Ravinia tribute to Leon Fleisher


Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)
Ravinia Festival (Jodie Jacobs photo)

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 Handwritten 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 Polen perform 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.

WFMT can be found at 98.7 FM and online at wfmt.com/listen,


Jeff Equity nominations to be announced


Empty theater venues are the norm since Covid shut theaters mid March. (Drury Lane shot)
Empty seats are the norm since Covid shut theaters mid March. (Drury Lane shot)

The Jeff Awards which have been recognizing outstanding theater artists and productions since established in 1968, will announce the 2020 Equity nominations Sept.15, 2020.

The date for the online Equity Awards, a program similar to the Non-Equity Awards presented in June, will also be announced on Sept. 15.

Eligibility is for productions staged from Aug. 1, 2019 through March 13, 2020.

“This season brought a wonderful range of stories and performances to Chicago stages. There is a lot to celebrate despite the pandemic and civil unrest that interrupted some openings and productions runs this spring and summer,” said Jeff Awards Chair John Glover.

“We are so fortunate to have so much creative recognition worthy work on Chicago states, so we knew that a show needed to go on this fall,” Glover said.

He added, “During these times, it is even more important to remember and promote the value that the arts bring to our lives and the vital role theater plays in opening ourselves up to a variety of perspectives.”

For more information on the Jeffs visit Jeff Faq.

The Chicago Theater Season

heater venues range from Chicago's Lookingglass theatre in the historic Water Works (top left) and the lyric Opera House, bottom left to Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building to the new Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)
Theater venues range from Chicago’s Lookingglass in the historic Water Works (top left) and the lyric Opera House, bottom left to Goodman Theatre in a remodeled former movie theater building to the new Yard at Chicago Shakespeare on Navy Pier, bottom right. (J Jacobs photo)

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.


Lyric Opera

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.

For more information visit For the Love of Lyric. A first screening at sponsor level will be available Sept. 12 at 7:30 p.m. and can be found at LyricOpera/Support.


Music Theatre Works

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.”

For more information visit  Music Theater Works/New Home and Music Theater Works/About Us.


What to do Labor Day Weekend


Navy Pier. (J Jacobs photo)
Navy Pier. (J Jacobs photo)

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.

Navy Pier

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.

If you enjoy jazz, singers and bands, plan to spend some time in the Miller Lite Beer Garden. See the Saturday, Sept.. 5 schedule at Live on the Lake  and the Sept. 6 schedule at Navy Pier/events.


Sightsee by boat from Navy Pier while it’s open or take the cruise from the Chicago River piers at Michigan Avenue.  Check dates, safety protocols and tickets at NavyPier/cruises.

Chicago Architecture Center Tours

CAC at 111 E Wacker Drive, will be running its popular Architecture River Tours during Labor Day weekend. Cruises leave across Wacker at Michigan Avenue down on the river

But it also has some interesting walking tours such as a Frank Lloyd Wright Oak Park tour on Sun. Sept. 6.

CAC tour tickets go quickly because numbers are decreased according to protocols.

Morton Arboretum

The Arboretum at 4100 IL Hwy 53 has trails to explore,  a  Children’s Garden and the Ginko Restaurant. Visits are by timed tickets so see MortonArbVisit  and Tickets for more information.

Some art fairs still happening

Port Clinton Art Festival downtown Highland Park. (J Jacobs photo)
Port Clinton Art Festival downtown Highland Park. (J Jacobs photo)

Browsing tents and tables of jewelry, pottery, art glass, paintings and photos is still going on in some towns with a slightly different format. It’s also happening virtually.

The Port Clinton Art Festival, the mega fair that usually takes over at least four blocks of downtown Highland Park, will be back the last weekend of August. But in the 2020 year of the pandemic, look for it at about a quarter of its size with about 50 artists lining one block of St. Johns Avenue on the east side of the train station.

Taking a protocol page from Chicago’s popular destinations, the Port Clinton fair will have timed tickets. They can be obtained through Evanbrite/PortClintonArtWalk.

Port Clinton is among several fairs operated by Amy Amdur as the more than 30-year-old company of Amdur Productions.

To see what other art fairs  will be on the docket visit AmdurProductions/Festivals. To see art for sale from these and other artists visit Art Zipper/Festivals.


Two popular events to mark on the calendar


Walk among fun, interesting, spooky Jack-o-Lanterns at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Photo courtesy of ChicagoBotanic)
Walk among fun, interesting, spooky Jack-o-Lanterns at the Chicago Botanic Garden. (Photo courtesy of ChicagoBotanic)


Not everything fun in 2020 has been canceled

The Chicago Botanic Garden which has been welcoming visitors to its outdoor paths via timed entry tickets is planning its popular Night of 1,000 Jack o’ Lanterns Oct. 14-18 and Oct. 21-25.

Considering how fast the summer is going don’t be caught unaware for its September ticket sales. To members sept. 9 and the public sept. 16. For more info visit ChicagoBotanic/Halloween.


Appropriate music accompanies your walk through cathedral-style arch. (J Jacobs photo)
Appropriate music accompanies your walk through cathedral-style arch. (J Jacobs photo)


Then there is Lightscape the amazing sound and light show that sold-out last year. It will be Nov. 13, 2020 through Jan. 3, 2021. Tickets are going on sale to members Aug. 17.   And the public Aug. 25

For other information visit ChicagoBotanic/Lightscape.


Manual Cinema anniversary worth watching


Cast and production crew of Manual Cinema’s Frankenstine at Court Theatre (Michael Brosilow photos)
Cast and production crew of Manual Cinema’s Frankenstine at Court Theatre (Michael Brosilow photos)


To celebrate its 10th anniversary Manual Cinema, a multi-award winning studio that creates unusual stage and video shows with puppets, actors and vintage projectors, has been rebroadcasting some of its hits during July and August but will also conclude with a spectacular show.

You can still catch “No Blue Memories: the Life of Gwendolyn Brooks Aug. 10-17 that will include talk back with creators, cast and crew on Aug. 15 at 8 p.m. and “Frankenstein Aug. 17-23 with talk back Aug. 21 at 8 p.m.( CT)

To see them go to Manual Cinema/Watch. They are free and No RSVP needed.

Then save Aug. 22 at 8 p.m. for the company’s live, retro variety show. It’s a  “Tele-Fun-Draiser, Covid-Relief benefit. It will end with a new work that has shadow puppetry, cinematic aspects,, toy theater and creative sound. It can also be viewed by going back to Manual Cinema Watch or Manual Cinema.

Founded by Drew Dir, Sarah Fornace, Ben Kauffman, Julia Miller and Kyle Vegter, Manual Cinema is unlike anything you may have seen in the theaters.

For a glimpse of its Chicago shows visit our reviews of “The End of TV” and “Frankenstein.”


Riverwalk as a recreation and art destination


Radiance of Being mural by Kate Lynn Lewis. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago))
Radiance of Being mural by Kate Lynn Lewis. (Photo courtesy of City of Chicago)


If looking for an outdoor destination, consider Chicago’s Riverwalk, a 1.25 mile-long path along the Chicago River from Lake Street on the west down to Lake Michigan’s lake front on the east.

There you will find plenty of artwork to photo and put on Facebook, the Community Marketplace area open on weekends with the Shop Small Chicago place carrying local products and some café’s and other vendors to visit by appointment.

Be sure to see and photo  “Radiance of Being” and “The People In Your Neighborhood” organized by the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE) in collaboration with the Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS).

“Radiance of Being”

Located at the Community Marketplace area between Michigan Avenue and Wabash Street,  look for artist Kate Lynn Lewis’ The Radiance of Being” mural series that celebrates the city’s Art Deco architectural style.

Among the structures saluted are the Palmer House, Palmolive Building, Chicago Motor Club, Adler Planetarium and the St. Jane.

“The People In Your Neighborhood”

Further west at the Confluence area near Lake and Franklin Streets, look for street artist Dont Fret’s “The People in Your Neighborhood.” It consists of 55 paintings that include such folks as Gino Gambarota who is the chef at Manny’s Deli.

Riverwalk information: serous recreational use by runners, walkers and cyclists tends to be 6 to 10 a.m. followed by what is called the passive recreation of sightseers and business visitors. Face coverings are required.


Jodie Jacobs


Different kind of online murder mystery


Photo courtesy of Glessner House for Murder in a Nutshell.
Photo courtesy of Glessner House for Murder in a Nutshell.

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.

For more information visit Glessner House programs.

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.

For more Glessner House info visit Glessner House.


Lollapalooza is back sort of


Lolla 17 aerial photo By Charles Reagan Hackleman
Lolla 17 aerial photo By Charles Reagan Hackleman

Of course, it had to happen. Calling itself Lolla2020, instead of drawing thousands of fans to Grant Park this year, the mega entertainment festival can be seen, enjoyed and danced to for four nights on YouTube beginning 5 p.m. CT, July 30, 2020.

Its free of charge but donations to Lollapalooza donate campaign for the Equal Justice Initiative, When We All Vote and the Arts for Illinois Relief Fund are appreciated.


What to expect

See classic performances from Lolla sets and new ones from more than 135 artists including Paul McCartney, Chance The Rapper, OutKast, Arcade Fire, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Metallica, Lorde, Kehlani, Alabama Shakes, Run The Jewels, LCD Soundsystem, H.E.R., Tenacious D, Tove Lo, Ellie Goulding, Vic Mensa, Kaskade, Alison Wonderland (Live Set), and others.

The full schedule, posted Wednesday, July 29 on the Lollapalooza subscription YouTube channel, can be found by clicking here .

In addition, Lolla2020 will feature conversations between sets from Perry Farrell, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot, LL COOL J, Selema Masekala, and others.