Like most African-American comedians who sprang to prominence during the 1990s, Cedric the Entertainer, performing at 8 p.m. at the Midland Theatre (1228 Main), got his big break on cable network BET's Comicview. Ced's style combines a not-as-dirty Redd Foxx with Bill Cosby during his prime. Although he has his own sitcom (Cedric the Coach) and has starred in several movies (Big Momma's House and Kingdom Come), Ced is perhaps best known for making a splash in a Bud Light commercial that was rated the most popular of those aired during the last Super Bowl. He's scheduled to appear in a new series of ads for the beer maker, but despite such success, Ced loves stand-up and continues to tour. He's an original King of Comedy. Tickets are $34.50 and $41.50. For more information, call 816-471-8600.
The Reading Reptile (4120 Pennsylvania) is already well-known to Kansas Citians as a top-quality children's bookstore and the source of a wonderfully subversive Web site. (If you've never read the book reviews by A. Bitterman, it's high time you checked them out by logging on to www.thereadingreptile.com, where you'll also see a dinosaur tromping over the rubble of a burning Barnes and Noble.) Now there's an adjoining theater space as well, which sets the stage for Reptile Theater Productions' 7 p.m. rendition of The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins, a picture book based on the story of the first scientist to create models of dinosaurs by studying fossil remains. The story unearths a long-buried piece of our past and recounts an extraordinary life, taking children through the process of discovery. Illustrator Brian Selznick will play a supporting role in the production and will take questions afterward. For more information, call 816-753-0441.
If you haven't driven a Ford lately, this may be the day to visit the Dirt Gallery's retrospective of work by David Ford, who sometimes signs his paintings with the motor company's logo. Many of his paintings are crudely executed, but they're always to the point, and that makes them powerful. He uses a variety of textured surfaces (most notably potato sacks), vibrant colors and drippy paints. The Dirt Gallery is at 1323 Union. For more information, call 816-471-3278
When bad news strikes, it's always helpful to have the safety net of a strong community to get you over the rough patch. Such was not the case for Dr. Jerri Nielsen, who was alone at the South Pole when she detected a cancerous lump in her breast. It was winter, when flights can neither approach nor leave Antarctica. In her autobiography, Ice Bound, Nielsen describes winning a one-on-one battle against breast cancer: She treated herself with outdated equipment, few supplies and no assistants (other than those she consulted by e-mail). Tonight at 7:30, she'll speak at Johnson County Community College's Yardley Hall, 12345 College Boulevard in Overland Park. Tickets cost $20. For more information, call 913-498-6237.
The 1932 cult horror classic Freaks, directed by Todd Browning (who also directed the infamous Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi), continues to stir controversy almost sixty years after its release. Freaks tells the story of Hans, a dwarf who works as a sideshow attraction (alongside Siamese twins, a bearded woman and "torso man," a guy who has to walk on his hands because his body ends midtrunk). Hans falls for Cleopatra, a beautiful trapeze artist whose relatively normal appearance disguises a monster. She mocks Hans' every courtship attempt until she finds out he's loaded; then she plots to swindle him. When the other sideshow attractions discover her plan, they plot revenge. The debate that surrounds the movie is whether Freaks is itself a sideshow guilty of mocking and exploiting deformed human beings for shock value or a valiant stand against such exploitation with the most attractive characters the least appealing. In the title -- Freaks -- and on posters that blared "Can a full grown woman truly love a MIDGET?" sensationalism obviously played a starring role. Viewers can judge Browning's motives for themselves by screening the movie's original sixteen-millimeter print at the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library, 625 Minnesota Ave, at 6 p.m. For more information, call 913-551-3280.
In medieval times, Hildegard of Bingen -- a cloistered woman -- seemed to experience visions of God. Until she communicated these visions to others, she would be doubled over from the massive strain on her senses. Today's scholars tend to believe Hildegard just had a headache. (Migraines do indeed feel like lightning bolts from the heavens.) Still, her chants retain their mysticism, and her writings continue to provide spiritual insight. The main character of Mark Salzman's most recent novel, Lying Awake, is a nun who -- like Hildegard -- collapses from electrifying visions of God. But living in modern times, she recognizes that her visions might be symptoms of illness rather than transcendence. When surgery is recommended, Sister John of the Cross must reconcile the enlightenment and inspiration she's gleaned from her visions with their debilitating effects. The novel's prose is lean and spare -- ascetic in its refusal to indulge in flowery language -- and is equally successful on a philosophical level. Salzman discusses the book at Unity Temple on the Plaza, 707 W. 47th Street, at 7:30 p.m. For more information, call 913-384-3126.
David Lynch films always gain popularity around Halloween. This year, we're lucky enough to see the release of his Mulholland Drive just in time for the season. For die-hard Halloweeners, who insist that costumes ought to be scary rather than cute, stopping by Tivoli Cinemas (4050 Pennsylvania) for a dose of Lynch's morbid symbolism on the way to trick-or-treat might just be terrifying enough to lend even the most innocent costume gratifyingly creepy underpinnings. This movie has already caused countless area adults to become suddenly afraid of the dark. For more information, call 816-561-5222.