The history of St. Louis, from Dred Scott to Mayor Darst, gets a high-tech makeover at "St. Louis Explored: The Virtual City Project." Visitors will eat lunch from noon-1 p.m. in the Century Room of UM-St. Louis' swank Millennium Student Center (8001 Natural Bridge Road) while history professor Louis Gerteis unveils the Project, a series of electronic models of downtown for each decade from 1850-1950. The use of 3D imaging technology dramatically reveals how the city's changed, from roadside apple sellers and general stores, to roadside What's Up sellers and a Sheraton hotel with fake windows. The presentation, sponsored by the university's St. Louis Mercantile Library, is basically a flashy and newly illuminating way to check humanity's progress in the city proper -- and with an admission fee of $18, it'd better be good, too. Call 314-516-7240 to reserve a spot.
Thursday, September 4
We're wondering what will emerge as the most interesting part of the Miklat experience at the Jewish Community Center (2 Millstone Campus Drive). Hopefully, it will be the story, a comedy concerning an American family's odyssey through Israel during the Gulf War of 1991. If it tanks, though, there's always that excellent backdrop of the stone buildings of Jerusalem streets (visible in the photograph, above). Miklat, which means "refuge," refers literally to a bomb shelter in the play and figuratively to the shelter from confusion that parents Howard and Judy Kleinman wish they could locate. It seems their secularized son Marc has suddenly joined an ultra-Orthodox yeshiva, agreed to an arranged marriage and changed his name to "Moishe." Catch the Joshua Ford play at various times tonight through September 21 ($16-$20, 314-442-3283). New Jewish Theatre "tested out" Miklat at a salon reading last year and decided to include it as part of this year's season. Salon readings are intimate presentations of plays in somebody's living room (usually in West County, natch), with minimal costumes, props and sets, and actors reading from scripts. They're often followed by canapes, wine, wife-swapping and high-speed chases involving SUVs.
Friday, September 5
The lure of the open road is strong. How many times have you considered trading in your job and your mortgage for a mighty Winnebago to roam the byways and backwaters of America? You'll camp in Wal-Mart parking lots, cook everything on a Hibachi and develop a new and abiding respect for the septic tank (respect or fear, depending on how you hook your lines up the first time). Maybe you can't afford the 'Bago now, but looking -- just like J-Lo's love -- don't cost a thing. The free Fall RV Show opens at 10 a.m. today at Westfield Shoppingtown South County (85 South Centerway, at the intersection of Lemay Ferry Road and Lindbergh Boulevard, 314-355-1236). Admire RVs in a plethora of colors, shapes and sizes while enjoying the fine barbecue prowess of the Lemay-JB Lions Club until 8 p.m. Saturday and from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. Sunday. And you can even softly hum "King of the Road" if it makes you feel better.
Saturday September 6
It's a corny name, sure, but we're pulled in by a giant vaudeville stage-hook when it comes to Bananas-n-Pianas, a concert with themed noshing at Cummel's Café (1627 Washington Avenue, 314-231-9627) from 8 p.m.-midnight. Hear the expressions of singer-songwriter-pianists Julie Burnette, Will Roberston, Aaron Barton and Jack Za (is that his real name?) while dining on chef Craig Downs' made-from-scratch banana bread and banana muffins and café owner Janese Henry's secret-recipe banana casserole. Samples of the banana delicacies are free, but for a modest sum you can buy a regular portion. Admission is $3. The midnight finale purportedly involves Bananas Foster and and a man in a gorilla suit with a fire extinguisher.
Sunday, September 7
By now you've seen the commercial for Guinness wherein a contused and exhausted lad uses a mutant oar to lift and crack an oversized baseball at a row of orcs who appear to be guarding a soccer net. The activity depicted in this ad is hurling, an ancient Irish sport that combines the civility of rugby with the hooliganism of European football to create a supersport that predates the current "extreme sports" trend by a few centuries. Hurling will be demonstrated at this year's Irish County Fair, held on the grounds of St. James the Greater Parish School (1360 Tamm Avenue, 314-645-0167). More genteel elements of Irish culture will also be on display, such as the traditional music and dance, food and beverage booths, and a Red Hair and Freckle Contest. Admission to the Fair is free, and the activities run from noon until 8 p.m.
Monday, September 8
Ya know what's an underappreciated art/design medium? Board games. Yeah, board games. We all have the boards for Monopoly, Scrabble, Candyland and at least two dozen more locked into our memory cortexes, and there's something elemental about their place in our childhood. Art St. Louis (917 Locust Street, 314-241-4810, www.artstlouis.org) draws a Chance card at Game Boards, a new group exhibit of custom-designed settings for childhood and adult adventure, on view today through October 11. The 30 or so works include Jacque Lynn Davis' update to the Ouija board; Mark Sellmeyer's "Crop Circle," which features such game cards as "Fresh Abductee" and "Alien Appendectomy"; and J.C. Gray's marijuana-based adventure game called "Nirvana," which features ceramic figures of Cheech, Chong, Nelly, Carrot Top, Bob Marley and Gallagher, and such cards as "Dog eats ounce: back 2 steps," "Busted at Dead show: backward 1 roll," and "Sister marries attorney: go to any space." The game boards will be auctioned off at the closing reception in October, with proceeds going to benefit ENVISION Folk Art of Missouri.
Tuesday, September 9
If you shudder when you see the title La Cage Aux Folles, you have Robin Williams to thank for ruining what is one of the better French farces -- or Mike Nichols, take your pick. Their Anglicized movie adaptation, The Bird Cage, excised the songs, the humor and most of the heart from the original theatrical production. Stages St. Louis' production of La Cage (at the Robert G. Reim Theatre, Kirkwood Community Center, 111 South Geyer Road) wisely retains the songs that garnered the Broadway version six Tonys in 1984, which just goes to show you shouldn't mess with a good thing. And La Cage is a pretty good thing when left to its own devices. Jerry Herman's music captures the humor, verve and deep-seated love of Albin and Georges' universally human relationship, while Harvey Fierstein's book reveals the common need to be accepted by parents, lovers and even people you don't like. Tickets are $36-$39, and the show starts at 8 p.m. Call 314-821-2407 for more information.