A half century ago, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson pushed for a national day that would jump start legislation and events stopping industrial pollution and remind earth’s residents of the importance of their planet’s health.
First held and celebrated in the United States with marches and programs in April 1970, Earth Day was then established as April 22 by an executive order given in July that year.
It was followed by the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency to regulate and enforce national pollution legislation and led to the Endangered Species Act, the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act.
Earth Day is now celebrated by towns and institutions around the world. Here are some ways to celebrate and/or participate.
Check your community for cleanup and other activities.
Join the Lake Forest/Lake Bluff League of Women Voters and Lake Forest Open Lands Association to clean up the lakefront April 17 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.. Capacity if 50 people. For tickets needed to meet state protocols and more information visit Earth Day Beach Clean-up. Face mask required. Parking is at lower south beach near boat launch.
The Andersonville neighborhood invites everyone to visit the shops for special promotions during Andersonville in Bloom, April 22-25.
The EarthDay Organization
Earthday.org has three days of activities beginning April 20 and culminating in workshops and speakers on April 22. Among the topics covered are emerging green technologies, climate restoration technologies and reforestation efforts.
Art Institute of Chicago
Celebrate Earth Day with the museum’s virtual programs, live performances, conversations and art activities. Registration is needed for conversations beginning April 21, art activities beginning April 23, and performances beginning April 30. For registration and more information visit AICEarthDay Highlights.
Chicago Botanic Garden
See Earth Day/Chicago botanic Garden for loads of ideas from “Be a citizen scientist” and “Eco-friendly gardening” to “Understanding bio-diversity” and “Conservation and restoration.”
It has taken COVID’s 2020 stay-close-to home mandate to bring out a different style side of artist Mark McMahon that his many fans likely won’t recognize.
Art lovers can see the ceramic tile mural of Chicago life done by McMahon, an internationally known Lake Forest artist, if they go to Van Buren and Federal Streets downtown. Folks who remember the ceramic pictures of local life that covered the walls of a Lake Forest McDonalds can find the extensive mural over at the town’s Gorton Community Center where they were moved when the McD property was developed into a shopping strip.
Abbotts’ employees know of his stylized interpretation of the international company’s various campuses as pictured first by his dad, the famed “artist- reporter, Franklin McMahon, last century, and twice now in this century by Mark McMahon. The commissioned pictures are in Abbott’s museum.
The Abbott works are part of McMahon’s “World Studio” category that also includes paintings done in Africa , London, France, Canada, Spain and Cuba.
They and other watercolors, many of which he has translated into giclee prints, note cards and mugs, have been commissioned by companies, cities and colleges. They have also ranged from sports venues and historic events such as a NASA space shuttle launch to scenic vistas on the Great Lakes such as Sleeping Bear Dunes.
Those are paintings that tell a story. Inspired by the way his dad worked on-site, McMahon calls them “editorials.”
However, anyone stopping by The Gallery, a Lake Forest restaurant cum art venue, will see not just a sampling of McMahan’s story-telling watercolors , but also his latest works in oils and acrylics.
Set in artistically designed steel frames created by son Drew McMahon, the paintings are so very different from the story-telling works on the opposite gallery wall that a visitor could be forgiven for asking who did those.
There are eye-popping flowers plus an unusual rendering of a lion fish.
When asked about his change in style, McMahon, sitting at home with a cup of tea for the interview, said, “Wait” as he disappeared. He brought back a large canvas done in oils on site at a Lake Forest Open Lands property about 30 years ago.
If divided into close-ups, it could foretell the direction he would take decades later. But the style is different.
Even though it was done on site because that is how McMahon works, the scene didn’t begin as a line drawing followed by color as in his characteristic painting mode. Instead, the canvas appeared as an experiment in textured layers and scenic effects.
I’ve always done these on the side,” said McMahon.
His newest works focus on pattern instead of a scenic tale.
Zooming in on the shape of the flora he captures, his irises tend to to take on a Matisse-type flow.
His thistles, as in the work hanging in his and wife Carolyn’s living room, create an impact with repeated pattern. They become even more important against a forceful background color. This one is a glowing orange.
“Carolyn said this one isn’t going anywhere. It’s staying here,” said McMahon. (Carolyn, an artist who works in a variety of media, has a two dimensional metal piece attached to another living room wall.)
Another change is that he now favors icon boards over the canvas he had been using. “You feel it pulling the paint off the brush,” he said.
What hasn’t changed is working on site where he does his line work and initial painting and then, finishing the work back in his studio. He still brings his tools: an easel and box of paints to the site. “I like that spontaneity,” said McMahon.
But he attributes his adding a new style, “not technique,” to the pandemic. “I’ve had more time now with COVID,” he said.
Instead of traveling far afield to capture a story playing out at a city or college, McMahon heads to his rock garden or around the corner to the wild plants such as thistle that grow along telephone, electric and cable lines.
I’ve been doing this (painting) for 50 years,” said McMahon, 70. “The art process takes, 30-40-50 years to develop. They have evolved. Once in a while there is a good one,” he said.
(To view Mark McMahon’s work visit The Gallery, check with the Deerpath Art League’s date for its May fundraiser and go on April 29, 2021 to the City of Lake Forest Shop in the downtown train station for an event to help local non-profit organizations.)
The path back to normal begins to look more like the yellow brick road as an insightful Comics exhibition gets set to open at the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Art Institute of Chicago is happily welcoming more and more visitors to its Monet exhibit and the Adler Planetarium reminds folks they can explore the museum and space online by putting space projections on theMart. Plus, over in Pennsylvania the Philadelphia Museum of Art gets ready to show off the major renovation of its 1928 building by architect Frank Gehry.
Art on theMart
April . No fooling. Projections on theMart at the Chicago River and Merchandise Mart Plaza promise to fascinate drivers and walkers as they move from the Adler Planetarium’s Astrographics about how we viewed the Earth, Other Worlds, the Stars and the Beyond April 1 through July 4.
In addition, the Art Institute’s Monet and Bisa Butler’s works simultanesously go from April 1 to May 19 followed by CPS class of 2021 projects May 20 to June 26.
The timing works because the Adler’s projections are about 16 minutes so the remaining time is filled by the other partners. Projections start at 8:30 p.m. CT and continue for about 30 minutes. Then, they begin again at 9 p.m. For more information visit Art on theMart and Spring art on theMart 2021.
Also in April but online is a curated digital exposition of contemporary and modern art put together by EXPO Chicago, the organization that has annually held its highly regarded show at Navy Pier pre-COVID. It runs APRIL 8-12, 2021 and includes gallery works plus knowledgeable art sessions. For information and registration visit EXPO Chicago.
Philadelphia Museum of Art
May, With travel returning as more people get their second vaccine, visiting museums outside the Midwest sounds enticing and doable. Among the places to visit is the Philadelphia Museum of Art to see how architect Frank Gehry (designer of Chicago’s Pritzker Pavilion renovated the museum’s 1928 building. The unveiling is May 7, 2021. For more information visit Philamuseum/renovation.
Museum of Contemporary Art
June brings “Chicago Comics: 1960s to Now” at the MCA. “From radical newspapers to literary graphic novels, encompassing autobiography, satire, absurdism, science fiction, horror, and fiction, the exhibition foregrounds comics and cartooning as a democratic medium that allows artists to grapple with the issues of their time,” says an MCA statement about “Chicago Comics”
Running June 19 through Oct. 3, 2021, the exhibit reveals Chicago as a center for comics and cartooning. For more information visit MCA Chicago Comics.
Normally, the works of fifty-one year old American composer/arranger James Stephenson, Lake Forest, IL, are played by such orchestras as the Boston Pops, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the LA Philharmonic and the National Symphony.
However, on Jan. 20, 2021 in front of 40 million people watching the Biden-Harris inauguration (Nielsen ratings), his “Fanfare for Democracy” led off the three fanfares played by “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band.
Directed by Col. Jason K. Fettig, “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band plays for inauguration ceremonies, state dinners and other White House functions. (Note: Thomas Jefferson is credited with the nickname “The President’s Own.”)
How Stephenson’s fanfare, and indeed, the theme of the US Marine Band’s music prelude to the swearing-in ceremony came to be, offers some insight into the tension surrounding the 59th quadrennial presidential election and inauguration.
“The week after the Nov.3 election had been a week of turmoil. So, on Saturday when we finally heard that Biden was confirmed, my wife (Sally) and I went for a walk with the dog. It was warm, 70 degrees, and people were out. People were feeling relieved that the democratic process had been gone through. It was energizing,” Stephenson recalled.
“I started hearing music in my head. Then, while we were having drinks and a meal with friends I couldn’t focus on that. I kept hearing the music. I went home and wrote it in five hours. It felt good. I had done my duty. It was my response,” he said.
“What I had remembered was the image of Biden and wife Jill standing on a stage in Delaware while fireworks went off in celebration of the moment. I wanted to capture that feeling,” said Stephenson.
Because the composer had previously worked with Col. Fettig, including writing a symphony that Fettig commissioned and that won the prestigious Sousa/Ostwald Competition, the idea of sending the fanfare to the U. S. Marine Band was foremost on Stephenson’s mind.
As a result, a musical fanfare program was developed.
“He said I can move some things around. Your fanfare has given me some ideas. This can be composers’ responses to American democracy,” said Stephenson.
When asked about Stephenson’s contribution to the inauguration, Col. Fettig said, “Jim and I have had a very fruitful and long-standing creative collaboration, and his music really speaks to me as an interpreter of new music. I find myself returning time and again to his music; he is such a versatile and virtuosic composer, and he has the rare ability to write for absolutely any occasion and ensemble, and hit just the right mark.”
Fettig added, “When I first heard Jim’s new fanfare inspired by the symbol of Democracy inherent in the Presidential Inauguration, it was a foregone conclusion in my mind that we would perform it live for the occasion. Jim’s music is always deeply moving, and this brief fanfare immediately and brilliantly captures the indomitable spirit of the nation for the listener.
“I was thrilled to have the opportunity to give it a featured place in the special soundtrack we crafted for this historic moment. The reception for his piece and all of the music that Marine Band performed on Wednesday has been incredible, and far beyond anything I could have imagined,” he said.
Two other composers’ fanfares completed that part of the Marine Band’s program: “Fanfare for Tomorrow.” by Altadena, CA composer Peter Boyer and “Fanfare Politeria” by Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville composition professor Kimberly K Archer.
They only had 12 days to compose and send their fanfares due to the uncertainty of how and where the inauguration ceremony would take place.
Stephenson explained: “The Colonel didn’t know if the band would be playing because of what happened on Jan 6 and whether Biden would be inside or what would still take place. He did find out Sunday that the Marine Band would be playing.”
A weekend after the inauguration, Stephenson has had time to take in how everything came together.
“At the moment, I wasn’t really allowed time for reflection or celebration because both my wife and I were running around the house checking various stations on various TVs to find the one that didn’t have talking-heads constantly overcoming the music. So it ended up with me in one room and her in another trying to take in what we saw on the station we each independently found,” said Stephenson.
“Now, that I’ve found more time to go back and take it in, I’m especially excited at hearing my name spoken and announcing the world premiere in the same space of where so much history and pageantry has occurred. That was pretty cool, and I’m going to go ahead and allow myself to be a bit proud of that,” he said.
“I also think a shout-out is deserved for the Colonel, of course, but also for the members of the band. They awake at 1:30 a.m. to be there, and go through so much ritual and sitting/waiting. Then, to perform so well in such cold weather, is no small feat. They are a true testament to professionalism and talent.”
(Ed note: James Stephenson’s current project is writing a new ballet for the San Francisco Ballet called “Wooden Dimes.” A period ballet piece, it is set to premier in March on film instead of live because of the pandemic.)
Those Hanukkah candles may be just a melted memory until next year but a fun story about the celebration is still going on at Strawdog Theatre Company.
A few more performances of its yearly story: “Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins” continues through Dec. 20, 2020. They can be seen live on zoom at 1 and 4 p.m. this weekend.
Now a Strawdog holiday tradition, “Hershel and the Hanukkah Ggoblins” is an interactive production based on the award-winning book by Eric Kimmel and adapted by ensemble member Michael Dailey.
Even though this really is a show for young children, adults will likely get caught up in the clever ways that Hershel tricks the goblins who have infested a small village and its old synagogue.
By the eight night the Hanukkah lights can once again be lit and the holiday celebrated. Along the way, viewers learn the Hebrew letters on the Hanukkah dreidel and the blessings said over the candles.
Manual Cinema, an innovative company that blends story-telling, puppetry, actors, music and sound to tell a story, mixes Charles Dickens’ moralistic holiday tale with current phrases and crises in its premiere of “Manual Cinema A Christmas Carol.”
Given the current pandemic challenges, instead of presenting the show at Court Theatre where the company did “Frankenstein” or Chopin Theatre for “End of TV, its take on the Dickens’ story streams live to audiences per performance from Manual Cinema’s Chicago studio.
An early clue that audiences will be experiencing more than the basic story of Scrooge’s enlightenment, are the cards on a mantel behind actor/puppeteer N. LaOuis Harkins who introduces the story as Aunt Trudy and is the voice behind each character. The cards range from holiday wishes to get well and condolences.
“Trudy,” married to Joe whom she said died of COVID in August, is going through her late husband’s story-telling box of puppets. Her seemingly drawn-out reluctance to use them and present the tale for family members on zoom, makes sense at the end.
But the story needs to unfold so no ALERT here. Just appreciate the tale’s broader message. Oh, and have Kleenex handy for the graveyard scene.
So many Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” to see On Demand, stream live or hear, such as Goodman Theatre’s audio drama. And so little time. Wait! With the pandemic still going on there is plenty of time to catch a couple more interpretations.
Among them is Writers Theatre’s “One-Man A Christmas Carol” acted, narrated and adopted by Artistic Director Michael Halberstam, reviewed here. Another one that will be reviewed tomorrow is Manual Cinema’s “Christmas Carol.”
Because each production is different and brings the strengths of a professional team, all three shows merit time and ticket. Given Dickens’ adroit telling of his moralistic, ghostly novella, “A Christmas Carol” is a story worth repeating.
Viewers of the Writers Theatre’s show, produced in collaboration with HMS Media and directed by Stanton Long, are sure to get caught up in Halberstam’s portrayal of Scrooge, the ghosts, the Cratchit family and assorted other characters.
Background projections occasionally add interest to the telling although it would work as well as a radio show. What does work for me is that, though annotated, Halberstam does use Dickens’ original words and phrases.
What I didn’t expect, considering how often I’ve seen different productions of “A Christmas Carol,” is to tear up during the ghost of what’s to come’s visit to the Cratchit household.
That poignant scene really showcased Halberstam’s fine acting.
For ticket and other information visit Writers Theatre or call (847) 242-6000.
Imagine a youngster (or adult) opening a large envelope with a photo of a cute leopard cub accompanied by a certificate of adoption this holiday season.
Ahava, a six month old snow leopard and Sasha, a nine month old Amur leopard, are among Brookfield Zoo residents in an Animal Adoption program.
Operated by the Chicago Zoological Society, Brookfield Zoo is doing different gift adoptions ranging from Basic Package of $35 to the Plush Duo of $120.
Basic includes a 5 by 7-inch color photo of the leopard, a personalized certificate, a species fact sheet, an Animal Adoption decal and an invite to the Animal Adoptionsummer event in 2021 (subject to COVID-19 guidelines).
Plush starts at $65 to include a 12-inch plush animal, four free tickets to the Animal Adoptionsummer event in 2021 and all the benefits of the Basic Package. But if not sure which leopard to adopt there are the Basic Duo at $65 and Plush Duo at $120 for adoptions of both Ahava and Sasha.
In addition, the gifts help pay for the animal’s care at the
The leopard cubs are among two residents the zoo is featuring as holiday adoption gifts. There are also 4-year-old African lions Brutus and Titus, orangutans Kecil and Kekasih and Zeus, a bald eagle.
For more information on the packages and animals to visit CZS.org/AnimalAdoption or call (708) 688-8341. To ensure holiday delivery, orders must be received by Dec. 15, 2020.
Goodman Theatre’s long-running holiday favorite opened Dec. 1, not as a play on Goodman’s Albert Theatre’s stage or a show filmed live to be seen on certain dates or a zoomed show to watch now and later.
Running through Dec. 31 at carol.goodmantheatre.org, Goodman’s “A Christmas Carol” in 2020 is a fresh, 80-minute production performed as an audio play.
Starring Larry Yando who after years of portraying Dicken’s transformation of mean miser into giddy, generous gent, can most assuredly do Scrooge’s bah humbug in his sleep. Directed by Jessica Thebus, he and the rest of the cast bring the tale to life even without visuals.
However, it does matter how you listen. When first tried on my computer, I had trouble hearing all the words distinctly pronounced. But when tried later on facebook on my iPhone, it sounded much better. So, tip 1: If happy with the sound don’t worry but if not, try other devices. I didn’t catch all the narration when originally listening. But since the show does not have visuals so you know what is happening, the narration is very important. Chicago actor, writer, director Andrew White does an excellent job guiding listeners through the actions as the show’s narrator.
Secondly, although I do listen to music and news on the radio I felt I needed more to get into the personality of the recording and the actors doing the show. So, tip 2: Before clicking on the show go to carol/goodman, click on The Play at the top and scroll down to the Behind-the-Scene trailer.
One last thought. The sound effects are excellent as is the music but I needed some magic. So, tip 3: Visit A Christmas Carol/35th Anniversary/ you Tube to learn about the show’s beginning, a director’s and Yando’s thoughts on the story and see a couple of short clips.
It’s OK not to reveal your age but does anyone remember sitting by the radio to hear the weekly broadcast of a favorite program? The “spirits” of good old family entertainment are back thanks to Goodman Theatre.
With renown Chicago actor Larry Yando once again portraying Scrooge, Goodman will put on its annual holiday treat, “A Christmas Carol” by Charles Dickens as a free, audio broadcast beginning 7 p.m. Dec. 1. The story line is adapted byTom Creamer and directed by Jessica Thebus. It is adapted for audio by Neena Arndt, Jessica Thebus and Richard Woodbury.
Visit Carol/goodmantheatre for more information. You can also tune in to WBEZ 91.5 FM and Vocalo 91.1 F.M. Dec. 24 at 3 p.m. and Dec. 25 at 11 a.m. The program will also be available through On Demand.
A Joffrey “Nutcracker’ dance class
Remember when short, Nutcracker dance classes were available for youngsters at the Chicago Cultural Center? The Joffrey Academy of Dance is offering “Virtual enchanted Evening: The Nutcracker” in two sessions: ages 4-6, Dec. 4 and ages 7-9 Dec. 11. Hours are 6:30-7”30 p.m. CT. The fee is $15. To find out what is needed and for more information or to register visit Virtual enchantged evening/Evenbrite.
Peter Pan: A Musical Adventure
It’s time after months of the pandemic for some faith and maybe, a little pixie dust. You can visit Neverland via Chicago Shakespeare Theater, free, from noon Dec. 19, 2020 to 11:59 Jan. 1, 2021.
The production is a newly re-mastered, 80-minute feature film that was shot live of the 2018 production. Music is by the award-winning duo of Broadway’s “Mary Poppins” with a score by George Stiles and lyrics by Anthony Drewer.
Adapted from the play by J.M. Barrie with permission from Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children the production is presented by special arrangement with Concord Theatricals.