In my last column, I mentioned that my cousin from Germany, Isabella, and her boyfriend, Matthias, would be visiting Chicago for the first time in July. As I showed them around the city, I developed an even deeper appreciation of Chicago. And I did indeed visit several places where I had not been in a long time, such as the Newberry Library and Chinatown. I even had deep dish pizza for the first time in many years.
Philip, Isabella and Matthias,
We took the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s River Cruise, which is a great introduction to the city. Our CAF docent said that we were lucky to see one of the bridges along the Chicago river opening as we passed under it. WTTW-Channel 11 will air “Bridging Urban America” on August 9 about Ralph Modjeski, a master bridge builder who took part in building many of the bridges that span the Chicago River, as well as the San Francisco-Oakland Bridge and the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor, Canada. Isabella and Matthias were astonished to see kids playing and skateboarding on one of Chicago’s most iconic pieces of public art, the Picasso statue in Richard J. Daley Plaza, which was dedicated on August 15, 1967. The ceremony commemorating the unveiling 50 years ago is August 8 at 1:00 PM in Daley Plaza. You can even hear what The Picasso has to say. It is one of the 30 statues across the city participating in the Statue Stories Chicago program. Simply swipe your smartphone on the nearby tab and get a ‘call back’ from The Picasso, Abraham Lincoln, or one of the Art Institute’s lions, through August 31.
Outdoor events start to wind down this month. The free outdoor performance series Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks continues through August 27 in various parks around the city. First Folio Theatre’s production of “As You Like It” performed outdoors at the Mayslake Peabody Estate in Oak Brook has gotten terrific reviews, through August 20. A perfect way to end the “Music Box Theatre’s Movies Park at Wrigley” outdoor movie series is with “The Blues Brothers” August 23.
While other events wind down, other things start to kick-off. Some of our cultural organizations are gearing up for the 2017-2018 season. The Near North Chapter of the Lyric Opera of Chicago will host an event on August 23 with Roger Pines, dramaturge of the Lyric. He will give a preview of the Lyric’s 2017-18 season. For more information contact lyricnnchapter@gmail. A literal kick-off will be when Real Madrid plays the Major League Soccer All-Stars at Soldier Field on August 2.
The mention of Madrid brings to mind “La Havana Madrid,” a ‘60s nightclub at Belmont and Sheffield popular with many of the recently arrived Puerto Ricans and Cubans. I grew up east of there. When I attended Our Lady of Mount Carmel Grammar School on Belmont in the ‘60s, many of my fellow classmates were of Puerto Rican or Cuban descent. Teatro Vista’s “La Havana Madrid” has played twice in Chicago to sold-out crowds, so I do not want to miss this musical tribute to a piece of Chicago history at its new home, the Goodman Theater, through August 20.
Other kick-offs include the new restaurant Marisol at the Museum of Contemporary Art. The restaurant, created by Chicago chef Jason Hammel of Logan Square’s Lula Café, is scheduled to open at the end of August. The MCA is going through a major redesign to mark the museum’s 50th anniversary in October. In addition to the new Marisol restaurant on the ground-level along Pearson, the museum will have a new education wing and a social gathering place in the center of the museum called “The Commons.” The cafeteria building at my high school, St. Ignatius College Prep, on Chicago’s West Side, was also called “The Commons.” It was not really a ‘social gathering place,’ but a venue for food fights. St. Ignatius was an all-boys school when I attended in the ‘70s.
The National Museum of Mexican Art is celebrating its 30th anniversary with the exhibition, “Memoria Presente: An Artistic Journey,” which closes August 13.
I have run into Deadheads, Phishheads, and Parrotheads this summer who were attending the many music concerts around Chicago. The outdoor music concerts continue with Chicago native Chance the Rapper performing at Lollapalooza which runs August 3-6 in Grant Park. Chance the Rapper will also be the grand marshal of the 88th annual Bud Billiken Day Parade, the largest African-American parade in the U.S., on August 12.
The blasts from my past continue through August with:
Rod Stewart and Cyndi Lauper at Tinley Park’s Hollywood Casino Amphitheater August 5;
Foreigner and Rockford’s Cheap Trick at Huntington Bank Pavilion on August 9;
Billy Joel at Wrigley Field, August 11;
Jethro Tull by Ian Anderson at the Chicago Theatre August 19;
Rickie Lee Jones at the City Winery August 20;
Depeche Mode at the Hollywood Casino Amphitheatre in Tinley Park on August 30.
Lady Gaga will perform at Wrigley Field on August 25. She produced an album and performed with Tony Bennett. One of this month’s highlights at Ravinia will be Tony Bennett’s concert on August 4. He turns 91 on August 3. Another Ravinia highlight will be Chicago-based chanteuse Spider Saloff performing “The Cool Heat of Peggy Lee” on August 25. Speaking of cool music, “ICED BODIES: Ice Music for Chicago,” created by Seth Parker Woods and Spencer Topel, is a free public durational performance at the Arts Club of Chicago’s East Gallery between 11:00 am to 3:00 pm on August 12. Woods, dressed in a wet suit, will play the Ice Cello.
The 39th annual Chicago Jazz Festival in Millennium Park and at the Chicago Cultural Center kicks off on August 31 with a celebration of Chicagoan George Freeman’s 90th birthday. The festival also includes centennial tributes to Dizzy Gillespie, Thelonius Monk and Ella Fitzgerald, through September 3. Singer and Chicago native Ann Hampton Callaway also pays homage to Ella Fitzgerald with “The Ella Century” at the City Winery, August 3.
Chicago continues to be a beta site for Broadway with the tryout and world premiere of “TREVOR: The Musical” in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, August 9-September 17. I was mesmerized by Helen Mirren’s portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II as she privately meets with twelve of her Prime Ministers in Peter Morgan’s “The Audience,” so I am anxious to see the Chicago premiere of this play starring Janet Ulrich Brooks at TimeLine Theatre, August 16-November 12.
The Theater on the Lake at Fullerton and Lake Shore Drive is scheduled to re-open in mid-August with the Lakefront, a new tavern. Regular theater programming returns for the 2018 season. While the Theater on the Lake is under renovation, programming continues at the Berger Park Cultural Center in Rodgers Park through August 20. The building at Fullerton was originally the Chicago Daily News Fresh Air Sanitarium. While I was growing up in Chicago, I suffered from hay fever so I needed some fresh, unpollinated air. My family would head to the North Woods of Wisconsin or to Door County, the Midwest’s answer to Cape Cod or Maine. I do not recall attending the Peninsula Music Festival, which is in its 65th season, August 1-19, but the festival provides an excuse to go back to Door County. I do remember going to see the Peninsula Players. At that time, they performed outdoors. After the performance, we felt as if we had each donated a pint of blood to the swarming mosquitos.
Rather than heading north, you might want to head south to southern Illinois to get a better view of the total solar eclipse on August 21. The “Chasing Eclipses” exhibit at the Adler Planetarium is a great way to learn about this phenomenon, through January 8. Or head south to Columbus, Indiana. I recently visited this treasure trove of modernist architecture. The tour guide for our group was terrific. He was Henry Kuehn, a former docent and a life trustee of the Chicago Architecture Foundation. A reason for me to go back is ”Exhibit Columbus.” Large scale installations by contemporary design companies will be dotted around town, August 26 through November.
Back in the ‘60s, my father would take my sisters and me to see the freighters docked at Navy Pier. Chicago will probably not become the Miami of the Midwest for cruise ships, but on August 20, the 202 passenger M/V Victory I leaves the Port of Chicago Port District for a nine-night cruise on the Great Lakes. With all the TV series and films being shot in Chicago, could a new Chicago version of “The Love Boat” be far behind?