If your idea of a Buddhist monk is a serene, inscrutable bore -- the kind of holy automaton who seems so perfect that her sacred droppings don't stink -- meet Robina Courtin. As depicted in the 2000 documentary Chasing Buddha, Courtin is an aggressive live wire, a foulmouthed, shaven-headed firebrand in maroon robes. After a Catholic upbringing in Australia, Courtin moved through the cleansing flames of '60s radical politics. When militant lesbianism and Black Power failed to fill the void inside, Courtin was finally led to Buddhism.
Courtin's faith is no lifestyle bauble, no mere Richard Gere celebrity trip. For 23 years now, she's ministered to the lowest of the low: death row inmates, gang members and other violent killers. Directed by her nephew Amiel Courtin-Wilson, Chasing Buddha follows Courtin's work with the Prison Liberation Project in the Kentucky State Penitentiary. In the shadow of death and imprisonment, students and teacher push each other to deeper spiritual insights and the hardest-won kind of redemption. Courtin herself answers questions from the audience after a free screening of Chasing Buddha at Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; 314-968-7487). The film starts at 7 p.m. See www.webster.edu/filmseries/ for details. -- Jason Toon
American Splendor See it how it was
Thomas Cole and other landscape painters such as Asher B. Durand and John Frederick Kensett (that's his Niagara Falls, pictured) used the untarnished nature of nineteenth-century America to represent the hopes, aspirations and vast potential of the nation. The Saint Louis Art Museum's new exhibit, Nature and the Nation: Hudson River School Landscape Painting from the Wadsworth Atheneum School of Art, displays 50 of the best works of several artists from the first school of American landscape painting. See what idyllic America looked like before freeways, subdivisions and billboards -- what once was is no more. The exhibit opens on Friday, July 1, and runs through September 11. Admission is $4 to $6, but free on Fridays. Visit www.slam.org for more information. -- Guy Gray
And the Winner Is... Community Musical Theatre!
If you've long dreamed of attending the Tony Awards but just can't scrape up the cash for plane fare and a hotel in the Big Apple, get your musical-theater award show ya-yas out at the sixth annual Best Performance Awards for Community Musical Theatre. Thirty-one musicals produced locally in the past year are up for awards, and just like at the Tonys, songs from the nominated shows are performed onstage. And this being an awards show, formal attire is requested (at last, a chance to break out the tux and/or tiara, depending on your mood). The gala starts at 3 p.m. at the Grandel Theatre (3610 Grandel Square; 314-795-2119 or www.artsforlife.org), and tickets are just $35, which includes a post-show reception. And to all those nominated performers and productions, good luck! We're pulling for you (and you're all winners in our eyes). -- Paul Friswold
You still like to color. It's OK; you don't have to hide your skills anymore -- instead, flaunt them at the "Sounds of the Fourth Soiree" fundraiser for the Florissant Fine Arts Council. There, you'll purchase a table for $50, pick a theme (how about "Ants vs. Your Picnic: A Summer of Hunger"?) and decorate your table by 6:30 p.m. (when it will be judged). Finally, those so-expensive-yet-so-unused scrapbooking supplies may come in handy! The event, which also features a concert and fireworks, is held at the Florissant Civic Center (Parker Road and Waterford Drive); call 314-921-5678 to register. -- Alison Sieloff