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Susana Darwin

I didn’t live in Andersonville back when the lesbian classic Go Fish was filmed here which is for the best because I would have shown up with a bullhorn.

There I would be, in the center of every frame, pleading with the filmmakers to reconsider.
“Think of the children,” I’d say, “the young lesbians who’ll be told by their elders that Go Fish is part of the Lesbian Canon, essential viewing. Once they discover the sort of dismal story lines and subpar acting their foremothers are passing off as art, we’ll lose hundreds, maybe thousands. They’ll join sororities or convents, they’ll marry men. Anything rather than be associated with this caliber of work.”
Then I’d handcuff myself to Guinevere Turner, but only because she’s really hot.

But there’s a new lesbian film being shot in Andersonville, and I have high hopes for this one.

Hatboxes, a short written and directed by Susana Darwin tells the story of Miriam, an orthodox Jewish mother and Nadine, a lesbian lawyer disconnected from her Jewish heritage. The two meet by chance and find themselves powerfully drawn to one another. Then I’m guessing hijinks ensues. Or at least brisket. Okay, no hijinks; this is a serious film. One which drew producer Etta Worthington (Jamie and Jessie are Not Together) as well as stellar Chicago actors Robyn Okrant and Kat O’Conner.

Our Town spoke with Darwin about everything from the challenges of both writing and directing to tichels.

Our Town What inspired your film?
Susana Darwin Hatboxes originated at a Christmas party in the 90s:  a man was there with his children, clearly Orthodox, [though] he was no longer observant.  I learned the story of his departure from Orthodoxy and wondered, 'What if a woman like me met a woman like his ex-wife and there was chemistry?' and started writing.  The script has always been scaled small, for manageability of production—I didn't want to try to start out with a big cast or hordes of marauding CGI monsters. I wanted to tell a story at human scale, but one that hasn't already been told from every possible angle.  

OT What are the challenges of directing a movie that you've written?
SD Nora Ephron said, "One of the best things about directing movies, as opposed to merely writing them, is that there’s no confusion about who’s to blame: you are.”  The greater challenge would have been NOT directing Hatboxes.  I wanted to do both, to take the challenge of leading production in addition to doing the writing work on the front end.

OT What surprised you about shooting the film as opposed to writing it. Did filming change your perception of the characters or your concept?
SD The story gained emotional heft in the hands of the actors.  On the shoot's last day, when we were to be filming the two most emotionally intense scenes, just watching the two leads, Robyn Okrant and Kat O'Connor, rehearsing gave me chills. Actors are not sock puppets, and you risk impoverishing the story if you treat them like that.  You can hear a line in your head one way, but an actor might utter it in a way that exposes some totally new idea.  That collaboration is part of what's made this so rewarding.

OT Who is your audience for Hatboxes? How do you think the Orthodox community will react to a love story between two women?
SD If Hatboxes gets any attention from the Orthodox community, there obviously could be some controversy.  Orthodox lesbians may appreciate onscreen representation, but there are risks for them saying so.  Both the main characters struggle with loneliness and connection, a person's place in her community, the roles that get assumed or prescribed that may or may not fit. We hope Hatboxes will find its audience not only among Jews and lesbians, since its themes are hardly unique.

OT How did you research the Orthodox traditions seen on screen?
SD I converted to Judaism more than 20 years ago, though my connections to the Jewish community have been lifelong.  I've been exploring Jewish practice and thought for all that time, but there were times when I'd dive down some rabbit hole or other—like, YouTube has some useful videos on how to tie tichels (women's head wraps).  I also talked to friends and acquaintances from across the spectrum of Jewish life, and even outside of it:  one friend was the go-to make-up artist for Orthodox brides for many years, and she had a particular perspective as an outsider that was helpful.

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Chicago based writer, actor and director Nathan Adloff can’t believe Nate & Margaret is truly finished. “We began brainstorming ideas in early 2008,” he says. “I've watched the movie close to 200 times and I’m still waiting for it to sink in that we actually pulled it off.” A quirky buddy movie in which the buddies are a 19-year-old gay film student and a 52-year-old aspiring stand-up comedian, Nate & Margaret grew out of Nate’s college experiences, but over time became something altogether new.

Our Town What inspired Nate & Margaret?
Nathan Adloff The story evolved greatly from first conception to the final film. My co-writer, Justin D.M. Palmer and I were working the same day job and began brainstorming ideas there. Our original idea was a collection of true stories about myself in college that had a younger female lead playing my best friend. Shortly after we began the writing process, we met with Natalie West [and] our concept quickly shifted to having an older woman as the female lead, which resulted in more fabricated stories, so we just scrapped the “based on true stories” tag altogether. Also, Justin and I really wanted to make a film that could be categorized as both "straight" and LGBT. Nate is gay and based on myself. Margaret is straight and is sort of loosely based on Justin (and his obsession with stand up comedy and comedians). And, obviously, a lot of it is based on our personal friendship. 

OT How does co-writing work? Do you literally construct every sentence together or do you swap scenes?
NA It all begins with bouncing ideas off of each other in conversation, then creating a rough outline. I send Justin notes and ideas, and he incorporates them into a more structured outline. After we both feel that’s solid, we build the outline into a longer treatment, then work on scripting. Justin finds order in my mess of writing. By the time we get to scripting, we get together, sit in front of my computer and work on writing the script together, which takes a few weeks. We'll share pots of coffee, order food and basically try to make each other laugh our way through the process, writing it down as we go, until we have a final script. It's pretty awesome.

OT You also directed the film. Is it difficult to change hats?
NA It was much easier having Justin as my right-hand man on set everyday. Having him there to help with line re-writes on set and such was great. So, in a sense I didn't have to switch hats because Justin was my hat. That sounds dirty.

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Left to Right: Jessie Ewing, Kim Lile, Sharon Zurek

Filmmaker Sharon Zurek’s newest documentary is truly a labor of love. A Mind in Quicksand, which takes a hard but humane look at Huntington’s disease, began as an attempt to educate, but grew into something much richer. She spoke with Our Town about Huntington’s disease, the film industry and her very personal reasons for gravitating toward the project.

Our Town How did you become involved with A Mind in Quicksand?
Sharon Zurek Kim Lile and I met in college. Over the years we worked in the Chicago film industry with many of the same people. Then a few years ago she explained that she had recently been diagnosed with a brain disorder. I’m sure she said Huntington’s, but it didn’t register with me. Basically she said her brain was shrinking and it was something terminal. It was a lot to take in. A few weeks passed and Kim called to say that she wanted to start work on a video to educate the public. She had been having trouble with taxi drivers, the police and other people in public service who thought she was high or drunk. By then I had my own production company, Black Cat Productions, and had produced, directed and edited corporate and independent programs for years. Our mutual friend Jessie Ewing was also on board to begin work on the video. She was incredibly supportive in helping to provide the initial funding for videotaping through her family’s charitable foundation. So the project began with just the three of us – Kim, Jessie and me.

OT What was your role?
SZ From the very beginning, our documentary was a collaboration. The three of us took turns picking up video cameras to shoot our preliminary interviews and cutaway footage. Over time we took on specific titles, Kim as director, me as producer and editor and Jessie as executive producer, and the creative collaboration continued. Chicago Filmmakers became our fiscal sponsor which meant we could receive tax-deductible donations from individual donors and grants. We now had an established media arts organization in our corner too. One by one, friends in our film making community came on board to help during videotaping and then during post-production.

OT What was the most interesting part of the process?
SZ I think the most interesting moment was when we learned from Dr. Kathleen Shannon’s interview that Huntington’s disease can start in any family at any time. That the human gene is so unstable that even if you don’t have Huntington’s disease in your family, it is possible that the next generation in your family could develop it. This information seemed to me to take Huntington’s disease to a global level rather than where it has been “hiding” - in isolated areas of families. Everyone should know about Huntington’s disease. The journey also meant Kim was learning about where Huntington’s may have started in her family, wondering what had caused her dad to commit suicide and trying to find out why others in her family didn’t want to talk about the disease.


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I’m exhausted. Harboring crushes is not the cakewalk you might think. Grueling stakeouts, expensive tracking devices, plus there are only so may stalking jokes you can make before resorting to referencing Rohypnol and we all know I’m too classy for that. Just when I began to wonder how much longer I could persist, I found Sierra Kyles, February’s Crush. . A young actor/model and filmmaker, Sierra has showed off her androgyny on runways across Chicago. Now a film student at Columbia College, Sierra is producing “The Lies We Tell But the Secrets We Keep” and she looks good doing it!

Name: Sierra "Junior" Kyles
Hometown: Chicago
Profession: Producer/Writer/Model/Actress
Hobbies: Movie Watching, JB Skating, Reading and Cuddling.

Our Town How did you get into modeling?
Sierra Kyles My mentor Milon V. Parker has her own modeling runway show, she asked me to be in it and I accepted. To my surprise, I liked it.

OT It seems your androgyny has served you well. Is that always the case in the modeling world or are you an exception?
SK Androgyny can work against you. It’s more than just looking like a guy, or at least to me it is.

OT Can you give us the inside scoop about what it’s like to walk in a fashion show?
SK Your first time is always scary. Its actually fun, a lot of people don't think they can do it because they are insecure with their bodies. If you get on stage and have confidence in yourself, no matter what you look like the crowd will respect you.

OT You also act. Have you found that being openly queer has gotten in your way at all?
SK If anything it has helped. Because so many people before me had that problem they, are making it easier for my generation. The company that I work for (MVP Productions)-- the founder is a queer and we do a lot of queer films.

OT As a film student at Columbia College, what movies have influenced you?
SK Training Day, For Colored Girls, The Secret Life Of David Gale, and of course Boys Don't Cry.

OT Describe your perfect day.
SK A twelve hour day working on the set of one of my movies, coming home taking a long bath then hoping in my comfy bed.

OT Relationship Deal breaker?
SK Clinginess.

OT Who was your first crush?
SK Jada Pinkett Smith. Lawd!

OT Why are you crushworthy?
SK I'm a nineteen year old movie producer, c’mon now...

OT Any questions for me?
SK Did I ask you to be in my film or something? Whenever I play back a scene you’re in the background in your underwear.

A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for a number of web sites and print publications. Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," (Soft Skull press) is available for pre-order here. She is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
IMPORTANT: the official Our Town site doesn't support comments. Join in the conversation by following facebook.com/OurTownBlog.ChicagoSunTimes and Sarah on Twitter: @SarahTerez

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Maybe a logical upshot of running with artists (less physically dangerous than with scissors, but more emotionally taxing), but lately everywhere I turn someone’s using Kickstarter to raise funds. Documentary filmmaker Michael Caplan’s is the most recent effort to come to my attention. Ending on July 11th, his campaign aims to raise $25,000 to complete “Algren,” a documentary about underrated Chicago writer, Nelson Algren. Although the recipient of the first National Book Award and a cultural forerunner, influencing everyone from musicians to painters to theatre-makers, Algren is often overlooked, even by Chicagoans. Caplan, a long time fan of Algren’s, spoke with Our Town about his views on film making, how Kickstarter has changed life for artists and of course Nelson Algren.

Our Town Although Algren loved Chicago (perhaps because rather than in spite of the city’s corrupt aspects) Chicago hasn’t seemed to embrace Algren the way it has Sandburg or Terkel. Why?
Michael Caplan Algren has always been embraced by [those] who want to see the world as it is, not as we want it. The Chicago that Algren described in his many books and essays was the Chicago that "lived behind the billboards." He lived amongst the poor and the dispossessed and that's who he wrote about. On top of that, he did not have the warmest demeanor, compared to Studs or Sandberg. He did not suffer fools.

OT Why did Algren identify so closely with the dispossessed?
MC Algren grew up in Albany Park, about a block from where I live now with my wife and son. His father owned a car repair shop on Kedzie, so his upbringing was solid working class. It's hard to say what sparked his identification with the people on the lowest rungs of society, but I know he was a huge fan of Dostoevsky and would read Crime and Punishment once a year. He quoted Dostoevsky on a regular basis, "The measure of a civilization is how it treats its weakest members."

OT What compelled you to focus on Algren?
MC My roots are in Chicago and with the working class. I grew up on the Southeast Side of Chicago and my great grandfather owned a tavern on Franklin St. In 2008, I met Art Shay, the famed photographer, who was a lifetime friend of Nelson Algren’s, and whose work I admired. He growled at me, "So, you're a documentary filmmaker? Why don't you do something about Algren?" I was shocked that there had never been a documentary about Algren and it took me about ten seconds to agree to do it. We've been working on it ever since.

OT Musicians like Tom Waits, Leonard Cohen and Henry Rollins are some of the many who agreed to be interviewed for the project. How did you go about securing their participation?
MC We wanted this film to be about Algren's life, his work and his legacy. We believe his story is not just in the past, but very much alive today, in the arts, writing and music. We soon found that everyone from John Sayles, Phillip Kaufman, Cormack McCarthy, Leonard Cohen, Johnny Depp and Tom Waits feel some debt to Algren's work. Connecting with artists is not always easy, but when we have connected, everyone has been very interested in helping out.

OT What goes into putting together a documentary?
MC This is my third feature length documentary, and each project comes together differently. The story always drives everything, from the interviews, to the visualization, to the approach to the audio and soundtrack. Algren's work is very descriptive and visual, so it's not hard to be inspired to create imaginative visuals and soundtracks.

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Whatever your political affiliation, no doubt yesterday was an historic day. But now that we’ve imposed artificial meaning on the fact that both Hitler and Bin Laden were announced dead on May first, now that we’ve scoffed at Donald Trump’s fixation on Obama’s birth certificate, now that we’ve scoured Twitter for Katy Perry's response, let us turn our collective attention to something truly vital: my May crush of the month.

Born and raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, filmmaker and teacher Aaron Greer has developed a diverse portfolio of documentary, narrative and experimental films. His award-winning feature film, “Gettin’ Grown,” has screened at film festivals around the world and is currently being adapted into a web series, he has co-authored the award-winning screenplay "Fruit of the Tree," which was selected for the Tribeca All-Access program in 2007, and he is currently producing a documentary about Cuba, titled “Merchant in Havana.” All that and he still finds time to dodge my calls.

Hometown: Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Profession: Filmmaker and Professor at Loyola University Chicago.

Hobbies: I’m a fan of professional football and basketball. I like reading historical fiction and listening to “This American Life.” Nothing else I do on a regular basis that could be considered a hobby.

Our Town What drew you to filmmaking?
Aaron Greer Acting makes me self-conscious; music requires carrying a tune or playing an instrument, and art requires you be able to draw or something. Film was the way I could figure to be creative without having much artistic talent. Also, I believe in the Hopi saying: “He who tells the stories rules the world.”

OT Which filmmakers inspire you?
AG My first filmmaker “crush,” the first director I thought of as an artiste was Spike Lee. I still see all his films. I don’t always like them, [but] I’m always glad I saw them. I was also inspired by the Cuban filmmaker Tomas Gutierrez Alea [and] really dig Pedro Almodovar. Finally, I kind of want Clint Eastwood to make me his adoptive grandson.

OT What made “Getting Grown” seem appropriate to transform into a web series?
AG When we made the film—in fact, part of why we made the film—there were relatively few serious films for and about tweenagers produced in this country, especially inner-city kids. Unfortunately, that’s just as true now; so there’s an unfulfilled niche in the “marketplace.” Also, that age group is just as likely, more likely really, to watch stuff online. Making GGTV a web-series is a ‘taking the mountain to Muhammad’ kind of thing.

OT Explain how you’ll include viewer-generated content.
AG Each webisode has moments structured [to] include media, images, lines of dialog, sounds, provided by the viewers. Say there’s a scene with the main character talking on the telephone. That other person’s voice can as easily be recorded by one of our viewers as it can by us. In advance of an episode’s premiere, we’ll put out a call for specific kinds of [media] to include in that next week’s episode. Viewers [can] upload or send us that media and we’ll pick our top choices and drop them into the official version of the episode on our site. Once that particular episode premieres, viewers will be able to re-edit, remix and customize that episode.

OT How do you balance teaching, creative pursuits and family life?
AG The most productive I’ve been was when I was single, living alone in a new city and had no social life. It sucked, but I got a ton done. I work at a much slower pace now, but my life is filled, so it’s worth it. During the semester, I try to spend one full weekday with my son, the rest of the workweek dealing with teaching, creative projects, a couple hours on the weekends, evenings, during naps, etc. [During summer break], I go into full-time filmmaker mode. The hardest part of the balancing act is giving myself permission to be a less prolific filmmaker than I used to be.

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My crushes are unpredictable: one day the glistening ebony man on the adjacent elliptical, the next that dreadlocked checkout hobbit at Whole Foods. So when comedian Sarah King wrote to nominate a crush, I was intrigued but trepidatious. Also vaguely nauseated, but only because I was eating some yogurt I thought might have expired. Having a crush selected for me felt like being set up on a blind date, so like anyone in my position, I googled.

Turns out King isn’t just some yenta trying to tell me how to live my life, she’s Fate’s noble messenger. Her nominee, it seems, is no stranger. Unbeknownst to me, I’d seen her perform, even felt those familiar stirrings. At the time, however, my Rolodex of crushes fairly burst and I didn’t feel I could offer a new crush the attention and disquieting stares for which I’m known. But now, with King’s prodding, I’m ready to unveil actor/writer/producer Kate Lane, April’s Chicago Crush.

Name: Kate Lane
Hometown: Lexington, MA. Suburban, liberal, [home of the] "accidental" gunshot that started the whole American independence thing.
Profession: Actor. And on Friday and Saturday nights you can find me popping bottles at Excalibur.
Hobbies: I like to guess peoples astrological signs. If you're reading this, you're probably a Cancer or an Aries. Or a Gemini because those people are cray-cray.

Our Town Why acting?
Kate Lane My grandmother got me and my two sisters involved in acting when we were very young, not in the “Toddlers and Tiaras” kinda way, but in the performing Albee's “Three Tall Woman” in a barn in your grandmother's period dresses way. I can't not do it.

OT Other than that, what's your training?
KL Interlochen Arts Camp, Vassar's summer program for actors, and when I was seventeen, I walked into Richard Foreman's notorious Ontological Hysteric Theatre, [in New York City], asked if I could sweep floors for the summer, and ended up getting this amazing internship. Then I went to the conservatory at DePaul, which is basically like getting a degree in mind f***s. It was a wonderful experience.

OT You're an out actor. Any concerns?
KL It's not exactly in my best interest to be out as an ingénue, but a couple months ago, I [experienced] a life-changing event, involving a girl flying in from L.A. to sabotage my life and make me fall in love with her. She's a comedian, and together we sorta came out professionally, mainly because it was too big a love to [lie] about. [Since then], I’ve missed out on roles I would have been auditioning for. As one industry person put it, "we don't want you to be that lesbian girl,” but that doesn't much make sense to me. What if a guy only loved his wife, would he not be able to play Romeo with another actress? If you don't think I can play Juliet because I'm dating a girl, you don't understand a thing about what actors do.

Drawing a Line

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For Nancy Schwartzman, there is sex-positive life after rape. A filmmaker, writer and activist, Schwartzman used her experience as a rape survivor to fuel not only a documentary, “The Line,” examining her experience, but a multi-media campaign aimed at promoting sex-positive dialogue about relationships, sex and consent. This Thursday, February tenth at seven p.m., she joins forces with SHEER, a survivor centered, sexual assault prevention coalition to screen her film at Blackrock Pub & Kitchen.

Our Town What made you decide to so publicly examine your experience?
Nancy Schwartzman [Personally,] I needed a lens to process and understand the rape, its repercussions, and how it effected my perceptions of being a sexually liberated person. Politically, I realized my particular story was a litmus test for what our society understands as rape, who we think deserves sympathy, and what kinds of violence we tolerate.

OT Can you talk a little about the idea of a perfect victim and why you say you weren’t?
NS There is no "perfect" victim. She doesn't exist. My assault occurred during sex. Asking people to understand a violation of boundaries during a sex act challenges the idea that saying yes once, or to one kind of sex, means you give up all control and autonomy from that point forward. Even a woman walking down the street attacked by a stranger will be questioned about her behavior, and what she may have done to provoke the attack. We spend astonishing amounts of energy protecting the small minority of people who perpetrate sexual violence.

OT What was it like to confront your rapist with a hidden camera?
NS When I saw him again, I realized he’s not a monster. There were times when he tried to convince me what a great guy he is. Part of me felt torn, so it was disturbing. I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the camera. The camera is objective. I also had a goal: go in, say what you need to say, give him a chance to speak, see how he behaves, and then decide how you’re going to use that footage.

NS Discuss the idea of a “line.”
NS I created The Line Campaign as a way to inspire people to talk about consent. I asked the question: Where is Your Line? And I like to reference all of the amazing audience responses:
“My line is always changing. Please ask. Please listen”
“My line is somewhere between R. Kelly and What would Jesus do?”
“My line is I am a whole, not a hole…”

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BY SARAH TEREZ ROSENBLUM

1. Jennifer Beals, native Chicagoan and former star of the equally asinine and groundbreaking “The L-Word” serves as grand marshal for the 77th annual McDonald’s Thanksgiving Parade.

2. Tired of drama queens and infighting? You can take a break from family festivities and head to Century 12 Evanston/CineArts 6 and XD to catch “Burlesque”….for more drama and infighting but with pasties!

3. This weekend Global Rhythms, the yearly, international tap and percussive arts showcase offers the opportunity to watch talented people dance, which is almost like dancing yourself which will totally take off the holiday pounds. Right? Performances are Friday 8 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday 3 p.m.

4. We have Hollaback Chicago, a website devoted to taking the shame out of street harassment. With affiliates across the U.S., Hollaback offers women like this the opportunity to crow or vent. What better way to celebrate Thanksgiving than to peruse the site over pumpkin pie?

5. Over the course of the day, drizzle turns to snow as temperatures drop to seventeen degrees. Be thankful spring is only five months away. Wait, this is Chicago. Make it six.

A freelance writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum, when not writing, supports herself as a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago's Story Studio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She’s kind of looking forward to it actually.

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BY SARAH TEREZ ROSENBLUM

Seems everyone from Kathy Griffin to Barack Obama has joined advice columnist and all-around messiah Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better Project,” reaching out to gay youth. But director Stu Maddox is focusing his efforts on an often forgotten, perhaps even more vulnerable group, LGBT elders. His film, “Generation Silent” takes an intimate look at the lives of older LGBT people, their struggles with health care workers, homophobic legislation, and yes, even bullying.

Maddox says he became interested in the subject while doing an earlier film “about two guys who have been together for more than half a century. Doing the film, it became clear [seniors] have a whole lot of fears and anxieties around some pretty scary issues like social security, survivor benefits and being able to take care of each other in nursing facilities. The inequality that’s out there between gay and straight couples really magnifies when you get to the other end of your life.”

"Generation Silent," which screens on November Sixth at the Reeling Film Festival, represents Maddox’s effort to direct attention to these issues. Along with Executive Producer, Barrie Atkin, Maddox has been working to raise funds and awareness, opening minds and gaining supporters along the way. According to Maddox, “Making the film was the easy part. As an independent filmmaker, [now] is the most stressful. We’re doing a lot of fund-raising, film festivals, hopefully starting a grassroots effort to raise money and continue growing the viewings of this film. We’re just trying to change people one group at a time.”

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Margot & The Nuclear So and So's
8 p.m. Sunday at Lincoln Hall; $12-$15
Another representative of the orchestral pop genre that has become the flavor of the month, Margot stands out from the crowd by virtue of its quirky, energetic live shows. Though the band's members hail from various corners of Indiana, they've found a second home in Chicago, recording the sessions for their "Animal" and "Not Animal" albums here. The Lonely Forest and Cameron McGill & What Army open.

Lebowski Fest Chicago
Friday-Saturday at various locations
Creedence, bowling, White Russians, purple jumpsuits and lots more will be present at the third annual Chicago fest celebrating the 1998 cult classic film, "The Big Lebowski." The first night of the event takes place at Portage Theater, featuring a special screening of the film with some special guests making appearances. On Friday and Saturday, there will be bowling, trivia, costumes and more at Diversey River Bowl.

Viva! Chicago Latin Music Festival and Art Fair
11 a.m.-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday at Millennium Park; free
A true fiesta with music, food and art from the Latino community. The art fair will give you an opportunity to bring some love for all things Latin into your home. Local merchants will be selling artwork in addition to jewelry and clothing.

Harvest Jam
Friday-Sunday at Queen of Angels Church (2330 W. Sunnyside); $5-$10 (tickets)
Celebrate autumn at this Lincoln Square fest featuring live entertainment, carnival games (Skee-ball, anyone?), food vendors, dancing and more. The usual suspects on the festival scene (Too White Crew, Wedding Banned) try to make you forget summer is just about over.

Love! Valour! Compassion!
6 p.m. Sunday at Mary's Attic; $5-$10
Get gay-friendly with Harry Osterman, our beach-cleaning, parade-waving 14th District rep. Osterman will host the fourth installment in the "Great Plays of Terrence McNally" reading series: "Love! Valour! Compassion!" This bittersweet look back at summer follows the adventures of eight men over three holidays in one lake house.

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BY SARAH TEREZ-ROSENBLUM

At 14, my best friend and I begged to attend “The Rocky Horror Picture Show,” the cult classic starring nubile Susan Sarandon and gender-bending Tim Curry. No, we were told, absolutely not. “Rocky” fans take drugs, carry knives, have orgies. Doubtful but duly shaken, we didn’t ask again.

Later, at 19, free of parental restrictions and dating a cast member, I made the first of many pilgrimages to the Oriental Theatre’s midnight show. The atmosphere, charged and expectant, was nowhere near as depraved as my parents warned. Instead, the theater seemed a sanctuary for young nonconformists, its occupants, although gussied up in fetishware were low key, even dorky.

Let’s face it, the fire-eating kids in capes might attract more attention, but the football players are the ones to fear. But like some kind of Time Warp, from the Baby Boomers to Generation Y-Did-You-Unfriend-Me-On-Facebook, grown folk continuously caution against “Rocky,” and youngins can never stay away.

For me the excitement always peaked about half an hour into the meandering movie; the rest a spiraling struggle against slumber. Still, when I heard about Skokie Theatre’s plans to screen “Rocky” Aug. 28 at 10:30 p.m., the young outcast in me perked up her ears. Wondering about the film’s enduring appeal, I asked a former member of Sensual Daydreams, the Milwaukee cast, to what she attributes its resilience.

3 Things To Do Today

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Tatsu Aoki, Mwata Bowden, Justin Dillard, Ed Wilkerson
6 p.m. at Museum of Contemporary Art; free
The MCA presents Tuesdays on the Terrace, presented by Macy's. This week, the quartet performs a tribute to legendary saxophonist Fred Anderson, who passed away in June.

Movies in the Park
Dusk; free
Get on down the road (er, Lake Shore Drive) to see “The Wiz” at South Shore Cultural Center; or indulge the youngsters with a screening of “Monsters vs. Aliens” at Erie Park (630 N. Kingsbury).

Unsane, Today is the Day, Keelhaul
9:30 p.m. at Empty Bottle; $12
New York hard rockers Unsane have been making noise for going on two decades now. They join up with metalhead quartet Keelhaul and Today is the Day for what can only be described as a very loud show … in a good way. (21+)

3 Things To Do Today

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‘Top Gun’
Dusk at Chicago History Museum (outside); free
Is it bad that we always rooted for Val Kilmer’s character to wipe that stupid grin off Maverick’s face? Yeah, probably. Anyway, bring back that lovin’ feeling for Kelly McGillis and Tom Cruise as part of the Movies in the Parks series. Also showing tonight: "The Blind Side" (Fulton River Park, 601 W. Kinzie St.) and "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" (Smith Park, 2526 W. Grand Ave.)

Reverend Raven and the Chain Smoking Alter Boys
9:30 p.m. at Buddy Guy’s Legends; $10
Voted Milwaukee's best blues band by the Wisconsin Area Music Industry earlier in his career, the Reverend aligned himself with harpist Madison Slim and a crew of Chain Smoking back-up singers to jam his own breed of chug-a-lug funk and blues. Expect a raucous romp at one of Chicago's best blues venues.

One Man Chicago ‘Meet the Men’ Happy Hour
6 p.m. at Rockit Wrigleyville; free
Meet the 20 contestants for the One Man Chicago pageant, which awards $5,000 to the winner’s charity of choice. Check out the contestants here, and then go mingle with them tonight with free apps and $5 “One Man Martinis.”

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Single City is a twice-weekly blog about the Chicago dating scene written by Sun-Times Media Wire reporter Sally Ho. Got a question? Email her!

For close to 100 years, people have gone to the movies with romance in mind (the darkness, the entertainment, the talking points for afterward).

Although this prototypical date is time-honored, never-fail and always wonderful, here are two modern updates you can try this week:

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Movies in the Park
The summer-long Park District series features child’s-play fantasy "Where the Wild Things Are" at Cricket Hill (Montrose and Simonds). "The Longshots," about the first girl to play Pop Warner football, plays at Union Park (Ashland and Lake). For a little international flavor, see Cuban import “El Premio Flaco” at Mozart Park (2036 N. Avers Ave). All shows are free.

Naomi Shelton and the Gospel Queens, Bomba Estereo
6:30 p.m. at Millennium Park; free
Sultry soul singer Naomi Shelton will melt the stage with her raspy, powerful lyrics as part of the New Music Mondays series.

Hambingo
8 p.m. Hamburger Mary’s; $5 per card
This ain’t your grandmother’s bingo game. Drag queen Velicity Metropolis makes calling out bingo numbers as raunchy as possible at this adults-only game.

You may have noticed the Loop looks a little out-of-sorts -- well, more like a bomb went off in the center of the city.

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Get a little closer to the damage, and you'll see that the piles of blown-up pavement in front of City Hall are nothing more than sculpted blocks of foam -- it's all part of filming for the action flick 'Transformers 3.'

The third installment of the movie about vehicles that unfold into battling robots, began filming in Chicago this weekend and will continue through Aug. 23, bringing with it intermittent street closures and CTA reroutes.

LaSalle Street will be closed between Wacker Drive and Jackson until 5 a.m. Monday for the filming, which city officials estimate will inject $20 million into the local economy. The crew will leave Monday for Milwaukee, but will return to film on Michigan Avenue later in the week.

I think it goes without saying that you may want to plan a little extra commute time.

However, this is also a great opportunity to grab your friends, family and camera and check out how a huge-budget film such as 'Transformers 3' is made. Another bonus: Fans have told the Sun-Times that they've gotten up close and personal with the film's star Shia LaBeouf.

Click here to check out more photos of the filming from Saturday.

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Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.

Asked to name key life experiences, many cite a first kiss (mine had just gulped chocolate cake and Doritos … next), a wedding day (please, what’s the divorce rate now, 100%?), or the birth of a child (new life, big deal, let’s talk about that time I made the ultimate BLT).

All of the above is well and good (no it isn’t), but pales in comparison to my plans for Friday. At exactly 8:30 p.m. I will be reclining in Chase Park watching The Never Ending Story outdoors on the big screen. I challenge you to conjure a more profoundly perfect experience.

Growing up, I enjoyed a strict diet of public television and Hollywood musicals; my exposure to anything pop culture was almost nonexistent, so the movies I did see may have been unduly influential. However, I’d venture that even a kid whose mother didn’t play the autoharp and make her own yogurt could name one special movie that resonated, made a sweet home inside her, influencing her childhood games, and even her later life choices. For me, Flight of the Navigator came close, and I am still terrified of Disney’s Watcher in the Woods, but The Never Ending Story is mine.

Let me break it down:

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Erwin Helfer, Ken Saydak
8 p.m. at SPACE; $12-$20
The 72-year-old Helfer found blues while an undergrad at Tulane in New Orleans, studying classical piano. Back in Chicago, fate led him to the wife of boogie-woogie pioneer Jimmy Yancey, of which he entered the professional key-plunker world as her accompanist until her passing in '86. That led to the launching of his own record label, Red Beans, and a formidable set of years as the preeminent post-war authority, from socks-in-the-air rollick to hard-nosed electric. Setting up the evening will be fellow Chicagoan Ken Saydak, another sideman-turned-dynamo with more credits in liner notes than the blues festival this year, and just a wee heel-kick of a country heart.

Movie Night at Lincoln Hall
7 p.m.; free
Celebrate the memories of the old 3 Penny movie theater with a double feature at Lincoln Hall. Tonight’s all about Mel Brooks, with screenings of Blazing Saddles and Spaceballs. May the Schwartz be with you.

Beyond Flan: A Latin Desserts Course
6 p.m. at Fox & Obel; $35
Learn the secret to making Latin sweets like dulce de leche from Pamela Fitzpatrick and Laura Zimmerman Maye, co-authors of "Dulce: Desserts in the Latin American Tradition." Samples and wine are included, and you can also buy copies of their book.

A Night Out with RDJ

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Sarah Terez Rosenblum (@SarahTerez) is an MFA-holding writer, teacher and Spinning instructor. She's also the Theater Listings Editor for Centerstage Chicago. Look for her posts twice a week.

In a recent blog, I predicted Robert Downey Jr. would accept the Gene Siskel Film Center Renaissance Award during a black tie gala at the Ritz-Carlton. I must be psychic (or really good at receiving press releases); not only was my prophecy realized, but I got to attend.
To test my burgeoning clairvoyance, I decided to tweet the event, dubbed “An Evening with Robert Downey Jr.” in real time, using only the power of my mind. Turns out Twitter is not yet ESP-compatible; all I got for my trouble was a migraine and a vision of an unhappy whale. Please make due with this belated bullet point retelling. (Note: Times are approximate.)

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