Not Your Average Mother’s Day

(Published April 30, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Treat mom to a unique Mother’s Day experience that goes beyond brunch.

Family Game Night Out

Does mom love family game night, but is often stressed playing host? Try Family Game Night Out in Lakeview, which takes the pressure off mom. Invite the whole family, from 6-24 guests, to play familiar party games in a private room that includes a host. Family Game Night Out is BYOB and welcomes guests to bring snacks. $45 per person for a 2-3 hour experience, depending on the number of guests. Make reservations in advance. Recommended for game players 18 and up.

gamenightout.com

2828 N Clark St., Chicago

312-448-724

Donut Tour

If mom is a pastry fan, then the Chicago Donut tour will be a treat. The Underground Donut Tour has two Chicago-based tours, one of which covers downtown, the other covers Wicker Park. The downtown tour encompasses two miles and each donut shop stop includes samples. Tours run Thursday to Sunday and begin at 9 a.m. The downtown tour is $35 for adults and $15 for children.

undergrounddonuttour.com

Freeze and Float

For a relaxing Mother’s Day, take mom to River North’s Freeze and Float, a recently opened spa specializing in cryotherapy treatments, infrared saunas and flotation therapy. Cryotherapy hyper-cools the body for three minutes, with temperatures in the chambers reaching -184F. According to the Freeze and Float website, Cryotherapy has rejuvenating effects, similar to the benefits of icing inflamed muscles. Infrared saunas improve circulation and help with injury recovery. Floatation therapy in Epsom-salt filled water is a meditative experience. They also offer classic massages, facials, and beauty treatments. For pricing and more information, visit Freeze and Float’s website, or call them.

freezefloatspa.com

371 W Ontario St.

312 809-7008

Windy Kitty

For the cat-lover mom, Windy Kitty is the place to go. Windy Kitty is a cat cafe in Wicker Park, where mom can hang out with some rescue cats, while having a snack or coffee. Cats at the cafe are available for adoption, but enjoy being visited too. Windy Kitty also features a kitten nursery, available to visit for those over 10. Windy Kitty strongly suggests reservations. Admission is $14 per person per hour. For parties of five people or more, Windy Kitty recommends a private party reservation. They often have fun events, such as Yoga with Cats or Painting with Cats. For more information, visit their website, or email them. w

1746 W North Ave

Let it Out

Moms often are subject to a lot of stress. To give mom a way to let go of that stress, take her to The Rage Room, in River North’s Escapades Escape Room. For those over 18, the Rage Room allows visitors to break as many items, such as televisions, crockery, and computer equipment, as they desire. The Rage Room provides safety wear to go along with a baseball bat, crowbar or golf club. The room can be shared with up to 15 people in a party, but only one person goes in at a time. Experiences can last up to 2 hours, or can be as little as 15 minutes. Prices vary. Online reservations required. Visit their website for more information.

www.escapadesescapegames.com

153 W. Ohio

312-526-3072

Learn Something New

For the jack-of-all-trades mom, check out Dabble, which has classes available in a variety of subjects. Pasta making, archery, glassblowing and soap making are just a few available on Dabble in the upcoming weeks. They also have food tours, architecture tours and drinking tours. Prices, locations, and times vary. Dabble’s website has a list of classes and is constantly updating new times, dates, and experiences.

dabble.co/chicago/

May the fourth celebrations to include free lightsaber ‘fight’ at 360 Chicago

(Published April 30, 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

For millions around the world, May the fourth isn’t just a date on the calendar. It’s a day to celebrate one of the most beloved films of all time — Star Wars.

May the fourth plays on the phrase “may the force (be with you),” the popular farewell among the film’s rebels. In this world, May the fourth is an international day to celebrate Star Wars and all things Jedi.

And that goes for downtown Chicago, too.

Chicago Jedi, one of the largest fan groups in the city, will demonstrate lightsaber fight techniques at 7 p.m. May 4 on the observation deck at 360 Chicago, 875 N Michigan Ave. Entry will be free for anyone who wants to see the Jedi battle.

Ross Greenberg, the second in command at Chicago Jedi, said everyone is welcome to stop by and take pictures or even participate in the fun.

“We usually do a freeze mob or a force battle,” he explained.

In a freeze mob, participants pose in a fighting positions. Greenberg said this is safer than public battle recreations.

“We don’t want people to get whacked and get hurt so we came up with the idea that we do what’s called a freeze mob,” he said. “What we do is we have everyone get together and play some music and when you hear the musical cue, everyone freezes in place.”

The group has done this at Millennium Park near Cloud Gate, but this year 360 Chicago offered their space to the group.  

Greenberg said he hopes kids and families come, because everyone is welcome.

“The event is BYOL, bring your own lightsaber,” he said.

Greenberg said the event is a good introduction to the group, if residents want to join.

“If people come to one of our events to become an active member, they have to show up to six or seven meetings, not in a row but just to show they’re serious, then after that, they’re a member or a Padawan,” Greenberg said.

Group founder and leader Gabriel Calderon said they offer a unique community for “Star Wars”-obsessed fans.

“On the surface, people gain an immediate sense of community—connecting with others who have a shared interest in all things Star Wars,” Calderon said. “As you get to know one another, you realize how deep and varied the life of each member really is, people you may not have met in traditional settings. We have writers, doctors, teachers, gamers, professionals, and so on.”

Greenberg said members can take Jedi fighting courses.

“I am a 40-year veteran of martial arts and I’m a martial arts master and a six-degree black belt,” he said.

Shedd offers area residents afterwork fun


(Published April 1, 2019)

By Abhinanda Datta, staff writer

The Shedd Aquarium recently hosted its first event in the newly-launched Shedd After Hours series.

At the Salsa Party on March 7, guests had the chance to receive lessons from professional dancer Ivette Roque while enjoying some of the exhibits, including the new Underwater Beauty, an exhibit featuring jellyfish, eels and other special species from around the world.

“We recognize that adults might have obligations from 9 to 5 on weekdays that prevent them from being able to experience the aquarium,” said Rachel LeFevre-Snee, assistant director of marketing at Shedd Aquarium.

“As a means of expanding access to Shedd for adult audiences, we launched this series exclusively for guests 21 [years] and older,” she said. “These events will offer a relaxed, social atmosphere to explore the exhibits.”

The next event will be Game Night on April 3, from 6-10 p.m., showcasing the enrichment the aquarium offers its animals, from the sea otters to beluga whales, by giving them an opportunity for creative play.

According to a press release, the games and toys keep the animals learning and stimulated and the aquarium has stimulation for its adult patrons, too. Guests can grab a cocktail and challenge friends to jumbo Jenga or snag a snack and play game show quizzes.

“Each After Hours event offers a distinct opportunity to connect with animals at night,” LeFevre-Snee said. “Learn about warm climate animals at the salsa party, use your ‘ask an animal’ lifeline during an aquatic animal game show at Game Night, or meet a penguin during the Penguin Party.”

For more information, visit sheddaquarium.com

Stay inside and get outside through the MCA’s ‘The Great Outdoors’ performance piece this weekend

For the New Eastside News

(Published March 20, 2019)

The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago will present “The Great Outdoors,” a performance by writer-director Annie Dorsen that takes place within an inflatable dome on the theater stage where the public can stretch out on mats for a journey through ‘inner space.’

A lone performer, Kaija Matiss, reads aloud comments culled from internet discussion boards 4chan and Reddit in the past 24 hours, giving voice to the thoughts of countless individuals tapping away at their keyboards in isolation. With a unique stellar star show designed by Dorsen in collaboration with Ryan Holsopples, “The Great Outdoors” connects ideas of infinity and the unknown to today’s networked, hyper-connected technologies, and reflects on the cosmic nature of the internet. The Great Outdoors takes place at the MCA from Thursday to Saturday, March 21-23, at 7:30 p.m., with an additional 2 pm show on Sunday, March 24.

“The Great Outdoors” is a performance that changes each time it takes place, using a stream of that day’s internet comments that are fed through an algorithm produced by Dorsen herself. The algorithm sorts messages by their density, and operates independently of human intervention, delivering a flood of personal and collective thoughts that the artist calls the ‘internet’s id’ – a projection of ourselves unrestrained by ego, and protected by anonymity.

The Great Outdoors” invites audiences to consider the internet as both ‘inner’ and ‘outer’ space, at once a digital reflection of personal life and a connection to the world beyond the body and its physical location. Dorsen describes the internet as “a new Romantic landscape where we can go exploring, as explorers did in the nineteenth century.” As audiences imagine the internet’s infinite possibilities, musician Sébastien Roux mixes a live score on stage, experimenting with electronic and ambient sounds inspired by the theory that the universe is always expanding.

“The Great Outdoors”takes place in the Edlis Neeson Theater at the MCA and seating is limited. Tickets are $30 and can be reserved at www.mcachicago.org or by calling the box office at 312-397-4010.


Hidden New Eastside spots you need to know

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Bockwinkel’s

While Mariano’s might dominate the market scene of New Eastside, the area is actually home to three grocery stores. The Bockwinkel’s at the corner of Stetson and South Water St. is a favorite of many residents and office workers. The grocery chain has another location in the lower level of 155 N. Harbor Drive. You don’t need to be a resident to shop at this location, it’s accessible to the public and ultra-convenient.  

Need to mail something?

Descend to into the Pedway and visit the post office in the lower level of the Aon Center or ship via UPS in Swissotel or FedEx in One Pru.

Get same day passports

Fancy packing up and flying overseas tomorrow? Don’t let an expired passport slow you down. In New Eastside, you can get expedited passport services at Sameday Passport and Visa located at 180 N. Stetson Ave.

Swim Schools

Learning to swim in New Eastside is easy with a swim schools operated out of some righrise pools. Local instructors, like olympic qualifier Kathy Kelly of Swim with Kathy Chicago, teaches students in the Radisson Blu Hotel pool. The British Swim School holds lessons at 175 N. Harbor Drive. Both offer small group and private classes. For more information, visit britishswimschool.com or swkchicago.com

Shortcuts

New Eastside is full of quick and simple shortcuts. To skip the hustle and bustle of Michigan Avenue while traveling to Grant Park, take the stairs, located along Randolph, down to Columbus heading south. Try walking south via Columbus to get to the northern edge of Grant Park and Monroe Street. If the wind tunnel of Randolph is too much walking to Michigan Avenue, try cutting through the Aon Center courtyard between Stetson and Columbus—the buildings block the breeze.

Joffrey Ballet stuns audiences with ‘Anna Karenina’

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Joffrey Ballet brought to life Leo Tolstoy’s tragic love story “Anna Karenina” on Feb. 12 in an all-star production.

The ballet will run through Feb. 24.

Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and composed by Ilya Demutsky, the Chicago Philharmonic performed the score, while Lindsay Metzger accompanied on vocals throughout the production.

The ballet begins with a man being run over by a train. The set design dazzled with a mix of projected media and ornate physical sets, reflecting Tsarist Russia. Anna and Vronsky meet for the first time at the Moscow train station and their immediate attraction palpable. Kitty is introduced at her home, in shades of pink, as Levin and other gentleman vie for her attention, but she is only interested in Vronsky’s impending arrival. Later, the company dances around Kitty as she fights for Vronsky’s attention, with dancers’ multicolored skirts brightening the stage. Anna, in an intricate black bedazzled dress, scandalously dances with Vronsky, dashing Kitty’s hope of a proposal from him.

The stately Karenin, Anna’s husband, is accompanied by robust brass instruments, as he meets his wife at the train station in St. Petersberg. Anna is reunited with her son at home, but domestic tranquility will not last as Anna rushes to Vronsky and their passionate affair begins with a languid and fervent pas de deux.

Anna and Vronsky run away together, but their affair soon sours. Heartbroken, Anna returns to her son and Karenin, but he banishes her forever, in an intricate dance between the three of them. Anna is distraught and undone, performing a frenetic and haunting solo before ultimately taking her life on the train tracks. The production ends, however, on a different note, with Kitty and Levin, now married, frolicking happily together in the countryside, surrounded by blue skies and yellow fields.

The performance is two hours long and runs Thursday through Sunday. For tickets and other information, visit the Joffrey Ballet online at joffrey.org/anna.

Where to go in New Eastside for Restaurant Week 2019

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Restaurant week began Jan. 25 and continues through Feb. 7. Participating restaurants offer a prix fixe menu at set prices. Lunch or brunch is $24 and dinner is priced at $36 and $48. New Eastside locations participating in this year’s Restaurant Week are:

·      About Last Knife: Lunch, Dinner

·      American Craft Kitchen (inside Hyatt Regency): Lunch

·      Columbus Tap: Dinner

·      Free Rein: Lunch, Dinner

·      III Forks: Dinner

·      LH on 21: Dinner

·      Mezcalina: Lunch, Dinner

·      The Mid-America Club: Dinner

·      The Palm: Lunch, Dinner

·      Tavern at the Park: Dinner

For more information on Restaurant Week and the restaurants involved, visit choosechicago.com

Old is OK in Skyline Village Chicago

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

At 76, Phyllis Mitzen is — in her words — an old woman. Others might use words such as elderly or mature but Mitzen does not.

Old is OK, she says, and so is aging, provided people have the right resources and this is where Skyline Village Chicago comes in.

As president of Skyline Village Chicago, an organization for older adults, Mitzen spends a lot of time thinking about aging. According to Village to Village Network, the concept of a “Virtual Village” is simple—an organization for older adults that provides access to services, fosters community relationships and does “anything [its] members need to age safely and successfully in their own homes.”

The Village model began in Boston over 15 years ago and has been spreading since. These organizations not only connect to other villages, but also connect members to each other.

Skyline Village Chicago is open to residents of Streeterville, the Gold Coast, River North and New Eastside. Mitzen said other villages in the Chicago area focus on providing access to services and transportation, the neighborhoods that Skyline Village covers tend to be “resource-rich,” meaning they have resources for the elderly.

Because of this, the Village focuses on socialization, so neighbors can get to know each other, Mitzen said. Through Skyline Village’s newsletter, residents find out about local news, event dates and life updates from members.

Mitzen’s favorite village event is the Women’s Salon, which meets monthly to talk about “what it means to grow old in our society.” She said it’s not a therapy group, but a place to share information, talk about ageism and come to an “active understanding of our aging selves.”

The village also has an advocacy group, Mitzen said, which advocates for senior issues. For instance, the group is working with the park district to discuss installing equipment for all ages in the city’s playgrounds, Mitzen said.

She added that “owning old” is something that comes up often in the Women’s Salon and something she tries to do every day.

“There are frailties, and people do become disabled when they grow older, but it shouldn’t mean that their voices aren’t as strong,” she said. “I’m happy to be able to do what I’m doing at age 76, and if I can’t do it when I’m age 80, I’ll still be an old woman who deserves respect.”

Streeterville activism might make Chicago a little quieter in 2019

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

The New Year—and every year thereafter—should be a bit quieter for Chicago residents due to a noise ordinance that goes into effect Jan. 1.

In August 2018, Gov. Bruce Rauner signed into law a noise ordinance allowing ambulance drivers to use their sirens only when necessary to warn pedestrians and drivers or in the case of medical emergencies. The law only applies to Illinois cities with populations greater than one million, so it applies in no other cities outside Chicago.

Before the new law went into effect, ambulances drivers were required to use sirens on the way to and from calls, regardless of traffic or pedestrians or whether it was a medical emergency. The law passed because of the efforts of Streeterville residents and Rep. Christian Mitchell (D-Chicago), who sponsored the bill.

The representative said the law is a win for residents. “This bill is a critical measure addressing quality of life and safety for downtown residents, where excessive siren noise can cause erratic driving patterns and permanent hearing loss,” Mitchell said in an email. “The new law allows first responders the discretion to turn off their sirens on occasions when the patient or situation has stabilized.”

Residents, too, are excited. Debby Gershbein, president of the Streeterville Organization of Active Residents, said the law is the result of SOAR activism. While she praised Northwestern as a world-class medical institution and for a time the only level-one trauma center in Chicago, she said the medical facility also led to a lot of noise. “The ambulance drivers were putting their sirens on even if it wasn’t an emergency and we decided we really had to do something about it,” she said. “We worked with the government and the fire department, and SOAR did surveys with other neighborhoods, and we found that the number one problem with noise for residents was sirens.”

Gershbein said the problem was near constant. “This is a quality of life issue where people were being interrupted 24 hours a day with the siren noise,” she said. “I think we’ve come to a good solution with the new law.”

Gershbein praised Mitchell as well as neighborhood aldermen Brian Hopkins and Brendan Reilly for their support. She said noise is more than a nuisance, and excessive noise can damage health.“There are physical impacts that occur when you’re exposed to loud sirens all the time. It wakes people up, and disturbed sleep is a really big health problem,” she said.

Gershbein said the SOAR group will continue to work for quality of life improvements, such as an ongoing greening effort, to improve the health of trees in the neighborhood. “In an urban environment it’s important to make sure we have as many trees as possible,” she said.

For more information, visit the group at soarchicago.org.

Joffrey Ballet’s ‘Nutcracker’ wows audiences, wins documentary award

By Stephanie Racine | Staff Writer

 

Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker premiered Dec. 1 at the Auditorium Theater.

The production is an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet, but with a Chicago twist. The ballet takes place in Chicago during the building of the World’s Fair in 1892. The story follows the same plotline as the original Nutcracker, as the protagonist—who is named Marie—is led through a dreamland adventure.

The ballet maintains a dreamlike visage throughout. The production features eccentric dancers like The Great Impresario and the Rat Catcher, who both leave a lasting impression on the events of the play. The Great Impresario joins Marie’s family and the rest of the immigrant workers of the fair for a Christmas celebration, gifting Marie a Nutcracker. The juxtaposition between the simple family celebration in 1892 again an elaborate fantasy sequences amplifies the otherworldly grandeur.

The set design features a combination of real elements and projections, creating elaborate and believable scenery. The staging is especially breathtaking during a frozen scene with a company of dancers in ice blue costumes, as snow falls from above, both digitally and physically. Once The Great Impresario takes Marie and to rescue her kidnapped brother from The Rat King, they are transported to The Dream Fair. There, the Queen of the Fair and groups of dancers from around the world are introduced. The audience was particularly impressed by the complex pas de deux with Arabian Dancers. The Great Impresario’s elegant and precise dance with The Queen of the Fair also received great praise. Child dancers were also applauded as mini Nutcrackers and mini walnuts.

Award winning design

Cara Marie Gary with The Joffrey Ballet. Photo by Cheryl Mann

The design is so good, it is the subject of an award-winning documentary, Making a New American Nutcracker, produced by WTTW and The Joffrey Ballet.

The documentary was honored in November with a 2018 Chicago/Midwest Emmy Award in the category of Best Documentary, Cultural.

Making a New American Nutcracker—which premiered in 2017 on WTTW11 and the companion website—was also offered to PBS stations nationwide for the upcoming holiday season.

“It was an unforgettable and inspiring experience to work with the talented people at the Joffrey on this unique production, which preserved the magical quality of the original story while also shining a spotlight on the vital role that local immigrants played in the creation of the Fair,” said Andries.

The documentary will return to WTTW11 and WTTW Prime during the holiday season beginning Dec. 20 at 8 p.m. The documentary can also be viewed at any time through the PBS/WTTW video app or on wttw.com.

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