Lyric names new musical director as Davis announces retirement

(Published Sept. 12, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

On Thursday the Lyric Opera announced Enrique Mazzola as Lyric’s next music director.

Mazzola will be the third director for the theater and he will take over from Sir Andrew Davis when Davis wraps up the 2021/2022 season in the spring of 2022. 

Davis has directed at the Lyric for 20 years, and he will return for guest spots on certain operas. 

“My love for the company has not diminished one jot or tittle since I first came here in 1987,” Davis said. “The Lyric is my family my wife feels exactly the same way and I shall have a wonderful two years finishing my official stint. Anthony, I thank you for everything.”

Davis was referring to Anthony Freud, the general director of the opera who praised Davis as he welcomed Mazzola. 

“It’s been a greater honor than I can say for me to be able to work so closely with Andrew during my time here,” said Freud. 

Mazzola has conducted operas at the Lyric, first in 2016 then in 2018 and Freud praised his attention to detail and his pacing. 

“These were extremely happy experiences for the company for our audiences and I hope for him,” Freud said. 

Mazzola said he did enjoy his work at the Lyric and he looks forward to moving to Chicago.

“I want to become a Chicagoan as far as possible,” he said. “I’m Italian but I will try. … I want to be near you all. … I think that from today in a way and from Sept. 21, my place is here and I want to listen to Chicago and stay in Chicago.”

He said fell in love with the city at first sight. 

“Each time I left my heart here,” he said. 

This year’s theater season kicks off Sept. 28 with a production of “The Barber of Seville.” For more information and tickets, visit lyricopera.org.

Teatro ZinZanni brings European-style Cabaret to Chicago


(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Love, Chaos and Dinner.

That’s the tagline for Chicago’s newest cabaret show, Teatro ZinZanni. This dinner and a show aims to deliver on all three.  A variety of performances include circus acts, clowning performances and song and dance numbers through a multi-course dinner, catered by the Goddess and the Grocer.

Founded in 1998 by Norman Langill, Teatro ZinZanni is inspired by the European cabarets. Langill said he wanted to “create an intimate relationship with the artists.” Teatro ZinZanni currently has shows running in Seattle and San Francisco. 

The show takes place on the 14th floor of the Cambria Hotel, 32 W. Randolph St., in a space discovered in 2017 when the hotel was doing renovations. Langill had been looking for the right place in Chicago for ten years and when the former Masonic temple was found, “it was a natural,” for the show. Langill said. Now the space is renovated to become the “Spiegeltent ZaZou” described by ZinZanni press as a “Belgium mirror tent filled with unique, historic touches.”

The three-hour show has a show within a show feeling as the antics of its performers and wait staff start before the show officially begins. Performers wander around dressed as wait staff and cooks and interact with the customers between the official acts and during the dinner courses. 

“The food and the waitstaff have to be integrated in the experience. They are the support cast for the evening,” Langill said. “It has to be integrated and seamlessly connected to the show so there is only one experience you are having, not two.”

The “hosts” of Teatro ZinZanni are The Caesar, played by Frank Ferrante, and sultry singer Madame ZinZanni, performed by Rizo. They are accompanied by a live band with music reminiscent of Édith Piaf and jazz classics. “Lady Rizo is a force of nature.” 

Rachel Karabenick, a circus performer who attended the show, remarked. “Her voice, her poise, her humor—everything about her performance was simply stunning. I’d say she is one of the best performers I have ever seen live.”

The cabaret presents performers from around the world along with local artists from Chicago. Samuel and Sylvia are local performers known as Duo Rose who perform on doubles trapeze. 

The show will continue through the end of September and a new show “Decadent Delights” with a diner theme will begin in October.

You’re move: Residents have fun at board game night

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

A group of New Eastside—and nearby—residents have come together to form a board game night. The group meets monthly in the party room at The Tides, 360 E. South Water St.

New Eastside resident Ishmeet Lamda started the game night by reaching out to neighbors on the social media application NextDoor. She was excited to discover many people in the neighborhood like to play board games.

“I’m an extrovert who likes to socialize and also love to play board games,” Lamda said. 

New Eastside resident Jeffrey Molsen regularly attends. 

“The neighborhood board game night is great because it allows me to meet new people through sharing some of my favorite games and getting the opportunity to try out new ones,” he said.

A typical board game night includes a warm-up game to account for any latecomers. Short games, such as Uno or Iota, are played. 

“We then either split into groups and play, or we all come together and play cooperative games which are super engaging,” Lamda said. Those games, like Pandemic and Avalon, are more strategic and take a longer time.

Lamda’s favorites to play at game night are Stone Age, Iota, Hanabi, Uno, and Code Names.

Molsen said his favorite is Fluxx. 

“The rules start simple, and you just have to do what the cards say after that,” he said. “However, it can quickly devolve into delightful mayhem.”

The board game club welcomes all new members.

“It is a pretty flexible and happy-go-lucky group,” Lambda said. 

Plans are put together on NextDoor. Lamda posts information about meetings. The next planned meeting is 6 p.m. on Sept. 6. Lamda asks interested parties to RSVP on NextDoor.

[Board Game Night members rounding out the night with Uff-Da and free massages from (name) photo by Stephanie Racine]

Women’s Bar Association celebrates 19th Amendment and 100 years of women voting

By Jesse Wright

In June, Illinois is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment. lllinois was one of the early states to ratify the amendment which gave women the right to vote. 

Suffragettes gained statewide support for the 19th Amendment by working with other groups, so the Women’s Bar Association of Illinois (WBAI), in that spirit, is partnering with several other bar associations to commemorate the occasion. 

The bar associations include the Standing Committee on Women and the Law of the Illinois State Bar Association, The Chicago Bar Association’s Alliance for Women and the Black Women Lawyers’ Association of Illinois. In addition, the WBAI will host a luncheon Oct. 16 at The Union League Club to honor the 19th Amendment. The featured speaker will be Rebecca Pallmeyer, first female Chief Judge of the Northern District of Illinois.

Corinne Heggie, newly-installed president of the WBAI, said the suffragette movement is inspirational. 

“It took over 100 years to get it on the books,” she said. “And [that] speaks to the power of the folks who got it on the books.”

In addition to the activists, Heggie praised Illinois lawmakers, including the governor at the time. 

“I have to believe then-Gov. Frank Lowden, who signed the legislation, was a vanguard in his mentality,” she said. “Illinois was one of the first states to sign on and I have to believe it was the leaders in Springfield, and that’s not nothing because I don’t know if it was a popular position.”

According to the National Parks Service, Illinois lawmakers had intended the state to be the first to ratify the amendment, but inadvertently passed the wrong wording on June 10, 1919. By the time they noticed and held another vote on June 17, Illinois became the seventh state to ratify the amendment. 

Heggie said in the spirit of the 19th Amendment, the WBAI will continue to serve as a resource for Illinois and Chicago. The WBAI accepts men and women as members, and by partnering with other bar associations, she hopes to spread the word about the organization. 

“We want to be part of the conversation,” Heggie said. “We’re trying to raise awareness for those who don’t know who we are, and to be a resource.”

To find out more about the group, visit wbaillinois.org.

Golden Knights, Blue Angels headline 61st annual event by the lake

(Published July 30, 2019

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs will headline the 61st annual Chicago Air and Water Show, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17-18.

Last year’s show drew an estimated 1 million people, said Mary May, Marketing and Communications, Public Relations Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago.

The show will also feature the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows from the United Kingdom. Nineteen other groups will be performing with nine military demonstrations and ten civilian teams. 

This year’s special guests, the RAF Red Arrows have performed nearly 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965, according to a City of Chicago news release. The Red Arrows will perform in more than 20 displays in the U.S. and Canada on its first North American tour in 11 years, according to the Red Arrows website. 

To get the Red Arrows’ Hawk T1 jets to North America, they will be flown over three days, the tour website said. They will have 12 Hawk aircrafts and 1 Atlas A400M RAF transport aircraft. The tour will include 108 people, “including pilots, engineers and support staff.”

A regular of the Air and Water Show, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels includes 16 officers. The Commanding Officer, known as the “Boss” who flies the number 1 jet, is required to “have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron,” according to the Blue Angels website. Officers in jets 2 through 8 must “have an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours.” 

The U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights was founded in 1959 but received its name in 1962 due to all the gold medals the Knights had won, according to the Golden Knights website.

“The team has earned the U.S. Army 2,148 gold, 1,117 silver, and 693 bronze medals in national and international competition,” the site said. “Team members have also broken 348 world records.” The Golden Knights currently have nearly 95 men and women, including four parachute units and five aircrafts, according to their website. They perform annually in over 100 events.

Energetic ‘Music Man’ opens at Goodman

(Published July 10, 2019)

By Bob Oswald

The Goodman Theatre is closing out the 2018-2019 season with an energetic presentation of “The Music Man.” 

Meredith Wilson’s story about con man Harold Hill who plans to swindle the town of River City, Iowa with the promise of a band opened to an enthusiastic crowd Monday night and kept a rousing pace throughout.

Hill, played by Goodman alum Geoff Packard, gets things moving as he arrives in town and convinces citizens to support the band. Packard and Monica West, who plays the town’s librarian Marian Paroo, work beautifully together and don’t miss a note while keeping up with the dazzling and intense dance moves worked out by choreographer Denis Jones.

The production is directed by Mary Zimmerman, who has directed an impressive 16 productions during her 25 years at the Goodman Theatre.
Following the opening, the Goodman Theatre announced it has added a second and final extension week to “The Music Man.” Due to an “overwhelming demand for tickets,” the show will run through Aug. 18. in the 856-seat Albert Theatre. Tickets, from $25 to $142, are available at GoodmanTheatre.org/MusicMan, at 312-443-3800 or at the box office, 170 North Dearborn.

A closer look at hidden bars around downtown

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

Looking for someplace new? Someplace weird? Someplace out-of-the-way?

Look no more. Here is a list of the best hidden bars downtown.

The Library

The Library is located in the basement of the Gilt Bar in River North. It has a speakeasy feel with soft lights, bookshelves and gentle 1920s music playing. They don’t take reservations, expect a wait.

Gilt Bar

230 N. Kinzie St.

The Drifter

This River North establishment is also in the basement of another bar, the Green Door Tavern. The cocktail menu varies because drinks are printed on tarot cards, and different cards list different drinks. Risk-seeking patrons can snag a fortune cookie from a Buddha cookie jar where each fortune lists a cocktail or liquor. After 8 p.m., there’s burlesque and musical entertainment curated by Michelle L’amour. Expect to pay a cover charge.

Green Door Tavern

678 N. Orleans St.

The Milk Room

This tiny hidden bar is on the second floor of the Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan Ave. Allegedly, it was used by members during Prohibition. Paid reservations are recommended as the bar only has eight seats. This is the place for the discerning cocktail aficionado since they serve rare spirits.

Chicago Athletic Association

12 S. Michigan Ave.

Blind Barber

The Blind Barber, in West Loop, is in the back of an actual barber shop. When a patron enters the barbershop and asks for the bar, they will be directed to an unmarked door. Once inside the cocktail bar, it’ll feel like a time warp with soft lights and cozy chairs. In addition to a delicious cocktail list, they offer a grilled cheese that isn’t to be missed.

Back of a barber shop

948 W. Fulton Market

SafeHouse Chicago

A Milwaukee transplant, this Streeterville bar lets patrons feel like secret agents. First one must locate the red door and then provide the password or perform a designated task. Once these tests are passed, patrons find themselves in a spy-themed cocktail bar. It’s goofy and fun with lots to explore, including secret entrances and passages.

60 E. Ontario St.

Bridgehouse Museum continues to welcome visitors, despite Riverwalk construction

(Published June 19, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Though the main Riverwalk entrance to the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum is shuttered as city workers renovate that space, the museum is open and busy planning for an upcoming cruise fundraiser.

The cruise is June 26 and the boat ride offers a unique voyage on the Chicago River.

“It’s unlike any other tour,” Coles said. “We go places where other tours typically don’t go. We go all the way to Damon Avenue on the south branch.”

The Bridgehouse Museum celebrates the history of Chicago’s bridgehouses—the small offices once used to manually raise and lower the city’s drawbridges—as well as the history of the Chicago River. Aside from the museum, many of the bridgehouses are now closed and unused.

The museum, at the northern corner of Columbus Drive and upper Wacker, is only open during the spring, summer and early fall. Museum director Josh Coles said, despite the construction, he’s happy with attendance so far this year. He even praised the work on the Riverwalk, which he said will improve the exterior space.

“They are expanding the plaza space,” he said. “They’re going to add two large long planters full of native plants. It should be good.”

Inside the museum, Coles said the organization continues to welcome locals and tourists with a robust schedule of river-related events through the summer.

“In July and August we do a speaker series,” he said.

The free series will kick off July 8 and run from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. xperts will talk on a variety of topics, from the history of the area to the ecology of the river.

“We have all kinds of great people who know a lot about river-related issues,” Coles said. “Also, in late June, we have our annual fundraiser for the museum and it’s a summer cruise.”

Tickets are $85 for a single or $155 for two tickets, available online at bridgehousemuseum.org.

In September, the Bridgehouse Museum will offer a temporary exhibit, The Tender House project, which imagines the potential use of the other bridgehouses in Chicago.

The Bridgehouse Museum is open Fridays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mt. Joy, Rayland Baxter open Millennium Park free concert series

(Published June 12)

By Bob Oswald

Kicking off the Millennium Park Summer Music Series, indie rockers Mt. Joy are looking forward to the June 13 show at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.

“It feels like we have played in Chicago as much as anywhere else in the country,” singer Matt Quinn said. “It is truly one of our favorite places in the world.”

The California band, with origins in Philadelphia, built up an online following after the release of the song “Astrovan.”

“We had an EP written and just felt good about ‘Astrovan’ so decided to throw it on Spotify first,” Quinn said. “It got added to a couple of playlists and performed really well and the whole thing kind of snowballed. It was surreal. It put us in a position to build out the band, quit our day jobs, tour and write.”

And then they hit the road.

“We have toured pretty continuously for the past two years,” he said. 

“It has been an amazing experience. I think we have all grown so much as musicians, but I am probably most proud of how close we are as a group.”

Quinn said the constant travel takes a toll so it’s important to have a strong support system.

“It’s a crazy ride and it’s so much fun,” he said. “The highs are some of the best times of our lives, but there’s really no way to live like this without people taking care of each other.”

The group, made up of Quinn, his Philadelphia high school buddy Sam Cooper, Michael Byrnes, Sotiris Eliopoulos and Jackie Miclau, released their self-titled debut album last year.

“I’m proud of the first record,” Quinn said. “It was recorded extremely modestly and made a lot of beautiful things happen.”

But Quinn said there are parts of the album he would change.

“That’s where the live show becomes important,” he said. “A lot of the songs on the record are played pretty differently live, which keeps us sane.”

And Quinn is bringing that energy to the city.

“Every time we play [in Chicago] the shows are memorable,” he said. “It’s a city that cares deeply about music, and there’s obviously an amazing amount of history to support that.”

Also performing Thursday will be country singer and Nashville native Rayland Baxter.

The Millennium Park Summer Music Series lineup

All shows are free and begin at 6:30 p.m., according to City of Chicago.

Thursday, June 13

Mt. Joy

Rayland Baxter

Monday, June 17

Cory Henry and the Funk Aposties

Liniker e os Caramelows

Monday, June 24

Chucho Valdes & Jazz Bata

Fareed Haque + Casseus

Thursday, June 27

Flora Cash

Susto

Monday, July 1

Car Seat Headrest

Naked Giants

Monday, July 8

Brent Cobb

Lydia Loveless

Thursday, July 18

Orchestral Interpretations of J Dilla–Directed by Miguel Atwood-Ferguson

Kenny Keys

Thursday, July 25

Los Amigos Invisibles

City of the Sun

Monday, July 29

Rev. Sekou

Cha Wa

Monday, Aug. 5

Love Love Love – Chicago Celebrates the Music of Donny Hathaway

Thursday, Aug. 15

Jupiter & Okwess

Noura Mint Seymali

For information, visit chicago.gov/city/en/depts/dca/supp_info/millennium_park9.html

Architecture Biennial draws visions of an improved city from students

(Published June 1, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

In May, the Chicago Architectural Biennial announced the winners of the BP Student Ideas Competition at a ceremony at the Chicago Cultural Center. The competition challenged Chicago students to re-imagine how they might use abandoned or empty properties in their neighborhood for greater public good.

In one of his last acts as mayor, Rahm Emanuel congratulated the students for their ideas.

Emanuel kickstarted the Biennial five years ago and he said it remains one of his proudest accomplishments. He said the challenge is intended to get high school students from across the city and across backgrounds to see the city as theirs.

“My test of this city of Chicago is that if a child in Ravenswood and a child in Roseland and a child in Edgewater and a child in Rogers Park or in Wildwood, if they all can look to the city and see the image of all of ourselves in the skyline against this natural beauty which is lake Michigan and if they have the same perspective that that’s my city and that’s my home, then New York City, Boston, London, Berlin and Beijing, watch out. Chicago is coming for you,” Emanuel said. “But if a child looks at the city and thinks it’s a whole different place, even though it’s five miles away, we will never be what we can be.”

He said the Chicago Architecture Biennial is intended to inspire young people to write the next chapter of the city’s story. In total, 171 students, from 49 schools and 42 ZIP codes, reimagined vacent lots. Ideas ranged from replacing empty lots with gardens and libraries to homeless shelters and public medical facilities.  

Jessica Chaidez, a 10th grader from Lindblom Math and Science Academy in Chicago was the first-place winner. For her entry, titled Blackwell Hospital, she design a community hospital for the Ashburn neighborhood.

As part of her entry, Chaidez argued that many in the neighborhood are unemployed and a community hospital could lower mortality rates.

“Ashburn’s mortality rates can go down by providing a hospital in the community according to the British Medical Journal,” Chaidez wrote. “The distance from a hospital plays a life or death situation. If it’s close, you will have a greater chance of surviving. Ultimately, having a hospital in your community offers great job opportunities to the people and can reduce the number of unemployed.”

Ultimately, Emanuel said all the projects gave him hope for the future of Chicago.

“This, in my view, makes sure it’s a legacy that pays dividends for our future and that’s why I am so proud of this event,” Emanuel concluded.

Chicago Architecture Biennial Executive Director Todd Palmer said the program is more important than bricks and mortar.

“What is architecture,” Palmer asked. “It’s of course buildings, but we think it’s also ideas, including landscapes, buildings and projects that work to solve homelessness. Architecture is for all of us and we can change Chicago for the better in a global context.”

The finalists’ projects are on display through August on the third floor of the Chicago Cultural Center building, 78 E. Washington St.

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