To help you sort through the dozens of offerings of the Chicago Humanities Festival, Tribune critics offer a few suggestions.
"Powder Her Face": 8 p.m. Nov. 3 and 7 p.m. Nov. 4, Museum of Contemporary Art (there's a panel discussion of the work 5 p.m. Nov. 3 at the MCA). Chicago premiere of British composer Thomas Ades' widely praised opera, "Powder Her Face," based on the scandalous sex life of the Duchess of Argyll.
John Alden Carpenter: A Chicago Original: 8 p.m. Nov. 9, First United Methodist Church. A musical biography of the composer, with Howard Pollack as narrator and pianist, David Taylor as violin soloist, Patrick Wroblewski as baritone soloist, and Edgar Muenzer conducting the Park Ridge Civic Orchestra.
CUBE Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, "Words and Pictures CUBE-ed": 4 p.m. Nov. 3 at St. James Cathedral. Interactive music experience influenced by the writing and visual art of Wallace Stevens, Jackson Pollock and others.
Phyllis Chen: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 4 at Buntrock Hall, Symphony Center. The pianist, winner of the 2001 Barnett Piano Competition, presents an hourlong recital of music inspired by words and pictures.
-- John von Rhein
David Hare: Why Fabulate?: 10 a.m. Nov. 10, Merle Reskin Theatre. The prolific English playwright ("The Blue Room," "Plenty") offers his personal take on why people make up stories.
Reading Chekhov: 2:30 p.m. Nov. 11, Chicago Historical Society. Biographer Janet Malcolm speaks on the life and work of Anton Chekhov, followed by a performance of the playwright's "On the Harmfulness of Smoking Tobacco," with Austin Pendleton.
Dylan and Caitlin Thomas: Their Love in Letters: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 10, Thorne Auditorium of the Northwestern University School of Law, Chicago campus. Bernard Sahlins directs and Nicholas Rudall reads from the letters between the Welsh poet and his wife.
-- Richard Christiansen
John Banville: Words in Pictures, Pictures in Words: 1 p.m. Nov. 3, National-Louis University. With chilly wit and a sharp sense of history, Irish novelist John Banville has written about everything from Copernicus to the Cold War. The author of novels such as "The Untouchable" and "Athena," Banville moonlights as literary editor of The Irish Times.
Electronic Literature: Pushing the Boundaries: Noon Nov. 11, Chicago Cultural Center. If you're confused about that newfangled gizmo called hypertext, here's your chance to have it all cleared up: Writers John Cayley and Caitlin Fisher will discuss the world of electronic literature. Also on hand will be hypertext honchos Scott Rettberg and Larry McCaffery.
-- Julia Keller
William Warfield: A Musical Scrapbook: 8 p.m. Nov. 1, St. James Cathedral. Warfield, who starred in "Show Boat" on film and "Porgy and Bess" on stage, surveys his career.
-- Howard Reich
Witold Rybczynski: The Look of Architecture: 11 a.m. Nov. 3, Harold Washington Library Center. Rybczynski, who teaches at the University of Pennsylvania and has written an acclaimed biography of Frederick Law Olmstead, concludes that style forms the language of architecture.
W.J.T. Mitchell: Words & Pictures -- What's the Difference?: Noon Nov. 4, Alliance Francaise. The University of Chicago's provocative expert on visual culture demonstrates the relationship between words and pictures.
-- Blair Kamin
Abbas Kiarostami; Persian Poetry, Photography and Filmmaking: 3:30 p.m. Nov. 4, Harold Washington Library Center. The great Iranian filmmaker -- writer-director of "Taste of Cherry," "Through the Olive Trees" and other modern classics -- appears in person to read his own poetry. Afterward, there's a discussion with Kiarostami and scholars Jamsheed Akrami, Michael Beard and Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak.
"The Pillow Book," dir. Peter Greenaway: 6:30 p.m. Nov. 5, Facents Cinematheque. Prime Greenaway: a literary thriller mixing images of art, eroticism, death and humiliation in a style that blends cultures, film styles and music with the free-roaming panache of an Internet explorer. The inspiration is the 9th Century "Pillow Book" of Sei Shonagon.
"Taboo," dir. Nagisa Oshima: 7 p.m., Nov. 8, Facets. Japanese director Oshima ("In the Realm of the Senses") may be a cinematic tiger grown old, but his latest film, "Taboo," shows that he hasn't lost his bite. A sometimes hypnotically beautiful tale of gay samurai in the 19th Century, it's the work of a filmmaker still capable of provocation and poetry.
"The Navigator: A Medieval Odyssey," dir. Vincent Ward:
8:45 p.m., Nov. 6, Facets. A gorgeously shot time-travel adventure from the maker of "Vigil" and "What Dreams May Come," which begins in 1348, and travels across time and space to some startling destinations.
-- Michael Wilmington