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Friday 7/28 - Thursday 8/3

JULY

By Cara Jepsen

28 FRIDAY From the 1600s to 1876, the Skidi band of the Pawnee Native American nation lived in what is now Kansas and Nebraska. Their priests studied the patterns of the planets and stars and used them to determine the ceremonial year--from first planting to harvest to winter buffalo hunt. Members of the band participated in the creation of the Adler Planetarium's new sky show, Spirits from the Sky: Thunder on the Land, which re-creates Pawnee star and sky lore rituals. The show opens today for an indefinite run at the Adler's Zeiss Planetarium Sky Theater (1300 S. Lake Shore Drive, 312-922-7827). It's open today from 9 to 6. Admission is $5 (kids are $4, and it's free on Tuesdays), plus $5 for the sky show. Today at noon, just before the first screening, members of the Skidi will perform a ceremonial dance and Pat Leading Fox, second chief of the band, will bless the theater.

In the late 1970s and early '80s the Piano Man was a happenin' jazz club. Then a new owner took over 14 years ago, moved the baby grand to his mother's house, and turned the space into a sports bar. Recently, some new partners bought in and expanded north; in addition to the sports bar, the place now boasts a restaurant, lounge, and beer garden. And the baby grand is back too. This weekend's grand opening will feature music tonight by Sparrow AM/FM and Joanie Pallatto and tomorrow by George Freeman and the Piano Man All-Stars. Both shows are from 8:30 to 1 at the Piano Man, 3801 N. Clark, and there's no cover. Call 773-472-2956.

29 SATURDAY Area songbirds that build their nests in nonnative vegetation tend to fall victim to predators more often than those hunkered down in native plants, says Chris Whelan, avian ecologist at Midewin National Tallgrass Prairie. The fate of Illinois woodland songbirds is one of the topics on the agenda at today's Chicago Wilderness Biodiversity Forum, where experts will also address invertebrate inventorying and land management, bat ecology and urbanization, pond recovery, and presettlement vegetation patterns. The forum is sponsored by Chicago Wilderness, a group of 94 organizations "dedicated to the protection, restoration, and stewardship of the natural communities of the Chicago region through fostering their compatibility with the human communities whose lives they enrich." It's today from 9 to 5 at the Morton Arboretum, 4100 Route 53 in Lisle; registration is $55, $45 for arboretum members. Call 630-719-2468 for more.

When most people think of prison reform, they usually don't consider what happens outside the bars. But the real-world repercussions of imprisonment can be severe: male prisoners often lose custody of their children, and more often than not their families lose their breadwinners and consequently their homes. Many of these families end up on welfare and are stuck with outlandish phone bills for accepting calls from prison; when the prisoner returns home he may find his children grown up and distant. Today people whose lives have been affected by prison are invited to tell their stories at the last in a series of family hearings organized by the Prison Action Committee and a group called the State-Wide Blue Ribbon Families Panel. The free event will be recorded and a transcript will be sent to local media and the state legislature. It's at 1 at the Fernwood United Methodist Church, 10057 S. Wallace. Call 773-874-7390.

30 SUNDAY "There isn't a lot of great architecture on the tour. However, it's a wonderful look at different housing styles," says Chicago Architecture Foundation docent Chuck Fiori, who will lead today's tour of Bridgeport. Fiori says the mayor's former stomping ground boasts "every housing style that's ever been built in Chicago," plus churches, a quarry, and an example of what the city looked like before the grid system and before sewers raised the grade. The tour meets at 1 at McGuane Park, at 30th and Halsted, and lasts two hours. It's $5; call 312-922-3432 for more information.

According to the back of my parents' old Let's Dance the Cha Cha Cha album: "The music seems to carry the dancers. They can do no wrong. Their steps are sure-footed. Their movements are enticingly graceful. It's zestful, carefree fun, and even the onlookers bask in the pleasure of the dazzling spectacle." Today Kris and Ela Kasperowicz will show how to create your own dazzling, spectacular combination of the rumba and the mambo at a free SummerDance cha-cha lesson. It's from 2 to 3 and will be followed by two hours of dancing to the music of the Phil Varchetta Orchestra. It's at the Grant Park Spirit of Music Garden, 601 S. Michigan (between Harrison and Balbo). Call 312-742-4007.

31 MONDAY "Give us a week and we'll give you a play," promise the folks at Tempus Fugit Productions, who directed, designed, and rehearsed their production of Jocelyn A. Beard's Vladivostok Blues in a scant five and a half days. Directed by Trevor Parker, the play is an international comedy-thriller centered on the kidnapping of Mexico's most beloved soap star by a pair of scheming Russians. The last of five performances is tonight at 8 at the Live Bait Theater, 3914 N. Clark. Tickets are $15; call 312-664-9115.

AUGUST

1 TUESDAY The stars of the 1958-'64 TV show 77 Sunset Strip were supposed to be suave, karate-chopping private dicks Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and Roger Smith. But it was Edd Byrnes as jive-talkin' parking lot attendant-cum-detective Gerald Lloyd "Kookie" Kookson III who stole the show with his trademark street slang; a duet he did with Connie Stevens for the show--"Kookie, Kookie, Lend Me Your Comb"--even made the charts. Today from noon to 1 the Museum of Broadcast Communications will show an episode of the show called "The Negotiable Blonde" as part of its TV Tuesdays series. The museum is in the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. It's free (312-629-6000).

2 WEDNESDAY They both moved to Chicago 12 years ago-- poet Quraysh Ali Lansana from Oklahoma and storyteller Emily Hooper Lansana from New Haven--but they didn't meet until three years later. Each has made a mark on the city's arts scene--he as artistic director of the Guild Complex, she as managing director of the Youth Theater Coalition of Chicago--and together they recently celebrated their fourth wedding anniversary. Now they're leaving town and heading for Gotham so Quraysh can attend NYU's MFA program in creative writing. An official going away party and tribute to the pair takes place tonight at HotHouse. Guests include musicians Glenda Zahra Baker and Niki Mitchell; DJ Mr. Greenweedz; poets Mark Turcotte, Greg Wagner, and Michael Warr; storyteller Shanta; spoken-word group I Was Born with Two Tongues; and others. It starts at 8 at 31 E. Balbo. There's a suggested donation of $7. Call 312-362-9707.

3 THURSDAY While other cities have jumped on the fiberglass-animals-on-parade bandwagon this summer, our fair city has decided that the next big thing is Ping Pong not table tennis, the generic form of Escalade Sports' trademark game). The city's installed some 300 undecorated tables around town in honor of Chicago Ping Pong Festival 2000, which starts today. One place to check out a paddle and play is at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. The rest of the tables are in downtown office buildings, museums, park district field houses, and "in public way" for the next seven weeks. For exact locations call 312-744-2400 or go to www.chicagopingpong2000.com.

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