Two fall ticketed events to get now


Chicago botanic Garden Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns. (Botanic Garden photo)
Chicago botanic Garden Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns. (Botanic Garden photo)


Ready for fall?

The signs are there. A few leaves are already floating on the wind, Cars are filling school parking lots, Theater billboards and marquees announce show openings. According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the next full moon after this weekend’s large orb, is the Harvest Moon on Sept. 20, 2021.

It’s time to start marking the calendar with fun, fall activities. Just don’t let too many weeks go by without snagging tickets for events that sell out.

Two 2021 festivals that sell out before people on the go realize the tickets are gone, are the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns and Lightscape.

Jack o Lanterns Oct. 13-17 and Oct. 20-24, 2021

“A: Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns is one of our most popular events at the Garden and in 2019, we expanded this event to run for 10 evenings due to popular demand, “said Zombolo, associate vice president of visitor events and programs.

“I’ts become an annual fall tradition,” she said and added, that people are “ amazed by the artistically carved pumpkins.”  And it’s all “ in a beautiful fall setting,” said Zombolo.

According to Zombolo, the event adapted procedures to fit recommended pandemic protocols.  “Last year we implemented new procedures including limited capacity per timeslot, a one-way trail with a separate entrance and exit, and extra space between pumpkins. We will be continuing those procedures in 2021.”

Tickets are time and date sensitive. They go on sale to members Aug. 23, 2021 and to the public Aug. 27.  Adults: $16/$18, Children 3 – 12: $12/$14
Children 2 and under are free. A $20 parking fee applies to  nonmembers and must be purchased ahead, online. Members park for free.  The Garden closes at 5 p.m. during the event and reopens at 6 for ticketed event guests.

Lightscape Nov. 12, 2021 to Jan. 2, 2022.

Now in its third year, the event’s famed winter cathedral will be back along with sing along musical trees but there will also be new features and a newly reworked, 1.25 mile path.

Tickets are already on sale for Lightscape. As with Jack o Lanterns, tickets are date and time sensitive. Ticket information for Lightscape.

Jodie Jacobs


Blue Angels to zoom across Chicago skies this weekend


Navy Blue Angels to fly over Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the US Navy Blue Angels)
Navy Blue Angels to fly over Chicago. (Photo courtesy of the US Navy Blue Angels)


Hopefully the full Chicago Air and Water show will return in 2022. But at least the show’s star, the  U. S. Navy’s Blue Angels, will brighten the city’s skyline midday Friday in a practice run and Saturday and Sunday as the scheduled show’s solo attraction.

Watch from the North Avenue Beach as  suggested by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Events.  The beach, ground zero in past years, typically isn’t as crowded for the Friday practice.

North Avenue Beach is at the beach at 1600 N. Lake Shore Dr.  Admission is free, however, the planes can also be seen between Oak Street and Fullerton Ave. A new show feature is audio accessibility.

The practice run is Aug. 20 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. The  aerial demonstrations are Aug. 21 and 22 from noon to 1 p.m.

Or watch from the water. Several local cruises have scheduled the event. Among them is the new City Experiences’ City Cruises Chicago 


Jodie Jacobs

Chicago theaters open for fall season with COVID mandates


Chicago area theaters are back. (Photos by Jodie Jacobs)
Chicago area theaters are back. (Photos by Jodie Jacobs)

After more than a year of stages going dark due to the COVID pandemic, Chicago area theater venues from music and opera to drama and dance are reopening their doors with the beginning of the fall 2021-22 season.

However, expect to see mask and vaccination or negative test result requirements, As much as they want the lights back on, the theater groups also want everyone, including staff and actors to be safe.

“The health and safety of our patrons is our main concern” said Broadway in Chicago President Lou Raizin. “The theatre community was the first to close and the last to reopen and this has been a tremendous loss for the City of Chicago and the economic generator that the arts provide.”

He explained the impact. “On an annual basis pre-pandemic Chicago’s creative industries produced more than $17.6 billion in economic output, supported 81,300 jobs and generated more than $4.8 billion in household earnings—delivering $336.5 million in local and state government revenue.”

Raizin added, “Given the necessity for theatres to open with 100% capacity our working together with fellow Chicago arts organizations has given us the opportunity to chart our way back to opening our doors and bringing our stages alive again safely.”

To pull together with one voice the list of cooperating show venues can be found on the League of Chicago Theatres  website. Protocols  will be enforced for indoor venues through 2021 and then revisited. The requirements will vary by venue so best plan is to check the venue’s safety measures when purchasing tickets.





Goodman Theatre reopens with ‘African Mean Girls Play’


Mean girls Play at Goodman Theatre. : (L to R) Adhana Reid (Ama), Tiffany Renee Johnson (Mercy), Adia Alli (Gifty), Ashley Crowe (Nana) and Tania Richard (Headmistress Francis). (Photo by Flint Chaney).
Mean girls Play at Goodman Theatre. : (L to R) Adhana Reid (Ama), Tiffany Renee Johnson (Mercy), Adia Alli (Gifty), Ashley Crowe (Nana) and Tania Richard (Headmistress Francis). (Photo by Flint Chaney).

In March of 2020, three days before “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” was set to open, Goodman Theatre was forced to shut down due to COVID. It was thought the shutdown would be temporary.

When it wasn’t, the organization pivoted and turned to streaming. The play was viewed in 45 states, 13 countries and was seen by more than 1,600 Chicago Public School students.

“School Girls” is now back in session, live.

Deceptively funny with dark undertones, the play revolves around a group of high school girls at an exclusive boarding school in Ghana.

The reigning “Queen Bee” has her sights on the Miss Ghana beauty pageant to compete for “Miss Universe.” But then new girl, Ericka, enters the scene and it’s a game-changer for everyone.

Expect a laugh every few minutes as the girls engage in comedic banter about clothes, looks, and family background that showcase the similarities of teenage girls across the globe.

What was truly funny was their perception of American cultural icons like White Castle, Nike Shoes and Wal-Mart.

But bullying, blackmail and deception all come into view.

Starring Adia Alli (Gifty), Kyrie Courter (Ericka Boafo), Ashley Crowe (Nana), Ciera Dawn (Paulina Sarpong), Tiffany Renee Johnson (Mercy), Adhana Reid (Ama), Tania Richard (Headmistress Francis) and Lanise Antoine Shelley (Eloise Amponsah, the eight actors show powerful performances in a range of emotions from silly joy to deep frustration.

Mention must be made of Kyrie Courter’s amazing voice when she sings Whitney Houston’s, “The Greatest Love of All.”

The play was written by Ghanaian-American playwright Jocelyn Bioh, who was inspired by the 2011 beauty pageant in Ghana.

Directed by Lili-Anne Brown with quick precision and impeccable comedic timing, the ambience on the stage slowly turns into something more realistic, frightening and contemporary – as racism rears its ugly head.

Kudos to costume designer Samantha C. Jones for the girls’ beautiful gowns and elegant dress for Eloise Amponsah.

“School Girls” runs through August 29, 2021  in the Albert Theatre. Run time:  Approximately 80 minutes with no intermission. Seating is limited and masks are required.

Goodman theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn, Chicago. For tickets and other information visit Goodman Theatre/Here.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Mira Temkin


Around Town Part Three: Chicago stages are turning on the footlights


After a year of streaming performances, some of Chicago’s theaters are toe-testing the public’s comfort with live, indoor productions.

“Cooking with Bubbie,” a comedy presented by MadKap Productions is playing at the Skokie Theatre through Aug. 22 with Jan Slavin alternating performances with Carla Gordon. A historic theatre, the venue is at 7924 Lincoln Ave. Skokie


Goodman Theatre (Marquee photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)
Goodman Theatre (Marquee photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

Goodman Theatre is bringing back “School Girls – or the African Mean Girls Play” July 30 to Aug. 29, 2021 for its first 2021 in-person production in the Albert. It’s a  Chicago premiere that was set to open March 2020 before COVID shut the theaters down.

A comedy written by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Lili-Anne Brown, the story tells how a “reigning queen bee” of an exclusive Ghana boarding school aspires for the Miss Universe pageant.  It’s a comic look at global similarities and differences of teenage girl behavior.

See Patron Comfort & Well-Being guidelines. Goodman Theatre is at 170 N. Dearborn St. Chicago, IL


Music Theater Works has moved to the North shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
Music Theater Works has moved to the North shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.

Music Theater Works, formerly based in Evanston, is welcoming audiences  with “Mamma Mia!” Aug 19-29  at its new indoor home, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL

The season will continue with “Ragtime” Oct. 29-Nov. 7 followed by “Billy Elliot” Dec.  23, 2021 to Jan. 2, 2022.

Further north, Citadel Theatre  opens its indoor season with Neil Simon’s “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Sept. 15-23, followed by “You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown,” Nov. 17-20. The venue is in a school building at 300 Waukegan Rd., Lake Forest, IL



The Nederlander Theatre is the former Oriental Theatre on Randolph Street
The Nederlander Theatre is the former Oriental Theatre on Randolph Street.

Broadway in Chicago is starting with “Rent” Oct. 5-10 at the CIBC Theatre at 18 W. Monroe St., followed by “What the Constitution Means to Me” at the Broadway Playhouse Oct. 26-Nov. 21, then “Beautiful – The Carol King Musical” Nov. 2-7 back at the CIBS Theatre.

Put the pre-Broadway premiere of the musical “Paradise Square” on the calendar. It plays Nov. 2-Dec. 5 at the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago. The show is a tale of differing perspectives during the Civil War plays out at a New York establishment called Paradise Square.

Tickets are already on sale for what is expected to be a blockbuster, Disney’s “Frozen,” which will be Nov 19, 2021 – Jan. 22, 2022. at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph St.

Broadway in Chicago’s horn of plenty continues with “Pretty Woman – The Musical” Dec. 14-19 at CIBC. For more information, tickets and the 2022 show listings please visit Broadway in Chicago Shows.


Jodie Jacobs



Part One: Chicago now has three opera companies and seasons

Part Two: Art exhibits that are anything but boring

Around town Part Two:  Art exhibits that are anything but boring


The Safety Patrol is among Bisa Butler: Portraits at the Art Institute of Chicago. (artists photo)
The Safety Patrol is among Bisa Butler: Portraits at the Art Institute of Chicago. (artists photo)

Chicago’s art scene is returning to life

Unusual portrait interpretations are at the Art Institute of Chicago.  Intriguing  works and insights of famed artist Frida Kahlo are at a College of DuPage gallery. Cartoon art and their artists are bringing memories and chuckles to the Chicago Cultural Center’s Yates Gallery and Museum of Contemporary Art’s Fourth Floor. Plus, the street art of Banksy will soon be up in a State Street space.

Because of the Obama’s strong ties to Chicago, Kehinde Wiley’s unique portrait of President Barack Obama and Amy Sherald’s brilliant portrayal of Michelle have started their tour at the Art Institute of Chicago. They can be viewed through Sept. 6, 2021.

While there visit Bisa Butler: Portraits. Butler’s works are done as quilts that portray  family, and black life. Up through Sept. 6,  “Bisa Butler: Portraits” is the artist’s first solo museum exhibition.


Frida Kahlo. Self portrait with small monkey. (Image courtesy of Cleve Carney Museum of Art)

Sept. 6 seems to be a popular end date so before it pops up on the calendar try to get over to the Cleve Carney Museum of Art at the College of DuPage  to see Frida Kahlo: Timeless.  The exhibit is as much about the life of a significant 20th century artist as a show of her work. The art museum is at 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn.

Two Chicago destinations, The Museum of Contemporary Art and the Chicago Cultural Center have teamed to present cartooning art, history and the artists  behind them across the decades.

Chicago: Where Comics Came to Life. (James Prinz photography)
Chicago: Where Comics Came to Life. (James Prinz photography)

The Cultural Center exhibit, City of Chicago :: CHICAGO: Where Comics Came to Life goes from 1880 to 1960 and is curated by artist and author Chris Ware with Chicago Cultural Historian Emeritus, Tim Samuelson. The MCA – Home ( takes it from the 1960’s to now and was guest-curated by Dan Nadel; organized for the MCA by former James W. Alsdorf Chief Curator  Michael Darling and Curatorial Assistant Jack Schneider.

Both exhibits close Oct. 3.

 The Art of Banksy: Without Limits opens Aug 14 at 360 N. State St. (fourth floor). In case you haven’t heard of this person, he is a street artist credited by Time Magazine  as among the world’s  100 most influential people in 2010. Although his identity is secret, Banksy is supposedly British and about 40 years old.

“The Art of Banksy” includes more than 130 of the artist’s original works, prints on various materials, photos, sculptures, murals, installations and more.  A video documentary accompanies the exhibit.

Jodie Jacobs


Around Town Part One: Chicago now has three opera companies and seasons


Opera Festival of Chicago adds different works and artists to the arts scene this summer. (Image by Cydney M Lewis)
Opera Festival of Chicago adds different works and artists to the arts scene this summer.
(Image by Cydney M Lewis)

Instead of the COVID-19 cutting back Chicago’s arts scene, it has inspired more opera and theater performances and more exhibits. Part One  spotlights opera. Part two looks at the exhibits on now and opening. Part Three draws curtains back from formerly dark stages.

The Lyric Opera of Chicago will welcome audiences back in 2021 to a refurbished Opera House with crowd pleasing, re-imagined favorites and its first mainstage season Spanish language opera.

The Chicago Opera Theater will be mixing a favorite with new and not heard here before operas in its 2021-22 season.

And let’s have a drum roll for the Opera Festival of Chicago, a newly formed group of artists who are already filling a summer festival void with three productions.

Lyric Opera of Chicago

Maestro Enrique Mazzola  opens the season with Verdi’s Macbeth Sept 17-Oct 9, followed by Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love Sept. 26-Oct 8. Then Mozart’s Magic Flute will be Nov. 3-Nov. 27 and Catan’s Florencia  en el Amazonas, Nov. 13-Nov. 28. More announcements will be made about the second half of the 2021-22 season.

Chicago Opera Theater

COT, as it’s popularly known, opens with Bizet’s Carmen Sept 16 and 18 at Harris Theater for Music and Dance, followed by Adamo’s Becoming Santa Claus, Dec. 11, 17 and 19 at the Studebaker Theater. The season ends with Errolyn Wallen and Deborah Brevert’s Quamino’s Map  April 23, 29, and May 1,  also at Studebaker Theater.

Opera Festival of Chicago

Newly formed to introduce Chicago audiences to Italian operas they likely have not heard before, the artists hope to make the Festival an annual draw similar to those in Spoleto and Verona.

The Festival opened with Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s Il Segreto di Susanna (Susanna’s Secret), July 24 at the Athenaeum Theatre.

Then it will do “Dante 700,” at Artifact Events  in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood, July 28 and July 29. Inspired by Dante’s “Divine Comedy,” the program is a vocal salute to the famed poet, writer and philosopher on the 700th anniversary of his death.

The Festival ends  Aug. 5 with Puccini’s  Il tabarro (The Cloak) performed at Thalia Hall in Chicago’s Pilsner neighborhood.

Going to different neighborhoods is part of the Festival’s mission statement which reads, in part,  “we aspire to: generate an inquisitive operatic appetite within Chicago audiences; make our work – and its cultural context – accessible to a wide audience; provide a stimulating and inspirational environment of Italian opera for artists and audiences alike…

Jodie Jacobs


Steppenwolf names new artistic directors


Co-artistic directors Audrey Francis and Glenn Davis. In the round theater part of Steppenwolf's new Arts and Education Center opening this fall. (Photo by Frank Ishman.)
Co-artistic directors Audrey Francis and Glenn Davis. In the round theater part of Steppenwolf’s new Arts and Education Center opening this fall. (Photo by Frank Ishman.)

Steppenwolf Theatre Company,  a multi award-winning Chicago ensemble theater, announced today, that ensemble members Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis will be co-artistic directors when Artistic Director Anna D. Shapiro steps down in August.

Actor/producer Glenn Davis a Chicago native with strong ties to Los Angeles, performed in Steppenwolf ensemble member Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo at L.A.’s Kirk Douglas Theatre, and transferred with the production to Broadway, where he starred alongside Robin Williams.

Upon joining the ensemble in 2017, Davis appeared in several productions including Downstate by ensemble member Bruce Norris in Chicago and at the National Theatre in London.

Davis is a partner at Cast Iron Entertainment, a collective of artists currently in residence at L.A.’s Geffen Playhouse that incubates new theater projects.

He is also an artistic associate at The Young Vic Theatre in London and at The Vineyard Theatre in New York.

A graduate of DePaul University’s Theatre School, Davis is also the first African-American to graduate from the Birmingham Conservatory for Classical Theatre at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada.

Actor/director/teaching coach, Audrey Francis is the co-founder of Black Box Acting. The Black Box Method she created is based on the Meisner and Viewpoints techniques. Although she and her partner sold it after a decade, Black Box continues in Chicago, today. However, she continues to as a professional acting coach for Showtime, NBC, Fox, and Amazon.

Francis, who attended The School at Steppenwolf in 2004 and has acted with several Chicago area companies, joined the Steppenwolf ensemble in 2017. Audiences have seen her in The Doppelgänger )Dance NationThe FundamentalsBetween Riverside and Crazy and The Herd.

She has also performed in such independent films as Knives and SkinLater DaysSignature Move and the web series Distant Learners. Recent directing credits include Plano with First Floor Theatre that debuted in the 1700 space at Steppenwolf, The Invisible Hand at Steep Theatre, and the audio play of I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter in Steppenwolf’s most recent virtual Steppenwolf NOW season.

“Steppenwolf was founded by extraordinary actors who had a vision of building an ensemble of artists who would support each other while producing honest, bold, and thought-provoking theatre,” said Shapiro.

“This approach changed American theater. Now with a nearly 50-member ensemble, we are on the verge of our next great act—the opening of a remarkable new theater-in-the-round and an education wing, two decades in the making, that promises to be a cultural nexus for our City. Glenn and Audrey, together, are the right mix to build on our company’s legacy and open our doors wider than ever before.”

An information release on the appointment noted that Davis and Francis are the first co artistic directors appointed by the ensemble in its nearly five-decade history and the first time the company has elected an artistic director of color.

Jodie Jacobs



Seeing the world through dark glasses


'I Hate It Here' live online at Goodman theatre. (Photo by Flint Chaney)
‘I Hate It Here’ live online at Goodman theatre. (Photo by Flint Chaney)

2 stars

If someone you know or maybe even an anonymous someone on Facebook asks how are you coping with COVID, what do you say?  In “I Hate it Here,” a live streaming Goodman Theatre play by Ike Holter, actors representing different economic strata, backgrounds and race spew out their negative views of the world, often on top of each other’s thoughts.

Yes, we all often do talk at the same time. Fortunately, if you want to know what they said, there are subtitles because much of the spoken dialogue tumbles out like rushing water.

What in the first few of a dozen segments of complaints about people’s rudeness and empty or uncaring attitudes come across as brilliant in an “I’ can’t take it anymore” framework yelled from a window, merely becomes noise. As meaningful as the complaints are, and as good as the acting is,  the diatribe starts to sound like a broken record.

The exception was a verbal slow-down of a poignant dialogue between a white nurse and an injured black man who told her she could have said. “stop,” when she saw him attacked.

The pandemic’s lockdowns, mask wearing mandates and deaths of loved ones all coming on top of already existing societal evils have twisted our universe.

Hearing about societal problems in a play has historically been thought provoking and even led to change. But to accomplish that audiences, and later on, readers, need more contrasting elements and character depth than found in “I Hate It Here. The title sounds like a teenager’s slamming a bedroom or front door.

“I Hate It Here” streams live July 15-18, 2021. It is the third play of a live online trilogy presented by Goodman Theatre that began with ‘The Sound Inside,” May 13 16, followed by “Ohio State Murders”  June 17-20.  Individual tickets are $30. The trilogy was $60.

For tickets and other information visit Goodman Theatre/Here.

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago

Related: ‘The Sound Inside

Jodie Jacobs

Comics exhibit pulls viewers into real and alternate worlds



Ivan Brunetti Spring 2013 . (Courtesy of the artist)'
Ivan Brunetti Spring 2013 . (Courtesy of the artist)’

A fun and startling exhibit at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, opened June 2021, is likely to expand your definition of art and important artists.

As with art over the ages and across countries, much of it reflects the times and artists’ views and backgrounds.

But if you hadn’t thought of comics as art, consider the work of Ivan Brunetti in the 1960’s. His piece shown here  was in the New Yorker magazine. It stands on its own as art but really is part of a cartoon.

So, if you read the New Yorker or a newspaper containing comics do you look just at the panels or do you look to see who drew them?

The MCA exhibit, titled “Chicago Comics: 1960’s to Now,”  makes comics more personal by focusing on  artists with ties to Chicago.


The works of more than 40 cartoonists from about the 1960’s to the present cover the walls and tables of MCA’s Fourth Level exhibition space including that of  Lynda Barry, Lilli Carré, Daniel Clowes, Nick Drnaso, Edie Fake, Emil Ferris, Nicole Hollander, Charles Johnson, Chris Ware and Kerry James Marshall. Yes, Marshall, a  world-renown Chicago artist.

Kerry James Marshall (photo by Bryan Conley, Image courtesy of the artist)
Kerry James Marshall (photo by Bryan Conley, image courtesy of the artist)

His works are in major museums from the Art Institute of Chicago to the Met and MoMA.

The MCA exhibit includes more than a dozen of his comics from the Rythm Mastr Daily Strips. They were part of a 57th Carnegie International installation  (2018) courtesy to the MCA by the artist.

What fanzine viewers and Marvel comics readers know is that artistic cartoons take many forms. In the MCA exhibit look for more than newspaper-style comics. See works in graphic novels,  drawings, dioramas, zines, commissioned films, books sculptures and installations.

Brunetti, New Yorker, Photo courtesy of the artist)
Brunetti, New Yorker, Photo courtesy of the artist)


To see a Marvel exhibit go to the Museum of Science and Industry through Oct. 24, 2021.

For the MCA exhibit information and tickets visit Museum of Contemporary Art  “Comics” continues through Oct. 3, 2021.

As to the Brunetti piece it is a comic  cover for the New Yorker, a magazine famous for its cartoons.

Save time to also visit “Chicago – Where Comics Came to Life: 1880 to 1960” at the Chicago Cultural Center. Held up on the fourth floor in the Sydney Yates Gallery,  the exhibit is the perfect companion piece to that at the MCA.

Jodie Jacobs