“Enough to convert intending brides and bridegrooms to celibacy” is how a London critic described the 1923 Ballets Russes premiere of Bronislava Nijinska’s groundbreaking Les noces (“The Wedding”). The piece, set to a score by Igor Stravinsky that Nijinska characterized as “deeply dramatic, interspersed with occasional bursts of gaiety,” uses stark, sculptural movement and austere, monochromatic design to depict four scenes from a Russian peasant wedding. The Joffrey Ballet of Chicago will present the rarely performed work–which requires 36 dancers, 4 pianos, 17 percussion instruments, and a chorus–as part of a program honoring Serge Diaghilev, the founder of the seminal avant-garde company. Also on the bill are Leonide Massine’s cubist Parade and Vaslav Nijinsky’s Le sacre du printemps, which caused a legendary riot at its 1913 Paris premiere. The run of Diaghilev Dynasty started Wednesday, February 26; tonight’s performance is at 7:30 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, Chicago, and there are additional shows Saturday, March 1, at 2 and 7:30 and Sunday, March 2, at 2. Tickets range from $34 to $74; call 312-902-1500. See the Critic’s Choice in Dance for more information.
Black labor activists had a tough time during the civil rights movement, says Bob Bruno, cochair of the Chicago Center for Working Class Studies. While many fought for (and won) equal rights inside the union, “outside the workplace, organizations promoting civil rights saw the labor movement as being part of the problem.” How the Great Migration affected labor in Chicago–and vice versa–will be the focus of today’s conference, Labor’s History in the Black Metropolis. Speakers include Timuel Black, former president of the Negro American Labor Council and author of Bridges of Memory: Three Generations of African Americans in Chicago, as well as Addie Wyatt–the first woman and the first African-American to head a Packing-house Workers of America local–and other representatives of various unions. The free event takes place today from 2 to 5 at the Carter G. Woodson Regional Library, 9525 S. Halsted, Chicago; call 312-996-2491.
“There have been plenty of screenings here but they are all classed as ‘private,’ as I’m still in court fighting against the censors,” says Indian filmmaker Anand Patwardhan of his 2002 documentary War and Peace (Jang Aur Aman), which examines how India’s nuclear testing and increasing militarism affect that country’s poor. Even though the film took top honors at the 2002 Mumbai International Film Festival, government censors initially wanted 21 sequences–including footage of Brahmin Hindu nationalist Nathuram Godse fatally shooting Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 and all scenes criticizing or showing the leaders of the ruling Hindu nationalist BJP government–removed before it could be publicly screened. “I am slowly winning,” says Patwardhan. “The demand for cuts has now been reduced to two, but I want zero.” (To learn more go to www.ektaonline.org/patwardhan.) The uncensored version will be screened tonight and tomorrow, March 2, at 7 as part of Chicago Filmmakers’ “War and Peace” series. It’s at 5243 N. Clark in Chicago and admission
is $7; call 773-293-1447. See the Critic’s Choice in Movies for more.
In 1903 the city’s building department overlooked safety violations and allowed the “absolutely fireproof” Iroquois Theatre to open before it was completed so that developers Harry J. Powers and William J. Davis could draw in holiday crowds. On December 30 the 1,724-seat Randolph Street theater was sold-out (with 200 more standing) for a matinee of the popular musical comedy Mr. Bluebeard. Midway through the second act a spark from a defective light ignited a drop curtain, and the fire quickly spread. Over 600 people were asphyxiated, burned, or trampled to death as they tried to escape through locked exits, making it the deadliest building fire in Chicago history and catalyzing a wave of new fire safety codes. Journalist Nat Brandt will read from and discuss his book Chicago Death Trap: The Iroquois Theatre Fire of 1903 today at 2 at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark in Chicago (312-642-4600). Brandt will also appear Tuesday, March 4, at 1 at Brent Books & Cards, 309 W. Washington in Chicago (312-364-0126), and at 7 at Barbara’s Bookstore, 1350 N. Wells in Chicago (312-642-5044). On Wednesday, March 5, he’ll be at Barnes & Noble, 1701 Sherman in Evanston, at 7 (847-328-0883); on Thursday, March 6, he’ll appear at 5:30 at the Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State in Chicago (312-747-4080). All events are free.
D.W. Griffith’s silent 1920 classic Way Down East is famous for its climactic scene, in which a distraught Lillian Gish finds herself trapped on an ice floe in the middle of a frozen river. It was shot in real blizzard conditions, and Gish collapsed several times during the filming; several crew members and one actress died of pneumonia. The script, adapted from a popular play, concerns a poor girl (Gish) who’s seduced and dumped by a playboy (Richard Barthelmess), then finds work on a farm, where she falls in love with the son of the puritan owners. The film will be shown today at 2:30–with live accompaniment by Jay Warren on the Mighty Wurlitzer pipe organ–at the Pickwick Theatre, 5 S. Prospect in Park Ridge. Tickets are $8 in advance ($7 for students and seniors) and $10 at the door. Call 847-825-5800.
In 1970, four years before Gil Scott-Heron released The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, New York’s Last Poets addressed similar black nationalist themes in their eponymous jazzy, African-rhythm-infused debut. Their songs, which have been sampled by everyone from N.W.A. to A Tribe Called Quest, include “When the Revolution Comes,” on which they rapped, “When the revolution comes / Jesus Christ is going to be standing / On the corner of Lenox Ave. and 125th Street / Trying to catch the first gypsy cab out of Harlem.” The group has had several incarnations over the years; the current lineup, original Poets Umar Bin Hassan and Abiodun Oyewole and conga player Don “Babatunde” Eaton, will perform today at 2 at Columbia College’s Hokin Hall, 623 S. Wabash, Chicago (312-344-7459), and Sunday, March 2, at 2 at the DuSable Museum, 740 E. 56th Place, Chicago (773-947-0600). Both shows are free.
Although Jean Baptiste Pointe DuSable built the first permanent home in the Windy City on the north bank of the Chicago River in 1779, the city wasn’t officially founded until 1836. But the Friends of DuSable don’t care; today they’re hosting an event called Celebrating DuSable’s Legacy on Chicago’s 166th Birthday (yeah, I know–I didn’t do the math). It’ll feature performances by Oscar Brown Jr., Maggie Brown and Ben Sexton, the American Indian Center Drum and Dance Group, the Tamboula Haitian Drum and Dance Group, and the DuSable High School Jazz Band. There will also be a reception and private viewing of the ongoing exhibits “John and Sarah: A Family’s Journey to Freedom” and “Rising Above Jim Crow: The Paintings of Johnnie Lee Gray.” The reception starts at 6 and the performance is at 7 at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark, Chicago. Admission is $45, or $20 for the performance alone. Call 312-642-4600 or see www.dusableday.org for more.
How hot is cabaret? And how cool is Naperville? Crossroads Theater, the village’s fledgling first professional theater venue, is about to find out. Crossroads is inaugurating a midweek cabaret series in the smaller of its two spaces. Co-owner (and occasional Reader contributor) Vicki Quade has lined up appearances by eight cabaret performers, starting with Songs From the Oscars by public-radio personality and Gershwin interpreter Spider Saloff. (Next up in the series: Alexandra Billings on March 19.) Meanwhile, Late Nite Catechism, the comedy phenomenon written by Quade and Mary McHale, will move from Crossroads’ main stage to the smaller space this weekend to make room for a new musical, Don Jacklich’s The Lovesong of Ed for Rose, which will open March 8. Saloff performs tonight at 7 at the theater, 22 E. Chicago in Naperville. Tickets are $25; call 630-428-4730.
Most recent films set in Chicago–including Chicago–were actually shot in Toronto, which offers a lot more tax incentives to producers than old Packingtown. Mayor Daley was fuming about that a few weeks ago, and is stumping for legislation that would make U.S. cities more film friendly. Today at a panel called Downtown Chicago as a Movie Set, a group of experts will discuss what it would take to make Chicago more than just a good title. Presenters include Chicago Film Office director Richard Moskal and Road to Perdition and What Women Want location manager Brady Breen. The free brown-bag lunch event starts at 12:15 in the Chicago Cultural Center’s Claudia Cassidy Theater, 78 E. Washington, Chicago (312-747-6630).