‘Yasmina’s Necklace’ exemplifies timeless truths

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Imagine two very different families trying to pair up their children with not very successful results. That’s a traditional rom-com format you’d see on TV. But now imagine these families are a well-established Muslim family paired with new refuges from Iraq. And yes, it’s a comedy.

Michael Perez (Sam) Laura Crotte (Sara), Amro Salama (Ali), Allen Gilmore (Iman Kareem), rom Barkhordar (Musa) and Susaan Jamshidi (Yasmina) in 'Yasmina's Necklace' at Goodman Theatre.
Michael Perez (Sam) Laura Crotte (Sara), Amro Salama (Ali), Allen Gilmore (Iman Kareem), Rom Barkhordar (Musa) and Susaan Jamshidi (Yasmina) in ‘Yasmina’s Necklace’ at Goodman Theatre.

‘Yasmina’s Necklace,’ playing now at The Goodman Theatre, is about overcoming tragedy and moving on with your life in a new land with new opportunities and challenges.

What makes the play so compelling is that everyone can identify with this family situation no matter what their race, religion or ethnicity.

The show by Chicago playwright Rohina Malik is both funny as well as dramatic and thought-provoking, as the audience navigates the pain of both Yasmina and her father when settling in Chicago from Bagdad.

Yasmina uses her art talent to communicate the horrors of her past. The necklace, always around her neck, represents her love for the country she was forced to leave and will always be in her heart.

Potential suitor Sam recently changed his Arabic name to avoid Anti-Muslim bias and move up the career ladder. He’s also recovering from a bad divorce and is not interested in meeting anyone. But when he volunteers to support Yasmina with her non-profit organization helping other refuges, their relationship begins to warm.

Susaan Jamshidi (Yasmina) and Michael Perez (Sam) in 'Yasmina's Necklace' at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photos
Susaan Jamshidi (Yasmina) and Michael Perez (Sam) in ‘Yasmina’s Necklace’ at Goodman Theatre. Liz Lauren photos

Led by director Ann Filmer, actor Susaan Jamshidi as the vulnerable Yasmina is outstanding as her character moves from anger to acceptance to strength.

Michael Perez as Sam is also excellent as his character develops from someone who is conflicted about his identity to someone who stands proud of his traditions. Always in the background is a sense of fear and loss.

The set revolves around the very different apartments of the two families, one who is settled and well-off, and the other of newly arrived immigrants.

The play was scripted by Malik who was concerned about how Muslims are portrayed in the media and wanted to show them without stereotype. She has done a masterful job and the result is one powerful evening of theatre.

DETAILS: ‘Yasmina’s Necklace’ is in the Owen at The Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago. through Nov.19, 2017. Running time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with intermission. For tickets and other information call (312) 443- 3800  and visit Goodman.

Mira Temkin

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

Festivals and shows plus happenings around town

 

So that in the coming weeks you don’t have to say “oops, I forgot” or “oh, I wish I had known,” here are some fun and interesting choices of what to do now through Nov. 5, 2017.

1000 jack-o'-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.
1000 jack-o’-lanterns light up Chicago Botanic Garden paths.

 

Short Story Theatre

Short story theatres are trending now in the Chicago area. (See StorySlam). Highwood, a tiny city between Highland Park and Lake Forest known for its restaurants, also hosts short story telling.

Its next time is Oct. 26 when the theme is Survival. Stories are likely to be about lost wives, geese, road trips or angels.

So come to Miramar Bistro at 301 Waukegan Ave. east of the North Line train tracks at 7:30 p.m. Or come earlier and eat there first. Just tell them when making a reservation that you are staying for the Short Story Theatre. Show tickets are $10 at the door, cash or check. Phone 847-433-1078.

 

Boo at the Chicago Botanic Garden

Hand-carved pumpkins line the paths Oct. 26-29 for Night of 10000 Jack-O-Lanterns. Tickets are date and time specific so get yours before you go to avoid disappointment. Times are from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m.

The Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe, east of Edens Expressway. For tickets and other information call (847) 835-5440 or visit CBGHalloween.

 

Broadway in Chicago

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, ‘Les Miserables, Cameron Mackintosh’s new production that is garnering rave reviews, closes Oct. 29. For tickets visit BroadwayinChicago.

Then, School of Rock’ an exuberant show with new songs by Andrew Lloyd Webber opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Broadway Rock.

Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in )Lyric Opera production of Verdi's Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center and couriers in Lyric Opera production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

 

Verdi and Wagner

If you enjoy opera at its best know that Lyric Opera of Chicago has  openings, closings and reviews similar to many downtown shows. Verdi’s ‘Rigoletto’ that also received rave reviews, has only three performances left: Oct. 26, Oct. 30 and Nov. 3. Wagner’s next Ring cycle opera, ‘Die Walküre,’ opens Nov. 1. For tickets and other information visit Lyric Opera.

 

Sip and Stroll Festival

Visit more than restaurants and other businesses in Lincoln Square for the semi-annual Ravenswood Wine Stroll. Nov. 2 from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tickets are $45 and are for one of five different routes: three in Lincoln Square and two in Ravenswood. For tickets and route information see Lincoln Square Wine Stroll.

 

Really old and last century modern

Winnetka Community House’s famed Antiques + Modernism show  runs Nov. 3-5 with an evening, first peek party Nov. 2. Because it’s a 60-year-old nationally known event, dealers bring their fine antiques and excellent mid-last-century modernism jewelry and furniture. For ticket and other information visit Winnetka Show.

SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office. Jodie Jacobs photo
SOFA shows off really fine pieces for the home and office.
Jodie Jacobs photo

 

Where high-end art and superior design mix

Known as SOFA for bringing together Sculpture Objects Fine Art plus Design, the annual Chicago event is back at Navy Pier Nov. 2-5. Go upstairs to the Festival Hall to see what the international galleries say are trending now in the art world. For tickets and other information visit SOFA.

Jodie Jacobs

Porchlight Mines a Diamond in ‘Billy Elliot the Musical’

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

What if you have a dream or passion that does not fit other people’s notion of you?

‘Billy Elliot the Musical,’ playing now at The Prochlight Music Theater through Nov., 26, 2017 is about managing change and redefining who others say you are and who you think you can be.

Jacob Kaiser and Shanesia Davis in 'Billy Elliot' at Porchlight Music Theatre. Photo by Michael Courier
Jacob Kaiser and Shanesia Davis in ‘Billy Elliot’ at Porchlight Music Theatre. Photo by Michael Courier

The stage play with music by Elton John and book and lyrics by Lee Hall is adapted from the 2000 movie “Billy Elliot.” The time frame Is Thatcher era 1980’s in a small coal mining town near Newcastle in England. Union miners have been on strike for nearly a year and tensions between them and the “scabs” brought in to replace them is violent.

Billy Elliot (Jacob Kaiser) is 12 years old, his mum (Nicole Cready) is dead, his grandmother (Iris Lieberman) is senile and his brother (Adam Fane) and father (Sean Fortunato) are on the picket line, struggling to survive.

One day Billy happens into the community gym and gets involved with a rag-tag ballet class run by Mrs. Wilkinson (Shanesia Davis). The chance encounter ultimately helps Billy find a way to express his budding adolescent angst, repressed grief, and shared frustration of what seems to be the impossible social situation that seemingly defines his life.

This expression is interpreted in two emotionally powerful dance numbers “Angry Dance” and “Electricity,” each skillfully co-choreographed by Brenda Diddier / Craig V. Miller and brilliantly performed by Kaiser with Ivan Bruns-Trukhin as Older Billy.

In his transformation to adulthood Billy begins to consider his sexual identity which is tested by Mrs. Wilkinson’s daughter Debbie (Princess Isis Z. Lang), his best friend Michael (Peyton Owen) and a testosterone filled environment that does not necessarily consider ballet dancing a viable or proper gender conforming career path.

Sean Fortunato and Jacob Kaiser in 'Billy Elliott. Photo by Michael Courier
Sean Fortunato and Jacob Kaiser in ‘Billy Elliott. Photo by Michael Courier

His dilemma, as well as economic realities, requires that he and those who are concerned for his future re-imagine another way of being.

Everyone must come to terms with the fact that times are changing.  Coal is no longer part of the future. The jobs and the community that supported the industry are no longer an accepted surety.

Led by Director Brenda Didier, the company is outstanding from beginning to end starting with Jacob Kaiser who is an energetic and expressive dancer, singer and actor.

His transformation from beginner to advanced dancer was well controlled. His voice has a gravelly quality that is perfect for his age. It is clear this young man understands the part he is playing. Every line and every step was just right. He handles this demanding role with subtlety and maturity, devoid of annoying precociousness. Bravo!

Adam Fane, Billy’s older brother kept his emotional performance in bounds. Sean Fortunato, Billy’s Dad portrayed a perfect mix of stoicism and compassion.

Chicago stage veteran Iris Lieberman was spot-on as Grandma avoiding what could become a cliché performance. Peyton Owen as Billy’s best friend embraced his character with charm and elegance. Shenesia Davis manages the demands of her straight talking character Mrs. Wilkinson whose somewhat aloof nature could be misconstrued as harsh.

The ensemble was excellent, and it was clear that the girls of the ballet were having a blast.

Recognition must be given to dialect coach, Sammi Grant because there was never a time that anyone’s “English” accent was a distraction or got in the way of their performance.

Staging provided by this comparatively small venue at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts allows you to experience this production of “Billy Elliot the Musical” in a very intimate way.

The score has a unique quality that is difficult to define. It is contemporary but not “pop” or “rock.” It has aspects of classic musical theater but is not driven by the melody.

The play’s anthem, “Solidarity,” is rousing and powerful. “Grandma’s Song” is humorous and poignant. “Expressing Yourself” is a showstopper while “Born to Boogie” offers a bit of lightness and levity.  In the case of “The Letter” I doubt there was a dry eye in the house.

Conductor/ Pianist Linda Madonia and her musicians Justin Kono, Cesar Romero, Greg Strauss, Cara Hartz, Dan Kristan and Sarah Younker provided the cast with a wonderful accompaniment behind the set’s sliding glass panels in the back of the stage which provided an effective illusion of the miners’ elevator decent at the end of the play.

In short this production is perfection.

Note: The part of Billy Elliot is shared at various performances by Lincoln Seymour.

DETAILS: ‘Billy Elliot’is at The Porchlight Music Theater in the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn, through Nov. 26, 2017. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes. For tickets and other information call (773) 777-9884 or visit Porchlight Music Theatre.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

 

 

Lookingglass beautifully translates difficult Dickens tale

RECOMMENDED

Take the just-the-facts “ma’am” of Utilitarianism, compare it to the artistic joy of the circus, throw in dispiriting working conditions typical of mid 1800’s to early 1900’s mill towns, then people it with some victims and some typically villainous and greedy Dickensian characters and you have Charles Dickens’ 1854 story, ‘Hard Times for These Times.’

Cast of 'Hard Times' at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photos
Cast of ‘Hard Times’ at Lookingglass Theatre. Liz Lauren photos

What makes what would be a difficult-to-enjoy retelling of a sad story worth going to is the beautiful staging, exceptional acting and delightful Actors Gymnasium  acrobatics in a production recently opened at Lookingglass Theatre.

Originally adapted and directed by Heidi Stillman in 2001, the production returns to Lookingglass with gorgeous, dream-like circus sequences in the background. They emphasize the longing of its two main female characters: Louisa, the daughter of a utilitarian-style school superintendent, Mr. Gradgrind, and Sissy, who performed in a traveling circus until her father, a clown, left her so she could become educated.

Louisa is perfectly played as a dutiful, unhappy daughter by Cordelia Dewdney. Actress-Aerialist Audrey Anderson is just right as her friend, Sissy, former performer but now a student at the school and a member of the Gradgrind household.

Troy West is the odious mill owner, Mr. Bounderby who wants to marry Louisa even though he is 50 when she finishes her education at age 20. J.J. Philips is Tom, Louisa’s manipulative brother.

A secondary plot pits Stephen (David Catlin ) against the prevailing system. He’s a mill worker desperate to divorce his alcoholic wife but too poor to do so. He’s in love with the sweet-spirited Rachel (Louise Lamson).

Lauren Dewdney (Louisa) l, and Audrey Anderson (Sissy) in the foreground with Louise Lamson and Raymond Fox in the background.
Cordelia Dewdney (Louisa) l, and Audrey Anderson (Sissy) in the foreground with Louise Lamson and Raymond Fox in the background.

The entire cast is terrific with many of the actors playing more than one role.

Raymond Fox , excellent as Mr. Gradgrind, also plays Slackbridge. Catlin doubles as  circus owner Sleary. Nathan Hosner portrays Mr. Harthouse, a wealthy idler who is interested in Louisa, and also does Mr. M’Choakumchild and Kidderminster.

A special note has to be made of Amy J. Carle’s awesome performance as Mrs. Sparsit, Mr. Bounderby’s housekeeper and probable mistress.

Marilyn Dobbs Frank is so good as Mrs. Pegler, a lady who occasionally appears that you will likely guess who she really is.

Even though the mill conditions of “Hard Times” and prospects for women have changed, his character types are still present. So as with many Shakespearean plays, “Hard Times,”can be re-set in the present time.

DETAILS: ‘Hard Times – For These Times’ is  at  Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan, through Jan. 14, 2018. Running time 2 hours, 40 minutes, one intermission. For tickets and other information visit Lookingglass.

Jodie Jacobs

For more shows visit TheatreinChicago.

 

Field Museum exhibit is ancient and timely

 

Visitors stepping into “Ancient Mediterranean Cultures in Contact” at the Field Museum are likely to have a preconceived notion that they will be looking at exceptional examples of jewelry, pottery and probably a mummy and objects from Pompeii. But you would be just partially right.

Coptic materials at the end of "Ancient Mediterranean Cultures in contact" exhibit at the Field Museum
Coptic materials at the end of “Ancient Mediterranean Cultures in contact” exhibit at the Field Museum

Those items are there. In fact, there are about 100 fine examples of early Egyptian, Etruscan Greek and Roman objects pertaining to their polytheistic societies. But there is also a clip from a CNN broadcast at the entrance and Coptic material from a later monotheistic culture plus a modern day child’s life jacket at the end.

Curving around through the exhibit guests pass tall story boards about societal changes regarding religions, language and ideas. One board says: As Ideas Move Societies Change.

The boards are reminders that even back in the time the objects were made, whether BC or early A.D., the people using them were members of societies influenced by other cultures through trade, travel and wars and that they valued or argued about techniques and ideas from other places.

One board says: “When societies interact, things move, people move and ideas move.” It goes on to explain: “We experience this in our own lives when we buy imported fruit at the store, talk to a neighbor who grew up in another country or take a yoga class at the gym. But the movement of things, people and ideas across cultures isn’t new – this has been going on since the beginning of human history.”

Cultures and ideas change as people move is an important point of Field exhibit. Jodie Jacobs photos
Cultures and ideas change as people move is an important point of Field exhibit. Jodie Jacobs photos

Bill Parkinson who put the exhibition together originally considered doing an exhibit of Roman and Etruscan cultures. “The Field has fabulous Roman and Etruscan collections,” said Parkinson, associate curator of Eurasian anthropology.

But then he added that when an exhibit begins with the word “The” as in “The Greeks,” which, by the way, was a very fine Field exhibit November 2015 to April 2016, it concentrates just on one culture’s objects and contributions.

He pointed out that the idea for the current exhibit which opens Oct. 20, 2017 and continues through April 29, 2018, began about the same time as “The Greeks” but with a different objective

“It is about ideas. We’re telling stories about people. It’s interesting looking 800 to 200 B.C at the Etruscans, Rome, Pompei and how they relate to each other. As we pulled it all in, how Etruscans related to Greece and Rome related to Egypt it was an Oh, moment. The connections exploded,” Parkinson said.

The Coptic material is also important. “When cultures went from polytheistic to monotheistic those connections exploded. One god became critical during the first millennium. (January 1, AD 1, and ended on December 31, AD 1000), he said.

Tip: Because this exhibit is about connections rather than what happened first and second, it’s arranged by influences and connections, not chronologically. So while enjoying such objects as a necklace, a well-carved figure or an attractive pot, look at their descriptions because they mention influences such as how an item was made by one society in the style of a different culture.

A falcon pendant of Horus, an Egyptian god, from before 300 B.C. in the exhibit is a reminder that the Greeks and Romans also adopted him and that the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans imported some elements of deities, architecture and art from Egypt. The gold necklaces made in the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. in Italy ar a reminder that as the Roman Empire grew it accumulated wealth and was influenced by its expanded resources.
A falcon pendant of Horus, an Egyptian god, from before 300 B.C. in the exhibit is a reminder that the Greeks and Romans also adopted him and that the Greeks, Etruscans and Romans imported some elements of deities, architecture and art from Egypt. The gold necklaces made in the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. in Italy ar a reminder that as the Roman Empire grew it accumulated wealth and was influenced by its expanded resources.

“The objects tell stories. When we pulled them for the collection we did so to tell a truth about the time,” Parkinson said.

The exhibit also makes the point with TV broadcasts and found objects that societal connections continue today.

Or as Parkinson noted: “You don’t expect to see CNN or another headline when you walk into an ancient Mediterranean show or see Coptic material at the end.”

The Field Museum is at 1400 S. Lake Shore Drive, Chicago. “Ancient Mediterranean Cultures in Contact” goes from Oct. 20, 2017 through April 29, 2018. This is a ticketed show. For tickets, hours and other information call (312) 922-9410 and visit Field Museum.

 

 

 

This Weekend: Petty and posters and rock paper scissors

 

From a French poster by a famed artist and fantasy sculptures amidst nature’s forms to a commemorative sing-along for rocker Tom Petty, here are some things to do and places to go the weekend of Oct. 20-22, 2017.

Artist Kevin Box origami sculpture: "Rock Paper Scissors at Morton arboretum.
Artist Kevin Box origami sculpture: “Rock Paper Scissors” at Morton Arboretum.

Great art deals at TAC

Art lovers have a chance to pick up excellent fine or decorative art works including a Yaacov Agam at a price below what they typically bring in a gallery at the Upscale Art Resale. Held by The Art Center in north suburban Highland Park, the annual event is a win-win for collectors and TAC.

Paintings, antiques, jewelry, sculptures and other items are donated by designers, the community and TAC’s patrons.

The best chance to snag a treasure is Oct. 20 at the 6 p.m. early party preview which is $150. But the 7 p.m. regular party at $75 in advance and $90 at the door, is also excellent and have  an additional incentives including a 20 % discount on prices from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

“It’s a wonderful party with fun bites, cocktails and desserts, “ said Jacqueline Chilow, event chairperson.

The art resale opens to the public free of charge from Oct. 21 through Oct. 31. Hours are Mon.-Sat. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sun. Oct. 22 noon to 4 p.m. and Thurs., Oct. 26, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Art Center is at| 1957 Sheridan Road | Highland Park. For benefit tickets and more information  call (847) 432-1888 and visit TAC.

 

Sing “Free Fallin”

Gather in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s Grand Foyer Saturday to pay homage to late rocker Tom Petty. A musician who inspired more than a generation, Petty died Oct. 2, 2017.

Participants will receive the lyrics and be divided by voice category so they can join with Toronto Canada’s Choir! Choir! Choir!  to sing “Free Fallin.” No singing experience needed. Reservations needed. Tickets are $25.

The Lyric Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago. For reservations and tickets visit Lyric concert.

 

Rock Paper Scissors and more

Oct. 22 is the last day to see Origami in the Garden, the Morton Arboretum’s fantasy-like metal sculptures. See what looks like birds, elephants and a delightful Rock Paper scissors sculpture.

Morton Arboretum is at 4100 IL Hwy 53, Lisle. For garden admission and other information call 630) 968-0074 and visit MortonARB.

 

 

Personal Stories Take Wing at The Moth StorySLAM

RECOMMENDED

If you have the ability to turn sound into images in your mind, spoken word performances can be great theater.

Moth StorySLAM events are open mic storytelling competitions held in several large cities around the U.S.

The event I attended this week took place at The Promontory in Hyde Park at 53rd and Lake Park, an attractive modern glass and steel second floor facility in what was previously a Barnes & Noble Bookstore.

A speaker tells about his discovery during a recent Moth session.
A speaker tells about his discovery during a recent Moth session.

It seats over 100 people, has a large well lighted stage and a full cash bar in the back. The venue is used mainly for music although there is a nice, full-service restaurant on the first floor.

Be prepared for a considerable number of stairs to the performance area. They claim to have handicap access but it is an awkward service elevator accessed from the restaurant.

Moth StorySLAMs are held in this location the second Tuesday of every month. Tickets are $10 and available online at The Moth.

Ten volunteer storytellers are chosen at random to tell a true story without using notes. Each story is five to six-minutes long. Then, they are scored on a scale of one to ten based on how well the story is crafted as well as presentation and entertainment value.

Winners have an opportunity to advance to The Moth GrandSLAM.  Selected stories recorded at the various venues can be heard on the The Moth Radio Hour. In Chicago listen Thursday evenings on NPR Station 91.5 FM.

Each event has a topic upon which to  base the stories. When I went it was  DISCOVERY.

The first fellow spoke about what he discovered about his deceased parents through an interaction with a man who had been his father’s best friend and his mother’s first husband.

Another woman spoke about what she had discovered about childhood friendship the summer she and her friends rode a mattress down an infrequently used stairway at a major department store in St. Louis.

The winner incorporated a good deal of humor. His discovery related to his determination to hang on to his childhood dream of owning a monkey.

My friend, Robert, a frequent public speaker, talked about discovering that true winners help others to succeed.

There were other stories dealing with the discovery of love, romance and personal pain.

Some speakers are professionals while others may be making their first public speaking appearance which provides for great entertainment with an element of danger.

Though I have been something of a devotee of the radio show, I would say in this case I discovered a great new venue and an enjoyable event that I would easily recommend. Perfect if you enjoy exploring the diversity of the human experience.

Other MothSLAMs are held on Chicago’s Northside and in Evanston.

Visit themoth.org to learn more.

Reno Lovison

 

Holocaust and modern heroes featured in Take A Stand exhibition

 

Imagine being able to ask questions of Holocaust survivors not just now while many are in their 80’s, but 10 and 20 years from now after they have died.

Or think about what can happen when no one speaks out against discrimination and injustice.

The new Survivor Stories Theater at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, Skokie
The new Survivor Stories Theater at the Illinois Holocaust Museum, Skokie.

The folks at the Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center in Skokie have done more than merely ponder those possibilities and issues.

On Oct. 29, 2017, Take a Stand Center, the museum’s new, three-part permanent exhibition opens to the public.

Visitors can hear 13 Holocaust stories and ask questions of the speakers through  holographic, interactive technology in the Center’s Abe & Ida Cooper Survivor Stories Experience.

In the Goodman Upstanders Gallery, they can listen to the stories of 40 modern heroes who were willing to take a stand for social justice.

Then, inspired by these stories and examples, guests learn how to follow through based on their own convictions at the Take a Stand Lab.

After explaining that survivors telling their stories through holograms grew out of an idea from board member Jim Goodman, Illinois Holocaust Museum CEO Susan Abrams noted that the Shoah Foundation at the University of Southern California had been thinking along the same lines.

Working with Shoah and adding more technical experts, the recording time of each of the survivors in the exhibit was extended to include replies to questions viewers would likely have.  So that after hearing a story the listener is asked, “What do you want to know.”

“The experience is very strong. Custom voice recognition software prompts the answers,” Abrams said. “One of the things we’re doing is helping survivors communicate for generations to come.”

She added, “There is no substitute for human interaction to develop empathy.”

Note: Survivor stories are timed and recommended for ages 11 and older. Click here for reservation.

The Upstander Gallery in the new Take A Stand Center at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.
The Upstander Gallery in the new Take A Stand Center at the Illinois Holocaust Museum.

When moving to modern tales in the internationally-filled Upstanders section, visitors will come across such local heroes as Peace Builder Henry Cervantes at the Chicago-based Peace Exchange that teaches young community leaders to advocate for nonviolence,  Syrian American Medical Society Past President Zaher Sahloul, MD., and Syrian Community Network Founder and Executive Director Suzanne Akras Sahloul.

At the end of another museum exhibit is the sad, important phrase, “Never Again.”

“You’ve heard “Never Again, but never again has not been a reality,” Abrams said.

In the Take a Stand Center is the Take a Stand Lab to help people become engaged. “The third section has tools for change so that an individual, a school an organization can learn to advocate,” she said.

Pointing out that people often ask what one person could do, Abrams said, “This section answers that question, what can you do.”

Tools include how to learn about legislation or petitions and how write to a legislator and how else to act on an issue whether it’s civil rights, social rights or economic rights.

Visitors can take an action tool kit home. To learn more visit tools.

To prove that reaching out and doing something can make a difference, the Lab includes examples of success.

“We want the exhibition to move people from knowledge and inspiration to taking action,” Abrams said.

With a nod to a recent resurgence in activism, she said, “The exhibit is timeless and very timely.”

DETAILS: The Illinois Holocaust Museum & Education Center is at 9603 Woods Dr., Skokie, just west of the Old Orchard shopping center. For more information call (847) 967-4800 and visit IL Holocaust Museum.

 

‘It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing’

RECOMMENDED

Ladies in sparkly gowns and men in tuxes croon such  tunes as “Satin Doll,” “Prelude to a Kiss” and “In My Solitude” in “Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits,” a Music Theater Works production.

Ellington tribute at Music Theater Works. (Photo by Brett Beiner
Ellington tribute at Music Theater Works. (Photo by Brett Beiner)

The show includes songs popularized, written or arranged by one of the greatest jazz musicians of the 20th Century. Ellington defined sophisticated elegance and cool.

The performers have fun with the exotic melodies of “Caravan” and “Perdido,” and pick-up the rhythm with jazz classics “Take the A Train,” “Sophisticated Lady,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing,” as well as the sultry “Mood Indigo.”

Singers Justin Adair, Dawn Bless, Jar’Davion Brown, Caitlyn Glennon, Amanda Horvath, Evan Tyrone Martin, and Martin L. Woods move seamlessly from song to song delivering a steady stream of familiar hits.

Adair who performed Older Patrick in Music Theater Works’ recent production of “Mame,” surprised the audience by accompanying the ensemble on the guitar playing “In a Mellow Tone,” showing yet another of his many talents.

The three piece band with Christian Dillingham (bass) and Phillip Fornett (drums) is energetically directed by Joey Zymonas (piano).

This is an entertaining 90 minutes or so that celebrates the legacy of this great composer and entertainer but “Ain’t got” enough “swing.”

DETAILS: “Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits” is at Music Theater Works (formerly Light Opera Works) at Nichols Concert Hall, 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston, through Oct. 15, 2017.  For tickets and other information call (847) 920-5360 and visit MusicTheaterWorks.

Reno Lovison

(Guest reviewer Reno Lovison is married to pianist Julie Lovison who is proud to say she kissed Duke Ellington on the cheek after one of his performances.)

Dazzling voices seduce Lyric audience

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Bitterness, love, seduction, revenge and sorrow seldom have sounded so magnificent as they did Saturday during Lyric Opera’s opening night of “Rigoletto.”

With baritone Quinn Kelsey as jester Rigoletto, tenor Matthew Polenzani as Duke of Mantua and soprano Rosa Feola as Rigoletto’s daughter, Gilda, the only thing that could match the memorable experience is to have a recording to play their performances over and over.

Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center, Duke of Mantana (Matthew Polenzani) right of Rigoletto and couriers in )Lyric Opera production of Verdi's Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)
Rigoletto (Quinn Kelsey) center, Duke of Mantana (Matthew Polenzani) right of Rigoletto and couriers in Lyric Opera production of Verdi’s Rigoletto. (Todd Rosenberg photo)

However, opening night, Oct. 7, was on radio (for anyone to record) and there still are seven more performances through Nov. 3, 2017.

The opening night audience didn’t wait for the famed “La donna è mobile” sung by the Duke or the beautiful “Caro nome” by Gilda to yell an emphatic “Bravo.” Enthusiastic applause  followed all  arias of these virtuoso performers and at the quartet near the end.

Written by Giuseppe Verdi in the mid 1800’s, “Rigoletto’s’ music and drama has been appealing to opera lovers since its premiere in Venice in 1851. Melodrama might be a better description but then, many operatic themes fit that category.

To quickly recap, Rigoletto, with a libretto by Francesco Mavia Piave, is based on Victor Hugo’s somewhat scandalous  “Le roi s’amuse.” Verdi substituted a licentious duke for the king.

The character Rigoletto is a bitter, hunchbacked jester who dislikes his position, makes fun of the Duke’s courtiers he is supposed to entertain and is disliked in return.

His only love is for his daughter, Gilda whom he tries to keep from harm by not allowing her out except for church. Because she had fallen in love with the Duke when seeing him stare at her in church, she is happy he comes to the house where her father has been keeping her.

Gilda is abducted by the couriers who mistakenly believe she is Rigoletto’s mistress and she is brought to the court where it is assumed the Duke ravishes her.

Her distraught father plots revenge using Sparafucile (Alexander Tsymbalyuk), an assassin he met earlier. Gilda who is supposed to dress like a boy and meet up with her father in Verona, overhears the assassin’s plan to stab the Duke.

Even though she felt betrayed by the Duke who fell for the assassin’s seductive sister, Maddalena (Zanda Svede), Gilda still loved him and deliberately stepped into Sparafucile’s house to be murdered instead. She had heard Sparafucile agree to kill the next person who walked in because he needed a body and Maddalena had pleaded for the Duke’s life.

The tragedy is blamed on a curse by Count Monterone (Todd Thomas) who had cursed the Duke and Rigoletto after his own daughter had been seduced by the Duke, encouraged by Rigoletto.

Directed by E. Loren Meeker, conducted by Mario Armiliato with stylisticly simple but dramatic back  drops by Michael Yeargan, this new-to Lyric production should match opera aficionados’ expectations and attract new opera goers.

DETAILS: “Rigoletto” is at the Lyric Opera House (also called the Civic Opera House), 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago, now through Nov. 3, 2017. Running time is 2 hours, 33 minutes including one intermission. For tickets and more information call (312) 827.-5600 and visit Lyric Opera Rigoletto. For Lyric season visit Lyric.