The best movies are pure escapism, offering the chance to leave behind the mundane world of work and drudgery, if only for a while. Musicals are an excellent tonic for the weary soul, and foreign musicals are a notch above that, even. Rembetiko is the musical biography of a popular Greek singer who died in the '50s. Told through the music of Stavros Xarhakos and the lyrics of the poet Nikos Gatsos, Rembetiko is the story of social misfits, refugees and the transformation of rembetic song during the middle of the last century. It is a poem of a different time told entirely in Greek, so the only understanding for the non-Greek speaker comes through emotion, empathy and a subconscious understanding of what it means to sing when your world is changing. Rembetiko screens at 6:30 p.m. in room 200 of Lucas Hall (the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, 1 University Drive; 314-516-5000). There is no admission charge.
Thursday, April 29
Playwright Marisa Wegrzyn is on a roll. In 2000 her play Polar Bears on U.S. 41 was the runner-up in the A.E. Hotchner Playwriting Competition at Washington University; in 2001 her Killing Women took the top prize in the Hotchner. Now, in 2004, Wegrzyn returns to her alma mater with the world premiere of Ten Cent Night, the darkly humorous story of Roby Finley. Finley, the daughter of an abusive country singer, returns to her Texas roots after ten years away. She confronts the secret in her past and discovers something about what family really means. Ten Cent Night, presented by Cast 'n' Crew at 9 p.m. at Washington University's Village Theater (6895 Snow Way, 314-863-0690), also plays at 5 and 9 p.m. on Saturday, May 1, and at 2 and 7 p.m. on Sunday, May 2. Tickets for all performances are $5.
Friday, April 30
You know what's hard to date? The University City searchlight. For one thing, it just turned 100 years old, and it's constantly bragging about being listed on the National Register of Historic Places. And for another, it always likes to stay home on top of City Hall, continually searching for something when what it wants is right there in front of it. If you and a friend would like to try your luck at an up-close-and-personal date with the searchlight (and Bill Kaufman, light caretaker and operator), visit the fifth floor of University City City Hall (6801 Delmar Boulevard) at 7:30 p.m. for your chance to win such an encounter and a tour. The anniversary evening costs $10 and includes food, beverages, a great view and a souvenir, in addition to being one of only a few nights a year the light is turned on (8 p.m., weather permitting, www.ucpl.lib.mo.us/searchlight.htm, 314-727-3150). Only turned on a few times a year? Definitely hard to date.
Saturday, May 1
Weekends are all about the sleeping in, but where has your laziness taken you? A noon breakfast of cereal and coffee isn't helping your soul any. Get up at a decent hour and head over to the East St. Louis Municipal Building (301 River Park Drive) for the 9 a.m. double-birthday party of the Eugene B. Redmond Writers Club (celebrating 18 years) and the East St. Louis Community Performance Ensemble (celebrating 25 years). The two groups are throwing a Fresh & Ancestral cultural-literary festival, and it's sure to get your heart pumping. Poets and writers including LaVelle Chin, Roscoe Crenshaw, Naja Haqiqah and Eugene B. Redmond will perform blues-poems -- including their unique verbal creation, the "Kwansaba" (something like a jazz-haiku) -- and the multigenerational Community Performance Ensemble will swing into action with its massive dance-percussion extravaganza. The combined art of both groups will invigorate you more than the strongest coffee ever could. Call 618-650-2060 for info on this free event.
Sunday, May 2
"War: What is it good for?" barked Edwin Starr, and the answers are complex and morally confusing. However, when it comes to Civil War re-enactments, there can be many good outcomes. The spectacle of theatrically staged battles, such as The Division Cavalry Brigade's Battle of Big Blue (at Fort Bellefontaine Park, 13000 Bellefontaine Road), can spark a child's interest in history; this can lead to reading more about the Civil War, and education will eventually lead to more questions, like Axl Rose's "What's so civil about war, anyway?" The Division Cavalry Brigade (www.divisioncavalrybrigade.com) enters the fray at 1:30 p.m., but the day will be full of historical re-creations, with soldiers' camps, traders and even modern vendors between 10:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and all this knowledge comes free of charge.
Monday, May 3
This is it, the last day of the Greater St. Louis Book Fair. If you think you've missed out on all the good stuff, you're wrong. Last year two paperback volumes of British playwright Peter Bond's work were scored for a pittance, a nicely chewed copy of Molière's The Misanthrope was discovered, and the paperback version of Stan Mikita's autobiography I Play to Win left with one happy fairgoer: That's good readin' right there, and it didn't cost anything to gain admission. Who knows what treasures will be found during the hurly-burly of the last day? The GSL Fair, located at Westfield Shoppingtown West County (I-270 and Manchester Road), is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m., and it won't be back till next year. Call 314-533-0671 or visit www.stlouisbookfair.com for more info.