It may be hard to believe we’re in the midst of the holiday season, already!
The Chicago Botanic Garden opened its paths at night for Lightscape. Santa is already listening to wishes at Macy’s where the famed holiday windows are ready for their close-ups. And, Christmas Around the world and Holiday of Light opens at the Museum of Science and Industry on its free day, Nov. 17, 2021.
But don’t miss the BMO Lights Festival – The Magnificent Mile this Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021 at 5:30 p.m. Folks line up two and three deep to watch lights go on as the parade moves south on Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to the Chicago River and ends with fun fireworks.
A great place to view the action would be Pioneer Court, 401 N. Michigan Ave. You need to know, however, that the DuSable Bridge (formerly Michigan Avenue Bridge) closes at 3:30 p.m. But there are activities and food (smell Garrett’s? (It’s at 625 N. Michigan Ave.) along the Mile.
If you go downtown Friday, see the tree lighting at at Wrigley Building Centennial Plaza, 410 N. Michigan Ave. 4 p.m.
Many admirers of the art of photography are familiar with Ansel Adams’ remarkable shots of the US western landscape taken in the 1970s. Arguably less known or viewed in an exhibition are Adams’ prints from the 1920 through the 1950s.
Now, “Ansel Adams: Early Works” a traveling exhibit organized by art2artCirculating Exhibitions, LLC, and sponsored at the Bess Bower Dunn Museum by the Lake County Forest Preserves’ Preservation Foundation and Dan and Shirley Mayworm, opens a portal to the famed photographer’s interests, artistic development and his thoughts on his objectives. The works are from the collection of Michael Matts and Judith Hockberg.
Wander through the Dunn Museum, worth a trip on its own for its early Illinois history and objects, to see “Moonrise” which proved, as a video in the exhibit explains, that some, great photography moments are unplanned.
Read the plaques that accompany the exhibit for insight into some of Adams’ observations of photography’s power. Going through the exhibit then retracing ones steps brings out changes in his artistic and unique view of nature.
One plaque reads: “When I first made snapshots in and around Yosemite, I was casually making a visual diary – recording where I had been and what I had seen – and becoming intimate with the spirit of wild places. Gradually my photographs began to mean something in themselves; they became records of experiences as well as of places. People responded to them, and my interest in the creative potential of photography grew apace.”
The show’s prints are part of Adams’ photo output. But to better understand the photographer don’t miss the plaques next to some of the photos. This one is next to Mount Brewer, Circa 1925, a vintage gelatin silver print.
“When I first made snapshots in and around Yosemite, I was casually making a visual diary – recording where I had been and what I had seen – and becoming intimate with the spirit of wild places. Gradually my photographs began to mean something in themselves; they became records of experiences as well as of places. People responded to them, and my interest in the creative potential of photography grew apace.”
Another plaque says that trees are not just trees. Look for a photo where the forest looks lacy then look for “Aspens” that is a study in design and contrast.
Dan Mayworm who worked with Adams for a few weeks includes some pointers in the exhibit that he gleaned from Adams including “Expose for the shadows and develop for the highlights.”
Music Theater Works’ “Ragtime,” a multi-award-winning musical with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and music by Stephen Flaherty, is a powerful, riveting production that perfectly meshes with our current age of anxiety.
Based on E. L. Doctorow’s novel on the pervasive value systems and prejudices toward immigrants, blacks, class structure and women’s “place” in the early 1900’s, the musical follows the interaction of three disparate “family” groupings.
Now at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, “Ragtime” unfortunately closes Nov. 7, 2021. Music Theater Works productions historically ran for just a couple of weeks when housed at Cahn Auditorium on Northwestern’s Evanston Campus. Maybe it’s wistful thinking about budget and date conflicts to hope the venue change would allow longer runs.
Macy’s announced it should have its State Street holiday windows ready for oohs and aahs by Nov. 6 when it will also have Santa in his workshop ready to hear what youngsters want.
Santa visits are on the store’s fifth Floor by reservation Nov. 6 through Dec. 24, 2021. The 2021 holiday window theme introduces belief in ones self with a blue reindeer named Tiptoe who is too shy to fly with Santa.. Follow “Tiptoe and the Flying Machine” story in each window and see the reindeer as a balloon in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.
For youngsters who can’t visit Santa in person, there is an interactive online journey available starting Nov. 26, 2021.. Macy’s on State is at 111 N. State Street, Chicago.
The Great Tree in Macy’s on State Walnut Room will also be back this weekend. To see it make a seating reservation Nov 6, 2021 through Jan. 9, 2022.
Then, note the free days and what’s going on at the Museum of Science and Industry.
MSI entrance (not special ticketed films and labs) are free to Illinois residents on Nov. 10 and 17 and Dec. 8 in 2021. Which means that opening day for MSI’s annual Christmas Around the World and Holidays of Lightexhibits is the free-day of Nov. 17.
See more than 50 trees and displays from around the world and the four-story Grand Tree . Also look for Take Flight and Pioneer Zepher, two popular exhibits that have been updated.
For more information, prices, hours and reserved entry ticket visit www.msichicago.org. The Museum of Science and Industry is at 5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive, Chicago.
Internationally known Steppenwolf Theatre Company finally appears settled. Today, Nov. 2, 2021, Steppenwolf announced its $54 million Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center is now open.
Once a small ensemble begun in 1974 by Terry Kinney, Jeff Perry and Gary Sinise, it opened in the Unitarian Church in Deerfield, moved to the basement of another church in Highland Park, later on found a space at the Hull House on Broadway in Chicago, then an intimate space on North Halsted before settling into the 1600-1700 block of North Halsted in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Along the way it added H. E. Baccus, Nancy Evans, Moira Harris, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf and Alan Wilder and other well-known actors to its ensemble roster.
Part of a multi-phase $73 million Building on Excellence expansion campaign, the Liz and Eric Lefkofsky Arts and Education Center houses a 50,000 square foot theater building plus education center designed by Gordon Gill of Adran smith and Gordon Gill Architecture with theater design and accoustics by charcoalblue (construction is by Norcon).
Steppenwolf’s expanded campus includes, new lobbies, full-service bars and The Loft Space for area youth.
“What an extraordinary day this is for our company and Chicago. This multi-phase campus expansion is over two decades in the making and is a manifestation of Steppenwolf’s core values of ensemble, innovation and cultural citizenship,” said Executive Director E. Brooke Flanagan.
“Formed by an ensemble of young actors who wanted to create courageous work, nearly 50 years later our expanded campus builds on the company’s beginnings and ensures a future for the continued artistic growth of the ensemble and space for tens of thousands of Chicagoland teens to experience transformative arts education,” Flanagan said.
For more information about Steppenwolf Theatre Company visit Steppenwolf.
Thanks to a $15 million gift from Roxelyn and the late Richard Pepper, Lincoln Park Zoo broke ground on a $41 million renovation of their lion house in December 2019.
After being closed for about 2 years, the new Lion House opened in October 2021 and is home to a pride of lions that includes one male and four females. Rumor has it that locally born offspring may result.
The state-of-the-art habitat has been renamed the Pepper Family Wildlife Center, home not just to lions but also Canada lynx, snow leopards and red pandas.
Fans of the old Lion House will be happy to see the renovation was achieved to preserve and enhance the architecturally significant features of the historic structure built in 1912.
The dramatic entrances on either side bring a flood of natural light into the interior and the beautiful vintage vaulted ceiling has never looked better.
Small cages and cells with their archaic painted backgrounds are gone, replaced inside and out with expansive viewing windows for close-ups of the big cats.
The habitat has nearly doubled, now providing the lions with a variety of choices from plenty of outside fresh air and thermal comfort zones to trees for climbing, and elevated rocks to give them high vantage points plus areas to seek privacy, shade, and shelter.
A unique indoor design element known as the Lion Loop, funded by the Women’s Board of Lincoln Park Zoo, enables guests to view the pride even more intimately from the center of the habitat.
The $41 million renovation of the building is the final phase of what has been dubbed The Pride of Chicago, a $135 million capital campaign that began in 2012.
It was my good fortune to tag along with the Chicago Uptown Lions Club on a special tour conducted by Bill Green, accessibility and inclusion manager for the zoo.
About seventy-five percent of the Uptown Lion members are visually impaired. Thanks to a grant by the Hart Prinze Fund, special accommodations have been made to allow those with special needs to enjoy the experience.
Green outfitted our small group with wireless earpieces that allowed us to easily hear his commentary as we toured the Lion habitat inside and out while he creatively and thoroughly explained what was being shown so that those unable to see would understand what the rest of us were experiencing visually.
On several occasions there were tactile displays that allowed both the sighted and unsighted members of our group to feel the size of a lion paw, the impression of their print, the feeling of their fur or the rough texture of their tongues.
Inside the building Green produced a special three dimensional map of the African savannah that the visually impaired could run their fingers over to get a sense of the various distances a lion might travel and kinds of terrain they may encounter in their journey.
All-in-all the Pepper Family Wildlife Center and its inhabitants are indeed destined to be the Pride of Chicago and should definitely be on your things to do calendar in the Windy City.
If you haven’t been to the zoo lately you might like to know that there are a number of restaurants and cafés on the grounds and several more within a short walk.
The Lincoln Park Zoo can be approached by car at Fullerton and Cannon Drive just west of Lake Shore Drive. Parking is available and might be considered pricey by some but admission to the zoo is free. If you’re a little more adventurous street parking is available along Clark Street on the west side of the park and there are bus routes that include the zoo entrance.
Based on a true story by playwright Heidi Schreck, “What the Constitution Means to Me” focuses on 15-year Schrenk’s experiences participating in debates across the country for the American Legion to earn money for college tuition. The truth is, she earned enough money from the debates to pay for her entire college education.
The audience participates in the show as well, creating powerful theatre about the relevancy of the U.S. Constitution. This interactive play questions whether our 230-year-old document is still applicable today and for future generations of America. After experiencing this powerful show, theatregoers will have a new appreciation for this historic document.
The play goes from hilarity to tragedy. As Heidi goes back in time, she traces the intimate connection of four generations with the founding document that shaped their lives.
The U.S. Constitution and amendments were drafted to protect its citizens, but unfortunately, not everyone.
Women, immigrants and people of color are left out, not included in police, voting and civil rights laws. She raises the question of what would have happened if the Equal Rights Amendment had passed in 1982?
Cassie Beck plays Heidi Schreck, who vacillates between a teenager and an adult, displaying a wide range of emotions. She handles the role with precision, humor and class. Mike Iveson, who originated the part of the Legionnaire on Broadway, moderates the debate as one of “those old men.”
Suddenly, the show moves into a different direction, creating an actual debate between the adult Schreck and a high-school student from L.A. about whether or not the Constitution should be abolished or kept. Everyone listens to the debate and one audience member decides the verdict.
There are also a few surprises thrown in that make the play even more fun and meaningful.
Directed by Oliver Butler, the show became a hit on Broadway with two Tony Award® nominations, a Pulitzer Prize for Drama nomination and broadcast on Amazon Prime Video.
“What the Constitution Means to Me” will have you thinking about the Constitution and your own government long after the final bow.
Details: “What the Constitution Means to Me” is at the Broadway Playhouse Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut in Chicago through Nov. 21, 2021 Running time: 100 minutes without intermission.
All audience members are required to wear masks throughout the play and must show proof of vaccination with ID card. For those with exemptions, proof of a negative COVID 19 test is required. For tickets go to BroadwayinChicago.com.
Marie and her Nutcraker Prince journey through Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair in Christoper Wheeldon’s reimagined classic. The show runs Dec. 4 through Dec. 26, 2021. For tickets and more information visit Performances | Joffrey Ballet. The Lyric Opera House is at 20 N. Wacker Dr., Chicago.
Larry Yando once again takes audiences on Ebenezer Scrooge’s path from the character who defined the meaning of scrooge to his change into a generous and kind person.
Last year, the 2020 show experience was audio. This year, the production will be back at Goodman Theatre Nov. 20 through Dec. 31, 2021. Adopted by Tom Creamer, and directed by Jessica Thebus, the show marks its 44th production.
A new path, new installations but also some old favorites including Cathedral and Singing Trees will be at the Chicago Botanic Garden’s 2021 edition of Lightscape. , a popular holiday event that sold out last year.
A popular holiday event that sold out last year, Lightscape runs Nov. 12, 2021 through Jan 2, 2022. For tickets and more information visit Lightscape.(Nonmembers also need parking.) Chicago Botanic Garden is at 1000 Lake Cook Rd., Glencoe.
The Morton Arboretum turns the light, color, actions on its trees at Illumination, Nov. 20, 2021 through Jan 2, 2022. New will be a Human Nature display and colorful lanterns. The mile-long path features a roast marshmallow stop for s’mores.
For tickets and more information visit Morton Arboretum. Morton Arboretum is at 4100 Rt. 53, Lisle.
ED Note: When getting tickets note that proof of full vax needed for 12 and older and recent negative test under 12 for indoor shows: Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. Also check requirements for outdoor shows: Lightscape and Illumination when buying tickets.
In “Robust,” Gerard Depardieu portrays a lonely, bored, aging actor, Georges, unwilling or uninterested in going through the same old motions.
When his regular driver/security guard is temporarily called out of town, Georges creates a new alliance with his replacement, Aissa, brilliantly played by Déborah Lukumuena. She turns out to be the equal of both the character, Georges, and Depardieu, himself. Every scene between the two is a mesmerizing lesson in restraint and underlying tension.
The film is not a thriller with over the top special effects or chase sequences. There is no great plot or cinematic triumph. “Robust” is basically a quiet character study directed by Constance Meyer and written by Meyer with Marcia Romano providing very believable situations.
The tension is created between the male/female and employer/employee relationship specifically since Georges has personal boundary issues.
But this is not a “me too” theme. Instead, though there is an underlying subtle desire, this is more of a paternal relationship between two people trying to deal with their loneliness in spite of their busy professional lives.
In the end, as with any intense relationship between people in close proximity over a period of time, they learn something about each other and about themselves.
“Robust” is produced by Isabelle Madelaine. She apparently has produced a number of short subjects which explains her attraction to this piece that is a kind of expanded short subject.
Kudos to casting director Judith Chalier for putting together such an interesting and talented team. Even the performances of the secondary characters, regardless of the size of their roles, were delivered with sincere perfection.
Cinematographer Simon Beaufils treated us to a number of beautiful close-up portraits that amplified the inner tensions and intimacy. Likewise production designer Julia Lemaire provided an array of interesting, mostly interior, settings that provided subtle insight into the characters and their situations.
“Robust” is much like a warm bath. Just sit back and soak it in. Then when it is over feel refreshed and satisfied.
I highly recommend this film because you will be happy to see Depardieu work his magic. But more importantly, you will be very glad that you got to see an interesting performance by rising star Lukumuena.
This is a North American premiere as part of the Chicago International Film Festival with two live screenings at the AMC River East 10/18 and 10/22 and limited online streaming Oct 14, 2021 to Oct 24, 2021 in the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin. For detailed information visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com
Language: French with English subtitles. Running time: 95 minutes.
“Hit the Road”
“Hit the Road” by director Panah Panahi is a story of an Iranian family road trip with overtones of “Little Miss Sunshine” or “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Lest you think Iranian families are very different than yours, this family will dispel that myth.
It is an odd sort of setup that begins with the father, (Hassan Madjouni) sitting in the back seat with a cast on his leg that is being decorated by his younger 6 year-old son (Rayan Sarlak).
Mom (Pantea Panahiha), a rather attractive forty something wearing a hijab that fashionably reveals her stylish gray hair, is in the front seat, while the elder, twenty-something son (Amin Simiar), is the driver.
You can’t help but to ask, “Who are these people, where are they going and why does he have a broken leg?” For most of the trip the purpose of the journey is unclear.
In the first half of the film, we get to know the quirky characters as they quibble and banter back and forth. Most of the action is directed by the younger son referred to as “the kid” who is full of non-stop energy, curiosity and downright obnoxious silliness. The Spiderman and Batman obsessed “kid” restlessly tumbles and falls relentlessly next to, and on the lap of, the father who willingly partakes in all of the activity, even encouraging him. Mom does little to intercede and indeed encourages him while the older son silently keeps his eyes on the road.
Through the course of their day-long travel they make a few rest stops and we begin to get a better, but still fairly unclear, idea of their destination. This is best described as a dramedy with the characters using the antics of “the kid” to interject some humor and provide distraction for their more serious task at hand.
If you’ve been cooped up due to COVID, “Hit the Road” will give you a chance to take a little family adventure while enjoying the beautiful rugged Iranian landscape. Much like one of those 500 piece picture puzzles you might have been working on this past year, the film’s director doles out small colorful pieces that fit together and begin to make sense amid the chaos of “the kid’s” antics.
Incidentally, this is a debut film by Panah Panahi whose father’s directorial feature film debut was the Iranian classic “White Balloon” (Jafar Panahi 1995). It is the humanistic style of both of these films with their subtle criticisms that somehow manages to exist within the country’s authoritarian regime that I find very interesting.
“Hit the Road,” presented as part of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival, is available to stream Oct 14 to Oct 24, 2021 in the following states: Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, and Wisconsin.
LANGUAGE : Farsi with English subtitles. Running time: 94 minutes
A group of random migrants from West Africa destined for Europe stop at “The Last Shelter” on the edge of the Sahel Desert (that transitions into the Sahara) before continuing their journey toward a better life.
Here at “La Maison du Migrants” in Mali they are confronted by a kindly social worker who urges them to return home, explaining that it is admirable that they had gotten this far but many die in the harsh desert conditions beyond. His agency promises them a bus ride back home.
While counseling two sixteen year-old girls from Burkina Faso he pleads with them to reconsider by explaining that even if they do get to Algeria they will likely find no employment and will be forced into prostitution. In a meeting with the others he tells them of his own experience of being cheated of his wages and treated with contempt.
One of the girls reveals how Facebook (and certainly other social media) fuel discontent and spur the hopes of young migrants who see friends and acquaintances who have successfully made the journey. For fifteen or twenty year-olds who hate their life, hardship and even death are abstract ideas that do little to dissuade them.
This is an all too common tale taking place around the world as young people seek a better life, freedom and more opportunity. This story could be told not only in Africa but in nearly any country throughout the Middle-East and South or Central America as well as Mexico. For many, Europe is a fine destination, but their hope is the ultimate lottery win of reaching the United States.
“The Last Shelter” focuses primarily on the two young girls. Ester says she had hopes of acting, singing or boxing. She chose the latter because she admits having a lot of anger and feels boxing would be a way to release her frustrations. Her friend expresses hopes of being a teacher or doctor because she wants to help people. During their respite in the shelter she is the one who encourages Ester to study English as they work on simple phrases.
The film is sensitively photographed by director/cinematographer Ousmane Samassekou and Amath Niane. It shines with intimate close-ups and beautiful b-roll of the desert sunrise and evocative cutaways of the shelter’s inspiring blue painted interior. The shots are reminiscent of a beach cabana that belies otherwise minimal accommodations and the hot, dry reality outside its doors.
The story is expertly constructed by Samassekou with editor Céline Ducreux to tell a compelling, important and compassionate human story that sheds light on the motivations and desires of migrating individuals.
The Last Shelter is a U.S. Premier presented as part of the 57th Chicago International Film Festival. Online viewing is available. Visit ChicagoFilmFestival.com for more information.
LANGUAGE : Bambara, French, Fula, Hausa, Mooré, Susu, Waama with English subtitles