Windows and Walnut Room say ‘Thanks’


Macy's State Street windows send messages of Thanks, Love and Believe. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)
Macy’s State Street windows send messages of Thanks, Love and Believe. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)

Macy’s State Street windows are packed with presents but the main messages they deliver to Chicago and to its front-line workers are Thanks and Love.

Meanwhile, upstairs in the Walnut Room, Macy’s employee put together thank-you food packages from the famed restaurant to be delivered to Chicago Police Department 001st District officers who are unable to spend Thanksgiving with their loved ones and to Northwestern Memorial Hospital’s COVID-19 Unit.

Walnut Room Manager Gino Tarallo loads up with food packages for front-line works. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)
Walnut Room Manager Gino Tarallo loads up with food packages for front-line works. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/Getty images)

The window decorations and the Walnut Room’s Great Tree can be seen and photographed through Jan. 3, 2021.

The store currently remains open. Check protocols at Macy’s State Street.

Behind the scenes at Comedy Central


At Bell (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)
At Bell (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)

Working on anything that has the word “comedy” in the job description should be fun and a laugh a minute or at least every 15 minutes.

But unless you are in the cable television business or part of the SNL group (I don’t really have to say what that stands for, right?), you learn by reading Art Bell’s memoir that working on a show or channel devoted to making people laugh is akin to falling down Alice’s rabbit hole. You don’t know what’s behind an innocent-sounding “eat me” lunch invitation sign or an executive’s Cheshire Cat grin.

Having grown up in my dad’s “Mad Men” world of advertising where clients are fickle and public trends change with each phase of the moon, I thought I knew what to expect when picking up Bell’s memoir.

The book was a surprise.

It read like one of the well-plotted mysteries I’ve been enjoying during the Covid crises that has kept me from reviewing shows in person.

A former cable television channel executive who had done everything from finance and marketing to creating and managing shows and channels, Bell takes readers behind the scenes of the tumultuous world he navigated while creating the 24-hour comedy network that became Comedy Central. (*He later joined and became President of Court TV.)

Each turn of his navigation that seemed promising in the beginning of a chapter turned so problematic that you wonder what will happen next. Will the hero find a new route?

Usually, reading a non-fiction book takes me at least a drawn-out week. And I’m a speed reader. Instead, Bell’s memoir was in my “can’t-put-this-down,” can’t-dinner-wait category.

Art Bell Memoir (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)
Art Bell Memoir (Photo courtesy of Ulysses Press)

Constant Comedy:  A Memoir by Art Bell. Subtitle: How I started Comedy Central and Lost My Sense of Humor. (Ulysses Press Berkeley CA, September 2020.)

Jodie Jacobs

Live holiday fun not canceled


City of Chicago holiday tree (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)
City of Chicago holiday tree (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)

Although indoor holiday events such as the Museum of Science and Industry’s “Christmas Around the World” has gone virtual, there are still outdoor places to visit. Three of them open this Friday, Nov. 20.

Chicago Tree

Drive or walk past Chicago’s holiday tree in Millennium Park. The lights officially go on Nov. 20. But the annual holiday ceremony goes virtual at 6:30 p.m. Nov. 19 on the city’s YouTube channel. For more information visit DCASE .

The program includes Chicago Children’s Choir, Sones de Mexico Ensemble, Percy Bady and Friends and a tribute to Donny Hathaway’s This Christmas.

Ice Skating

Maggie Daley Park’s Ice Skating Ribbon next to Millennium Park opens in time to see the Christmas Tree. Reservations needed to comply with Covid protocols. Visit  maggiedaleypark/skating.

Illumination at Morton Arboretum

The arboretum’s holiday light festival will be a half-hour drive through experience starting Friday as earlier announced, but bring your own refreshments because the concessions have been canceled and buildings will be closed.  Tickets are timed so visit Illumination for your time and date ticket.


Chicago museums close

Shedd Aquarium photo
Shedd Aquarium photo

Following Gov. Pritzker’s Covid-19 case mitigation orders on Nov. 17, 2020, Chicago’s museums will close this week. Several of them will shutter late afternoon Wednesday, Nov. 18.

Shedd Aquarium

The Shedd plans to close at 5 p.m. Wednesday and hopes to reopen Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021. Its website has some fee-based videos, animal encounters and education programs to offset the loss of revenue it needs for animal care and conservation. For more information visit sheddaquarium.


Claude Monet, Stacks of Wheat, (Art Institute of Chicago photo)
Claude Monet, Stacks of Wheat, (Art Institute of Chicago photo)


Art Institute of Chicago

The museum closed Nov. 17. However, some of the exhibits and interesting information about them can be found online. Check Beyond the Surface for painting background on Monet at YoutTube/Watch and other information at articedu closure.


Museum of Science and Industry

MSI will close Nov. 18 at 4 p.m. The museum has digital programs and resources. Visit MSIChicago for more information. See some of the tree decorations that are part of the museum’s annual Christmas Around the world exhibit at Trees and Traditions. To see how the exhibit was build and what it looks like now visit Christmasaroundtheworld.


Adler Planetarium on the eastern edge of Chicago's Museum campus. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Adler Planetarium on the eastern edge of Chicago’s Museum campus. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Adler Planetarium

The museum closed back in March 2020 and has remained closed but it has  an online presence for star gazers and folks who want to stay current on sky events.  Visit astronomy live but also check the events that occur every week and every other week such as Skywatch Weekly. Click on the arrow to see what is available free such as NASA LIVE for the latest operations at the International Space Station.




Remarkable exhibition and art space come to Chicago


Immersive Van Gogh (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)
Immersive Van Gogh (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)


Imagine being surrounded by the art of Vincent van Gogh translated into movement, color and sound.

If you deliberately drive or walk past theMart to see what pictures are currently shown on the huge Wacker Drive side of the building as Art on theMart or it you tried getting tickets for last year’s sold-out last year and this year’s almost sold out Lightscape, the Chicago Botanic Garden’s stroll through immersive light and sound, you are likely to want to get to tickets when they go on sale this month to “Immersive Van Gogh.”

Tickets go on sale 11 a.m. CST Nov. 23, 2020 at VanGoghChicago and (844) 307-4644. Prices start at $39.99, adults and $24.99 for youth age 16 and younger. Tickets and space conform to pandemic protocols of social distancing and hand sanitizing.

The exhibition deconstructs Dutch artist Vincent van Gogh and several of his works including “The Starry Night” and some of the “Sunflowers” series during an hour-long, 360 degree experience among changing projections and music in a 500,000 cubic foot space.


Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)
Immersive Van Gogh Exhibition (Photo courtesy of Immersive Van Gogh)


The creative team responsible for the Parisian Atelier des Lumières Exhibition in Paris is getting the Chicago edition of “Immersive Van Gogh” ready to open Feb. 11, 2021, according to Chicago Commissioner of Culture Mark Kelly during an introductory conference Nov. 16.

However, as remarkable as the Immersive van Gogh exhibition will be, Kelly also considered the space as equally important. The exhibition which leaves early May is going up in the formerly dormant, now remodeled, historic Germania Club in Old Town. The building will be known as Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago, a new venue for immersive art.

After noting that the Paris exhibition drew more than 2 million visitors, Kelly pointed out that Lighthouse ArtSpace Chicago would, from a global view, become a new “art destination.”  He added that Chicago, already known for its art institutions, would be an “art powerhouse.”

Jodie Jacobs

How The Loop got its name

Patrick Reardon, author of 'The Loop' (Photo courtesy of Reardon and Southern Illinois University Press)
Patrick Reardon, author of ‘The Loop’ (Photo courtesy of Reardon and Southern Illinois University Press)

Readers who pick up “The Loop: The ‘L’ tracks that shaped and saved Chicago” by Patrick T. Reardon, today, should picture the constant stream of office workers, lawyers, financers, shoppers and theater goers who filled Chicago’s downtown business district before the COVID-19 pandemic forced pretty much everyone to work and shop from home.

Reardon makes the case that unlike some big cities’ downtowns such as Detroit which faced difficult times until it recently started a comeback, Chicago’s business district flourished because its heart was encompassed by the approximately two miles of elevated tracks known as The Loop.

Ask many Chicagoans about The Loop and they are likely to say it is the downtown business district. The Loop’s elevated tracks follow Wabash Avenue on the east, Lake Street on the north, Wells Street on the west and Van Buren Street on the south.

Indeed, The Loop is usually considered so important as a Chicago neighborhood that business, restaurants and residences that have developed south and west of it are now known as in the West Loop and South Loop neighborhoods.

However, the author doesn’t start with the building of what is actually a rectangle of tracks.

Readers interested in that beginning should start on page 97 in the chapter called “The Birth of the Union Loop” which chronicles some of the shenanigans by city and real estate movers and shakers that entrepreneur Charles T. Yerkes wallowed through to make the Union Elevated Railroad Company (Union Loop Company) a downtown elevated track reality beginning in 1895 and completed in 1897.

Starting with the later chapter and then going back is a good idea because Reardon often refers to The Loop early on as the Union Loop but the word Union doesn’t mean much until the birth of his company.

The Loop (Southern Illinois University Press photo)
The Loop (Southern Illinois University Press photo)

What Reardon, a long time Chicago Tribune writer, columnist, editor and Pulitzer Prize winner, does do early in the book is convincingly dispute claims that The Loop really was an evolutionary name that grew from the many small loops made by cable cars.

And even though Chicagoans have lovingly adopted The Loop name for downtown Chicago, the book also describes efforts to tear down the elevated tracks because they pass second-story business windows, shadow the businesses on their streets below and make a racket.

The book contends that the “L” tracks still exist today partially as a result of their landmark status, their universal identity with Chicago similar to San Francisco’s cable cars and New York’s Brooklyn Bridge and the efforts to save them by a former mayor, the late Jane Byrne, after Mayor Richard J. Daley wanted them gone.

As evident by the bibliography, notes and 230 pages of historic references, Reardon has definitely done his research. Translated, that means there is extraneous information including bits about skyscrapers and Potawatomi Indians, but readers will come away with a better understanding of Chicago and its core.

The Loop: The “L” Tracks that Shaped and Saved Chicago (Southern Illinois University Press, Carbondale, 2020)

Jodie Jacobs


Jeff Awards perform excellent virtual show


Drury Lane (Photo courtesy of Drury Lane)
Drury Lane (Photo courtesy of Drury Lane)

The Equity Jeff awards were announced virtually this year. The 52nd annual recognition ceremony of excellence in performances and technical aspects had a lot of pluses.

Even though the ceremony was Nov. 9, it is still worth seeing on the Jeff Awards YouTube channel.

The good part of the virtual event is you can tune in when you want, watch, take a break, see performance clips and meet the nominees from your couch. Among the clips are scenes from “Color Purple,” “Bug” and “Spamalot.”

So, grab a snack, glass of wine and hear who takes top honors among a field of superb nominees.

Jeff Chairman John Glover gives a fine introduction to the whys and therefore of the event. Popular Chicago actor (actress is seldom used now) and former Jeff award recipient Michelle Lauto handles  hosting duties.

Because Covid interrupted the season, the Jeff Committee attended a mere 78 shows this year. That may seem a lot to people outside Chicago but the theater community here counts approximately 250 production companies in and around the city.

Jeff Equity productions that qualified for an award were limited to those shown between Aug. 1, 2019 through mid-March 2020. The hope is that some of the interrupted and not staged shows will be performed next year.

Here are some of the top winners. But even knowing them it is still fun to watch the ceremony.

Drury Lane Productions collected awards for “An American in Paris,” (Production – Musical -Large and Choreography) and “The Color Purple,” Director – Musical.)

Windy City Playhouse was recognized for “The Boys in the Band” (Midsize Production, Director, Scenic Design and Ensemble).

Court Theater received awards for “King Hedley II” (Production – Play- Large and  Kelvin Rostin, Jr. Principal Role and A.C. Smith, Supporting Role).

Porchlight Music Theatre garnered awards for “Duke Ellington’s Sophisticated Ladies” (Revue, Ensemble – Musical, Musical Direction and Lorenzo Rush, Jr. ,Performer)

Steppenwolf Theatre’s “Bug” received (Performer in a Principal Role for Carrie Coon, and technical awards for scenic and lighting design)

For a full list please visit Jeff Awards. For related information see ChicagoTheaterandArts.

Jodie Jacobs


Classes to take now: think art or cooking or even science


If tired of friends asking what are you doing with more time at home, put yourself into one of those cartoon frames with a lightbulb in the overhead cloud.

What would the next frame show? Learn how to make a holiday dessert or favorite ethnic dish? Learn to draw? Paint a portrait of your pet? Work with clay?  And what if the frame has another figure such as a young son or daughter/ So what about a fun science or comic-book or kids cooking class.?

Chicago Theater and Arts CTAA) checked out several resources in the Chicago area to come up with three suggestions for now. (More later in January to combat winter and Covid doldrums).


An Art Center of Highland class is on painting your pet. (TAC photo) Park the
An Art Center of Highland class is on painting your pet. (TAC photo)

The Art Center

TAC, as highland Park’s art exhibition and class space is called, has in person and online classes. A good website to know, TAC has online mini classes for adults and youngsters such as one for ages 15-100 to learn how to do a pet’s portrait, work with colored pencils or portray a winter scene.

Classes are online between Nov. 30 and Dec. 20, 2020 with most starting Dec. 1 and going on for two weeks using zoom. Youth classes, for drawing, cartooning, painting and clay,  are typically are  for age 9-13 but some begin at age 8.

Visit TheArtCenterhighlandpark for for information.


Chef Gale Gand (photo courtesy of Gale Gand)
Chef Gale Gand (photo courtesy of Gale Gand)

Kitchen Sisters Cooking School

Get dinner ideas. Cook and learn from famed chefs. Have the kids take a class.  Those are just some of the perks of going to Chefs Gale Gand and Jessica Dawson’s online Kitchen Sisters Cooking School.

Gand, an award winning pastry chef, cookbook author, Michelin star and James Beard restaurateur and cooking teacher works out of the Chicago area. Dawson is a traveling chef, teacher who was the youngest traveling America’s Test Kitchen host and has taught people around the world the science of cooking (when she stops long enough to teach in one place).


Forensics Chromatography (MSI Photo)
Forensics Chromatography (MSI Photo)

Museum of Science and Industry Resources Lab

MSI has a new, online spot for tomorrow’s scientists. Some of the topics are Mission to Mars: what to pack, Forensics Chromatography, and Engineers: building bridges. For more information visit MSIChicagoResources.


Jeff Awards on YouTube


Some theater venues around town. (J Jacobs photo)
Some theater venues around town. (J Jacobs photo)


To hear which shows, actors, and everyone involved in equity theater productions ranging from choreographers to costume designers receive recognition by the Jeff Committee, tune into YouTube tonight, Nov. 9, 2020 at 7 p.m. CST for the 52nd annual excellence awards.

The nominees had a different time frame to qualify in this year of the Covid-19 pandemic. But there were still 30 artistic and technical categories. Please see CTAA Jeff Award Nominations.

For more information visit Annual Equity Jeff Nominations and Jeff Awards.


Arts Across America: a virtual program worth bookmarking

Kennedy Center in Washington DC (Photo courtesy of the JF Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)
Kennedy Center in Washington DC (Photo courtesy of the JF Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts)

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a bi-partisan founded institution designated as our country’s National Cultural Center, has often televised arts  awards and programs. With COVID forcing the closure of music festivals and theaters the Kennedy Center is now presenting several performances on line. They are free and worth a view.

For example:  Wednesday, Nov. 4, at 4 p.m. ET the program  has Jewish music performed live by Chloe Pourmorady and Joey Weisenberg from the National Museum of Jewish History.

Then, on Thursday, Nov. 5, at 4 p.m. ET,  the Savannah Music Festival partnering with South Arts, is presenting Greenville, Georgia blues musician Jontavious Willis in a “Just You, Just Me Musical Conversation” between the Drum and the Voice. It features drummer Ulysses Owens Jr.  and vocalist Juquan Vickers in African-American spirituals.

For more information visit Kennedy Center.


Jodie Jacobs