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 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.
Thousands of lights from Lincoln Park Zoo’s’ “Zoolights” and Macy’s Walnut Room “Great Tree” to Morton Arboretum’s “Illumination” and Chicago Botanic Garden’s “Lightscape” will once again be brightening the holiday season.
They just will be operating a little differently during the Covid pandemic. Protocols will be in place such as social distance requirements so timed tickets and reservations will be needed. Tickets are already available even though the events don’t start until November. However, events and times do sell out so best is to plan ahead.
Illumination: Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum
Instead of walking through the Morton Arboretum, visitors will drive along a two-mile musical light and movement show that redefines the woodland experience. Some favorites will be back such as Symphony Woods and Woodland Wonder plus new, magical sights have been added.
The event goes from Nov. 20, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021 with additional hours and days. For tickets and more information visit Mortonarb/illumination.
Last year, the first year of the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Lightscape, the event sold out and its Night of 1000 Jack o’ Lanterns has also sold out so visitors should get their tickets now. The event runs from Nov. 13, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021.
Lightscape is a one-way, mile-long walking loop past unusual and fun lighting movements accompanied by changing musical themes. The Cathedral of Light will be back but there are also new light designs.
Lincoln Park Zoo’s animal exhibits, landscaping, and buildings dress up for the holidays with thousands of colored lights thanks to ComEd and InvescoQQQ.. Tickets for the event, Nov. 21, 2020 through Jan. 3, are needed for all ages this year but are just $5. For information visit LPzoo/zoolights.
Walnut Room Great Tree
Right now, the holiday themed windows on the State Street side of Macy’s in Chicago are still a closely guarded secret. But visitors can make reservations starting Oct. 9 to dine in the store’s famed Walnut Room where they can see the Great Tree – beginning Nov. 7. Reservations are at OpenTable
Expect to see about 6,600 lights and more than 2,000 ornaments on the tree. P:lus past Great Tree photos can be seen on the store’s 7th floor.
As to the Walnut Room food, it is a three-course, fixed-price meal for $49.95 (adults, per person) with a variety of choices, “including Mrs. Hering’s chicken pot pie, cider glazed turkey and Frango ice cream pie . Youngsters’ meals are $19.95, include a 2020 Walnut Room holiday mug.
First off, if you didn’t make a reservation for the Chicago Botanic Garden’s Night of 1,000 Jack o Lanterns, try for next year. The 2020 event is sold out.
However, there are fun pumpkin patches where families can have fun, pick up the perfect pumpkin and some tools and ideas for carving their own Jack o’ Lantern. No tickets needed to pick a pumpkin or purchase store items. Rides and some events need tickets to observe social distancing.
Humans aren’t the only ones who can dress up for Halloween according to Pasquesi Home and Garden in Lake Bluff. The long-time family-owned business is doing a Howl-o-Ween so dogs get to participate. The event includes photos the shop will take and put online and a goodie bag for pooches. For information visit Pasquesi/howloween. Pasquesi is at 975 North Shore Dr., Lake Bluff, (847) 615-2700.
For teens and adults
See the movie “16 Candles” Oct. 9 at ChiTown Movies or go there later at night for one of Music Box’s horror films. The drive-in movie lot is at 2343 S Throop St, Chicago, IL 60608. If no car, check Row A during ticket purchase and bring chairs for your group. For the schedule, tickets and more information visit Musicboxtheatre/boxofhorrors.
Or get your thrills driving through the zombie and demon-filled alley at the arcade bar in Lincoln Park, 2833 N Sheffield Ave. For tickets and more information visit alleyofdarkness.
With the pandemic still haunting the indoor entertainment scene, some show venues have taken their artistry to parks and parking lots.
Among them are Goodman Theatre which has been working with the Chicago Park District and Music Theater Works which has been using the parking lot of its new home, the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
The longtime Evanston based production company formerly known as Light Opera Works, presents “Richard Rodgers’ Greatest Hits” Sept. 29, 2020 at 7 p.m. CT.
Divided into two parts of 15 numbers each, songs range from “I wish I were in love again” from Babes in Arms to “You’ll never walk alone” from Carousel.
The program is presented live in the Center’s rear parking lot, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie and then online from October 2-11. For tickets and more information visit MusicTheaterWorks/summerconcertencore.
The Goodman show, “Fannie Lou Hamer, Speak on It! featuring E. Faye Butler, is being performed in some Chicago parks. Directed by Henry Godinez and adapted from Cheryl L. West’s play “Fannie,” the show brings back famed civil and voting rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer through storytelling and music.
Currently, it is scheduled for the front of Austin Town Hall, 5610 W. Lake St., for 6 p.m. Oct. 1, Homan Square in North Lawndale at 3559 W. Arthington St. at 6 p.m. Oct. 2 and in Ellis Park at 3520 Cottage Grove Ave. in Bronzeville at 3 p.m. Oct. 3. The Ellis Park performance is sold out.
To keep the music going Ravinia Festival has been broadcasting excellent concerts on Friday nights. However, the one coming up is particularly special given that the artist, pianist Leon Fleisher, won’t be heard live again. Fleisher died at age 92 on Aug. 2, 2020.
In a tribute to Fleisher, Ravinia Festival will do a broadcast of a past concert, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. CT on WFMT.
The program will bring back the “Leon Fleisher and Friends” program that celebrated his 90th birthda, performed and recorded July 23, 2018 in Ravinia’s Martin Theatre.
“Leon Fleisher was a great artist. His integrity and commitment to truth, his unerring sense of proportion, his larger-than-life persona, the sheer beauty of his sound, and the power of conviction in his playing were unparalleled and mesmerizing,” said Miriam Fried, director of the Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (RSMI) Program for Piano & Strings. Fleisher had been a program faculty member for 24 summers.
The birthday concert features Fleisher’s playing “Sheep May Safely Graze” from Bach’s “Birthday” Cantata No. 208 and Kirchner’s “For the Left Hand” written for Fleisher in 1995.
It also includes his wife, pianist Katherine Jacobson Fleisher, joining him in the four-hands piece of Schubert’s Fantasy D. 940 and Ravel’s La Valse.
In addition, the Argus Quartet and bassist Kit Polenperform alongside Fleisher in an arrangement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 12, K. 385p. The Argus Quartet was in residence at RSMI in 2017 and had won the M-Prize and Victor Elmaleh competitions later that year.
Normally we would be talking about what productions are coming this fall and winter to the Lyric Opera, Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Steppenwolf, Broadway in Chicago, Lookingglass, Northlight, Court, Music Works, Citadel and several other Chicago area theater stages.
And normally, what’s coming would be divided up by regions because in 2019 there were about 250 theater companies in the area.
Maybe when the coronavirus is under control and artists and patrons feel safe attending live rather than virtual shows, we will know which Chicago theater groups survived the pandemic.
But here is a sample of what we are hearing now about our next theater season.
Calling the season “Our Next Act,” Artistic Director Robert Falls and Executive Director Roche Schulfer announced that the Goodman Theatre would have eight plays in its 2021 subscription (membership) series when safe for everyone. That number doesn’t include “A Christmas Carol” which isn’t a subscription show but details on the popular holiday show are expected to be out soon.
“We’re proud to announce four exciting world premieres, including a Goodman commission – Cheryl L. West’s “Fannie.” Directed by Henry Godinez, it is a passionate rallying cry inspired by the life of famed civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer that features E. Faye Butler in the title role,” said Falls.
Another world premiere is “the ripple, the wave that carried me home” by Christina Anderson, a co-production with Berkeley Repertory Theatre. “It is a stunning meditation on protest, legacy and reconciliation; and we’re delighted to welcome back Christina, whose bold, imaginative How to Catch Creation was a memorable favorite last year,” said Falls.
The third world premiere is “Good Night, Oscar” by Doug Wright, directed by Leigh Silverman and starring Sean Hayes (Will & Grace) as Oscar Levant.
Falls added, “Finally, we’ll produce the highly anticipated new musical we postponed due to COVID-19—”The Outsiders” based on the novel by S.E. Hinton and Francis Ford Coppola’s film. A beloved story of ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ that defined a generation it is told anew.” (Book is by Adam Rapp, music and lyrics by Jamestown Revival (Jonathan Clay and Zach Chance) and Justin Levine, choreography by Lorin Latarro and directed by Liesl Tommy.)
Three Chicago premiers include “School Girls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play” by Jocelyn Bioh and directed by Lili-Anne Brown that was interrupted by the pandemic, “A Paris Love Story” featuring the Music of Claude DeBussy that is written and performed by Hershey Felder and directed by Trevor Hay and “American Mariachi” by José Cruz González, directed by Henry Godinez and is a coproduction with Dallas Theater Center.
In addition, Goodman will be doing “The Notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci” adapted and directed by Mary Zimmerman.
“We can’t wait to welcome back our audiences for our dynamic 2021 Season that exemplifies the very best of our art form,” said Falls. “As we continue to prioritize the health and safety of our artists and audiences, we remain flexible in our planning and will share production dates when the time is right.”
Subscription memberships to the upcoming season are available, including the “Whenever Membership” flexible package. A five-play Membership package starts at $100. Visit GoodmanTheatre.org/2021season. Single tickets will be available at a later date.
The Lyric will open a reimagined fall season with “For the Love of Lyric,” a virtual concert from the Lyric Opera House, that will be available for free streaming beginning at 5 p.m. CDT Sept. 13, 2020.
The event is in place of the opening night opera and ball, according to Anthony Freud, Lyric’s general director, president and CEO. “…we are proud to present “For the Love of Lyric- a very special concert presentation available to the largest possible audience via streaming,” said Freud.
Renowned soprano Renee Fleming teams up with special guests including Tony and Grammy award-winner Heather Headley (Aida, Lion King), soprano Ailyn Perez, bass Soloman Howard and mezzo soprano J’Nai Bridges.
Formerly called Light Opera Works, Music Theatre Works is moving from its Evanston home at Northwestern University’s Cahn Auditorium to the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie, beginning with its 2021 season.
A 40-year-old, not-for-profit company that has produced several highly recommended shows, Music Theatre Works has basically honored the classics with great direction, voices and orchestrations that range from the best “Pirates of Penzance” and “Mame” that I have seen to what other CTA writers say is the best “Anything Goes” and “Into the Woods” that they have seen.
Administration and rehearsals will continue at the Paul S. Mavros Center and Joyce Saxon Rehearsal Hall.
The performance move to North Shore Center’s large and small venues means the organization can do more productions and have longer runs, better parking and more exposure.
“For 40 years, Music Theater Works has been a cornerstone of high-quality professional music theater in the Chicago area. Our history demonstrates our dedication to bringing great music and great theater to our audiences. The community along with the many artists, board members and staff have built the company to what it is today,” said Music Theater Works Producing Artistic Director Kyle A. Dougan.
“Music Theater Works’ move to its new performance home at the North Shore Center is a testament to our community’s support for our art. In addition, this outlet strengthens Music Theater Works’ pledge to explore the full spectrum of music theater with the availability of multiple performance spaces within the North Shore Center,” Dougan said.
North Shore Center for the Performing Arts General Manager Michael Pauken said, “It is very exciting to welcome this well-respected organization and its productions to the North Shore Center as I have long admired them as an audience member.”
Pauken added, “I know Music Theater Works’ customers will find the North Shore Center’s location near numerous restaurants, convenient access to public transportation and free parking to be an enhancement to their theatergoing experience and Music Theatre Works performers will enjoy ample backstage space and the technical capabilities of our facility.”
In advance of its formal move to the Center next year, Music Theater Works presented two sold out performances of “Richard Rodgers’ Greatest Hits,” August 28 and 29, as part of the North Shore Center’s outdoor concert series, “Out Back Summer Sessions.”
Except for the falling leaves, it’s hard to believe that Labor Day Weekend is almost here.
With the pandemic changing our lifestyle, vacation plans and the events we usually use to mark off warm weather months such as the Chicago Air and Water Show, the usual Labor Day holiday might feel like just another weekend unless we plan something special.
Chicago’s most popular destination will close Tues., Sept. 8, 2020 until sometime in spring of 2021 so plan an outing to the Pier Labor Day Weekend.
Stretching out into Lake Michigan at 600 E. Grand Ave., Chicago’s arguably most popular destination will close Tues., Sept. 8, 2020 until sometime in spring of 2021 so plan an outing to the Pier Labor Day Weekend.
Detect the cause of a death in “Murder in a Nutshell.”
Presented online to benefit Chicago’s historic Glessner House, the program references Frances Glessner Lee’s forensic science research that had been used with medical examiners and police to determine cause at a death scene. It includes photographs, crime scene descriptions so viewers can spot clues and decide if death was by suicide, murder or an accident.
Operated via zoom from 7 to 8:30 p.m. July 30, 2020, the cost is $10 public, Glessner House members $8. Reservations should be made my noon July 30.
Designed by Henry Hobson Richardson, Glessner House is an 1887 Romanesque style national historic landmark open to tours at 1800 S. Prairie Ave. This is the neighborhood that was also once home to the Marshall Field and Pullman families.