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.

Cirrus work to start this week

(Published Sept. 5, 2019)

According to Cirrus spokespeople, as work continues on the Lakeshore East Cirrus sales gallery site (the parcel between The Shoreham and The Lancaster),work will start this week in the existing parkway to make a clear area for the trailer delivery.  While some parkway landscaping will be disturbed, significant new landscaping will be provided in the park adjacent to the sales gallery.

During this activity, there will be traffic controls in place to maintain access through the roadway, but there may be interment delays.  Pedestrian access will be routed to the opposite side of the roadway. 

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.

Falling for Chicago

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Sheetal Balani

The end of summer doesn’t mean the end of adventure in Chicago

Monday, Sept. 23 means the end of summer. 

But don’t panic. 

For some, this transition from summer to fall can be bittersweet. The warmest days of the year are behind us, school is back in session and the Chicago rooftop scene will soon announce their dreaded last call.   

But there are a lot of positives too. For those that are team #PSL, pumpkin spice everything will ubiquitously pop up on menus everywhere.  

And with that, I share my list of favorite activities in and around Chicago this time of year, as well as what I’m looking forward to this Fall in particular:

  • Bengston’s Pumpkin Fest officially opens its doors on Sept. 13. Choose the perfect pumpkin, eat hot apple cider doughnuts, get lost in the corn maze, and take a wagon ride.  https://pumpkinfarm.com/
  • Fall Fest at Lincoln Park Zoo — If you can’t make the trek out to Bengston’s, I recommend Fall Fest. Fridays to Sundays from Sept. 27 to Oct. 27, watch live professional pumpkin carvers sculpt 400-pound pumpkins into elaborate goblins and ghouls. https://www.lpzoo.org/fall-fest
  • Chicago Gourmet celebrates all things food and entertainment.  Chicago celebrity chef cooking demos, mixology seminars, book signings, and lots of amazing food and drinks in Millennium Park, from Sept. 24 to 29.  https://www.chicagogourmet.org/
  • Highly anticipated RPM On The Water is slated to open fall of 2019.  This newest installment from the RPM team will deliver panoramic views, in addition to their seafood-centric menu, on the Chicago River … yet another reason to love The Chicago Riverwalk!  http://rpmrestaurants.com/rpmonthewater/

For me, this transition to fall simply means back to the structure.  As much as my family and I enjoyed every bit of the summer, we all are looking forward to getting back to our routines — the anticipation, and excitement of moving forward with the new season.  

Picture perfect: New Eastsider Randy Martens documents the neighborhood

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

New Eastsider Randy Martens wasn’t always interested in street photography.

Growing up in the country, down in Mendota, Illinois, Martens said he got his start taking sports photographs for the local paper and then photos of barns and cows for fun. He’d taken a correspondence photography course, and over time he fell in love with the art.

“I feel in love with photography when I started working in an office in Mendota,” Martens said.

Martens worked as a billing supervisor and his career was moving along, but it didn’t move him.

“The day they offered me a promotion, they were going to make me assistant to the treasurer, I told them I wanted to quit because I wanted to be a photographer.”

He moved to Chicago in 1982 to pursue his passion. Looking through a viewfinder, it changed him

“It was freedom,” Martens said. “Just to do what you want. Not to have clocks and desks and things like that. Just to go around and see what you see. I was always a storyteller. I wrote poetry and things, but that was sort of labor intensive compared to just taking a picture.”

Martens first trained his camera on skyscrapers and the manmade world, though soon, wandering through the loop, he took a look at the river of humanity passing him by and when he wasn’t working his office job, he was out on the street, taking photographs.

In 1983, Martens met his future-wife and in 1986, they got married.

“I was working in an office in downtown Chicago, and after we got married she and could see I wasn’t very happy working in an office, she basically said to me, ‘I’ll make you a deal,’” Martens said. “She had a job in human resources in a law firm. … She said, ‘I tell you what. If you learn how to cook and keep the house clean, you can be a photographer and I’ll earn the money.’”

It sounded like a good deal to Martens, so he got busy in the kitchen.

“I learned to cook,” he said.

He also fell deep into photography. Today, thousands of photographs into his work, Martens has photographed all types of people in all sorts of places. For the most part, Martens said, people in the Loop have been receptive when he asks to take their picture.  

“I don’t know if I have a different aura or what, but I get a lot of yesses,” he said.

But not always. As Martens spends most of his time on the street, his photos include a lot of the street people he sees, but one man has remained elusive.

“There’s one guy I haven’t seen in three months, a black guy with rasta hair,” Martens said. “He used to walk around for 15 years and I hope he’s not gone. He has the darkest skin. I’ve walked up to him and I asked him if I could take his picture and he says ‘no I don’t do pictures,’ and I said, ‘I’ll give you $5 bucks and he says, ‘no.’ I’ll see him a year later and I offered him $10, and he turned it down. I once offered him $50 and he turned me down. Some people just don’t like the idea.”

Martens has self-published one book, though it’s not for sale anywhere. He said he is planning a show in the near future, and in the meantime people can check out his website, randymartensphotography.com.

New Eastside Doorperson of the Month: Jerome Bell, Park Shore

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

For the last 21 years Jerome Bell has worked at the Park Shore as doorman and he said he has no plans to go anywhere anytime soon.

“It’s a great building,” Bell said. “The residents are great, it’s a classy building, it’s luxury and it’s an all-around great place to work.”

Bell said the building helps inspire him to deliver great service.

“First of all for me, I try to offer a type of service I would want if I lived in a building like this,” he said. “I try to stay professional at all times. You just have to offer good service. Service is key.”

Bell said he started at the building shortly after it became a fully condominium building. When he arrived, he said the residents were mostly on the older side, though these days he said there’s a mix of older and younger residents.

Park Shore is off North Harbor Drive, a quiet street without through traffic, so most of Bell’s day is spent looking after residents and not policing the area.

“It’s pretty quiet,” Bell admits. “It’s not as busy as it would it if it were out on a main street. It’s kind of hidden.”

Not that Bell is complaining. The building boasts some of the best Lake Michigan views in New Eastside, and most of the building’s 480 or so units are filled, meaning Bell and the other doorpeople stay busy looking after residents and their guests.

“You have to multi task” Bell said. “With it being busy, if I’m at the desk, you gotta watch the doors and answer the phones you gotta hand out keys and you gotta know who belongs here and who doesn’t belong here. So you gotta be very observant.”

While the street may be quiet, Bell said the building does get the occasional foot traffic from visitors who are looking to get to the Navy Pier.

“You gotta let people know its private property and there are no access points to Navy Pier,” he said. “You gotta tell them how to get there from Harbor Drive.”

When not at work, Bell said he enjoys spending time with his family, riding his bicycle and watching television. He loves sports—go Cubs, he says—and he has high hopes for this year’s Bears outfit.

“I think the Bears could make the Superbowl this year, if we could stay healthy,” Bell said. “We just gotta get Mitch (Trubisky) a little more accurate and if we can do that, We’ll be OK. This team has more weapons than the U.S. military.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

New Eastside CAPS meeting draws noise complaints

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright 

Chicago police assured New Eastside residents city officials are working on a legislative solution to noise caused by street performers.

One resident said he couldn’t talk inside a Starbucks at Adams and Michigan because of the noise from sidewalk performers beating on buckets while asking for money. He said when police asked the drummers to leave, one of the street musicians swore at the officer.

“It aggravated the heck out of me,” the man said.

A representative from Alderman Brendan Reilly’s office said the alderman is reviewing legislation to crack down on street performers.

“He’s working to make sure it’s good, clear legislation,” she said.

CAPS Sgt. Anthony Dombrowski added that sometimes people do not respect the police. He said on one evening in early August, a team of officers went to close the skate part at 9 p.m. but a teenage boy and a homeless person declined to leave.

“They didn’t care, they said, ‘we’re not leaving,’” Dombrowski said. This degenerated into a physical confrontation and the 15 year old hit the officer with a skateboard. The boy and a 30-year-old man who “appeared to be homeless” were both arrested. Both people pushed and spit on officers, Dombrowski said.

“Nobody was seriously hurt, two individuals were arrested including the 15 year old,” he said. “The point is, people don’t listen to us even when it’s clear. There was a sign right there that said the park closes at 9 p.m. … They presented a united front even though I don’t believe they knew each other.”

Dombrowski said protesters recently blocked Lake Shore Drive, and he said the protests could get more frequent as the 2020 federal election draws closer.

In addition, a woman who identified herself as a census employee said the coming 2020 census is still looking for workers, and she asked residents to check out job listings online at 2020census.gov/jobs.

The next CAPS meeting is set for 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 12 at 400 E. Randolph.

The votes are in and the best month of the year is … September

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jon Cohn

In an unofficial tabulation of informal voting done by this column—with apologies to runner-ups May, November and December—the month of September has won Best in Show as the overall most enjoyable month of the year.

If you are reading this column in the month of publication, you’re living the good life (at least we hope so).

Why does September deserve the top month nod?

There’s the consistently pleasant, if not gorgeous, weather. Throw in Labor Day weekend, Jazzfest, baseball playoffs, start of the football season and the fact that summer tourists have mostly left the city streets—and you have a winning combination. Did we mention the beautiful weather?

September radiates like the smiling bride walking down the aisle, as beautiful in the beginning as she is at the end.

The minor dissent (there’s one in every crowd) could come from school-aged children who equate September with the whole back-to-school thing. Admittedly, that could be put a damper on the celebration.

But we press on.

Another key takeaway is the reminder that summer is not over. Not by a longshot. Remember, the gorgeous weather we experience now is payback for the lousy April and May weather. Soak it up and enjoy.

If you feel the season went by way too quickly and you didn’t get to all the things you wanted to do, fear not. There’s still time to hack away at the summer wish list.

If you didn’t get to that Wisconsin weekend getaway, a boat ride, a ball game, the Navy Pier excursion, the beach visit, a camping trip, cookout or any of the other myriad of summer activities, there is still time.

But don’t wait too long. Halloween candy was just spotted at your local grocery store.

Hotel plan for 227 Walton meets local resistance

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Would-be developers of a condo at 227 E. Walton got an earful from angry neighbors at a community meeting in August.

The property is a historically significant 13-story, 25-unit condominium and developers with BRAD Management would like to turn it into an extended-stay corporate suite.

The Streeterville Organization of Active Residents organized the meeting and Alderman Brian Hopkins attended. He said he wanted to hear community feedback from the proposal. The development first came to light in June at a SOAR land use meeting, and since the plan was floated, residents have opposed the possibility of turning a condo into a hotel. Hopkins acknowledged the unpopular proposal early in the evening.

“We’re starting the discussions to see if there’s anything that can be done to make this more palpable to the community,” Hopkins said at the top of the meeting.

Harry Weese designed the building 63 years ago and the city deemed the property a landmark in 2012. Because of that status, the developers cannot alter the outside significantly, and two spokespeople assured the community that wouldn’t happen—but that assurance didn’t go far.

Community members said they were concerned introducing a hotel—even an extended stay hotel—would invite strangers and trouble into the neighborhood.

“We moved in here because it’s a neighborhood and because it has a neighborhood feel,” a man said. “I would hate to think that because it’s a neighborhood building, we can’t live in the neighborhood and can’t have the environment we enjoy. We don’t want to have transients coming in all day long and all week long.”

Michael Monu, one of the spokespeople on behalf of the developers, tried to assure the community the hotel would not attract rowdy crowds. He said the hotel would not allow overnight stays and would average stays of four-to-five nights at least. He added that the lobby would have cameras and noise meters and that individual units would have decibel meters and marijuana and cigarette meters. Finally, he said, guests would be screened through a background check.

Still, residents said a hotel would drive down property values and one woman said she was afraid the development would “ruin this neighborhood.”

However, Graham Grady, a lawyer for the development team, said the building has limited potential as a residence.

“There’s not a great market demand for large, two-bedroom units,” Grady said. “If you lower the rent too much it’s not going to operate in the black for too long.”

By the end of the discussion, few—if any—residents seemed convinced and Hopkins said he, too, would wait and see whether or not the developers would agree to address community concerns before he would sign off on the project.

“They have to convince me as well as everyone else in this room,” he said.

Hopkins did point out that the city could include deed restrictions on the property that would limit not only how the current owners developed the project but how the property could be forever used in the future—meaning even if the property is re-zoned, it would still be held to certain restrictions in line with community support.

The next step in the process will be in mid-September, when the developers are scheduled to file a zoning map amendment application, though city council action on the project is still months away and tentatively scheduled for some time in December. In the meantime, Hopkins’ office is seeking community input, and residents can weight through his website, www.aldermanhopkins.com.

GPAC Meeting Focuses on Revitalization

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

The Grant Park Advisory Council met at 6:30 p.m. Aug. 21 at the Maggie Daley Field House. The meeting was mostly dedicated to the proposed revitalization of the southwest corner of Grant Park. Other topics included the dog-friendly area of Grant Park, by-law updates, and adding instructors at Maggie Daley Park.

Ernie Wong from Site Design Group, presented his vision for an overhaul of the southwest corner of Grant Park, located at Roosevelt and Michigan Ave. The location is currently home to the Agora art installation by Magdalena Abakanowicz. The art would not be affected by any changes to the surrounding area.

Wong focused on keeping the area connected to its historical roots, while creating more accessibility through updates.

The changes would have “more connection to nature,” Wong said. The new design includes naturalistic plantings, water installations, and soft materials used. 

Attendees liked the design, but wondered if it was too contemporary, or took away green space from the park. Wong assured he was willing to work with GPAC on their feedback and that his presentation was only a preliminary discussion.

Pam Foscia, the Dog-Friendly Committee President, suggested more funding to fix the infrastructure of the dog-friendly area of Grant Park. The dog-friendly area of Grant Park, located between 9th and Balbo, needs updating. It was added to the park thirteen years ago and has since become dilapidated. There is a lack of lighting, and visitors often feel unsafe in the area, she said.

Communities are built by people who own dogs,” Foscia said. The updating of the dog park would not only be for the dogs, but for the owners as well.

GPAC President Leslie Recht assured meeting-goers that she and other members of the committee were lobbying the Park District about funding for a variety of improvements. The lobbying will also include asking for more instructors to teach fitness classes at Maggie Daley, as more classes are a common request of the park.

Meetings will be held on the third Wednesday of each month (except December) at 6:30 p.m. in the Maggie Daley Field House. The next meeting will be Sept. 18.

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