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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
Even the pundits don’t know when the full election results will be known or get through the courts. So, folks who welcomed the spirit of Halloween for personal and family feel-good time, now need another good-ole’ standby, holiday shopping, to raise spirits.
Christkindlmarket and the One of a Kind Show Chicago will both go virtual in this pandemic year of 2020.
A European-style holiday event sponsored by the German Chamber of Commerce of the Midwest, Christkindlemarket moved online from downtown Chicago, Wrigleyville and Milwaukee on Nov. 1.
Shoppers can visit the fun market for its signature mug, mulled wine, holiday ornaments and activities through Dec. 31, 2020.
Now that November is here, normally, (and what is normal anymore?) calendars are full of fall and early winter events. In the Chicago area that means many holiday activities and shows are usually available in person. Some of them are still taking place with timed tickets such as the Botanic Garden’s Lightscape and the Museum of Science and Industry’s Holiday Trees. More on those events next time. But other events will be presented differently this year. Here are a few suggestions.
Chicago Cultural Center and Millennium Park
Take a free tour of the Chicago Cultural Center or the art in Millennium Park.
The tours are offered virtually on demand by volunteers through the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. Among stops at the 1897 Cultural Center is the Tiffany dome.
The Millennium Park tour includes work by Anish Kapoor and Kerry James Marshal. For more information and to sign up visit DCASEvolutuntours.
Drive or walk by theMART,
Art on theMart starts again Nov. 12. Among the scenes will be the Joffrey ballet’s images from “the Nutcracker,” and pictures from the Art Institujte of chicago’s M\”Monet and Chicago, “Bisa Butler’s Portraits and “
Arts of Life.
The images will on nightly at 7 and 7:30 through Dec. 30o. For more information visit artonthemart.com.
“It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago”
The American Blues Theater is bringing back its annual production. The classic show runs 80 minutes andcan be viewed virtually. However, it is live so there are specific times, dates and tickets.
“At American Blues, we miss so much of the experience of live theater, including its energy, social nature and ephemeral quality.,” said Artistic Director Gwendolyn Whiteside
“This season, we will bring “It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago”entirely live for every scheduled performance. We will also be interactive, bringing our popular audiograms to audience members during every performance.,” said. Whiteside. She added,” This year has been filled with so much uncertainty, but the one thing audiences can count on is the holiday tradition of “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
Based on Frank Capra’s film, it can be seen online Nov. 12 2020 through Jan. 2, 2021. For tickets and more information visit American Blues Theater.
However, I can promise an entertaining evening that includes, among others Maestro Muti talking about how he misses his CSO family and Yo-Yo Ma, explaining what the orchestra means to him while he accompanies two rising cellists in separate videos.
Other voices and performers included Cynthia Yeh (principal percussion) playing Elden “Buster” Bailey’s “Two sticks in search of a waltz” and Concertmaster Robert Chen playing a Ravel sonata for violin and cello with principal cellist John Sharp plus appearances by Herbie Hancock, Mitsuko Uchida, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Hilary Hahn and Anita Rachvelishvili.
To see the event click CSO.org/tv then scroll way down to “Sounds of Celebration” and click “watch now.”
The CSO tv site is a good one to bookmark because it has links to concerts in the Sessions series that ranges from a virtual recital of the Lincoln String Quartet performing Dvořák’s String Quartet No. 12 and a program of CSO members playing Mozart and Tchaikovsky.
Each session is on for a limited, date specific time. They cost $15 a ticket but can be obtained at a discount with the series. And viewers’ seats are unobstructed. And they support the CSO.
Even though the zoo is not doing its annual Boo event, it has cute selfie stops, a sweepstake contest, animals being fed pumpkins and fall color and decorations. The zoo, operated by the Chicago Zoological Society) in suburban Brookfield, is a place to go if you want to be outside.
Admission is free Tuesdays and Thursdays in October and November. Admission and parking ($15) must be arranged ahead of time. In addition, Pace Bus 331 goes there. The zoo has two Brookfield entrances. North Gate is at 8400 31st Street, South Gate, the main entrance,, is at 3300 Golf Rd.. For more information visit CZS/fall/BrookfieldZoo.
Located in the Hyde Park area of Chicago, the popular museum is holding Boo Fest. Costumes encouraged. MSI has pulled out some of its creepy curiosities from storage for a scary exhibit recommended for youngsters age 8 and older.
But it also has a Trick-or-Treat area where guests who bring their own bag can get non-food goodies from a chute operated by MSI staff. And there are cool Live Science Experiences stops where visitors can make Frankenslime or watch a pumpkin drop.
In addition, there are Halloween haunted mine and superstition motion simulators, a crime lab chance to see werewolf files and a Sleepy Hollow building experience.
MSI follows the Covid protocols. For protocols, time-tickets admission and ticket information visit MSI/Explore/Events.
A small group of award-winning artists who show internationally, are in galleries and exhibit at some of the United States’ major art fairs, have cobbled together a virtual art fair that airs Oct.23-25.
The fun weekend begins with joining them for a drink on Friday similarly to the opening of a gallery show. Then, they continue with visits to their studios on Saturday and Sunday.
As an example, meet California wildlife artist Anne London and see the works of Chicago artist Darren Jones. They are just two of the artists you get to know at Youtube/watch/artfair.
Is it an audiobook? Is it a podcast? Is it a radio show? Maybe yes but then again maybe no. Actually it is Theatre in the Dark’s virtual audio drama. Perhaps it is partially inspired by Orson Welles’ memorable 1938 radio broadcast of “A War of the Worlds” based on H.G. Wells’ iconic novel about a Martian invasion of the Earth.
Congratulations to this innovative production company whose mission is to create theater performance based on sound and utilization of Internet technology to reach out and engage audiences during these trying times.
This updated 21st century version of “A War of the Worlds” adapted by director Corey Bradberry and Mack Gordon, is set primarily in and around the Chicago area. (Ironically Bradberry and Gordon met at an improv class at Second City which is now up for sale).
The original book was centered in London at the end of the 19th century. Then, the 1938 Mercury Theatre on the Air production was based in mid-twentieth century New Jersey. So with so much global turmoil in 2020, why not project a Midwest interstellar invasion into the mix.
The story itself is not complicated. Basically, it deals with peoples’ mostly nonchalant, then chaotic reaction to the presence of an extraterrestrial artifact. First thought to be an asteroid, it turns out to be the beginning of an invasion fleet from Mars.
Theatre in the Dark’s production is not about the story, but rather more about the dramatic performance in the telling of the tale which this company does very well.
It’s a study in contrast that depicts the laid back lives of many city dwellers who are going about their daily business while the first reports of odd occurrences in the seemingly remote village of Bourbonnais, 55 miles south of Chicago, begin to reach the downtown area.
Tension mounts as complacency leads to panic and then to mayhem.
It is probably safe to say that the majority of today’s theater goers have had little or no experience with traditional radio drama. The genre reached its commercial peak sometime in the early 1940’s then limped along into the beginning of the 1950’s.
Indeed, most of us are children of the television age for whom this style of entertainment is an oddity or curiosity. That makes this presentation much more interesting as it encourages performers and audiences alike to explore a nearly forgotten, or at least, underrepresented art form.
Because the audience, listening at home via Zoom, is using sound only with no visual cues such as facial expressions, gestures, or body language, the actors must be extra creative in the verbal projection of their characters.
This is a chance for them to exercise their emotional muscles audibly in a slightly over-the-top way, even flirting with full-on melodrama. Conversely, the audience is challenged to listen closely for the information needed to paint mental images of the situations and the shifting environment.
The construction of one’s mental picture is aided greatly by the sound design offered by Ross Burlingame and Corey Bradberry. They provide continuous, thoughtful, sound effects meshed with an effective, original music score by Ben Zucker.
A major question is why do this live over multiple performances? Tickets are needed for each performance. Why not simply record it?
I imagine part of the answer has to do with the fact that this is a live theater company and that is what they do.
However, one of the unique aspects of this particular production that makes it different from a traditional radio drama is that the actors themselves are not in the same room. They are not necessarily even on the same continent.
Each performer logged in remotely from various locations around the world using their own often makeshift home studios. In this way they are literally pushing the boundaries of what we think of as theater.
What is missing, of course, is the interplay between the audience and the actors. The feedback loop that brings energy to live performance is an element that is difficult to duplicate at a distance.
The freshness of multiple performances will rely on the extent to which the actors innovate and improvise as they discover new opportunities of expression.
But not having been in a theater for over six months, it was exciting to prepare for the eight o’clock “curtain.” This was accomplished by setting the lighting and adjusting my laptop and speakers in the living room, ready to provide an optimal listening experience.
Then, it was settling down with a glass of wine in eager anticipation of this unique event.
As a way to celebrate this Halloween season I encourage you to gather your “pod mates” and a few socially distanced friends (wherever they may be) to enjoy this performance online then consider a Zoom call together to discuss the play or perhaps devise a disaster plan of your own.
Details: Theatre in the Dark players Mack Gordon, Elizabeth McCoy, Alex Morales, Ming Hudson, Robinson J. Cyprian, and Lauren Ezzo will be performing “A War of the Worlds” through November 21, 2020 via Zoom. Running time is 90 minutes with a 10 minute intermission. For tickets and information visit Theatreinthedark/tickets.
Chicago’s theater community has come up with some interesting ways to present their shows for this COVID-directed 2020 holiday season.
The Joffrey Ballet is holding a one-time virtual look “behind the curtain” on the creation of the company’s famed “The Nutcracker” ballet. The event, held 3 p.m. Nov. 3, includes performance clips and interviews. Tickets are $25. for tickets and more information visit Joffrey/event.
“A Christmas Carol”
The perennial Goodman Theatre favorite will be an audio play streaming free, Dec. 1-31, 2020.
Directed by Jessica Thebus, the classic Charles Dickens holiday tale about compassion and redemption features Larry Yando in his 13th year as Ebenezer Scrooge.
“The notion of a holiday season without our production of “A Christmas Carol”—a favorite annual Chicago tradition for more than four decades—did not seem like an option in spite of the many challenges we face in producing live theater at this moment,” said Goodman Executive Director Roche Schulfer who initiated the production at the Goodman in 1978.
“At a time when this story is needed perhaps more than ever, we are pleased to offer this audio production free of charge as a gift to our city,” Schulfer said.
Manual Cinema’s holiday show created for 2020 features live shows performed in the Chicago studio on specific dates that viewers will see via a streaming digital format on Marquee TV, Dec. 2-20, 2020.
This version follows Aunt Trudy, a holiday skeptic who is supposed to channel her late husband Joe’s Christmas cheer from the isolation of her studio apartment. She reconstructs Joe’s annual “Christmas Carol” puppet show over Zoom while the family celebrates Christmas Eve under lockdown.
As Trudy becomes more absorbed in her own version of the story, the puppets take on a life of their own. The show turns into a cinematic retelling of the classic tale. For information and tickets (15) visit manualcineman. The event hosting and ticketing platform is mixily.com).