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JANUARY

Friday 27

In the exhibit The Amate Tradition: Innovation & Dissent in Mexican Art, curator Jonathan D. Amith makes a case for amate (or tree bark paper) paintings, which have been commonly dismissed as "tourist art" since their introduction in the early 1960s. According to Amith, the style is an imaginative reflection of the concerns of the Nahuas, one of Mexico's 56 indigenous groups. The exhibit includes 15 works chronicling the community's successful opposition to the construction of a hydroelectric dam that would have flooded 24 towns. The show opens tonight with a free reception from 6 to 8:30 at the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum, 1852 W. 19th. It will remain on display through May 28. This Sunday, January 29, is family day from 12:30 to 4 and includes tours, demonstrations, and art activities; it's free, but space is limited. Call 738-1503 for details.

Chicagoan Patricia Smith's first book of poetry Life According to Motown was recently adapted for a one-woman show in Boston produced by Derek Walcott. The three-time Poetry Slam champ and Boston Globe reporter returns home to perform in the second of two nights of poetry devoted to "musings on the family" titled Twisted Trees. It starts off tonight with poets Angela Shannon Preston, Mark Turcotte, Ray McNeice, and Mary Hawley. Tomorrow night features Smith, Felice Lichaw, Raul Nino, and Quraysh Ali. The $10 shows are at 8 tonight and tomorrow at Randolph Street Gallery, 756 N. Milwaukee. Call 666-7737 for more.

For seven years, the Chicago Dramatists Workshop has been staging Playwrights for the '90s, premiering short works by new and established local writers. This year's edition presents My Life and the Movies, Keith Huff's story of a deluded woman at a high school reunion; The Sound Called Music, Evan Blake's study of loneliness in a raucous dance club; Julie, Marjie Rynearson's "impressionistic" portrait of two mothers dealing with a senseless killing; Valentino Heart, Johannes Marlena's comedy about two actors' search for meaning in an experimental play; and The Taster's Choice, Gary Taylor's behind-the-scenes look at the makers of breakfast cereals. The shows are performed by an ensemble of 11 actors, including WLS TV's Janet Davies. Previews are offered tonight, tomorrow, and next Thursday at 8. Regular performances are then on Thursdays through Saturdays at 8 and on Sundays at 3 through March 5. Tix are $12, but previews cost only $6. The Chicago Dramatists Workshop is at 1105 W. Chicago; call 633-0630.

Saturday 28

There are only four days left to register to vote in this year's city election. The Board of Election Commissioners is offering a last chance to register to vote with 500 sign-up tables--ten per ward--at various groceries, drugstores, and churches scattered throughout the city from 11 AM to 5 PM today and tomorrow. It doesn't cost anything, and all you need is to be a citizen 18 or older and to have two pieces of ID, one with a home address. Call 269-7900 for more information.

If you were interested in last week's cover story on labor troubles in Decatur, you can hear some firsthand accounts from the workers themselves at a Solidarity and Fight Back Rally this afternoon at 1 at Teamster City, 300 S. Ashland. It's free. Call 738-6060 for more.

N.A.M.E. gallery hosts the second installment in David Hauptschein's "unintended literature" series The Letters Show. The premise is simple: audience members are invited to bring their letters: written, received, or even just picked up on the street. Previous outings elicited sixth-grade love letters, family correspondence, refrigerator notes, and fan letters to 70s rock stars. "A connoisseur of writings by amateurs and eccentrics," say the folks at the gallery, "Hauptschein is fascinated with their potential to reveal the subconscious and provoke the imagination." It's at 8 tonight on the fourth floor of 1255 S. Wabash; admission is $5. Call 554-0671.

Sunday 29

Chicago's two Chinatowns are holding successive Chinese New Year parades today and next Sunday to note the arrival of the Year of the Pig. (People born during a Pig year, we're informed, are tolerant, honest, passive, and incredibly naive.) The parade in the older Chinatown at Cermak and Wentworth starts today at 1 PM. The New Chinatown affair, on Argyle between Broadway and Sheridan in Uptown, will be held next Sunday at noon. Both parades are free. Call 728-1030 for details.

Monday 30

We were simply shocked, shocked to read in The Private Life of Chairman Mao that the absolute dictator of the world's most populous country had abused his power. The book not only tells us that Mao took innumerable young girls as mistresses, but that he also refused to brush his teeth. The info comes courtesy of Dr. Li Zhisui, Mao's personal physician for more than 20 years; his book, drawn from a personal diary, includes many unknown tidbits on the influential ruler. Li gives a free lecture at 7 tonight in the auditorium of the Edward Crown Center for the Humanities at Loyola University, Loyola Avenue at the lake. Call 508-2224 for more.

Tuesday 31

Harold Pinter's No Man's Land--described by the Court Theatre as an "enigmatic play about two elderly men trapped in a mental and literal limbo between their present reality and their faultily remembered past"--is one of the plays the theater is considering for a future production. In keeping with its tradition of testing material before an audience, the Court Theatre is presenting a reading of the work tonight at 7:30. The play provided juicy roles for John Gielgud and Ralph Richardson when it premiered in 1975; tonight's reading features Court stalwarts Nicholas Pennell and Nicholas Rudall. It's free, but reservations are requested. The Court Theatre is at 5535 S. Ellis; call 753-4472.

The Pursuit of Wow! sounds more like a guide to Lollapalooza than the latest tome from Tom Peters, whose name is generally appended to the words "management guru." His new book, subtitled "Every Person's Guide to Topsy-Turvy Times," is purportedly a collection of 201 tips for standing out in the business crowd. Peters will speak at 7:30 tonight at Hyde Park's Seminary Co-op Bookstore, 5757 S. University Ave. It's free; call 752-4381 for more.

Monteria Ivey and Stephen Dweck have created a cottage industry out of "playing the dozens." Those interested in the rapid-fire insult game will find the pair at a book signing instead of the more traditional apartment stoop. Ivey is the host of TV's Uptown Comedy Club; Dweck is an entertainment attorney. They'll undoubtedly be tossing off samples from their books Snaps: The African-American Art of Verbal Warfare and the new Double Snaps at an 8 PM appearance at the Barnes & Noble bookstore, 659 W. Diversey. It's free. Call 871-9004.

FEBRUARY

Wednesday 1

As conservatives prepare to pull the plug on the National Endowment for the Arts, the Chicago Council on Urban Affairs is hosting a public forum on the economic and social benefits of art and culture. The Arts in Chicago: At a Cultural Crossroads looks at the contributions of the city's cultural institutions and their challenge of appealing to different racial and ethnic groups. The event includes talks by local educators and business, philanthropic, and arts execs. It's held this morning from 8 to 10 in the main dining room on the 57th floor of the First National Bank of Chicago, at the corner of Madison and Clark. Admission is $15, which includes a continental breakfast. Call 782-3511 for reservations.

"From his roots as a community activist to his early days as a talk show host and now as one of the city's leading anchormen, Warner Saunders has brought reality to television and helped to sensitize viewers to the African American experience," says the Museum of Broadcast Communication's Bruce DuMont. An Evening With Warner Saunders reflects on Saunders's 26-year career in broadcasting and his role in opening Chicago television to blacks. The program's at 6 tonight; tickets cost $10. The museum's in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington; call 629-6023.

Thursday 2

The 42nd Ward--which now includes the Loop as well as the Gold Coast and Streeterville--is the neighborhood more Chicagoans pass through than any other. Three candidates vying for the 42nd Ward's aldermanic seat--including incumbent Burton Natarus and challengers Kevin Flood and Dennis O'Neill--will talk about their plans for the ward and answer questions at today's lunchtime meeting of the Friends of Downtown. It starts at noon in the second-floor theater of the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington (enter at 77 E. Randolph). Admission is free. Call 726-4031 for more.

Painter Claire Prussian's meditations on aging are the subject of a symposium sponsored by the Institute for Psychoanalysis. The artist currently has a retrospective exhibit, Claire Prussian: Survey 1963-1994, at the Illinois Art Gallery in the James R. Thompson Center, 100 W. Randolph. Tonight's event features Prussian discussing her work with the institute's Brenda Solomon and Roosevelt University art prof Susan Weininger. It costs $20 and starts at 6 in the gallery. Call 726-6300 for more.

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