Would the Beats have made such a permanent mark on the American psyche if they had been extant during the age of modern television? Corso, Kerouac, Cassady and Ginsberg were young, good-looking roustabouts, out for fun and adventure -- wouldn't some producer at the WB snap up the rights to their stories and lives and attempt to manufacture a one-hour dramedy with swell product placement and a bitchin' theme song? Probably. It would be a two-season wonder, then fade into oblivion as the next new fad arrived. But if it could be done, it'd be on the air now. And the very fact that the Beats' work lives on despite any mass-market push is a testament to the power of the writing. They lived what they wrote, and what they wrote was a clarion call to wake up and escape the mass-marketed, pre-packaged world.
But once a year, you can enjoy the Beats in performance rather than just on the page. Brett Underwood organizes the Day of the Dead Beats, a live reading of Beat poetics and prosody by local inheritors of the Beat mantle. Bob Putnam, K. Curtis Lyle, Stephene Russell and Tom "Papa" Ray are scheduled to read their favorite passages at 8 p.m. at Joe's Café (6014 Kingsbury Avenue; 314-771-0986). Admission is free, just like life. -- Paul Friswold
Listen to Help
When so many bad things are happening all around you, perhaps you have a difficult time reconciling how deeply you care for tragedy victims with how little you are actually able to assist them. Sometimes, though, all you have to do to lend a helping hand is merely use your ears. At 2 p.m. at the Soulard Coffee Garden Café (910 Geyer Avenue; 314-241-1464), Words on Purpose gives you an opportunity to do just that -- specifically, listen to Eugene Redmond and Joel Friederich read their poetry and Mary Troy read her fiction, after you give a $4 suggested donation to the ACORN Hurricane Recovery Fund. -- Alison Sieloff
Feeling down? Well, take comfort now, because the future will probably be bleaker. If we're not headed for an alien invasion or a post-apocalyptic landscape, then it's a sure thing the commanders 'n' chiefs are going to put the squeeze on in time.
In Barbara Lindsay's futuristic I-2195, Big Brother looms large. This award-winning play tells the story of Lucinda, an isolated ex-freedom fighter who is challenged by an all-controlling government gone wild. In the debut production of I-2195, local director L. Patton Chiles adds another layer to the drama by casting blacks against an authoritarian white regime.
See the University of Missouri-St. Louis' Department of Theatre, Dance and Media Studies perform I-2195 at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (November 3 through 5) in the Lee Theater of the Touhill Performing Arts Center on the UMSL campus (1 University Drive at Natural Bridge Road). Call 314-516-4949 or visit www.touhill.org to buy tickets ($6 to $12). -- Mark Fischer