If a trip to the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, 4525 Oak, has seemed daunting since construction for the new addition began, a three-hour fiddling session with none other than Claude "Fiddler" Williams -- no small act by any means -- makes tonight a good time to get over the trepidation. And a new show, Gold of the Nomads: Scythian Treasures From Ancient Ukraine, opens today, so fiddling fans who get to the museum a little early can see all the elaborate things nomadic Scythians made out of gold more than 2,500 years ago -- long before anyone was worried about what Bush's presidency would do to the thriving economy. The museum displays are on view until 5 p.m., and the music goes from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. For more information, call 816-751-1ART.
Humans are taking back seats to their four-legged friends all over town today. First, Monty Roberts, the horse "gentler" who is best known for his book, The Man Who Listens to Horses, demonstrates how to create a relationship of "trust and understanding between horse and man." His methods are fit for Queen Elizabeth II, who has trained all of her horses according to Roberts' counsel. Roberts teaches local horseback riders how to get a horse to accept a saddle, bridle and rider without using fear tactics or pain at the American Royal Arena, 1201 American Royal Court, at 7:30 p.m. For information, call 888-U2-MONTY. At the same time, people who find cats and dogs more endearing than horses can express their love for animals at the Wayside Waifs Humane Society's annual Fur Ball at the Muehlebach Hotel, 200 W. 12th Street, at 6 p.m. Admission to this fundraising event is not cheap -- one ticket costs $100 -- but the cause is worthwhile: finding homes for strays and keeping no-kill shelters up and running. This year's theme is Oh Give Me a Home; guests are encouraged to wear Western gear. With the right lasso and a good pair of boots, you never know whom you could rope in and take home when it's time to go. For more information, call 816-421-6800.
The running theme on Kansas City stages tonight is the unconventional family. At the Unicorn, The Gene Pool takes a progressive stance, depicting the drama surrounding a young man's desire to meet his biological father after being raised in a two-mother household. Despite the complications that arise with this restructuring of family values, playwright Christi Stewart-Brown doesn't pity the boy when he asks, "Moms, who is my dad?" Rather, she treats the uniqueness of his situation -- as well as his mothers' situation -- with humor and acceptance. The show starts at 3 p.m. at the Unicorn Theatre, 3828 Main. A Brady Vacation, performed by MYSTERY.COMedy at Colony Steakhouse and Lobster Pot, 89th and State Line, takes the opposite approach. This Ron Simonian comedy questions the perfection of television's Brady Bunch by showing one possible version of what went on behind the scenes, suggesting that keeping up "normal" appearances took more of a toll than confessing quirkiness. The revised Brady Bunch theme song (Here's the story/of a crazy family/who's dysfunctional in every single way/all of them are going mad/like their mother/The middle one's depressed ...) prepares audience members for some bleak interpretations of a very Brady birthday. The show starts at 7 p.m., with seating beginning at 6:30 p.m. For more information on The Gene Pool, call 816-531-PLAY. For more information on A Brady Vacation, call 816-333-5999.
Taking lunch downtown and walking the Avenue of the Arts, a public outdoor art display on Central between Ninth and 16th streets, could be an inspiring way to start the week. David Watne has lined the blocks between 10th and 12th streets with some unusual images that replace street signs. After interviewing and sketching a sampling of city dwellers, Watne did huge portraits of the people on blue and orange backgrounds and propped them up along the sidewalk. A walk down Central becomes a succession of encounters with two-dimensional people -- which is, sadly, more human contact than you're likely to have on the average night once the signs come down in September. At the bottom of each sign is the person's birthplace, birth date and year of arrival in Kansas City, as well as one short quote from the subject. Watne captures considerable variety in six portraits, and the fact that the people are either blue or orange (meaning that race is not what he uses to indicate diversity) makes this feat all the more impressive. We have one recommendation with regard to viewing order: Go north from 11th Street to 12th Street along the east side of the street, and after passing one young man who utters an unconvincing "Skating downtown is cool, I guess," you'll come upon a guy from Jefferson City who chimes in with "I'd rather be in California." The other quotes are more enthusiastic. For more information, call 816-471-3278.
The Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library is out to show people what movies were like in the old days, before summer blockbusters such as Mission: Impossible Whatever and Pearl Harbor could lead appreciators of good-quality cinema down the sorrowful path to disillusionment. The library's film series, The RKO Story, is a cultural history lesson and a movie-watching experience all in one. Today's installment, the 1932 film Hell's Highway, is a progressive, hard-hitting melodrama that treats taboo relationships -- both racial and sexual -- with sensitivity. The show starts at the Main Branch, 625 Minnesota, at 6 p.m. For more information, call 913-551-3280.
For people who refuse to believe that Kansas City is a genuine metropolis, there's a photo exhibition of urban scenes taken mostly in Chicago and Baltimore on display at Bar Stefano, 7112 Wornall Road. They range from reality-check shots of homeless people to tense images of strikes and protests to vibrant scenes depicting people walking every which way down the street. Photographer King Farish brings together different perspectives on city life, giving espresso drinkers a balanced view of the urban experience. For more information, call 816-822-0200.