A daily dose of arts and entertainment

March 2013 Archives

Justin Bieber's monkey seized in Germany

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sizzle-CST-040113.pngAs if he didn't have enough troubles, Justin Bieber was facing the prospect of several nights in Europe without a monkey.

When he arrived in Munich on Thursday for some concert dates, Bieber lacked the paperwork to bring his capuchin monkey into Germany, a customs spokesman told the AP. Authorities put the critter in quarantine.

The monkey reportedly is named Mally. Bieber may face a fine for his goof.

The usually prolific tweeter hadn't mentioned his primate problem on Twitter as of Sunday night, emphasizing instead his tour stops in Munich and Vienna and his mom's charity work.

The monkey mess followed an eventful couple of weeks in which Bieber showed up late for a London concert and was booed, fainted backstage at another and was investigated by Los Angeles police who were told that he spit on a neighbor.


Season three of "Game of Thrones" starts tonight on HBO. If you're in need of a bit of a refresher as to what happened when and where and with whom the past two seasons, check out this cool interactive recap-map.

As you scroll your way across the kingdoms of Westeros (there's Qarth -- the greatest city that was and ever will be!), info boxes pop up with brief episode synopses.

"The parallax scrolling effect was just icing on the cake, tying all the data and plot points together in a fun, interactive way," said Roger Kethcart, editor of the web team that developed the map for Direct.tv. "I think the final product works at refreshing the memory about every episode without being too overwhelming."

They'll keep adding to the map as the 10-episode season three continues.

And in case you missed it, check out my interview in today's Sunday Show with "Game of Thrones" co-creator D.B. Weiss, a Highland Park native.

San Francisco Symphony reaches tentative settlement

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Ending a 17-day walkout, musicians of the San Francisco Symphony reached a tentative agreement Sunday on a 26-month contract. Concerts will resume Tuesday.

No contract details were released pending a ratification vote later this week by the full orchestra and then approval by the symphony's board of governors. The musicians went on strike March 14 over salary and benefit issues. The strike caused the cancellation of an East Coast tour under music director Michael Tilson Thomas.

For scheduling details, go to sfsymphony.org.

ABOVE: Interior of Davies Symphony Hall, home of the San Francisco Symphony.

Legendary record producer Phil Ramone dead at 79

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Legendary record producer and Grammy winner Phil Ramone is dead at 79.
Mr. Ramone spent 50 years in the business, working with everyone from Frank Sinatra and Bob Dylan to Ray Charles and Barbra Streisand.
Mr. Ramone passed away Saturday morning at a New York hospital. According to reports, Mr. Ramone had been hospitalized in February with an an aortic aneurysm.

Rolling Stone has released the first in a four-part series on "Venues that Rock" and the list of the top 20 "most rocking small rooms" in the country includes three of Chicago's finest (but we already knew that): Schubas, Lincoln Hall and Empty Bottle.

When: Through April 21
Where: BoHo Theatre at the Heartland Studio, 7016 N. Glenwood
Tickets: $20
Info: (866) 811-4111; www.BoHoTheatre.com
Run time: 2 hours with one intermission

There are at least two excellent reasons to catch "Hauptmann," the compulsively watchable BoHo Theatre revival of John Logan's play about Bruno Richard Hauptmann, the man convicted and executed for the notorious 1932 kidnapping and murder of the baby son of world famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, and his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh.

The first reason is to be reminded of just how smart, beautifully written and full of detail and ambiguity Logan's play, which debuted in Chicago in 1986, happens to be, and why, along with his first work ("Never the Sinner," about the Leopold and Loeb case), he eventually moved on to a formidable career as a Hollywood screenwriter. (Logan recently returned to the theater, winning a 2010 Tony Award for "Red," about the painter Mark Rothko. And his newest work, a one-woman show, "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers" -- starring Bette Midler as the famous Hollywood agent of the title -- opens on Broadway on April 24.)

The second reason to see this show is actor Jeremy Trager's bravura performance as Hauptmann. I confess my memories of Denis O'Hare's brilliant interpretation of the role in the original made me wary of watching anyone else attempt it. But Trager, a more handsome man who has made his mark primarily as a musical theater actor, is extraordinary, revealing a whole new side of his talent here. His Hauptmann is just a bit more of a showman, suggesting a man at once fiercely envious of Lindbergh, America's gilded "hero," who also grows increasingly fascinated by his own ability to compete with that man's celebrity on some insidious level.

The mixture of desperation and arrogance, self-righteousness and terror are all neatly calibrated by Trager, as is the German accent of this immigrant who, we learn, was not just an ordinary husband, father and carpenter, but a man with quite a checkered past. What both Logan and Trager also manage to do is capture the resentment that can fester when the American Dream looms large but remains largely elusive.

This is very much Hauptmann's show. Its first act opens with an extended monologue, spoken as he awaits his walk to the electric chair, and as he gives us HIS version of the events that led to his conviction as the infamous "baby killer." The second act is his trial -- far from a textbook case of high courtroom ethics, but revelatory.

Director Stephen M. Genovese aptly uses his six supporting actors, including Chris Amos and Eleanor Katz (as the Lindberghs), Nathan Grant as the strange ransom organizer, Dr. Condon, and Derek Van Barham as Judge Trenchard almost as figments of Hauptmann's imagination, while the chief prosecutor, David Wilentz (a fiery Nathan Randall) assumes three dimensions.

John Zuiker's set for the the tiny BoHo stage at the Heartland Studio is minimalist -- a claustrophobic room painted prison green, with just a couple of benches and an overhead lamp. It is the perfect backdrop for this searing portrait of a man who succeeded in making a name for himself by any means possible.

Chicago high school senior Devin Velez was the latest Top 10 finalist to get eliminated Thursday on "American Idol."

That leaves only two males -- Lazaro Arbos and Burnell Taylor -- in the Fox singing competition. They, along with Devin, turned in a shaky performance of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)" on Wednesday for Motown Week.

Did Devin end up paying for all of their sins?

In an interview Friday, Devin said the group was unprepared and the criticism levied by the judges was "well deserved." He also noted that he was "a little at fault," but he also wasn't the one who forgot the lyrics. (That would be Lazaro.)

In any event, it came down to viewer votes and Devin got the lowest number. But don't expect sour grapes from this good-natured guy. He said he's thrilled to have made it to the Top 10 so he can go on tour this summer.

Besides, he's already got his sights set on another crown: prom king. The big dance is June 1 at Rickover Naval Academy in Edgewater.

Light the lights.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel today announced a plan to partner with Redmoon, the large-scale spectacle and public art group, to create a new festival that will culminate in a procession of illuminated floating fiberglass sculptures, as well as a fire spectacle on the main branch of the Chicago River. The inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival, presented by Redmoon in partnership with the City of Chicago, will take place in October 2014.

According to the mayor: "The festival puts into action several goals of the Chicago Cultural Plan, including the creation of a new large-scale cultural festival that attracts global attention and highlights our city's cultural assets and heritage. Additionally, it will allow all Chicagoans and all of our guests to enjoy the wonderful Chicago River, one of the city's greatest natural assets."

It is hoped that thousands of people will gather on the river's shores to watch the fire spectacle next fall. Those familiar with Redmoon's outdoor events (including one staged many years ago on the Chicago River near Ping Tom Memorial Park in Chinatown) know that acrobatics, live music, fantastical machines, and more will be part of the mix.

Credit: www.commons.wikimedia.org

No, Chicago's popular aquarium hasn't agreed to tattoo its dolphins with corporate logos NASCAR-style. But for today, at least, there's no more room for visitors.

"Shedd Aquarium is sold out for the day," a Facebook statement announced. "We appreciate everyone who made the trip to visit us today and apologize for any inconvenience. If you plan to visit over the weekend, we recommend purchasing tickets online in advance."

As the Sun-Times' Art Golab reported earlier this week, on Tuesday there was a three-hour wait to get in.

Spring break (now) and summer vacation, a Shedd post noted, are two of the busiest times. The same post suggested visiting on weekday mornings -- despite the fact that school-age kids (a good portion of the Shedd's guests) and many working adults are otherwise occupied then.

"We went on Wednesday," one commenter noted. "The line was so long & it took forever to get in through will call (that line was much shorter, can't imagine the actual line's misery) When we finally got in, it was packed and a miserable experience was had by all."

Carped another, "We were there yesterday..same experience... aweful. very sad we spent all that money and did not get to see everything. we will try again this summer."

A more upbeat contributor couldn't understand all the moaning.

"It's spring break week. The museums were all packed. Seriously, that's how the city is! Crazy to complain to the venue that too many people went on the same day as you."

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When Evanston native Jeremy Piven took the role of Harry Selfridge in the PBS series "Mr. Selfridge," which debuts in America on Sunday, March 31, he knew that viewers who'd come to know and love him as the brash and rash super-agent Ari Gold on HBO's long-running dramedy "Entourage" might have a tough time accepting him as someone else.

In a new video from funnyordie.com, which was co-founded by movie director, erstwhile Second City mainstage player and Piven's brother-in-law Adam McKay, Piven and his niece (McKay's daughter with Jeremy's sister Shira) Pearl spend some quality time together -- until Pearl starts mocking him mercilessly. "You'll always be Ari," says the young actress, who several years ago made her online comedy debut with Will Ferrell in funnyordie's first big hit "The Landlord." And it gets better from there.

For more with Piven, check out the Sun-Times entertainment section.

Warning: Coarse language -- from Jeremy and Pearl -- may not be suitable for all audiences.

Rick Cluchey, one of the great interpreters of the work of Samuel Beckett, who was in some ways mentored by the playwright, will join forces with the ensemble of Shattered Globe Theatre, to present eight performances (May 1-12) of "An Evening of Beckett: 'Krapp's Last Tape' and 'Sam and Rick'."

Born in Chicago in 1933, Cluchey, who was sentenced to life in the San Quentjn State Prison prison for robbery and kidnapping, was doing time when he saw a visiting production of Beckett's "Waiting for Godot" and decided, along with fellow prisoner Kenneth Whelan to found the San Quentin Drama Workshop.

After his sentence was commuted, Cluchey toured Europe with his play "The Cage," and began his seven-year collaboration with Samuel Beckett, serving as the playwright's assistant director on a production of "Waiting for Godot" in Berlin. Cluchey eventually persuaded Beckett to direct him in "Krapp's Last Tape" and "Endgame" - stagings he later remounted around the world. (In decades past he performed Beckett at both the Goodman Theatre and Victory Gardens.)

Cluchey will perform the solo "Krapp's Last Tape," about a man looking back at his life as he listens to old reel-to-reel tapes, as well as his own solo piece, "Sam and Rick," in which he shares his personal experiences with the legendary Irish playwright, interspersing his monologues with media elements, and using footage of prior productions and private moments with the playwright to weave together an "expression of life before and with Beckett."

The two one-acts will be performed at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. Tickets ($28) go on sale April 1 at www.shatteredglobe.org or by calling the Stage 773 Box Office at (773) 327-5252.

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You read that right. Former "Cheers," "Frasier," "The Simpsons" and "Boss" star Kelsey Grammer -- whose recent Chicago-shot drama was nixed by Starz late last year after only two seasons -- is teaming up with veteran stand-up and film funny dude Martin Lawrence of "Big Momma's House" fame for a new television sitcom, the Hollywood Reporter announced.

Lionsgate is producing, and the show will shoot 10 episodes for starters, but there's one major catch: it hasn't been shopped to or purchased by any networks. Still, considering the comedic pedigrees of its leads -- disparate though they are -- the project's chances of succeeding (at least in the early going) could be much worse.

"[T] idea of Kelsey and Martin together is inherently funny and draws comparisons to the great pairings in the past, whether it's 'The Odd Couple' or Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder," Lionsgate TV chief Kevin Beggs told the Reporter early this month.

Of course, inherently funny and actually funny are as different as....Kelsey Grammer and Martin Lawrence.

Black Ensemble Theater presents playwrights festival

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Black Ensemble Theater is hosting its 8th annual Black Playwright's Festival, April 15 - 21 as part of the company's Black Playwright's Initiative (BPI). The festival will be held at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark, and will bring new scripts to the stage for performance readings after development workshops and rehearsals.

The festival opens with a gala tribute in honor of Paul Oakley Stovall at 7:30 p.m. on April 15. The evening will include readings from his works including "Immediate Family," "Ape" and "Clear."


Paul Oakley Stovall

Other scheduled festival events include:

April 16, 7:30 pm: "The Last Word - A Dark Comedy in One Act," by Jil Ross and diirected by Rueben Echoles;
April 17, 7:30 pm: "Light - A Comedy Drama," by Jarrin Davis and directed by Daryl Brooks and Lyle Miller;
April 18, 7:30 p.m: "For Alice and August - A Drama," by Loy Webb and directed by Daryl Brooks;
April 19, 7:30 p.m: "Savage - A Drama," by Leonard M. Ferris and directed by Daryl Brooks;
April 20, 7:30 p.m: "The Holidays - A Musical," by Katrina Miller and directed by Rueben Echoles
April 21, 7:30 pm: "BPI Shorties" -- 10-minute plays written by members of the Black Playwright's Initiative and directed by Lyle Miller.

Tickets, $15 for each evening, or $50 for the entire festival, are available online at www.blackensemble.org or by calling (773) 769-4451.

andycohen.jpg (Peter Kramer/AP Images for Bravo)

Behind every Real Housewife is a good man. And that man is Andy Cohen, the Bravo executive, author, host of "Watch What Happens Live" and mediator of the Real Housewives reunions.

Cohen will be in Chicago and Skokie on April 10 discussing his book "Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture," which is being released in paperback on April 2. Both events feature a book signing and a question and answer session. Stop by if you'd like to send him a "mazel" in person.

From noon to 2 p.m. April 10, Cohen will be speaking at Barbara's Bookstore in the lower level of Macy's, 111 N. State St.

At 7 p.m., Cohen will be speaking at the Barnes & Noble at Old Orchard in Skokie.

For more information click here.

Audience-building is the name of the game for all arts institutions, from the most established brick-and-mortar operations with multi-million-dollar budgets, to tiny itinerant troupes whose boards are comprised of generous family members and friends.

But talk to Michelle Kranicke, who for the past 22 years has been the artistic and administrative force behind Zephyr Dance, and the problem becomes more fully focused: "Dance is always at the bottom of the food chain, and when it comes to marketing and publicity, the challenges faced by a small, experimental, contemporary dance company like mine are huge."

Confronted by the desperate, universal effort to brand and build, is there something to be said for the power of uniting? Can a consortium of dance companies -- sharing the stage, as well as a joint marketing effort -- become a viable "all for one and one for all" model?+Out of such questions came FlySpace,[cq] a new consortium of four long-established, female-led contemporary dance companies -- Margi Cole's The Dance COLEctive, Jan Bartoszek's Hedwig Dances, Joanna Rosenthal's Same Planet Different World and Kranicke's Zephyr.

Bearing the name of the overhead space on a stage into which scenery and lighting equipment are hoisted, and hinting at every dancer's fantasy of flight, FlySpace also suggests that by working together on new tools and with technology useful for audience development, all four organizations can "ascend" together. The project launches publicly in a two-weekend series on the intimate, heated, fully glass-enclosed stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, and is part of Chicago Cultural Center Presents, a program of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events. All four companies will be showcased, with three performances on each of two weekends, and with each weekend's program featuring two companies.

NOTE: All performances take place on the fully enclosed and heated stage of the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph in Millennium Park, with Hedwig Dances and Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre (April 5-6 at 7 p.m. and April 7 at 5 p.m), and the Dance COLEctive and Zephyr Dance (April 12-13 at 7 p.m. and April 14 at 5 p.m. For tickets ($15) for the FlySpace Dance Series call (773) 871-0872 or visit www.brownpapertickets.com.


In what must be the final seconds of that seemingly interminable 15 minutes of fame, "Jersey Shore" star JWOWW has landed a recurring role on the soap opera "One Life To Live," which is re-launching April 29 online.

JWOWW, whose real name is Jennifer Farley, will play Nikki, a bartender hired at the nightclub Shelter in Llanview. (Viewers of "Jersey Shore" know all too well what happened last time JWOWW got behind a bar. Suffice to say she mistook it for a bathroom.)

The Online Network has given new life to ABC's canceled soap. The "One Life To Live" 30-minute episodes will be available to stream online via the free Hulu.com service and to subscribers of Hulu Plus. The iTunes Store will offer the series via iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV and Mac or PC.

It's a girl for Dax Shepard, Kristen Bell

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DAXKRIS.JPGDax Shepard and Kristen Bell's house just became the land of Lincoln. That's the name the actors and longtime couple chose for their first child together. Shepard, 38, tweeted that the girl has "has mom's beauty and dad's obsession with breasts. Hooray!" Bell is 32.


In further proof that this might be the "American Idol" season that crowns a female winner, the show's three remaining male contestants gleaned the fewest viewer votes on Thursday's results show.

The guy at the very bottom: Chicago's own Devin Velez, a high school senior from Portage Park.

The judges have one "save" they can use to keep a contestant from going home, so Devin had one last shot at salvation. He boldly sang one of his old favorites, "It's Impossible," bringing three of the four judges to their feet. But the judges weren't unanimous in their decision, so Devin was sent packing.

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By Dave Hoekstra

The connections between Hatch Show Print in downtown Nashville, Tenn., and Chicago are strong and true.

The historic woodblock poster shop opened in 1879 and made Negro League baseball posters for the Chicago American Giants. In recent years Hatch created posters for Buddy Guy, the Waco Brothers and FitzGerald's in Berwyn (not to mention for one of this reporter's book release parties).

Hatch Show Print manager Jim Sherraden tells his staff, "If it looks good, run it!"

The League of Chicago Theaters has named five finalists for the 2013 Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theater Award.

They are:
+ 16th Street Theater
+ Bailiwick Chicago
+ Filament Theatre Ensemble
+ Pavement Group
+ Sideshow Theatre Company

The winner will be feted at the League's gala benefit on May 20. Visit www.chicagoplays.com for details.

Martin Scorsese talk to be live-streamed

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No fooling. If you couldn't snare a ticket to hear filmmaker Martin Scorsese deliver the 2013 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities on April 1 in Washington, D.C., fear not. The event, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Humanities, will be live-streamed starting at 6:30 p.m. (CST) on www.NEH.gov.

The Oscar-winning director will speak Monday at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where he will discuss film and the humanities, along with film critic and longtime collaborator Kent Jones.

The annual Jefferson Lecture honors distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities. Past Jefferson Lecturers include authors John Updike, Toni Morrison and Robert Penn Warren; historians Henry Louis Gates Jr. and Barbara Tuchman, and playwright Arthur Miller.

After April 1, video of the lecture will be archived on www.NEH.gov for future viewing.

The Goodman Theatre production of "The Jungle Book," set for its world premiere here June 21-July 28, has announced its full creative team.

The show, director-adapter Mary Zimmerman's work based on the Walt Disney animated film of 1967, and the collection of Rudyard Kipling stories from 1893, will feature musical direction by Doug Peck, who has created new orchestrations for a number of the movie's songs by brothers Richard M. Sherman and his late brother, Robert B. Sherman. Six Indian instrumentalists will be part of the production.

Zimmerman's design team, charged with bringing to life this story of the adventures of Mowgli, the young boy who grows up amid the animal kingdom, will include her longterm collaborators Daniel Ostling (sets), Mara Blumenfeld (costumes) and T.J.Gerckens (lights), all of whom traveled to India with her and Peck last year to do research.

The choreographic team is an intriguing blend of talents, with Tony Award winner Christopher Gattelli ("Newsies"), collaborating with Hema Rajagopalan, founder and artistic director of Natya Dance Theatre, Chicago's Indian dance troupe, along with associate choreographer Lou Castro. They will create a mix of traditional Indian, jazz and tap movement.

Josh Horvath, Ray Nardelli and Andre Pluess will collaborate on sound direction.

Casting for the show is underway and will be announced in April.

And there is this good news: After debuting at the Goodman, "The Jungle Book" will travel to Boston's Huntington Theatre Company, where it will run Sept. 7 - Oct. 6.

For tickets call (312) 443-3800 or visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org.


Remember the 124-pound wild cougar gunned down by Chicago police in April 2008 after prowling throughout Roscoe Village? Who could forget. The cougar was the first found in the City since 1855.

The Field Museum holds the cougar's remains, available for scientists studying cougar anatomy. While reporting another story yesterday we came upon the cougar's scapula, or shoulder blade, complete with bullet hole.


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Beverly-bred filmmakers Andy and Lana Wachowski made their fortune -- a vast one -- on the wildly popular "Matrix" trilogy. To date, it's grossed more than $1.5 billion worldwide and has allowed its creators to work in luxury in a slickly remodeled former scenery design space in Edgewater.

But the siblings' more recent cinematic effort, "Cloud Atlas," garnered mixed reviews and was considered by many to be a flop seeing as it grossed only $124 million on a $100 million-plus budget.

BGahGpxCYAALSAF-450x800.jpg (Source: www.fakeshoredrive.com)

Real or fake? We're not sure. If it is real this Lollapalooza 2013 poster first spotted at the Fake Shore Drive blog may provide some blurry clues to this year's lineup.

Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend and the Killers were previously reported as the headliners. If this poster is correct, Nine Inch Nails, New Order, Lana Del Rey and "many, many more" (that's the last line) will join them. It appears The Cure might also be a headliner, but that might also be Cube. Or, again, might not be correct at all.

All will be officially revealed on April 9. Three day passes are sold out but one day tickets will be released, also on April 9, according to www.lollapalooza.com.

Update: Andrew Barber of FakeShoreDrive confirms the Lolla lineup.

Update 1:04 p.m.: Apparently it is real, per Greg Kot at the Chicago Tribune, who writes that The Cure is coming, not Cube.

pizzapodgo.jpg (Credit: Al Podgorski/Chicago Sun-Times)

Chicago has once again topped Travel + Leisure's list for America's top pizza. The reason? You can find good New York style pizza anywhere, but you can't find decent Chicago-style pizza outside of Chicago.

The annual poll has readers ranking 35 cities on a variety of factors, like pizza and good looking locals (we're 16th).

Chicago Pizza Tours founder Jonathan Porter tells the lifestyle magazine that those who advertise Chicago-style pizza outside of the city are usually just a hot mess. And not in a good way.

"It's usually a real letdown," Porter said here. "Pizza is best kept simple. When you add tons of ingredients and cheese, you tend to ruin it."

Want to write in Ernest Hemingway's Oak Park home?

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He may have spent only the first six years of his life there, but Ernest Hemingway called it home. And who knows how much the Victorian house in the near west suburb inspired the youngster to take up paper and pen?

To wit, applications are still being accepted (through June 1) by the Ernest Hemingway Foundation in Oak Park for any writer, of any age, to apply for the chance at a yearlong residency in which the winner gets to write in a specially appointed room in the home's attic. It could be a book, a poem, a collection of essays --- anything that could use a little inspiration from the late author's earliest environment.

Watch ABC7 video of the contest announcement.

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The winner will be selected by the foundation and will be announced at the Hemingway Birthday Celebration on July 21 in Oak Park.


'BARNUM, The Circus Musical'
When: In previews; opens April 4 and runs through June 16
Where: Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport
Tickets: $25-$59
Info: (773) 325-1700; www.mercurytheaterchicago.com

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, children of all ages: Want to get a measure of P.T. Barnum, that larger-than-life-size American showman, businessman, author, publisher, philanthropist, occasional politician and founder of that enduring enterprise that came to be known as the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus? Well, just consider some of the pithy quotes attributed to the man:

± "Without promotion something terrible happens... Nothing!"
± "Every crowd has a silver lining."
± "Money is a terrible master but an excellent servant."
± "'The public' is a very strange animal, and although a good knowledge of human nature will generally lead a caterer of amusement to hit the people right, they are fickle and ofttimes perverse."
± "If I shoot at the sun I may hit a star."
± "There's a sucker born every minute." (Though most famous for this line, its "authorship" is in dispute.)

The Black Ensemble Theatre is set to receive a check for $20,000 from the Garrett Popcorn Shops. It comes as the lip-smacking result of a previously announced promotion by which Garrett promised to donate 10% of all in-shop and online popcorn tin sales from Feb. 15 to 28 to the Black Ensemble Theater in honor of Black History Month.

The theater's artistic director, Jackie Taylor, will accept the check at a ceremony to take place at 3 p.m. April 2 at the Garrett Popcorn Shop at 27 West Jackson.

The promotional partnership also included the no-purchase-necessary "Stop. Pop. And Win!" ticket giveaway by which visitors to the Garrett website could enter to win two free tickets to BET's hugely engaging new musical, "From Doo Wop to Hip Hop," which runs through April 14 at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark. For tickets ($45 - $65) , call (773) 769-4451 or visit www.blackensemble.org.

Delfos Danza Contemporánea, Mexico's foremost contemporary dance ensemble, will celebrate its 20th anniversary with a return visit (April 4-6) to the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan.

Steeped in saturated color and magic realism, the company's 20th anniversary program bears the umbrella title, "Resonancias" ("Resonances"). According to co-artistic directors Claudia Lavista and Victor Manuel Ruiz, the mixed bill concert will serve "as a poetic/choreographic anthology of paths we have trod at different moments in our history, both as a dance company and as creators. It is comprised of seven different dances that appear before us as manifestations of our identities, desires, certainties and uncertainties. Each of these dances explores the deeply personal relationship between the self and its reflection, in this case: the audience."

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Credit: www.srisriravishankar.org

The Donald E. Stephens Convention Center is Rosemont is a model of eclecticism. One week you can mingle with adult toy-hawking porn stars, the next with lightsaber-wielding fanboys.

So it's no stretch for the venue to host what organizers from the Art of Living Foundation are calling a "massive guided meditation," led by the exulted Indian guru Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

"The world is so interesting, I tell you!" Sri Sri (as he is known) writes on his Web site. "So, be in this world, enjoy the world without getting caught up or drowned in it. Keep yourself a little aloof. Keep yourself untouched by the external (events). Save your soul, save your mind, save your spirit and save your joy. Don't let it get muddled up by the events in the world."

The happening -- which takes place Thursday, March 28 at 7:30 p.m. -- is part of a national effort to "generate one billion acts of non-violence through pledges online and in person."

There'll also be entertainment from The Voices, speeches from various pols (Danny Davis and Jan Schakowsky, to name a couple) and lots of social activists on hand to help rally around the cause.

The New American Folk Theatre will present the world premiere musical, "The Marvelous Land of Oz," featuring music, book and direction by Anthony Whitaker and choreography by Jamal Howard. The show, running May 10 - June 2 at The Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee, is based on the children's novel of the same name by L. Frank Baum, the man behind "The Wizard of Oz."

Written in Humbolt Park in Chicago in 1905, "The Marvelous Land of Oz" follows a young boy named Tip on his journey to find Ozma, the lost Princess of Oz. After escaping from Mombi, a witch who has held him captive since birth, he is joined by Jack Pumpkinhead, a talking Saw-Horse and old favorites, the Scarecrow and Tin Man. Along the way, Tip meets General Jinjur and her all-girl Army of Revolt, who take over the Emerald City and remove the Scarecrow from his throne. Magic spells and strange characters are all part of this tale of true identity and self-worth from Baum's beloved Oz series.

According to Whitaker, this Oz book was adapted as a stage production that premiered at Chicago's Garrick Theatre and "was later produced as a short silent film as part of L. Frank Baum's Fairylogue and Radio Plays -- an early 'multi-media' traveling production produced by Chicago's Selig-Polyscope film studio, utilizing live actors, glass slides, hand-colored silent film and even Baum, himself, as the narrator."

New American Folk Theatre's original adaptation of the book, devised for family audiences. aims to bring the experience of the Fairylogue and Radio Plays back to life, and will employ various puppetry styles, including shadowplay, along with live actors.

To purchase tickets, visit newamericanfolktheatre.org or landofoz.brownpapertickets.com.

CBS announced 18 renewals for the 2013-14 season.

Missing from the list: "Vegas," "CSI: New York" and "Golden Boy." That doesn't mean these shows are definitely canceled, mind you. Just means they're not guaranteed to come back at this point.

"Vegas" moves to its new Friday time slot (8 p.m. Central) on April 5, where it will stay for six episodes. How it fares there will factor into the decision on whether it stays or goes.

Here's the press release from CBS:

CBS announced today it has renewed 18 returning series from television's top-rated lineup for the 2013-2014 broadcast season.

The mass renewals showcase the strength and stability of television's leading network among viewers, adults 18-49 and adults 25-54. This season, CBS is home to the #1 program/drama (NCIS), the #1 comedy (THE BIG BANG THEORY), the #1 new series (ELEMENTARY) and the #1 newsmagazine (60 MINUTES).

The renewals, comprising 16 hours of its primetime schedule, include four comedies, nine dramas, three reality series and two newsmagazines. The returning shows encompass every night of the week and every hour, many of which rank #1 in their time period and some which rank #1 for the entire night.

The renewed comedies include the previously announced THE BIG BANG THEORY, the final season of HOW I MET YOUR MOTHER as well as 2 BROKE GIRLS and MIKE & MOLLY.

Among the returning dramas are the previously announced NCIS, television's #1 program and top drama for the fourth consecutive year, and the time period-winning CSI: CRIME SCENE INVESTIGATION.

Other dramas renewed include NCIS: LOS ANGELES, the #2 drama for the third straight year; PERSON OF INTEREST, the fastest-growing show on network television; ELEMENTARY, the season's most-watched new program; as well as HAWAII FIVE-0, THE MENTALIST, BLUE BLOODS and THE GOOD WIFE.

The Network's three Emmy Award-winning reality series -- THE AMAZING RACE, SURVIVOR and UNDERCOVER BOSS -- also return with new editions.

60 MINUTES, television's #1 newsmagazine, and 48 HOURS, Saturday's #1 non-sports program, will return in the fall.
In addition, CBS and Warner Bros. Television are in discussions regarding another season for TWO AND A HALF MEN.
Season-to-date, CBS is first in viewers (12.22m), adults 18-49 (3.0/08) and adults 25-54 (3.9/10).

Attendees at the Chicago Black Women's Expo at McCormick Place on April 6 will have a chance to see if they have what it takes to become a "Jeopardy!" champ.

Would-be contestants will take a 50-clue written test. Those who pass will move on to the second part of the audition process, which includes practice game play and a brief interview.

"We've had a number of 'Jeopardy!' contestants from Chicago perform well over the years, and we encourage those attending the Black Women's Expo to audition for a chance to extend the city's successful track record," said the quiz show's executive producer Harry Friedman in a written statement.

Those successful Chicagoans include Sun-Times reporter Kara Spak, a five-time champion, as well as Fenwick High School teacher Colby Burnett (pictured below), who recently won the Teachers Tournament and the Tournament of Champions.


John Idler, president and general manager of WLS-Channel 7 (the ABC affiliate that airs the show weekdays at 2:30 p.m.) added: "So many Chicagoans are loyal viewers of 'Jeopardy!' on ABC 7. We're looking forward to seeing some strong female contestants from this year's Black Women's Expo appear on 'Jeopardy!' next season."

In the wake of Sean Penn's son, Hopper, screaming expletives at an African-American paparazzo -- using both the f-word and the n-word in a rant that also questioned the man's sexual preferences, I've learned the younger Penn's dad was as angry with his son as he was with the photographer who was shooting the two men as they entered a Los Angeles medical office.
According to a source close to the two-time Oscar-winning actor, "Sean obviously is no stranger to run-ins with the press, paparazzi and even over-intrusive fans. ... But what made him angry with Hopper was that when he called the paparazzo all those horrible names -- using language that was totally inappropriate -- it undercut the whole point of how those sleazy paparazzi make the lives of celebrities so uncomfortable.
"Now, Hopper has had to apologize -- as he should -- and all the focus is on his behavior and not that of the guy who was getting in his face taking those photos."
Hopper Penn issued a statement to TMZ apologizing for his angry outburst. "I was accosted by paparazzi and made to feel like an animal -- threatened and under attack, but that does not condone my own actions.
"I deeply regret my choice of words."
Approached by nearby police officers, the photographer immediately said he had no intention of pressing any charges against the younger Penn.
His dad had completely ignored the photographers at the building -- merely put down his head and went inside.
According to my source, he initially assumed his son would have followed suit.


The Dick Wolf-produced "Chicago Fire" has always been hot with Chicago viewers, but the NBC freshman drama has been steadily building an audience around the country over the past few months.

Flailing NBC is in desperate need of hits, so it's not hard to believe a Deadline.com story Wednesday about the network eyeing a possible "Chicago Fire" spinoff.

Deadline's Nellie Andreeva reported that "details are sketchy, but I hear the proposed spinoff is also a Chicago-set procedural about another Public Safety division, the police." She went on to write that "word is that the new show would start off as a planted spinoff with 'Chicago Fire's' first season finale directed by Joe Chappelle. It is still being sorted out which 'Chicago Fire' actors may transfer to the spinoff series."

When reached Wednesday to comment on the Deadline.com report, an NBC spokesperson for the show said "we aren't able to comment on that at this time."

I have to admit I wasn't a big fan of "Chicago Fire" when it debuted last fall. It looked like another procedural with a bunch of pretty people pulling folks out of flames. But the show has grown on me over time. The ensemble has gelled nicely, it has a fair bit of humor and it does a good job showcasing different parts of the city.

The season finale is set for 9 p.m. May 15.


(Redmoon Champagne Chandelier)

While at the Redmoon's new space in Pilsen, 2120 S. Jefferson St. on Wednesday, we noticed a few vehicles in the back of the performance room decorated with wine glasses and champagne bottles.

They are part of "Redmoon for Hire," a way to bring some of the theater company's spectacle into your party.

"If you were at a cocktail party you don't need to find the bar," said Alex Balestrieri, Redmoon's Director of Events. "The bar finds you."

Pictured above, the "Champagne Chandelier" is a mobile 30-foot fire truck ladder with a chandelier made out of champagne bottles. This comes with an aerialist suspended in the chandelier by a silk rope. The aerialist pours champagne for guests.

"She dispenses glasses of bubbly upside down," Balestrieri said.

There's also a wine bike featuring a canopy of wine glasses and a special crank for the wine, as well as a mobile DJ unit (both pictured below).

(Redmoon Wine Bike)

(Redmoon Mobile DJ)

Costs depend on the event. For more information call (312) 850-8440 Ext. 103 or click here.

How far would you go to score Chicago Bulls tickets?

That question is pivotal in a couple of the best comedies on television this season: ABC's "Happy Endings" and Showtime's "Shameless."

"Happy Endings" will tackle it this Friday, March 29, when the under-rated comedy moves to a new night and time on the Alphabet Net. (If you're not already a rabid fan of this show, please start watching right now before it's too late.)

In an episode titled "Straight Dope," gay Max, played by Skokie native Adam Pally, pretends to be straight after meeting a lovely lady with Bulls season tickets. This episode immediately follows another helping of "Happy Endings" airing from 7 to 7:30 p.m. on WLS-Channel 7.

Another Chicago-set show had a character doing something pretty despicable this season to worm his way into the United Center for some hoops.

On "Shameless" (8 p.m. Sundays on Showtime), the Gallagher family's drunken patriarch Frank (William H. Macy) convinces his young son Carl that the boy has cancer -- that's right, cancer -- in the hopes of getting a do-gooder foundation to fork over Bulls tickets.

Cash-starved Frank Gallagher wanted to go to the game to get his hands on an autographed Bulls basketball that he could promptly sell to financially support any one of his unseemly vices.

He never did manage to get the Bulls tickets, but Carl (played by St. Charles actor Ethan Cutkosky) did get a free ride at cancer camp.


Dorothy Hamill drops out of 'Dancing with the Stars'

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A hugely tearful Dorothy Hamill bowed out of season 16 of "Dancing with the Stars" on Tuesday night's results show, after it was revealed that nerve damage to her spine would become "possibly irreparable" according to her spine surgeon if she continued on in the reality show competition.
In an interview with the Sun-Times earlier this month, Hamill was overjoyed about competing on the show, following in the footsteps of other Olympic skating champs including Kristi Yamaguchi, Evan Lysacek and Apolo Anton Ono.

"It's been a wonderful ride. I wish I could stay but I can't do justice to the commitment," Hamill said, clutching tight to her pro partner Tristan MacManus.

Chicago Theatre serving up Mother's Day laughs, music

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Looking for a Mother's Day outing that isn't just your usual brunch affair?
The Chicago Theatre 175 N. State, will be the site for "Love and Laughter," a Mother's Day program of comedy courtesy of Rickey Smiley, and music courtesy of Eric Benet and Avant.
Tickets, $67.50-$97.50, for the 8 p.m. comedy/concert event go on sale at 10 a.m. March 28 via www.ticketmaster.com or by phone at (800) 745-3000.

ABC's business-minded reality series "Shark Tank" will be in Chicago on May 9 looking for fodder for season five.

The casting call will be held -- where else? -- at Shedd Aquarium, 1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.

Numbered wristbands will be passed out from noon until 2 p.m. Interviews start at 1 p.m. The first 500 entrepreneurs who show up are guaranteed to be seen and will have a chance to pitch the "Shark Tank" casting team with their products, services or ideas.

The Emmy-nominated show, which airs Friday nights on ABC, features a panel of self-made business tycoons (including Chicago native and "Queen of QVC" Lori Greiner) forking over their own cash to invest in contestants' ideas and turn those ideas into money-makers.



A source close to Justin Bieber called Tuesday to express frustration about "Justin's increasingly short fuse. ... He's got to learn to hold his temper in better check."
This all came about due to the run-in the pop star had on Tuesday morning -- shortly after returning from his overseas concert tour. Apparently, a neighbor approached Bieber -- on the singer's property -- to complain about loud parties the neighbor claimed had occurred during his European trip.
The neighbor claimed Bieber immediately began screaming at him and also made physical contact with him. As first reported by TMZ, the neighbor then proceeded to call the Los Angeles Police and file a battery report against the superstar.
The L.A. Police Department spokesman, Steve Whitmore, confirms that battery charge has been filed and the cops are investigating. Bieber's camp has quickly denied any physical contact -- and insists the singer's security team peacefully escorted the neighbor off Bieber's property.
"This all could have been averted if Justin had just kept his cool," said the source. "But he probably was edgy and jet-lagged, having just flown in from overseas."

The 16th annual Chicago Improv Festival stretches from April 1 to April 7, includes 150 acts and 765 improvisors, according to festival organizers. A handful of those 765 are folks from some of television's most popular shows.

Thumbnail image for Screen Shot 2013-03-26 at 12.17.10 PM.pngRight: Scott Adsit/articlesweb.org
From NBC's recently ended "30 Rock": Kay Cannon, Scott Adsit and John Lutz.
On Wednesday, April 3, Adsit will flex his long-form improv chops with improvisor/Second City Conservatory staffer Jet Eveleth and Cook County Social Club at Second City's e.t.c. theater in Piper's Alley. On Thursday, April 4 he'll again showcase his mad skills with local improv empress Susan Messing in her long-running show "Messing with a Friend" at Annoyance Theater. Come Sunday, April 7, he'll help close out the festival with mates Lutz and Cannon in a performance with the Improvised Shakespeare Company at UP Comedy Club in Old Town.

More after the jump.

Jeff Tweedy writes op-ed for marriage equality

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The U.S. Supreme Court today began hearing arguments in two separate cases that could determine the federal response to marriage equality. (See the Sun-Times live blog of the hearings.)

Gays and lesbians are still not allowed legally to marry in 40 states, including Illinois, though the state legislature is halfway through the approval process on the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act.

Earlier this week (and just days after another musician made headlines for anti-gay comments during a concert), Chicago singer-songwriter Jeff Tweedy spoke out in support of the measure.

Job you didn't know you wanted: BBQ editor

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AX205_7163_9.JPGHow did we miss this job posting?

In what they call a "long overdue" move, Texas Monthly magazine has hired its first barbecue editor.

The lucky @#$%! is named Daniel Vaughn, and he's at least qualified for the gig -- whatever the criteria might be for a barbecue editor. He's got a book coming out about TX BBQ, The Prophets of Smoked Meat: A Journey Through Texas Barbecue, and he's been tweeting and blogging about the 'q for some time.

(Dream Region (2009), Mequitta Ahuja, Oil, enamel, acrylic and waxy chalk on paper. Image courtesy of Collection of Greg Shannon)

The DePaul Art Museum is looking at mixed race Asian American histories and identities in the new show "War Baby/Love Child," which opens April 25.

"Through traditional media as well as video, installation and other approaches, artists explore a range of topics, including U.S. wars in Asia, multiculturalism and identity politics, racialization, gender and sexual identity, citizenship and nationality, and transracial adoption," said Laura Kina, who curated the exhibit.

Kina is an associate professor of art, media and design at DePaul as well as a founding member of the university's Global Asian Studies program.

Kina said in a statement that the exhibit is designed to give "visibility to the increasingly mixed generation coming of age."

A complete list of programs related to the exhibit can be found here.


Just in time for the season six debut of "Mad Men," a trio of University of Illinois professors will discuss Don Draper and other topics related to AMC's drama Tuesday evening at the Chicago Humanities Festival.

WBEZ reporter Alison Cuddy will moderate the "Mad Men, Mad World" panel, featuring Lauren Goodlad, Lilya Kaganovsky and Robert Rushing. The three profs recently edited "Mad Men, Mad World: Sex, Politics, Style and the 1960s" (Duke University Press, $27.95), the first academic study of the cable series published by a university press.

"We believe that the show is really about the present day," Goodlad said Monday from the snowy Champaign-Urbana campus. Matthew Weiner's critically-acclaimed series set in the 1960s resonates with viewers because "it's about a kind of crisis that we are all going through about our identities."

Screen Shot 2013-03-25 at 3.56.29 PM.png

That's the word according to Comedy Central, which announced today that one of its late-night superstars -- Northwestern grad and Second City/iO Theater alum Stephen Colbert -- will interrogate former president Bill Clinton on Saturday, April 6 "during the closing session of the sixth annual Clinton Global Initiative University."

The segment will air Monday, April 8 on a special episode of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report."

"I am thrilled and honored to be interviewing President Clinton," Colbert said in a statement, "and I assume he is aware this is happening."

Just what Colbert will ask the formerly embattled and currently exalted Clinton is anyone's guess. It's safe to assume, however, there'll be at least a touch of bluster and smart-assery involved seeing as Colbert's GOP-cheering alter ego is presumably (and, of course, moronically) opposed to Clinton in every way on issues social and economic.

If the erstwhile commander-in-chief curbs his legendary loquaciousness and is as game for goofiness as President Obama was in 2009, he'll be in good shape. But he shouldn't expect to escape totally unscathed. Even presidents with whom the on-air Colbert agrees have found themselves in his crosshairs.


Harry Styles took to Twitter to share his Passover plans. | Chandler West~Sun-Times

Harry Styles and his One Direction bandmates are on a spring break this week, and the star let fans know how he was celebrating this evening.

March 25 marks this year's Passover Seder, which begins at sundown. The Jewish ritual feast is the start of Passover holiday. And the singer is planning to spend the holiday with his family.

For 1D fans who aren't Jewish, Styles' tweet points out that's he's nervous to ask Ma Nishtana or "The Four Questions" at his Seder dinner. The questions are traditionally asked by the youngest person at the table.

The band returns to Chicago area on July 13.


Have access to a window on the Chicago River? You're in luck -- besides the riverside view.

The ABC TV pilot "Betrayal" will be filming an air and water rescue scene featuring search helicopters and leading to brief periodic closures of surrounding streets today, until 10 p.m. between LaSalle and Clark streets.

No word if Stuart Townsend is the one needing rescuing, but send a picture if it is.

Across town, Chicago Fire is filming a truck roll-over accident at 2900 S. Chestnut.

mail-6.jpeg (Bad picture, good hair.)

There's a reason European women look so great, and it's not just because they've mastered portion control. I'm crediting the blow out, the weekly professional washing and drying of hair by trained stylists.

"In Europe, in general, I know people who never wash their own hair," Fiona McIntee, an Irish attorney who owns Blowtique, 1 E. Huron, told me. "I was really surprised when I moved here there was no feasible option."

Blow out salons are spreading their hot air throughout the country but so far Chicago has mostly missed this trend (read more about it in Wednesday's Chicago Sun-Times). For $35, you're supposed to get a hair style that looks great and lasts three days.

There are currently two blow out salons in the city of Chicago - Blow By Blow, 67 E. Oak St., and Blowtique (the chain Drybar is opening in the next six months in Lincoln Park, as first reported by the Sun-Times here). I flipped a coin last Wednesday and called Blow by Blow, which was all booked. So I went to Blowtique as a walk in, which was also booked. First lesson - call ahead.

Not mentioning I was a reporter, I booked an appointment at Blow by Blow for 4 p.m. Thursday. I went in with hair looking like:

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

NBC's news magazine "Rock Center" featured the three Emanuel brothers -- Rahm, Ari and Ezekiel -- on Friday night in an interview with host Brian Williams.

The Emanuels' motivation to appear together on the NBC show was to help big brother Zeke promote his new memoir, "Brothers Emanuel." But Hollywood super agent Ari apparently didn't care for what he viewed as Williams' aggressive tone, according to stories in The New York Post and The Hollywood Reporter.

The Hollywood Reporter says Ari, co-CEO of William Morris Endeavor, "sent a legal letter to the network over the nature of the discussion. A source tells THR that Williams approached the interview in an aggressive fashion, asking the brothers about their connection to Israel and Ari's reputation as an ultra-aggressive Hollywood agent, among other things. The source says Ari, who is fiercely protective of his brothers, believed the questioning would be lighter and related only to Ezekiel's book. So the agent's lawyers sent the letter asking that NBC not air the more confrontational portions of the interview."

An NBC statement to THR read: "We hope viewers saw the interview as a lively conversation with three famously colorful brothers who embody a great American story of success."

'The Night of the Iguana'
When: Through May 5
Where: The Artistic Home, 1376 W. Grand
Tickets: $32 (suggested donation)
Info: (866) 811-4111; www.theartistichome.org
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

A wildly eccentric assortment of outcasts, most of them desperately in search of some sort of home, come together in a rundown hotel perched above a scenic spot on Mexico's western coast. The year is 1940. Giant war clouds have gathered over Europe. A group of church ladies from Texas is getting a most unorthodox tour of their neighbor to the South. And several people are on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

Things don't look too promising for the iguana, either. The giant lizard has been caught by the hotel's pretty boy employees. Now tied up, it will be fattened up, taunted and then killed and eaten. Take THAT for a metaphor.

The play is Tennessee Williams' rarely revived (and sadly underappreciated) play, "The Night of the Iguana." And it is now receiving a rip-roaring production by The Artistic Home, that formidable operation that, after a year as an itinerant company, is now inaugurating its intimate new storefront (complete with acting school), located between two Italian restaurants at 1376 W. Grand in the West Town neighborhood.

'Dawn, Quixote'
When: Through April 27
Where: The Building Stage, 412 N. Carpenter
Tickets: $25-$30
Info: (312) 491-1369; www.buildingstage.com
Run time: 95 minutes with no intermission

Here's a challenge: You are a serious artist who has kept a highly creative experimental theater company vibrantly alive for eight years, but now feels the need to close up shop and move on. So how do you bid goodbye to your colleagues and your audience, and shut the door on a handsome building that has always been located just a bit too far off the beaten track?

If you are Blake Montgomery, and your company is The Building Stage -- the ensemble that dared to produce a marathon version of "The Ring Cycle" and a brilliant condensation of "Moby-Dick," among many other shows -- you turn to that classic tale of the deranged and bookish dreamer who dubbed himself Don Quixote. Yes, the man who rode out into the world to right all wrongs and uphold the chivalric code, no matter how ridiculous such exploits might be. And really, what could be more delusional than trying to keep a theater troupe afloat?

Of course Montgomery, founder and artistic director of The Building Stage, was not about to leave us with anything quite so literal. So his walk into the sunset turns out to be "Dawn, Quixote," a delicious bit of post-modern trickery that is part "paella and sangria Western" (playfully infused with spaghetti Western music), and part Marx Brothers-meets-Cervantes. It's a goofy charmer that comes very close to being heartbreaking, yet never allows itself to be maudlin.

'SMOKEY JOE'S CAFE: The Songs of Leiber And Stoller'
When: Through May 26
Where: Royal George Theatre Cabaret, 1641 N. Halsted
Tickets: $25-$46.50
Info: (312) 988-9000; www.ticketmaster.com
Run time: 1 hour and 40 minutes with one intermission

In the mood for pure, unadulterated joy for the cost of a modestly priced theater ticket? Head out to "Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller," the joy-inducing revue that has been ideally transplanted from its sold-out engagement at the Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre (that storefront wonder in Rogers Park), to the equally intimate confines of the Royal George Theatre Cabaret in Lincoln Park.

This commercial remount might not have the same formidable advertising budget that has sent "Million Dollar Quartet" to the top of the charts both here and beyond. But with its dynamic cast of nine singer-actor-dancers at top spin thanks to director-choreographer Brenda Didier, with its formidable band (with original musical direction by Jeremy Ramey now flawlessly realized by conductor-pianist Kory Danielson and three fellow musicians), and a song list of about three dozen hits by a pair of pop masters who in many ways defined the sound of the late 1950s, '60s and '70s, it should give that show a serious run for every greenback. And of course there is even some Elvis Presley overlap here.

When: Through March 31
Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Tickets: $14-$32
Info: (312) 443-3800; www.GoodmanTheatre.org
Run time: 95 minutes with no intermission

It begins with an altogether otherworldly sort of funeral -- a slow parade of ghostly yet vivid figures reminiscent of those Day of the Dead skeletons that are such an iconic part of Mexican culture. And as it happens, what proceeds to unfold in "Pedro Paramo," the altogether spellbinding world premiere production that marks a unique collaboration between Cuba's Teatro Buendia and the Goodman Theatre, IS a ghost story of grand proportions -- a tale of intense passions, terrible cruelty, shattered hearts, deep corruption and paralyzing fear, all filtered through the veil of memory.

"Pedro Paramo," adapted by Raquel Carrio from Juan Rulfo's landmark 1955 novel of magical realism -- that lyrical, tragicomic, quasi-hallucinatory style that defined much of late 20th century Latin American literature -- also is theater very unlike anything made in this country.

Under the direction of Havana-based Teatro Buendia's Flora Lauten, in collaboration with Chicago actor Henry Godinez, curator of the Goodman's Latino Theatre Festival, the production -- which features a seamless blend of Cuban actors and Spanish-speaking Chicago actors -- is a haunted and haunting combination of movement, music and poetic speech that has an almost cinematic quality. To borrow the title of a classic 17th century Spanish drama, it gives the impression that "life is a dream," even if much of that dream is nightmarish.

Jeff Tweedy performs with Wilco Monday December 12, 2011 at the Civic Opera House. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

Jeff Tweedy, frontman of alt-rock godfathers and Chicago institution Wilco, has publicly backed gay marriage in his home state of Illinois in an opinion letter posted on the Belleville News-Democrat website. The announcement isn't much of a surprise given Tweedy's, and Wilco's, involvement supporting Mayor Rahm Emanuel and President Obama during their respective campaigns. But it's another highly visible figure in Illinois backing the bill which has yet to be voted on by the state house.

Check out the full letter at the BND website and an excerpt below.

By excluding same-sex couples from marriage, our state saddles them, their children and itself with second-class status. That is wrong, and it hurts Illinois families and businesses.

Nine other states have already extended the freedom to marry to gay and lesbian couples. I work and have friends in all those states, and I can say assuredly that it's time for Illinois to join them.

On the docket for The Neo-Futurists' 2013-2014 season are two world premieres and one U.S. premiere -- all promising to think outside the box in terms of creativity and argument.

The shows, to be staged at the company's home base at The Neo-Futurarium, 5153 N. Ashland, are as follows:

± "Sweet Child of Mine" (Sept. 5-21): The U.S. premiere of a show created by Bron Batten and presented by The Neo-Futurists, in collaboration with The Last Tuesday Society of Australia. It will feature Australian performer Batten and her 60-year-old parents live onstage, discussing art, theater and what Bron actually does for a living. Their insights are earnest, poignant and at the same time, painfully hilarious, as they ask themselves and the audience, what exactly is the point of art? An inter-generational performance investigation combining theatre, modern dance, stand up comedy, audience participation and visual digital media, the show was the winner of the Best Experimental Performance at the 2011 Melbourne Fringe Festival and has toured throughout Australia.

± "The Sovereign Statement" (Oct. 17 - Nov. 23): This world premiere created by Neo-Futurists ensemble member Bilal Dardai, uses the genre conventions of political thrillers and procedurals as the Neo-Futurists explore the strange phenomenon of "micro-nations" by attempting to establish their theater as an independent state in its own right, utilizing the audience as citizens of the endeavor. Featuring rapid-fire dialogue and interlocking, simultaneous narratives taking place throughout the space, each evening Dardai and his cohorts will build the basic trappings of a modern nation while fighting against intrigue, paranoia, misinformation, politicking, and revisions to the play itself. The Sovereign Statement examines not only the birth of nations, but also the circumstances that lead to their fracture and collapse.

± "Haymaker" (May 22-June 28, 2014): The world premiere of a work created by Trevor Dawkins who examines his fascination with physical combat by staging "Tears of Shanghai," an action movie he wrote when he was 12 years old. Casting himself as Russell Dakota, a grizzled maverick evading the Nazis, Dawkins attempts to create a world where the line between right and wrong is clearly defined. Within the Neo-Futurist aesthetic, "Haymaker" is a platform to explore our urge to fight. Expect intricate staging and visceral choreography, as well as elements of high risk.

Of course, that Neo-Futurist mainstay, "Too Much Light Makes The Baby Go Blind: 30 Plays in 60 Minutes" will still be up and running.

For additional information and tickets call: (773) 275-5255 or visit www.neofuturists.org.

Screen shot 2013-03-22 at 6.14.53 PM.png
Credit: Al Podgorski/Sun-Times

One of Chicago's hardest working comics, Patti Vasquez, has been a frequent guest on radio shows in town and around the country for years. Come Sunday from 10 p.m. until 1 a.m., she'll occupy the host chair at WGN-AM for a three-hour chatfest.

"I have a plan...ish," the star of OWN's show "My Life is a Joke" announced on Facebook. "We're doing politics, Sports, A 'Lipstick Mom' segment, Food...."

"Lipstick Mom," by the way, refers to her belief that "being a wife and mother doesn't prevent you from feeling attractive." It's also the name of her one-woman show (subtitle: "From Mommy to Mamalicious"), which she'll reprise April 19 at the Beverly Arts Center.

Screen shot 2013-03-22 at 5.10.24 PM.png
Credit: Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times

When interviewing comedy folks and other celebrities, I sometimes ask about the chasm that's inevitably created when their friends -- the people with whom they strove and suffered and ate Ramen Noodles day after day in order to cover rent -- suddenly hit the big time. Or at least the medium time. "Saturday Night Live," films, commercials, etc.

While "the work" and certainly a shared institution (i.e. Second City, iO Theater, Steppenwolf) often bind them, vast financial and social differences remain. As time goes on, one moves into a French chateau and is regularly asked to ink autographs while another can barely afford his/her studio apartment and is approached in public mostly by panhandlers or Greenpeace volunteers.

"There are ways in which we have such a common history," Steppenwolf co-founder and star of ABC's "Scandal" Jeff Perry told me the other day of his Chicago theatre mates, several of whom are rich and famous. "[But] there are obstacles and barriers to a present-tense understanding of each other."

Chicago-based improviser and improv oracle Jimmy Carrane, about whom I wrote not long ago, addresses the issue head-on in a recent blog.

"Jealousy exists, especially among improvisers and actors, though no one really wants to talk about it," he begins. "It's part of the human experience, much like anger or sadness. But we think it's too ugly of an emotion to talk about, something we're not "supposed" to feel, so instead, we deny we feel jealous at all.

"Over the years, I have had real problems with jealousy."

Click here to read the whole post.

Here's a clip from Carrane's "Improv Nerd" podcast interview with Chicago improv queen Susan Messing.

And the winners are...

The League of Chicago Theatres, Goodman Theatre, the University of Illinois at Chicago Department of Theatre and Music, and Chicago competition organizer Derrick Sanders have announced the winners of Chicago's August Wilson Monologue Competition. In first place is Morgan Brown (Southland College Prep), with Branndin Laramore (Gallery 37) in second place and John Carter (Chicago High School for the Arts) the third place winner. They will represent Chicago in the national competition on May 5 and 6 at Broadway's August Wilson Theatre.

Open to Chicago area high school students, the August Wilson Monologue Competition is a national competition that exposes students to the richness of 10-play Century Cycle, and it helps incorporate the plays into the standard high school curriculum. The top three monologues from among the Chicago contestants were awarded $500, $250 and $100 scholarships, respectively, and will receive a trip to New York City for the national finals.

The Chicago finals were held on March 11 at Goodman Theatre,

Jason Danieley and Marin Mazzie, the gifted Broadway stars (who also happen to be real-life husband and wife) will be the featured performers at the June 17 Gala 2013 Celebration of the Chicago Shakespeare Theater. The event ...... will kick off the company's 2013-2014 season, and will generate support for its education programs, including Team Shakespeare and Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks.

Musical theater master Stephen Sondheim, as well as former mayor Richard M. Daley will be the evening's honorees and recipients of the Spirit of Shakespeare Awards. Both honorees are expected to be in attendance.

Danieley played the lead in the Chicago Shakespeare production of Sondheim's "Sunday in the Park with George" earlier this season. Mazzie was recently seen opposite Danieley in the Pulitzer Prize-winning Broadway musical "Next to Normal."

The Gala will be held at Chicago Shakespeare's home at 800 E. Grand on Navy Pier. Approximately 500 guests will enjoy a three-course dinner served throughout the theater's multi-level lobbies, each offering views of Chicago's skyline.

For additional information and tickets phone (312) 553-2000 or visit www.pjhchicago.com/cst.

Barrington High School may be waiting for the perpetually HOURS-late Rihanna to show up for a much-heralded special appearance at the suburban high school, but her tour goes on.

rihanna chicago.jpg

Livenation.com tweeted this photo of her show's load-in at the United Center that's scheduled to begin at 7:30 p.m., which doesn't seem likely given the fact that Ri-Ri has been late for several of the concerts on her current tour (two hours late in Montreal, for example) -- with no explanation and/or apologies from the "Unapologetic" superstar.

Ebertfest lineup announced, Tilda Swinton to attend

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Oscar-winning actress Tilda Swinton, actor-musician Jack Black and director Richard Linklater will be among the featured guests at the 15th annual Ebertfest running April 17-21 at the Virginia Theatre in downstate Urbana.

Roger Ebert, Sun-Times film critic and the festival's founder/programmer, has announced the full lineup, which kicks off with Terrence Malick's "Days of Heaven" (1978), with the film's uncredited cinematographer (and two-time Oscar winner) Haskell Wexler in attendance. Swinton will appear with the thriller "Julia" (2008) and Black will be there for the comedy "Bernie" (2011), along with Linklater, the film's director. For the full lineup, http://blogs.suntimes.com/ebert/2013/03/days_of_ebertfest_the_2013_sch.html or ebertfest.com

Most passes have sold out but single tickets are available for select screenings. These tickets will go on sale beginning April 1 through the theater box office (217-356-9063; open 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday) and online through the theater website, thevirginia.org

ABOVE: Richard Gere and Brooke Adams in "Days of Heaven" (1978).

± Begins previews April 2; opens April 19 and runs through May 5
± Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph
± Tickets: $33-$100
± Phone: (800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayInChicago.com

Those legendary salesmen of the American theater -- Willy Loman of "Death of a Salesman," Ricky Roma and Shelly Levene of "Glengarry Glen Ross," Harold Hill of "The Music Man" -- are about to get some keen competition.

His name is Edward Bloom. He's a traveling salesman with roots in rural Alabama. But far more importantly, he's a compulsive storyteller with a penchant for spinning the adventures of his life into epic tall tales that charm many, but frustrate and bedevil his son, who wants to get beyond the fictional embellishments.

Bloom first came to life in Daniel Wallace's 1998 book, "Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions." Five years later, in the popular film directed by Tim Burton, he was up on the big screen (played by Ewan McGregor in his youth and Albert Finney in his later years), with Billy Crudup as his son, Will, and Jessica Lange as his wife, Sandra.

Now, Bloom is at the center of "Big Fish, The Musical," the much-anticipated new show that will have its pre-Broadway debut April 2-May 5 at Chicago's Oriental Theatre, with a Broadway opening already set for Oct. 6 at New York's Neil Simon Theatre.

With a book by John August (who also wrote the screenplay), and a score by Andrew Lippa ("The Wild Party," "The Addams Family"), the musical is being directed and choreographed by Susan Stroman (the five-time Tony Award-winning force behind "The Producers," "Young Frankenstein," "The Scottsboro Boys" and "Crazy for You"). It features Tony Award-winning actor Norbert Leo Butz ("Dirty Rotten Soundrels," "Catch Me If You Can"), who plays Edward Bloom throughout, with Kate Baldwin (the Northwestern grad and Broadway star) as Sandra, and Bobby Steggart as their son, a young man determined to come to terms with a lifetime of stories as his father approaches death.

Courtesy: Art Institute of Chicago

Sunday is the official 100 year anniversary of the Art Institute of Chicago's Armory Show, the landmark exhibit that introduced the work of European modern artists like Matisse and Picasso to Chicago.

If you can't make it to the museum to celebrate in person, the Art Institute has created an online exhibition featuring information about the art and artists that made the show so revolutionary.

The DePaul Art Museum is also celebrating this milestone with a show "For and Against Modern Art: The Armory Show + 100," that opens April 4.

Brian Williams welcomes the Emanuel brothers to his news magazine show "Rock Center" tonight at 9 p.m. on WMAQ-Channel 5.

The eldest Emanuel brother, Dr. Ezekiel Emanuel, has penned a book about the trio of uber-successful brothers -- including Mayor Rahm and Hollywood big-wig Ari -- and their life growing up in Chicago. That memoir, titled "Brothers Emanuel," comes out March 26, which means it's time to make the publicity rounds.

The Sun-Times' Daily Splash section featured an excerpt from Emanuel's book earlier this month.


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The notion (see headline) has been bandied about for many hours now, having been sparked by an item in the New York Post's Page Six gossip column, which cited an anonymous source.

Whether or not Meyers, an Evanston native and Northwestern grad, has the inclination to replace Fallon when Jimmy takes over for Leno is anyone's guess. He's mentioned nothing about it to his 1.7 million Twitter followers, nor has he issued a statement. Not surprisingly, a Sun-Times inquiry garnered no immediate response.

But Seth's got ample chops for the job should NBC offer it to him, honed by years of writing and performing on "Saturday Night Live," not to mention his improv background and the all-important (if largely intangible) likability factor. Plus, again according (anonymously) to Page Six, Meyers's SNL predecessor Tina Fey doesn't want the gig.

Warning: Some material in the following videos may not be suitable for all viewers.


International music superstar Rihanna made her much-anticipated visit to Barrington High School Friday evening before her concert at the United Center. The pop singer was scheduled to appear at 2 p.m., but traffic woes delayed her arrival until 5:35 p.m.

Rihanna spoke to the crowd for 12 minutes.

Remembering opera's Rise Stevens

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The tributes are pouring in for the great mezzo Rise Stevens, who died Wednesday at age 99 in New York City.

One person in particular who's mourning her passing is fellow mezzo Victoria Livengood. She's here for Lyric Opera of Chicago's "A Streetcar Named Desire," which opens Tuesday and in which she sings the role of Eunice.

On her Facebook page, Livengood posted this memorial, along with a photo of herself and the late opera great.

"I'm so very sad to learn of the passing of a great mentor to me: the incomparable Rise Stevens. Ms. Stevens helped me win the Met auditions (photo below) and taught me much about the role of Carmen! She was the greatest Carmen of all time! She was a movie star! She was a champion of young singers! She will be greatly missed! RIP, beautiful Diva!"

Livengood also told her colleagues at Lyric that Rise Stevens "had just shown [me] how to do [my] hair -- that I needed bigger hair onstage at the Met. Then on the radio she said, 'This young mezzo reminds me of me.' "

TOP PHOTO: Rise Stevens, backstage at the Metropolitan Opera, during a run of "Carmen" in 1954. | AP FILE



Devin Velez's long and winding road will continue on "American Idol" after the Chicago teenager gleaned enough viewer votes Thursday to keep him around for at least another week.

The remaining Top 9 contestants sang Beatles songs during the performance round Wednesday. Devin, 18, sang "A Long and Winding Road."

"It was the middle of the pack," "Idol" mentor Jimmy Iovine said Thursday about Devin's performance. "It wasn't amazing. But it was very, very promising. Devin has a great ear. That's a big asset for a singer but he has to learn how to consistenly apply it."

Judge Keith Urban said he didn't feel enough of an emotional connection coming from Devin, but the rest of the judges praised the Starbucks barista.

Viewers must have liked what they heard, too, but Devin still wound up in the bottom three on Thursday's results show. He also finished in the bottom last week, so he has some work to do if he's going to stick around.

"Idol" finalist Paul Jolley got the boot Thursday.

Nearly 300 fans of HBO's hit fantasy series "Game of Thrones" descended on Hotel Intercontinental's King Arthur's Court on Thursday for a preview of the new season that starts Sunday, March 31.

"Medieval attire encouraged," read the evite. Many fans obliged, getting decked out in their finest "Game of Thrones"-inspired duds. Feast your eyes:

Kelli Day
Age: 37
Home: Uptown
Occupation: Grant manager at Lurie Children's Hospital
Favorite character: Jon Snow. "He has integrity ... and he's super hot."

Katherine Smaluk
Age: 25
Home: Lincoln Square
Favorite character: Daenerys Targaryen. "She's fearless."

Dustin Guest
Age: 29
Home: Mokena
Occupation: Sells car parts and does voiceover work
Favorite character: Eddard "Ned" Stark because actor "Sean Bean's awesome."

Karen Guest
Age: 29
Home: Mokena
Occupation: Service receptionist at auto shop
Favorite character: Arya Stark. "She's not a typical girl. She's not afraid to go out on her own."

Emi Tolibas
Age: 23
Home: Skokie
Occupation: Interior design student
Favorite character: Daenerys Targaryen. "She's so young but she has great determination and strength."

Ryan Calacsan
Age: 23
Home: Crystal Lake
Occupation: College student
Favorite character: Tyrion Lannister. "He's an honest character."

Bridget Piekarz
Age: 55
Home: Itasca
Occupation: Sales rep for Random House, publisher of George R.R. Martin's books upon which the HBO series is based.
Favorite character: Daenerys Targaryen. "Her character arc is sold so beautifully by the show and the actress."

Michael McCormick
Age: 52
Home: Elk Grove Village
Occupation: Graphic designer
Favorite character: Jon Snow. "He's the most honorable in the story so far."

Stephanie Crets
Age: 25
Home: South Loop
Occupation: Writer
Favorite character: Cersei Lannister. "She strong-willed. A bad ass."

Dan Lee
Age: 51
Home: Grayslake
Occupation: Video engineer
Favorite character: Eddard "Ned" Stark. "I like his honor."

Illinois leads the nation in moviegoers

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Illinois may be broke and billions in the red, but it knows how to go to the movies.

For the first time ever, the Motion Picture Association of America analyzed data for the 10 largest states and determined that Illinois has the highest percentage of moviegoers, at 74 percent of its population, above the national average of 68 percent. The Land of Lincoln even topped California, the traditional home of the U.S. movie industry, which came in second at 73 percent.

The MPAA released on Thursday its 2012 Theatrical Market Statistics Report, which includes this information. For the full report: suntm.es/WQae6x


JImmy Buffett

Looking forward to the Jimmy Buffett and Phish concerts at Charter One Pavillon this summer?

Figure out how to mark your territory, as the concert venue will boast a lawn this summer. The rehab adds the potential for another 22,000 people to attend shows.

Let the land grab with oversized blankets begin. The summer schedule is here.

"Hero," the hugely engaging musical that began life at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire in 2012, is getting a second life the next step in what might just be an even grander future.

The show, with a pop-rock score by Michael Mahler, book and concept by Aaron Thielen and direction by David H. Bell will be staged at the Asolo Rep in Sarasota, Fla., April 29 - June 1, 2014.

"Hero" tells the charming, tragicomic story of comic book artist Hero Batowski -- a floundering 28-year-old who is living anything but a superhero life as he works in his family's Milwaukee comic book shop, and still lives at home with his dad. A long-ago tragedy left Hero unable to move on, but when hit with a series of unexpected events, including romance, he is forced to decide whether he's ready to get his life on track.

Chicago is what it is today thanks in no small part to deep-pocketed visionaries Bertha and Potter Palmer, a 19th-century power couple depicted in a new documentary Sunday (5:30 p.m. on WTTW-Channel 11).

Produced by River Forest-based Corn Bred Films, the half-hour program tells two love stories: One between young socialite Bertha Honore and the self-made millionaire 23 years her senior, and another between the Palmers and the muddy Midwest outpost they helped transform into a world-class city after the Great Chicago Fire in 1871.

"Love Under Fire: The Story of Bertha & Potter Palmer" also chronicles Potter Palmer's massive role in the retail business and how he shaped the way we shop today. It's a timely topic. PBS is about to launch "Mr. Selfridge," an eight-part series about an ambitious American who spent 25 years working his way up the ladder at Chicago's Marshall Field & Co., which got its start as a dry goods store opened in the mid-1800s by none other than Potter Palmer.

Christopher Clinton Conway, who has been associated with the Joffrey Ballet since 2005, and has served as its executive director since 2008, will be stepping down from his position in mid-April.

An attorney with a background in tax and complex gifts, Conway helped oversee the completion of the company's largest capital campaign in its long history as it planned and moved into its permanent home in the Joffrey Tower on State and Randolph.

A national search is being set in motion to find a replacement. In the meantime, Kathleen Hechinger, who has been CFO of the Joffrey since 2010, will serve as interim executive director. Conway has not yet announced his next endeavor.

The Joffrey's artistic staff, including artistic director Ashley Wheater, will remain unchanged.

Source: Lincoln Park Zoo

Nayembi, a baby gorilla born at Lincoln Park Zoo, continues to recover from facial injuries sustained at the zoo, officials there said in a statement Thursday.

The young ape is out of the animal hospital and living at the Regenstein Center for African Apes, though not in the public enclosure where her mother, Rollie, and father, Kwan, live. She can see her parents, though.

"Nayembi is still healing. Allowing the gorillas to touch or potentially groom the injured area would not be beneficial at this time, so as of yet there has not been any physical contact for Nayembi with the other gorillas," said Curator of Primates Maureen Leahy in an email. "What is important is that Nayembi is living in very close visual proximity to her family group, including mother Rollie. Rollie can always keep a watchful eye on Nayembi, vocalize to her, and even solicit play behavior. Nayembi is also quick to fix her eye gaze on mother Rollie."

Nayembi was injured Feb. 20, though the cause of her injuries remains unknown.


A 90-pound Great Dane-German Shepherd mix stole the show when he photobombed a series of pictures designed to rent out an East Lakeview apartment (pet friendly, of course) on Craigslist.

Otis Kanive, who is owned by John and Sarah Kanive, is known around his home as Chicago's mayor, according to People.com.

"We call him the mayor of the neighborhood," John said here, "because when he is not napping or shoving a toy in your face, he is staring out the window keeping an eye on the street."


The apartment is rented but you can check out the original Craigslist ad and the glory of Otis here.

Sarah Colonna.png

Her March 22 gigs at Zanies in Old Town are sold out, but you can still catch Sarah Colonna's appearances at the club's outposts in St. Charles and Rosemont.

A writer for the E! latenight hit "Chelsea Lately" (starring her longtime pal Chelsea Handler), as well as the network's "After Lately," and a stand-up comic of 15 years, the 38-year-old Colonna also authored a New York Times bestseller and showed up on Elle Magazine's 2012 Women in Hollywood Power List

Shortly before jetting off to Chicago, she talked about her relationship with Handler, women in comedy and an old joke that makes her cringe to this day. Warning: some material may not be suitable for all readers.

On her recent inclusion in Elle Magazine's Women in Hollywood Power List
I didn't even know I had any power when that came out. I was pretty excited. Even my publicist didn't know. And I guess Chelsea didn't know. She's used to being on those kinds of lists and I'm not. I might have sent my mom and couple copies.

On being crazy busy with "Chelsea Lately"
It's funny. People are always like, "That looks like fun. You must be drunk when you're doing the roundtable." I'm like, "No, no, we tape at four o'clock in the afternoon. I know what kind of atmosphere we give off, but trust me, we wouldn't be able to function if we were doing the show the way some people perceive."

On how her relationship with Handler has evolved
"It's been pretty great, because I've known her for a very long time. We met when we were 22 or 23 in this improv class that we were both taking. We both were not that great at improv and we both were aspiring to standup. So going to write for her, I was a little nervous. I thought, 'I wonder if this is going to be strange for our relationship.' But it's actually only made it better, because there's mutual respect."

On how vast income disparity affects the dynamic between her and Handler
The main way she's different from me, knowing her as a waitress and knowing her now, is she definitely dresses better and has more expensive clothes. And she doesn't live in a one-bedroom apartment anymore, obviously. But it does change in some ways, because she's one of those people who, if the dinner bill comes and there are six people...She feels like the person who's making the most money and can afford to do it should be paying for stuff. It's a really nice way of looking at things, but at times you go, "Let me get something." You just have to pull a fast one on her and give the credit card the minute you walk in.

Sarah Colonna at Zanies
Zanies -- St. Charles
Saturday, March 23 at 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.
Tickets $25 (plus two item food/beverage minimum)

Zanies -- Rosemont
Sunday, March 24 at 7 p.m.
Tickets $25 (plus two item food/beverage minimum)

Visit NBCNews.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Oscar-winning director William Friedkin, who was born and raised in Chicago, will appear April 16 at the Harold Washington Library to discuss his autobiography, "The Friedkin Connection." The book is being released the same day.

Best known for "The Exorcist" and "The French Connection," Friedkin will be discussing his life and work with Adam Kempenaar, co-founder and host of the podcast and radio show "Filmspotting." The free discussion starts at 6 p.m. in the Cindy Pritzker Auditorium at the Harold Washington Library, 400 S. State St.

Friedkin was born in Chicago in 1935 and grew up in Uptown, at Gunnison and Sheridan. He directed TV on WGN before moving to Los Angeles in 1965.

According to Variety: "Friedkin's book does the unthinkable: It relates the behind-the-scenes stories of his triumphs but also sees Friedkin take responsibility (brutally so) for his wrong calls. . . . He captures the gut-wrenching shifts of a filmmaker's life."

In celebration of his career, the Chicago Public Library will be screening two of his films. "The French Connection" will be shown at 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at the Harold Washington Library. "The Exorcist" will be shown at 6 p.m. April 9, also at the Harold Washington Library. All events are free.

For more information, click here.

Source: Jeopardy! Productions, Inc.

There's a Chicagoan on Jeopardy! today, and if the picture above is any indication, he's pretty excited to be there.

Steve Rininger is an attorney from the Windy City. On his Jeopardy! "Hometown Howdy," he manages to fit a number of Chicago cliches into this six-second spot.

Good luck, Steve. He'll be on at 2:30 p.m. on WLS-7 (ABC Channel 7).

In other Jeopardy! news, the New York Post reported earlier this week that Matt Lauer is being considered as the replacement for Alex Trebek when he retires, apparently in 2016.

HBO dims the lights for 'Enlightened'

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HBO's "Enlightened" joins a growing list of series stranded by the cable channel.

"Enlightened," which stars Laura Dern as an unstable woman trying to find her place in life, has been shelved after its second season. In a statement Tuesday, HBO called the cancellation a "very difficult decision."

The series joins other cult favorites that HBO abruptly killed, including "Bored to Death," "Deadwood," "Hung" and the horse-track drama "Luck," which didn't even make it past its first-season finish line.

"Enlightened," created by Dern and co-star Mike White, was critically acclaimed but low-rated. Last year, Dern won a Golden Globe for best TV comedy actress for her role as a manic depressive turned activist. The cast also included Diane Ladd and Luke Wilson.


ABC announced the following finale dates for the 2012-13 season (all times CT):

"The Neighbors"
Wednesday, March 27
7:30-8:00 p.m.
"Suburgatory" (special one-hour finale)
Wednesday, April 17
7:00-8:00 p.m.
"Wife Swap"
Thursday, May 2
7:00-8:00 p.m.
"Red Widow"
Sunday, May 5
9:01-10:00 p.m.
Tuesday, May 7
7:00-8:00 p.m.
"Once Upon a Time"
Sunday, May 12
7:00-8:00 p.m.
"Revenge" (two hours)
8:00-10:00 p.m.
Monday, May 13
9:01-10:00 p.m.
"Grey's Anatomy"
Thursday, May 16
8:00-9:02 p.m.
9:02-10:00 p.m.
"Shark Tank"
Friday, May 17
8:00-9:00 p.m.
"America's Funniest Home Videos"
Sunday, May 19
6:00-7:00 p.m.
"Dancing with the Stars" (performance show)
Monday, May 20
7:00-8:00 p.m.
"Dancing with the Stars" (results show)
Tuesday, May 21
7:00-9:01 p.m.

"The Middle"
Wednesday, May 22
7:00-7:30 p.m.
"Modern Family"
8:00-8:31 p.m.
9:00-10:00 p.m.

"Body of Proof"
Tuesday, May 28
9:01 p.m.-10:00 p.m.

When: Through March 30
Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress
Tickets: $28-$85
Info: (800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Run time: 2 hours and 30, minutes with one intermission

The easiest way to think about "Priscilla Queen of the Desert, The Musical," is to imagine what has become the most popular of Broadway cocktails in recent decades.

The recipe goes like this: Take two shots of "La Cage aux Folles" (on steroids). Mix with a big splash of "Mamma Mia!" Add a dash of "Hairspray," and just the vaguest hint of "The Full Monty." Shake well, garnish with about 500 costumes and giant umbrellas, and pour into oversized glasses labeled "The Down Under Special (or The Best Little Self-Esteem Tonic for Drag Queens and Transexuals Traveling from the Bright Lights of Sydney to the Farflung Reaches of Alice Springs)."

And while you're at it, inject a father-son acceptance story. And in classic Edward Albee fashion, go on to suggest that straight men are either brute bigots or secretly dreaming of a homosexual encounter. And there is always the matter of "a child."

And oh, don't forget the jukebox score from the 1960s through the '80s, which, it must be said, is used to clever effect at times. And it's a good thing, too, because there is precious more than the thinnest thread -- and a whole lot of tiresome "old school" gay bitchiness -- holding together this Technicolor spectacle, now making a national touring stop at the Auditorium Theatre.

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Rachel Barton Pine

If you've ever wanted to hear a nuts-and-bolts explanation of how nationally and internationally known musicians do what they do, here's your chance. Starting April 23 and continuing through May 9, an array of accomplished artists will enlighten Northwestern students during master classes and performances. Many of the events, presented by the university's Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music, are open to the public and many are free.

Here's the rundown for April:

Tuesday, April 16 at 4:30 p.m.
Regenstein Recital Hall
Master class by classical violinist and heavy metal rocker Rachel Barton Pine
Admission is free

Tuesday, April 23 at 7 p.m.
Lutkin Hall
Master class by flutist Leone Buyse
Admission is free

Wednesday, April 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
Performance by cellist Alisa Weilerstein and pianist Inon Barnatan
Admission $24, $10 for students

Thursday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m.
Regenstein Recital Hall
Performance by Ensemble Dal Niente
Admission is free

Friday, April 26 at 7:30 p.m.
Pick-Staiger Concert Hall
Performance by pianist Jeffrey Siegel
Admission $22, $16 for students


It's been long rumored -- and widely expected -- that late night talk show host Jimmy Fallon would ultimately be Jay Leno's successor on the Tonight Show. However, Bill Carter of the New York Times reported Wednesday that not only is there an unwritten agreement for that succession, but that the Tonight Show will also return to its original New York City roots, once Fallon slips into Leno's chair.
There is no time frame for this turnover and Leno's current contract runs into the fall of 2014.
The rationale for the New York move reportedly is due to several factors -- including Fallon's own roots and preferences (the former "Saturday Night Live" mainstay is an Albany, NY native) and the executive producer of Fallon's "Late Night" show is "SNL" creator and head honcho Lorne Michaels.


Los Angeles has it. New York has it. Even Dallas has it.

Now, Chicago, it is your turn.

Drybar, the chic chain of blow drying bars, is coming to Lincoln Park in the next six months, said Alli Webb, Drybar's co-founder.

Webb said the location will be near Whole Foods, 1500 North Kingsbury, an area that she thinks will embrace the concept of a salon that doesn't offer a cut and curl but instead a $35 blowout.

"It's got a good mix -- there are a lot of young girls and also a lot of moms," Webb told the Sun-Times on Wednesday. "That's what's great for us."

Chicago has two blow dry salons -- Blowtique and Blow-by-Blow -- but the concept hasn't caught on here like other cities (blow outs at both of these local blow dry salons are also priced at $35).

Webb said there's nothing about Chicago that has kept her business away.

"I live in L.A. and spent a good part of my 20's in New York," she said. "Initially we went to places that we knew and knew that this was needed. We've been getting so many requests for Chicago. I'm so happy we are getting there."


International piano virtuoso Lang Lang will be honored at the annual gala of the Music Institute of Chicago May 13. Currently celebrating it's 83rd year, the group will present Lang with its Dushkin Award at the Four Seasons Hotel event, chaired by Susan B. Noyes and Catherine A. Daniels.
The award was established 27 years ago and named for the Music Institute's founders, Dorothy and David Dushkin -- to recognize international luminaries in the world of music for their contributions to the art form, as well as the education of youth.
The Music Institute of Chicago is the oldest community music school in Illinois and one of the three largest community music schools in the nation.
Previous recipients of the Dushkin Award have included Stephen Sondheim, Riccardo Muti, Yo-Yo Ma, Renee Fleming, Placido Domingo, Isaac Stern, Sir Georg Solti and Pierre Boulez.
For ticket information call (847) 448-8327.

CFF Invite.jpg

Local fashion design students will be showing off their stuff at the 6th annual Future of Chicago Fashion event, from 7 to 11 p.m. Thursday, March 21 at the Hard Rock Hotel.

Sponsored by the Chicago Fashion Foundation, the designers focused on specific time periods that they selected. The 15 local students will be competing for scholarship money.

Tickets, which run from $15 to $75, can be purchased here.


Local artists will be part of what looks to be a powerful protest against gun violence on Sunday in Daley Plaza. And you are welcome to join them.

Artists Against Gun Violence will stage their public performance at noon March 24 under the Picasso at Daley Plaza. There, they will "freeze their hands in the air, then slowly melt to the floor in a lifeless position," according to information from the group. Then a participant will trace their body in a chalk outline, writing a word or phrase like "suicide" or "ENOUGH, 30,000 a year," the number of Americans killed annually by gun violence.

A similar protest in New York City attracted stars of Broadway shows including "Annie," "Spiderman: Turn off the Dark" and the musical "Chicago."

The flash mob is the idea of artist Lorin Latarro, currently working in New York City as the associate choreographer of the musical "Hands on a Hardbody." Latarro organized the first flash mob in New York City in response to the Sandy Hook, Conn. school shootings.

"If I can have one person change their mind on this, then I have succeeded," Latarro told Newsday.

Mark Walsh, campaign director at the Illinois Council Against Handgun Violence, said anyone who shows up can participate.

"It's another way to draw attention to the issue of gun violence, from an artistic poit of view as opposed to some of the other ways such as public policy," he said.

For more information about the Chicago flash mob, click here or visit the group's Facebook page.

Food is a big part of any cruise, but "Top Chef" is taking that to a new level with an April cruise that allows passengers to rub elbows and break bread with the show's judges and chefs.

Former winners and contestants on the Bravo cooking competition will set sail April 11 on a four-night sojourn with hosts Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons on the Celebrity Constellation. The trip leaves from Miami and stops in Key West and Cozumel, Mexico.

Season 10 winner Kristen Kish and finalist Brooke Williamson are among the featured guests who will take part in a host of activities, from Quickfire challenges and Q&A sessions to dance parties and cooking demos. Other "Top Chef" personalities who will be onboard: Season nine fan favorite "Malibu" Chris Crary, Richard Blais, Yigit Pura, Paul Qui, Fabio Viviani (who recently opened his new eatery in Chicago), Hubert Keller, Tim Love, Tiffany Derry, Chris Hanmer, Michael Isabella, Spike Mendelsohn, Hosea Rosenberg, Angelo Sosa and Casey Thompson.

It's not all about cooking. Guests can play ping pong with Spike, jet ski with Casey and try their luck at poker with Hosea and Mike.

Staterooms are on sale at www.topchefthecruise.com.

Alpana Singh | Sun-Times files

WTTW-Channel 11 is asking fans of its popular restaurant-rating show to weigh in on who deserves to be the next "Check, Please!" host.

The public television network posted an online list of 17 finalists Wednesday, complete with their bios and audition videos. Voting ends at 11:59 p.m. April 17.

Keep in mind that WTTW isn't leaving the whole decision up to you. The online voting tally in combination with input from WTTW producers and staff and the producers of "Check, Please!" will be considered in deciding who will take former host Alpana Singh's spot at the table, an announcement that's expected to be made May 1.

The 17 finalists are:

Retooling Shakespeare

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Shakespeare is the man of the moment on Chicago stages. But given all the "artistic license" directors indulge in when it comes to his work, you might find yourself wondering: Is the playwright rolling over in his grave or is he dancing a merry jig?

I'd wager he is dancing. The man was a master of digging into old sources and making them his own through the power of his language, the astonishing variety of his characters, and his ability to address the turbulence of his own society through indirection. And of course Shakespeare was living in what was the present for HIM, so, as Jan Kott famously noted in his 1961 classic, "Shakespeare Our Contemporary," it is the job of every director to find correspondences that can connect him to OUR time.

Consider these current Chicago productions of his work:

± "Julius Caesar" (at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre through March 24): British director Jonathan Munby often tries too hard for relevance. His production is best in its most intimate scenes. Call (312) 595-5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes,org.

± "Julius Caesar" (presented through April 20 by the Babe With Blades Theatre Company at Raven Theatre): This all-female company that "uses stage combat to place women center stage," reprises its popular take on Shakespeare's tale of power, politics and betrayal. As artistic director Leigh Barrett has said: "Sometimes, when playing these characters, we have to ask, 'How do I act this differently as a woman?' But while I wouldn't call the characters in this play 'genderless,' their sexuality is not at the center. They are politicians fighting to keep their power at a time when they're essentially losing it." Call (773) 904-0391 or visit www.babeswithblades.org.

± "Coriolanus" (a production of The Hypocrites at Chopin Theatre through April 23): War and politics, "the people" and "the family" -- they're all at play here with director Geoff Button and fight choreographer Ryan Bourque teaming to conjure a full-fledged bloodbath that engulfs the audience.

± "Measure for Measure" at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn through April 14): As you may have heard by now, director Robert Falls' gargantuan production of this play about corruption, extremism and hypocrisy is set in the down-and-out New York City of the 1970s. Call (312) 443-3800 or visit www.GoodmanTheatre.org.
± "Othello: The Remix" at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Upstairs through April 28): This hip-hop version of the tragedy set in motion by jealousy showcases the great ingeniousness of Chicago's Q Brothers. Four terrific actors and a DJ seize hold of the retooled language and beatbox rhythms in a unique way. Call (312) 595-5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.org.

± "Red Hamlet" (a Red Theater Chicago production at Stage 773 through April 21): Written and directed by Aaron Sawyer, this take on the beleagured Danish prince merges elements of vaudeville, dance and poetry in a modern text "that remains respectful to Shakespeare's tale." I haven't seen it, but Hamlet's always worth a krone or two. Call (773) 327-5252 or visit www.stage773.com.

The 'Da Vinci' freebie

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davinci.book.JPGDoubleday is offering up Dan Brown's "The Da Vinci Code" for free through March 24 through all e-book retailers, including Amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com, in honor of the mega-bestseller's 10th anniversary.

Included in the download is the prologue and chapter one of Brown's next thriller, "Inferno," due for a May 14 release.

David Salle, who was born in Oklahoma in 1952, andhas lived and worked in New York or decades, was one of the hottest painters on the American scene in the 1980s, and he continues to do provocative work. Along with such artists as Julian Schnabel and Eric Fischl, he made his mark as a major force in postmodernism, creating collaged canvases filled with intriguing, moody juxtapositons of figures and evocative objects, and reigniting interest in the painted canvas after a period in which photography and the new media had grabbed the spotlight.

In an exhibition running May 14-Aug. 10, The Arts Club of Chicago, 201 E. Ontario, will present "David Salle: Ghost Paintings," featuring selections from a series of 14 previously unexhibited works made in 1992 that can be seen as a merger of painting, photography and performance.

The "Ghost Paintings" show photographic images printed on linen of a woman creating improvised movements with a large piece of fabric. These images have been overpainted with horizontal fields of intense color, creating work that exists on three levels: "As a photographic subject (the fabric in the dancer's hands); as a readymade ground (the linen imprinted with photographs), and as a traditional surface for the application of paint."

A public open house is scheduled for 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. on 18 May, with a gallery talk by the curator and Chicago artist Gaylen Gerber at 1 p.m.

The Arts Club's exhibitions are free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. - 6 p.m. Tues. - Fri. and 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. Sat. Call (312) 787-3997 or visit www..artsclubchicago.org.

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Mumford & Sons is playing Lollapalooza this August

The annual music fest kicks off Aug 2, and Greg Kot at the Chicago Tribune reports Mumford & Sons, Phoenix, Vampire Weekend and the Killers are among the headliners.

Lollapalooza organizers C3 Productions had no comment on the report Tuesday. The official lineup will be announced the second week of April.

Other sources confirmed to Kot that the National is also slated to perform.

Early ticket sales begin next Tuesday at 10 a.m. Three-day passes are $200, but a special $75 pass will go on sale at some point this week, only on the website.

Talk about tilting at windmills. For its final production before closing up shop after eight years as a highly original and creative ensemble working out of the West Loop, the Building Stage will present the world premiere of artistic director Blake Montgomery's "Dawn, Quixote."

Developed and performed by Gabriel Franken, Michael Hamilton, Chelsea Keenan, Kate Suffern, Anne Walaszek and Nathan Wonder, the production will put a playful spin on Cervantes' masterpiece of the Spanish Golden Age as it follows the misadventures of Don Quixote and his squire Sancho. Creating a personal, poetic exploration of the cost of dreaming, this playful adaptation of the Quixote myth -- for six actors with fake beards, imaginary horses and ukuleles -- will be, as Montogomery describes it, "an existential fantasy, inspired in equal parts by Cervantes, Samuel Beckett and Sergio Leone."

The Building Stage has developed a reputation for adapting and reinventing classic tales. One of its most lauded productions was the 2011 award-winning "Moby-Dick."

Tickets for the "Dawn, Quixote" previews are $15 ($5 students/children), with those for the regular run $25-$30 ($15-$20 students/children). Call (312) 491-1369 or visit www. buildingstage.com.

Montgomery, who is closing The Building Stage in order to follow new theatrical and educational pursuits, said, "We are sad to be closing but terribly proud of what we've created since 2005. Most importantly, the relationships we've developed with Chicago's theater community, both artists as well as patrons, has been incredibly rewarding. We want to thank everyone who has supported the company and venue with their time, money and attention. We couldn't have done it without them."

Theater Wit and The Inconvenience are teaming to present a late-night, live multi-medium revue .

Titled "The Inconvenience Presents..., " the new monthly series kicks off March 23 at 10:30 p.m. with "The Inconvenience Presents Urban Lore: Tales from the Concrete Jungle." Hear live storytellers share true tales of the weird and bizarre that can only happen in urban settings.

According to Chris Chmilek, artistic director of The Inconvenience, "For this first installment, audiences can expect a broad range of storytellers all telling tales about life in the city late into the night. We want each act to feel like a section of an old EC Horror Comics installment. Think Tales From the Crypt or the like."

Also on tap this Saturday will be live music by the atomic space punk band Earth Program, plus a variety of drink specials at the Theater Wit bar.

The Inconvenience Presents... series, set to repeat the fourth Saturday of every month, will make full use of Theater Wit's three-theater complex at 1229 W. Belmont. Tickets are $6 in advance or $8 at the door. A four-ticket Flex Pass to the series is $20. For tickets and information call (773) 975-8150 or visit TheaterWit.org.

Note: the Incovenience collective's most recent production, Ike Holter's" Hit The Wall," about the 1969 Stonewall riots, played to sold out houses at the Steppenwolf Garage and Theatre on the Lake in 2012 and is currently receiving its New York debut at the Barrow Street Theatre through July 7, 2013. For more information about the company, visit theinconvenience.org.

War and redemption are to the operative themes in Lifeline Theatre's 2013-2014 season during which three books -- set against the Civil War, the French Revolution and a satire-ripe contemporary conflagration -- will be adapted for the stage.

Here's a closer look at the mainstage lineup:
± "The Killer Angels" (Sept. 6 - Oct. 27): Based on the 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Michael Shaara, and adapted by Karen Tarjan, the story told here unspools during the third summer of the Civil War as General Robert E. Lee leads the Army of Northern Virginia into the North and the Army of the Potomac has no choice but to pursue.
± "A Tale of Two Cities" (Feb. 14 - April 6, 2014): This world premiere adaptation of the 1859 classic by Charles Dickens, adapted by Christopher M. Walsh and directed by Elise Kauzlaric, is set as the Reign of Terror sweeps through Paris, destroying both the high and low.
± "Monstrous Regimen" (May 30 - July 20, 2014): A world premiere based on the 2003 Discworld novel by Terry Pratchett and adapted by Chris Hainsworth, this story unfolds as the fictional Borogravia is at war -- yet again. When Polly Perks' brother goes missing in action, she does what any girl would do, disguising herself as a man and enlisting.

Lifeline's much-admired KidSeries will feature: The world premiere of "Click, Clack, Boo! A Tricky Treat" (Oct. 19 - Nov. 24); "The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!" (Jan. 11- Feb. 16, 2014) and the world premiere of "Lyle Finds His Mother" (March 22 - April 27, 2014).

Also planned at Lifeline is the Georgette Heyer Reading Series (Dec. 4, 2013 - April 2, 2014), and the 17th Annual Fillet of Solo Festival (Jan. 2-19, 2014)

Season subscriptions and single tickets for the 2013-2014 MainStage and KidSeries seasons are on sale now. Lifeline Theatre is located at 6912 N. Glenwood. Call (773) 761-4477 or visit www.lifelinetheatre.com.

Obama basher begins work on second doc

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Last year, Dinesh D'Souza's documentary "2016: Obama's America," which attacked what it deems as the president's socialist agenda, stunned pundits by becoming a box-office sensation. Now the doc's filmmakers have announced a sequel of sorts, titled "AMERICA." (All caps, please.)

Conservative author D'Souza will return as writer and host. "Americans are right to be terrified as they see the transformation of America take place before their very eyes," he said Tuesday in a statement. "President Obama looks at America as an oppressive force, both against its own citizens and abroad, while I and millions of others have a different view: that America has been a great blessing to its own people and to the world. We intend to provide both serious answers and have some fun as we take Obama's dreams for America to their logical conclusions."

"AMERICA," directed by John Sullivan, who co-helmed "2016" with D'Souza, is scheduled to be released in mid-2014.

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Credit: imdb.com

The first and only time I saw comic/actor Chris Tucker in the flesh, he was resplendent in what must have been a hugely expensive white turtleneck sweater. He'd dropped by the old Sun-Times building at 401 N. Wabash with his humanitarian pals Bono (the U2 demigod) and actress Ashley Judd to talk up some global initiative or another. Needless to say, the editorial meeting was packed wall-to-wall that day. And, yes, Bono is very short.

Anyway, fresh off his co-starring role in the award-winning film "Silver Linings Playbook" and after finally settling some nagging tax issues, Tucker is hitting the road again as a stand-up comic, which he's been doing increasingly since 2011 after taking an extended (if unscheduled) break from movies.

Right around that time, in fact, the once highly paid actor's Florida mansion was threatened with foreclosure.

Tucker's at the Chicago Theatre for two shows April 12 at 8 p.m. (sold out) and 11 p.m.

Warning: the following videos contain material that may not be suitable for all viewers

Chester Gregory adds second show at Black Ensemble Theater

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Chester Gregory's one-man show, "The Eve of Jackie Wilson" has proven to be extremely popular, so much so that Black Ensemble Theater has announced one additional performance, at 7:30 p.m. March 25.

In the show, Gregory stars as Wilson during his final days, "revealing another side to the man who truly gave his all and left it on stage." The show arrives on the heels of its sold-out New York run in February.

The performances take place at the new Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark. For tickets, $45, call (773) 769-4451 or visit www.blackensemble.org.

Danni Allen lost 121 pounds but her bank account got a lot fatter.

The Wheeling woman won $250,000 on "The Biggest Loser" by an oh-so-thin margin of 1 pound during the live finale Monday of NBC's weight-loss show.

Allen, who grew up in Mundelein, said Tuesday that she plans to use some of those winnings to live up to a deal she cut with runner-up Jeff Nichols of Michigan.

"We promised each other we would reward the other one with a vacation," said Allen, adding that they'll likely be accompanied by Nichols' girlfriend, fellow season 14 contestant Francelina Morillo.

"I'll be the third wheel," Allen, 26, said with a laugh. "But everybody's talking about how I'm single and hot now, so maybe I'll find my man on this vacation, too."

Michelle Shocked lives up to name with anti-gay tirade

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American singer-songwriter Michelle Shocked went on an anti-gay tirade at a Sunday night concert -- which resulted in the show being shut down, as well as a Chicago-area concert canceled.

During the performance at San Francisco club Yoshi's, according to witnesses, Shocked began barking these gems to the crowd: "When they stop Prop 8 and force priests at gunpoint to marry gays, it will be the downfall of civilization, and Jesus will come back," and "You can go on Twitter and say, 'Michelle Shocked says God hates fags.' "

Mystery, questions around Lil Wayne hospitalization

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The report of my death was an exaggeration.
-- Mark Twain

In September 1969, an article in the campus newspaper at Iowa's Drake University sparked the frenzied speculation that Paul McCartney might be dead. The rumor bedeviled McCartney for some time.

Last week's reports of Lil Wayne being at death's doorstep may have been exaggerated, but a similarly bedeviling, rumor-fueled mystery surrounds the circumstances of the rapper's hospitalization -- and was his health anywhere near as dire as initially reported?


Breathe deeply, yoginis.

Lululemon Athletica Inc. announced Monday that they've pulled 17 percent of their woman's black bottoms from their stores because they were a little too see-through. Reuters reported that shares of the athletic wear company fell 6 percent on the news of the black pant shortage.

"The ingredients, weight and longevity qualities of the women's black luon bottoms remain the same but the coverage does not, resulting in a level of sheerness in some of our women's black luon bottoms that fall short of our very high standards," the company said in a media statement.

The impacted pants are "concentrated in our tighter fitting silhouettes in women's black luon bottoms." Luon is a nylon and Lycra spandex combo that doesn't come cheap -- the pants above retail for $78.

The issue first came up March 11 during a weekly conference call with store managers, some who "expressec concern over the sheerness of some of our women's black luon bottoms."

Company officials are still trying to figure out what happened to the fabric, according to the release. Customers who purchased the affected pants since March 1 can return them for a full refund.


Harrison Ford, who was just in Chicago Monday, headed to Washington Tuesday to join the U.S. House General Aviation Caucus to "discuss issues of importance to the general aviation community," Missouri GOP U.S. Rep. Sam Graves said in a statement.
Ford famously feuded with former Chicago mayor Richard M. Daley after telling the Chicago Sun-Times about his anger over Daley's "Midnight Surprise" -- the destruction of the runway at the former Meigs Field on the city's lakefront. The closing of Meigs led to the creation of the Northerly Island recreation and park area.
Ford's Tuesday visit to the nation's capital repeats a similar effort in 2011.
In his statement, Graves, a caucus co-chair, also said, "I'm pleased to welcome Harrison Ford to [Tuesday's] discussion and look forward to hearing his thoughts on the timely issues of importance to America's pilots."
Ford was in Chicago Monday as the guest of honor at a party hosted by Michigan Avenue magazine at Chicago Cut restaurant. The actor is the magazine's cover feature this month -- part of his promotion for the April 12 release of "42," the film about Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball. Ford portrays Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey in the film.


Sixteen-year-old Disney Channel star Zendaya stole the show on tonight's premiere of season 16 of "Dancing with the Stars" with a gorgeous contemporary dance routine that earned the night's loudest standing-o.

And rightfully so.

The bubbly teen (the youngest contestant ever in the history of the show), who's more at home with hip-hop and pop, proved she could dance as elegantly and passionately as many a seasoned dance pro. Her partner Val Chmerkovskiy doled out winning choreography for the pair, making her score of 24 from judges Carrie Ann Inaba, Len Goodman and Bruno Tonioli, the evening's chart-topper.

At the other end of the spectrum was comedian D.L. Hughley who managed only 12 points from the judges' paddles, including a biting diatribe from Goodman who proclaimed Boogie Fantastic's debut cha-cha-cha was simply "no good."

Olympic gold medal winner Dorothy Hamill, the most senior of the cast's celebrity contestants this season, was elegant, sophisticated and right on target with her turn at contemporary dance. With her partner, the always charming Tristan MacManus to lead her, Hamill earned a respectable 21 from the judges.

"Bachelor" Sean Lowe earned 19 points for his flat-footed fox trot with partner (and season 14 champ) Peta Murgatroyd. Goodman (who came out of the judges' dias with a vengeance tonight) commented that Lowe's quality of movement wasn't up to snuff.

Chicago's in the Pink with two more shows this fall

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If you missed her earlier this month, here's your second (and third chance). Pop star Pink has announced two additional Chicago dates on her current Truth About Love Tour": Nov. 5 at the United Center and Nov. 20 at the Allstate Arena.

Tickets go on sale to the public March 30 on livenation.com. American Express card holders get early ticket access, from March 25-29. More info at thetruthaboutlovetour.com.

'Othello: The Remix'
When: Through April 28
Where: Chicago Shakespeare Theater Upstairs, 800 E. Grand on Navy Pier
Tickets: $20-$35
Info: (312) 595-5600; www.chicagoshakes.com
Run time: 95 minutes with one intermission

Yo Billy Shakes, turn your beatbox up to high
Cause "Othello' (yeah, "The Remix") is aimin' for the sky.
It's scratchin' your iambic in a "pent"-up sort of way
Yeah, those Brothers known as Qs are givin' rappers their best day.
Their Moor's a big chart-topper with a tour headin' out
Desdemona is the singer with some bling from "O" to tout
Five guys up there on stage are givin' every single breath,
And a pillow's all that's needed when poor "D" is put to death.

To cut to the chase: "Othello: The Remix" -- the 90-minute, lightening-fast, hip-hop version of Shakespeare's tragic tale of jealousy and self-doubt, is absolutely brilliant, and immense fun.

The show, which wholly reimagines the original, is now in its U.S. debut at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Upstairs. Written, directed and musicalized by Chicago's Q Brothers (with help from Rick Boynton), it was devised for London's 2012 "Globe to Globe" Cultural Olympiad, and subsequently toured to Edinburgh and Germany. And while it has been "transferred" from Renaissance Venice to 21st century America, it turns out to be every bit as faithful to the play's core meaning and message as poor Desdemona was to Othello.

Scott Speck, currently the excellent Music Director of the Joffrey Ballet, has been named the new Artistic Director of the Chicago Philharmonic, the "official orchestra" of the Joffrey. Speck will take the helm June 1, 2013.

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It seems Chicago-born-and-bred author Michael Hainey ("After Visiting Friends"), whom I interviewed recently, has struck up a Twitter rapport with formerly Chicago-based OWN host Rosie O'Donnell, another Sun-Times subject -- of mine and others. In short, she dug his memoir and thinks it would make a great movie. Could a sales bump/feature film be in the offing?

Here's their online back-and-forth:

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When: Through April 14
Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Tickets: $25-$86
Info: (312) 443-3800; www.GoodmanTheatre.org
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

A profoundly corrupt clergy. Hypocritical, moralistic politicians engaged in sexual indiscretions that run the gamut. Cops with a taste for brutality. A thriving sex industry that knows the power of a payoff. Prisons packed with both the deserving and undeserving. A crumbling infrastructure. Drugs.

It is not at all hard to see why director Robert Falls chose to stage Shakespeare's "Measure for Measure" now. The play could be a riff on current headlines. But of course it's always more palatable to hold the mirror up to nature at a slight remove, so he has taken us back to New York in the 1970s, a period (and I lived through it) when the city was at its nadir -- plagued with drugs, smut and vast encampments of the homeless living in cardboard boxes that stretched onto Fifth Avenue. Of course there also was disco, and Donna Summer singing her 1978 hit, "Last Dance."

So yes, a fitting transposition, and when the Elizabethan references don't quite synch, Falls uses Brechtian tactics and winks at us.

For all its steamy depravity, "Measure for Measure" is an emotionally cold play about the inevitable backfire triggered by all forms of extremism, whether "in the pursuit of liberty" or "law and order." And this production is notably chilly. In fact, it is difficult to feel invested in the crucial plot line that finds a novice nun, Isabella (Alejandra Escalante), foreced to choose between giving up her virginity to the odious city deputy, Angelo (a deftly smarmy Jay Whittaker), or seeing the execution of her brother, Claudio (Kevin Fugaro), go forward.

Far more engaging are the scenes that unfold in grim city offices, with a particularly hilarious court hearing full of the flotsam and jetsam of society, and a tic-ridden cop (Sean Fortunato is priceless) trying to make his case. James Newcomb is spot-on as the dual-faced "mayor in absentia" who disguises himself as an Irish priest. A.C. Smith (will someone please write a one-man show about Harold Washington for this actor?) is ideal as a prison warden. Aaron Todd Douglas is on top of his game as a fast-thinking pimp. Joe Foust is memorable as both a Roman Catholic cardinal and homicidal prisoner. Jeffrey Carlson is a stylish, sexually ambiguous fop in Tom Wolfe couture. And Celeste M. Cooper is impressive as Juliet, a most unfortunate woman.

Walt Spangler's set is period perfect but elephantine in this play in which there are no good deeds, and many who go unpunished.

They blew away Led Zeppelin with an explosive cover of "Stairway to Heaven," and now Heart leaders Ann and Nancy Wilson are taking that act on the road.
The band announced Monday that each of its summer concerts -- including a July 29 date at Ravinia -- will conclude with 30-minute Zep tribute featuring drummer Jason Bonham, son of Led Zeppelin's late John Bonham.
The Wilson sisters met Jason Bonham when he backed them up at December's Kennedy Center Honors tribute to his dad's band, including the powerhouse "Stairway" cover that seemed to thrill Led Zeppelin founders (and audience members) Robert Plant, John Paul Jones and Jimmy Page.
"We have the blessings of the gods themselves," Nancy Wilson said.
Heart also promises to play its own hits -- "Barracuda," "These Dreams," etc. Bonham will be on the bill with his band Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin Experience.
Ravinia tickets for the 2013 season go on sale at www.ravinia.org on April 25.

Chicago's dining scene is well-represented on this years list of James Beard Award chef and restaurant finalists.

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Jimmy Bannos Jr. of the Purple Pig

Among those on the list are Blackbird chef de cuisine David Posey and Jimmy Bannos Jr. from the Purple Pig for rising star chef; and best chef finalists Stephanie Izard (Girl & the Goat); Andrew Zimmerman (Sepia); Paul Virant (Vie) and Dave Beran (Next).

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Dave Beran

Paul Kahan of Blackbird is among the five nationwide nominees up for best chef.

Also on the list of award contenders are Tony Mantuano's Spiaggia, nominated in the best restaurant category; Rick Bayless' Topolobampo for outstanding service; and Curtis Duffy's Grace for best new restaurant.


The awards will be handed out on May 6 in New York.

Tony Awards set for June 9 at Radio City

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The 2013 Tony Awards will be returning to Radio City Music Hall for the first time in three years.

Broadway's biggest night will be telecast live at 7 p.m. on CBS on June 9 from the historic venue. The theater was not available for the awards ceremony in 2011 and 2012, and the coveted statuettes were handed out at the Beacon Theater.

Though Neil Patrick Harris has hosted the ceremony for the past few years, no official announcement has been made about this year's hosting duties.

Beginning April 30, a limited number of tickets to the awards show will be available to the general public at www.TonyAwards.com.


One of "Top Chef"'s most controversial contestants will be at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum,
2430 N. Cannon Drive, on Saturday during the weekly Green City Market.

Heather Terhune, former "Top Chef Texas" contestant and currently executive chef at Sable Kitchen and Bar, will be doing the market's weekly chef demonstration at 10:30 a.m. The market runs Saturdays from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Entertainment Weekly called Terhune one of 12 top "Top Chef" villains, writing "Heather cast an ugly shadow over Top Chef Texas when she strongly suggested Asian cooking is less worthy and creative than her own ''rustic American'' style. She viciously attacked her teammate Beverly in front of the judges even though Beverly's elimination would mean they'd both be eliminated, and she berated Beverly for repeatedly cooking Asian food even though she used someone else's cake recipe twice in her short time in the competition."

After being booted for a disastrous beef stroganoff, Terhune told TV Guide that she wasn't a bully, despite what you may have seen on the tube.

"I think people made it seem worse than what it really was," she said in this interview. "I have a very direct personality and she does not. That's not bullying. I have no ill will toward Beverly. She wasn't a so-called target or anything. I am very blunt and to the point. I'm very honest and I say anything to your face. I never, ever said anything off-camera that I didn't say to you on-camera. And some people did! Other contestants said some very hurtful things I saw unfold while watching the show and some people have said some very hurtful things to the press about me during this whole process."

Obama-Satan controversy, uhm, plagues 'The Bible'

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Twitter was awash with plenty of buzz this weekend as the character of Satan made his first appearance in the hugely successful History channel mini-series "The Bible."

The apparent controversy surrounded the "look" of the character, which many on the social media site compared to President Obama.

In real life, the actor portraying the devil is Moroccan actor Mohamen Mehdi Ouazanni.

Apparently, the issue started making the Twitter rounds after Glenn Beck tweeted "Anyone else think the Devil in #TheBible Sunday on HIstory Channel looks exactly like That Guy? pic.twitter.com/nTpYRQ522p" on Saturday.

Mark Burnett, executive producer of the show, has of yet issued no official statement about the buzz.

Big news for Chicago's audacious Hypocrites theater. The company will be staging its zany, much-heralded version of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic, "The Pirates of Penzance" at the Actors Theatre of Louisville. The production will open on the mainstage there in Jan. 2014.

When: Through April 14
Where: Northlight Theatre, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
Tickets: $25-$72
Info: (847) 673-6300; www.northlight.org
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

Marie Jones, a working class, Belfast-bred actress and playwright, penned "Stones in His Pocket" in 1996, during the very moment when her neighbor, the Republic of Ireland, was turning into a roaring "Celtic Tiger" and experiencing a unique period of economic growth and expansion. Of course by 2008, the country was in deep recession, with escalating unemployment, and government bond ratings approaching junk status.

Now, seen in retrospect -- by way of an alternately rollicking and heartbreaking production at Northlight Theatre -- Jones' play serves as a reminder that nothing is forever, and that the promise of Hollywood's classic "happy endings" often turns out to be more demoralizing than it is spirit-raising. The play also suggests that what can look like a boon, whether to the economy or the spirit, can very easily turn into an identity-shattering bust.

So why is there so much giddy laughter during the course of "Stones in His Pocket"? In large part it is because just two continually morphing actors -- Brian Vaughn and David Ivers (who also happen to be co-artistic directors of the much-admired Utah Shakespeare Festival) -- conjure a cast of thousands. And they capture much of what is most magical about the whole process of acting, impersonation and that imaginative leap an audience takes when it winkingly agrees to believe in nothing more than performers' quicksilver shifts of body language, accents and attitudes.

Home. It's a simple word, but one charged with meaning. And often it is only when one loses one's home -- the result of war, or political exile, or natural disaster, or financial collapse -- that the power of such a place becomes fully understood.

Survivors of the Holocaust -- and there are fewer and fewer of them these days as age takes its toll -- are keenly aware of what it means to leave everything that was familiar behind. The "lucky ones" were able to leave their homes in some sort of deliberate way -- fleeing to safety in the nick of time. Of course most of those caught up in the horrors of that period were not so lucky.

In her new book, "heim.at.home -- Displaced and returned to a new home," the young Vienna-based author Diana Gregor tells the story of 10 Holocaust survivors' relationship to their homeland. They are Austrians whose country turned into a dangerous and alien place practically overnight. But all managed to escape to the United States - some with more, and some with fewer difficulties - to start a new life in New York.

Gregor will be in Chicago this week to present her book, with a reading and discussion in English to be held March 21 at 6 p.m. at the Goethe-Institut Chicago, 150 N. Michigan (Suite 200). She will be joined in conversation by Professor Leon Stein, whose has had a long association with Roosevelt University, done extensive research on the Holocaust, and created a curriculum on the Holocaust for the public schools of Illinois. The event is free and open to the public.

Enhanced by the images of photographer David Plakke, Gregor's book is an outgrowth of her doctoral dissertation which focused on Jewish identity and language as a "home." From 2006-2011 she lived and worked in New York.

The book is the documentation and record of a "reconciliatory relationship" by Holocaust survivors with their native country, and the unshakable love of their old home that has remained intact for more than seven decades. This concept of a native land or "heimat" is shared by many Austrian Holocaust survivors and has prevented them from breaking off completely with Austria.

Gregor's project is notable for its innovative design. The book, published in 2012, and available in English and German, has been devised to serve as "a historical milestone for future generations." So it has accompanying apps for iPad, iPhone, and Android devices, available for free download through the respective online portals. The app, which was developed in English and German, includes essays, short videos and interviews, as well as interactive maps that retrace the journeys of the Holocaust survivors.

For additional information visit www.goethe.de/chicago.

When: Through April 7
Where: Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis
Tickets: $45-$65
Info: (773) 753-4472; www.CourtTheatre.org
Run time: 2 hours with one intermission

Mathematicians often talk about "a beautiful proof" or "an elegant proof" -- suggesting the way all the elements of a fundamental problem can sometimes find ideal expression in those oddly abstract yet crucial things we call numbers.

Mathematical beauty on that level might well be beyond the understanding of most of us. But audiences can almost always identify a beautiful play when they see it. And there can be no doubt that David Auburn's 2001 Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning "Proof," now in an emotionally piercing (and, at many moments, downright funny) revival at Court Theatre, has a particular beauty and elegance in terms of its ideas, structure, and insights into the complex nature of inheritance, both intellectual and psychological. Like the play, this production is exceedingly smart. More importantly, it is fierce.

I've seen several different productions of this play over the years, but director Charles Newell, in collaboration with his ideal cast and inspired design team, has tapped some elemental truths here. And he has tapped the play's Stoppardlike spirit, too, suggesting that brainiacs are no better equipped at dealing with human passions than anyone else.

Morrissey cancels North American tour

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Morrissey has cancelled the remainder of his North American tour due to medical reasons, according to an official statement.

Nearly two dozen dates, including one on March 23 at the Chicago Theatre, have been cancelled after it was revealed the singer has been dealing with several medical issues including a bleeding ulcer, Barrett's esophagus and double pneumonia.

All tickets will be refunded at point of purchase.


The Second Presbyterian Church, at 1936 S. Michigan in the South Loop, has been officially designated a National Historic Landmark by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Built in 1987 but restored in 1900-1901 after a fire that spared the limestone exterior, the church has a sanctuary that's considered one of the nation's largest and best preserved Arts and Crafts interiors. It was designed by noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. It also features stained glass windows including nine by the firm of Louis Comfort Tiffany, and two rare English windows designed by Sir Edward Burne-Jones and manufactured by Morris & Co.

National Historic Landmark status represents the highest U.S. recognition for buildings and sites. The Second Presbyterian joins previously designated Chicago based National Historic Landmarks of Hull House, Glessner House, Crown Hall, Robie House, the Pullman Historic District, and the site of the first Self-Sustaining Nuclear Reaction.

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Credit: Chicago Sun-Times

First, a disclaimer: this isn't an endorsement of any kind, merely a re-telling of facts that supposedly are based on data gleaned from the cell phone GPS search queries of Chicagoans last St. Patrick's Day. And numbers, as they say, don't lie. Unless you invested with Bernie Madoff. Or lost your life savings at Enron. Or won the 2000 U.S. presidential election but weren't allowed to be president.

And while we aren't denying the accuracy of the following numbers, we have no way of independently verifying them. With that in mind, and if you're still wondering where to camp out for this year's Gallic festivities Skobbler -- creators of the iPhone app GPS Navigation 2 -- say they've devised this list of the top 5 most popular spots to wet your whistle in Chicago based on 2012 searches.

Here they are, in order of popularity:

1. Mrs. Murphy & Sons Irish Bistro - 3905 N Lincoln Ave
2. Emmitt's Irish Pub - 495 N Milwaukee Ave
3. Butch McGuire's - 20 W Division St
4. The Irish Oak - 3511 N Clark St
5. Lizzie McNeill's - 400 N McClurg Ct

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Credit: www.zimbio.com

You might know him best from his work on ABC's Grey's Anatomy or more recently as Cyrus Beene on the network's dramatic hit Scandal, but Highland Park native Jeff Perry has been working stages and screens for decades.

Since co-founding Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company with school pals Terry Kinney and Gary Sinese in the 70s, Perry (who was once married to Steppenwolf ensemble member Laurie Metcalf) has performed in Chicago and elsewhere, including on Broadway and internationally, in such works as Tracey Letts's Pulitzer and Tony winning August Osage County, Steve Martin's Picasso at the Lapin Agile and John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. He also pops up occasionally on the big-screen, with roles in such films as Wild Things and The Human Stain.

At the League of Chicago Theatres 2013 spring gala, on May 20, Perry will accept the 2013 Tribute Award "for his extraordinary contributions to Chicago theatre."

Carole King musical one step closer to Broadway

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A musical based on the woman behind such pop standards as "It's Too Late," "You've Got a Friend" and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman" hopes to make it to Broadway.

Producers on Friday announced plans to take "Beautiful: The Carole King Musical" to the Great White Way by spring 2014. The story is written by Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Douglas McGrath.

King composed dozens of 1960s hits with then-husband Gerry Goffin before emerging as a recording artist in her own right. Her 25 million-selling "Tapestry" launched the singer-songwriter era in 1971 and became the first real blockbuster album.

The musical will chart King's rise set to the music that made her an icon.

Many of her songs became known through others, like "Pleasant Valley Sunday" (the Monkees), "Crying in the Rain" (Everly Brothers), "Take Good Care of My Baby" (Bobby Vee) and "You've Got a Friend" (James Taylor).
King's pre-"Tapestry" hits also included "Up on the Roof" (Drifters), "Loco-Motion" (Little Eva), "Will You Love Me Tomorrow (Shirelles), "One Fine Day" (Chiffons) and "Chains" (Cookies, later covered by the Beatles).

-- Associated Press


Rapper Lupe Fiasco in a moment of thought during an interview in the Sun-Times offices. (Brian Jackson/Sun-Times)

Lupe Fiasco weighed in on the death of Jonylah Watkins Thursday night.

The rapper released a new track "Jonylah Forever" dedicated to the six-month-old baby slain Monday afternoon. The song surmises how Watkins life could have been had she grown up in Chicago. While imagining her life, Lupe Fiasco imagines the girl attending King College Prep and taking art classes from Hadiya Pendleton.

Pendleton died in a shooting in January.

The rapper introduced the song on Twitter:

Grand Ole Opry star Jack Greene dies at 83

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Country legend and Grand Ole Opry star Jack Greene died Thursday night in his Nashville home from complications of Alzheimer's disease. He was 83.

The unassuming singer started his music career in the 1950s with his first band, the Peach Tree Cowboys. He later joined Ernest Tubb's band, the Texas Troubadours, as the drummer. He soon became the opening act for Tubbs and released his first solo single, "The Last Letter," in 1964.

Mr Green's two biggest hits would come in 1966, with the release of "Ever Since My Baby Went Away," and his No. 1 hit, ">There Goes My Everything (which was covered by various artists including Elvis Presley.)

In the 1970s, Mr. Greene partnered with singer Jeannie Seely; they became a successful duo act with hits that included "Wish I Didn't Have to Miss You" and "Much Oblige.

Mr. Greene released his final album, a collection of duets title "Precious Memories, Treasured Friends," in 2010.

Titanic violin authenticated, set for display, auction

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Associated Press reports that the violin played by the bandmaster of the Titanic as the oceanliner sank has been unearthed, a British auction house said Friday.

Survivors of the Titanic have said they remember the band, led by Wallace Hartley, playing on deck even as passengers boarded lifeboats after the ship hit an iceberg.

Hartley's violin was believed lost in the 1912 disaster, but auctioners Henry Aldridge & Son say the water-stained instrument unearthed in 2006 and has undergone rigorous testing by forensic scientists and Oxford University experts and proven to be Hartley's.

The auction house said the rose wood instrument has two long cracks on its body, but is "incredibly well-preserved" despite its age and exposure to the sea. It estimated the violin is worth six figures.

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Hartley was one of the 1,517 people who perished when the Titanic struck an iceberg 350 miles south of Newfoundland on April 15, 1912.

Some reports at the time suggested Hartley's corpse was found fully dressed with his instrument strapped to his body, though there was also speculation the violin floated off and was lost at sea.

Henry Aldridge and Son said it researched the violin's story with a Hartley biographer as the instrument underwent forensic testing, uncovering documents that showed Hartley was found with a large leather valise strapped to him and the violin inside.

The violin apparently was returned to Hartley's grieving fiancee, the auction house said, and later ended up in the hands of the Salvation Army before being given to a violin teacher and ultimately Henry Aldridge & Son.

Testing by the U.K. Forensic Science Service showed corrosion deposits were considered "compatible with immersion in sea water," while a silver expert studied a plate on the violin's neck to determine if it fit the time profile.

Henry Aldridge & Son said the violin will go on public display at the end of the month at Belfast City Hall, less than a mile from where Titanic was built. -- AP

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Viola Spolin was the mother of director Paul Sills, who famously co-founded the Chicago-based Compass Theater, Second City and Story Theatre. In the 1950s and 60s, especially, she was also an oracle to countless alums of those places -- Alan Arkin, Ed Asner and Valerie Harper among them -- who used the "theater games" she created and taught to spark their imaginations and devise scenes that transcended the everyday and sometimes achieved the sublime. Successive generations would put Spolin's methods to work as well, using them as the basis for scenes in such popular television shows as "30 Rock," Larry David's "Curb Your Enthusiasm" as well as the big-screen mockumentaries of Christopher Guest.

On April 1, Northwestern University will host an exhibition called "Viola Spolin: Improvisation and Intuition." It runs through August 16 and includes video clips, rare photos and Spolin's writings.

Several years back, here's how Second City alum Dennis Cunningham (a San Francisco attorney who went on to become a civil rights activist and help found the People's Law Office in Chicago) summed up Spolin's approach and magic:

"Viola Spolin was amazing. She was like no one I'd ever been around. All that improvisation stuff was new to me and that was my real introduction to it, the workshop. She was acerbic to a degree in doing that stuff and she knew what she wanted and she worked hard to get it and she worked you hard to try to do it and respond and understand it. And she was really dedicated and very glad to be participating in the enterprise as a whole. There was probably not 100 percent agreement that it was the best thing to have that workshop and have her be attached to it, but it was and they needed it. They definitely needed it to get people to understand some of the same stuff so that they could work together onstage. And it wasn't that easy to understand, what she was saying or what she meant or what it really was or to really tell if you were doing it or not doing it or to know what she meant when she said somebody got it or somebody didn't get it. But at the same time it was really rich and pithy. She would say, 'No playwriting. You're in your head and you've got to get out and let the game take you out or the exercise take you out, and you have to let your mind focus on the point of concentration.' And there were a lot of those exercises that were really abstruse and mystifying, if not mystical."

Viola Spolin: Improvisation and Intuition

April 1 through August 16
Northwestern University library
1970 Campus Dr.
Monday -- Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m., Saturday 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Admission is free

Incoming CSO timpanist blasts San Fran management

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The media war waged by musicians of the San Francisco Symphony, who went on strike Wednesday in a dispute over pay and benefits, continues to escalate. David Herbert, currently principal timpani there since 1994, will join the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the same post this July, and issued an open letter Thursday to SFS management.

The full letter follows:


It looks like "Social Network" director David Fincher is close to inking a deal to direct the film Fox is developing, based on Chicago's own Gillian Flynn's "Gone Girl" novel. Dateline.com reports that while Reese Witherspoon will be a key producer, it's looking unlikely she will star in the movie, but that "every age-appropriate actress" in Hollywood is anxious to play the lead role.

± March 22-31
± Goodman Theater name, 170 N. Dearborn
± Tickets: $14-$32
± Phone: (312) 443-3800; www.GoodmanTheatre.org

Few readers in this country know the name of Juan Rulfo (1918-1986), the Mexican magical realist writer. Yet his slender novel, "Pedro Paramo" (which can be roughly translated as "Peter Wasteland"), won high praise from the likes of such master storytellers of Latin America as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Jorges Borges. And since it was first published in 1955 it has sold millions of copies throughout the Spanish-speaking world and beyond.

Now, Rulfo's story is about to take on a new dimension as it receives its world premiere stage adaptation by Teatro Buendia, the internationally acclaimed company based in Havana, Cuba. The production, running March 22-31 at the Goodman Theatre, is a centerpiece of this season's Latino Theatre Festival, and is being presented in collaboration with Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art.

Performed in Spanish (with English subtitles), the show is directed by Flora Lauten and adapted by Raquel Carrio, whose acclaimed Teatro Buendia productions of "La Visita de la Vieja Dama" and "Charenton" were part of the Goodman's 2010 Latino Theatre Festival. Most notably, the show will feature a cast comprised of six Cuban actors and five Chicago actors -- Charín Alvarez, Steve Casillas, Laura Crotte, and Sandra Delgado, with Henry Godinez, curator of the Latino festival, in the title role.


It sounds like a case for the dream police.

The developers of the proposed Cheap Trick Chicago restaurant and music venue say they are still in the game despite a Wednesday report on ChicagoRealEstate Daily.com that they have put the property up for sale.

The Cheap Trick complex is planned for a former Buick dealership at 2245 S. Michigan in the "Motor Row" entertainment district. The $13 million venue is being developed by Chicago-based Landmark America.

"We are moving forward to our acquisition of the property," Landmark America CEO Pam Gleichman said Thursday. "We are raising money and we plan to close as soon as we can."

Last summer Gleichman said the first tier of the project would also include a boutique Cadillac Hotel in a former Cadillac showroom, 2300 S. Indiana, and a former Rambler dealership at 132 E. 23rd St. would house a jazz club and coffee house.

Cheap Trick guitarist Rick Nielsen told the Rockford Register-Star on Thursday that the deal is "still a go" in the same spot with the provision that he is not "the [money] man." Nielsen is also a co-owner of the popular Piece Brewery and Pizzeria in Wicker Park.

Ald. Bob Fioretti (2nd), who represents the "Motor Row" area, also said the band is still in play.

"In the last two weeks I've brought four different sets of people who are looking at sites there," Fioretti said Thursday. "This weekend I'm meeting with the people who brought Cheap Trick in to see me and Mayor Daley. So everything is not forlorn."

Gleichman also said the popular Rick's Picks exhibit of guitars will move to the "Motor Row" site after it closes its run at the Burpee Museum of National History in Rockford.

Nielsen told the Sun-Times in July that the band liked the proposed venue's proximity to McCormick Place. He said the band's offices would be on site and the restaurant would cater to not-so-cheap conventioneers.

Gleichman is a Rockford native who has known Cheap Trick since she was a teenager. Her cousin was with Nielsen in the Grim Reapers, the precursor to Cheap Trick.

Landmark America, best known for rehabilitating historic buildings, has been in and out of bankrupty court. The company worked on the 1999 conversion of Lakeside Center, the former R.R. Donnelley printing center in Chicago.

"It's moving slow, but it is the Cheap Trick way of doing things," Nielsen said in July.

The entire "Motor Row" inititative is moving slower than a 1930s blues ballad.

The Chess Records site, 2120 S. Michigan, remains underutilized and the historic Vee Jay and Brunswick Records building, 1449 S. Michigan, is still empty.

"Look what the mayor and the governor did three weeks ago," Fioretti said. "They announced a [1,200-room] hotel [just west of the new West Building at McCormick Place] and they don't even have the property. The interest has definitely escalated in the last three weeks."

'Jekyll & Hyde'
When: Through March 24
Where: Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph
Tickets: $33-$95
Info: (800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Run time: 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission

Walking to the parking garage after seeing "Jekyll & Hyde," the musical now at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in a pre-Broadway stop of its "all new" edition, I tailed a thirtysomething couple who were holding programs from the show and laughing hysterically.

When we all got into the same elevator I couldn't help but ask: "Are you laughing at the show?" And at that point we became a chorus of three.

Fans of Victorian high camp melodrama and the penny dreadful style might have great fun with this musical which is something of a wannabe "Sweeney Todd" (dream baby, dream) mixed with equal parts "Oliver!," "Willy Wonka," "Young Frankenstein," Victoria's Secret runway spectacle, high-tech video game, and, to top it all off, a heavy does of bondage and ersatz Christian iconography. (The final "pieta" imagery is truly over the top.)

There also is a great deal of declamatory singing in this score -- a disjointed blend of pop and pseudo-opera by Frank Wildorn (music) and Leslie Bricusse (book and lyrics based on the classic Robert Louis Stevenson novella). And Jeff Calhoun's direction, while inventive at moments, too often verges on the ridiculous. Do we really have to see a dagger going in one side of a body and coming out the other?

The sad thing about all this is that the core story remains fascinating and provocative. And the performances are often skilled and stylish.


She's looking good!

Chicago's own Michelle Obama once again graces the cover of Vogue, her second appearance on the front. Annie Leibovitz shot the photos -- there's a small gallery here.

Obama's wearing Reed Krakoff in the cover photo.

Michelle Obama's broken new ground as First Lady but she wasn't the first to appear in Vogue. Lou Henry Hoover, President Herbert Hoover's wife, was photographed for the May 1929 issue of Vogue, published months before the stock market tanked, setting off the Great Depression. A number of first ladies followed.

A gallery of First Ladies in Vogue can be found here.

Oscar Mayer Wienermobile in Chicago for weekend

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The legendary Oscar Mayer Wienermobile is visiting Chicago-area Mariano's grocery stores March 15-17.

It's all part of a 25th anniversary celebration for the iconic hot dog car and its Hotdogger team. And in case you were wondering, more than 250,000 iconic "wiener whistles" are handed out each year at tour stops over the course of the nationwide tour.

You can visit with the team and have plenty of photo opps at the following Mariano's locations: noon to 5 p.m. March 15 at 5353 N. Elston; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. March 16 at 1720 N. Milwaukee Ave, Vernon Hills; 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. March 17 at 21001 S. LaGrange Rd., Frankfort.

And for those who want to rekindle childhood memories of the iconic Oscar Mayer Wiener song, "have a bunderful day":

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The comedy site splitsider.com recently posted an interesting breakdown of Saturday Night Live casts and the various places from which members have been culled. It's no surprise that since SNL's launch in October of 1975, Chicago-based Second City and iO Theatre have provided 28 of 115 total cast members -- or 24.4 percent. That's tied with the stand-up realm and second only to "other" -- the multitude of arenas from which folks like Joan Cusack, Anthony Michael Hall, Chris Elliott and Andy Samberg were pulled.

Tim Kazurinsky
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Seasons 7 through 9, between 1981 and 1984 (during creator and exec producer Lorne Michaels' nearly ruinous absence), saw the most Chicago-trained players head east. They included Robin Duke, Tim Kazurinsky, Tony Rosato, Brian Doyle-Murray, Mary Gross and Jim Belushi.

However, writer Bradford Evans notes, "Second City/iO and stand-up have contributed the most cast members to SNL, but that's only because Lorne Michaels didn't start pulling heavily from The Groundlings until the mid-'80s and the UCB until the early '00s. While nearly a quarter of the show's total cast members have come from stand-up, the medium's dominance over SNL is confined to the stand-up boom of the '80s and '90s. Looking ahead, it seems that Groundlings, Second City, iO, and UCB will continue to make up the bulk of SNL's hires, with stand-up cast members waning and Andy Samberg's internet-to-SNL jump, so far, being a one-time thing."

Cecily Strong
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Here's a rundown of iO and Second City SNLers past and present. Most trained in Chicago, some (noted with a 'T') in Toronto. The last three -- all from Chicago -- just began this season.

Dan Aykroyd (T), John Belushi, Gilda Radner (T), Bill Murray, Robin Duke (T), Tim Kazurinsky, Tony Rosato (T), Mary Gross, Jim Belushi, Brian Doyle-Murray, Martin Short (T), Nora Dunn, Mike Myers (T/C), Chris Farley, Tim Meadows, David Koechner, Nancy Walls, Horatio Sanz, Rachel Dratch, Tina Fey, Seth Meyers, Vanessa Bayer, Paul Brittain, Aidy Bryant, Tim Robinson, Cecily Strong.

Bill Murray Apologizes

Cecily Strong and Aidy Bryant as 'Girlfriends'


A number of premium seats for tonight's live IMPACT WRESTLING extravaganza from the Sears Centre Arena in Hoffman Estates have been released.

The seats are mostly on the floor and were held because producers thought they might need room for the television equipment, according to a press release from the Sears Centre. The live show is described as a "very important next evolution for the company" by Dixie Carter, president of TNA, which stands for Total Nonstop Action Wrestling.

TNA President Dixie Carter-Salinas

We don't want to give too much away, but tonight's event "deals with the fallout" from Sunday's TNA pay-per-view event. Hulk Hogan's daughter Brooke has been betrayed and Olympic Gold Medalist Kurt Angle is somehow involved. As are many other wrestlers.

Tickets are available here or by calling (888) SEARSTIX. The show will air live at 7 p.m. tonight on Spike TV.


Northwestern University Library is hosting a free, public exhibit honoring Viola Spolin, one of Improv comedy's leading ladies whose innovative improv games and acting exercises laid the foundation for much of today's popular comedy.

"Viola Spolin: Improvisation and Intuition," runs from April 1 through August 16 at the university's library, 1970 Campus Drive in Evanston.

"The improv games and that style of improv that people associate with Second City and Saturday Night Live came from her," said Clare Roccaforte, director of Northwestern library public relations.

The games - some unpublished - are on display as well as photographs, her writing and audio and video clips. Spolin published her book "Improvisation for the Theater" through Northwestern's press. It was one of the publisher's best-selling books.

Spolin's son Paul Sills was a co-founder of Second City. She also assisted Sills and David Shepard in founding the Compass Theater, the nation's first improv theater.

"Ensemble comedy TV shows like '30 Rock,' improvisational theaters around the country and the movies of Christopher Guest and others who take an improvisational approach to film build on the groundbreaking work of Viola Spolin," said Dan Zellner, University Library digital media specialist and one of the exhibit's curators, in a statement.

The exhibit is open to Northwestern students with ID during open library hours. The public can get a free look at the tribute to Spolin between 8:30 a.m. and 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at University Library.

NBC's ratings-challenged "Smash" is getting the boot to Saturdays, where shows go to die. The Peacock net announced the schedule change, which takes effect April 6, on Wednesday. "Smash" will air all 17 of its sophomore season's episodes.

The NBC announcement came with other scheduling news (all times are Central):

Will now air Tuesdays, beginning April 9 (8-10 p.m.) following "The Voice."

Beginning April 14 (8-10 p.m.) will be expanded to two hours through the end of May.

Will air encore episodes on Sunday, March 31 and Sunday, April 7 (6-9 p.m.), leading into original episodes of "The Celebrity Apprentice"

Moves to Thursdays on April 4 and April 11, which will be the season's final episode. Both episodes will air at 8:30-9 p.m. following "The Office."

One-hour season finale on Tuesday, April 2 (8-9 p.m.) following "The Voice."

Will have a one-hour season finale on Wednesday, March 27 (7-8 p.m.).

Is the Chicago company of "The Book of Mormon" planning a pilgrimmage out of the city this Fall? Rumors have been flying about whether the show, currently in its third extension and playing to capacity at most performances at the Bank of America Theatre (and still one of the toughest tickets in town to nab ) might be moving on following its official closing date of Sept. 8 here.

In addition to Broadway and London productions, and the "sit-down" Chicago edition of the show, another national touring company is now in Boston and slated to move on to Toronto, Buffalo, Cleveland and Washington, D.C. Meanwhile,
the show has been announced as the headline presentation of the Florida Theatrical Association's 25th anniversary season in Orland , as well as playing in several other Florida cities this fall.

"The producers have absolutely no comment on this," said the show's Chicago publicist, Margie Korshak.

These days EVERY month might well be dubbed "Dance Month" in this city. But now it's being formalized. April has been decreed "Chicago Dance Month" by Audience Architects, a non-profit dance service organization in Chicago, with special ticket discounts, performances, master classes, seminars and more scheduled as the buildup to National Dance Week, April 28-May 5.

This inaugural month-long celebration will highlight the variety and artistic richness of the Chicago dance community by promoting a slew of dance performances, educational opportunities and other events in partnership with venues and organizations across the city. Partners include the American Rhythm Center, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Chicago Park District, Choose Chicago, National Dance Week Foundation and The Old Town School of Folk Music.


While Lady Gaga recouperates from her recent surgery, her Born Brave Bus will be taking to the road, including a stop at Gateway Park at Navy Pier on March 27.

The bus tour had been postponed in February when the singer postponed her concert tour, including a scheduled stop in Chicago.

The bus, an official ambassador for Gaga's Born This Way Foundation, is covered in artwork created by the singer's fans, and is meant to inspire self-acceptance.

Lady Gaga's mother, Cynthia Germanotta, co-founder and president of the foundation, issued a statement saying: "The bus has already impacted thousands of young people and, with the support of our partner organizations, this incredible resource will continue to help guide the large youth populations ... towards local support in their communities."

Glencoe-based Writers' Theatre will feature multiple premieres as well as classics as part of its 2013-2014 season, with the riches spread out, as usual, on both its mainstage at 325 Tudor Court and in its intimate 50-seat Books on Vernon space.

Here are the details:

± "THE OLD MAN AND THE OLD MOON" (Sept, 3 - Nov. 10): A new play with music by PigPen Theatre Co., in its Midwest premiere. Directed by Stuart Carden and PigPen Theatre Co. Creating an epic new mythology, the show is centered on a man whose job is to collect spilled light to refill the leaking moon. When his wife unexpectedly leaves home in pursuit of much-needed adventure, he abandons his post to follow her, throwing the world into chaos as he searches for his lost love, his fading memory and, ultimately, himself. A blend of storytelling, spirited indie-folk music and inventive puppetry is all part of the mix. At Tudor Court.

± "PORT AUTHORITY" (Oct. 29, 2013-Feb. 16, 2014): The Midwest premiere of Irish playwright Conor McPherson's work, directed by William Brown. McPherson ("The Seafarer," "Shining City") has crafted a series of interconnected monologues that explore the heart and soul of three generations of Irishmen. A young man escapes his parents' house to share digs with two alcohol-soaked friends and a mesmerizing young woman; a middle-aged laborer lands a dream job that he's not remotely qualified for; and a widower receives a mysterious package that touches a hidden part of his memory. At Books on Vernon.

± "HEDDA GABLER" (Jan. 7-March 16, 2014): The Henrik Ibsen classic, directed by Kimberly Senior and featuring Kate Fry ("The Letters") as "the victim of circumstance and master manipulator." At Tudor Court.

± "THE DANCE OF DEATH" (April 1-July 20, 2014): This new version of the August Strindberg classic -- " a deliciously venomous story of a crumbling marriage" --has been adapted by Conor McPherson and will be directed by Goodman associate Henry Wishcamper ("Other Desert Cities"). At Books on Vernon.

± "DAYS LIKE TODAY" (May 6 - July 13, 2014): The world premiere of a musical inspired by the plays of Charles L. Mee, with music and lyrics by Alan Schmuckler, book by Laura Eason and direction by Michael Halberstam. The story finds lovely, hopeful Tessa vowing that she is through with love--despite the best efforts and conflicting advice of her parents (and their respective lovers). After all, it's never easy to move on before you've had time to heal. But when a handsome young stranger arrives, Tessa must decide whether the idea of love might still be one worth fighting for. At Tudor Court.

Four and five play subscription packages are available, ranging in price from $195 - $275. A five play membership provides ultimate flexibility for $250. For tickets call (847) 242-6000 or visit www,writerstheatre.org.

A "Veronica Mars" film is ready for take off after fans pitched in more than $2 million Wednesday to make the movie a reality.

Series creator Rob Thomas launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a film about the CW cult hit that ended its three-season run in 2007. Less than 24 hours later, nearly 32,000 supporters had contributed to the crowdfunding site to meet the requested $2 million minimum.

Kristen Bell, the actress who played the titular young sleuth, wrote a Kickstarter plea to get fans to open their wallets: "I am currently the happiest blonde in a hamster ball the world has ever seen. We have been waiting so long to make this movie dream a movie reality, and it's because of your commitment, your persistence, that we finally have a chance...If we hit our goal, we will make the sleuthiest, snarkiest, it's-all-fun-and-games-til-one-of-you-gets-my-foot-up-your-a-- movie we possibly can."

The grassroots approach worked in record time on Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects from music and movies to food and fashion. Production on the "Mars" film is expected to start this summer for an early 2014 release.

Kickstarter gives projects a month to hit their fundraising goal, so the final tally could be much more than $2 million in the end. To get fans to contribute, various enticements are being offered. Higher monetary pledges can buy you a spot as a featured extra in the film, or Ma Bell herself will record an outgoing voicemail for you. Lower pledges come with perks like T-shirts and posters. If you kick in $400, for example, Bell (@IMKristenBell) and Thomas (@RobThomas) will follow you on Twitter for a year.

The top-tier pledge, priced at $10,000, gets a short speaking role in the flick. Interested? Too late. Only one was up for grabs and it's gone, but I'm sure they'd still be happy to take your 10 G if you want to contribute.

Since Kickstarter's launch in 2009, over $500 million has been pledged by more than 3 million people. That's been used to fund more than 37,000 creative projects, according to the New York-based company, which must turn a tidy profit by collecting 5 percent of what's raised. Most Kickstarter-funded projects raise less than $10,000, with music and film/video having the most success of reaching their goal. At this year's Oscars, a Kickstarter-funded film called "Inocente" was the first to win an Academy Award (Best Documentary, Short Subject).


Source: John Weinstein/The Field Museum

Anthropologists from the Field Museum and the University of Illinois at Chicago recently led an expedition that unearthed a rare 600-year-old coin on an island off of Kenya that proves China traded with African countries before European explorers set sail.

The coin, called "Yongle Tongbao," is silver and copper. The hole in the center was to keep it on a belt. Issuing the coin was the Ming Dynasty's Emperor Yongle, who ruled from 1403-1425AD and helped construct Beijing's Forbidden City.

The coin is currently off display at the Field, where Chapurukha M. Kusimba, curator of African Anthropology at The Field Museum, is studying to make sure it is not a counterfeit.

"It is exciting," Kusimba said. "But whether it turns out to be fake it is still extremely exciting. It speaks to the competition going on between merchants, the kind of competition that is still visible today."

Chinese exploration and trading stopped after Yongle's death, opening up the way for European explorers, according to information from the Field Museum. The coin was found on Manda, which was home to a sophisticated ancient colony between 200AD to 1430AD. The Manda excavation happened between Dec. 10, 2012 and Feb. 10, 2013.

"Chinese currency in East Africa is very, very rare," Kusimba said.

Also part of the excavation was Sloan R. Williams, a UIC anthropology professor.

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Chicago Symphony Orchstra french horn player Dan Gingrich and Hanna Waters | Brian Kersey

Usually, the wonderful Make-A-Wish organization helps seriously ill kids' wishes that often include meeting favorite music or acting stars or to go to places like Disney World.
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Susan Gaunt of the CSO and Hanna Waters | Brian Kersey

However, the Texas Make-A-Wish folks helped Johanna "Hanna" Waters' dream to play French horn with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The 14-year-old teenager has Ewing Sarcoma.
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Hanna Waters and Dale Clevenger | Brian Kersey

That dream came true Thursday afternoon when Hanna performed with the members of the CSO's French horn section. She also will attend a regular rehearsal, receive a backstage pass and get tickets to a symphony performance. Kudos to all six members of the CSO's horn section, who all have graciously volunteered to grant Hanna's wish: Dale Clevenger, Daniel Gingrich, James Smelser, Oto Carrillo, David Griffin and Susanna Gaunt.

'SMOKEY JOE'S Cafe: The Songs of Leiber & Stoller'
When: Through May 26
Where: Royal George Cabaret, 1641 N. Halsted
Tickets: $25-$46.50
Info: (312) 988-9000; www.ticketmaster.com

Brenda Didier, who last fall directed and choreographed a smash hit production of "Smokey Joe's Cafe -- The Songs of Leiber and Stoller" at the Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre storefront in Rogers Park, confesses she "never in a million years" thought the show would go on to have a commercial life.

Happily, she was wrong. This weekend, following a preview period that already has generated considerable buzz, the show, produced by a consortium calling itself SJCChicago, is celebrating its official opening at the Royal George Cabaret -- the same place where such musicals as "The Doyle & Debby Show" and "Forever Plaid" enjoyed success.

What Didier DID sense, from the very start, was that the show, which includes rousing renditions of 39 pop standards including "Yakety Yak," "Love Potion #9," "Hound Dog," "Teach Me How to Shimmy," "Spanish Harlem" and "Jailhouse Rock," had formidable cross-generational appeal.

[NOTE: EMBARGOED online til midnight Wed. into Thursday; in print on Thursday]

Headed to TimeLine: Rare Blitzstein Musical "Juno," Plus Hansberry and Kramer Classics

The 2013-2014 season at TimeLine Theater is taking shape.

As previously announced, its opening production will be a revival of Larry Kramer's landmark AIDS drama, The Normal Heart," starring David Cromer, and directed by Nick Bowling ("The History Boys," "33 Variations"), which will be staged at the company's "satellite" venue, Stage 773 at 1225 W. Belmont, which enables the company to accommodate its more than 3,300 subscribers.

But now comes more news about the lineup at its home base at 615 W. Wellington. Most notably it will include a rare revival of "Juno" (April 23 - July 27, 2014), the Marc Blitzstein-Joseph Stein musical that debuted on Broadway in 1959 but has never been seen in Chicago. Inspired by Irish dramatist Sean O'Casey's rousing play, "Juno and the Paycock," the show, to be directed by Bowling, is about the destitute Boyle family of Dublin which is caught up in the Irish War of Independence of the early 1920s. Musical direction will be by Doug Peck and Elizabeth Doran. Featured in the role of Juno Boyle, the indomitable matriarch, will be multiple Jeff Award-winning actress Rebecca Finnegan.

"Juno" will be the first musical to be staged by TimeLine since its hugely successful production of "Fiorello!" in 2006.

Planned as the season opener is a revival of "A Raisin in the Sun" (Aug. 20 - Nov. 17), Lorraine Hansberry's classic about race, real estate and roots, Chicago style. It will be directed by Ron OJ Parson, whose vivid work has been on view recently at Court Theatre and Writers' Theatre. A fourth show is still to be announced.

Meanwhile, on the "commercial front," TimeLine's world premiere hit production of "To Master the Art," about the life and times of Julia Child and her husband during their years in Paris in the 1050s, will be remounted at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut. Created by William Brown and Doug Frew, and directed by Brown, it is being produced by the Chicago Commercial Collective and presented by Broadway in Chicago, with performances beginning Sept. 10. "Mastering the Art" is NOT a part of TimeLine's subscription series.

A 4-admission FlexPass ($86-$198) for the TimeLine season is now on sale. For tickets and more information call (773) 281-8463 or visit www.timelinetheatre.com.

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Photo credit: Chicago Sun-Times

It's official: for the first time since he starred in "Psycho" 15 years ago (remember that?), actor/director/producer, former Mr. Jennifer Aniston and part-time Chicago resident Vince Vaughn is slated to host NBC's "Saturday Night Live" April 13.

Considering that Vaughn rose to stardom on the success of his 1996 film "Swingers" (co-starring "Iron Man" director and erstwhile Second City dish washer Jon Favreau), the Buffalo Grove/Lake Forest-bred star may well tweak himself again in a sketch skewering that seminal role. (In 1998, it was "Swingers with Mr. Peepers.") Or maybe that's too crusty, too predictable. In that case, "Wedding Crashers" and "Dodgeball" spoofs are also possibilities. And, of course, "Fred Claus."

And though Vaughn's on-screen comedy resume includes plenty of clunkers and his live "Wild West Comedy Tour" has received some less-than-stellar reviews, his decades-long career isn't without high points. Here are several. Warning: Material may not be suitable for all viewers.


Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti, whose mantle must be completely covered by now, has received yet another honor. This time, he was awarded an honorary doctorate in literature and comparative cultural studies from the University of Naples. As part of a keynote address Monday in the Basilica of San Giovanni Maggiore in Naples, Italy, Muti led the Orchestra of San Pietro a Majella Conservatory in the first movement of Schubert's Symphony No. 8 ("Unfinished").

It marked a homecoming for Muti, a native of Naples and one of the city's favorite sons. After studying piano at the Conservatory of San Pietro in his hometown, he received a diploma in composition and conducting from the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, Italy.

In the last few months alone, Muti has been honored with the 2012 Vittorio de Sica Prize, in recognition of his contributions to music; a honorary degree in arts and heritage from the IULM University in Milan, and the Award for Culture from by the New York branch of the Italian Institute of Culture.

ABOVE: Riccardo Muti receives the Birgit Nilsson Prize, the classical music world's greatest honor, from King Carl XVI Gustaf of Sweden in October 2011.


We spoke with Sean Lowe, Catherine Giudici and Lindsay Yenter today - here's the rundown on some random Bachelor trivia:

* The wedding. No date has been set but some details have been worked out. Chris Harrison won't officiate, Sean said, since both his father and grandfather are ordained ministers. Sean hasn't picked a best man yet but Catherine will have the friend who signed her up for "The Bachelor" as her maid of honor. Emily Maynard, who booted Sean off "The Bachelorette," won't be invited, Sean said. It's unclear if Lindsay will make the guest list -- she's the runner-up who Sean loves but isn't in love with -- but she said she'll be there if they ask.

"Of course I would come," she said. "We have a friendship so it's great."

• The metallic dresses in the finale -- silver for Lindsay and gold for Catherine -- were coincidental, Catherine said. The contestants wear their own clothes throughout the show but have some help from the wardrobe department for the big rejection/proposal.

• Lindsay Yenter is done with being on television. After a month of nursing a broken heart at her parent's Missouri home, she is living in Orange County and teaching. No one asked her to be "The Bachelorette" but she sounded like she wasn't interested.

"You know, I'm very content with my normal life," she said. "I have a wonderful teaching job. I live where I live. I really want to focus on my career now as a teacher....I love normal. I'm not really looking to be on another TV show."

Cuban Beat

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As a two-time traveler to Cuba I can vouch for this: The arts are alive and well there, no matter what you might think of the politics. And this week you don't even need to go through all the visa hassles to get a taste of all things Havana.

At 5: 30 p.m. March 14 at the Instituto Cervantes, 31 W. Ohio, there will be a free discussion, "From Cuba to Chicago: 'Pedro Páramo' and 'Havana Blue'."You can join artists from River North Dance Chicago, Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, Goodman Theatre and Cuba's Teatro Buendía as they discuss cross-border collaborations of dance, original music and theater in conjunction with their upcoming world premieres of "Havana Blue" (at the Auditorium Theatre) and "Pedro Páramo" (at the Goodman Theatre).

Panelists include River North Dance Chicago artistic director Frank Chaves; Chicago Jpzz Philharmonic founder and artistic director Orbert Davis; Cuba's Teatro Buendía artistic director Flora Lautén and playwright Raquel Carrió, and Goodman Theatre resident artistic associate Henry Godinez.

"Havana Blue" is a co-commission between the Auditorium Theatre, River North Dance Chicago and Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. "Pedro Páramo" is presented by Goodman Theater in association with MCA Chicago.


This season's "The Bachelor" featured a host of the usual characters -- the drama queen, the girl next door, the hunky hunk with the chiseled abs.

There was one character never seen but frequently referenced who doesn't get a lot of attention on TV, particularly reality TV -- the Lord Almighty.

Bachelor Sean Lowe made no secret that he was a Christian, that he wasn't going to go all the way in the fantasy suite and that he was frequently relying on prayer to guide his search for a life partner. Two of the three final women, Lindsay Yenter and Ashlee Frazier, also referenced God as a source of guidance during the show and solace after Sean gave them the boot.

I found the integration of faith to be one of the more compelling parts of this season and these characters.

But listening to all the God talk, especially on last night's three-hour finale and "After the Final Rose" got me wondering -- isn't there something fundamentally incongruous about a man of God making out with multiple women on the same date night? It was the same God Sean believes in -- the God of Moses and Abraham -- who delivered the commandment not to covet another woman. Or women.

In a conference call with reporters Tuesday, Sean said that he initially found the experience on "The Bachelorette" involving physical connections between multiple partners to be "a bit unnatural" but that's the entire premise of the show, he said.

He didn't think anything was wrong with all the smooching, including one that set a Guiness Book of World Records records for the longest kiss.

"Kissing is just a part of showing affection, it's romantic," he said. "I don't regret that."

His faith community provided a lot of support to him during his time on the show, he said. While his father is a Baptist, he is part of a non-denominational Christian church, he said.

"I believe what the Bible says, basically to sum it up," he said.

Sean added that if ratings were up this seasons because of his wholesome nature and commitment to God, "I think that's a great thing. There needs to be more of that on television."

His fiancee, Catherine Giudici, said she grew up learning about "different religions" and has always believed in God. She started attending a non-denominational Christian church in suburban Seattle.

She said she was "excited to learn about Christianity and be a believer."

"It's something that is important to our future and our family," she said.

In a separate conference call, runner-up Lindsay said that she relied on prayer to get through the heartbreak after Sean sent her packing from Thailand.

"I couldn't have gone through this situation without praying about it," she said. "I believe Christ gave me a lot of confidence and non-jealousy issues...It was hard and a different situation but all in all I think it was for the best intentions and I don't think it's wrong."



Chris Medina, (left) Juliana Ramos and her mother, Janet Spencer Barnes, speak to students at Tinley Park High School last year about adjusting to life after Juliana's car accident. | Matt Marton~Sun-Times Media

By Natasha Wasinski

The past four years for 29-year-old "American Idol" contestant Chris Medina have all the markings of a Hollywood movie.

Life changed when his fiancé, Juliana Ramos, suffered a traumatic brain injury two months shy of their winter wedding date. Medina stepped in as her caretaker while also aggressively pursuing a career in music, jump started by a celebrated, yet unsuccessful bid on season 10 of the hit singing show.

Now a Beverly Hills-based entertainment group wants to bring the local couple's tragedies and triumphs to the big screen.

Medina, of Oak Forest, announced to friends and fans on his Facebook page late last night that he sealed a deal with MCS41 to turn his and Ramos' story into a major motion picture slated to release in 2014.

Medina was all smiles and at a loss for words in a video uploaded to his site of him signing the movie contract.

"With the swoop of this pen, everything can change. Everything is going to change," he said.

"It's going to be great."

When: Through April 21
Where: Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, 6970 N. Glenwood
Tickets: $30-$64
Info: (773) 347-1109; www.theo-u.org
Run time: 2 hours and 35 minutes with one intermission

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre may very well be the physically smallest Chicago venue producing musicals. But it has an opera house-size mentality that is downright irresistible.

The very notion of tackling "Aspects of Love," Andrew Lloyd Webber's hyperventilating, Puccini-meets-Harlequin romance show that debuted in London in 1989 (and hasn't been seen here since a national touring edition in 1992), might be daunting to other companies. But Theo Ubique just plunges in, with fearless director Fred Anzevino bringing together a cast of expert singer-actors, a band that sounds like a symphony orchestra, a couple of memorably feverish dance sequences, a fine array of vintage costumes, and more kissing than you will find on any other stage in town.

Just hours after it was reported that the Air Force Thunderbirds were cancelling their appearance at the Chicago Air & Water Show in August due to sequester funding cuts, NBC5-Chicago reported late Tuesday that the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Team has also cancelled all of its air show engagements effective April 1, including their scheduled performance at the Chicago event, Aug. 17-18.

The reason? It's the "s" word, the sequestration battle in Washington, D.C., which as forced the government to pull billions of dollars of funding from all sorts of programs, including Defense Department military air show teams.

According to a report by NBC5-Chicago, the Thunderbirds, celebrating their 60th anniversary this year, have cancelled all air shows after April 1. "Due to the impact of sequestration, all participation in air shows and flyovers after April 1 have been canceled," said Maj. Darrick Lee, spokesman for the Air Force Thunderbirds.

However, in an interview Tuesday afternoon, Mary May, a spokesperson for the city's Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, said her office has not received any official notification from the Thunderbirds about a cancellation.

"We have not spoken to the Thunderbirds about any official cancellation for the Chicago Air and Water Show," May said emphatically. She did, however, note that DCASE is already in discussion about possible replacement options should the cancellation become official.

"Most importantly, we want fans of the show to know that we have an incredible lineup of civilian aircraft teams that will be here for the show in August," she said. "There are also civilian jet teams out there [for possible consideration]. This will continue to be an exciting, free event for Chicago." May would not elaborate on any of the possible lineup replacements.

In past years, the Thunderbirds have performed at the Chicago show in rotation with the Navy Blue Angels. The precision flying squads are the highlights of the event, which draws more than two million spectators to the lake front each year.

The Thunderbirds have more than 60 events on their schedule for 2013 which would be cancelled if funding for the program is not restored.


According to good sources at "Dancing With the Stars," the huge popularity of "The Bachelor's" Sean Lowe made him a natural choice for the popular dancing competition show. "Research showed he would be an enormous draw," a longtime DWTS insider said early Tuesday. "The guy is a big audience magnet."
On the morning after Lowe proposed to Catherine Giudici -- now his fiance -- on the "Bachelor" finale, the fitness model/insurance agent was officially announced as the final cast member for season 16 of "Dancing with the Stars." His partner will be Peta Murgatroyd.
The new DWTS debuts March 18.


Looks like that first night at the mansion is the only time "Bachelor" Sean Lowe will see Lindsay in a wedding dress.

In a surprise move (at least a surprise to me), Sean ended up giving the final rose to Catherine Giudici, the 26-year-old graphic designer from Seattle.

"I want to spend the rest of my life telling you I love you," Sean said before getting down on one knee and breaking out the obligatory Neil Lane bling.

"I love you so much," he said, hugging her, after she accepted his proposal.

Lakeside in Thailand, he sent home a tearful Lindsay Yenter, a substitute teacher from Missouri.


The much-touted mystery letter was from Catherine, but it was far from a Dear John missive. She wrote about how she saw them having a family together, how excited she is for them to start their life together, yada yada yada.

"This is the coolest day of my life," Catherine said as the newly engaged couple rode off into the sunset. On the back of an elephant.


Jeff Perry, a co-founder of Steppenwolf Theatre, and Michael Halberstam, the artistic director of the highly acclaimed Glencoe-based Writers' Theatre, will be honored at this year's League of Chicago Theaters gala to be held May 20 at the Intercontinental Hotel.

Perry will receive the 2913 Tribute Award. Halberstam will be given the Artistic Leadership Award.

John Malkovich to star in NBC pirate series

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MALKO.JPGFollowing the example of his fellow Steppenwolf veteran Gary Sinise, John Malkovich has committed to his first American TV series role.

The Oscar nominee will play the pirate Blackbeard on the NBC action-adventure show "Crossbones," set in 1715 Bahamas, trade papers report.

The show comes from Neil Cross, creator of the BBC hit "Luther." No premiere date has been set.

Hugh Laurie of "House" reportedly had been in discussions for the role as well.

Rhea Perlman, the four-time Emmy Award winner for her role as Carla on the NBC-TV show "Cheers," is headed to the stage of Skokie's Northlight Theatre where she will star along with Steppenwolf veteran Francis Guinan and Ed Flynn (the fine actor who appeared in "I Am Going to Change the World" at Chicago Dramatists) in the world premiere of Bruce Graham's play, "Stella & Lou," to be directed by BJ Jones.

Running May 3-June 9, 'Stella & Lou" is about two kindred spirits who seek solace at a quiet bar as they navigate changing times, relationships past and second chances. Graham is the Jeff Award-winning author of "The Outgoing Tide," the play about an aging couple and their son, which featured Rondi Reed and John Mahoney and proved to be, a hit for Northlight several seasons back. Perlman saw the play when it was done in Galway, Ireland last summer, and her comments to Jones about how much she liked the playwright's work inspired him to invite her to do "Stella & Lou."

Northlight Theatre is at 9501 N. Skokie Blvd., Skokie. For tickets ($25-72) call (847) 673-6300 or visit www.northlight.org.

The deliciously brainy-sexy Theater Wit production of "Completeness," Itamar Moses' play about post-grads struggling with all the possibilities of scientific thought, and all the possibilities of romantic attachment, is extending its run by six weeks, through May 4.

The show, directed by Jeremy Wechsler, and with an ingenious high-tech set, stars Matt Holzfeind, Kristina Valada-Viars, Rae Gray and Andrew Jessop.

Theater wit is at 1229 W. Belmont. For tickets ($15-$36), call (773) 975-8150 or visit www.TheaterWit.org.

NOTE : "Completeness" contains adult situations and nudity. A first-date night? You decide.

Stumbling toward the apocalypse with ... zombies

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What's with all the zombies?

From AMC's hit "The Walking Dead" to endless "Dawn of the Dead" sequels and remakes, the Undead are seemingly everywhere these days.

Clemson University professor Sarah Lauro, in an interview with the Associated Press, insists the phenomenon isn't a random fad, but part of a historical trend that reflects cultural dissatisfaction and economic upheaval.

Lauro's research focuses primarily on the concept of the "zombie walk," a mass gathering of people who, dressed in the clothes and makeup of the undead, stagger about and dance.

The zombie mob originated in 2003 in Toronto, Lauro said, and popularity escalated dramatically in the United States in 2005, alongside a rise in dissatisfaction with the Iraq war.

"It was a way that the population was getting to exercise the fact that they felt like they hadn't been listened to by the Bush administration," Lauro said. "Nobody really wanted that war, and yet we were going to war anyway."

As of last year, Lauro said, zombie walks had been documented in 20 countries. The largest gathering reportedly drew more than 4,000 participants at the New Jersey Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, N.J., in October 2010.

"We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered," Lauro said. "And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. Either playing dead themselves ... or watching a show like 'Walking Dead' provides a great variety of outlets for people."

Above: In a 2010 promotional stunt for the AMC series "The Walking Dead," "zombies" stagger across the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City. (AP file photo)

Tonight at 6 p.m. at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn, local high school students will showcase their entries into the Chicago finals of the fourth annual August Wilson Monologue Competition. Be there and you will witness some amazing work.

Students inn the competition are asked to perform a two-to-three-minute monologue of their choosing from one of the ten plays in August Wilson's "Century Cycle," his fictional chronicling of African-American life throughout the 20th century. The Chicago Finals will determine the top three monologues from among these finalists. Those selected will be awarded scholarships in the amount of $500 for first place, $250 for second place and $100 for third place. Each of the three winning students also will receive expenses paid to travel to New York City for the national finals.

Sponsored by The League of Chicago Theatres, Goodman Theatre, and the University of Illinois at Chicago, and organized in Chicago by director Derrick Sanders, the Monologue contest is a national competition open to all high school students and was designed to expose students to the richness of August Wilson's "Century Cycle.

The 22 students advancing to the Chicago Finals are: Taylir Brown-Williamson, Barton Fitzpatrick, Khamya Johnson, Antionette Lancaster, and Jessica Smith of Kenwood Academy; Monique Lewis of Hyde Park High School; Morgan Brown, Josha Silk, and Aronna Wynne of Southland College Prep; Branndin Laramore, Lia Miller, and Ernesto Moreta of Gallery 37; Danyelle Monson of King College Prep, Aniqua Chatman and Anthony McCoy of Wirt-Emerson Academy; Julio Munoz of Schurz High School; John Carter, Martin Downs and Monet Felton of Chicago High School for the Arts; Sophia Menendian of Lincoln Park High School; Chandler Browne of American Theater Company Youth Ensemble; and Jonathan Schaffer of Homewood-Flossmoor High School.

The judges for the Finals include celebrated actress and playwright Regina Taylor; Eamonn Walker, currently starring as "Battalion Chief Wallace Boden" in NBC's hit drama "Chicago Fire"; Narda E. Alcorn, frequent stage manager for August Wilson productions on Broadway; and Christine Mary Dunford, Associate Chair of the Department of Theatre and Music at University of Illinois at Chicago and a Lookingglass Ensemble Member.

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OK, so he's coming to far-flung Joliet at the Rialto Square Theatre. Still, if you get a chance and can make the drive, comic Lewis Black is worth a visit. Tickets go on sale Monday, March 18 at 9 a.m.

Before gaining a massive following for his appearances on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the famous ranter and raver (a prolific playwright and Yale School of Drama grad) gigged all over the country and made frequent stops in Chicago, where he met and became something of a mentor to locally based comedienne Patti Vasquez.

When Black and I spoke in 2008, I predicted that his first book, Me of Little Faith, would become a big bestseller. And guess what? (It's actually very entertaining.) His follow-up, Nothing's Sacred, did pretty well too.

If you're not familiar with Black, his background or his humor, here's a good profile from 2005 that appeared in the New York Times magazine. ''I think that my character carries the audience through stuff that they may not want to listen to,'' he told writer Alex Witchel of an intense delivery that's been tweaked over the years. ''And sometimes if they don't get what the joke is, they think it's funny how crazy I get. Because everybody's always saying, 'We thought you might have a heart attack or an aneurysm.' If they'd seen me 12 or 15 years ago, I could understand it, before I had any sense of proportion. From the start I'd be screaming, but there was no way people could really get it. I would be six minutes into it, and there'd be nothing.''

To get a better sense of Black's style, if you don't have one already, check out the following clips. But be warned: material may not be suitable for all viewers.

Racy photos of "Mob Wives Chicago" cast member Pia Rizza surfaced on the celebrity gossip website TMZ early Monday with the headline "I'm leaking my own NAKED PICS!"

Rizza, reached by phone Monday morning, insists she didn't leak the two photos and she has no idea who did.

"I'm a nervous wreck," Rizza said. "I just want my side of the story out there: I did not send them these photos. I don't know who did."



If you know your "Die Fledermaus" from your "Die Meistersinger" from your "Die Burgschaft" and are looking for a way to ring in spring, have we got the event for you.

The Lyric Young Professionals group is hosting La Triviata, a night of pub-style trivia March 21 inside the Civic Opera House, 20 N. Wacker Drive.

Hosted by Elizabeth Futral, the soprano playing Musetta in La Boheme, the event features food and drink from Publican Quality Meats and music by delaChapelle and Kat V. The trivia night is free for Lyric Young Professionals members, $30 in advance and $40 at the door. Click here for tickets and more information.

Speaking of opera and trivia, here's a picture of "Jeopardy!" host Alex Trebek wearing a winged helmet from the Metropolitan Opera in New York City. Happy Monday.



Here are more details about why Justin Bieber's second concert in Portugal was canceled. According to the singer's team, it was all due to union rules in Portugal. Apparently it was strictly due to logistical issues -- NOT because of poor ticket sales -- as has been reported elsewhere. In fact, Bieber's manager, Scooter Braun, insists both shows were completely sold out. That was also confirmed by the local Portuegeuse promoters as well.
The problem was something called, "load out" -- the time allowed for the crews to break down the stage and sets and equipment from Bieber's show -- and get set up for the next one.
That said, after Justin Bieber's "week from hell" in England last week, the pop superstar's team has reportedly told him to calm down, focus on his music and his concerts and get enough rest -- hoping to prevent any future blowups (like he had with a papparazzo in London), or health scares, like his on-stage collapse and trip to the hospital.
Apparently a weekend intervention of sorts took place via phone, Skype and emails from key members of Team Bieber -- all orchestrated to help the singer move on from that bad week in London which has generated so many negative headlines.

Jack Antonoff, left, Nate Ruess, center, and Andrew Dost of the band fun. mingle at the Warner Music Group 2013 Grammy Celebration at the Chateau Marmont, on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013, in West Hollywood, Calif. The band won Grammy awards for Best New Artist and Song of the Year. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP)

July 10 is shaping up to be a fun. night in Chicago.

The Taste of Chicago 2013 is kicking off their musical line-up with the Grammy-award winning group fun. and opening act Delta Spirit on July 10. The fun. (yes, that period is supposed to be there) trio of Nate Reuess, Jack Antonoff and Andrew Dost recently won Grammy awards for Best New Artist and Song of the Year for the anthem "We Are Young" (featuring Janelle Monae).

The 5-day Taste of Chicago festival runs through July 14, and the other musical acts are expected to be announced in coming weeks, said Cindy Gatziolis, spokeswoman for the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs & Special Events.

In 2012, after more than $1 million in losses at the 2011 Taste, the city unveiled a new, smaller Taste, cutting the 10 day festival to five days and pushing the dates back from the July 4 holiday to mid-July.

While admission to the Taste is still free, the new Taste includes a $25 ticket charge for the 3,000 pavilion seats for the mainstage acts. Lawn sets are free.

The smaller, revamped Taste of Chicago 2012 was still a money loser, losing $1.3 million, $300,000 more than 2011, though attendance and revenue were up. None of the five concerts sold out though people still crowded onto the lawn to hear acts like Jennifer Hudson for free. More than 1.2 million people went to the 2012 Taste of Chicago.

Tickets for fun. will be sold in May. Check www.tasteofchicago.us for more information.

Justin Timberlake fires back at Kanye West in song

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When Kanye West dissed his new single, Justin Timberlake didn't take it lying down, or even standing still.
Yeezy took the shot during a London concert last month (at about the 6:00 mark here). Complaining about the commercialization of music, he referenced Timberlake's "Suit & Tie," which has a Jay-Z cameo, saying "I got love for Hov, but I ain't f---ing with that 'Suit & Tie."
JT performed the song this weekend on "Saturday Night Live," with his usual heavy choreography. When he got to the line that usually goes "S--- so sick, got a hit and picked up a habit," he changed it to "My hit's so sick, got rappers acting dramatic." (See the clip above.)
Your move, Kanye.

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Little Big Town catches up on their Sun-Times reading at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. | PHOTO BY TRICIA DESPRES

Free-lance writer Tricia Despres got the chance to sit down with Little Big Town ahead of their weekend concert at the Silver Creek Event Center at Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich., this past Friday.

The foursome took some time out to do some serious Sun-Times reading, and to talk to Tricia Despres about their tour, album and heading back to the Chicago area, specifically the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet on March 21. Tickets are currently on sale.

Despres reported: "Fresh off their Best Country Duo/Group Performance Grammy win for their No. 1 hit 'Pontoon," Little Big Town took the stage at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo March 8, anxious to solidify their new role as headliners.


Little Big Town, performs March 8 at the Four Winds Casino in New Buffalo, Mich. | PHOTO BY TRICIA DESPRES

"They did just that, combining old favorites such as "Boondocks" and "Little White Church" with a bevy of new cuts from their fifth studio album "Tornado."

"' We had albums in the past where we would get that 'big' hit, and then nothing else would catch on," explained Karen Fairchild during a backstage interview with the Chicago Sun-Times. "Sometimes, the stars just don't align. But with 'Tornado,' they finally did.' "

Read Tricia Despres' entire story in Friday's Chicago Sun-Times Weekend section.

Old Billy Shakespeare only wrote 37 plays, so for years now the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre (CST) has been mixing it up each season with a few productions by the Bard of Avon complemented by a musical (most frequently by that Bard of Broadway, Stephen Sondheim), and a smattering of other classics able to hold their own amidst such exalted company.

The 2013-2014 season conforms to that model, but this time around there will be TWO Sondheim works. On the mainstage it will be the indestructible "Gypsy" (for which he wrote only the lyrics). In the fittingly more intimate Upstairs Theater it will be "Road Show" (titled "Bounce" when it debuted at the Goodman Theatre in 2003, before it was heavily rewritten). Sondheim maven Gary Griffin will direct both.

The season's Shakespeare productions will include "The Merry Wives of Windsor" and "Henry V," with Edmond de Rostand's "Cyrano de Bergerac" marking the return of actor Harry Groener, who gave such an indelible performance in CST's "The Madness of George III" in 2011. And there is more.

Tickets for CST's 2013-2014 season are on sale now, with three, four and five-play subscription packages starting at $135. Call (312) 595-5600 or visit www.chicagoshakes.com.

When: Through April 14
Where: Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted
Tickets: $60-$65
Info: (312) 988-9000; www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com
Run time: 90 minutes with no intermission

As you take your seat at the Royal George Theatre for "An American Story for Actor and Orchestra," Hershey Felder's unique meditation on this country's resilient spirit, the devastation of the Civil War, and the power of theater and music to communicate both ethical values and emotion, you might very well get the feeling you've been dropped into Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C. on that fateful night of April 14, 1865 when John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

The balconies of the theater have been draped in patriotic bunting. The heavy, dark green velvet curtain that frames the proscenium is vintage Victorian. And there, seated on an old red velvet chair, is Felder in the guise of the 90-year-old Charles Augustus Leale. Nearly seven decades earlier, as a Union Army medic newly graduated from New York's Bellevue Hospital Medical College, Leale just happened to be in the audience, and became the doctor who diligently attended to Lincoln during the nine hours he clung to life.

For the next 90 minutes, Felder holds his audience in thrall with a seamless mixture of memory, music and poetry. As Leale, he looks back on all that led up to the moment that clearly shaped his soul -- but one that he refused to let alter his life by turning him into a celebrity.

'Fiddler On the Roof'
When: Through March 24
Where: Paramount Theatre, 23 E. Galena Blvd., Aurora
Tickets: $34.90-$46.90
Info: (630) 896-6666; www.ParamountAurora.com
Run time: 2 hours and 40 minutes with one intermission

Change is the only constant in life. Just ask Tevye, the philosophical milkman at the center of "Fiddler on the Roof," that masterpiece of a Broadway musical fast approaching its half-century anniversary.

This, and a great deal more is brought to vivid life in the beloved and ever-astonishing musical by Jerry Bock, Sheldon Harnick, and Joseph Stein based on the stories of Sholem Aleichem -- a show in which every scene and every song is so perfectly wrought that you cannot help but find yourself saying: They really don't write musicals like this anymore.

And, just in case you needed additional proof that the Paramount Theatre in Aurora is now continually one-upping Broadway -- with productions featuring exceptional performances, a grand-scale orchestra and lavish design -- this "Fiddler" easily serves as the latest proof. With propulsive direction by Jim Corti (Paramount's artistic director), thrilling choreography by Gordon Peirce Schmidt (inspired by Jerome Robbins, but with many added flourishes), and lush musical direction by Michael Keefe that fills the beautifully restored 2800-seat theater, the show moves far beyond "golden age of Broadway" nostalgia. Fresh, funny and stormily emotional, it is a must-see for a whole new generation.

And by the way, the understudy -- veteran actor David Girolmo -- went on for Tevye and easily stole the show.


The muse of dance, Terpsichore, has been smiling on Chicago this month, with audiences confronted by an embarrassment of riches. This weekend alone the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is at the Auditorium and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago (in league with LINES Ballet of San Francisco) is at the Harris Theater. Meanwhile, the following three companies are gearing up for engagements. So get jumping!
The companies include:
±GIORDANO DANCE CHICAGO [March 21-23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance. 205 E. Randolph. For tickets ($15-$60) call 312 (334)-7777 or visit harristheaterchicago.org]: A program paying homage to the company's 50th anniversary as a force in jazz dance, with a world premiere by Liz Imperio, who has choreographed for Jennifer Lopez and Madonna, among others.
±COMPAGNIE MARIE CHOUINARD [March 21-23 at 7:30 p.m. at the Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E. Chicago. For tickets ($35) call (312) 397-4010 or visit www.mcachicago.org]: The Montreal maverick presenting her version of "The Rite of Spring," plus a newer work inspired by a surrealist artists and poet.
± LEHRERDANCE [cq] [March 16 at 8 p.m. at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport. For tickets ($28) call (773) 935-6875 or visit www.athenaeumtheatre.org]: A former Giordano company members who now has his own playful and athletic troupe based in Buffalo, New York.

Profiles Theater delays play's opening a second time

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Profiles Theatre has announced a second delay to the opening of "The Dream of the Burning Boy." The show, originally slated to open in January, was postponed until March 10.

The opening is now tentatively scheduled for later this month, due to medical reasons surrounding Profiles' co-artistic director and "Burning Boy" cast member Darrell W. Cox. Cox underwent emergency eye surgery following complications from an earlier procedure. He is expected to make a full recovery, according to a statement issued by the show's spokesperson.

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Fashion designer Vivienne Westwood (left) doesn't want to discuss Michelle Obama's "dreadful" style, telling a New York Times reporter "I don't want to talk about it. Really, I can't. (Michelle Obama's) a very nice looking lady, but it's a nonstarter regarding clothes that suit her."

Chicago's own First Lady, famous for recycling outfits and wearing everything from Jason Wu to J. Crew, apparently doesn't pass Westwood's Jackie O. test.

"Jackie Kennedy was a different matter altogether," Westwood said. "It just has to suit her and be something that makes a human being more glamorous. That's what fashion is there for. It's there to help, not just to make you look more conservative."

Michelle Obama, take it from your friends in Chicago - the Vivienne Westwood look shown below in a Paris fashion show isn't going to make you look more conservative. Other than it's Republican red.



The Portage Theater will be Ground Zero for sci-fans this weekend when the "Sci-Fi Spectacular 7," a 24-hour movie marathon, unspools starting at noon Saturday at the Portage, 4050 N. Milwaukee.

Special guests include Frank Henenlotter, director of "Brain Damage" (screening in the marathon), and Jay Bonansinga, co-author of two "Walking Dead" movies.

The lineup:
NOON - ATTACK OF THE GIANT LEECHES (directed by Roger Corman)
1:15 pm - MATINEE (Joe Dante)
3 pm - THE HEART OF THE WORLD (Guy Maddin short)
3:05 pm - THE DARK CRYSTAL (1982)
5 pm - SOYLENT GREEN (1973)
6:45 pm - ROGER CORMAN '50s Trailer Competition
7:15 pm - DEAD-ISH (short film)
7:30 pm - BRAIN DAMAGE (with FRANK HENENLOTTER in person)
9:45 pm - CAMERA (rare Cronenberg short!)
10p m - INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS (1978 remake)
Midnight - IN THE MOUTH OF MADNESS (1994)
1:45am - DARK CITY (1998)
Daylight Savings Time
4:50 am - SHOCK WAVES (1977)
6:30 am - THE LAST MAN ON EARTH (1964, Vincent Price Classic!)
8:15 am - SILENT RUNNING (1972)
10 am - IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY (2011)
11 am - BATTLE ROYALE (2000)

Tickets are $20 in advance, $25 at the door. Children under 12 and seniors, $10. Ticket holders may come and go at will. For advance tickets, brownpapertickets.com/event/302719

The "American Idol" microphone's cross-country tour blew through Chicago on Friday. Nearly a dozen local "Idol" fans -- along with season 10 finalist and Milwaukee native Naima Adedapo -- made up the relay team that helped shuttle the mike through the city.

The relay members were randomly chosen after registering online to be part of the team designed to drum up publicity for the Fox singing competition, which announced the Top 10 finalists on Thursday's show. Chicagoan Devin Velez, an 18-year-old senior at Rickover Naval Academy, made the cut.

"I'm a big 'Idol' fan and I wanted to show support for Chicago," said Buffalo Grove resident Denise Silver, who took a half day off work at her retail job to turn up at The Bean in Millennium Park, where relay members met Friday morning before hoofing it, mike in hand, to the Art Institute.

The mike also took a ride on a Segway tour and stopped at Soldier Field, Navy Pier and Water Tower before dropping in at Giordano's for some deep-dish and taking in the views from the Willis Tower sky deck. The tour arrived here after being in Detroit. Next stop: Oklahoma City. The microphone's two-week, 5,000-mile publicity trek started last week in New York and ends in L.A. March 13 in time for the Top 10 live performance show.



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Arts and Public Life Initiative director Theaster Gates (center) officially opens his center Friday with University of Chicago and city officials

There is life once more on what was long a "dead" corner at 55th and Prairie on Chicago's South Side.

With the cooperation of city officials, the University of Chicago's "Arts and Public Life" initiative hopes to provide "a dedicated space for artists to grow professionally and build creative connections with the surrounding community."

A reception was held Friday to herald its opening after more than two years of planning, fundraising and extensive reconstruction.

The brainchild of artist Theaster Gates, the 10,000 square-foot Arts Incubator was once a Walgreens before sitting dormant for two decades.

"I think there are some really clear challenges," Gates said. "One, how do open up a space like this help the community that's here understand it's an asset?"

Programming is key, he said, and those who run the center (which boasts several artists-in-residence) are pondering how best to attract the widest possible audience. Ongoing fundraising is crucial, too.

Asked how much personal involvement he will continue to have, Gates simply replied, "It's my baby."

Indian women shout anti-government slogans during a rally on International World Women's Day in Allahabad on March 8, 2013. The demonstrators were demanding passage of a bill which would reserve one-third of parliamentary seats for women. Source: AFP/Snajay Kanojia

Today's Google search screen has a doodle for it and our Facebook and Twitter feeds are filled with references to it - International Women's Day. What is this day and is anyone in Chicago celebrating?

The day is more than 100 years old and commemorates two events - the March 8, 1857 protest by New York City garment workers agains their working conditions. Fifty one years later, on March 8, 1908, New York streets were again filled with protestors, this time 15,000 women fighting for the right to vote and increased pay, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

The United Nations theme for 2013 International Women's Day 2013 is "A promise is a promise: Time for action to end violence against women."

There are protests around the globe today, but Chicago should be fairly quiet. There is a lunch at the Union League Club commemorating the day, and a YWCA-sponsored event scheduled for Monday, March 18.


When NBC's "The Biggest Loser" held a casting call in Downers Grove last summer, Danni Allen and a co-worker decided to give it a try.

Both women were struggling with their weight. They figured they could meet other people battling the same problem and use the experience as a jumping off point to get healthy.

"It was a last-minute decision," said Allen, 26, an advertising account coordinator who grew up in Mundelein and now lives in Wheeling. "I had no plans of making it."

Not only did Allen make it onto the weight-loss competition, she's one of five contestants still in the running for the $250,000 grand prize that will be awarded during the live finale March 18.

"I didn't even think I was going to make it thru the first work out let alone week one, and then week two," said Allen, the last remaining member of tough-love trainer Jillian Michaels' team.


The National Veterans Art Museum, now in a new space at 4101 N. Milwaukee Ave., is commemorating the 10-year anniversary of the War in Iraq as well as International Women's Day with "Not About Bombs," an exhibit of contemporary art by five Iraqi women, Sundus Abdul Hadi, Tamara Abdul Hadi, Julie Adnan, Dena Al-Adeeb and Sama Alshaibi.

"The art in this show pushes war art in new directions, finds new metaphors to reach arts patrons, and expands the visual vocabulary of war beyond grenades, guns and other weapons," said veteran artist Erica Slone, who coordinated "Not About Bombs." "Simply put, this show is not about bombs. It's about art and the way art can be a catalyst for bigger discussions, and how art can operate to bridge cultural misunderstandings and misrepresentations."

The museum and the show will be free public from 1 PM - 5 PM on Saturday, March 9, 2013. There's a talk about the exhibit att 3 p.m. followed by a panel discussion.

For more information about the exhibit or the museum, in Chicago since YEAR, click here.

Justin Bieber collapses during London show

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Justin Bieber collapsed after walking offstage during a concert at London's 02 arena tonight. The popster reportedly was given oxygen backstage and then went on to finish teh show.
The 19-year-old was taken to the hospital and apparently doing well. He posed for photos and tweeted that he was doing better.

The official ">statement made during the concert was posted on YouTube.

His spokesperson told the crowd the singer had been complaining of discomfort all night.'

It might be a while before Devin Velez is back in Chicago making tall soy no-whip mocha lattes at Starbucks.

The Portage Park barista and Rickover Naval Academy senior became an "American Idol" finalist Thursday, getting enough viewer votes to join the ranks of the Top 10 and secure a spot on Idol's summer tour.

Velez's mother, Sandra Liz Lam, was in the audience of the Las Vegas theater when her son's name was called. "Idol" host Ryan Seacrest invited Lam on stage, where she wrapped her oldest child in a huge hug.

Judge Nicki Minaj, who called Velez a Spanish Ken doll during Wednesday's live show, urged the young crooner to continue singing in Spanish and English like he did with his most recent performance of the classic "Somos Novios," recorded in English by Perry Como ("It's Impossible"). Check it out here:

JOY.JPGJoy Behar, the last original panelist on "The View" who isn't Barbara Walters, plans to leave the ABC talk show after 16 years.

"You reach a point when you say to yourself, 'Do I want to keep doing this? ' " the comedian tells deadline.com. "There are other things on my plate I want to do -- I've been writing a play, I've been neglecting my standup."

Behar, whose contract runs out in August, plans to spend several more months on "The View" and hopes to launch a talk show of her own. "I'm interested in talking to people," she said. "I want to do an intelligent talk show where you have room to breathe."

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Credit: www.omg.yahoo.com

That's pronounced zeen, for those of you non-hipsters. As in magazine, but not quite. Here's what Webster has to say: "People thought I was this doll that came to life, so I would have different people just treating me very strangely as far as I was concerned. They wanted to see if I was real."

Sorry, wrong Webster.

Try this: "magazine; especially : a noncommercial often homemade or online publication usually devoted to specialized and often unconventional subject matter."

That certainly describes the forthcoming Kanyezine, brainchild of Zine Zine founders Annabel Brady-Brown from Australia and Grace Gallagher from the U.K. Previously, the duo partnered to publish the bawdy-brainy Catzine and Spacezine, collections of essays, poems and images on their respective subjects: Cats and Space.

Now they'd turned their attention to Chicago-raised Kanye West -- rap superstar, profound tweeter extraordinaire, master of his universe.

"To much raised wiggling of eyebrows, the newest creation will be a meditation on all things Kanye because, deep down, we all know that Kanye is awesome," they wrote on their Facebook page.

"Me and Grace have started applying for grants, so if the grant gods are looking favourably on us, we might actually be able compensate some of you wondrous starved artists, but, until we hear otherwise, it's still all for love, street cred and the ego thrill of print/inked immortality."

They plan to market the publication internationally as well as locally in Chicago.

Nonfiction submissions are being accepted until May 23, images and fiction until June 23.

For Kanye inspiration, Grace and Annabel suggest, read this 2010 New Yorker meditation by Sasha Frere-Jones.

And stick around for an upcoming interview with Brady-Brown and Gallagher in the Sun-Times Entertainment section.

West on the Today Show in 2010


Musicians of the San Francisco Symphony voted unanimously Wednesday night to authorize a strike if negotiations "continue to stall."

The musicians want to obtain parity with higher-paid colleagues in Chicago and Los Angeles. Management's current offer, they contend, would freeze players' salaries and pensions, and cut medical benefits. Management, however, points out that musicians' pay increased 17.3 percent over the run of players' current contract, which expired Feb. 15, and that musicians currently pay nothing toward health-care premiums.

The timing is crucial because the symphony is scheduled to begin an East Coast tour, with stops at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., and Carnegie Hall in New York City, later this month with its music director Michael Tilson Thomas (pictured above).

Negotiations, which are being overseen by a federal mediator, will resume Tuesday.

The musicians' union also wants management to open its financial books by next week. The union contends management has awarded itself "significant raises" while embarking on a $500-million expansion plan. "How [can] symphony executives be giving themselves raises and embarking on massive spending programs while asking the musicians to make major sacrifices," said Dave Gaudry, chairman of the Musicians' Negotiating Committee, in a statement. "Our ability to continue to be a top-tier symphony and compete against Chicago and Los Angeles will be directly impacted if management continues to pursue an agreement with such draconian cuts."

Meanwhile, Brent Assink, the symphony's executive director, said in a counter-statement, "We are working to develop a fair agreement that recognizes the musicians' stature as one of the top orchestras in the country, but one that does not compromise the future artistic quality or financial stability of the institution."

by Hedy Weiss
Dance Critic/hweiss@suntimes.com

The body has its own language. And Monica Cervantes and Fernando Hernando Magadan -- the two young Spanish-bred choreographers whose work comprised Luna Negra Dance Theater's superbly danced "Made in Spain" program this past Saturday at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance, use that language in the most ingenious ways to suggest the complex, often wildly fractured and twisted inner landscapes of the soul.

The program opener, a revival of Magadan's 2009 work, "Naked Ape" (set to a mood-switching score of electronica and Bach, along with sequences of gibberish spoken by that brilliantly catlike dancer, Eduardo Zuniga) deals with this subject in mostly whimsical terms, though there is a dark, Beckettian quality to it at times.

The piece begins with a stage filled with a headless mannequin dressed in a gauzy white suit lit from within, as well as a number of other body parts of similar construction. Zuniga, in a black suit, pokes around for a soul in these odd figures and subsequently, to great comic effect, tries to manipulate a live body to life. Several superb duets -- danced by Kristen Shelton (a veteran of the company who is moving with more thrilling power than ever), the intense and charismatic Nigel Campbell, the elegant Renee Adams and the stylish Christopher Bordenave --also  explore the connect-disconnect of modern existence with a blend of angst and yearning.

Cervantes, a remarkable slip of a dancer who moves like a squiggle of ink, is a genuine poet-philosopher as a choreographer. Her spellbinding world premiere piece, "Presente," set to Max Richter's fascinating "recomposition" of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons," begins with a frenzied series of walks and runs -- forward and backward -- setting up the notion that "Presente" is a meditation on the way the past continually pulls us back, the future propels us forward, and the immediate state of our being often gets lost in the emotional traffic in between.

Nothing is literal here. A man with all the marks of a child suddenly discovers a more adult form. A duet featues another man dragging a woman across the stage, only to have things move into reverse as she desperately clings to his leg. In one notably dramatic moment earth spills from a long, narrow sack of earth and a woman scoops it up, plants a garden and actually seems to be dwelling in the here and now. Ultimately, a woman, bare chested, suggests total vulnerability and a different form of "presence." Throughout the work you could feel the audience's attention riveted to everything that was unfolding.

"Royal Road," Magadan's world premiere piece, features a program note quoting Sigmund Freud who observed: "Music is the royal road to the soul." Fittingly, there was glorious live music onstage in the form of the Turtle Island Quartet, whose violinist, David Balakrishnan, composed the alternately stringent and folk-inflected pieces to which the dance was set.

Magadan's set design takes the notion one step further, as a giant "chandelier" -- comprised of pages of sheet music -- hovers over the quartet and is bathed in a golden light.

The dancers -- Cervantes and Zuniga (in a marvelous duet), Shelton, Campbell , Adams, Bordenave, Filipa Peraltinha and Karl Rader Watson --  are world class. And their dynamic shifts of mood and movement were finessed with great beauty and excitement.

Luna Negra, soon to celebrate its 15th anniversary (its "quinceañera"), has a loyal following that filled the Harris Theatre this Saturday. And it will stage its choreographic workshop at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art in June. But my big wish for the company is that it finds a smaller venue where it can run multiple performances over the course of a single weekend, and word of mouth can actually have an impact.

And one additional suggestion for the company: A bit more variety in the programming of a mixed bill would serve the choreographers and audience better. One narrative piece perhaps, amid a slew of abstract works, would intensify of all the work on display.

And one additional suggestion for the company: A bit more variety in the programming of a mixed bill would serve the choreographers and audience better. One narrative piece perhaps, amid a slew of abstract works, would intensify of all the work on display.


After Kim Kardashian called her baby daddy Kanye West to tell him she was rushing to the hospital -- worried she might miscarry their unborn child -- I hear the music superstar gave his lady love quite the earful!

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Photo credit: Tom Cruze/Sun-Times

"Hey Chicago Blackhawks, u guys are AWESOME!!"

That widely circulated tweet from star Miami Heat hoopster LeBron James pretty much says it all for fans and businesses benefitting-- whether psychologically or financially or both -- from a 24-game Chicago Blackhawks points streak.

Just last week, the Hawks' television home Comcast SportsNet Chicago broke all kinds of records thanks to the team's winning ways. Ratings were up 87 percent and key demos got significant nudges as well. For a Feb, 19 game against the Vancouver Canucks, numbers went through the roof when 258,000 households tuned in for an all-time regular season ratings record of 7.41.

On Tuesday, March 5, the network bested that with a 7.86 (roughly 274,000 households) for a match-up versus the Minnesota Wild. That audience share peaked toward the game's end at 322,000. According to a company press release, CSN Chicago sustained five hours of top ratings in key demos, including the much coveted Adults 25-54.

Prior to this season, CSN's highest-rated Blackhawks regular season game was back in March of 2010.

"If you look at the top 19 highest-rated regular season Blackhawks games ever, 18 have already occurred this season," said ComCast spokesperson Jeff Nuich. "It's crazy."

Following a third period 3-2 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Wednesday, the Hawks have 24 games to go of 48 total this season, many of which will air on CSN Chicago.

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The Paramount Theater in Aurora is currently staging "Fiddler on the Roof" through March 24.

By every parameter, the Broadway Series at Aurora's historic Paramount Theatre has turned out to be a formidable success story.

Though now only halfway through its second season, it has amassed a history of superb, grand-scale productions, from "My Fair Lady" to "Hair" and "Annie," among others. It has become a much-valued Chicago area showcase for the work of such gifted directors as Rachel Rockwell and Jim Corti, greatly expanding the opportunities of Equity musical theater performers and gifted musicians. It has demonstrated that the far west suburban audience for Broadway level productions is large and enthusiastic. And it has surely been a boon to Aurora itself.

In addition, the Broadway Series, which offers exceptionally good value price-wise, already has attracted 20,000 subscribers. And next season it will increase the run of each show from three weeks to four.

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Gibson's was named one of the best steakhouses in America by Travel+Leisure magazine.

Chicagoans love the high-low meat scene in town.

Of course we can argue the merits of the hotdog. But new emporiums to inflict the "meat sweats" opening at an exponential rate, Chicago knows their cuts of meat.


"Fireman," Manierre Dawson, circa 1912. Oil on board. Private collection, courtesy of Richard Norton Gallery, Chicago

The DePaul Art Museum is marking the 100th anniversary of the legendary Armory Show with a special exhibition, "For and Against Modern Art: The Armory Show + 100."

The new exhibition "reunites some of the prints, drawings and paintings from the exhibition that introduced a stunned America to avant-garde European art," said Louise Lincoln, director of the DePaul Art Museum and curator of the exhibition, in a statement.

Dubbed the Armory Show because it was first held in New York City's 69th Regiment Armory, the 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art was the first large exhibition of modern art in America. The exhibition went on to show at the Art Institute of Chicago.

"Cartoonists had a field day with abstract painting and art students protested against Henri Matisse; shops advertised 'cubist' dresses and restaurants offered 'cubist' food," Lincoln said. "For those few winter days in 1913, when throngs crowded into the Art Institute, the challenging art they saw divided them into 'For and Against.'"

An opening reception will be held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. April 5 at the museum, 935 W. Fullerton. Hours: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Friday; noon to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

The exhibition runs through June 16.

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Photo credit: imdb.com

So it seems that comedy mogul Adam McKay, formerly of iO Theater and Second City, will have his hand in yet another potentially profitable venture -- this time for budding comedy channel IFC (already home to offbeat hits such as former Chicagoan Fred Armisen's Portlandia and David Cross' Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret. The Hollywood Reporter wrote Thursday that McKay, co-founder of the hit Web site funnyordie.com and director of such flicks as Anchorman, Talladega Nights and the forthcoming Anchorman 2, will executive produce a spoof-epic series called The Spoils of Babylon.

According to THR, it "will tell the story of three generations of a prominent American family, framing itself as an adaptation of an epic novel in the veins of Winds of War. The entirely fictional novel will have been written by an equally fictional author, Eric Jonrish (played by Ferrell), and span a century of sex-and-drink-fueled catastrophes, from war and illegal arms deals and the subprime mortgage disaster." Sounds promising. Babylon is slated to roll out in six half-hour installments starting late this year.

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Photo credit: imdb.com

Another guy with Chicago roots, erstwhile Napervillian, brief Second City player and breakout star of AMC's megahit Breaking Bad Bob Odenkirk, is set to re-partner with former The Ben Stiller Show cohort Ben Stiller for a TV adaptation featuring popular comedy troupe The Birthday Boys. A hit at Upright Citizen's Brigade in L.A. on in online videos, the squad's television debut will be a cross between Monty Python and Odenkirk's Emmy-nominated HBO series Mr. Show, which ran from 1995 to 1998 and co-starred Cross.

The Birthday Boys at UCB theater in Los Angeles. Some material may not be appropriate for all viewers.

Adam McKay talks funny

The best of Bob Odenkirk on Breaking Bad


Chicago's pair of reality star/celebrity hot moms/part-time Midwesterners are getting together to shoot the bull on an E! special airing Sunday evening.

North Shore quasi-celeb Kristin Cavallari reveals to E! correspondent Giuliana Rancic that Jay Cutler took a page from thousands of other involved fathers and was an active participant in his son's birth.

"'He held one of my legs!'" Cavallari, 26, told Rancic. "He was there!"

Cavallari apparently didn't want her fiancee to get such a good look at the miracle of life.

"'I was like, 'You're going to be behind me. You're not going to see anything,'" Cavallari she said in a video seen here. "'And the nurse was like, 'Oh, no, no. He's going to hold your leg. I was like, 'Oh, no he's not.' She was like, 'It's different when it's your own.'"

"E! Entertainment Special: Kristin Cavallari," her sit-down interview with Rancic, premiers at 9 p.m. CST Sunday, March 10. on E!. To read more about Cavallari's life with Cutler in Winnetka, check out this interview in the Sun-Times' Splash.

Chicago chef Renee Everett is enjoying the sweet taste of victory after losing on ABC's cooking competition.

She's been hired by "The Taste" judge and celebrity chef Ludo Lefebvre to work in his soon-to-open L.A. eatery Trois Mec.

"I don't think I could have dreamed of a better outcome," said Everett, who left her Hyde Park home Saturday and is crashing on her sister's couch in Los Angeles for the time being.

The outcome was shaping up to be more of a nightmare than a dream for Everett during the premiere of "The Taste."

TheTaste Renee Clip Snip Split from Kinetic Content on Vimeo.


After tons of speculation that fiance Liam Hemsworth roving eye has made Miley Cyrus re-think plans to marry him -- the singer and actress has angrily tweeted she "hates" L.A. and trashes stories claiming the couple's engagement is off.
A major factor -- according to my sources -- was the new Life & Style cover story alleging the Aussie actor was involved in some heavy flirting -- and maybe more -- with "Mad Men" actress at a pre-Oscar party at Hollywood's uber-hip Chateau Marmont hotel.

Chicago dance troupes announce FlySpace partnership

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The Dance COLEctive, Hedwig Dances, Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre and Zephyr Dance have announced FlySpace, a new collaborative, strategic audience-building partnership to connect and engage audiences through the intimacy, excitement and accessibility of contemporary dance.

FlySpace is a resource-sharing consortium, conceived and launched by artistic directors Jan Bartoszek (Hedwig Dances), Margi Cole (The Dance COLEctive), Michelle Kranicke (Zephyr Dance) and Joanna Rosenthal (Same Planet Different World).

The project launches with a two-weekend dance series featuring all four companies (two companies each weekend) with five world premieres by six choreographers. All performances will be held at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion, 201 E. Randolph, in Millennium Park.

Hedwig Dances and Same Planet Different World Dance Theatre share the stage April 5-6 at 7 p.m. and April 7 at 5 p.m. The Dance COLEctive and Zephyr Dance perform together April 12-13 at 7.p.m. and April 14 at 5 p.m.

Tickets for the FlySpace Dance Series are $15. Call (773) 871-0872.

'Like Water for Chocolate' musical on hold

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The much anticipated musical version of Laura Esquivel's "Like Water for Chocolate," previously announced to open later this year on Broadway, has been postponed again.

Singer-songwriter Lila Downs, who, with partner Paul Cohen, is writing the show's music, said in an interview with the Sun-Times that Esquivel was unhappy with the show's producers and decided to table the debut for now. "They [producers] often never really hire the best director in terms of a dramatic sense ... someone who has true experience in the musical arena," said Downs, who embarks this weekend on her latest tour (with a stop March 30 at the Congress Theater in Chicago).

"Like Water for Chocolate" has had a bumpy road to Broadway, with various setbacks over the last three years. It marks the first musical written by Downs, who just won a Grammy for her latest disc, "Pecados y Milagros" (2011).

'Breaking Bad' co-star is doing good

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An actor from the TV show "Breaking Bad" was sworn in on the school board of Albuquerque, N.M.

Steven Michael Quezada, who plays a DEA agent on the AMC cable series, took his oath Wednesday during the board's regular meeting. He won a seat on the city's west side last month after running unopposed.

Quezada plays federal drug agent Steven Gomez on the Albuquerque-based show. Three of Quezada's four children attend the Public Academy for the Performing Arts, a charter school where the actor has been active on the governing board.

The AMC series is filming the second half of its fifth and final season. "Breaking Bad" follows former high school teacher Walter White, played by Bryan Cranston, producing and selling methamphetamine with a former student.


Giuliana Rancic sits down with another Chicago gal, Kristin Cavallari, for an interview special airing on E! at 9 p.m. Sunday, March 10.

From the E! press release announcing the upcoming show: "As portrayed on two popular reality series, Kristin Cavallari became known to viewers for the 'Mean Girl' image that was blasted out over the airwaves. That was then. These days, Kristin Cavallari has settled into suburban life with her new baby and fiancé, NFL quarterback Jay Cutler."

Cavallari takes E! on a tour of her new Chicago area home she shares with Cutler and baby Camden. She also opens up to Rancic about "her colorful past, her surprising reaction to motherhood, her two engagements to Cutler and what really happened once the cameras stopped rolling on 'Laguna Beach' and 'The Hills.'"

"I was 16 when they ("Laguna Beach" producers) first came. We were babies and we didn't know what we were signing up for. They literally came in and just manipulated situations," Cavallari says.


'Skyfall' director will skip next James Bond film

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bond.jpgThe director of "Skyfall," the best-received James Bond film in years, says he'll leave 007's next adventure in someone else's hands.
"Directing 'Skyfall' was one of the best experiences of my professional life," Sam Mendes tells Empire, but I have theater and other commitments, including productions of 'Charlie And The Chocolate Factory' and 'King Lear,' that need my complete focus over the next year and beyond."
Bond producers Michael G. Wilson and Barbara Broccoli had offered Mendes the job and told the magazine they "hope to have the opportunity to collaborate with him again." He said he shares the same hope.
"Skyfall" writer John Logan, a former Chicago playwright, reportedly is writing the 24th 007 film, meant to be the start of a two-movie arc. Daniel Craig will return as the spy with the license to kill.

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Image credit: www.rottentomatoes.com

Since actress Valerie Harper's in the news of late, albeit for a tragic reason, I thought it was worth reprinting what she told me in 2008 for my book about Chicago's comedy mecca The Second City. The "Viola" to whom she refers is former Second City improv oracle and "theater games" instructor Viola Spolin, the mother of famed (and famously cantankerous) Second City/Playwrights Theatre director Paul Sills.

"It made my career. The work," Harper said of her brief stints during the early 1960s at Second City's outposts in Toronto and New York. "I'm well over sixty and I'm using Viola's games to get at what I need to do. If you came out of her workshops and you weren't an actor, you weren't a failure. Your life would be better because her games unleash something in people that connects them to other people, that makes you observe more clearly, more keenly -- be aware of the other over there. She used to say my performance isn't here in Valerie, it's over there in the other player. Look at them. How are they reacting to what I'm saying? Her work came out of such a pure, beautiful, inspired place, and it never really changed all through these decades."


After 10 seasons, TLC's makeover show "What Not to Wear" is calling it quits. Final episodes will air on the basic cable net on Friday nights starting in July.

The show has resident fashion experts Stacy London and Clinton Kelly take on an assortment of fashionably challenged contributors. Over the course of 10 seasons, London and Kelly conducted more than 325 makeovers.

A TLC statement released Wednesday said, "throughout the last episodes, Stacy and Clinton will be faced with some of their biggest challenges yet, with more dramatic transformations, bigger ambushes, shopping sprees on a grander scale, and special guest appearances."

"After 10 incredible seasons, we felt that it was the right time to end the series," said TLC general manager Amy Winter in a statement. "Stacy and Clinton have also become two of the most sought after fashion experts and TV personalities in the industry. We're so proud to have had the two of them along with Carmindy and Ted as the glam squad behind this fan-favorite show, and the final episodes will definitely be a celebration of this monumental run."

Rickover Naval Academy cadet Devin Velez will be among the 10 male semifinalists singing live tonight on "American Idol."

This is the first week in the current 12th season where viewer votes -- not just the judges' preferences -- start to count. In other words, if you want to see a local face in the finals, get out the vote.

At 18, Velez is one of the youngest contestants left on "Idol." In a Sun-Times story that ran earlier this week, Velez talked about how he started singing as a toddler. His grandparents have home videos showing him belting out the tunes in his playroom.

His godmother, Pearl Conley of Melrose Park, sent us this photo (below) of Devin as a young boy, microphone in hand. He'll take the mike again tonight, this time on live television, in front of millions of viewers. Whether he makes the cut will be revealed on tomorrow's results show starting at 7 p.m.


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Decades before he made a full-time living at busting guts, Lavar Walker was a class clown at St. Dorothy elementary on Chicago's South Side. So as to survive Simeon Career Academy thereafter, the Chatham native dialed down the funny -- the better to stay inconspicuous around certain "killers" he says were his peers.

And while Walker admittedly dabbled in the thug life, he wasn't swallowed by it. Instead, driven to succeed, he hightailed it for Xavier University in New Orleans, where he spent seven years getting his doctorate in pharmacology.

But life as a pharmacist at a CVS in Atlanta (where he now lives) soon grew tiresome, despite the great money and benefits. Fortunately, there was comedy. It's the only thing that truly made him happy. Having begun to do stand-up (poorly, at first) during his final year at Xavier, Walker spent another ten years honing his act, which draws largely from real-life scenarios. A bit about talking on the phone to his father, who strings together so many random thoughts in rapid succession that Walker can't get a word in edgewise, is particularly hilarious.

Want to see this up-and-coming jester -- a favorite not only of superstar comic Kevin Hart but of NBA legend Shaquille O'Neal -- live? He'll be at Chicago's House of Blues Friday as part of Hart's "Plastic Cup Boyz" tour.

Walker (center, holding check) with comic Kevin Hart and fellow competitors at the 2012 Miller Lite Comedy Competition in Las Vegas
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And check out the Sun-Times entertainment section for a Walker profile.

Warning: The following videos contain strong language and may not be suitable for all viewers

(Walker's bit starts at 2:38)


Chicago is home to dozens of small museums, many showcasing the city's roots as a collection of ethnic neighborhoods. These museums are part of the Chicago Cultural Alliance, a non-profit that will be holding it's annual meeting March 7 at the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St.

The public is invited to swing by the meeting to get a look at the past year and what is on tap for 2013. The meeting runs from 9 to 11 a.m. For more information click here.


Sounds like former TV reality star Kristin Cavallari got pretty cagey when she listed July 13 as her wedding date, while registering for gifts to her upcoming marriage with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.
In an interview with E! Entertainment's Giuliana Rancic -- herself a part-time Chicagoan -- Cavallari quipped, "I knew the registry would get out, so why would I put the actual date?"
Whenever it does take place, the couple are reportedly planning on a celebration with about 150 family members and friends.

by Hedy Weiss
Theater Critic/hweiss@suntimes.com

When: Through April 21
Where: The Gift Theatre, 4802 N. Milwaukee
Tickets: $25-$30
Info: (773) 283-7071; www.thegifttheatre.org
Run time: 75 minutes with no intermission

"Happiness never really lasts," says the young widow at the center of "Vigils," Noah Haidle's fierce, quirky, poetic, deeply poignant, yet often very funny play about love, loss, grief, memory and the difficulty of saying goodbye.

I first saw this 75-minute fantasia in 2006, when it was produced on the vast mainstage of the Goodman Theatre, and when it seemed to capture the lingering mourning of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Earlier this week I caught The Gift Theatre revival of Haidle's beautiful play in its tiny storefront -- a space in which the audience sits barely a half inch from the stage. And, under Erica Weiss' inspired, intensely physical direction, it felt even richer and more wide-ranging in its meaning. The young, wonderfully expressive actress Hillary Clemens gives a standout performance as the Widow, and she is flawlessly backed by Jay Worthington as her fireman husband's tormented Soul, James D. Farruggio as his Body, and Kyle Zornes as her nerdy Suitor, an emergency medical worker who adores her, but has arrived at a very wrong time in her life.

It has been two years since the Widow's husband died trying to rescue a baby from a burning house, and she is about to go on her first date. The only problem is that she is still living with the man's Soul, which she impulsively grabbed hold of and locked in a large trunk at the foot of her bed. Not only does she still open that trunk for a daily hug, but she continually replays their marriage with the Body -- their meeting, their not always great sex, the depression that followed her miscarriage, the unresolved fight the two had the morning he headed off to work and lost his life in a fire. She cannot find peace. She cannot move on.

The Soul has a rough time of it, too. After all, it's unnatural not to be able to rest in peace on the other side. A ferocious wrestling match (cheers to the fearless actors and fight director John Tovar) captures the tension. As for the poor Suitor, he tries everything, but ultimately can't cope with the Widow's hot-and-cold responses.

Stephen H. Carmody's bedroom set with the angled skylight, Elizabeth M. Patterson's lighting, Anna Henson's projections and Alarie Hammock's costumes are perfection. As for Clemens (the petite actress looks great in everything), and her men, this is Chicago acting at its very best.

NOTE: This fall, the Goodman will present the world premiere of Haidle's "Smokefall," in which a woman, whose life is in chaos, is about to give birth to twin sons. Something to look forward to. Haidle is the real deal.

July wedding for Jay Cutler, Kristin Cavallari?

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JAYKRIS.JPGLooks like Jay Cutler and Kristin Cavallari have a wedding date. People.com unearthed the couple's Williams-Sonoma registry, which -- along with the specifics about fish tweezers and lemon reamers -- says they'll tie the knot on July 13. The Bears QB has a son with the reality TV star.

Season eight "The Bachelorette" first runner-up and race car driver Arie Luyendyk will host a special finale viewing party of "The Bachelor" on March 11 at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage.

The party will include a meet-and-greet opportunity with Luyendyk and a chance to win prizes packages.

Doors open at 5:30 p.m. followed by the Q&A with Luyendyk at 6:30 p.m. and finally the finale live televised viewing at 7 p.m.

Tickets, $30, must be purchased in advance. Seating is limited to 650.

By Dan Moran

If this were Broadway, the Edens Expressway would be the star, and the Amstutz Expressway would be the understudy.

That was the basic situation early this week as Waukegan officials waited to see if the Amstutz will be needed this weekend to act as a rolling set for the NBC's "Chicago Fire." The first-season drama would be making a return visit to the city, having filmed an ersatz 10-car pileup on the lakefront roadway last September for scenes for a Nov. 21 epsiode, titled "Two Families."

"They do pay for our police and fire that are required to be there," Mayor Robert Sabonjian said Monday when asked by 6th Ward Ald. Larry TenPas about the economics involved in hosting the filmmakers. "And they eat in our restautants, so it's nice to have a little bump, absolutely."

Sabonjian added that if everything worked out for this weekend, "we're glad to have 'Chicago Fire' back here. Obviously, we've had a lot of film work done in Waukegan because we work well with the production companies, and we welcome them with open arms, so (it would be) wonderful to have them back."

Details about the return visit will be released if and when the Edens is out of the running, but Motley said tentative plans would have any Amstutz filming take place on Saturday, with closures to be announced if necessary.


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater "Memoria"| PHOTO BY ANDREW ECCLES

Robert Battle is now well into his second year as artistic director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater. And as those who saw the company during its visit to the Auditorium Theatre here last year could sense, the 40-year-old choreographer wasted no time in shaking up the company's repertory while at the same time holding fast to tradition.

The most notable addition last season was the company's performance of "Minus 16," the astonishing work by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Performed by Naharin's own company, Batsheva, and for years a signature piece for Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, it assumed a new level of excitement as the Ailey dancers seized hold of it. And there will be more fresh additions to the rep as the Ailey company returns to the Auditorium for an expanded two-week run, March 8-17.


Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater " Revelations"

According to Battle: "When I think about bringing new or existing pieces into the rep I ask myself several questions. Do I like the choreographer's body of work? What could the Ailey dancers add to the work, and are there some connections to be made and exploited? Will the piece let audiences see the dancers in a whole different light?"

When: March 8-17
Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress
Tickets: $32-$92
Info: (800) 982-2787; www.ticketmaster.com/auditorium


Before top-tier insult comic Lisa Lampanelli--aka the "Queen of Mean" (because cranky hotelier Leona Helmsley died in 2007, so the title was free)--started in with the funny business, she toiled as a journalist/fact-checker as such high-profile glossies as Popular Mechanics, Spy and Rolling Stone. But that scene got old, so she moved on.

"Life is too frickin' short to stay with something you're not really excited about anymore, whether it's a guy, or a chick, or a job," she recently told former Sun-Timesman Doug Elfman of the Las Vegas Journal Review.

"The minute I get sick of comedy, I'm out of there too."

Which, really, could be any time now. So if you're game for unapologetically raw cracks (as in R, NC-17 and X-rated) about gender, race and whatever else pops into the 51-year-old Lampanelli's dark and twisted mind, nab some tickets for her May 4 Rialto Square Theatre gig. They go on sale Friday, March 8.

Lisa Lampanelli
Rialto Square Theatre
May 4 at 8 p.m.


Photo Credit: CBS News

Checking with a source close to Dennis Rodman -- who is working with the ex-Bulls star on Donald Trump's "Celebrity Apprentice" -- it's obvious that the self-appointed new BFF of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un is clueless about how foolish he looks.
"Dennis is furious about how the media is out to make him look like an idiot," said the source, who quickly stressed he thinks Rodman's complimentary remarks about Kim were "very, very ill-advised," considering North Korea's record of inhumanity toward its people -- a policy this new dictator appears to be continuing, as did his father and grandfather.
"Dennis is all about using basketball to bring our countries [the U.S. and North Korea] together. ... He has this completely childlike notion, based on how well HE was treated during his visit. It's really crazy. ... He just should have kept his mouth shut when he got back. But that's not Dennis' way.
"And look what happened. ... That interview with [George] Stephanopoulos on ABC Sunday was a disaster.
"Fortunately, Dennis' team finally realized what a monster this had become and canceled his other appearances."

"The Late Late Show" host Craig Ferguson devoted a good chunk of Monday's monologue to our fair city on its 176th birthday March 4.

The CBS chatfest host showed a map of the city, abutting "Lake Oprah" and, further north, the "Gulf of Gayle." He talked about Chicago's deep-dish pizza, comparing it to Danish philosopher Kirkegaard (natch) and talked about the Chicago-filmed movie "The Untouchables."

You can watch it below. The Chicago part kicks in around the 2 minute, 20 second mark:

Train, Carly Rae Jepsen ditch Boy Scouts conclave

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Carly Rae Jepsen (right) performs last night at London's O2 arena.
That's not a Boy Scout with her, it's Cody Simpson.
(Getty Images)

Two pop artists -- Carly Rae Jepsen and the band Train -- have backed out of scheduled concerts at the National Jamboree event for the Boy Scouts of America in protest of the organization's continued refusal to admit gays and lesbians as members and leaders.

Train and Jepsen were scheduled as entertainment headliners at the annual gathering of nearly 50,000 scouts, taking place July 15-24 at the Summit Bechtel Family National Scout Reserve in West Virginia.

Ready for the third installment of the "Iron Man" franchise? The latest journey stars Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow, and also Don Cheadle, Guy Pearce, Rebecca Hall and Ben Kingsley. The film opens May 3.

This is serious stuff.

Columbia College Chicago wants to teach students how to "Study Funny" with the announcement today of the school's new theater degree in comedy writing and performance.

To that end, the school is partnering with Chicago's venerable Second City to recruit students for the new B.A. Theatre degree with a specialization in Comedy Writing and Performance. The program is slated to begin this fall.

The degree program, based in the Columbia College Theatre Department, also partners with Columbia's Television and Arts, Entertainment and Media Management departments for core curriculum content. The program also incorporates the College's five-year-old "study abroad" semester in Comedy Studies at The Second City, which invites students from around the country to embed themselves for an intensive semester of on-site classes and workshops at The Second City, receiving Columbia College Chicago credit hours.

Click this link for more information about the new comedy degree program.


With Adrienne Maloof tweeting about her exit from "The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills" (something my Bravo sources tell me makes them happy!) -- plus the the expected departure of Camille Grammer -- and Dayna Devon reportedly negotiating to be Taylor Armstrong's replacement -- the show is very much in flux after its third season.
I'm hearing Bravo is looking to give the show a whole new, younger thrust -- and supposedly has some VERY exciting new twists in the works.

Stay tuned..†.

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Seven Chicago area young musicians have been selected for the newly formed National Youth Orchestra of the United States of America. After a summer residency in New York City, the orchestra will embark on an international tour, with stops in Moscow and London.

Created by the Weill Music Institute of New York's Carnegie Hall, the ensemble recognizes rising talents ages 16 to 19. Musicians of the 120-member orchestra were selected after an extensive national audition process.

The Chicago-area winners are Emily Camras, cello (Batavia); Garrett Chou, cello (Northbrook); Eric Goldberg, percussion (Chicago); Erika Gray, viola (Wilmette); Tanner Jackson, bass trombone (Tinley Park); Jacob Mezera, trombone (Tinley Park), and Tabitha Oh, violin (Chicago).

In late June, the 120 musicians will begin a two-week training residency at Purchase College, State University of New York. Acclaimed maestro Valery Gergiev will lead the orchestra during its first year, and superstar violinist Joshua Bell will join the orchestra as a special guest soloist.

After the completing the residency, the orchestra will make its debut at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

Carnegie Hall already has announced auditions for the 2014 class. For details on the application process, go to carnegiehall.org/nyousa.


Landmark Renaissance Place to close for renovations

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Attention, North Shore cinephiles. Beginning Friday, Landmark Renaissance Place in Highland Park will close for unspecified renovations. According to the theater's media rep, the cineplex will reopen "sometime this summer."

The five-screen cinema opened in 2000 at 1850 Second Street in downtown Highland Park. According to a story published last fall in the Glencoe News, Landmark plans to convert the cinema to the latest in digital technology. No additional details are posted yet at the Landmark chain's site, landmarktheatres.com, but as the saying goes, keep watching that space.

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The Associated Press reports that a private plane carrying magician David Copperfield made an unscheduled stop in Illinois early today after it made a "frightening" sound en route from Las Vegas to New York.

Peoria International Airport officials say Copperfield's plane safely landed there after it began experiencing problems around 1:45 a.m. Monday.

Copperfield was supposed to appear live on the "Today Show" on Monday morning, but ended up filming the interview remotely from Byerly Aviation in Peoria.

Copperfield told the morning news show that the plane made crackling noises at 37,000 feet that he recorded on his cellphone. He says he "kind of freaked out." He also Tweeted "happy to be on the ground and safe."

Copperfield continued on to Las Vegas via a commercial flight.

chicken.jpgLet the speculation begin: What Hollywood A-Lister gave Barbara Walters chickenpox?
Returning to "The View" after six weeks away, the 83-year-old TV legend explained that she was diagnosed with the disease -- the cause of many a middle-school sick day -- while hospitalized after a Jan. 19 fall.
With plenty of time to contemplate how she caught the highly contagious ailment, Walters traced it back to a hug from a well-known actor "who shall be nameless."
The hugger had shingles, she said, and "if you have never had chickenpox ... you can get it from someone with shingles."
In the fall at a party in Washington, she suffered a concussion and needed stitches. The only evidence of her ordeal now is a tiny scar on her forehead and a single remaining chickenpox bump.
"After a lot of scratching and rest, I am fine and I am healthy," she said.
To remind her she's not on "20/20" anymore, the "View" team welcomed her back with a song by comedian Mario Cantone -- backed up by a chicken-suited chorus.


Photo Credit: OK Magazine

Lisa Lampanelli may have dropped a ton of weight, but the frequently foul-mouthed "R-Rated" comic has lost none of her edge.
The comedian returns to our area for an 8 p.m. Saturday, May 4 gig at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet.
Tickets go on sale at 9 a.m. Friday at the theater box office plus all Ticketmaster locations or at Ticketmaster.com or by calling (800) 745-3000.
It must be stressed: This show is definitely for mature audiences.

Photo Credit: E! Online

Sounds like the friendship between "Karate Kid" star Jaden Smith, the 14-year-old son of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith -- and Kardashian clan member Kylie Jenner, 15 -- is turning into something a bit more serious.
(Or as "serious" as a teen romance can be with kids that age!)
According to Us Weekly source, the duo are "dating. ... It's new, but they've been friends forever."

My, my. "Forever" sure has taken on a lot shorter meaning-- hasn't it?

At any rate, if true, this connection would also be a bit of a merger between two of the biggest celebrity families in Hollywood.

Of course, this tidbit could also be like the alleged romance between Kylie and Austrailian pop singer Cody Simpson. The young Jenner daughter told Seventeen magazine last September, "Cody and I are just good friends. We can say that as much as we want and people will still listen to gossip."


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Now that we've learned LaToya Jackson has begun managing the careers and appearances of Michael Jackson's children -- particularly Prince and Paris -- I've heard some of her other siblings are irked. They're unhappy that LaToya -- who (like them) were ignored in Michael's will -- will now get money for agenting and management fees from the $$$ the Jackson kids will be paid.
More to come...


Forget the tie dye. Or the purple haze.

In time for what would have been Jimi Hendrix's 70th birthday, the Gap released two limited edition t-shirts celebrating the rocker's iconic image -- rather than the usual purple dreck offered up at various head shops. The portrait -- from this week's release of People, Hell and Angels, an album of previously unreleased tracks -- is a graphic take on Hendrix's visage.

The t-shirts are $29.99 on sale Tuesday at Gap.com and in stores beginning March 15.


By Bill Zwecker

I just heard that Lindsay Lohan is thrilled that Charlie Sheen continues to care about her and wants to mentor her through her problems.

"After all, no one knows about substance abuse problems and how they can [expletive] up your life," a longtime Lohan associate told me early Monday.

The universe may have just aligned.

Mark Wahlberg may return in his Calvins. With the bunch. The Funky Bunch.

Younger brother Donnie sets out this summer with New Kids on the Block, so Walhberg the elder wonders if a nostalgia tour could be "lucrative" for him. The award-winning actor said he's waiting for the right time to set off good vibrations.

'Well, the Funky Bunch wants to get back out there, too,' he told Heat magazine. 'I've just got to find the right time. We might, though...'

Let it never be said that Chay Yew, in his second year as artistic director of Victory Gardens Theater, soft-pedals his commitment to "diversity" or worries about being labeled politically correct in the extreme. Just take a look at his plans for the theater's 2013-2014 season and beyond.


In line with its mission to "cultivate new American voices and represent Chicago's many cultural communities," the theater plans to expand its subscription series by hosting "three or four of the most exciting, diverse storefront theater companies" on its stages as part of a new Resident Theater Program. The names of these theaters, and the shows they will present, will be announced in the coming weeks along with a joint statement from these companies.

Victory Gardens also has announced a new board of National Artistic Advisors that includes such high-profile talents as Luis Alfaro, Nilo Cruz, Eve Ensler, David Henry Hwang, Tony Kushner, David Lindsey-Abaire, John Logan, Craig Lucas, Sandra Oh (who stars in TV's "Gray's Anatomy," and will appear in one of the mainstage plays this season), Suzan-Lori Parks, Jose Rivera, Anika Noni Rose, Sarah Ruhl, Jeanine Tesori, Paula Vogel, George C. Wolfe and B.D. Wong. Many of these artists have worked at Victory Gardens in the past, or had their work produced by the company.

Meanwhile, there is the 2013-14 season itself. It will include:

± "Appropriate" (Nov. 8-Dec. 8), a play by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins in a co-world premiere with Actors Theater of Louisville, to be directed by Gary Griffin. In this story of the Lafayette family, the dead patriarch's three adult children arrive at his crumbling Arkansan plantation to liquidate his estate. As they collide over clutter, debt, and a contentious family history, a disturbing discovery unleashes some explosive confrontations.

± "The Gospel of Lovingkindness" (Feb. 21-March 23, 2014), a world premiere by Victory Gardens ensemble playwright Marcus Gardley, directed by Chay Yew. Set in 1996, as the streets of Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood are set ablaze and gripped by crime, evictions, gun and gang violence, the play focuses on Reverend Isaac Seer and his wife, who have just lost their only son to a senseless homicide. Now they must decide whether to leave their home in the embattled Ida B. Wells Projects, or stay to lead their community towards an uncertain future.

± "Death and the Maiden" (June 13-July 13, 2014): A revival of Ariel Dorfman's drama (inspired by events in Chile, but applicable to many "rocky new democracies"), is about a woman (played by Oh) who believes "the kind doctor" who recently helped her husband when his car broke down was the man who tortured her as she lay blindfolded in a military detention center years before. As it happens, the woman's husband has just been chosen to head the commission that will investigate the crimes of the old regime. Yew will direct.

For subscriptions to Victory Gardens, 2433 N. Lincoln, call (312) 871-3000 or visit www.victorygardens.org.

Cast changes abound for season 4 of 'Downton Abbey'

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PBS announced today that six new cast members are joining "Downton Abbey" series. In addition, as reported in the Sun-Times two weeks ago, Shirley MacLaine will be returning to reprise her role as Martha Levinson.

"Downton Abbey" newbies will include:
_ Tom Cullen as Lord Gillingham, as an old family friend of the Crawleys who visits the family as a guest for a house party
_ Nigel Harman as a valet named Green.
_ Harriet Walter asLady Shackleton, an old friend of the Dowager Countess.
_ Joanna David as the Duchess of Yeovil.
_ Julian Ovenden as aristocrat Charles Blake.

In addition, opera superstar Kiri Te Kanawa is also slated to make an appearance as a guest at the Abbey.

And current cast member Siobhan Finneran, who stars as the villainous Sarah O'Brien is leaving the series.

by Hedy Weiss
Theater Critic/hweiss@suntimes.com

Assembling a season at the Steppenwolf Theatre involves gathering the input of the large (and widely dispersed) ensemble, and some might describe it as akin to herding cats. But the intriguing eclecticism of the company's 2013-2014 lineup is a fine indication of what can happen when so many disparate talents have their input.

Actress Joan Allen, last seen at Steppenwolf in 1991 (in "Earthly Possessions"), is scheduled to return in the American premiere of a British play, "The Wheel."

Austin Pendleton (who directed the superb revival of "The Birthday Party" running through April 28 in Steppenwolf's Upstairs Theatre), will direct "Tribes," the play that has been a huge success for Chicago-bred director David Cromer in New York. And Yasen Peyankov will direct the Chicago premiere of "Russian Transport," the work of a young Brooklyn-bred playwright, that will bring Mariann Mayberry (star of "Good People") back to the stage.

Meanwhile, two world premieres are part of the mix, too. Amy Morton, back from her triumphant Broadway run in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" will put on her director's hat for "The Way West," Mona Mansour's tale of a contemporary American family that questions the pioneer spirit. And Bruce Norris, Pulitzer Prize winner for "Clybourne Park," has a new sex comedy up his sleeve with "The Qualms, directed by Pam MacKinnon (who staged Steppenwolf's "Virginia Woolf").

Here is the lineup in detail:

± "The Wheel" (Sept. 12-Nov. 10), the American premiere of Zinnie Harris' drama, directed by Tina Landau and featuring Joan Allen, Tim Hopper, Ora Jones and Yasen Peyankov. The play, which debuted in a National Theatre of Scotland production at the 2011 Edinburgh Festival, is set on a 19th century Spanish farm, where Beatriz is happily preparing for her sister's wedding when the house is overrun by soldiers and she becomes the unintentional guardian of a young girl. Beatriz's determination to reunite the child with her father sweeps her along on a journey across war zones, through time and into the curious twists of human nature in times of war.

± "Tribes" (Dec. 5, 2013-Feb. 9, 2014), the Chicago premiere of Nina Raines' play, directed by Pendleton, and featuring ensemble members Alana Arenas and Francis Guinan. First seen at London's Royal Court, and then off Broadway, the drama introduces us to Billy, deaf since birth, yet the only person who truly "listens" in his intellectual, proudly eccentric English family that has its own private languages, "inside" jokes and fiery arguments. When Billy meets his girlfriend Sylvia, he is introduced to a larger deaf community, which sparks a struggle for self-identity and rebellion against his family.

± "Russian Transport" ( Feb. 6-May 11, 2014 in the Upstairs Theatre), the Chicago premiere of Erika Sheffer's play, directed by Yasen Peyankov and featuring Tim Hopper, Mariann Mayberry and Alan Wilder). A look at the contemporary American immigrant experience, with elements of a thriller, focuses on a rowdy Russian family in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn that is hellbent on achieving the American Dream. With the arrival from the "old country" of Uncle Boris, who is engaged in mysterious business ventures, that family is challenged in unexpected ways.

± "The Way West" (April 3-June 8, 2014), a world premiere by Mona Mansour, directed by Amy Morton. In this look at the American family, set in a modern-day California town that's seen better days, Mom shares death-defying tales of pioneer crossings with her two squabbling adult daughters as she waits for her bankruptcy to come through. Infused with original prairie songs, this play explores the mixed blessing of our great frontier spirit, which has fueled both self-delusion and survival.

± "The Qualms" (July 3-Aug. 31, 2014): This world premiere by Bruce Norris, directed by Pam MacKinnon, is set at a beachside apartment complex, where a group of friends gathers for their regular evening of food, drink, drugs and partner-swapping. But things don't go as planned with the arrival of a new couple, and the questions that arise are: Does sex ruin everything? And what is the purpose of monogamy?

When: Rotating repertory through April 21
Where: Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted
Tickets: $20 each or $45 for three-play pass

Among the many virtues of Steppenwolf Theatre's Garage Rep series -- now in its fourth annual showcase of the work of selected Chicago storefront companies -- is that it presents the sort of things you might never see on its mainstage. For the most part performed and directed by younger artists, the Rep shows tend to feature a wider mix of styles and attitudes, and, not surprisingly, attract audiences with a visibly different demographic.

Consider Vietnamese playwright Qui Nguyen's hugely engaging "She Kills Monsters" (Highly Recommended), with its exceptional 11-person cast brilliantly directed by Scott Weinstein. It is a production of Buzz 22 Chicago, a company I'd not heard of before, but will not soon forget.

Inspired by the phenomenally successful role-playing game, "Dungeons & Dragons" (in which, ordinarily, I have zero interest), Nguyen's 95-minute, action-packed play is a sort of epic, live-action anime as it uses the essential elements of that game to chronicle the quest of twentysomething Agnes (Katherine Banks), a straight-arrow teacher living in Athens, Ohio in the 1990s. After the tragic death of her 15-year-old sister, Tilly (the ideally Peter Pan-like Jessica London-Shields), Agnes finally tries to get to know the shy, nerdy (lesbian-leaning) younger sister with whom she had nothing in common.

Coached by a young gamester, Chuck (the downright hilarious Richard Traub), Agnes "plays out" the elaborate story found in a notebook left by the imaginative Tilly. The girl gave herself a fierce little warrior persona and cleverly turned the people in her "real life" into fantasy characters including Lilith (the impressively morphable Sara Sawicki), a stunning dominatrix; Kaliope (Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary), a fierce if elfin warrior; two bullying cheerleaders (Ellie Reed and Allie Long); and a beastly jock, Orcus (Morgan Maher). Also part of the story are Agnes' immature boyfriend, Miles (Fred Geyer); a nerdy classmate, Steve (Jose Nateras); and a no-nonsense guidance counselor, Vera (Daeshawna Cook).

The exuberant performers excel at the acrobatically fearsome fight choreography of Chuck Coyl, and there is sophisticated design by a hugely gifted team that includes William Boles, Rachel Goldberg, Lee Keenan, Daniel Carylon, Matt Deitchman, Colleen Werle and many others. This "game" is an epic winner on every count.
The Theatre Seven production of Christina Anderson's "Black Top Sky" (Recommended), is a cry from the urban heart, directed by Cassy Sanders.

Set in the scrappy little park of a New York housing project, it introduces us to three characters. Ida (Kristin E. Ellis) is a recent high school grad trying to separate from an abusive mother. She dreams of a better, quieter life, yet isn't quite ready to settle in with her slightly older boyfriend, Wynn (Eric Lynch), who has both a job and a temper. Meanwhile, she befriends a young homeless man, Klass, and in a performance of impressive poetry and volatility, actor Julian Parker mines what is unquestionably the best writing in this 90-minute work comprised of brief, well-etched scenes.

Who makes it out of the projects? Who is forever destroyed by them? And what do we carry with us, whether in plastic crates or the inner reaches of our psyches? Anderson's play considers all these questions.

Bailiwick Chicago's entry here is the Chicago premiere of a musical, "See What I Wanna See" (Somewhat Recommended), by the widely produced composer-lyricist Michael John LaChiusa ("Hello Again, "The Wild Party").

Set in 1951 New York City, it's first act is a noir-like murder story with a multiperspective "Rashomon" twist. Its second unspools in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The whole thing (directed by Lili-Anne Brown, with music direction by James Morehead and an excellent band), feels like LaChiusa tried to paste together two one-acts to create a full-length work. The result is a big hash whose major virtue -- aside from some individually wonderful songs in a variety of styles -- is to give the actors a chance to play very different characters.

Evan Tyrone Martin brings a glorious voice and easy elegance to the roles of a janitor and TV news reporter. Danni Smith is sizzling as a jazzy cabaret singer, and absolutely phenomenal as an Italian-American woman with an Emma Goldman spirit. Peter Oyloe is initially a nasty rebel-without-a-cause, and then a priest who has lost his way. h Sharriese Hamilton is an adulterous Japanese wife, a psychic medium and a coked up contemporary actress. And Harter Clingman is a Japanese warrior, rich businessman and accountant in a show that just doesn't add up in any satisfying way.


Chances are Nick Offerman won't talk about his wood, but the "Parks and Recreation" star -- a former Chicago resident during his days as technical director/head scenery builder for the Defiant Theatre Company -- will surely have plenty else to discuss when he appears at the Music Box Theatre during opening weekend (March 8 and 9) of the new comedy "Somebody Up There Likes Me."

The film, which is produced by Offerman and stars Keith Poulson, isn't a rehash of Paul Newman's 1956 hit that bears the exact same name. Per promo verbiage, this one's "about the charmed life of Max Youngman, who appears to be blessed with a dry sense of irony, accidental good fortune and eternal youth." It screens at the Music Box March 8-14.

Nick Offerman at the Music Box Theatre
March 8 and 9 (two screenings per night, at 7:30 p.m. and 9:45 p.m.)
Tickets $10

by Hedy Weiss
Dance Critic/hweiss@suntimes.com

The Chicago Moving Company (CMC) will be celebrating its 40th anniversary as a force in contemporary dance in this city with a series of concerts and special events running March 21-23, 2013 at The Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago, 1306 S. Michigan.

Among the events will be: Three evening performances, post-show audience/artist conversations, a family matinee, a free family movement workshop preceding the matinee; special exhibits (Costume RETROspective, showcasing select costumes from 1972-2012, and "What the Camera Sees", 40 years of Chicago Moving Company photographic images); as well as an after-party/benefit, "Wild Rumpus."

The CMC concerts will feature revivals ("injected with the here and now"), a world premiere, special events, lighting by Jeff-Award-winning Ken Bowen, and dancers drawn from the current company, as well as CMC alumni, guest Chicago dancers and international artists. It will open with "40 Years in 5 Minutes", a quick-fire video trip through CMC's four decades-- showing the evolution of CMC, dance, costumes (from unitards and on), production, and culture from 1972-2012 , all curated by Nana Shineflug in collaboration with Magma Arts Media.

Founder-director Nina Shineflug's latest work, "Patterns of Being" (previewed during the company's Gulf Coast tour), will be performed. It uses a live, original sound-score for the didgeridoo by CMC composer-in-residence Stone (Winston Damon). The work is a spare quizzical, and somewhat elegiac quartet that looks at individuality, humanity, and mortality.

Four major repertory works from the past century also will be featured: "John Somebody" (1987), inspired by Robert Longo's photographs, "Men in Cities," taking the form of a seductive, post-punk ode to urban alienation, agitation and energy; excerpts from "Coming Forth by Day" (1998), danced to the music of Stephen Scott and inspired by the magical, poetic text of Normandi Ellis' translation of "The Egyptian Book of the Dead"; "Windows" (1984), a quartet inspired by Edward Hopper's master paintings of gritty American beauty, and people alone together; "Love Songs" (2001), whose different sectionswill be interspersed throughout the evening; "Reno Dakota", a terse, punchy solo; "Papa Was a Rodeo", a humorous take on what the heart wants; and "Time Enough for Rocking When You're Old."

For concert tickets ($26-$30), call (312) 369-8330 or visit www.colum.edu/chicagomovingcompany.

When: Rotating rep through March 24
Where: Akvavit Theatre at Storefront Theatre, 66 E. Randolph
Tickets: $15 each play ($22 for all three plays on Sundays)
Info: (800) 595-4849; www.tix.com
Run time: "A Summer's Day" (90 minutes with no intermission); "Winter" (55 minutes no intermission)

Not a drop of alcohol is consumed during the course of "A Summer's Day" or "Winter," two of the three plays by Norwegian dramatist and poet Jon Fosse now being presented by Akvavit Theatre, Chicago's Nordic-rooted company. But be advised: While Fosse's bleak vision of love, loneliness and the inability of people to communicate, combined with his compulsive use of repetition, can be compelling (and even blackly comic at moments), it also can grow tedious to the point where it might well drive YOU to drink.

Running in rotating repertory (along with "Autumn Dream"), his trilogy, translated by Kyle Korynta, is grouped under the umbrella title "Gjengager" (loosely translated as "those who walk again"). If that calls to mind "the undead," you would not be wholly off the mark, though these plays are no kitschy zombie tales. They do, however, give Ingmar Berman's films a run for their existential gloominess.

"A Summer's Day," directed by Wm. Bullion, is set in the attractive living room of an old house along a fjord on the Norwegian seacoast where a depressed woman in late middle age (played by Jan Sodaro), is looking back at the moment when, for all intents and purposes, her life came to a standstill.

As a young woman (played by Marika Mashburn), she agreed to leave city life behind and, at the urging of her husband, Asla (Joshua Harris), move to this remote area. But the move did nothing to alleviate his deeply depressive personality. In fact, it made things worse. And one day he just got into his little wooden rowboat and never came home, leaving her in a state of emotional paralysis forever.

As the bereft woman (her younger and oldr incatnations pass through the same space) gazes out her window to the sea, she recalls the fateful night when Asla left, and when a visiting friend (Mandy Walsh), and her pragmatic husband, (Linsey Falls), tried to comfort her.

"Winter," directed by Paul S. Holmquist, at least has a bit of sexiness going for it (unsatisfying as it might be for the characters). A quite normal, thirtysomething married man and father (Corey Noble), is on a business trip when he encounters a stunning but clearly off-kilter woman (Bergen Anderson, who has a runway model's figure). Clearly she is in breakdown mode, and desperate for love and connection. And she comes on to him in a way few men could resist. He takes her back to his hotel room; she conks out on the bed; they do not have sex; and while he is out buying her some clothes and food his wife calls.

There is more. And while one of these people might be saved by this close encounter, the other might be ruined by it. Their liaison, very well played by the two actors, will never work. She knows this; he will learn.

Chad Eric Bergman's set -- a sweeping wooden wall suggesting a fjord-- transforms the Storefront space with distinctive flair. Mix it with Chicago's recent frosty gray skies and you might just think you're in Norway.

Can we at least float the idea? Sure we can. But floating is all we're doing here. Despite its definitive headline, "Jimmy Kimmel taking over Oscar," the New York Post admitted it's clueless about whether or not the ever-more-popular late-night personality will helm the showbiz industry's most prestigious awards ceremony next year. Kimmel hasn't weight in, either -- at least not publicly -- because there's nothing to weigh in on.

He did, however, retweet an advocate.com op-ed piece by Victoria Brownworth in which she wrote of this year's Oscars, "[Seth] MacFarlane did what good awards hosts do -- he ripped the status quo a new one. He dissed Mel Gibson's anti-Semitism and when the audience had an 'Oh no!' response, he said, 'Oh, you're on his side?' Right back at ya!"

Judging by his performance at the White House Correspondents dinner last April, Kimmel's also comfortable tweaking folks in power. Combine that with his generally well reviewed turn as 2012 Emmy emcee, his old-school charm and his mischievous bent -- not to mention the fact that Kimmel is employed by the same network that has rights to air the Oscars through 2020 -- and it seems like a fine fit.

We won't know for a while, though. As an ABC spokesperson told the Post, "This is a decision for the Academy. No conversations have even started on that yet, and won't for some time."

Jimmy bumps Matt Damon -- again

Jimmy hosts the 2012 Emmy Awards

Jimmy at the 2012 White House Correspondents Dinner

Jimmy's guest Josh Groban sings Kanye West tweets

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Photo credit: www.entertainmentrealm.com

Not only is he a busy celebrity ghostwriter and the author of some gory/gut-busting monster mash-ups -- including a personal favorite, "Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie Invasion" -- but prolific writer and Chicagoan Alan Goldsher hosts the online interactive book/publishing talk show "Book It."

His featured guest on Thursday, March 7, is "Cape Fear" and "Goodfellas" actress Illeana Douglas, who's also at work on (as Goldsher puts it) "a sometimes humorous, sometimes poignant, always compelling" book of essays called "I Blame Dennis Hopper."

What does she blame him for, exactly? Tune in and find out. She'll be reading, taking viewer questions and rapping about things writerly with Goldsher, who also happens to be her collaborator on the project.

Go here to RSVP.

Here's Illeana with clueless celebrity interviewer Jiminy Glick -- aka Martin Short

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Photo credit: www.biography.com

When news broke in early February about a partnership between NBC and Esquire magazine, network general manager Adam Stotsky told the New York Times that this new venture would appeal to modern men who are interested stuff besides "tattoo or pawn shops or storage lockers or axes or hillbillies."

Apparently that includes late-night host Jimmy Fallon, whose show will air encore episodes on the Esquire Network on a one-week delay starting April 24.

"Jimmy's sharp wit, relaxed style and natural charm make him exactly the kind of guy Esquire Network viewers want to spend time with, and his show the perfect choice to lead in to our primetime," Stotsky told the Hollywood Reporter. "With its unique blend of conversation, music, innovative use of digital media and risk-taking comedy, Late Night with Jimmy Fallon has become a top destination for A-list celebrities and now, for our viewers as well."

Fallon joins "Parks and Recreation" and "Party Down," which are set to begin airing April 22.

Stream David Bowie's 'The Next Day'

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Bowie's back! The 24th album from David Bowie, "The Next Day," has been carefully teased in recent weeks, and today the album arrives as a stream available on iTunes.

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