Patrons who pony up the $50 to get into Hot Spot, tonight’s preview of work by more than 200 graduating School of the Art Institute students, get first crack at buying pieces by possible future Ed Paschkes. Artists will be on hand to discuss their paintings, sculptures, installations, clothing, and more from 6 to 9 at Gallery 2, 847 W. Jackson in Chicago. At 7 the student group STRUT: A Parade Theater will present I Am Tolerant, a parade featuring boxing stilt walkers, a marching band, and at least 100 other participants. Cocktails and food are included. The exhibit formally opens tomorrow, April 3, with a free reception from 6 to 8 and another parade at 7; it runs through April 16. Call 312-899-7445.

The Guild Complex’s tenth annual women writers conference, Click to Enter: Women and New Media, offers more than the usual mix of writing workshops and readings. Tonight at 7:30 poet Krista Franklin and cellist Alison Chesley will present a piece on Jimi Hendrix; they’ll be followed by performance artist Alexis O’Hara, who’ll use a loop pedal to incorporate recorded phrases and sound samples into her poetry. Finally, science fiction and fantasy writer Larissa Lai will read from her second novel, Salt Fish Girl, the tale of a young girl living in corporate-governed 2044. It’s at Catalyst Ranch, 656 W. Randolph in Chicago; tickets are $15 at the door, $10 for students. Saturday’s conference includes four hands-on workshops, including a session on “electronically enhanced storytelling” led by O’Hara and one on building a blog by Northwestern University librarian Claire Stewart. At the end of the day there’ll be a tour of the Illinois Institute of Technology campus led by IIT architecture students. The conference runs from 10 to 3:30 at IIT’s Paul V. Galvin Library, 35 W. 33rd in Chicago. Admission is $75 ($40 for students) or $85 for both the Friday performances and the conference. Call 773-227-6117 or see www.guildcomplex.com.


The organ may be out at Northwestern University, but the piano is hot. From Vienna to Harlem is the title of the school’s new weeklong piano festival, which begins today. Nineteen events are scheduled, including concerts by Leon Fleisher, Menahem Pressler, Sergei Babayan, and Margo Garrett; jazz performances by Michel Pilc and the Marcus Roberts Trio; and a concert by seven members of the NU faculty, including new music dean Toni-Marie Montgomery. The opening event is today’s workshop by Marvin Blickenstaff at 2 in Lutkin Hall, 700 University. It’ll be followed at 7:30 by Fleisher’s recital in Pick-Staiger Concert Hall, 50 Arts Circle Dr. Both are on the Evanston campus. The workshop is free; tickets to the concert are $25, $20 for seniors and staff, and $10 for students. For more information see northwestern.edu/pick-staiger or call 847-467-4000.

If snakes creep you out, stay far away from ReptileFest and its 40,000 square feet of newts, skinks, geckos, and other cold-blooded critters. The two-day event, sponsored by the Chicago Herpetological Society, is intended to educate interested parties about the animals before they buy one as a pet. None will be for sale at the show, but attendees can touch alligators and giant snakes, crawl with tortoises in a pen, talk to vets who specialize in reptiles and amphibians, and buy books, art, and T-shirts. Feeder mice and insects, however, will be available for purchase. It’s at the University of Illinois at Chicago PE building, 901 W. Roosevelt in Chicago, from 10 to 5 today and tomorrow. Admission is $7, $5 for children ages 3 to 11, and free for kids under 3. Call 773-281-1800 or go to chicagoherp.org.


Forget the PAAS kit–for hundreds of years the Polish have etched beeswax patterns onto hard-boiled eggs and then dyed them in layers to create ornate, brilliantly colored eggs called pisanki. If you screw up the first few times at today’s Pisanki Workshop, don’t worry–you can still eat the rejects. It’s from 1 to 3 at the Polish Roman Catholic Union of America social hall, 984 N. Milwaukee in Chicago. Admission is $15, and you must be at least 16 to participate. Call 773-384-3352 to reserve a spot.


Last December three Rwandan media executives were convicted of genocide by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, which found that the trio had used a newspaper and a radio station to incite violence against the Tutsis in 1994. The U.S. counsel for one of the defendants–who thinks the verdict is “the worst decision in the history of international justice”–and the lead prosecutor for the tribunal will appear on a panel at today’s conference, Reflection and Reconstruction: Ten Years After the Rwandan Genocide. Besides considering the role of the media and others in the slaughter, the symposium will explore efforts to reconstruct civil society in Rwanda both politically and through the international justice system. The conference runs from 9 to 4:30 at Northwestern University School of Law’s Thorne Auditorium, 375 E. Chicago in Chicago. It’s free, but registration is required; call 312-503-0396.


In 1998, when news broke about the torture and murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, playwright and director Moises Kaufman glimpsed a new kind of Our Town. Kaufman took his New York-based Tectonic Theater Project to Laramie and did hundreds of hours of interviews with local residents. His award-winning play The Laramie Project grew out of those interviews and has since become one of the country’s most frequently produced pieces of contemporary theater. Tonight at 7:30 Kaufman will give a talk called The Laramie Project and Beyond in the McAninch Arts Center of the College of DuPage, Fawell and Park in Glen Ellyn. Admission is $13, $10 for students and seniors. Call 630-942-4000.


Double Happiness: Asian-American Wedding Stories explores the evolution of Asian-American culture from the 1920s to today through the trappings of matrimony–including photos, clothing, and other objects. While recent immigrants often marry within their own cultures in traditional ceremonies, says exhibit curator Yuchia Chang, the second generation often embraces Western-style weddings, and the third generation goes all out in redefining nuptial events, from tinkering with various ethnic traditions to suit a bicultural marriage to celebrating same-sex unions. The show opens tonight with a reception from 5 to 7 at Columbia College’s C33 Gallery, 33 E. Congress in Chicago on the first floor, and will be up through April 30, when it’ll move to the Thompson Center for a brief run from May 3 to 7. It’s free; call 312-344-8213.

Local writer and editor June Skinner Sawyers has put her love for the Boss into book form with Racing in the Street: The Bruce Springsteen Reader, a compilation of more than 60 articles, essays, reviews, and even poems and fiction recently published by Penguin. “I’ve been a clipper most of my life, so I had a lot of articles already,” she says. “It’s rather eclectic, and that was my intent, to show how influential he is.” The book includes writings from rock critic Lester Bangs and novelist Nick Hornby and the simultaneous cover stories that ran in Newsweek and Time after the 1975 release of Born to Run. Sawyers will speak and Bucky Halker will play Springsteen covers today at 5:30 at the Newberry Library, 60 W. Walton in Chicago. Admission is $12 and includes refreshments; call 312-255-3510.


A lot of tonight’s offerings at the Chicago International Documentary Film Festival sound pretty harrowing–one double bill features Death Squadrons: The French School, which exposes France’s role in teaching South American military officers the torture techniques practiced in Algeria, and the self-explanatory Inside the Mind of a Suicide Bomber–but organizers have also scheduled something a little lighter. In Whose Is This Song?, described as a “comic road movie across the Balkans,” filmmaker Adela Peeva travels to Turkey, Greece, Macedonia, Albania, Bosnia, Serbia, and Bulgaria in an attempt to pinpoint the origins of a tune each claims as its own. The song morphs, country by country, into a love song or a patriotic anthem, but the melody stays the same, becoming the medium through which Peeva explores ethnic rivalries and similarities. It shows tonight at 9 at Facets Cinematheque, 1517 W. Fullerton in Chicago. Tickets are $8.50, $7 for students and seniors; festival passes are also available. Call 866-466-2787 or see the sidebar in Movies.