This Week's Day-by-Day Picks

Wednesday, May 28

The annual CinemaSpoke Readings allow lucky locals the chance to get their original screenplays read onstage by professional actors. Tonight's 7 p.m readings of the first 30 pages of Dale Moore's One of the Enemy and Travis Estes' Reaping the Rose, sponsored by Cinema St. Louis, are performed inside the über-funky Beatnik Bob's Café, at the City Museum (701 North 15th Street). Moore and Estes are two of the ten finalists whose work was selected for these performances, which take place on the last Wednesday of the month through the summer. Experienced filmmakers will be on hand for a critique, and you can walk through the "nougat mine," buy corndogs and play vintage pinball machines, too. Call 314-454-0042, ext. 10, or visit www.sliff.org for more on the free fun.

Thursday, May 29Damn Yankees is not just a battle cry in small-market American League cities, it's also an highly successful musical based on the Faustian tale of a man who would trade his soul to the devil if his beloved Washington Senators would just win the World Series (funny, sounds like a Cubs fan to us). The St. Louis Black Repertory Company production of Damn Yankees tinkers with the plot only slightly, exchanging the major-league backdrop for the long-gone setting of the Negro Leagues. This version retains the thematic ideas of temptation, pining for lost youth and the redemptive power of love, proving that the love of baseball crosses both racial and temporal divides. The first pitch is thrown tonight at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square) at 8 p.m. You can get tickets for Damn Yankees, which cost $22.50-$35, by calling 314-534-3810.

Friday, May 30If you've ever found a frog in the wild, managed to outrace it and picked it up, then you probably know the thrill of a frog peeing in your hand. Bring a hanky to tonight's Froggy Walk, 7-8:30 p.m. at the Busch Memorial Conservation Area, 2360 Highway D in Weldon Spring. The friendly folks of the Missouri Department of Conservation sponsor a catch-and-release frog hunt for kids and adults in which you'll follow the love-croaks until you locate and capture an amphibian or two. Bring a strong flashlight and clothes and shoes that you won't mind getting muddy. Call 636-441-4554 for reservations to the free event -- you'll be able to tell your grandchildren that you touched an actual frog. As we continue to pollute the earth, frogs, which have water-permeable skin, are becoming ever more scarce.

Saturday, May 31At 8 p.m. Friday, the 24-hour marathon begins: Seven teams of writers have twelve hours apiece to write a ten-minute one-act play; at the same time, seven directors begin auditioning actors -- for exactly what, they're not sure. At 8 a.m. today, the directors see the scripts for the first time, followed by some intense casting and rehearsing. At 8 p.m., the hurried and harried ten-minute plays are performed at Seven/24 II, being held in the theatrical space at St. John United Methodist Church (5000 Washington Avenue at Kingshighway). This ultracompact idea-to-execution experiment in drama comes from the madwomen of the Parliament Cheez and Off Center Theatre companies. Call 314-995-2679 for more info; tickets are eight bucks. It's like the Fox TV show 24, only live and with less gunplay (we think).

Sunday, June 1Kidney-cancer survivors are coming out of the woodwork. Dr. Leon Bialecki, who has beaten the disease, is making his Opera Theatre of St. Louis Musical Celebration of Love and Life concert an annual event. This year's performance of arias and Broadway tunes by professional musicians is accompanied by a sale of art by beloved St. Louis painter Bill Kohn, whose palette of bright colors has yielded large-scale interpretations of such exotic locales as Macchu Picchu and Florence, Italy. Kohn, another survivor of kidney cancer, is donating a portion of the proceeds from art sales to the evening's charity, the Bialecki Kidney Cancer Foundation. The benefit is followed by a high-gloss reception with wine, desserts and "savories" at the Ethical Society of St. Louis (9001 Clayton Road). Call 314-576-4999 for more info on the 7:30 p.m. event; admission starts at $25.

Monday, June 2Female praying mantises, famous for their romantic peccadilloes ("Honestly, officer, he was decapitated when I woke up") are more than just love-'em-and-lop-off-their-heads femmes fatales. They are also deadly hunters and have gained some small renown for their martial-arts prowess. So fearsome are their battles that they have inspired an esoteric variant of kung fu that mimics their rapid-fire feints and attacks, all made with contorted, slashing hands. But this is the fairer sex of the mantis, mind you. Male mantises are more cerebral, noted as both poets and scholars. Or maybe not. If you're in the dark about what the boy mantises are up to when the women are out layin', slayin' and prayin,' you need to check out the latest phase of the Butterfly House's Spectacular Spineless Species exhibit, Sticks and Mantids. Entomologists will hip you to the vicious, fascinating antics of these tiny killing machines, and you can watch live mantises strut their stuff -- from a safe distance, of course -- through the end of July. The exhibit, which includes kids' activities and games, is free with regular admission ($4-$5). The Butterfly House is located in Faust Park (15193 Olive Boulevard), and its phone number is 636-530-0076.

Tuesday, June 3There was a time in the not-so-distant past when an amateur skateboarding contest meant everybody who entered paid $10 to ride and the winner got his $10 back, with the rest of the money going to buy pizza for all participants. It was all vaguely socialist in nature, this idea that you gained nothing by winning except the knowledge that, for one day, you skated better than anyone else in town. Fortunately, the quaint idea of a skate contest's being solely about skateboarding and camaraderie has been crushed by the crass commercialism of the modern skater, and today's contests grant cash prizes and potential stardom. Whoopee. The Hometownrising Amateur Skateboard Contest Series stops at Ramp Riders Skatepark (2324 Salena Avenue) at 1 p.m., offering young careerists who place in the top eight of each age bracket an invitation to the national competition in Houston, as well as an armful of skate-related swag. Win and cash in, kids, and all for a $25 entry fee. The first entrant to wet his or her pants mid-axle-stall (à la Todd Congelliere) while humming JFA's "Blatant Localism" wins nothing less than a moral victory. Call 314-776-4025 for info or log on to www.hometownrising.com.

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