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Friday 8/31 - Thursday 9/6

AUGUST

31 FRIDAY Black drag queen Lady Chablis--the real-life Savannah denizen John Berendt included in his best-selling novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil--is just one of the myriad queens (and a few kings) performing at tonight's Wigstock Chicago; event founder Lady Bunny, ChiChi LaRue, Honey West, Kevin Aviance, Dana International, and Joey Arias are among the many others. This year's festivities also include an auction of stylized "Wigs on Parade," which have been displayed in store windows around town since May. Wigstock, which benefits the Chicago Area Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, starts at 7:30 at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets are $15-$75. Call 773-871-4190. The auction starts at 5:30 at the W Hotel, 172 W. Adams; admission is $25 or $10 with a ticket to Wigstock.

SEPTEMBER

1 SATURDAY With its Panel Buddies program and Saturday quilting bees, NAMES Project Chicago has helped thousands of people create panels to commemorate loved ones who've died of AIDS. Today 25 new panels--each three by six feet, or approximately the size of a grave--will be added to the AIDS Memorial Quilt, which already represents over 85,000 victims from all over the world and would cover an area as big as 26 football fields were it displayed in its entirety. A dedication ceremony for the new panels starts at 10 this morning (closing ceremonies are tomorrow night at 6:30), and about 2,000 panels will be on display from 10 to 7 today and tomorrow at Navy Pier's Festival Hall B, 600 E. Grand. It's free. For more info, call 773-472-1600.

2 SUNDAY George M. Pullman's south-side utopian development, built in the early 1880s, was beautiful, safe, and devoid of personal liberty, wrote Richard T. Ely in the February 1885 edition of Harper's magazine: there was no newspaper, the church sat empty because no denomination could afford the rent, and charitable activity was discouraged "because it was feared that the impression might get abroad that there was pauperism in Pullman." In 1898 the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the company had to sell the property, and since 1907 all the houses in Pullman have been privately owned (until recently by mainly working-class folks). More than 900 of the community's original buildings--about 90 percent--are still standing. They'll be the focus of today's guided walking tours of the Pullman Historic Landmark District, which start at 12:30 and 1:30 at the Pullman Visitor Center, 11141 S. Cottage Grove. Tickets are $4, $3.50 for seniors, $2.50 for students (773-785-3828).

3 MONDAY James Brown is the headliner at the 12th annual African Festival of the Arts, which started Friday and boasts a marketplace featuring work by more than 200 artists and craftspeople, a fine art exhibit, a fashion show, and a food court. Live entertainment on two stages ranges from dancing and drumming to Baaba Maal (Friday night) and the Rebirth Brass Band (Sunday); Brown goes on at 8:15 tonight. The fest opens at 11 AM and closes at 10 PM every day through today at Washington Park, 55th and Cottage Grove. Admission is $8, $5 for seniors and children. A weekend pass is $25. Call 773-955-2787 or see the complete music schedule and Critic's Choices in Section Three.

4 TUESDAY Last week a reporter from the Associated Press asked Lake Wobegon creator Garrison Keillor whether his new coming-of-age novel, Lake Wobegon Summer 1956--about a sex-obsessed 14-year-old named Gary--is autobiographical. Keillor, who was 14 that year, said no, "but the geekiness of Gary is based on my own. There are pictures of me from the 50s that make you wonder what sort of weirdo this kid is going to become; high-water pants, downcast eyes, half-rim glasses, soup-bowl hair, skinny wrists and all. I was a freakish kid." Keillor will read from and discuss his book tonight at 6 in the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State. It's free (312-747-4080).

5 WEDNESDAY Northwest-suburban Carpentersville is among the three Illinois cities Joseph Schwieterman studied for his upcoming two-volume tome, When the Railroad Leaves Town: American Communities in the Age of Rail Line Abandonment. "It's a fascinating case study because it really had two different lives," says the DePaul University associate professor of public services management. "It had an industrial life that vanished in the 1920s. The town struggled for many years before joining the huge postwar residential construction boom. The railroad struggled to survive through those changing times, only to find that there just was not enough industry to sustain it. Since then the whole Fox River Valley has had a huge need for new transportation facilities." Schwieterman will give a free slide lecture today at 10:30 at the Chicago Cultural Center's Renaissance Court, 78 E. Washington (312-744-6630).

From the late 1800s to the mid-1920s, Towertown (named for its proximity to the Water Tower) was a haven for artists, writers, poets, homosexuals, radicals, and free-love advocates who lived in cheap housing like Tree Studios, hung out at the Dill Pickle Club, and spewed their rhetoric at Bughouse Square in front of the Newberry Library. Towertown's bohemian glory days faded as the nearby Mag Mile was developed and property values went up. The Newberry Library's Toby Higbie will recall them tonight at a lecture called "Dill Pickles, Soapboxers, and Hobo Collegians: Revealing Episodes in Bughouse Square History." Doors open at 5:30 and the program starts at 6 at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton. Admission is $10. Call 312-255-3510.

6 THURSDAY Bharatanatyam, the ancient, intricate Indian dance form in which female devadasis ("god servers") bring the pantheon of Hindu gods and goddesses to life, began as a devotional art. By the time the ruling British banned it from temples in 1947, it had found a new life onstage, where it was performed by middle- and upper-class women. This weekend's conference Bharatanatyam in the Diaspora: Spiritual, Classical and Contemporary--which includes plenty of performances--is the brainchild of Natya Dance Theatre artistic director Hema Rajagopalan and Columbia College anthropology professor Joan Erdman. It opens today at 4 with a panel called "What Is Bharatanatyam?" and continues at 7:30 tonight with a performance of Shakti Chakra--The Energy Cycle by Rajagopalan's company. Tickets for the performance are $25 (312-344-8300); admission to the conference is $35 a day. All events take place at the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan. For conference details or info on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday performances, call 773-296-1061.

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