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Friday 8/9 - Thursday 8/15

AUGUST

9 FRIDAY Last year's 5.7 percent hike in the number of Chicago murders--a significant portion of which involved teenagers, either as victims or perpetrators--spurred musician and composer Oscar Brown Jr. to approach the police department's CAPS program about reviving Great Nitty Gritty, his 1983 musical performed by and for at-risk youth. This year's production is a collaboration between several city departments; the 40 cast members come from all over the city and got their vocal instruction from Brown's daughter Maggie, who appeared in the original version. The show--which got rave reviews when it ran at the Playhouse at McCormick Place 19 years ago--opens tonight and runs Fridays and Saturdays at 7 and Sundays at 3 through August 25 at the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr. (312-742-8497); it's free.

10 SATURDAY The Chinese Dragon Boat Festival commemorates the death of poet Ch'u Yuan, a patriot from the state of Ch'u who, for political reasons, was expelled from his homeland 2,300 years ago. The exiled poet, still loyal to the king who'd betrayed him, drowned himself when he learned the state was about to fall into enemy hands. Local citizens took to the river in boats to stop him, but they arrived too late, and in their anguish they threw bamboo shoots filled with rice into the water. Now the annual festival features dragon boat races and snacks of sticky rice and red beans. Each boat in today's series of 300-yard races carries a crew of 20--18 paddlers, one drummer, and a flag bearer--and is decorated with a dragon's head at the prow. The free event also includes food and entertainment and runs from 9 to 5 at Ping Tom Memorial Park, 300 W. 19th St.; call 312-326-5320.

The guidelines for the Rhino poetry annual's Readers=Writers contest are simple: read the current issue and write a poem in response to what's inside. Last year's first-place winner, Pennsylvanian Nura Petrov, took home $100 for her piece "Rhino Cento," which reworked the last lines of all the poems in the 2001 issue. This year's winners will be announced today at 2 at a free reading in Chicago Women's Park and Gardens, 1827 S. Indiana. Local finalists will be joined by the issue's editors and other contributors, including Lucy Anderton and Patricia McMillen. The reading, part of the city's "Sunday Afternoons in the Park" series, will be followed by a reception at Woman Made Gallery, 1900 S. Prairie, which is also the rain location. For more information about the series call 312-744-6630; for more on the magazine see www.rhinopoetry.org.

11 SUNDAY Kelly Kleiman's June 21 Reader review of the "Equal Footing/Equal Earing" festival provoked a brief but lively discussion in the Letters section about the state of dance and dance criticism in Chicago. "I felt a real debate had started and that it needed a broader forum," says choreographer, dancer, teacher, and Link's Hall artistic director Asimina Chremos, who was among the reviewed performers and wrote one of the letters. "I want to be proactive about living in a city where the public has ideas about dance that go beyond 19th-century romantic notions of beauty (i.e., ballet) or mid-20th century entertainment values about a palatable, flashy form of rhythmic excitement and sexuality....I see this debate as a window of opportunity to place postmodern dance in context as part of art history." Chremos and Kleiman will join today's free Critical Moves panel discussion on dance criticism, which also includes composer Dave Pavkovic (cocurator of the show Kleiman reviewed), choreographer Rebecca Rossen, and Reader senior editor Laura Molzahn. Northwestern University dance scholar Susan Manning moderates. It starts at 3 at Link's Hall, 3435 N. Sheffield; to reserve a seat call 773-281-0824.

Ecuador celebrates its independence on August 10, the anniversary of the day in 1809 when local revolutionaries first rose up against the Spanish, despite the fact that the initial effort failed. It wasn't until May 24, 1822, after several more abortive attempts and the arrival of additional troops from Argentina and Venezuela, that the colonial government finally surrendered. These days there are an estimated 21,650 Ecuadorans living in Illinois, many on Chicago's north side near the site of today's Ecuadoran Independence Parade. It starts at noon at Montrose and Kimball and runs east on Montrose to California. It's free; for more information call 312-744-3315.

12 MONDAY Over ten years before Halle Berry's 2002 Oscar night meltdown, filmmaker Julie Dash broke new ground for black women with her 1991 feature Daughters of the Dust--the first full-length film by an African-American woman to receive general theatrical release. The lyrical, meditative film, which tells the story of the African diaspora through the memories of a matriarchal Gullah family as they prepare to migrate north at the turn of the last century, was a sleeper hit on the indie film circuit and went on to win the Best Cinematography award at Sundance, the American Film Institute's Maya Deren Award, and a slew of other honors. It screens tonight at 8 (and Saturday, August 10, at 3) at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State, as part of the Black Harvest Film Festival. Tickets are $8; call 312-846-2800.

13 TUESDAY The first-person essays in the new collection Queer Jews cover everything from the scene at a queer, naked seder to the problems that arose when a transgendering man and a transgendered biological woman who now identifies simply as "butch" made (separate) pilgrimages to Jerusalem's Western Wall, where men and women must pray separately. The book was edited by University of California sociologist Caryn Aviv and University of Denver professor of history and Jewish studies David Shneer; they'll discuss the collection tonight at 7:30 at Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark (773-769-9299). It's free.

14 WEDNESDAY Oak Park native Jim Goulding started working as a runner at the Chicago Board of Trade when he was 17 and quickly became a million-dollar T-bond broker addicted to the good life. He also became, soon enough, addicted to alcohol and cocaine, and tried to kill himself several times before he hit 27. A round of intensive therapy helped him recover, although he says AA also "played a small role." His therapist advised him to keep a journal, which he's now spun into his self-published memoir, From the Pits to the Pits. Goulding--who's been sober 11 years and is now back on the floor at the CBOT--will discuss his book tonight at 7:30 at Borders Books & Music, 1500 16th in Oak Brook. It's free; call 630-574-0800.

15 THURSDAY "They're three very different types of projects, but they're all successes," says Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois director of planning Jim Peters. He's referring to the Park District boathouses and beach houses that are the focus of today's free "Preservation Snapshots" brown-bag lunch talk-- the Prairie School-style Humboldt Park Boathouse, the 63rd Street Beach House, and the new North Avenue Beach House--which looks a lot like the one it replaced, only bigger and farther from the bike path. Architect Michael Fus, who oversaw the Humboldt Park project, and architect C. Lee, who was in charge of the other two, will discuss their work today at 12:15 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington (312-922-1742).

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