While it is still “Midsummer,” that sometimes mystical time of year around the Summer Solstice, go to the Grant Park Music Festival in Millenium Park to hear Mendelssohn’s “Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
The concert, with Principal Conductor Carlos Kalmar and the Grant Park Orchestra, is June 23 at 6:30 p.m. and June 24 at 7:30 p.m. in the Jay Pritzker Pavilion. The concert is free for lawn sitters and asks for donations for reserved seats.
The Grant Park Music Festival is presented by the Grant Park Orchestral Association with support from the Chicago Park District and Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). For programs and other information visit Grant Park Music Festival.
Back in Millennium Park, the Joffrey Ballet is holding a free, pre-perfomance dance class at 4:45 p.m. June 25. It is followed by a free program at 5:30 p.m. that features the Joffrey Company Artists, the Joffrey Academy and the Joffrey community Engagement Students. For more information visit Joffrey Ballet.
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.
During 2020, the main year of our COVID pandemic, much of theater programing has gone on-line and emanated from homes rather than theater stages. It also has moved to unusual formats such as car seating in drive-ins for concerts, and now, to a parking garage. Really.
On April 29-30 and May 2, audiences of the the Lyric Opera of Chicago partnership with the Michigan Opera Theater will be driving inside a Millennium Garage to view Twilight: Gods, a part of Wagner’s Ring cycle.
The scenes are viewed in specific spots and accompanied by music and voices heard by turning the car’s FM radio to designated station spots.
As the Lyric’s general Manager Anthony Freud explained in the program book, “Last year, the pandemic prevented Lyric from presenting the premiere of our new production of Wagner’s Götterdämmerung and the three full Ring cycles that were to follow. It was wrenching for Lyric to have to abandon the Ring altogether, so we considered every possible way to perform any portion of it during this period of COVID. This led us to bring into the Lyric family the innovative director Yuval Sharon and the rest of the astonishingly gifted team that has created Twilight: Gods.”
The production is a collaboration between Lyric and the Michigan Opera Theatre where Sharon, a winner of the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant,” is artistic director.
“Sharon has radically reimagined Götterdämmerung/The Twilight of the Gods—the climactic fourth opera of the Ring—as a 70-minute series of installations that distill some of the core themes of Wagner’s massive work and concentrate on the central characters, as well as the decaying, corrupt society that they inhabit,” said Freud.
He added, “Experiencing this remarkable event within the sprawling underground world of the Millennium Garages-Millennium Lakeside Parking Garage, with the music coming to you via your car radio, offers a unique and brand-new dimension to our art form.”
Unfortunately, all the time slots are taken. However, there is a film version that will become available. Commissioned by the Lyric and created by Raphael Nash, the film will present the production so that viewers will see it as if they are driving through the garage. The film is slated to be released this summer.
To understand what the drivers will experience visit the orientation video Twilight: Gods program book | Lyric Opera of Chicago You learn that the performances take place at designated car stops, that your car window stays closed but you hear the music and voices on your FM radio and that you put the car into accessory mode so you can turn off the engine.
By radio, you will hear noted Brunnhilde interpreter soprano Christine Goerke, mezzo-soprano Catherine Martin as Waltraute, tenor Sean Panikkar as Siegfried, bass Morris Robinson as Hagen and baritone Donnie Ray Albert as Alberich. The production also includes the Rhinemaidens: Ryan Opera Center Ensemble members soprano Maria Novella Malfatti, mezzo-soprano Katherine Beck and mezzo-soprano Kathleen Felty.
On a final note: there will be no honking as applause but drivers can bring signs to hold that say “bravo.”
Another place to hear and see opera this weekend is the the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s “Rising Stars in Concert, April 29 at 7 p.m. CDT. The program is the annual Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Opera Center showcase that features its 2020/21 ensemble. It will be on You tube and Facebook. To learn more and tune in visit Rising Stars in Concert.
For dance, visit Joffrey Ballet which is streaming “Under the Trees’ Voices, that debuts April 20 at 7 p.m. CDT. Choreographed by Nicolas Blanc to Symphony No. 2 by Ezio Bosso, the message is about the power of community durng social distancing. To register and learn more visit Under the Trees’ Voices | The Joffrey Ballet
Arts and entertainment aficionados who check choreographer, teacher, dancer Terence Marling’s COMMONconservatory site on Instagram will see what is happening now in his unique program and classes.
But if they check back closer to June they will find a date and link for COMMON ‘s production featuring the dancers and choreographers in the full conservatory program. Marling created the conservatory when he returned from a stint in Germany to find that A&E dance jobs disappeared, their venues closed and their funding tumbled.
“Dancers have to do barre or muscles go away. When I came back from Germany I realized everything had shut down but dancers need to do ballet every day. The dancers in the COMMONcoservatory program are close to professional,” said Marling. “They are putting in time in the studio but do not touch one another which in ballet is hard,” he said.
Marling whose own professional dance and choreography career extends back to the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater in the 1990s, had moved on to Germany’s National Theater Mannheim. There he added dance instruction. Then he went to Hubbard Street Dance Chicago as a dancer, choreographer and teacher before becoming rehearsal director. In 2013, he took on directorship of Hubbard Street 2 and toured the company internationally with new works he created and commissioned.
The road to COMMONconservatory started in 2017 with freelance choreography, teaching and staging productions for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Visceral Dance Chicago, A&A Ballet and the Chicago High School for the arts.
Just as important was his choreographing solos in the past few years to be used in auditions and competitions because what COMMONconservatory does is get good dancers prepared for their next career move.
However, Marling also offers daily ballet classes that includes what he calls the Flying Biscuit Show, a live broadcast of the barre portion that viewers could also try.
If going to Classes/COMMON the note about limited space is not a come-on. Dancers or, as Marling likes to say, “artists,” a term he prefers to students because of their high skill level, who want to be in the full conservatory program, have to audition. It was limited to 10 artists this year and may go to 15 next year.
Some of the conservatory program dancers commute from family homes while others moved here from Brazil, Russia, both US coasts and North Carolina.
They are dancers such as Lauryn Masciana who worked with Marling three years ago at Hubbard Street Summer Intensives.
“I enjoy his teaching style and then I had been taking barre classes in his Biscuit program. The classes meant I could keep up dancing and ballet work during the pandemic. It really helped me through the pandemic.
Masciana, a former Fordham University student, had moved back to her parents’ home in New Jersey during the pandemic. She moved to Chicago for the conservatory program.
“His program really helps me toward the next step professionally which hopefully is in Chicago. I really like the contemporary dance that is here. The program is excellent training and also provides networking,” she said.
Her goal? “Step into my professional dance career.”
Dancer Anna Isaacs, a commuter from Elburn, IL where she lives with her family, heard about COMMONconservatory through social media. (Check facebook).
“I was undoubtedly captivated by the program as well as the principles Terry created and believes in,” Isaacs said.
“At the time, I had already enrolled with my former dance studio for the year and didn’t think it was a possibility to audition for COMMON.,” she said.
“I met with Terry later on. He was truly unfeigned and welcoming. He introduced me to the space and offered that I take class with the conservatory for a day. I knew this program was the right fit for me and an entity for furtherance. I joined the COMMON family in January 2020.”
Isaacs is not bothered by her weekly five-day commute. “It is tolerable and it is worth every minute for the exceptional training and guidance I receive. Movement to me is indispensable. I would be adrift in the absence of it. Training with COMMON Conservatory this year has been out of this world.”
She added, “COMMON is unique. Working with many knowledgeable choreographers has sparked an unused artistic creativity and an unrecognized internal curiosity. I have obtained a finer comprehension for why I love this art every day. I am forever thankful to Terry for creating an environment for growth, community, and possibility.”
The program’s itle, COMMONconservatory is more than unique. It’s key to understanding Marling’s philosophy and goals.
“I enjoy juxtaposition as an artist. I really like how differing things shed light on each other. A conservatory brings to mind both serious study of a discipline and also is a rather snobby word, to put it bluntly. COMMON is the opposite of a snobby word and is entirely inclusive,” he said.
“I’m a “new school” teacher. I don’t teach dance with the body shaming, negativity, and verbal abuse that went with dance training in the past. I believe that dance is for everybody, no matter the shape, size or inherent ability. It is something to be shared as a community with joy and curiosity. We all have in common at least some inkling of a compulsion to move our bodies.”
His philosophy is shared by the programs’ choreographers who are also teachers such as Alysia “Allie” Johnson, a full-time member of the Hubbard Street Chicago Dance company who met Marling when he was her teacher. After “testing the waters” elsewhere she returned to Chicago to work for Hubbard. “But now we have a peer relationship,” she said.
As to her choreography style Johnson said, “I rely heavily on rhythms and musicality. Groove is my style.”
Characterizing the group as a wonderful “gumbo” she said “They are all at a high skill level but have different backgrounds, different flavors of experience. ”
She worked with COMMONconservatory in December for about two weeks and will be back in April to refresh the choreography for the June program. Now, Johnson is preparing for a Hubbard Street Chicago program that will stream live March 2, 2021.
“I like performing but also like choreography. I love teaching. I love dancing. No priorities.”
Talking about the dancers she has been working with, Johnson said, “I want to challenge them and they also challenge me. It’s about challenge and comfort. I want them to be able to walk into a room with the confidence that they will be comfortable with the choreography being done.”
For now, Marling is concentrating and pulling all the choreography together so it flows in the June showcase. And while still viewing the dance world clouded by the pandemic he is considering expanding conservatory enrollment to 15 next season.
But his goal? I would like to form my own dance company,” said Marling.
Don’t even try to shoo Maurice Ravel’s famed “Boléro” out of your head after hearing and seeing it interpreted by The Joffrey Ballet’s Studio Series.
Streaming now through Mar. 2, 2021, the haunting beat returns over and over so instead of worrying about it, just go back to the YouTube channel to hear it again and re-watch how choreographer Yoshihisa Arai has fit dance moves to the compulsive rhythm.
The program, backed beautifully by the London Symphony Orchestra, is an exciting Joffrey world premiere featuring Anais Bueno and ensemble.
Costumes by Temur Suluashvili reflect Yoshihisa’s light and shadows theme. Masks are worn and fit the costuming and mood.
It is performed in the Gerald Arpino Black Box Theater at Joffrey tower. Running time is 16 minutes. To watch visit Boléro | Joffrey Ballet.
Chicago Theater and Arts used to list all the shows downtown and neighborhood venues for the coming season. Now, for the 2020-21 season we’re typing in virtual events and shows that are streaming.
Here’s a couple that may be missed if not immediately clicked.
“Boléro” presented by The Joffrey Studio Series, streams Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. CT. However, it just extended the streaming through March 2, 2021.
A world premiere with choreography by Yoshihisa Arai, costumes by Temur Suluashvili, Maurice Ravel’s iconic score will be interpreted in the Gerald Arpino Black Box Theater at Joffrey tower. Running time is 16 minutes. To watch visit Boléro | Joffrey Ballet.
“The Secretaries,” a virtual Goodman Theatre reading, premieres Feb. 27 at 7 p.m. CT.
Written by Omer Abbas Salem and directed by Audrey Francis, the story revolves around four women in Aryan drag who want to be the Fuhrer’s personal secretary in 1944.
Running time is 1 hour, 50 minutes with one 10 minute intermission. Registration is needed for this free event. For more information, visit GoodmanTheatre.org/TheSecretaries.
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.
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).
Until the Chicago arts scene is back live on stage some of the companies have been streaming parts of their productions and others have been taking folks behind the scenes. The latest treasure find is The Joffrey Ballet
Instead of going crazy trying to get to even a quarter of the all terrific festivals, shows and events in and around Chicago this holiday season, make a plan. Figure out which show and happening you and/or your family want to see most, put them on the calendar, then list the next couple of things you would like to do.
Because there are so many events, they are divided into two parts with shows (because they need tickets) and special events (because they may be one-time, date-specific) in Part I which is a sampler and not a complete list.