“I was tired,” says Babes With Blades founder and director Dawn “Sam” Alden to explain the hiatus her troupe’s been on since its last full-length combat showcase was staged back in 1999. “We’d done four shows in two and a half years, and I was pooped.” The ensemble’s back now, though, with a new production that features women going at it with swords, rubber chickens, chairs, high heels, daggers, quarterstaffs, and other weapons against a sound track ranging from “Dueling Banjos” to En Vogue. Alden has three more shows in the works, but says, “I think I might try to limit myself to one a year, so I won’t burn out.” Babes With Blades: The Music Videos opens tonight at 7:30 and runs through June 15 at the Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph, Chicago. Tickets are $12, $10 for students and seniors; call 312-742-8497.

Now that Metropolis Performing Arts Centre has been reinvented as a nonprofit, it’s doing what it couldn’t do when it had moneymaking aspirations: throwing a fund-raiser. Encore 2003! is Metropolis’s first attempt at a gala. It starts at 6:30 tonight with cocktails, tours, a silent auction, and a gourmet dinner, followed by entertainment in the theater at 111 W. Campbell in Arlington Heights. Neophytes at the benefit game, they’ve priced the tickets at a mere $50, $45 for members. Call 847-577-5982, ext. 242. On Thursday, May 29, Metropolis and Bog Theatre open their coproduction of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic South Pacific, with a cast of 30 directed by Sheldon Patinkin and a ten-piece orchestra conducted by Jonathan Mastro. This’ll be Bog’s last stand; the program notes include a farewell from founder Dan Tomko, who says the ten-year-old troupe is folding. Performances start at 8 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday and at 3 on Sunday through June 29. Tickets are $34; call 847-577-2121.


“There are thousands of us,” writes Dorothy McMahan, who’s rustling up publicity for the Gem, Mineral, and Fossil Show this weekend at the Du Page County Fairgrounds. McMahan promises “surprises and delights” put together by “the rock hounds of the Chicagoland area”–members of the Chicagoland Gems and Minerals Association, which sponsors the show. It includes demonstrations of fossil preparation, rock polishing, scrimshaw, silversmithing, and cameo carving, plus a swap section, auctions, local and out-of-state dealers, members’ displays, and a children’s table with free samples. Tools, one-of-a-kind jewelry, and beads are among the wares for sale. It runs from 10 to 6 today and Sunday, May 25, indoors at the fairgrounds, 2015 W. Manchester in Wheaton. Tickets are $5, $3 for seniors and students, and free for kids under 13. Call 630-896-7133.


Can you really lose weight by chewing sugarless gum? John T. Walbaum says you can. The author of The Know-It-All’s Guide to Life: How to Climb Mount Everest, Cure Hiccups, Live to 100, and Dozens of Other Practical, Unusual, or Just Plain Fantastical Things, can also explain why mashed potatoes with gravy are healthier than french fries, how to negotiate with a contractor, and much more. He’ll speak today at 4 at the new Lincoln Village Borders Books & Music as part of the store’s grand opening weekend. Also on today’s docket: free ten-minute massages (10 to noon), a yoga class (noon to 2), and appearances by art preservationist Heather Becker (noon to 3), diet experts Dr. Robert F. Kusher and Nancy Kusher (2 to 3), and educator Mike Koehler, author of Coaching Character at Home: Strategies for Raising Responsible Teens (3 to 4). The store opened April 26 at 6103 N. Lincoln in Chicago; today’s programming is the last in a three-day series of events. Call 773-267-4822 for more information.


For the past 20 or so years, the members of Vietnam Veterans Against the War have held their annual Memorial Day Ceremonies at the Vietnam Memorial Fountain at State and Wacker in Chicago. But the monument was moved during the Wacker Drive reconstruction, and it hasn’t been returned. “The Revolutionary War statue [of George Washington, Robert Morris, and Hyam Salomon] is gone too,” says VVAW national coordinator Barry Romo. “Now there are just a bunch of potted plants.” The group–which is already up in arms over the federal government’s plans to close the Lakeside VA Hospital on the Gold Coast and cut veterans’ benefits by as much as $25 billion over the next ten years–will meet today at 11 at the Eternal Flame Memorial at Daley Plaza, Dearborn and Washington. Speakers include former Vietnam infantry sergeant Paul Wisovaty, VVAW national coordinator John Zutz, Illinois Disciples Foundation director Jen Tayabji, retired air force technical sergeant Meg Miner, and Doug Rokke, a veteran of Vietnam and the first gulf war who’s suffering from depleted-uranium poisoning. Call 773-327-5756 for more information.


If you believe the Bunim/Murray Productions Web site, the gregarious weirdos who wind up on The Real World are chosen for their personalities rather than their looks. The company’s looking for people who “can’t help but be themselves regardless of their race or appearance,” insists the site. Today Bunim/Murray will hold an open casting call for season 14, which starts shooting in August in an as yet unnamed city. It’s from 10 to 5 at White Star Lounge, 225 W. Ontario, Chicago. Candidates should be between the ages of 18 and 24 and should bring a photo and ID. For more info see

Each day 5,000 people die of AIDS; some 5 million more will be infected with HIV this year, joining the 40 million who already have the virus. To put a face on the numbers, filmmaker Rory Kennedy followed five people suffering from AIDS in India, Uganda, Brazil, Thailand, and Russia for her documentary Pandemic: Facing AIDS. “It was my hope that by capturing a few individual stories, people like me might come to feel more connected to the real hardship and suffering embodied in the lives of all the millions of AIDS patients spread across the globe.” She’ll discuss the crisis at a screening of an abbreviated one-hour version of the film tonight, where she’ll be joined by Sandra Thurman, president of the International AIDS Trust. The event starts with a reception at 5:30; the remarks and screening start at 6 and will be followed by a Q & A. It’s at the Chicago Historical Society, 1601 N. Clark in Chicago. The film will be shown again tomorrow; Dr. Gary Slutkin, director of UIC’s School of Public Health, will speak. That’s at 5:30 at Northwestern University’s McCormick Tribune Center, 1870 Campus Dr. in Evanston. Both events are free, but registration is required. Call 312-821-7529 or 312-726-3860.


Seven-year-old local drummer Jamiah Rogers started hitting the skins when he was just three and joined his father’s group, the Tony Rogers Band, two years later. He recently told the Web site Guideposts for Kids that he’s not sure whether he wants to be a drummer or an ambulance driver when he grows up; in the meantime, he’s taking lessons and learning to read music. The band will play an all-ages show tonight at 8:30 at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln, Chicago. It’s part of AfroFolk Live, a free 12-week concert series of music from the African diaspora that runs through July 23; tonight’s show follows Spin Night with bluesman Otis Taylor, who’ll DJ and discuss his favorite music from 7 to 8:30. For more information call 773-728-6000 or go to


Writer Eric Schlosser loosely ties together porn producers, marijuana growers, and migrant workers in the three essays that comprise his new book, Reefer Madness: Sex, Drugs, and Cheap Labor in the American Black Market. What connects them, he writes, is the free market, and his “belief that the underground is inextricably linked to the mainstream. The lines separating them are fluid, not permanently fixed. One cannot be fully understood without regard to the other.” Schlosser, who penned last year’s muckraking Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, will discuss his book tonight at 7:30 at Barbara’s Bookstore, 1100 Lake in Oak Park (708-848-9140). It’s free.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Johnny Knight.