It kicks off tonight with the following offerings: Fathomless Performance Concepts Presents . . . Bliss, by Ewa, a comedy from a new company called Studio 108, and Pus's Cries Afar Now Faint Now Clear, a pair of Beckett shorts, start at 8 and 10 respectively at the Curious Theatre Branch, 1900 W. North. Across the street at the Prop Theater, 1843 W. North, there's New Crime Productions' Extravaganza in Fat Pads (at 8) and Andy Soma's It Comes in Waves: LSD at 50 (at 10), a tribute to the venerable hallucinogen. At Remains Theatre, 1800 N. Clybourn, is a new "performance collage" by Jenny Magnus called The Willies, at 10. The festival continues with nightly (and some afternoon) shows through next Saturday. Tickets for all performances are $7; you can also buy a package of four tickets for $25, six tickets for $36, or ten tickets for $50. Call 883-8801 for more.

Saturday 21

Today and tomorrow are the two annual days in the sun (with any luck) for plane and boat nuts: the 35th annual Chicago Park District Air and Water Show takes place between Fullerton and Oak along the lakefront from noon to 4:30 both days. Here's what you might see: the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team, in which six planes fly 18 inches apart; U.S. Navy Seals dropping out of a helicopter to stage an "assault" on North Avenue Beach; and lots of Air Force equipment, including a Stealth fighter and a B-1 bomber. This year's show salutes women in aviation: featured will be pilot Joann Osterud, who holds records for flying 208 consecutive loops and for flying 658 miles in four and a half hours upside down, and Illinois native Susan Dacy in a 180-horsepower biplane. The action is based at North Avenue Beach; call 800-532-8951 for more info.

Michael Crichton, reigning master of the sci-fi page turner, visits the Field Museum today to talk about the science behind his book Jurassic Park, which was of course the basis for Steven Spielberg's megasmash of the same name. Crichton will talk, answer questions, and sign books (which you can buy there) starting at 2 PM at the museum, Roosevelt Road at Lake Shore Drive. It's $15, $12 for members. Call 922-9410 ext. 453 for details.

Sunday 22

In honor of this Thursday's appearance by the Haitian world-pop band Boukman Eksperyans, there's a presentation today on the revered Haitian spiritual leader from whom the group took its name. Boukman was a voodoo priest who was a key player in Haiti's successful struggle for independence against France in 1804. There'll be free presentations of Haitian music, art, and dance in the Harold Washington Wing Theater of the DuSable Museum of African-American History, 740 E. 56th Place, from 3 to 6; call 947-0600. The group, a nine-piece melange of drums, bells, and guitars whose potent combination of voodoo music and rock has been occasionally banned by the current government, plays Thursday at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage, at 8. Tickets are $18; details at 525-7793.

The heyday of blaxploitation films was short--just a few years in the early 70s--but the filmmakers were prolific. Evidence: Trailers From the Blaxploitation Era, part of the 12th annual Blacklight Film Festival (film maven Floyd Webb's annual survey of black cinema from around the world), puts together 90 minutes of previews from classics like Scream Blacula Scream, Thomasine and Bushrod, Foxy Brown, and Carwash. It shows tonight at 5:30 and 7:30 and Wednesday at 7 and 9 at Facets, 1517 W. Fullerton. Tix are $5 per film; call 281-4114.

Monday 23

It was the Japan pavilion at the 1893 Columbian Exposition that first got Frank Lloyd Wright interested in things Japanese. He visited the country in 1905, and brought back a bevy of photos and artifacts; those objects and other evidence of the Japanese influence in his work make up an exhibit called Wright's Road to Japan at the Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio, 951 Chicago Ave. in Oak Park, through November 5. You can see it as part of the museum's regular $6 tours, which are at 11, 1, and 3 Monday through Friday and every 15 minutes from 11 to 4 on weekends; or you can see it for free between 9 and 11 AM Friday, September 17, through Sunday, September 19, only. Call 708-848-1976.

Tuesday 24

Onetime alderman, current Cook County clerk, and potential county prez or mayor David Orr is the guest of honor at a Lakeview Chamber of Commerce meeting today at the Red Tomato, 3417 N. Southport. A talk by Orr and lunch are included in the $15 ticket. Networking starts at 11:30; the talk's at noon. Call 472-7171 to make reservations; the deadline is Friday, August 20.

Gary Handler, owner of the north side's Waveland Bowl and the suburban Elk Grove Bowl, is donating one day's bowling receipts from both outfits to the victims of the great floods of 1993. Both alleys are open 24 hours, starting today at noon; bowling is $2 per person per game. Call Waveland Bowl (3700 N. Western) at 472-5900 or Elk Grove Bowl (corner of Higgins and Arlington Heights roads in Elk Grove) at 708-437-3393 for more info.

With both Gail Sheehy and Germaine Greer contributing major new works on it, menopause seems to be the new hot topic in women's publishing. For more on the subject, check out the free "mastering menopause" seminar held by Chicago HMO tonight at the downtown Marriott, 540 N. Michigan. On the dais: researcher Betsy Trundle and endocrinologist Paul Stumpf. It runs from 7 to 9. Reserve a spot at 751-2043; call 440-3362 if you need more info.

Wednesday 25

The Lincoln Park Zoo is looking for a new crop of volunteers to help keep one of the last free zoos in the country running smoothly. At 9:30 this morning there's an introductory meeting for potential recruits. You need to be at least 18 to volunteer; zoo personnel and current volunteers will describe how they do it, from the logistics of modern zoo operation to their environmental and conservation activities. Meet in the Crown-Field Center Auditorium, 2200 N. Cannon. It's free, but you have to reserve a spot; call 294-4676.

Marshall Field's big fall fashion event is Challenging the Future: An Evening for Women, tonight at 5 at the Fairmont Hotel, 200 N. Columbus. Included is a light supper, a talk by author and New York Times columnist Jane Brody, and a fashion show from the fall collection of designer Eileen Fisher. The $25 ticket is redeemable toward the purchase of $75 or more in clothing. Call 781-4777.

Tonight's free travel seminar organized by the Savvy Traveller bookstore is The Highlands and Islands of Scotland. Your host is June Skinner Sawyers, coauthor of The Chicago Arts Guide. It starts at 5:30 in the theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Call 263-2100 for more.

Thursday 26

Ad-Nauseam is the new presentation from White Noise, the comedic theatrical troupe that brought you Stumpy's Gang and Singin' in the Brain. Their new play features a Sunset Boulevard-like construct that sees John Doe (Second City vet Kevin Crowley), a dead guy, hanging from the ceiling and telling his story--one that includes an evil coffeeshop waitress (Mara Casey) and a cruel boss (Pat Cannon). The show opens tonight at 7 in the studio of the Victory Gardens Theater, 2257 N. Lincoln. It plays Thursdays and Fridays at 8:30 and Saturdays at 7 and 10; tickets are $12.50-$16. Call 871-3000.

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