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This week's First Friday is all about the late, lamented TV show Firefly.
At last, summer is here! So why not get out there and do something interesting? See the local circus that's more Cirque du Soleil than Barnum & Bailey. Celebrate cult favorite Firefly at the science center. Or maybe even see some Shakespeare — on stage at Forest Park, it's gloriously free.
Interested in art openings? There are three particularly interesting ones on Friday
, and they're totally free as well. Make some plans!
Here are our picks of the city's best things to do.
1. See New Line's sobering new musical
Leo Szilard is a Hungarian Jew who has an uncanny gift for both physics and prognostication. He left Europe for America in 1938 because he predicted the coming World War, and then correctly predicted that the Germans were working on a nuclear weapon. His friend in physics, Albert Einstein, helped Szilard apprise FDR of his suspicions, which leads to the creation of the Manhattan Project, with Szilard as a member. Joined by Enrico Fermi, Robert Oppenheimer, Arthur Compton and Leona Woods, Szilard creates the bombs that are dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima. But what he doesn't foresee was the nagging guilt he suffered as they got closer to success. Building the bomb is bad enough, but the thought of using it on human beings is more than he could handle. Danny Ginges, Gregory Bonsignore and Philip Foxman's musical Atomic is about Szilard and his terrible knowledge: He helped save the free world, but perhaps doomed us all in the process. New Line Theatre presents Atomic at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday (June 2 to 25) at the Marcelle Theater (3310 Samuel Shepard Drive; www.newlinetheatre.com). Tickets are $10 to $25.
2. Catch some Shakespeare in the park
You're unlikely to find a better date night than Shakespeare Festival St. Louis. Imagine sitting on a blanket on a hillside while the stars emerge, with crickets chirping and the sounds of two sets of bickering lovers rattling out of the nearby Athenian woods. Don't worry, the faerie King and Queen will work out their troubles in the end, but not before having a little fun at the expense of mortals Helena, Demetrius, Hermia and Lysander. A Midsummer Night's Dream returns to Shakespeare Glen with some new features. For starters, there are the new songs composed jointly by Peter Mark Kendall and the Rats & People Motion Picture Orchestra. You can also enjoy Schlafly's newest beer, 1616, especially brewed for the festival. Picnics are welcome, but if you prefer to wing it, the festival sells food and drinks on-site — and that will be your only expense for the evening, because admission is free. A Midsummer Night's Dream is performed at 8 p.m. every night except Tuesday (June 3 to 26) at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park, just off Art Hill (www.sfstl.com).
3. Agitate for Joss Whedon's cult fave on First Friday
Firefly is not just a short-lived TV show: It's a state of mind. Joss Whedon's post-Civil-War-in-space drama showed us a non-utopian future where humans still had the same failings, but were also fortified by the same dreams. It also had a good-looking cast (Nathan Fillion! Gina Torres! Ron Glass!) and a legitimate sense of humor, something that's often missing from sci-fi. With all this going for it, Firefly was canceled after eleven episodes — but that hasn't stopped its fanatical following from agitating for a new series. Tonight from 6 p.m. to midnight, the Saint Louis Science Center (5050 Oakland Avenue; www.slsc.org) gives the fans a voice with First Friday: Bring Back Firefly! The evening starts and ends with free screenings of the pilot episode ("Serenity") and the feature film (also Serenity), and in between you can rock out the music of Firefly band the Browncoats, check out some new board games and do a little cosplay. Admission to First Friday is free, but some activities require a small fee.
4. Catch a baseball-themed circus show
In the old days a 30th anniversary was celebrated with the gift of pearls. In the modern era, the gift is diamonds. Circus Flora
is clearly a modern bunch, because for its 30th anniversary the one-ring circus will become a diamond: Pastime
, this year's show, is a celebration of baseball. The tumbling St. Louis Arches, the high-wire-walking Flying Wallendas and those daring young men on the flying trapeze are a stand-up triple, but the air-conditioned tent is like stealing home. Circus Flora: Pastime
is performed 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 1 and 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 1 and 5:30 p.m. Sunday (June 2 through July 3) at the Circus Flora Big Top (3511 Samuel Shepard Drive; www.circusflora.org
). Tickets are $10 to $48.
5. See a smart documentary at Webster U.
Digital's triumph is almost complete. The vast majority of films are not technically films anymore; they're shot on HD digital cameras, which makes them data. But nobody says, "Which data do you want to see tonight?" As film slowly fades away, so do projectionists, the men and women who know how to handle film and deal with a projector's quirks and many requirements. Peter Flynn's documentary The Dying of the Light takes you into the projection booth to meet the last of the career projectionists. These casters of light discuss the job, the nature of photochemical film and why these things matter to them. The Dying of the Light screens at 8 p.m. Friday through Tuesday (June 3 to 7) at Webster University's Moore Auditorium (470 East Lockwood Avenue; www.webster.edu/film-series). Tickets are $4 to $6.
6. Watch a film or two at the Jewish Film Festival
The St. Louis Jewish Film Festival presents an artistically inclined double bill at 8 p.m. Wednesday at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac Cinema (1701 South Lindbergh Boulevard, Frontenac; www.stljewishfilmfestival.org). First up is Hal Rikin's Blue Like Me: The Art of Siona Benjamin, a documentary about the Jewish-Indian artist. Benjamin's work is inspired by the melange of religions that formed the backdrop of her early life. She was raised in Mumbai and surrounded by Hindus, Christians and Muslims, and her first teachers were Zoroastrians and Catholic nuns. Yari and Cary Wolinsky's film Raise the Roof documents the reconstruction of the painted roof of the Gwozdziec synagogue, which was destroyed by the Nazis. Eighteenth-century Polish synagogues had fantastic murals covering the ceilings. Can 300 artisans and numerous student volunteers recreate something beautiful destroyed by hatred? Tickets for the films are $8 to $12.