Silent movies can be a tough sell for the modern audience. The herky-jerky action, the overly melodramatic physical acting (like mimes on crack at its worst, like mimes at its best), the transparent plots and storylines: None of this sits well with an audience weaned on sophisticated cinema like XXX: State of the Union. But don't let your prejudice toward the pre-talky films preclude you from seeing Maurice Tourneur's The Blue Bird (1918). Tourneur was ahead of his time in his productions, believing that the psychology of his characters could be as interesting and worthwhile as physical action. He also had an ambitious aesthetic sense, demanding sets and lighting that were visually arresting.
In The Blue Bird, these elements come together to tell the story of young siblings Mytyl and Tytyl, who quest in search of true happiness. Joined by their anthropomorphized pet dog and cat, they visit the Palace of Happiness and the Palace of the Future, only to discover that happiness doesn't always require a trip away from home. Adding to the film's avant-garde feel is the live accompaniment by the New Music Circle. Guitarist Larry Marotta, bassist Nick Mancini, percussionist Ted Royalty and Mark Sarich (chief honcho of the plenty-avant-garde Lemp Neighborhood Arts Center) create a soundtrack to match Tourneur's metaphorical journey at 7 p.m. at the Saint Louis Art Museum in Forest Park (www.newmusiccircle.org or 314-995-4963 for information). Admission is $3 to $5. -- Paul Friswold
Erick Hawkins Remembered
Founded in 1976, the Mid America Dance Company -- affectionately known to friends and relatives as MADCO -- is one of the oldest modern-dance companies in the Midwest. And this weekend the company showcases its roots when it presents Clear Places, a tribute to legendary dancer and choreographer Erick Hawkins. This program includes his "Heyoka" as well as pieces by contemporary choreographers inspired by Hawkins. Because Hawkins' work often involves dancers performing aerial maneuvers, some say that his pieces are "the poetry of butterflies." We say it sounds like crazy Matrix dancing. Decide for yourself at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, May 13 and 14, in the Lee Theater of the University of Missouri-St. Louis' Touhill Performing Arts Center (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road; 314-516-4949 or www.touhill.org). Tickets cost $11 to $21. -- Jess Minnen
Listen to that book!
Eric Hall's bold audio-adventure series, Ancora il Più Estinto, proved so popular with the regulars at Dunaway Books (3111 South Grand Boulevard; 314-771-7150) last spring that the series returns for a second run this May. More than 30 musicians and artists convene at the bookstore between 8 and 10 p.m. on Thursday (May 12 and 19) to build soundscapes of the mind, crafting on-the-spot soundtracks for book-browsing from elements as disparate as junked electronics, street sounds and pre-recorded loops. While not all participants will be present each night, the roster of talent committed to the project (Rich O'Donnell, Joseph Potthoff, Joe Raglani, Glenn Burleigh and Jason Hutto, among many, many others) guarantees that something interesting wafts through the air no matter when you drop by. And admission is free, so go hunt books to sounds you've never heard before. -- Paul Friswold
Mr. Night & Ms. Day have just been granted the amazing power of future-predictin', and we think that Wednesday, May 11, is going to be the best of the free Parties in the Park. Partially because Hudson & the Hoo Doo Cats are playing, but mostly because foresight shows us that the parties on the second Wednesdays of June through September will be too damn hot. Cool powers, huh? We haven't tested them out yet, but just trust us and head over to Shaw Park (South Brentwood and Forsyth boulevards, Clayton) to relax on some retro furniture and drink from 5 to 8 p.m. Visit www.claytonparties.com or call 314-726-3033 for more information. -- Alison Sieloff