Thursday, July 21, 2005 | FILM

Secret lives of strangers. When Henry Darger finished mopping floors at his day job, his real work began at home. The reclusive janitor, a virtual stranger to the world around him, spent his time creating magic within the dismal surroundings of his rented room in a Catholic poor house, where he lived for 40 years. But it wasn’t until his quiet death in 1973, at the age of 81, that his true creative talents would be discovered. While cleaning out Darger’s room, his landlords unearthed hundreds of watercolor paintings – bizarre, fantastical images, some more than 10 feet long – and an astounding 15,000-page novel.

Now, what little is known about Darger’s life has been compiled into a documentary, “In the Realms of the Unreal.” Directed by Jessica Yu, the film parallels his real life with his fantasy life, juxtaposing animations of Darger’s illustrations with interviews from the few people who knew him. The absence of opinions by art experts and psychologists enables the viewer to come to their own conclusions about this outsider artist and the fascinating work he left behind.

Catch a free screening of this groundbreaking film Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Central Library, 820 E St. in downtown. Or, watch it from the comforts of your own couch on Aug. 2 for a national PBS premiere (check local listings). The film is also available for rental. For more information on the library screening, call (619) 236-5800 or visit http://www.sandiego.gov/public-library.

Big ideas, tiny budgets. For one night only (that’s tonight), the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego in La Jolla becomes a cinematic playground. The best part: you can walk in front of the screen without fear of someone throwing popcorn at you.

The Third Annual alt.pictureshows features a wide range of several short films by independent filmmakers from the San Diego and Tijuana area, plus selected works from the 2005 Sundance film festival.

Visitors are invited to wander freely throughout five rooms to watch a series of looped, projected films, an experience that is a lot like – in the words of event founder, co-curator and participant, Neil Kendricks – “physical channel surfing.” Local musicians SSI will provide an ambient electronica soundtrack on the outdoor terrace.

alt.pictureshows will be held Thursday from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. at 700 Prospect St. in La Jolla. For more information, call (858) 454-3541 or visit www.mcasd.org.

THEATER

Pirates of the high stage. Since Johnny Depp donned a gold tooth, pirates have been the most coveted booty around, bringing swashbuckling charm to stages, bars and parties on nights that weren’t meant to be dress-up. The latest hoards of pirates to raid San Diego are quicker with their tongues than their swords, battling with wit and words in the zany British opera comedy, “The Pirates of Penzance.”

An accidental pirate apprentice, a sweet maiden, a handsome pirate king, a scheming nurse and even Queen Victoria make appearances in this tale of high adventure on stormy British seas.

“Pirates of Penzance” runs Wednesdays through Sundays at 8 p.m. through July 31 at the Moonlight Amphitheatre in Vista. The theatre is open at 6:30 p.m. for picnic goers and is located in Brengle Terrace Park, 1200 Vale Terrace Drive. For more information, call (760) 758-1063 or (760) 726-2057.

EVENT

Little red dress. You wore it once for not-such-a-hot date, and now it’s sitting in the closet in all its crimson glory collecting dust. Why not pair it with your high school track shoes and go for a run?

Not to worry, the 18th annual Little Red Dress Run is neither a marathon nor a fashion show. The three-to-four-mile trail, beginning at 16th and B Streets downtown, winds its way through many bar-stops and guarantees that more beer than sweat will be spilled. Music, dancing and dinner greet red-clad participants, male and female, as they crawl over the finish line.

Proceeds from the $60 registration fee support the Challenged Athletes Foundation. Registration opens at the start line at 3 p.m. and the race begins at 5 p.m. on Saturday. For more information, visit www.sandiegoreddressrun.com.

– CLAIRE CARASKA, Voice Staff Writer and JESSICA L. HORTON, Voice Contributing Writer

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