Have a virtual museum and theater experience



African American History. (Photo courtesy of the DuSable Museum)
DuSable Museum of African American History. (Photo courtesy of the DuSable Museum)

Even though Around Town typically looks for experiences out of the house, with stay home still in place in some areas and particularly in Chicago, the experiences shared since March have virtual. Stay home has been hard on theater companies and museums. Indeed, the latest museum news is the large number of people being laid off by the Museum of Science and Industry. So Around Town will continue to let readers know of virtual experiences in those areas and talk will talk about re-openings.

DuSable Museum of African American History

Stop in the DuSable museum of African American history to hear about its virtual reconstruction of The March, visit with late Chicago Mayor Harold Washington ans see his office, learn about blacks who fought in France during World War I and become more familiar with the battle for civil rights.

Your field trip leader is Mayor Lori Lightfoot who is taking viewers to the DuSable Museum on HitPlay Chicago, her fourth excursion to fascinating city destinations that are temporarily closed to the public because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Named for Jean Baptiste Point Dusable, a trader of Haitian, African and French descent the museum was founded in 1961 by Margaret Burroughs and moved to its City of Chicago Park District property in Washington Park in 1973.


Neo-Futurist Theater

See this small-box, innovative theater’s latest work the “Infinite Wrench Goes Viral” with 30 digital plays in one hour. At $5 (or more if you want), it’s a very inexpensive way of seeing a performance while Chicago theaters are dark.

Dating to the 1980’s, the Neo-Futurist Theater has been a collective of writer-director-performers who fuse sport, poetry and living newspaper into their original plays that are usually shown at a late-night “The Infinite Wrench” event. They have also done more than 65 full-length interactive mainstage productions

For their latest offering, the ensemble is working from home producing new plays each week that are filmed and shared. The Neo-Futurist ensemble of writer-performers continue to work from home and produce new plays weekly, which are then filmed and shared with patrons who subscribe via the patron platform.

For tickets and more information visit NeoFuturists.

Jodie Jacobs

Around Town revisits Millennium Park concerts and takes a field trip to MSI


Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts summer concerts. (JJacobs photo)
Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park hosts summer concerts. (JJacobs photo)

 DCASE Millennium Park Concerts

Yes concerts across Chicago have been cancelled or postponed so the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events is doing “Home,” a concert series you can catch on DCASE’s Youtube and Facebook pages..

It starts this weekend, May 22-23, with a DJ House mix that would have been in the city’s 5th Annual House Music Festival.

Next up, Gospel singers will be on the series May 29-30 because of Chicago’s 35th Annual Gospel Music Festival. That will be followed by blues, June 5-7 for what would have been the 37th Annual Blues Fest. For more information on the concerts, visit  youtube/com/ChicagoDCASE.


Museum of Science and Industry. City of Chicago (MSI photo)
The Clarence Darrow Bridge is behind the Museum of Science and Industry. (MSI photo)


HitPlay Chicago Museum Series

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s field trip goes to the Museum of Science and Industry

The field trip went live at HitPlay on Wednesday, May 20 and will be on WTTW the PBS TV station today, May 22 and again midday Monday, May 25.

An impressive building dating to the 1893 Columbian Exposition, MSI is known for, among other things, its coal mine experience. However, on this visit viewers will come across science experiments they may not be familiar with,and the popular indoor tornado section they may know of in the science Storm exhibit.

One stop that viewers may find fascinating and very current, is the Wanger Family Fab (fabrication) Lab that can make face shields.

Stay with the video to the Big Train Story where model trains go from Chicago to Seattle past well-known city buildings and mountain scenery.

For past field trips scroll down on HitPlay Chicago to see the Shedd Aquarium, the Field Museum and the National Museum of Mexican Art.



Three experiences to try while waiting for Chicago to reopen

Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)
Lyric Opera House on North Wacker Drive (J Jphoto)

Some of us miss seeing a stage performance in person. Some miss going to the Lyric for a grand opera. Other folks miss visiting Chicago’s world class museums. The following opportunities hit these three targets while sitting at home.


Citadel Theatre has a unique experience scheduled for 6 p.m. May 21. Viewers register for what is called “The Defamation Experience.” It begins with a 70 minute film that is a one-act courtroom drama. Then there is the Deliberation. You and your fellow jury members deliberate the case on Zoom to decide the outcome.

After the deliberation and verdict, expert facilitators lead a brief post-show discussion.

Registration is free. A zoom meeting link is provided upon registration.


Hear and watch an opera segment, lecture or tour the Lyric Opera of Chicago building. The Lyric has a weekly newsletter available on its blog. Here is one aria, many audiences will find familiar.

“La donna è mobile” (“Woman is fickle”) is from the fall of 2017 performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Rigoletto featuring Matthew Polenzani as The Duke. It comes in the third act where Maddalena (Zanda Švēde) flirts with the Duke.

For more Lyric gems visit LyricOpera/lately.


Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot has been taking field trips to the city’s exceptional institutions so that the rest of us staying home can visit these places virtually.

Each field trip shows up on line on Wednesdays and then on PBS’ WTTW on Friday and replayed the following Monday.

This week she visits the National Museum of Mexican Art. To join her go to hitplayChicago. Founded in 1987, the museum is a very special cultural destination in the Pilsen neighborhood.

To see the last two field trips scroll down to the Shedd and the Field Museum.

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Dazzling voices seduced lyric audiences



Around Town updates Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen


'"Hamilton" closed in chicago in January 2020 (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago and 'Hamilton.')
“Hamilton” closed in Chicago in January 2020. (Photo courtesy of Broadway in Chicago and ‘Hamilton.’)


A tweet from Lin-Manuel Miranda recently showed up in my email box. The famed composer/actor of the Broadway hit musical “Hamilton” tweeted that he’s “excited” because the show will be streaming on Disney Plus on July 3.

The move to the Fourth of July weekend from its originally scheduled release in movie theaters, October 2021, was a Disney decision prompted by stay-at-home orders to keep people safe from the coronavirus and a chance to direct home viewers to Disney Plus offerings.

The film features footage from a June 2016 Broadway “Hamilton” performance that stars Miranda as Alexander Hamilton with the original cast.

In a recently released statement, Disney Executive Chairman Bob Iger said, “In light of the extraordinary challenges facing our world, this story about leadership, tenacity, hope, love and the power of people to unite against the forces of adversity is both relevant and impactful.”

Iger and Miranda had also announced and talked about the timing on “Good Morning America” on May 12.


The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)
The North American touring company of Dear Evan Hanson. (Photos byh Matthew Murphy)

Chicago theater audiences will have to wait until 2022 for the Tony Award winning “Dear Evan Hansen” to return to the Broadway in Chicago schedule. Originally planned for the CIBC Theatre on July 7 through Sept. 27, 2020, it has been canceled due to coronavirus concerns and state and city orders. A new date will be announced.

Several Broadway in Chicago touring productions have been rescheduled so new information continues to be announced.

Regarding “Dear Evan” Broadway in Chicago has said that ticketholders and individual ticket buyers will be refunded via their point of purchase. Their announcement included the following directions: If you purchased through Ticketmaster, click here for more information and if you purchased through the box office, email Broadway In Chicago at CustomerService/.

Jodie Jacobs


Hamilton is worth the hype

Hamilton leaves Chicago

Dear Evan Hansen


Stay Home Hit Play takes a Field Museum field trip


Puttng together Maximo at the Field. (J Jacobs photo)
Puttng together Maximo at the Field. (J Jacobs photo)


With Chicago’s terrific destinations closed to foot traffic, families and anyone curious about what goes on at some of the city’s popular museums can take a virtual field trip thanks to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot and HitPlay.

This week’s visit is to Sue, the T Rex, and other residents of the Field Museum. More on that later.

First stop was the Shedd Aquarium. The video, which went live a week ago Wednesday online and last Friday on WTTW (repeated Monday, May 4 on WTTW), started with a chuckle as viewers followed Wellington and his penguin friends into the aquarium.

Viewers then visit the Wild Reef, watch how zebra sharks line up at an unusual sort of feeding station where they touch their noses to a buoy to get their food. Then visitors see Wellington and meet a rescued green sea turtle at the Caribbean Reef.

You can see the Shedd Field Trip by clicking  Shedd/YouTube/Watch.

On May 6, the video took visitors to  the  Field Museum. Scroll down on the HitPlay website to the Field Museum video to visit dinosaurs, a new exhibit on the Apsáalooke people, and become better acquainted with the institution’s collection  of beetles and butterflies.

The video will be on WTTW Friday, May 8 and again on Monday, May 11, 2020.

Families who want to make something to go with the video can send it through social media with the hashtag #StayHomeHitPlay.

Jodie Jacobs

Related: Video series visits Shedd and other Chicago institutions



Ravinia becomes the latest summer festival to cancel


The annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular fills the lawn at Ravinia Festival. (J Jacobs photo)
The annual Tchaikovsky Spectacular fills the lawn at Ravinia Festival. (J Jacobs photo)

If you have been to Ravinia Festival, the Highland Park summer home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and a popular outdoor venue of pop, jazz, folk and classical music entertainers, you likely remember lawn picnics under the stars or sitting in the Pavilion to catch a favorite recording artist.

But today, May 1, 2020, Ravinia President and CEO Welz Kaufman announced that the 2020 season has been canceled to protect the health and safety of its audiences, artists, staff and neighbors.

“Out lengthy and thorough discourse on this topic has brought us to the conclusion that it is impossible to move ahead with the season, “ said Kauffman referring to discussions with the Ravinia Board of Trustees and volunteers.

He also noted that Ravinia had been working with guest artists since February on how to proceed including rebooking performers in future seasons.

On the docket for this year were more than 120 programs from June 12 through Sept. 16 plus the Steans Music Institute, which will also be closed.

Ravinia, the oldest operating festival since 1904 had only canceled seasons from 1932 to 1935 due to the Great Depression.

Ticket holder options include refunds, vouchers for future programs and changing them to what would be much appreciated tax-donations.

The concert recording of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass,” announced earlier this year, is still scheduled for its PBS broadcast May 15.  Kauffman added that Ravinia is also developing other virtual experiences, such as classes and lectures geared to students of all ages.

“The lives of these young students have been thrown in total disarray, so it is important that Ravinia helps where it can to provide the structure of these virtual classrooms. Our programs give young people a means of expression and connection with each other and their own quarantined families. We teach them that music is their superpower, and what better time than now to have a superpower?” Kauffman said.

He was joined in the announcement by Ravinia Board Chairman Don Civgin who said, “The crisis created by the Covid pandemic has impacted so much of our lives in dramatic ways. Ravinia will do its part in helping the nation recover.”

Civgin added,“We will celebrate that recovery with music under the stars next summer.”

Jodie Jacobs





Jeff Awards Non Equity nominations

Mlima's Tale at Raven Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Mlima’s Tale at Raven Theatre. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Even though Chicago’s theater companies, arguably the most in the U.S. at 250, are now shuttered except for virtual experiences, their 2019-20 productions are still being recognized by the Jeff Awards.

Founded in 1968 to note outstanding achievement in categories somewhat similar to the Academy Awards, the Jeff Awards started with recognizing equity productions (operating under union contracts) but added non-equity in 1973.

The Non-Equity Award Nominations were just announced. Each year the plays under consideration are performed from April 1 through the season to March 1.

To be Jeff recommended, Jeff committee members have to see one element of excellence on opening night, then the production can be considered for category nominations. Committee members range from producers, theater educators and scenic designers to playwrights, musicians and theater critics and other professional theater positions. For more information visit JeffAwards/Judging.

The Non-Equity Nominations just announced are for 21 categories that among other segments include new works, musical and play productions, musical and play directors, musical and play lead performers, musical and play supporting performers, solo performers. Nominations also go to such important complementary work as costume and scenic design, choreography and sound and lighting design.

Cast of 'Head Over Heels,' a Kokandy Productions show at Theater Wit. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)
Cast of ‘Head Over Heels,’ a Kokandy Productions show at Theater Wit. (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

You may not be familiar with all the Chicago area’s non-equity theater production companies but hopefully when the COVID-19 threat is over all will reopen and you can experience their stage work.

As an example in the Production – Musical category are Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Black Button Eyes Productions for Ghost Quartet, Underscore Theatre Company for The Ballad of Lefty & Crabbe, BoHo Theatre for Big Fish and Kokandy Productions for Head Over Heels.

In the Production-Play category Raven Theatre has The Undeniable Sound of Right Now, Steep Theatre Company has First love is the Revolution, Lifeline Theatre has Middle Passage, Jackalope theatre Company has PYG or the Mis-Edumacation of Dorian Belle and Griffin theatre company has Mlima’s Tale.

Several production companies are also noted in multiple categories for other shows. Please visit JeffAwards/Non-Equity Nominees to see the entire list.

Jodie Jacobs


Jeff Award Judging in May

Head Over Heels review

Mlima’s Tale review


Fun video series visits Shedd and other Chicago institutions


All sorts of interesting creatures of different colors, patterns and movements are at the Shedd. (Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.
All sorts of interesting creatures of different colors, patterns and movements are at the Shedd. (Photo courtesy of Shedd Aquarium.

Maybe you have enjoyed Wellington the Shedd’s penguin’s exploration around the aquarium on Facebook or seen IL Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s PSA with Wellington and penguin friends on You Tube.

Now, there is a great way to revisit the Shedd with Wellington but this time with Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot. A video done in partnership with Citadel and Chicago cultural institutions will premiere April 29, 2020 as the first in a weekly series called StayHome.HitPlayChicago.

After premiering online on Wednesdays, the videos in the series will be aired 5:30 p.m. Fridays on WTTW and at 12:30 p.m. Mondays on WTTW Prime.

They are a fun way to go back to places you might have visited and others you may want to see when museums, zoos and other Chicago destinations reopen to the public. They are similar to field trips and will include a component for youth.

In the inaugural segment Mayor Lightfoot stops at Shedd Aquarium to visit the penguins, feed the sharks and say hello to Nickel the rescued sea turtle. 

For a preview of the first segment in the series visit youtube/watch.

“Shedd Aquarium is proud to bring people eye to eye with animals and their remarkable underwater biology and aquatic biodiversity through this new opportunity,” said Shedd President and CEO Bridget Coughlin. “We can’t wait to reopen our doors and welcome everyhone back to Shedd. In the meantime, we are thrilled to kick off this at-home series and continue to welcome and connect with people virtually.”

The series takes viewers behind the scenes to such places as the Museum of Science and Industry, the Field Museum, National Museum of Mexican Art, DuSable Museum of African American History, the Art Institute of Chicago and Lincoln Park Zoo.

“The exciting launch of “Stay Home, Hit Play” allows our city’s cultural gems to come to live, ensuring our students are able to stay connected and engaged with our world-class museums and institutions amidst the unprecedented restrictions of COVID-19,” said Mayor Lightfoot.

We are especially appreciative of the partnership of our parents, students, museum leaders and staff, WWTW, as well as Citadel whose support was instrumental for the creation of this series. As challenging as this moment has been, we will get through it together, and I look forward to joining all of Chicago in re-experiencing these inspiring sites when this crisis ends,” she said.

Citadel founder and CEO Ken Griffin said he was excited to “discover and rediscover” some favorite places in a new way. “These institutions embody what makes Chicago special. They invitge us to learn, imagine and dream togehter, and we hope “Stay Home, Hit Play,” will inspire children and parents this spring,” Griffin said. 

Jodie Jacobs


Visit three famed Art Institute paintings on a guided tour


Visit favorite works and maybe one you don't know at the Art Institute of Chicago. (J Jacobs photo)
Visit favorite works and maybe one you don’t know at the Art Institute of Chicago. (J Jacobs photo)

If you visit the Art Institute of Chicago do you go to a favorite artist’s gallery or a favorite painting? For lots of visitors it is Georges Seurat’s 1884″A Sunday On La Grande Jatte.” Stephen Sondheim even wrote a musical about it called “Sunday in the Park With George.”

Since the Art Institute has temporarily shut its doors to physical visits it has started the Essentials Tour Series so you can visit some of its works online in videos with the museum’s curators. Seurat’s famous painting is among them.

When looking at each of the three examples mentioned here consider the use of movement or its lack, colors and what stories are told. Archibold John Motley, Jr. whose “Nightlife” is in the series has said that a painting should tell a story. So what stories do you see?

A Sunday on La Grande Jatte

Delve into the painting and Seurat’s pointillism style with Gloria Groom, curator and chair of European Painting and Sculpture. Close up, you see dots of color. Further back the dots form figures. The painting broke new ground in the use of complementary colors. The work has also generated stories about the figures depicted.


Move from the camera-shot style poses of Seurat’s painting to the action-packed, jazzy movements in Archibald John Motley Jr.’s 1943 “Nightlife.” It depicts a Bronzeville jazz club on Chicago’s South Side. So much is going on that it would be easy to miss the liquid spilling from a harried waiter’s tray. As with Seurat’s paintings you would likely recognize Motley’s style if you saw his other works without being told the artist’s name. In this video, former AIC Curator of American Art Judith Barter goes talks about the subject and the colors used.


When seeing the “Nightlife” video you learn from Barter that Motley may have been inspired to do a night scene after viewing Edward Hopper’s intriguing “Nighthawks.” However, Hopper’s late night scenario appears miles apart from Motley’s Chicago jazz scene unless it is considered as what might be going on in diners somewhere in the country. In this case, it’s possibly in Philadelphia give the Phillie cigar sign above the diner.  Here, the viewer is outside the scene looking in. Barter discusses the color choices and the lack of a noticeable entryway.

Jodie Jacobs


Around town finds a couple of virtual Earth Day visits


Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL (J Jacobs photo)
Chicago Botanic Garden, Glencoe, IL (J Jacobs photo)


Of course we try to employ good recycling practices year round but we’re also used to helping out in volunteer clean-up groups on beaches and rivers on Earth Day.

Started in 1970 by U.S. Senator Gaylord Nelson,, WI, to encourage conservation and environmental awareness, Earth Day became an internationally observed day with a variety of related activities in 1990.

Typical Earth Day activities have generally been canceled in 2020 to avoid getting and spreading the Covid-19 virus. However Earth Day is still April 22 so think recycle but also take a couple of moments to virtually visit two of the Chicago area’s largest nature centers: The Chicago Botanic Garden in north suburban Glencoe and the Morton Arboretum west of Chicago near Lisle. They are sharing what’s blooming, garden tips, stay-at-home Earth Day activities and views of their grounds.

Visit Chicago Botanic Garden Earth Day and Smart Gardener sites for some activity ideas. Then go to ChicagoBotanic/Gardens for a live feed to see what’s in bloom.

At the Morton Arboretum look for Virtual Bloom Report and then go to Virtual Tours via Google Arts and Culture.

Jodie Jacobs