Around Town: February

Instead of organizing the desk (or you name it), and wishing the groundhog prognosticators were wrong about six more weeks of winter, take in a show, find a special event to dispel gray skies and moods and take advantage of museum free days.

Theatre

The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre
The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre

If the family has a Saturday available, get tickets to ‘Short Shakespeare! A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ at The Yard, Chicago Shakespeare’s newly added theater on Navy Pier . The show is a fun 75 minutes that merges the Bard’s humorous mismatching of characters in his comedies. The production is offered Saturdays now through March 10, 2018 at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.. To get tickets visit Chicago Shakes Plays.

 

Concert

Listen as famed tenor Lawrence Brownlee performs ‘Cycles of My Being,’ a recital that puts forth what it is like to live as a black man in America. Co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, Lyric Opera/Lyric Unlimited and Opera Philadelphia, the program will only be in chicago Feb. 22, 2018 at 7 p.m. at the DuSable Museum of African American History. For more information visit Lyric Opera Cycles or call (312) 827-5600.

 

Walk around gorgeous, delicate orchids at the Chicago Botanic Garden.
Walk around gorgeous, delicate orchids at the Chicago Botanic Garden.

Botanics

Go to the Chicago Botanic Garden  Feb. 10 through March 25, 2018 to see orchids with an Asian accent. This year, the Garden’s Orchid Show blooms among kimonos, parasols and Asian plants. Hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. plus open later Thursdays to 8 p.m. For more information visit Chicago Botanic Garden orchid.

 

 

 

Museums

How about a night at the   museum,  that is among the fish?

Explore the Shedd during an overnight stay.
Explore the Shedd during an overnight stay.

 

For Presidents Day weekend stay the night Feb. 16, 2018 in a special program at the Shedd Aquarium that allows participants to explore the museum, see an aquatic presentation and do a scavenger hunt. The cost is $75 per person ($60 members).  For tickets and more information visit Shedd Aquarium Overnight.

 

Free Days

Presidents’ Day, a federal holiday when most schools in Illinois are closed to celebrate Presidents Washington and Lincoln’s birthdays, is Feb. 19, 2018. Fortunately, some of Chicago’s museums are free that day.

Some Chicago museums have free admission.
Some Chicago museums have free admission.

The Adler Planetarium’s general admission is waved for Illinois residents Feb. 19-22.  For more information visit Adler.

Art Institute of Chicago has free admission to Chicago residents under age 18, every day. See ARTIC.

Chicago History Museum is free every day to children under 18 who are Illinois residents. Visit Chicago History.

The Field Museum has free general admission for Illinois residents all of February. Visit Field Museum free days.

 

Art

The National Museum of Mexican Art always has free admission. See National Museum of Mexican Art.

Find this amazing dome and room at the Chicago Cultural Center
Find this amazing dome and room at the Chicago Cultural Center

The Chicago Cultural Center has a new exhibition on its fourth floor. Titled “Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush,” it was organized by the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. The Cultural Center also has other exhibits on its first floor. While in the building go to the third floor to see gorgeous glass domes and rooms. Admission is always free. Visit Chicago Cultural Center.

Get out and enjoy Chicago

Jodie Jacobs

 

A deep promise of what’s to come . . .

RECOMMENDED

Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) playing Othello (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) playing Othello
(Photo by Liz Lauren)

‘Red Velvet’ transports audiences to the tumultuous world backstage in the mid-1800s of London’s Theatre Royal in Covent Garden.  Written by Lolita Chakrabarti and directed by Gary Griffin, the award-winning play reminds us of who is veiled into the history of Shakespearean performers.

‘Red Velvet’ tells the story of a black actor, Ira Aldridge, who leaves New York in 1822 as a teenager and heads to London because actors of color were not being hired to perform in Shakespearean plays in the United States.  Aldridge’s life on stage confronts the belief that Shakespeare is for everyone.

In 1833 at London’s Theatre Royal, Edmund Kean, a great Shakespearean actor, collapses on stage while performing the lead in Othello.  Edmund’s son, Charles, wants to take over his father’s role, but Edmund is replaced by the young black American actor, Ira Aldridge, who had portrayed Othello in the provinces with much success.

Aldridge’s performance in one of London’s most prestigious theaters was mesmerizing.  But the reviews by many of London’s theater critics were conflicting, revealing their racial prejudices as they pointed out Aldridge’s physical features and unusual accent that made it difficult for him to pronounce English impeccably.

Following Aldridge’s first two performances, the production was cancelled.  Unfortunately, other major theaters in London were closed to him, so Aldridge launched his first continental tour in 1852, becoming one of the most famous and celebrated actors of the nineteenth century in eastern Europe.

Dion Johnstone who portrays Aldridge in ‘Red Velvet’ said, “Ira Aldridge used his platform on the stage to convince European audiences that people of color had souls and intellects as wise and as deep as theirs.”

Aldridge became known across the continent for other great Shakespearean roles, including Shylock, Macbeth and King Lear.  As was customary at the time, he played what were held as traditionally white roles in “whiteface.”

‘Red Velvet’ makes audiences ponder about racial performances.  There are few black Hamlets, King Lears, and others.  Shakespeare’s plays are powerful, but actors of color can make them seem political.  In ‘Red Velvet,’ Aldridge deliberates at length that there is “something about velvet . . . a deep promise of what’s to come.”

Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) as Othello and Chaon Cross (Ellen Tree) as Desdemona (Photo by Liz Lauren)
Dion Johnstone (Ira Aldridge) as Othello and Chaon Cross (Ellen Tree) as Desdemona.
(Photo by Liz Lauren)

In addition to Dion Johnstone’s outstanding performance as Ira Aldridge, Chaon Cross plays the famous stage actress Ellen Tree, who appears as Desdemona opposite Aldridge’s Othello.  The rest of the remarkable cast includes Greg Matthew AndersonMichael HaydenJürgen Hooper,  Tiffany Renee JohnsonRoderick PeeplesAnnie Purcell and Bri Sudia.

 

DETAILS:  ‘Red Velvet’ is at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, 800 E. Grand Avenue, Chicago, through January 21, 2018.  Running time: 2 hours and 15 minutes.  For tickets and other information, call 312-595-5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com .

 

Francine Pappadis Friedman

 

For more shows, visit TheatreinChicago

Chicago Shakespeare ‘Shrew’ is glorious theater

HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

Mention “The Taming of the Shrew,” the late 16th century William Shakespeare comedy on how a man (Petruchio) uses different methods to turn a willful woman (Katherina) into an ideal wife, and you might get arguments on how a civil, democratic society would frown on his methods and how the play appears misogynistic.

That is particularly so with the subplot on how Katherina’s younger sister (Bianca) is wooed by several suitors who consider her to be an ideal wife because she is sweet and even-tempered.

Then, think about how the play could be presented. In its original format, the intro to the play is offered within what has been called a framing device. In it a nobleman has the play performed for a drunken tinker named Christopher Sly whom he has tricked into believing that he also is a nobleman.

The brilliant way writer Ron West has worked out the play’s presentation with Chicago Shakespeare Theatre’s famed Barbara Gaines, director of “The Shrew,” is to expand on the framing device so it moves along parallel to the play in the appropriately offsetting, 1900s suffragette movement.

Cast of 'Taming of the Shre' at Chicago Shakespeare. (Liz Lauren photo)
Cast of ‘Taming of the Shrew’ at Chicago Shakespeare. (Liz Lauren photos)

No trickery is needed here because the Columbia Women’s Club members chose “The Shrew” as part of their amateur theater Shakespearean series.

They are rehearsing the show at a member’s mansion, exquisitely done by scenic designer Kevin Depinet, somewhere near Michigan Avenue (likely the Gold Coast neighborhood). They are there because the hall where they would have been had just flooded during a bad storm that is still going on outside.

To add to the comedy, parts of some costumes were ruined in the flood so the women stripped down to their bloomers but added capes and hats to help them stay in character. Susan E. Mickey cleverly mixed typical Shakespearean wear with bloomers.

The rehearsal sticks to Shakespeare’s lines and action but its message is greatly tempered by the actors going in and out of the mansion with their Suffragette signs and reports of what’s happening on Michigan Avenue.

Other Chicago references are made to Northwestern University and the Cubs and personalities such as an Emanuel and a McCormick. But current politics are also referenced such as the line that “Here on earth the popular vote means nothing,” which was said to great applause.

In between rehearsal sessions, the members break into song and the club’s show director speaks to some of the women about their roles and speeches.

The entire cast is excellent so instead of describing individual interpretations here you have who plays which role in the “Shrew” play and in the Women’s Club:  E. Faye Butler is Baptista and Dr. Fannie Emmanuel,  Lillian Castillo is Biondello and Mrs. Lucinda James,  Tina Gluschenko is Hortensio and Mrs. Beatrice Ivey Welles, Cindy Gold is Vincentio  and Mrs. Sarah Willoughby,  Alexandra Henrikson is Katherine and Mrs. Louise Harrison.

Alexandra Henrikson (Katherine) and Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruhio) in 'The taming of the Shrew.'
Alexandra Henrikson (Katherine) and Crystal Lucas-Perry (Petruhio) in ‘The taming of the Shrew.’

Also Ann James is Pedant and Mrs. Elizabeth Nicewander,  Heidi Kettenring is Tranio and Mrs. Dorothy Mercer,  Crystal Lucas-Perry is Petruchio and Mrs. Victoria Van Dyne,  Rita Rehn is Grumio and Widow and  Mrs. Mildred Sherman.

In addition,  Hollis Resnik is Gremio and Miss Judith Smith,  Faith Servant is Curtis and Mrs. Barbara Starkey,  Kate Marie Smith is Lucentio  and Mrs. Olivia Twist and Olivia Washington is Bianca and Mrs. Emily Ingersoll.

It’s OK if you don’t remember their roles (except, of course Kate) so here is a an abbreviated guide: Katherina (Kate) Minola is the “shrew and Petruchio is her suitor. Bianca, Kate’s sister, is pursued by the elderly Gremio, by Lucentio and by Hortensio who is also a friend of Petruchio.  Baptista Minola is Katherina and Bianca’s father. There is also the Widow wooed by Hortensio and Vincetio who is Lucentio’s father.

Then there is Grumio who is Petruchio’s manservant and Tranio, Lucentio’s manservant. Also, Biondello is Lucentio’s servant and Curtis is Petruchio’s servant.

When it’s over, you probably won’t care if you kept track of the roles because the play and play within the play offer glorious theater. Even though the Chicago Shakespeare production runs two hours, 45 minutes, it’s so much fun to watch that the time goes quickly.

‘Taming of the Shrew’ is at Chicago Shakespeare, 800 E. Grand Ave. through Nov. 12, 2017. For tickets and other information call (312) 595-5600 and visit ChgoShakes.

 

Shows coming to downtown Chicago

 

Late summer seems a time to get ready for back-to things such as school,a fall sport, workout classes if they stopped and volunteer activities. But August is also a good time to plan ahead to catch shows you’ll want to see. With about 250 theatre companies in the area the season can be overwhelming without checking out some of the offerings ahead of time.

The last two round-ups of what’s coming to area theatres were listings for the northern and western suburbs.

This one is for downtown Chicago. If you go you will find the venues have interesting, historic homes.

Next will be neighborhood Chicago theatres.  When you see how many shows are at each venue you’ll understand how easy it is to miss one you really want to catch.

 

Auditorium Theatre  

The Auditorium Theatre is worth seeing even when there isn't a show. Jodie Jacobs photo
The Auditorium Theatre is worth seeing even when there isn’t a show. Jodie Jacobs photo

 

Louis Sullivan’s iconic performing arts hall showcases productions by the Joffrey Ballet and other dance companies ranging from Shen Wei Dance Arts, Ensemble Espanol and Alvin Ailey to Les Ballets de Monte Carlos, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ballet Nacional Cuba and Giordano Dance Chicago.

In addition, its season includes musical groups and singers such as Jonathan Lee, and the Jazz Gospel Messiah’s “Too Hot to Handel.”  In between are lectures, documentary presentations, comedians and tributes to pop and jazz stars.

Here is the Joffrey Ballet Schedule: Gisselle Oct. 18-29, Dec. 1-30, 2017, Modern Masters (George Balenchine, Myles Thatcher, Nicolas Blanc, Jerome Robbins) Feb. 7-18, 2018, Midsummer Night’s Dream April 25-May 6.

For other production dates and the full calendar click Auditorium. The  Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is at 50 E. Congress Parkway, (312) 341.2300.

 

Broadway in Chicago

Touring Broadway shows are typically in four venues: Cadillac Palace, 151 W. Randolph St., Oriental, 24 W. Randolph St.,  PrivateBank Theatre, 18 W. Monroe St. and Broadway Playhouse. Tickets are available at Broadway in Chicago and also Ticket Master by clicking on individual shows at Broadway Chicago and at the theatres’ box offices. Also call (800) 775-2000.

Of course everyone knows that the mega hit, “Hamilton” is still in town at The PrivateBank Theatre. Tickes are currently available through April 29, 2018.

At the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Disney’s “Aladdin” is there now through Sept. 10 followed by “Motown the Musical” Oct. 3-8 and “Les Miserable”  Oct. 11-29. Then there is “School of Rock” Nov. 1-19 followed by Irving Berlin’s “White Chirstmas” Nov. 21-Dec. 3, 2017. “Beautiful – the Carole King Musical” returns to town, Dec. 5, 2017 and goes to Jan 28, 2018. The play, “The Humans,” comes Jan 30-Feb. 11 followed by ”Love Never Dies” Feb. 14-March 4. Then it’s “On Your Feet!” March 21-April “ followed by “Waitress,” July 3-22.

At the Oriental Theatre “Escape to Margaritaville” is Nov. 9-Dec. 2, 2017.  “Wicked” is there Dec. 6-Jan. 21 2018 and “The Color Purple” goes on July 17-29, 2018.

At the Broadway Playhouse, “90210: The Musical” will be there Sept. 13- Sept. 17 followed by Ken Ludwig’s ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” Nov. 11-Dec. 31. 2017. Also during that time is Gobsmacked” Dec. 5-10.

 

Chicago Shakespeare

The company has expanded its venue at Navy Pier to include The Yard so some of the shows are there and others in its regular hall. Check when buying tickets.

“The Taming of the Shrew is Sept.16 – Nov. 12 and James Thierrée’s “The Toad Knew” opens The Yard Sept. 19 – 23. “Amarillo” is Oct. 17 – 29, 2017 and “Red Velvet” is Dec 1, 2017 –Jan 21, 2018. “Short Shakespeare – A Midsummer Night’s Dream” is Feb 3-March 10, “Macbeth” is April 25-June 24 and “Waiting for Godot” is May 23- June 3, 2018.

For details visit Chicago Shakes and call (312-595-5600. Chicago Shakespeare is at 800 E. Grand Ave. on Navy Pier, Chicago.

The Chicago Theatre hosts a variety of shows. Jacobs photo
The Chicago Theatre hosts a variety of shows. Jacobs photo

 

Chicago Theater

The historic venue has something going on every weekend but some of the seasons highlights are Fleet Foxes, Oct. 3-4,Steve Martin and Martin Short Oct. 6-7, Tori Amos, Oct. 27 Dream Theater in contcrt, Images, Words and Beyond Mov. 3 An evening with the Avett Brothers Nov. 9-11 Celtic thunder  Symphony Tour dec. 7 Joe Biden American Promise tour Dec. 11 For more information visit Chicago Theater. The Chicago Theater is at 175 N State St. For tickets call (800) 745- 3000 or go to Ticketmaster.com.

 

Goodman Theatre

The Goodman starts fall with Arthur Miller’s  “A View From the Bridge” Sept 9 – Oct 15 followed by Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” Nov 18 – Dec 31, 2017. Rogelio Marinez’ “Blind Date” (Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev) is Jan 20- Feb. 25, 2018 followed by Henrik  Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” Mar. 10-Apr 15. Emily Mann’s “Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters’ First 100 Years” is May 5-June 10 and Ellen Fairey’s “Support Group for Men” is June 23-july 29.

In addition, Goodman’s Annual New Stages Festival is Sept 20-Oct. 8. The  Festival features new works by Christina Anderson, David Cale, Mikhael Tara Garver, Rebecca Gilman, Ike Holter, Jose Rivea, Mat Smart and Bess Wohl.

Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St. For for information visit Goodman. or call (312) 443-3800.

 

Harris Theatre for Music and Dance

October features Sir John Eliot Gardiner, the Monteverdi Choir, and the English Baroque Soloists have announced an ambitious international tour, with concert performances of all three operas – L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, and L’incoronazione di Poppea – and Rennie Harris Puremovement and Arias a dn Barcarolle by Lincoln center chamber music society .

Nov.  has “Hot Sardines” comeing. Cec. Brandenburg concertos. By lincon chentr chambermusic society . Jan Brian Brooks dance Companyh, and lc chanmber doing Brahms and dvorak . Feb American Ballet and chamber doing Vienna to Hollywood

March is Mark Morris dance group with the Silk Road Ensemle and then Christian Scott aTude Adjuah May is chamber duoing Tempost in C Minor.

The Harris Theater is at the north end of Millennium park at 205 E. randolph St. For tickets and more events visit Harris and call (312) 334-7777.

Lookingglass is in the historic Water Works. Jacobs photo
Lookingglass is in the historic Water Works. Jacobs photo

 

Lookingglass

Lookingglass is in the historic Water Works across form Water Tower Place. The theatre company is known for artistic innovation and interpretation that often includes gymnastics.

Next season features “Hard Times” Oct. 4, 2017 – January 14, 2018, “Plantation” Feb. 21 – Apr. 22 ending with “20,000 Leagues Under the Sea” May 23, Aug. 19, 2017.

Lookingglass Theatre is at 821 N Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL 60611. For tickets and more information visit Lookingglass or call (312) 337-0665.

 

Take a look and enter it on the calendar so you don’t miss a great show.