By Philip Vidal
As I write this, the leaves on the trees are still green: this last vestige of summer is still hanging on. The last SOAR (Streeterville Association of Active Residents) Farmer’s Market at the Museum of Contemporary Art Plaza is October 31, Halloween. Pumpkins are sure to be a big seller. If your kids or grandkids show an artistic bent with their pumpkin and Halloween decorating, then perhaps they might like “Super Sunday” at the Hyde Park Art Center on November 12, from 1-5 PM. There will be exhibit openings, family art-making, open studios, and other architecture-inspired programming in partnership with the Chicago Architecture Biennial.
Once the kids and grandkids come down from their Halloween sugar rush, a great thing to do is to take them to see one of the 280+ movies from 40+ countries at Facets’ 34th annual Children’s Film Festival, which continues through November 5 at eight locations around the city and suburbs.
Grown-ups interested in architecture will be attending “Past Forward – A Conference of the National Trust for Historic Preservation,” November 14-17. They will probably visit the similarly named “Past Forward – Architecture and Design at the Art Institute,” a terrific new installation that opened September 12.
Past and present, art seems to always have political overtones. Two exhibitions in Chicago mark the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. “Revollutsiia! Demonstratsiia! Soviet Art Put to the Test” at the Art Institute of Chicago, October 29-January 15, and “Revolution Every Day” at the Smart Museum of Art continues through January 14. This year marks the 75th anniversary of Executive Order 9066 that forced the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. “Then They Came for Me: Incarceration of Japanese-Americans during WWII and the Demise of Civil Liberties” at the Alphawood Gallery at Fullerton, Halsted and Lincoln closes November 19. The exhibit includes photographs by Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange.
December 2, 1942, marks the 75th anniversary of the first controlled sustainable nuclear chain reaction which took place on a University of Chicago squash court. “Chain Reactions” is a campus-wide series of exhibits, lectures and tours this fall to observe the dawn of the Atomic Age and to mark the 50th anniversary of Henry Moore’s “Nuclear Energy” sculpture.
Chicago artist Hebru Brantley’s solo show “Forced Field” at the Elmhurst Art Museum has been so well-received that the exhibition has been extended for six weeks through January 7. I heard that the Murakami show at the Museum of Contemporary Art broke attendance records. Like Murakami, Brantley is inspired by comic books, pop culture and Japanese anime. I look forward to “Grass Poets – Bamboo Art in Japan” a lecture given by Joe Earle, Bonham’s London, which is part of the Trapp Japanese lecture series, November 16, in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Nichols Board of Trustees Suite.
Religious themes can be heard in music this month. The vocal ensemble amarcord makes their Chicago debut on November 17 at the University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Memorial Chapel with “Luther and Music,” a program of vocal works marking the 500th anniversary of the Lutheran Reformation. The 31st season of The Newberry Consort kicks off with “Sacred Love: Songs of the Sephardim,” a concert with music of Renaissance Spain and the Ladino oral tradition of the Sephardic Jews, November 3-5 at Gavin Recital Hall, Logan Center, and Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership.
Mariza sings soulful Portuguese fado ballads at the City Winery, November 8. Author David Sedaris performs at the Auditorium Theatre on November 1. He received his BFA from the School of the Art Institute in 1987, which is most likely covered in his latest book “Theft by Finding: Diaries 1977-2002.” “A Golden Celebration of Dance: The 50th Anniversary of Auditorium Theatre’s Re-Opening,” November 12, will feature dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, American Ballet Theatre, Eifman Ballet of St. Petersburg, Joffrey Ballet, New York City Ballet, the Vienna State Ballet and several other renowned dance companies. Celebrate the centennial of singers Ella Fitzgerald and Lena Horne at “Ella and Lena: The Ladies and Their Music” at the Auditorium Theatre November 17. I often pass the building that once housed one of Chicago’s swankiest supper clubs, Chez Paree, at Ontario and Fairbanks, where Ella and Lena starred.
Comedian, writer, actor (“Parks and Recreation”) and Chicago-area native Nick Offerman has a solo stand-up show at the Chicago Theatre on December 1. Nick Offerman has performed with many Chicago theater companies, including the Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Wisdom Bridge. Chicago’s theater scene is still expanding and vibrant. Facility Theatre is a new theater group. Its production of Sam Shepard’s “Fool for Love” at the Chopin Theatre, directed by Zeljko Djukic, continues through November 12.
And Chicago continues to be a Broadway beta site. Jimmy Buffet’s musical “Escape to Margaritaville” is at Oriental Theatre, November 9-December 2, before it moves to Broadway. The world premiere of Tracy Letts’ “The Minutes” is at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, November 9-December 31, before it moves directly to Broadway with the Chicago cast.
The British (and Irish) are coming!
- In mid-October, Sir John Eliot Gardiner conducted the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir in Monteverdi’s three remaining operas to sold out crowds at the Harris Theater.
- On October 27, Sir David Davies, president of the Irish Georgian Society, was in Chicago for a gala dinner at a private club.
- Prince Harry visits Chicago on October 31 to give a speech at the Obama Foundation’s first global summit. His girlfriend, Meghan Markle, is a Northwestern graduate.
- John Saville, the new British Consul General in Chicago, starts in November.
- Thomas Coke, 8th Earl of Leicester, will speak about his home, one of the stateliest homes in England, Holkham, on November 9, at a Royal Oak Foundation event at a private club in Streeterville. Unfortunately, I will miss this event. I return that evening from a trip to England, ending with a stay at Cliveden, another storied and stately English home. I will visit nearby Kew Gardens. Chicago-based Isabella Winkler of the Kew Foundation America has been extraordinarily helpful arranging my tour of Kew Gardens.
- “Billy Elliott the Musical” about a British miner’s young son with aspirations to join the Royal Ballet is playing at Porchlight Music Theatre’s new home in the Gold Coast, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts. It has received terrific reviews and runs through November 26.
- Oscar Wilde’s “The Importance of Being Earnest” plays in the Alexandra C. and John D. Nichols Theatre at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, November 8-December 23. There are so many memorable quips in this play.
- I missed British filmmaker Terence Davies’ biopic of poet Emily Dickinson starring Cynthia Nixon (“Sex and the City”) when it was shown at the Music Box Theatre and Gene Siskel Film Center, so I do not want to miss William Luce’s “The Belle of Amherst” at Court Theatre, November 2-December 3. Kate Fry, one of my favorite actresses, plays Emily Dickinson.
The French are coming, too.
Bernard-Henri Lévy, France’s most renowned living philosopher, will discuss his latest work, “The Genius of Judaism,” at Northwestern University’s Pritzker School of Law on November 4 as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival, which ends November 12. The 13th annual Lycée Francais de Chicago’s French Market comes to Ravenswood, November 11-12.
The Germans and Austrians are also coming…
Vendors throughout Germany come to Chicago to set up their stalls in Daley Plaza for the Christkindlmarket, which runs November 17 – December 24. The Vienna Boys Choir performs “Christmas in Vienna” on November 25 at Chicago Symphony Center. The Von Trapp’s return to the Music Box Theatre November 24-26 and December 2-3 for the “Sing-a-Long Sound of Music.”
A flood of holiday-related events will soon be here, including:
- November 16-18 – The School of the Art Institute’s Holiday Sale, 112 S. Michigan;
- November 16-January 6 – “It’s A Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!” American Blues Theater at Stage 773;
- November 17-January 1 – “Illumination – Tree Lights at the Morton Arboretum”, Lisle;
- November 18-December 31 – Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” Goodman Theatre;
- November 21-December 3 – Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas,” Cadillac Palace Theatre.
And these open before Thanksgiving. Happy Thanksgiving!
Note: locations and times are subject to change.