One last boo or corn maze and Halloween photo op


Halloween at Didier Farm. (J Jacobs photo)
Halloween at Didier Farm. (J Jacobs photo)

It’s hard to believe that October’s 31 days are about over this weekend. But if you still need another pumpkin to carve, yummy kettle corn or cider donut to eat, funny photo cutout or Halloween stuff and costumes, then head to Didier Farms on Aptakisic Road in Chicago’s northwestern suburb of Lincolnshire.

 Every year, the farmstand, started over a century ago in 1912, gets larger for Halloween with more playground space, more rides, more farm animals and more holiday stuff.

Along with the all the fun Halloween yard signs and decorations inside Didier’s large barn, there is another barn with baby chicks, educational farm info and an old tractor.

Go further on the property to visit more animals, find the corn maze a pumpkin patch, a children’s playground and a carnival-style ride.

But as quick as a broomstick can fly away, it all ends Oct. 30. For more information visit Didier Farms.   

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Three Fun Pumpkin Patches and Mazes

A fond First Folio farewell season



First Folio Cofounder David Rice (Photo courtesy of David Rice)
First Folio Cofounder David Rice (Photo courtesy of David Rice)

Actor, playwright and director David Rice, cofounder of First Folio Theatre in Oakbrook, is reminiscing about how different audience members react to some of its productions’ twists and about the loyalty of supporters. 

After William Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night closes April 9, 2023, Rice will take his last bow at the theater he and his late wife and First Folio co-founder actor Alison C. Vesely started in 1996.


He is ending as they started – with Shakespeare. Their first production was “The Tempest” in 1997. 

First Folio regulars know that it began by just doing Shakespeare on a large stage on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oakbrook, a Du Page County Forest Preserve property. 

“We started the theater because we were both interested in doing Shakespeare outdoors,” said Rice, noting that they were both theater professionals.

When the Forest Preserve renovated the estate, First Folio added shows inside. Mostly, they were in the estate’s Hall. But sometimes, such as when doing “The Madness of Edgar Allan Poe,” they moved from room to room for different Poe stories.

First Folio cofounders David Rice and his late wife Alison C. Vesely. (Photo courtesy of First Folio)
First Folio cofounders David Rice and his late wife Alison C. Vesely. (Photo courtesy of First Folio)

He didn’t say whether the company’s final Shakespearean production would be inventive but Rice recalled two different reactions to the company’s take on a Shakespearean comedy. 

“You can’t please all members of an audience at any given show,” he said.

We were doing “Taming of the Shrew.” We set it in the
American Wild West and wrote some fun songs for it that referenced tv shows,” Rice said.

“One night, after the curtain came down, a member of the audience came over and said that was the best Shakespeare comedy he’s seen. He left, and a minute later another member of the audience came and said, please do not do this to Shakespeare again if you want me to come back.”

Fortunately, First Folios’ audiences kept coming back and supported the theater for more than two decades.

This not-for-profit Equity theater has mounted more than 80 productions including 25 shakespeare works outdoors and 14 premiers of which six were commissioned by First Folio.

Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)
Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)

“I have learned how much the arts matter to people because it has become part of their lives,” said Rice.

Thinking back on how First Folio followers reacted when his wife lost her battle with cancer in 2016, he said, “I was overwhelmed by the number of people who showed up at her wake.”

 Now he’s hearing from people who heard that 2022-23 is the theatre’s last season. “I’m hearing how much First Folio has meant to them.  People truly become attached.”

“First Folio wouldn’t exist all this time without the support of our community. We would not have survived the pandemic without that support and we still need it this year. Tickets are only 50 percent of expenses.”

The final season is a typical First Folio mix of classics, interesting works and Shakespeare. It opens in November with Margaret Raether’s “Jeeves Intervenes,” followed by Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” then Ann Noble’s “And Neither Have I Wings to Fly” and ends in April with “Twelfth Night.”

“I wanted it to end while it was still good and I was still having fun,” said Rice. “I’d like to keep on acting and I have three projects going,” said the actor/director/playwright.

Jodie Jacobs

An Open House Chicago walking tour to try



Glunz on Open House chicago tour (reno Lovison photo)
Glunz on Open House chicago tour (reno Lovison photo)

Open House Chicago is a great way to see some of the city’s landmarks and neighborhoods. The following Old Town / Gold Coast Open House Tour was taken by videographer/podcast editor Reno Lovison during Oct. 15-16 but it is specific enough to copy down and take anytime. )

You don’t need to be an architectural expert to simply look around and enjoy the various styles, building materials and artistic elements that combine to make up Chicago’s diverse urban landscape.

A perfect place to start observing is the Old Town / Gold Coast area where you can find an abundance of 19th century buildings, dating to the city’s early post Great Fire roots, side-by-side with modern, post-modern, late modern and millennium modern building examples.

Here in the heart of the city, you will easily find single family homes and multi-family structures ranging from two story brick and wood structures to over twenty story high glass and steel high-rises, as well as assorted commercial structures built for specific purposes as well as many that have been redeveloped to meet the changing needs of the city’s current inhabitants.

Open House Chicago  takes place every year in October featuring more than 150 locations in over twenty neighborhoods across Chicago and suburbs. During the weekend event, visitors are treated to special access and information provided by onsite experts, however there is no reason that you cannot tour these locations yourself at any time during the year.

The choices I made were made from a list that was part of the 2022 Open House Chicago Program. I also included a few stops that I knew of that I  spotted along the way. As a result my tour is not intended as a comprehensive look at the area but simply an opportunity to take note of some interesting gems that are lurking just under our noses on a daily basis.  

At roughly three miles total I began my self-guided walking tour in Old Town at the corner of Wells and Evergreen in front of the former Dr. Scholl’s factory aka Cobbler’s Square. There is a plaque on the south-east corner that provides a brief history of the original building. Walking south to Division Street you will find the House of Glunz Wine and Spirits, operated by the Glunz family for over 100 years, and one of the few remaining, largely untouched, late 19th century commercial storefronts in the area. 

An old building on Rush Street the Old Town-Gold Coast Chicago tour. (Photo by Reno Lovison)
An old building on Rush Street the Old Town-Gold Coast Chicago tour. (Photo by Reno Lovison)

Continuing south a few blocks you you will see the millennium era Walter Payton College Prep with its almost 80-foot-high glass and steel atrium joining two brick structures on either side. Compare that with the Ruben Salazar Bilingual Center directly across the street. This elementary school building was originally built in 1882 and provides an opportunity to compare the two structures while considering similarities and changes in attitudes regarding education over a one hundred year span.

I made my way east to the Palette and Chisel Academy of Fine Arts at the corner of Dearborn and Oak Streets. Jammed with interesting architectural features inside and out this former single-family residence was built circa 1870 and was converted to a boarding house before transforming to an artist’s work space and gallery in 1921.

From here I meandered over to Rush Street taking time to regard the remaining architectural shadows of the street’s not too distant past. 

Moving north, Rush Street changes its name to State Parkway entering into the heart of the Gold Coast. A quick dip inside the Ambassador Hotel provided a chance to catch the cool mid-century vibe of the former Pump Room, a famed night spot that entertained celebrities and legends though the nineteen forties, fifties and sixties.

While you’re still in the swinging mood, continue north to find the former Playboy Mansion on the west side of the next block before making your way a few blocks further to the Cardinal’s Residence at North Avenue opposite Lincoln Park. On your way you can speculate about the amount of wealth created caterinig to the needs of individuals both sacred and profane.

Standing in the park opposite the Cardinal’s residence you can take in the expansive front lawn of this impressive piece of property.  To the west near the corner, there is a plaque on the edge of the park at Dearborn and North that explains a bit about this location’s history as a former cemetery.

You never know what interesting building or sculpture lies around the corner in the Old town/Gold coast area of Chicago (Photo by reno Lovison)
You never know what interesting building or sculpture lies around the corner in the Old town/Gold coast area of Chicago (Photo by reno Lovison)

Looking to the north is an impressive statue of Abraham Lincoln, to the west of which is the Chicago History Museum with its glass and steel façade and across Clark Street the most interesting shape of the Moody Bible Institute Tabernacle.

Turning back south at North and Clark take a moment to enjoy the historic Germania Club building at Germania Place which currently houses the Lighthouse Immersive Artspace.

Ending my travels was a stroll through Carl Sandburg Village a virtual city within the city. The collection of high-rise and low-rise multi-unit residences are interspersed with single-family townhouses offering a variety of living spaces to accommodate a diversity of middle-income residential needs. Built in the 1960s, Sandburg was intended to be a kind of social buffer separating what was then the lower income Old Town neighborhood from the more affluent Gold Coast. Today it stands as an important example of mid-century urban planning.

Consider following my tour on foot or by bike or make a tour of your own taking time to look around and enjoy the visual spectacle that is Chicago.

Reno Lovison

Reno Lovison has also recorded this as a podcast walking tour at

Something is amiss in Camelot


Christine Mayland Perkins (Guenevere)) and cast in Music Theater Works' "Camelot" (Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)
Christine Mayland Perkins (Guenevere)) and cast in Music Theater Works’ “Camelot” (Photo courtesy of Music Theater Works)



The good part of “Camelot” now playing at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, is the beautiful voice of Christine Mayland Perkins as Guenevere and such wonderful Lerner and Loewe songs as “Camelot,” “How to Handle a Woman,” “If Ever I Would Leave You” “What Do the Simple Folk Do? and “I loved You Once in Silence.”

The problem this writer has with the show is that even though it is put on by Music Theater Works it has nothing like the scope and theatrical impact that the company’s productions had at Kahn Auditorium in Evanston which included a memorable “Mame” and “Pirates.” 

The current slim-down, post pandemic offering is held in the Performing Arts’ smallish North Theatre which works well for Northlight’s plays, but is likely to disappoint Music Theater Works longtime subscribers.

Ann Davis’ set worked well for the stage and small cast of nine but the production felt more like good community theater than the excellent full-scale musicals and operettas that gave Music Theater Works its reputation.

However, current audiences might look beyond scale and appreciated director Brianna Borger’s focus on ideals clashing with desires.

DETAILS: “Camelot” presented by Music Theater Works, runs now through Nov. 13, 2022 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, IL. Running time: 2 hours with one intermission. For tickets visit Musicaltgheaterworks/camelot or call (847) 673-6300.

Jodie Jacobs  

For more shows visit






Theater Comings and Goings


Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)
Mayslake Peabody Mansion home to First Folio Theatre. (J Jacobs photo)

Tis the season for a couple of major changes in suburban theaters.

Most everyone in Chicago’s theater community knows that Goodman Artistic Director Robert Falls had announced leaving in 2022 and that Anton Chekhov’s a “A Cherry Orchard” in Goodman’s 2022-23 season would be his last production. 

But word is out now that Writers Theatre in north suburban Glencoe has found its new artistic director and that the founding executive director of First Folio Theatre in west suburban Oakbrook is retiring.

First, take advantage of seeing a fine Equity production in an atmospheric estate before this not-for-profit theatre in the western suburbs closes in 2023.

With the retirement of Executive Director David Rice after 25 years, First Folio Theatre will be saying goodbye to the remarkable Mayslake Peabody Estate it calls home in Oakbrook.

It’s worth going to the show just to see the estate, but the acting is excellent and the 2022-23 season has four shows representative of the kind of theater experience that gives First Folio a top-notch reputation.

Its final season features Margaret Raether’s “Jeeves Intervenes,” Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women,” Ann Noble’s “And Neither do I Have Wings to Fly” and William Shakespeare’s “Twelfth Night.”

For tickets and more information visit


Writers Theatre in Glencoe. (Photo by J Jacobs)
Writers Theatre in Glencoe. (Photo by J Jacobs)

Now, expect even more new shows and projects than Writers Theatre has accomplished in the past. Seattle Repertory Theatre, the largest not-for profit theater in the Pacific Northwest and known for premiers, is losing Artistic Director Braden Abraham to WT in 2023.

He will be coming to town shortly after the late December 2022 closing of the premier of “Mr. Dickens and His Carol” by Samantha Silva that Abraham developed and is directing.  

Interim Artistic director Bobby Kennedy has been helming productions since WT co-founder Michael Halberstam resigned in July 2021.

Founded in 1992, WT has done more than 120 productions ranging from re- interpretations of classics to holding more than two dozen world premieres.

It also built a highly acclaimed theater complex designed by Jeanne Gang and her Studio Gang Architects.  

Jodie Jacobs



Jeff Equity awards announced

Drury Lane, Oakbrook, hosted the Jeff Equity Awards ceremony and announcement for 2022. (Drury Lane photo)
Drury Lane, Oakbrook, hosted the Jeff Equity Awards ceremony and announcement for 2022. (Drury Lane photo)

The 54th Jeff Equity awards ceremony, hosted by Chicagoan E. Faye Butler and directed by Jim Corti with music direction by David Fiorello, announced 46 winners in artistic and technical categories at Drury Lane Theatre, Oakbrook, Oct. 17, 2022.

The evening was a celebration of in person theater after going dark following the 2019 COVID outbreak. This year, the ceremony featured several nominated productions.

Paramount Theatre walked off with six awards in various categories for its production of “Kinky Boots” and Goodman Theatre earned five awards for “Good Night, Oscar” plus an award for “Gem of the Ocean.”

Red Orchid Theatre took home five awards for “the Moors” and Porchlight Music Theatre received four awards for “Blues in the Night.”

“Short Run Productions” was added this year as a new category to acknowledge the value of shorter productions and also recognize theaters returning to in-person shows following COVID pandemic closures.

For more award listings go to Jeff Equity Awards.  

For acceptance speeches and special moments check the Jeff Awards YouTube channel.

Jodie Jacobs

Three Fun Pumpkin Patches and Mazes

Maze at Krill's Farm (J Jacobs photo
Maze at Krill’s Farm (J Jacobs photo

It’s only midway through fall and October which means it is not too late to take a family field trip out into the countryside to find the perfect pumpkin or explore a corn maze or take a hayride. The following three farms offer a variety of activities and a maze of possibilities for all ages.

Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm at the far northwestern (the boonies) part of Waukegan must have a local following because it is out of sight, off the main road but reasonably busy.   

After finding Kroll’s with our GPS, we refueled on yummy pumpkin donuts then explored the farm.  Youngsters were having fun feeding the hens and llamas while young adults and couples were taking photos of each other behind cutouts of funny figures. 

Feeding the llamas and hens are part of the Kroll Farm experience.
Feeding the llamas and hens are part of the Kroll Farm experience.

Their next stop was the bench where everyone waited for hayride before wandering through the maze and then going over to the pumpkin patch for the right size large one to carve or small pumpkins to easily carry away.

Kroll’s is a good, low-keyed farm experience. For hours, pricing and more info visit Kroll’s Fall Harvest Farm,  13236 W. Townline Rd. Waukegan, IL (847) 662-5733.


All Seasons pumpkin Patch ( Photo courtesy of All Seasons Orchard)
All Seasons pumpkin Patch (Photo courtesy of All Seasons Orchard)

All Seasons, a good apple-picking place in Woodstock, turns to fall with fun activities for different ages.

It has a good-size corn maze of 10 acres with two paths – short and easy and long and harder. There is also a good pumpkin patch, pony rides and excellent apple cider donuts to eat on the way home.

All Seasons Orchard is at 14510 IL Route 176 Woodstock, IL, (815) 338-5637 For hours, pricing and more information visit All Seasons Orchard.


James Bond Corn Maze at Richardson Farm in Spring Grove. (Photo courtesy of Richardson Farm)
James Bond Corn Maze at Richardson Farm in Spring Grove. (Photo courtesy of Richardson Farm)

Richardson Farm in Spring Grove, has different experiences for different ages in the fall. It turns 28 acres of corn into a large sprawling maze of 9-10 miles of trails.

They are divided into four mazes to cater to different ages and difficulty. The maze is always interestingly themed. This year, 2022, it has a James Bond spy theme.

Among the other activities are wagon rides, zip lining and a picnic food and area. 

Ricardson Farm is at 909 English Prairie Rd., Spring Grove, 815) 675-9729. Foe pricing, hours and more information visit Richardson Farm

Jodie Jacobs



Extraordinary Brightness

Brightness of Light at Los Angeles June . 18, 2022 (Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)
Brightness of Light at Los Angeles Opera June . 18, 2022
(Photo Credit: Lawrence K. Ho)

4 Stars

Lyric Opera goers may not have known what to expect when taking their seats Oct. 8, 2022, for “The Brightness of Light,” a hybrid one-act opera-song cycle by composer Kevin Puts.  But it featured popular lyric soprano Renée Fleming and versatile baritone Rod Gilfry, so the house was filled.

It was an extraordinary experience. 

For scenery, the program used the gorgeous artwork of Georgia O’Keeffe, the sensuous photography of Alfred Stieglitz and the dramatic letters they wrote to each other compiled in a projection format designed by Wendall Harrigton.

Puts turned to those letters for his libretto. However, it took the still remarkable Fleming voice and artistry and well-matched baritone of Gilfry to pull off Puts’ intense, challenging music.

“The Brightness of Light,” with Fleming and Gilfry was the Chicago premiere. It is worth seeing and hearing again. Unfortunately, this was a one-time program that has been travelling for a few years. It ended the LA Opera season in June.

Some members of the audience left at intermission to catch trains. Those who stayed were entertained by a charming selection of nine Broadway songs ranging from “Almost Like being in Love” (Brigadoon) to “People Will Say We’re in Love” (Oklahoma).

The entire program featured the Lyric Opera Orchestra conducted by Lyric Music Director Enrique Mazzola which is always a treat.

As to how this all started, Puts explained the following in a note:

“In 2015, I received the honor of a commission from my alma mater, the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York. The school’s orchestra was planning a trip to perform at Lincoln Center and wanted to include a new work written by an alumni composer to feature an alumni performer. The performer they had in mind was Renée Fleming and—to my great excitement—she accepted the offer, thereby initiating one of the most treasured collaborations of my career.

We wanted to focus on an iconic American woman as the subject, and I happened on a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe: “My first memory is of the brightness of light, light all around.”

For more information visit The Brightness of Light | Lyric Opera of Chicago

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago


Jodie Jacobs


Where to get into the Halloween spirit


Pumpkins and scarecrows have taken over Highwood. (J Jacobs photo)
Pumpkins and scarecrows have taken over Highwood. (J Jacobs photo)


Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival

Go to downtown Highwood, a tiny, just over a square mile North Shore city known for its restaurants, to see skeletons dressed for the season, carve pumpkins, take carnival rides and find more pumpkins than you can count.

They’re all a part of the Great Highwood Pumpkin Festival, this weekend. 

The Fest already began on Thursday but events continue all weekend including pumpkin carving at 11 a.m. Saturday and Sunday at three pumpkin carving stations.

Ghostly figures climb a distillery wall of glass downtown Highwood on Sheridan Road during the Great Highwood Pumpkin festival. (J Jacobs photo)
Ghostly figures climb a distillery wall of glass downtown Highwood on Sheridan Road during the Great Highwood Pumpkin festival. (J Jacobs photo)

Anyone can carve three pumpkins to help the festival’s goals to outdo past years’ total pumpkins carved. They are in Everts Park west of the Metra tracks, at City Hall Park on the east side of the track, and at Painters Park at 424 Sheridan Road across from Buffo’s where visitors can find Interactive Skeleton Displays that re-enact dance scenes from movies and pop culture.

There’s also a carnival, three stages of music, hayrides, food vendors and Sunday costume and pie-eating contests. Signups are still available for the Pet Costume noon contest, the  Kids Costume Contest at 1 p.m. and the Pumpkin Pie Eating contest at 2 p.m.


Lots of Howling photo spots to take photos at Boo at Brookfield Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Zoological society.
Lots of Howling photo spots to take photos at Boo at Brookfield Zoo. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Zoological Society.


Brookfield Zoo’s famed Boo at the Zoo festival starts Saturday and Sunday Oct. 8-9 and continues weekends in October through Oct. 22-23, 2022. What to do: Take selfies at the zoo’s funny photo spots such as a Howl-O-Scenes at the Nature Stage or the photo frames and peek boards.

Also, find the “Crazed Maize” on the West Mall open from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.. But don’t get lost because there are Zoo chats at the Hamill Family Play Zoo at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. and at the Australia House at 3:30 p.m.. Plus, there are pumpkins for animals feeding times and a “Creepy Carousel” to take.
Get a sweet treat upon exiting from 11:00 a.m. to 4 p.m.

No costume contests this year but youngsters age 13 and younger are encouraged to wear their Halloween costume.

For more zoo information, visit or call (708) 688-8000.

Jodie Jacobs


A ‘Hart’ felt story of hidden love


From L: Sean M. G. Caron, Mandi Corrao, and Sean Michael Barrett (Photo MadKap Productions)
From L: Sean M. G. Caron, Mandi Corrao, and Sean Michael Barrett (Photo MadKap Productions)


The duo of Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart were the genius songwriters behind several hit Broadway musicals with many of their numbers going on to become standards in the Great American Songbook.

This Madkap Production of “Falling for Make Believe” at the Skokie Theatre purports to be “The Real Story Behind the Music of Rodgers and Hart,” but might more accurately be called the real story behind the suffering of Lorenz Hart.

In recent years Hart has been widely known to be an alcoholic though this reality was skillfully avoided during his lifetime and at the time of his death, as alluded to in this version of events. His homosexuality was also a tabu topic in the mid-century “don’t ask don’t tell” era, but is front and center in this updated retelling of his life by Mark Saltzman.

It is notable to mention that Saltzman began his career writing for Muppets creator Jim Henson and in an interview caused a stir when he suggested that he had created the popular characters of Bert and Ernie as a gay couple. He has also written a number of successful movies, and he demonstrates in this well written production that he knows how to tell a story and handle dialog.

The story pivots around the character of a gay farm boy from Pennsylvania, Fletcher Mecklen (Nate Hall) and his on-again-off-again relationship with Lorenz Hart (Sean Michael Barrett), known as Larry to his friends.

: Sean Michael Barrett, Nate Hall, Mandi Corrao, and Donaldson Cardenas (Photo MadKap Productions)
: Sean Michael Barrett, Nate Hall, Mandi Corrao, and Donaldson Cardenas (Photo MadKap Productions)

I could not find any reference online to an actual Fletcher Mecklen and therefore assume he is a vehicle for representing the more private, and indeed, hidden side of Hart’s life.

The story suggests that this secret pressure and his inability to openly receive love is perhaps the seminal reason behind Hart’s psychological turmoil.

It is likely a potential factor in his alcoholism, as well as possible drug addiction which is suggested here through the character of Doc Bender (Donaldson Cardenas), a sometimes talent agent and former dentist who tells us that he keeps his license up to date in order to keep his prescription pad valid.

Sean Caron portrays the long-suffering business partner Richard Rodgers who works tirelessly to keep Larry on the straight and narrow in order to keep him working but also to protect his reputation and later his legacy.

Mandi Corrao as Vivienne Segal is basically their on-call chanteuse. Cheryl Szucsits rounds out the cast playing three minor roles but is given the honor of singing “Falling in Love with Love” which features the title lyric “Falling for make believe.”

The production features a number of notable Rodgers and Hart tunes such as” Bewitched” (a/k/a Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered), “The Lady is a Tramp, ” “I Could Write a Book” and “Where or When.”

DETAILS: “Falling for Make Believe” is at the Skokie Theatre, 7924 Lincoln Ave in Downtown Skokie through Oct 16, 2022. Running time is about 90 minutes including a short intermission. Tickets can be purchased online at or by calling (847) 677-7761.

Reno Lovison

For more shows visit Theatre in Chicago