A daily dose of arts and entertainment

April 2013 Archives

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Andy Dick and his 'Dancing With the Stars' partner Sharna Burgess

"Dear TeamDick," the former Chicago improvisor and current Dancing with the Stars contestant Andy Dick began in a short Facebook message to his many supporters.

"I can't express how much your love and support has meant to me during DWTS! The messages, tweets, and texts I've received are overwhelmingly positive, emotional, and uplifting. You don't understand how much you guys inspire ME. When I read your messages, I often cry tears of joy & sorrow. With your permission, I'd like to share some of your stories with everyone. I love you for your continued support & LOVE. In more ways than one, we are in this together!!!! Love, Andy."

Dick -- who recently spoke out against what he considers to be shabby treatment from at least one DTWTS judge -- competed again Monday night with his pro partner Sharna Burgess. Judge Carrie Ann Iniba awarded them an anemic score of 5.

Local acts slated for Taste of Chicago stage

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Taste of Chicago today announced the lineup on its local music stage, featuring 30 Chicago bands again programmed around daily themes.

The annual food and music festival previously announced its major concert headliners, including Robert Plant and fun. Those shows are ticketed at $25.

The local music Bud Light Stage is free and runs from noon to 8 p.m. July 10-14 at the south end of Taste of Chicago at Columbus and Balbo.

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Jerry Mitchell, Cindy Lauper and Harvey Fierstein, the creative team behind "Kinky Boots" in its world premiere in Chicago in 2012. | AP

Nominations were announced Tuesday morning for the 2013 Tony Awards. And while there are few surprises on the list, there are a good number of notable Chicago connections, including the fact that "Kinky Boots," which had its pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago, came away with 13 nominations.

"Matilda, The Musical," the widely acclaimed London hit based on Roald Dahl's children's novel about a precocious 5-year-old girl who overcomes family and school obstacles, and helps her teacher reclaim her life, received 12 nominations, including those for best book (Dennis Kelly), music and lyrics (Tim Minchin), director (Matthew Warchus), and best actor (Bertie Carvel who plays in drag as the demonic Miss Trunchbull). The four young girls who rotate in the title role will be honored as a group.

"Kinky Boots," which had its pre-Broadway premiere in Chicago in 2012, and marked the first time pop icon Cindy Lauper penned a Broadway, received 13 nominations, including those for best musical, best score (Lauper), best book (Harvey Fierstein), best director and choreographer (Jerry Mitchell), leading actors (Billy Porter and Stark Sands), featured actress (Annaleigh Ashford), orchestrations, sets, costumes, lights and sound.

"A Christmas Story, The Musical," another show that had a pre-Broadway run in Chicago (it is based on the writings of radio humorist Jean Shepherd, and his memories of childhood) also received a nomination in the best musical category.

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Tracy Letts and Amy Morton in a scene from Steppenwolf Theatre's production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" | PHOTO BY MICHAEL BROSILOW

Steppenwolf ensemble member Tracy Letts (who received the 2008 Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize for his play "August: Osage County"), and was universally acclaimed for his revelatory portrayal of George in the Steppenwolf revival of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" that played in Chicago and Washington D.C. before being remounted on Broadway, has received the expected nomination for best actor in a play. And the production itself, which arrived on Broadway just in time to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Albee's play, was nominated for best revival of play and best director (Pam MacKinnon). Letts has high-profile competition from Tom Hanks and Nathan Lane, among others. His co-star, Amy Morton, received a nomination for best actress for her portrayal of Martha, and she also has tough competition. Carrie Coon was nominated as featured actress for her fine portrayal of Honey.

Another Steppenwolf veteran, Laurie Metcalf, was nominated for best actress in a play for her role as a scientist felled by her own mental descent in "The Other Place." So was Holland Taylor, whose self-penned one-woman show, "Ann," about Ann Richards, the frank and feisty late governor of Texas, which had a pre-Broadway tryout in Chicago in 2011, and Cicely Tyson, for her work in "The Trip to Bountiful."

NOTE: The 2013 Isabelle Stevenson Award recipient will be playwright Larry Kramer, author of"The Normal Heart," the play about the early years of AIDS that received the 2011 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play, and is slated for a Chicago remount by TimeLine Theatre this fall. The Isabelle Stevenson Award recognizes an individual from the theater community who has made a substantial contribution of volunteered time and effort on behalf of one or more humanitarian, social service or charitable organizations, regardless of whether such organizations relate to the theater.

The winners of the 2013 Tony's will be announced June 9 on a live broadcast on CBS.

For a complete list of the Tony nominees visit www.

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Plainfield East high school senior Rapheal Mathis is among nine student finalists who'll compete for a $20,000 grand prize at the Poetry Out Loud National Finals in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, April 30. He and his co-finalists emerged April 28 from a pool of 53 semifinalists who hailed from all over the U.S. as well as Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

This year's pool of national entrants numbered around 375,000. Mathis took second place in the state finals in 2011.

"On my way to capitol hill for the congressional breakfast," he tweeted early Tuesday. "Made it to the top lol. Where's Obama."

"Rapheal has a natural speaking ability," Plainfield East speech team sponsor Michel Pawlak says in a story about Mathis on the District 202 web site. "When you couple his innate talent with his desire to practice and continually improve, his performances have the capability of captivating audiences."

2012 Poetry Out Loud Finals

Kanye & Kim baby shower for Chicago children's hospital

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Kim Kardashian is advising family and friends not to send her any baby gifts. Instead, she'd prefer those who are feeling generous make a donation to a Chicago hospital for kids.

TMZ reports today that "there's NO baby registry -- despite the slew of fakes popping up on the Internet" and that Kardashian and her beau, rapper Kanye West, are encouraging gifts to Chicago's Lurie Children's Hospital.


Vince Vaughn and wife Kyla Weber have another baby on the way.

"We're expecting our second child," he told Ellen on her show Monday, "We're very excited."

Vaughn confirmed his wife's due date is in August.

The couple have a two-year-old daughter Locklyn.

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The Eagles fly Sept. 20 at the United Center

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Chicago is among the eight cities just added to the "History of the Eagles," a tour celebrating the legacy of the SoCal rock band. The local date is Sept. 20 at the United Center. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday at ticketmaster.com. Announced last month, the tour is pegged to the release of the documentary "History of the Eages," in stores Tuesday (and which had its U.S. premiere on Showtime).

PHOTO: John Cooper, director of the Sundance Film Festival, musicians Don Henley, Glenn Frey, Joe Walsh and Timothy B. Schmit of The Eagles speak at the "History of the Eagles Part 1" screening during the Sundance London Film and Music Festival 2013 in London last week. (Photo by Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images)

C2E2 vs. Coachella

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After dealing with crowds and mayhem at C2E2 on Saturday right after the recent Coachella Music and Arts Festival, I found myself wondering -- what's harder to do -- C2E2 in Chicago or Coachella in the California desert?
I asked Coachella-goer and Pioneer Press Features Managing Editor Jennifer Thomas to compare notes on the two events.


Minita Gandhi, Adam Poss and Mark Smith star in "The Lake Effect" at Silk Road Rising.

'The Lake Effect'
When: Through May 26
Where: Silk Road Rising at Chicago Temple Building, 77 W. Washington
Info:(312) 857-1234, ext. 201; www.silkroadrising.org
Run time: 90 minutes, with no intermission

In his play, "The Lake Effect," now in a sharply acted world premiere by Silk Road Rising, playwright Rajiv Joseph -- whose "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" was recently produced by Lookingglass Theatre -- has turned what in many ways is a standard-issue, heavily contrived, dysfunctional family story into something just a bit more interesting.

He has done this simply by replacing white Midwesterners with the thoroughly Americanized children of Indian immigrant parents. He then sits back and watches their interaction with a black man.

Does ethnicity really matter here? Do you get something all that different by adding a bit of curry powder to the lamb and rice? Not really, although it is fun to watch the fine trio of actors in this 90-minute drama: Adam Poss as Vijay, Minita Gandhi as his younger sister, Priya, and Mark Smith as Bernard, their dad Vinny's unknown black friend and gambling companion. As for the sibling rivalry and the exploration of guilt that Joseph explores, it is easily universal.

Estranged from his father for 15 years, 36-year-old Vijay, a stockbroker in New York, has been called home to snowbound Cleveland by his dad. The man, in ill health (and then, in an awkward revelation, actually dead), informed him that he was planning to sell the little luncheonette with an upstairs apartment where Vijay and his sister grew up.

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Source: Visionheir Pictures

She trained at Second City and iO Theater. She wrote for years on NBC's hit comedy "30 Rock" and currently writes for Fox's "New Girl." She penned the script for a hit film called "Pitch Perfect", whose sequel was recently greenlighted, and has done a handful of supporting turns on television.

Now, with the release of Matthew Perkins' Kickstarter.com funded film "The Little Tin Man" -- about a dwarf actor named Herman (Aaron Beelner) who makes it his mission to snare a non-Munchkin role in Martin Scorcese's (fictional) remake of "The Wizard of Oz" -- Kay Cannon makes her lead acting debut Saturday, June 1 when "Tin Man" has two screenings at the Seattle International Film Festival.

"Her instincts as a writer enhanced her performance tremendously," Perkins says of Cannon. "We left a lot of room for improv within each scene and she was constantly adding layers to her character and enhancing the overall story."

"The Little Tin Man" was shot in 18 days last May and June in New York City.


"Best Ink" -- the Oxygen network's new reality show -- will be holding a Chicago casting call this coming weekend. The show will be looking for skilled tattoo artists, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday at Mad River Chicago, 2909 N. Sheffield Ave.
The casting directors will be from Bunim/Murray Productions, the creators of such successful reality shows as "The Real World" and "Keeping Up With the Kardashians."
Applicants for "Best Ink" should bring a recent photo (unreturnable), photo ID and photos of their artwork -- which will be returned. The minimum age for all applicants is 21.
The show will feature approximately 12 top tattoo artists as they compete both for bragging rights and a cash prize.
For more information go to bunim-murray.com

Met releases 'Summer Encores' lineup for cinemas

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The Metropolitan Opera announced Monday the lineup for its popular Summer Encores, reprisals of simulcasts from its "Live in HD" series, shown in movie theaters nationwide. In past summers, the Met has focused on titles from its immediate season but this time, it goes deeper into the vault and programs simulcasts dating to the series' first season, 2006-2007:

This summer's schedule, with all start times at 6 p.m. CST Wednesdays:

June 19, Bizet's "Carmen" (originally transmitted live on Jan. 16, 2010): With mezzo soprano Elīna Garanča in the title role and tenor Roberto Alagna as Don José, conducted by Yannick Nézet-Séguin. The Met reports that this performance is its best-selling "Live in HD" transmission to date.

June 26, Verdi's "Il Trovatore" (from April 30, 2011): With tenor Marcelo Álvarez in the title role, Berwyn native Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora, Dolora Zajick as Azucena and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Count di Luna. Conducted by Marco Armiliato.

July 10, Rossini's "Armida" (from May 1, 2010): Soprano (and Lyric Opera creative consultant) Renée Fleming stars in the title role, opposite Lawrence Brownlee (Rinaldo), Barry Banks (Gernando) and John Osborn (Goffredo).

July 17, Verdi's "La Traviata" (from April 14, 2012): With soprano Natalie Dessay as Violetta Valéry, Evanston native Matthew Polenzani as Alfredo and Dmitri Hvorostovsky as Giorgio Germont. Conducted by Fabio Luisi.

Dates are TBA for these two encores: Puccini's "Turandot" (from Nov. 7, 2009), with Maria Guleghina, Marina Poplavskaya, Marcello Giordani and Samuel Ramey, and Rossini's "The Barber of Seville" (from March 24, 2007), with Juan Diego Flórez, Joyce DiDonato and Peter Mattei.

For more information, go to metopera.org/hdlive.

PHOTO: Elina Garanča and Roberto Alagna in Bizet's "Carmen" at the Metropolitan Opera.

"Kate's Dates," a "documentary play" about one woman's true tales of first dates, will receive its world premiere here in a presentation by Waltzing Mechanics, the theater company renowned for its long-running late night comedy "El Stories." Adapted by company member J.D. Ostergaard from the titular blog by Kate Loftus, the show will run June 9-July 14th in the Downstairs Studio at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln.

Kate Loftus lived in Los Angeles and dated many different men. The problem was that too many of them were weirdos and too few of them were worth a second date. Dinners, movies, wedding receptions and baseball games - none of them added up to lasting romance. So Loftus created a blog to chronicle each wretched rendezvous. Adapted from her true stories and interviews with relationship experts across America, this original documentary comedy follows one woman's hilarious roller coaster of love.

Ostergaard sets the retelling of Loftus' stories in the fictional Labossiere Museum of Human Courtship, where a docent for the American Millennials Wing, as well as select museum staff, will assist Kate in the exhibited reenactment of her stories. The cast for "Kate's Dates" will feature Neala Barron as Present Kate, Elise Spoerlein as Past Kate, Spenser Davis as The Dates, and Ashley Alvarez as The Docent.

Waltzing Mechanics creates original theatrical works inspired by real people telling stories about their lives.

For tickets ($25) call (773) 404-7336 or visit www.waltzingmechanics.org.

NOTE: "EL Stories" continues its tenth edition in an open run every Saturday night at 11:00 p.m. at the Greenhouse Theater Center.

In what is a significant loss for the Chicago dance community, Gustavo Ramirez Sansano, the audacious and imaginative artistic director who has led the Latino-rooted Luna Negra Dance Theater here since 2010 -- and transformed it into a company of great sophistication and experimentation -- has stepped down from his post, effective immediately.

He is returning to Spain this week, and plans to focus on his choreographic work. According to a prepared statement, he also has expressed "a commitment to remain with Luna Negra artistically, moving forward in a project-based capacity." But several of his finest dancer-collaborators, including Monica Cervantes of Spain and Eduardo Zuniga of Chile, have already left for home because of visa issues. And the rest of the dancers have been put "on hiatus."

Last week, the company, which has been suffering from previously undisclosed financial and administrative problems for many months, announced it had canceled its spring program of new choreography at the Museum of Contemporary Art, including a planned commission with another Spanish choreographer. Meanwhile, its remaining dancers performed in the Chicago Opera Theater production of "Maria de Buenos Aires," which had its final performance Sunday at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance.

Luna Negra's recently arrived executive director, Esther Jeles, announced the launch of an international search for a new artistic director. But Sansano - who, since taking over for Luna Negra founder Eduardo Vilaro has brought thrilling new choreography and visual design to the Chicago stage, and assembled a troupe of exceptional dancers from here and around the globe - will be a difficult act to follow. And the company he crafted is now splintered.

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Chicago will be the third stop on the "Today" show's "Great American Adventure," which kicks off Monday, May 20, co-anchors Matt Lauer and Savannah Guthrie announced this morning.

Hawaii, Yellowstone National Park, Orlando and a surprise destination are the other locations on this coast-to-coast tour that some might see as damage control for a spate of bad press the show recently received about the ham-handed replacement of Ann Curry with Guthrie in June 2012.

New York magazine and the New York Times Magazine recently published intriguing stories looking at Curry's ouster and the role Lauer played in what was apparently dubbed "Operation Bambi."

Natalie Morales, Al Roker and Willie Geist will be joining Lauer and Guthrie on this road trip. The co-anchors were supposed to host the show from Chicago in February but a storm forced them to cancel their plans. They are scheduled to be in town on Wednesday, May 22.

Kathy Lee Gifford recently stepped into the fray, circulating a petition (she calls it a "proclamation") on the "Today" show set in support of Lauer. She explains this morning what her intentions were, comparing Matt Lauer to a child on a playground being beaten up by a bully and calling press reports "garbage." Initially she planned to place her proclamation in USA Today but at $250,000 for a color ad, she passed.

"Guess what, America? It isn't true!" Gifford says in the clip below.

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

C2E2 loves Chicago

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c2e2 012.JPGLines are the order of the day at C2E2.
Patton Oswalt ("Justified") used his Saturday's appearance at C2E2, Chicago's Comic and Entertainment Expo, to put in a good word for Chicago's restaurant scene. "Chicago is the best restaurant city in the world," he said.
Oswalt is known for his restaurant picks, and he talked up the financial district's Skrine Chops, adding sheepishly "I know it's owned by my brother-in-law," and Moto.
Oswalt and "Hellboy" and "Sons of Anarchy" star Ron Perlman charmed audiences in their Q&As with anecdotes of their careers.

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Over the past several days, A Red Orchid thespian and "Boardwalk Empire" star Michael Shannon has become a viral sensation with millions of hits thanks to his inspired reading of an insane and profane sorority letter on the comedy site funnyordie.com.

Now playwright and TV scribe Craig Wright, creator/writer of MTV's "Underemployed" (which shot in Chicago last year) and ABC's "Dirty Sexy Money," has weighed in on his friend's performance. Most recently, Shannon starred on Broadway in Wright's play "Grace." He also earned plaudits for his work (at A Red Orchid and off-Broadway) in Wright's "Mistakes Were Made" and in 2008 appeared in Wright's "Lady."

"It ceremonially confirms once and for all Michael's status as the approachable face of evil for a generation," wrote Wright, who was profiled last August in the Sun-Times. "Christopher Walken had a similar moment when he appeared in the Fatboy Slim video. What makes this unique, beyond the fact of Michael's brilliance, is what it says about how much more important the Internet is than the Academy Awards at this point in history. Either way, I'm happy for him. And sad for all the girls of Delta Gamma."

Warning: strong language

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Fans of "Judge Mathis," which airs here at 2 and 3 p.m. daily on WCIU, will get a heady dose of Chicago justice starting Monday when the show presents a special week of cases with Chicago area litigants.

Viewers can also tune in to WVON 1690AM in the 11:00am hour each day (April 29th-May 3) for a chance to win VIP tickets to a future taping of "Judge Mathis."

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Chicagoan John Hospodka's book "South Side Trilogy: A Literary Picture Show" is not really a book at all. Instead, it's a wide-ranging "sensory experience" that employs video, original music, audio monologues, illustrations and even a slide show to trace the colorful lives of characters from a fictional Chicago neighborhood.

For now, it can be purchased (for $6.99) and viewed only on iOS devices such as iPads and iPhones through the iTunes bookstore.

Its creator, Hospodka, is the founder of Bridgeport-based Bohemian Pupil Press, which publishes the online-only "Dead Flowers: A Poetry Rag." With "Trilogy," he's striving to spark "a new dialogue by presenting a unique theory regarding the potential new labor of the writer."


"Chicago Fire" will be back for a second season this fall on NBC, which announced the renewal of five drama series on Friday.

Also returning for the 2013-14 season are post-apocalyptic "Revolution," tear-jerker "Parenthood," the cult-favorite crime series "Grimm" and long-running "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit." They've each been given 22-episode orders.

NBC Entertainment President Jennifer Salke gave a special shout out to "Chicago Fire" in an emailed statement: "We're especially pleased to be renewing "Revolution" and "Chicago Fire" -- two first-season successes -- and there will be more returning series announcements made in the next couple of weeks."


"Chicago Fire," from executive producer Dick Wolf (of the "Law & Order" franchise) and creators Derek Haas and Michael Brandt, goes inside a Windy City firehouse and the lives of those who work there. Executive producers also include Matt Olmstead, Joe Chappelle, Danielle Gelber and Peter Jankowski. The series is produced by Universal Television and Wolf Films.

Given how well "Chicago Fire" has performed for the struggling network, it's little surprise the show is being given a sophomore season. The program has topped its premiere audience of 6.6 million people a total of eight times this season. The only other new drama on the broadcast networks to have done that once this season is NBC's "Hannibal." "Chicago Fire" originals have improved the time period versus year-ago results by 24 percent among viewers who watch the show live or within hours of its airing.


"Check, Please!" producers Jacqui Wedewer and David Manilow were still finalizing the list of the top five host hopefuls Friday morning.

WTTW's popular restaurant-review show has narrowed down its field of 17 host finalists to five -- a short list of names that changed as recently as this morning, according to producers.

The plan is to announce the five names on the show's website Wednesday and reveal the "winner" on May 29. Producers Jacqui Wedewer and David Manilow initially thought they'd have three finalists to announce next week, but they've expanded their options.

The 17 hopefuls looking to replace long-time host Alpana Singh all did dry runs hosting a mock show in front of the cameras earlier this month. You can check out clips of their auditions here. Footage of the top five finalists' auditions will be aired in a TV special on WTTW-Channel 11 at 8 p.m. May 17.

Read more about the finalists' auditions in a behind-the-scenes story in the Pulse section of Monday's Sun-Times.

CUTLER-CST-021812_25273525.jpg (January 22, 2012. | Charley Gallay~Getty Images)

The North Shore's most famous hot mom is talking again about her body and her relationship with Bears quarterback Jay Cutler.

"I'm lucky to have Jay who would rather have a couple pounds on me," Kristin Cavallari tells the magazine Disfunkshion. "He tells me when I'm too skinny. That helps."

Cavallari also said the pair, parents to 8-month-old Camden, discussed their "parenting philosophies" before the tyke was born.

"You want to go in knowing how to raise them to avoid the arguments that can ensue," the former star of "Laguna Beach" advises.

Cutler, Cavallari and baby Camden are living in a Winnetka rental. Cutler's contract with the Bears lasts through 2013.

One of this year's TBS Just for Laughs comedy festival headliners, Chicago-bred Bob Newhart, became a national sensation in the early 1960s. One bit that caught rapid fire was called "Abe Lincoln vs. Madison Avenue." It absurdly postulated that America's 16th president was merely an invention of ad men. Newhart performed it, and still performs it, as a phone conversation during which he is the only one who talks and responds.

"Shelley Berman did it before I did it. Mike [Nichols] and Elaine [May] did a version of it," he told the Onion A.V. Club in 2012 of telephone comedy in general. "There was a thing called 'Cohen On the Telephone,' which was a very, very early recording by Edison [Records] of a guy on the phone. There was a comedian named George Jessel... at the end of his radio program, he'd call his mother and describe what happened with the show...It's been a prop for a lot of comedians along the way."

Berman, though, was and apparently remains none too pleased about a "very special technique" that also made him famous in the late 50s -- before Newhart was known. (And, it's worth noting, several years after George Jessel, "Cohen On the Telephone" and others). As the 88-year-old Chicago native told comic and "WTF" podcaster Marc Maron last November, his shtick ("routine," he prefers) was swiped. "When I finally saw Newhart, I was devastated," Berman said. "Because he had it down to a crack." Berman conceded, though, that there was no ill intent. "[Newhart] wouldn't do it maliciously. Nobody does that. But he did it to make a living, and he became a star. It worked for him."

Berman added: "I didn't forgive. I thought it was a rotten thing to do." He also said Newhart's "agents who sold him were just as guilty as everybody else."

Then again, as one Twitter commentator noted, "C'mon, dude. It's more complicated than that."

Maybe it is.

Here's Berman

Here's Newhart

Israeli Jazz Fest set for Chicago

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The Consulate General of Israel is presenting the first Chicago Israeli Jazz Festival, May 19-23, at various venues throughout the city including the Old Town School of Folk Music (4544 N. Lincoln), Green Mill Jazz Club
(4802 N. Broadway), Anshe Emet Synagogue (3760 N. Pine Grove), Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington) and City Winery (1200 W Randolph).

Among the scheduled performers: Rafi Malkiel, Gilad Hekselman, Amir Gwirtzman, Ester Rada and the Hadar Noiberg Trio.

For tickets, show times and more information, click here .

When: Through May 12
Where: Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted
Info:(312) 988-9000; www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com
Run time: 95 minutes with no intermission

"The Pianist of Willesden Lane," Mona Golabek's exquisitely rendered musical memoir -- now in a limited engagement at the Royal George Theatre -- begins, fittingly enough, with an exhilarating description of her mother, Lisa Jura, as she boards a trolley in Vienna and heads off to the highlight of her week -- a piano lesson. She is 14 years old.

The year is 1938. And Lisa, already a fully cosmopolitan spirit and gifted musician, clearly delights in the grandeur of the elegant city around her as she dreams of one day becoming a recognized concert pianist and a member of the artistic cafe society that thrives there. But the Nazis have other ideas for this Jewish girl and her family.

Soldiers have begun to be posted along the streets, and Lisa's elderly teacher tells her he is no longer permitted to teach Jewish students, and that he is not brave enough to defy the ban. Very soon afterward, the Nazis will make make their designs even clearer with the pogrom known as Kristallnacht. But at this very moment Lisa's father has managed to work a considerable miracle -- a single treasured place in the "kindertransport," that fabled rescue mission that enabled 10,000 Jewish children to flee to England for safety. Her parents and two sisters would be left behind.

serve.jpg (John J. Kim/Sun-Times)

Chicago's largest single day of community service, the Chicago Cares Serve-A-Thon, is scheduled for Saturday, June 15.

The 2013 event marks the 20th year that volunteers have joined together for a day of doing good in the city's classrooms, parks and playgrounds. Last year, about 5,000 people participated.

Registration is $35 a person. For more information or to sign up, click here.

5 Things to Do This Weekend

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No excuses! Here are five things to check out this weekend. And for a whole lot more events and activities, check out our Weekend section in Friday's Chicago Sun-Times. Enjoy!


"Nightwing" | Courtesy of DC Entertainment

Check out the super-cool Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo (C2E2) at McCormick Place West, 2301 S. Lake Shore Drive, Friday through Sunday. It's all about comic books, anime, movies, television series, manga, exhibitors, panels, film sneak peeks, celebrity appearances, autograph sessions and more. Read all about it here (www.suntimes.com). Buy tickets, $25-$65, here.


Swedish police said they confiscated what they believe to be marijuana off of Justin Bieber's tour bus Wednesday, raiding the bus only 30 minutes before Bieber took the stage in Stockholm, according to the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.

A Bieber source told the Swedish newspaper that all heck broke loose when the cops boarded the bus.

"A couple of dancers started running around screaming 'No weed!' and another member of Bieber's crew yelled 'S**t, the stash!'," the source told Aftonbladet.

Lars Byström, Stockholm police department spokesman, told the newspaper that officers boarded the bus after smelling marijuana.

"We carried out a search and we found a small amount of alleged narcotics. We also found an electroshock weapon that wasn't licensed," Byström said here. "No, we don't have a specific suspect, there were several people in the bus."

The substance found aboard the bus is being taken in for testing. Bieber's world tour has moved on to Helsinki.


Sting | PattiHinton~Courtesy of Ravinia

Sting fans are early risers.

Both the June 7 and June 8 show at Ravinia Festival have sold out, as have the two-night engagement (July 2 and July 3) of Matchbox 20 and Goo Goo Dolls. Matchbox Twenty credit Randall Slavin (10.29.12) HIGH RES.JPG

Amy Schrage, associate director of public relations, suggests buying lawn tickets for Josh Groban (Aug. 10) and Sheryl Crow (July 19) as those two shows are close to selling out. The pavillon seats are already snapped up.

"Sheryl Crow is the quintessential summer artist," Schrage said. "She's perfect to see on a summer night out."

At 9:30 a.m., the wait time for Darius Rucker's gig was 13 minutes. As of 10:50 a.m., those in search tickets for the country singer's show can buy tickets, both pavillon and lawn, directly.

Update: As of 2:40 p.m., the following Ravinia shows were sold-out or close to it.

Sold out
Sting (both nights)
Matchbox Twenty/Goo Goo Dolls (both nights)
Journey (both nights)
Josh Groban
Sheryl Crow

Selling Fast
Darius Rucker/Rodney Atkins/Jana Kramer
Chicago (Aug. 24)

It's Oprah Winfrey's turn to be a guest, not host, on a Chicago-based talk show.

Oprah will appear on Steve Harvey's NBC chatfest Friday at 2 p.m. on WMAQ-Channel 5. In an interview taped last month, Oprah opens up about what she misses most about hosting her own talk show in Chicago and what she has planned for her cable network OWN. And she speaks out for the first time about what she thought about her co-star Terrence Howard's comments about their love scene.

"Everybody thinks I left," she says about the Windy City. "I didn't really leave. I'm between two cities." She says her business is still here (Harpo Studios). Same for her apartment. And she still walks her dogs in the same park, although she won't say which park that is. "I'm back and forth all the time," she says.

Steve Harvey launched his eponymous talker in September to impressive ratings. While other talk shows that debuted that month have already bit the dust (Ricki Lake, Jeff Probst), Harvey has emerged a bit of a surprise hit.

Harvey said having the Queen of Talk on his show feels like "the ultimate role reversal."

"Oprah introduced me to a whole new audience when she had me on her talk show years ago," he said. "So to now have her as a guest on my own show, in my first season, is a dream come true."

ArtoftheBicycle_0093.jpg (Credit: J.B. Spector, Museum of Science and Industry)

The Museum of Science and Industry is bringing out some of the rarely seen bikes in the museum's collection, juxtaposing them against some of the most technologically advanced bikes of today, in a new exhibit "The Art of Bicycle."

The exhibit, the price of which is included in general admission tickets, includes nine restored museum artifacts, five racing bikes and 10 "cutting-edge contemporary bikes," all meant to tell a story of creativity and ingenuity.

The museum is easily reached by bicycle off the Lake Shore Drive trail.

For more information, including ticket prices, click here.


Slapsticon, a four-day festival dedicated to rare silent and early sound film comedies, has moved to Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. This year's edition will run June 27-30 at the college's recently opened IU Cinema.

Launched in 2003, the annual festival had been staged in the Washington, D.C., area. The festival made news in 2010 when it programmed "A Thief Catcher," a previously unknown 1914 film featuring superstar Charlie Chaplin in his fourth appearance as one of the Keystone Kops. A film buff discovered the silent at a yard sale.

The festival also has premiered archival restorations of films previously thought lost, as well as short comedies with silent-era stars Buster Keaton, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy and Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle.

Slapsticon is programmed by film historian Richard M. Roberts and receives cooperation from prestigious film archives, including the Library of Congress, UCLA Film and Television Archive, and the Museum of Modern Art. "IU Cinema is very excited to host Slapsticon this summer," said IU Cinema director Jon Vickers in a statement. "It's a wonderful chance for audiences to see rare screenings from what many consider the golden age of film comedy."

Also scheduled for this year's festival are the premieres of several new restorations, including the 1926 comedy "Atta Boy," starring Monty Banks, and the 1929 British comedy "Would You Believe It?" starring Walter Forde.

For the full lineup, go to slapsticon.org.

ABOVE: Silent film star Monty Banks (center).

When: Now through May 5
Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress
Tickets: $31-$152
Info: (800) 982-2787; www.ticketmaster.com
Run time: 2 hours with one intermission

Choreographers of both classical ballet and modern dance have long found inspiration in Shakespeare. His plays have inspired many versions of "Romeo and Juliet," as well as memorable takes on "A Midsummer Night's Dream," "The Taming of the Shrew," "Hamlet" and "The Tempest."
It was the modern dance master, Jose Limon, who first tackled "Othello" in the form of that lean, elegant quartet, that has long been a classic, "The Moor's Pavane." But in 1997, in a co-commission by American Ballet Theatre and the San Francisco Ballet, Chicago-bred choreographer Lar Lubovitch gave this tale of love, jealousy and betrayal, with its tension between Othello's Islamic faith and Desdemona's Catholic heritage, the full-length treatment. And in addition to drawing on Shakespeare's drama, he found inspiration in "The Moor," the 16th-century Giraldi Cinthio story that Shakespeare worked from, as well as Verdi's 1887 opera (which will be part of Lyric Opera's next season).
In 2009, Lubovitch's work -- with its vivid, non-traditional set design by George Tsypin, digital projections of Vienna and Cyprus by Wendall K. Harrington, and an original score by Elliot Goldenthal (played here by the outstanding Chicago Philharmonic) -- became a major hit for the Joffrey. Following the current engagement at the Auditorium Theatre it will be retired from the company's active repertory.
In a recent chat with Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey, we talked about what makes this production special. Here are some of his observations:

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Peppe Servillo (left) and Toni Servillo in Piccolo Teatro di Milano's production of Inner Voices, a Chicago Shakespeare World's Stage presentation, June 25-29, in celebration of The Year of Italian Culture in America.

The Italian Cultural Institute of Chicago is partnering with the Field Museum and Chicago Shakespeare Theater for two summertime events celebrating Italian visual and performing arts as part of the official Year of Italian Culture.

On June 24, Marco Nereo Rotelli, best known for his large-scale installations at past editions of the Venice Biennale, will use light, poetry and music for "Divina Natura," in which he will transform the Field's facade into a visual representation of Dante's Divine Comedy. In conjunction with the installation, the Italian Cultural Institute, 500 N. Michigan, will feature an exhibition of Rotelli's works on paper, June 13-28.

As part of its World Stages programming, Chicago Shakespeare will host Italy's Piccolo Teatro di Milano for a staging of Eduardo De Filippo's post-war comedy "Inner Voices" June 25-29 in the Courtyard Theatre at Navy Pier, 800 E. Grand. The show will be directed by and star Toni Servillo (winner of the 2007 Best Actor, Venice Film Festival). Tickets, $50-$70 are now on sale at (312) 595-5600 or online at www.chicagoshakes.com/innervoices.

For more information on events in conjunction with the Year of Italian Culture, visit http://www.iicchicago.esteri.it/IIC_Chicago.

Mark your calendar: April 28 has been declared World Dance Day for 2013, and to celebrate, Chicago Music and Dance International will present an eclectic dance showcase at 2 p.m. this Sunday (April 28) at the Athenaeum Theatre at 2936 N. Southport. Tickets are $28 for adults, $16 for seniors and $16 for students and dancers. Group discounts are also available. For tickets, visit www.atheanaeumtheatre.org or call( 773) 935-6875.

Demonstrations of ballet, jazz, modern, ballroom, tap, hip-hop and ethnic dance will be featured along with a wide selection of ethnic and folk dance by those from some of the city's top dance troupes. Participating artists include Chicago Dance Crash, Innaside Chicago Dance, Nomi Dance Company, Same Planet Different World, Hip Hop ConnXion HQ, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Ensemble Espanol Spanish Dance Theater, Mexican Dance Ensemble, Trinity Irish Dancers, Joffrey Ballet's Exelon Strobel Step-Up Project, Tommye Giacchino Dancers (Ballroom), SPA Dance Ensemble, State Street Dance, SPACE Conservatory, Horo (Bulgarian dance), Ellas (Greek dance), Nrithyanjali (Indian dance), Miorita (Romanian dance), Kongresi Manastirit (Albanian dance), Dukati and Biseri Folklore Ensemble and more.

In addition, a free dance "Teach-In" will be held starting at 12 noon featuring three different "mini-classes" headed by professional dancers and choreographers.

International Dance Day was introduced in 1982 by the International Dance Committee of the UNESCO International Theatre Institute. It was devised to help focus awareness on the importance of dance among the general public, as well as to persuade governments around the world to provide a proper place for dance in all systems of education. Chicago Music and Dance International is a not-for-profit organization working to broaden appreciation of world dance and music forms and help local artists sustain their cultural traditions.


Dropping the F-bomb and having an epic fail of a day behind the anchor desk of the nightly news has worked out pretty well for A.J. Clemente.

Clemente, whose on-air gaffe as a TV reporter made him a viral video sensation, has been busy making the talk-show rounds. He has all the time in the world, given that his blunder got him abruptly fired from the Bismarck, North Dakota station that hired him.

One of Clemente's stops Wednesday was on "Live with Kelly and Michael." Hosts Kelly Ripa and Michael Strahan talked to him about the embarrassing kerfuffle.

Ripa and Strahan made the fledgling broadcaster an offer: "You're a native New Yorker. And one thing about New Yorkers, we believe in giving second chances, man," Strahan said. "So, we have a challenge for you, if you're willing to accept it. We're going to send you to cover the star-studded red carpet premiere of Pierce Brosnan's new movie, 'Love Is All You Need'."

Clemente accepted. (Again, his schedule is pretty open these days considering he's unemployed.) He'll act as celebrity correspondent tonight for the syndicated morning talker and will return to the show Thursday morning to recap the event, hopefully without swear words.

In case you haven't seen it, or just want to see it again, here's what made Clemente a household name:


Ravinia fans will want to get up bright and early Thursday, when tickets to the 2013 season go on sale at 5 a.m. online at Ravinia.org.

More than 100 concerts will take place at Highland Park's outdoor music venue from June 6 through Sept. 15, including the annual summer residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Pavilion tickets to all CSO concerts this year are $25.

The season includes more than 80 debuts by artists such as Josh Groban, OneRepublic, Journey, Heart and Matchbox 20 sharing the bill with the Goo Goo Dolls.

Returning favorites include Sting, Sheryl Crow, piano superstar Lang Lang, Tony Bennett, Yo-Yo Ma and Anita Baker.

Phone sales begin on May 20.


Tavi Gevinson

By Natasha Wasinksi

Tavi Gevinson is adding music to her growing repertoire of endeavors to dominate before graduating from Oak Park and River Forest High School.

After tonight's 6 p.m. screening of the award-winning short "Cadaver" at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Gevinson jets to Debonair Social Club in Wicker Park to work the afterparty.

The just-turned 17-year-old from Oak Park is a bit too young to join the urban hip for a round of PBR (free until 10 p.m.) but she will control the club's music.

It won't be Gevinson's first - nor presumably last - stint as a guest DJ. In February she explained her musical musings on KCRW, a National Public Radio affiliate in So Cal.

Here's a best guess for what this wonder chick might add to that playlist tonight.

Gevinson recorded both songs in anticipation of "Cadaver." Now's her time to show off those vocal cords.
Neil Young's "Heart of Gold"
Pet Shop Boys' "Heart"

Icona Pop's "I Love It"
Who doesn't? Gevinson's pal Lena Dunham a.k.a. Hannah confirmed our careless love for the tune when she lets everything loose in a nightclub in season two of "Girls."

W.G. Snuffy Walden's "My So-Called Life" Score
Gevinson's all for figuring it out. So take pause, reminisce and mull over the fact that all that teenage angst and grunge apparel might have been good for you, too. 

Bayside Boys' "Macarena"
The body-moving, chart-topping remix of 1996 - the year Gevinson was born - just to remind you how young she is (and for many, how much more accomplished, too).

"Edge Of Seventeen" - Stevie Nicks
A shout out to Gavinson's home girl is a must and the only appropriate way to wrap up the night.


Oscar winner Tim Robbins has been hanging out in Chicago this week -- here to participate in a number of events at DePaul University with Sister Helen Prejean.
The actor and the nun have remained friends since they collaborated on the 1995 film, "Dead Man Walking," which was based on her book about counseling a man on death row, an experience that led Sister Helen to become one of the nation's leading activists fighting for the abolition of the death penalty. The film brought Academy Award nominations for Robbins' direction and actor Sean Penn's performance -- and the best actress Oscar for Susan Sarandon, Robbins' former longtime significant other.
Robbins and Sister Helen collaborated on a stage adaptation of her book and the actor attend a staged reading of the play at DePaul Monday night, joined by Sister Helen. Robbins did a Q&A session with the university's digital cinema students on Tuesday. That discussion can be accessed at www.ustream.tv/channel/test-depaul
Sister Helen donated her archives to DePaul two years ago, and returns for about one week each year for guest lectures and to work with law faculty and others on anti-death penalty and other social justice issues.

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Over the past couple of weeks K-mart's newest ad (online only for now), dubbed "Ship My Pants" , has gone mega-viral.

Now, thanks to an enterprising YouTube poster named danielson742 and a technology called Auto-Tune (used most successfully for comedic purposes by the Gregory Brothers, but not in this case), the locally written spot that features former Second City standout Ithamar Enriquez has been songified.

As one commenter astutely observed, "What? Like S***!!! hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha­hahahahaha."


Bookworms, rejoice. Tuesday is World Book Night, which means volunteers around the country will be giving away half a million books to spread the joy of reading.

This year's select panel of freebies includes Waukegan-born Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" and Willa Cather's "My Antonia" along with more recent reads, such as Tracy Chevalier's "Girl With a Pearl Earring" and Chicago native Sandra Cisneros' "The House on Mango Street," both the English and Spanish edition.

Chicago Writers Conference founder Mare Swallow is one of the volunteers who will be passing out gratis copies of "Bossypants" by Second City alum and "30 Rock" star Tina Fey.

Volunteers aren't supposed to name specific locations of where they'll be, but Swallow said she'll be wandering around the Andersonville neighborhood between Clark and Foster and Clark and Berwyn, starting around 6:30 p.m.

"I'm going to be hanging out near the bars because afterwards I'm going to have a drink," said Swallow, who has a case of books -- about 20 or so -- to give away.

So why is World Book Night on April 23, you ask? Even if you didn't ask, here's the answer: That date is the UNESCO International Day of the Book, as well as Shakespeare's birthday. It was also chosen in honor of Miguel de Cervantes, who died on April 23, 1616 (the same day as Shakespeare). In the Catalan region of Spain, the day is celebrated by giving a book and a flower to a loved one. World Book Night was first celebrated in the U.K. and Ireland in 2011; in 2012, it was also celebrated in the United States and Germany.

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In a Facebook post late Monday, actress and Annoyance Productions president/exec producer Jennifer Estlin made it official. After a two-year search, they'll eventually bug out of their longtime Uptown digs on N. Broadway and close to the Annoyance's original home.

"We'll begin build-out of a new home for The Annoyance at the end of the summer," Estlin wrote. "Our new space will be on the 2nd floor and basement in the former Toguri Mercantile Building at 851 W. Belmont. Theaters, classes and bar all in one nice big building, just a block and a half away from where we started 25 years ago at Belmont and Wilton."

Northlight Theatre has named the two final selections for its 2013-2014 season.

Along with the previously announced lineup of 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist Amy Herzog's "4000 Miles" (to be directed by Kimberly Senior), the world premiere of Christian O'Reilly's "Chapatti," (directed by artistic director BJ Jones and featuring John Mahoney), and a revival of Neil Simon's "Lost in Yonkers," will be the Midwest premiere of Dominique Morisseau's "Detroit '67" (Nov. 8-Dec. 15), with Ron OJ Parson making his Northlight directorial debut, and Jon Jory's new adaptation of Henry Fielding's raucous novel, "Tom Jones" (Jan. 17-Feb. 23, 2014), to be directed by William Brown.

"Detroit '67," set in 1967, finds the world changing around Chelle and Lank, who run an after-hours club in the basement of their late parents' house. Tensions mount when the siblings discover that their dreams have diverged, their tight-knit community is threatened by the arrival of an outsider, and the city around them erupts in violence. The music of Motown fuels this new play set in America's Motor City. The play was recently seen at New York's Public Theatre.

"Tom Jones" follows the misadventures of an amiable young rascal with a fondness for the fairer sex. Caught succumbing to the charms of local girl Molly, and the refined Sophia, poor Tom is banished by his benefactor and sets off on a whirlwind of good old-fashioned, bawdy fun.

Subscriptions ($105-$235) are available by phone at (847) 673-6300 or visit www.northlight.org. Renewals are currently available. New subscriptions will be available beginning in May 2013.

The Goodman Theatre has announced the full 18-member cast for Tony Award-winning director Mary Zimmerman's world premiere stage adaptation of "The Jungle Book," which begins performances June 21 and runs through Aug. 4.

Based on both Rudyard Kipling's classic 1893 collection of stories about the coming of age of Mowgli, a young Indian boy who grows up amid the animal kingdom, and Walt Disney's 1967 animated film, Zimmerman's adaptation of "The Jungle Book" will feature an ensemble of her "regulars," as well as new talents, including 10-year-old Akash Chopra, of New York, as Mowgli, the spunky, stubborn young boy at its center.

Joining Chopra will be Usman Ally as Bagheera, the wise old panther serious about the rules of life and the laws of the jungle; Anjali Bhimani as Raksha, the warm, fawning Mother Wolf; Kevin Carolan as Baloo the bear, the carefree and irresponsible tutor to Mowgli; Thomas Derrah as Kaa, the sinewy, sly-but-charming villain; Andre DeShields as King Louie, the ambitious-but-scattered comic and dreamer orangutan; Nehal Joshi as Rama, a wolf leader; Glory Curda as the Little Girl; and Larry Yando as Shere Khan the tiger, the crafty, powerful and dangerous arch villain. The ensemble of actors, dancers and singers creating Kipling's "people of the jungle"-- vultures, monkeys, elephants, wolves and more--will include Jeremy Duvall, Nikka Graff Lanzarone, Monique Haley, Ed Kross, Govind Kumar, Alka Nayyar, Geoff Packard, Timothy Wilson and Victor Wisehart. Music director Doug Peck will oversee an orchestra of 12 musicians.

Tickets ($27-$125) are now on sale at the Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn. Call (312) 443-3800 or visti www.GoodmanTheatre.org.

NOTE: "The Jungle Book," produced in association with the Huntington Theatre Company (where it will appear Sept. 7 - October 6), is appropriate for adults and families with children six and older.

Profiles Theatre will be celebrating its 25th anniversary season with six attention-getting productions, including "Wrecks" by the company's longtime favorite playwright and resident artist, Neil LaBute (who has a new DirectTV Audience series this fall); the award-winning play "Cock" byBritish playwright Mike Bartlett, "Hunter Gatherers," by Peter Sinn Nachtrieb, "In God's Hat," by Rhett Rossi and "Gidion's Knot," by Johnna Adams. In addition, the company's acclaimed production of Will Kern's "Hellcab" will return for the holiday season. These six productions will alternate between Profiles' two venues, The Main Stage at 4139 N. Broadway and The Alley Stage at 4147 N. Broadway.

Here is a closer look at the lineup:

± "IN GOD'S HAT" (Aug. 23-Oct. 13): The Midwest premiere of Rhett Rossi's look at the extremes of humanity and the love of family(as well the contempt for it). For nearly a decade, estranged brothers Roy and Mitch found themselves kept apart by prison bars and a nefarious history. On the day of Mitch's release, he is shocked to see Roy waiting for him, unsure of his intentions. Together they travel down a desolate road stopping at the only lodging around - a fleabag motel where confrontation and tension manifest themselves through darkly comical situations. In the end, the brothers must confront both the past and present as some secrets are revealed and new ones must be kept. The show, already seen Off Broadway, will be directed here by Profiles artistic director Joe Jahraus.

± "WRECKS" (Sept. 27-Nov. 17): Neil LaBute's play (first seen in Ireland in 2005, then at New York's Public Theatre, and her in its Midwest premiere), is about Edward Carr, an ordinary man, an adoring father of four and a successful business owner, who sees his world shattered by the death of his beloved wife, JoJo. Through his grief, he picks through his past, piecing together the story of his life, like the wrecks of the cars he so lovingly restores. What are the boundaries of love, and what will society accept, as opposed to what the heart desires? Jason Gerace will direct this 10th play by LaBute to be staged at Profiles.

NEA grants awarded to Hubbard Street, Harris Theater

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Two Chicago performance groups today announced new Art Works grants received from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago has been awarded a $70,000 grant to support its Movement as Partnership program, a research-driven residency program in partnership with public schools in Chicago and Oak Park.

You can go on tour with PSY -- just bring your apron

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AX255_4F91_9.JPGWant to go on tour with PSY? He's hiring.

The catch: You'll have to cook for him.

The South Korean pop star -- once again going for YouTube gold with his latest single, "Gentleman" -- is prepping for a world tour, and he's advertising for a personal chef. His want-ad, of course, is a wacky YouTube video ...


Teen fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson and her longtime buddy Jonah Ansell will be speaking at the Museum of Contemporary Art at 6 p.m. tonight about "Cadaver," a short film and graphic novel (available for purchase and signing after the event).

"It tells the tale of a cadaver who wakes up to say a last goodbye to his wife but discovers a truth in death he didn't know in life," a statement from the museum says. "Inspired by the wit of Shel Silverstein and the wisdom of William Shakespeare, it is a twenty-first-century love sonnet that seeks to awaken the hopeful romantic within even the harshest cynic."

Kathy Bates, Christopher Lloyd and Gevinson - who Lady Gaga once called the "future of journalism" - voice the characters. Ansell wrote and directed the tale. Gevinson and Ansell both hail from Oak Park.

Tickets range from $6-$10 and the cost will be deducted from your purchase of the "Cadaver" graphic novel. For more information click here.

Free Comic Book Day a give-away dream

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"Infinity," Publisher: MARVEL COMICS/ (W) Jonathan Hickman (A/CA) Jim Cheung

So we all showed our support for local record stores this past weekend via national Record Store Day. Now it's time to shine the spotlight on another pop culture genre --- the comic book --- via "Free Comic Book Day" on May 4.

Participating comic book shops in the global event will be giving away free copies from a select list of comic books to anyone who walks into their stores on May 4 (check with local retailers for their specific give-away rules and limits on free copies). Nearly 5 million comic books are expected to be given away at this year's event.

Among the comics on the freebie list are title such as The Walking Dead, SpongeBob, Sesame Street, Superman, GRIMM, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Star Wars, The Simpsons, and Infinity, among others.

Some Chicago-area shops participating in this year's event include: Chicago Comics/Quimby's Book Store, 1854 W. North Ave, (773) 342-091; First Aid Comics, 1142 W. Taylor, (312) 733-2080; One Stop Comics, 111 S. Ridgeland, Oak Park,
(708) 524-2287; Dark Tower Comics, 4835 N.Western, (773) 733-4026; Chimeras Comics, 19 S. La Grange Rd., La Grange, (708) 352-1230; Comic Collector, 3246 Harlem Aev., Riverside, (708) 442-0399.

To find a participating store near you, and for more information about the give-away and related day-of special events, visit www.freecomicbookday.com

On the heels of its great success with its inaugural production of "The Taming of the Shrew" last summer, the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's free to all Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks program will stage an expanded season this summer (July 26-Aug. 25), with a citywide tour of "The Comedy of Errors." More details are to be announced soon.

Audra McDonald, the five-time Tony and two-time Grammy Award winner who recently starred in the Broadway revival of "Porgy and Bess," has been named the recipient of their 2013 Artist-of-the-Year Award by the Sarah Siddons Society of Chicago. The award ceremony will be held at Chicago's Ritz Carlton Hotel beginning at 11:30 a.m. on June 17.

In addition to her 2012 Tony Award for her performance in "Porgy and Bess," McDonald has received Tonys for her work in "Carousel," "Ragtime," "A Raisin in the Sun" and "The Master Class." She also earned two nominations -- for performances in "Marie Christine" and "110 in the Shade." The 42-year-old Juilliard alum also was a featured actor in the television series "Private Practice."

"There are few artists with greater accomplishments than Audra McDonald," said Siddons artistic director Dominic Missimi. "She is, without a doubt, one of our great American actor-singers. To have accomplished so much at such a young age is astonishing!"

In addition to her theatrical accomplishments, McDonald enjoys a major career as a concert and recording artist appearing with orchestras and opera companies worldwide, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the New York and Berlin Philharmonics, and the Houston Grand Opera. Her concert work has earned her two Grammy awards -- Best Opera Recording and Best Classical Album.

Celebrating 60 years, the Sarah Siddons Society has presented its Artist-of-the-Year award to such luminaries as Helen Hayes (the first recipient, in 1953), as well as Bette Davis, Lauren Bacall, Julie Harris, Geraldine Page, Carol Channing, Colleen Dewhurst, Jessica Tandy, Liza Minnelli, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Patti LuPone and Barbara Cook. Many of Chicago's finest actresses have received the Society's Leading Lady Award including Hollis Resnick, Barbara Robertson, Rondi Reed, Mary Beth Fisher, and E. Faye Butler.

Folk pioneer Richie Havens dies of heart attack

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Folk-pop icon Richie Havens, who burst on to the national music scene at the Woodstock Festival in 1969, died Monday morning at his home from a heart attack. He was 72.

Best known for his distinctive covers of hits by the Beatles and Bob Dylan, Havens turned into an overnight sensation after his impromptu opening performance at Woodstock. He toured and recorded for more than 40 years before he retired three years ago. His last official studio release was "Nobody Left to Crown" (2008) on Verve Forecast.

A statement issued by his publicist confirmed his death and noted: "Beyond his music, those who have met Havens will remember his gentle and compassionate nature, his light humor and his powerful presence."

Funeral and memorial details are not yet known.

Michael Shannon goes Gen. Zod on Delta Gamma tirade

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Last week, the Gawkersphere lit up over a f-bomb-loaded email sent by University of Maryland student Rebecca Martinson to her fellow sorority sisters in the local Delta Gamma house. (If you somehow care, and haven't read it yet, check it out here.)

Meanwhile, Chicago theater luminary Michael Shannon, who co-stars as the villainous General Zod in the upcoming film "Man of Steel," turned the email into performance art in this video shot for the site FunnyorDie. As Frank DiGiacamo of Movieline reports: "Shannon gives us ... a mix of his acidic portrayal of sardonic music-business legend Kim Fowley in 'The Runaways' and the 'I WILL FIND HIM!' rage of Zod in the 'Man of Steel' trailer."

For its 2013-2014 season, Porchlight Theatre is trying something a bit different. Its standard subscription series will include one Chicago premiere, one revue and one Broadway classic. But it also will introduce a "Lost Musicals" series designed to take audiences back to a particular year in Broadway musical history with one-night-only presentations of three rarely revived or largely forgotten shows.

The main Porchlight season will include:
± "Double Trouble" (Aug. 31-Oct. 6), a "musical tour de farce" in its Chicago premiere. With book, music and lyrics by Bob Walton and Jim Walton, the show, set in 1940's Hollywood, follows two song-and-dance brothers with the career -making opportunity to write a song for a major motion picture company. But they only have a few hours in which to do it. The cast of two actors plays more than 10 characters (and musical instruments), in this quick change, tap-dancing comedy musical that celebrates the crazy days of making movie musicals with the likes of Gene Kelly, Danny Kaye and Donald O'Connor.

± "Ain't Misbehavin'" (Feb. 1-March 9, 2014): Conceived by Murray Horwitz and Richard Matlby, Jr., this Tony Award-winning revue of the music of Thomas "Fats" Waller reveals the sometimes sassy, sometimes sultry songbook of a man whose music was all the rage during the height of the Harlem Renaissance. The show features 30 of Waller's high energy tunes, including the title song, "Honeysuckle Rose" and "This Joint is Jumpin'."

± "How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying" (April 26-June 1, 2014): This classic Frank Loesser musical about 1950s office politics, with a book by Abe Burrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert., is a Tony Award and Pulitzer Prize-winning musical satire about big business. It follows the rise of one J. Pierrepont Finch, who uses a little "how to succeed" handbook to climb the corporate ladder from lowly window washer to high-powered executive.

Northwestern University students with a flair for the dramatic will have a chance to pen a script for the soon-to-be-resurrected soap opera "All My Children."

Production company Prospect Park's The Online Network is relaunching the canceled ABC soap online along with "One Life To Live" April 29. It's teamed up with Northwestern to offer students involved in the school's annual Agnes Nixon Playwriting Festival a chance to honor the festival's namesake.

Prospect Park co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz, a Northwestern alum, and Barbara O'Keefe, dean of the university's school of communication, announced Monday that the writing winners for this year's festival will be given the opportunity to craft a script for Nixon's "All My Children." (Nixon is a creative consultant on both programs.)

The writers will get an outline for an upcoming episode when the show premieres and then have one week to produce a finished script.

In a prepared statement Dean O'Keefe said, "Agnes Nixon not only had the foresight to help us create and build our playwriting program at Northwestern -- she is supporting our most talented students as they take the next steps in their development. It is amazing that someone like Ms. Nixon, a pioneer in serialized television, is helping our 21st century students use the newest channels for presenting their work."

New, 30-minute episodes of both soaps will be available to stream online weekdays via the free Hulu service and to Hulu Plus subscribers watching on connected TVs, mobile phones, tables and PCs. The iTunes Store will offer both series via iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Apple TV and Mac and PC.


North Shore resident and Grammy winner Richard Marx will be the headliner at the second annual National Piano Conference at Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake. The conference runs June 27 to 30. Marx will perform at the Raue Center at 8 p.m. on Saturday, June 29.

It's an acknowledged fact: Chicago's non-Equity companies are the life-blood of this city's theater community. And the non-Equity Jeff Awards pay tribute to these companies, honoring excellence in those theaters not operating under a union contract.

Topping the list of this year's nominations for the season running April 1, 2012 through March 31, 2013 was the Bohemian Theatre Ensemble, with 14 nominations overall. The company's productions of two small-scale, beautifully wrought musicals -- "The Spitfire Grill" (about a young woman just released from prison into a small town), and "Floyd Collins" (about a trapped cave explorer -- garnered five nominations each.

Other strong contenders included The Hypocrites, the Den Theatre, and Circle Theatre. The Hypocrites scored a total of 12 nominations for three works, including their zesty adaptation of Gilbert and Sullivan's 'The Mikado," a new adaptation of Edgar Allen Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and their take on Shakespeare's "Coriolanus." Circle Theatre earned 11 nominations, including seven for "Reefer Madness," the musical satire, four for the multi-generational Australian drama, "When the Rain Stops Falling," and one for "Romeo Juliet," an adaptation of the Shakespeare classic. The newly eligible Den Theatre came roaring out of the gate with 11 nominations, including seven for "City of Dreadful Night," an atmospheric 1940's crime drama, and four for "The Quality of Life," a drama of politics and personal loss.

The 40th Annual Non-Equity Jeff Awards Ceremony will be held June 3 at the Park West, 322 W. Armitage. Doors open for a cash bar at 6:00 p.m., with a light buffet at 6:30 p.m., and the presentation ceremony at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door. Tickets may be purchased online with a credit card at www.jeffawards.org or by mail with the downloadable mail-order form. There will be live twitter feeds from the ceremony and behind the scenes at @josephjefferson.

Following is the complete list of 2013 non-Equity Jeff Award nominees:

"City of Dreadful Night," The Den Theatre
"The Cripple of Inishmaan," Redtwist Theatre
"Flare Path," Griffin Theatre Company
"The Quality of Life," The Den Theatre
"When The Rain Stops Falling," Circle Theatre

"Avenue Q," NightBlue Performing Arts Company
"The Mikado," The Hypocrites
"Reefer Madness," Circle Theatre
"The Spitfire Grill," Bohemian Theatre Ensemble
"Under A Rainbow Flag," Pride Films and Plays

"Smokey Joe's Cafe," Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

Jonathan Berry, "Moment" (Steep Theatre Company)
John Gawlik, "When The Rain Stops Falling" (Circle Theatre)
Lia D. Mortensen, "The Quality of Life" (The Den Theatre)
Kimberly Senior, "The Cripple of Inishmaan" (Redtwist Theatre)
Ron Wells, "City of Dreadful Night" (The Den Theatre)
Robin Witt, "Flare Path" (Griffin Theatre Company)

Brenda Didier, "Smokey Joe's Café" (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)
Sean Graney, "The Mikado" (The Hypocrites)
Matthew Gunnels, "Reefer Madness" (Circle Theatre)
Kyle Hamman, "Improbable Frequency" (Strawdog Theatre Company)
David Zak, "Under A Rainbow Flag" (Pride Films and Plays)

"Flare Path," Griffin Theatre Company
"Idomeneus," Sideshow Theatre Company
"Jar The Floor," eta Creative Arts Foundation
"The Mikado," The Hypocrites
"Moment," Steep Theatre Company
"Opus 1861," City Lit Theater Company
"Smokey Joe's Café," Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre

Adam Brown, "Long Way Go Down" (Jackalope Theatre)
Sam Guinan-Nyhart, "City of Dreadful Night" (The Den Theatre)
Steve O'Connell, "Coriolanus" (The Hypocrites)
Brian Parry, "The Cripple of Inishmaan" (Redtwist Theatre)
Jeremy Trager, "Hauptmann" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Alex Weisman, "Ah, Wilderness!" (Eclipse Theatre)
Ron Wells, "The Quality of Life" (The Den Theatre)

Jim DeSelm, "Floyd Collins" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Adam Fane, "Avenue Q" (NightBlue Performing Arts Company)
Jason Grimm, "Reefer Madness" (Circle Theatre)
Peter Oyloe, "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" (Filament Theatre Ensemble)
Ryan Stajmiger, "Reefer Madness" (Circle Theatre)

Kristin Collins, "Boy Gets Girl" (Raven Theatre)
Vanessa Greenway, "Flare Path" (Griffin Theatre Company)
Anna Hammonds, "The Rainmaker" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Laura McClain, "Pride and Prejudice" (Lifeline Theatre)
Lindsey Pearlman, "Never the Bridesmaid" (Polarity Ensemble Theatre)
Cheryl Roy, "The Receptionist" (Steep Theatre Company)
Liz Zweifler, "The Quality of Life" (The Den Theatre)

Landree Fleming, "Reefer Madness" (Circle Theatre)
Kelli Harrington, "Aspects of Love" (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)
Casi Maggio, "Avenue Q" (NightBlue Performing Arts Company)
Laura Savage, "The Spitfire Grill" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)

Walter Briggs, "The Glass Menagerie" (Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.)
Anthony DiNicola, "American Storm" (Theatre Seven of Chicago)
Dan Granata, "Arcadia" (New Leaf Theatre)
Leonard Kraft, "Boy Gets Girl" (Raven Theatre)
Nate Santana, "The Rainmaker" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Phil Timberlake, "Pride and Prejudice" (Lifeline Theatre)

Greg Foster, "Floyd Collins" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Jon Harrison, "Floyd Collins" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
James Nedrud, "Under A Rainbow Flag" (Pride Films and Plays)
Gerald Richardson, "Hank Williams: Lost Highway" (Filament Theatre Ensemble)
Jason Richards Smith, "Avenue Q" (NightBlue Performing Arts Company)

Joanne Dubach, "The Glass Menagerie" (Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.)
Felisha McNeal, "Jar The Floor" (eta Creative Arts Foundation)
Susan Monts-Bologna, "Kin" (Griffin Theatre Company)
Mary Redmon, "When The Rain Stops Falling" (Circle Theatre)
Ann Sonneville, "Kin" (Griffin Theatre Company)

Nancy Kolton, "The Spitfire Grill" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Laura Lindahl, "The Spitfire Grill" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Danni Smith, "See What I Wanna See" (Bailiwick Chicago)
Rochelle Therrien, "Aspects of Love" (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)
Colette Todd, "Aspects of Love" (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)

Blake Montgomery (Charles Dickens) - "Charles Dickens Begrudgingly Performs A Christmas Carol. Again," The Building Stage

David Cerda, "Sexy Baby" (Hell in a Handbag Productions)
Tony Fiorentino, "The Feast" (The Prop Thtr)
Bill Jepsen, "Never the Bridesmaid" (Polarity Ensemble Theatre)
Leo Schwartz, "Under A Rainbow Flag" (Pride Films and Plays)
Carla Stillwell, "Bodies" (MPAACT)

Paul Edwards, "Peyton Place" (City Lit Theater Company)
Sean Graney, "Romeo Juliet" (The Hypocrites)
Sean Graney & Kevin O'Donnell, "The Mikado" (The Hypocrites)
Elizabeth Margolius & Terry McCabe, "Opus 1861" (City Lit Theater Company)
Blake Montgomery, "Charles Dickens Begrudgingly Performs A Christmas Carol. Again" (The Building Stage)

Brenda Didier, "Smokey Joe's Café" (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)
Brigitte Ditmars "Reefer Madness" (Circle Theatre)

Jonathan Gullien, "Elephant's Graveyard" (Red Tape Theater)
Daniel Knox, "The Glass Menagerie" (Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co.)
Christopher Kriz, "Pride and Prejudice" (Lifeline Theatre)
Christopher Kriz, "The Woman in White" (Lifeline Theatre)
Mikey Moran, "City of Dreadful Night" (The Den Theatre)

Alan Bukowiecki, "Floyd Collins" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Robert Ollis, "Under A Rainbow Flag" (Pride Films and Plays)
Gary Powell, "Opus 1861" (City Lit Theater Company)
Jeremy Ramey, "Smokey Joe's Café" (Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre)
Tom Vendafreddo, "The Spitfire Grill" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)

Henry Behel, "City of Dreadful Night" (The Den Theatre)
Scott Davis, "Funeral Wedding: The Alvin Play" (The Strange Tree Group)
Jack Magaw, "The Cripple of Inishmaan" (Redtwist Theatre)
Joe Schermoly, "Flare Path" (Griffin Theatre Company)
Joey Wade, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (The Hypocrites)

Kevin D. Gawley, "The Woman in White" (Lifeline Theatre)
Jared Moore, "Coriolanus" (The Hypocrites)
Jared Moore, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (The Hypocrites)
Mac Vaughey, "Idomeneus" (Sideshow Theatre Company)
Cat Wilson, "City of Dreadful Night" (The Den Theatre)

Theresa Ham, "Pygmalion" (Stage Left Theatre and BoHo Theatre)
Bill Morey, "Pride and Prejudice" (Lifeline Theatre)
John Nasca, "Reefer Madness" (Circle Theatre)
Kate Setzer Kamphausen, "Sexy Baby" (Hell in a Handbag Productions)
Alison Siple, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (The Hypocrites)

Christian Gero, "Flare Path" (Griffin Theatre Company)
Christopher Kriz, "The Dumb Waiter" (TUTA Theatre Chicago)
Christopher Kriz, "Floyd Collins" (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Mikey Moran, "City of Dreadful Night" (The Den Theatre)
Rick Sims, "The Fall of the House of Usher" (The Hypocrites)

Kevin Bellie, Projection Design ("When The Rain Stops Falling" at Circle Theatre)
Ryan Bourque, Fight Choreography ("Coriolanus" at The Hypocrites)
Noah Ginex, Master Puppeteer/Puppetry Design ("Avenue Q" at NightBlue Performing Arts Company)
Jacob Green, Wig Design ("Sexy Baby" at Hell in a Handbag Productions)

Friday's made-for-TV manhunt of Boston bomber suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev had viewers flocking to the small screen in droves. Some 36 million tuned in to watch the dramatic coverage unfold on cable news and broadcast networks during primetime Friday, a typically light night for TV viewing.

Fox News Channel held onto its No. 1 ratings spot among cable news nets during Friday's manhunt. But perennially third-place CNN -- despite problematic coverage of the Boston Marathon bombings throughout the week -- gained a lot of ground, leaving MSNBC in the dust. CNN even beat Fox News in the key 25- to 54-year-old demo in primetime. Overall, it was CNN's most-watched night in a decade (excluding election coverage).

Cable news couldn't top the broadcast nets, which preempted much of Friday's regular programming to chronicle the search and capture.

NBC, which I thought provided the best overall coverage, ruled the roost with 8.93 million viewers in primetime Friday, according to preliminary Nielsen numbers. Anchor Brian Williams and company peaked during the 7 p.m. (Chicago time) hour with 10.7 million viewers.


NBC's Brian Williams led the coverage that gleaned the most viewers Friday night

Here's how cable and broadcast nets stacked up during primetime (7 to 10 p.m.) Friday in terms of total viewers:

8.93 million

7.21 million

6.74 million

Fox News Channel
5.97 million

5.37 million

1.72 million

CNN had 2.47 million viewers in the advertising-coveted key demo (ages 25 to 54), compared to 1.93 million for Fox News. MSNBC trailed far behind with 618,000.

Fox News Channel clip from Friday night's manhunt

beluga.jpg (The Shedd's unnamed baby beluga whale nurses with mom, Mauyak, at the Shedd Aquarium on Tuesday, October 22, 2012 | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times)

The Shedd Aquarium's baby beluga needs a name, and you can help choose it.

The young whale was born in August to mother Mauyak, also mom to Qannik (kah-NIK) and Miki (MEE-kee), both born at the Shedd. The new nearly 8-month-old baby bruiser now weighs 300 pounds and swims at 6-foot-five-inches long.

Those voting on the name should be 16 years old or older. Your choices (all Inuit names) are:

• Nilak (NEE-lohk) - Meaning freshwater ice (Text NAME1 to 97999)
• Kimalu (KEE-mah-loo) - Meaning something or someone special (Text NAME2 to 97999)
• Aniuk (AH-nee-ook) - Meaning snow for drinking water (Text NAME3 to 97999)
• Anana (Ah-NON-ah) - Meaning beautiful (Text NAME4 to 97999)

"The entire organization celebrates this calf, our sixth successful beluga whale birth, as a meaningful way to educate our guests about this incredible species as well as promote the importance of ocean literacy," said Ted A. Beattie, Shedd President and CEO, in a statement.

Each vote counts as a chance to win a personal "Beluga Encounter" at the Shedd. Entrants must be at least 16 years old and 60 inches tall and an adult must accompany children ages 12 - 15 years old.

The winning name will be announced live on Thursday, May 2 on WGN News at Five.

The Chicago Children's Theatre, currently presenting "The Elephant and the Whale" in a joint production with Redmoon, has announced its three shows for the 2013-2014. They include:

± "A Year With Frog and Toad" (Oct. 9-Nov. 24), the frequently requested remount of the show that launched the company eight years ago. Based on the books by Arnold Lobel, this musical adaption by brothers Robert Reale (music) and Willie Reale (book and lyrics), will again be directed by Henry Godinez. The Tony-nominated musical follows the adventures of two best friends - the cheerful, popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad - through four, fun-filled seasons. A whimsical, charming vaudeville, it follows the pair as they wake from hibernation in the spring, plant gardens, swim, rake leaves, go sledding and learn life lessons. (Recommended for ages 4 and up.)

± "Mr. Chickee's Funny Money" (Jan. 21-March 2, 2014), a world premiere rhythm and blues musical, written by David Ingber from the best-selling young adult book by Christopher Paul Curtis ("Bud, Not Buddy"), and featuring music and lyrics by Motown legend Lamont Dozier ("Stop in the Name of Love"), as well as his son, Paris Dozier. Derrick Sanders will direct this tale about 9-year-old Steven, a self-proclaimed spy and president of the "Flint Future Detectives Club." At the heart of the story is a highly intelligent, out-of-the-box thinker, and entrepreneurial boy, who discovers that family, friends, imagination and determination are the true keys to success, and that sharing the spotlight with others can make one even richer. (Recommended for ages 7 and up.)

± "The Very Hungry Caterpillar and other Eric Carle Favorites" (opening at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie April 25 - 26, 2014, and then moving to The Ruth Page Center for the Arts April 29 - June 1, 2014): This production by the acclaimed Mermaid Theatre of Nova Scotia is based on the children's books by award-winning illustrator and writer Eric Carle.


Due to illness, folk legend Peter Yarrow's Saturday concert at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake has been postponed.
The rescheduled date is for 8 p.m. Saturday, July 27. All tickets for April 20 will be honored for the July date, but a refund or gift certificate also can be obtained by contacting the Raue box office from noon to 4 p.m. Monday at (815) 356-9212.
No word on the nature of Yarrow's illness.

Ebertfest Day 3: Death and the Maiden (Tilda Swinton)

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CHAMPAIGN-URBANA -- Though the calendar indicates spring, it was actually snowing here Thursday, on the third day of the 15th annual Roger Ebert's Film Festival, which runs through Sunday at the historic Virginia Theatre. The inclement weather, however, accented the themes of the day's first two films, both of which considered the end of life and the passage into the next world.

First up, "Oslo, August 31" (2011), directed by Joachim Trier, depicts the last day of a former addict, adrift in anguish and despair. "Coming from Norway and discovering that it was snowing here, I felt very much at home," said Trier during a post-screening Q&A. Later, as the talk turned to the communal aspect of moviegoing, he added: "There's something wonderful about cinema in that we can share a sense of loneliness in a room full of others."

It was followed by Keisuke Kinoshita's "The Ballad of Narayama" (1958), a morality play done in kabuki style, about the Japanese folk tradition of ubasute, in which the elderly, after reaching 70 years of age, are carried by their children to a mountaintop and left to die as a sacrifice to the gods. In the film, Orin, a 70-year-old widow, matter-of-factly accepts her impending fate and announces at one point: "It will be snowing on the day that I ascend to the mountaintop."

"The Ballad of Narayama" happened to be the final entry in Roger Ebert's Great Movies series, and three weeks before his death -- at age 70 -- Ebert asked festival director Nate Kohn to add the film to the festival's lineup.

The acceptance of death as inevitable, as portrayed in "Narayama," is a topic that Ebert addressed many times in his own writing. But did he decide to add the film because he thought his own death was near?

When: Through May 5
Where: Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph
Info:(800) 775-2000; www.BroadwayInChicago.com
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

In its own eccentric, undogmatic way, "Big Fish" might just turn out to be the Broadway musical that best encapsulates what many describe as "The Greatest Generation" -- that group of men who grew up during the Depression, headed off to war, came back home to start a family, devoted themselves to work, and finally took joy in the fact that their kids were moving into the world in ways they themselves dreamed about, but were never able to realize.

Of course Edward Bloom, the magnetic character at the center of the new musical that opened Friday at the Oriental Theatre in its pre-Broadway world premiere, is capable of dreaming more vividly than most.

Many opportunities might well have eluded this man who was born in a small, backwater Alabama town. But early on, Bloom (the phenomenal Norbert Leo Butz) seized his destiny by leaving home, working to win the heart of Sandra (Kate Baldwin), the girl of his dreams, and steering clear of a desk job by opting for a living as a traveling salesman. And if the ordinary did not live up to his greatest expectations he more than compensated for it by elaborately spinning the truth into oft-told tall tales -- stories that, depending on your perspective, either sucked all the oxygen out of the room or injected life with a special radiance.

As it happens, Bloom's wife adores and understands this quality in her husband. But for their son, Will -- a literal-minded kid who probably never saw enough of his dad, and never felt he could get the straight truth even when he did -- these stories kept the man at a distance. And when, as an adult (played by Bobby Steggert), he has become a successful globe-trotting journalist, that distance turns into estrangement until it is almost too late. This is, from start to finish, an intensely prickly father and son tale.

Based on the bestselling Daniel Wallace novel, this musical version of "Big Fish" -- with a book by John August (who also wrote the screenplay for the popular 2003 film), a score by Andrew Lippa, direction and choreography by Susan Stroman, and much ingenious visual design - is wildly whimsical and full of Americana-style fairy tales in its first act. But it only really grabs your heart in the second act when, ironically, it becomes most real. Baldwin's performance of Lippa's glorious love song, "I Don't Need a Roof," sung to her dying husband, clinches the deal.

And as played by Butz, Bloom is truly a force to reckon with. "Big Fish" isn't scheduled to swim onto Manhattan island until next fall, but in the interim the Tony Awards committee might well consider coming up with a special category for "actor in a marathon role who carries a long first act almost entirely on his own back as he sings, dances, breathes meaning into the mundane and literally jumps through hoops during a stint in the circus." A compact man with enormous yet seemingly easeful energy, Butz makes Bloom deeply likeable rather than obnoxious. You root for him all the way.

Baldwin brings her statuesque, Breck Girl beauty, as well as her richly honeyed voice to the role of Sandra. And to his credit, Steggert doesn't soften the edges of Will (expertly played as a child by Zachary Unger, who is rotating in the role with Anthony Pierini).

Stroman's direction captures the story's heart and humor, but it is her choreography -- not just the wit and invention she brings to the superbly danced big numbers, which feature everything from batlike witches, giants and mermaids to cheerleaders, U.S.O. girls and sexy Wild West good time girls, but the sheer flow of storytelling -- that is her winning ticket. The orchestra (seated on three levels overlooking the stage, though only rarely seen) gives the show a lustrous sound. And the melding of Julian Crouch's "story-framing" sets, animated by grandly poetic projections of Benjamin Pearcy and by William Ivey Long's wonderfully textured costumes, could not be more ideal.

You can easily point to all the precursors of "Big Fish," from Forrest Gump, to Sondheim's "Into the Woods," to a hint of "The Wizard of Oz." But the musical catches its own special wave, too.

1316444373_kim-kardashian-kris-humphries-aisle-lg.jpg (In happier times)

Well, folks, that's a wrap.

After 72 days of marriage and 536 days in divorce court, a Los Angeles judge on Friday signed off on Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries' divorce.

TMZ.com reported that Humphries dropped his request for an annulment (he claimed the marriage was a fraud) and Kardashian's money, and that each is paying for their respective attorneys.

If nothing else, hopefully they are richer for the experience. Better to have loved and lost...never mind.

Kardashian is due to give birth to Chicago rapper Kanye West's child in July.

UPDATE: Obviously, all bets are off. It's all news, all the time.

The relentless TV coverage of the manhunt for the surviving Boston bomber suspect will continue into the primetime hours.


"Vegas" is being rescheduled from its 8 p.m. Friday time slot because of the Boston bombings.

The CBS drama "Vegas" is getting booted to Saturday night to make way for a CBS News special report, "Boston Bombers," from 8 to 9 p.m. on WBBM-Channel 2. Scott Pelley will anchor the special as well as an extended, hour-long broadcast of CBS Evening News.

On ABC, Diane Sawyer will helm an extended hour of ABC World News. Elizabeth Vargas will oversee a special live edition of 20/20 from Boston at 9 p.m. This evening's Nightline broadcast also will be live from Boston with Juju Chang reporting.

Late Friday morning NBC "Today" show's Savannah Guthrie passed the baton of live coverage to Brian Williams, who will devote tonight's hour-long broadcast of Rock Center (9 to 10 p.m. on WMAQ-Channel 5) to the events in Boston. Like ABC and CBS, NBC Nightly News also is expanding its program to a full hour.

Brush up on your Shakespeare for 'Talk' day

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William Shakespeare.jpg

In honor of William Shakespeare's 449th birthday, Chicago Shakespeare Theater wants thee to "Talk Like Shakespeare" on April 23.
The annual celebration is all about using the language of Shakespeare's day (and works) throughout thy conversations, and in this electronic age, thy emails and tweets.
Here are some suggestions from the theater troupe that will impress thy fellow citizens:
-- Instead of you, say thou or thee (and instead of y'all, say ye).
-- Rhymed couplets are all the rage.
-- Men are Sirrah, ladies are Mistress, and your friends are all called Cousin.
-- Instead of cursing, try calling your tormenters jackanapes or canker-blossoms or poisonous bunch-back'd toads.
-- Don't waste time saying "it," just use the letter "t" ('tis, t'will, I'll do't).
-- Verse for lovers, prose for ruffians, songs for clowns.
-- When in doubt, add the letters "eth" to the end of verbs (he runneth, he trippeth, he falleth).
-- To add weight to your opinions, try starting them with methinks, mayhaps, in sooth or wherefore.
-- When wooing ladies: try comparing her to a summer's day. If that fails, say "Get thee to a nunnery!"
-- When wooing lads: try dressing up like a man. If that fails, throw him in the Tower, banish his friends and claim the throne.

Visit www.talklikeshakespeare.org to learn more.


The Field Museum is putting the behind-the-scenes work of its scientists front and center in a new program called Science Newsflash.

"It is normal for museums to take months or even years to display new findings," Museum President Richard Lariviere said in a statement. "We want our visitors to have access much sooner."

Currently on display as part of Science Newsflash are pieces of the Chelyabinsk Russian meteorite, donated to the museum earlier this month, as well as the skull, vertebrae pieces and teeth of a newly-discovered species of 244-million-year-old fossil Thalattoarchon saurophagis, an Ichthyosaurs dinosaur known as the "T. Rex of the Sea." A team of Field Museum scientists discovered the fossil in the Nevada desert in 1998; it was recovered a decade later.

Both items are expected to be on display for up to three months.

LISA_LEE.jpg (Chicago Sun-Times/Rich Hein)

Lisa Yun Lee, director of the newly organized School of Art and Art History at the University of Illinois at Chicago, will receive the 2013 Public Humanities Award from the Illinois Humanities Council next month.

For seven years, Lee was the director of the Jane Addams Hull House Museum on the UIC campus and oversaw its renovation, which in 2012 was awarded a National Preservation Award. In 2000, she co-founded The Public Square, a program to debate and discuss social justice issues. In 2004, The Public Square became part of the Illinois Humanities Council.

"Lisa's passion for creating spaces for open dialogue and encouraging public forms of expression has had a tremendous impact both on our organization and Chicago in general," said Kristina Valaitis, executive director of the Illinois Humanities Council, in a written statement. "We are proud to be honoring her work and including her name along with the many remarkable recipients of this award."

Lee will receive the award on May 21, 2013 at the Palmer House Hilton Chicago, 17 E. Monroe. For more information, click here.


CHAMPAIGN-URBANA -- The storm that has drenched the Midwest the last two days also rained on the parade of the 15th annual Ebertfest, held in the hometown of the late Sun-Times film critic.

Several filmmakers scheduled to appear had to bow out after severe weather disrupted their travel plans. Jack Black, the star of Richard Linklater's "Bernie" (2011), which closed the second night of Ebertfest programming, couldn't get to the Virginia Theatre, site of the annual event, as scheduled. Instead, he joined Linklater and Sony Pictures Classics co-president Michael Barker by phone for a post-screening Q&A session. "I feel like a soft Hollywood schmoe for not getting my butt out there," Black said. "Next time, I'm getting out there, I promise."

Linklater, however, managed to arrive after several flight delays and reroutes. "It's such an honor to be here again," he said. "I was here a few years ago [in 2011, with his film "Me & Orson Welles"] and I couldn't wait to get back. But most of all, I'm here for Roger."

Though this is the first festival without its founder, he remained in the audience's collective memory. "I can feel Roger's spirit," said Chaz Ebert, Roger's widow, festival producer and host, before introducing the first film Thursday. "The Virginia Theatre is like a temple for me. Yesterday [the festival's opening night] was bittersweet. When I woke up today and saw the rain, I thought the heavens must be crying for Roger."


PHOTO: Jack Black in "Bernie"


If "Lord of the Rings" and "Amazing Race" are both up your alley, you might be fit for "The Quest."

Casting producers will be in Chicago at the end of April on the lookout for contestants for "an epic and groundbreaking new competition show" called "The Quest."

Said to be the creation of the folks behind "The Amazing Race" along with an executive producer of "The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "The Quest" is on a nationwide search for "adventure seeking, fantasy enthusiasts."

Details about the show (like what network it's going to be on, what contestants will have to do, what, if anything, they're competing for in terms of a prize) are scarce.

Casting producer Kristin Malley said they have to be vague because they want to maintain an element of surprise. But she did describe the show this way: "Imagine if you took 'Amazing Race' and did it within Middle Earth." She said they're looking for the type of people who might try out for CBS' "Amazing Race" but are really into the fantasy world.

If that sounds like you, you'll have a couple chances to rub elbows with "The Quest" folks. They're holding a casting event from 8 to 10 p.m. April 25 at Emporium Arcade Bar, 1366 N. Milwaukee, and they'll have a booth at C2E2 (Chicago Comic and Entertainment Expo) at McCormick Place on April 27.

Malley asked that would-be "Quest" contestants send an RSVP email to questcastingchicago@gmail.com with the following info: Name, age, occupation, phone, email, current photo and a brief explanation of why they'd be great for a show like this.

Great news for fans of British playwright Alan Bennett whose work includes "The History Boys," "The Madness of George III" and "Talking Heads": The National Theatre Live's 2013 season continues at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport, with two screenings (April 23 at 7 p.m. and April 28 at 2 p.m. of Bennett's play "People," directed by Nicholas Hytner.

"People" spins the story of Dorothy Stacpoole (Frances de la Tour) and her companion Iris (Linda Bassett), who live in a crumbling South Yorkshire country estate. Dorothy's archdeacon sister June (Selena Cadell) wants to hand the estate over to the care of the National Trust and open it to public view. But people spoil things; there are so many of them and the last thing one wants is to have them traipsing through one's house. Dorothy favors a more creative solution.

The UK's National Theatre Live exhibits live stage performances beamed to Chicago from the prestigious National Theatre in London. (U.S. showings are time-delayed because of time zone difference.) Tickets to National Theatre Live events are $15 in advance ($18 at the door) at the Music Box Theatre box office and online at www.musicboxtheatre.com/events/people-2013-04-23-730-pm.

Alan Bennett is one of Britain's most celebrated playwrights, and the much-anticipated "People" is the sixth of his plays to have its premiere at the National Theatre. His most widely known play, "The History Boys" transferred to Broadway, winning the Tony Award for Best Play in 2006. It then went on to tour internationally before being turned into a film, again directed by Nicholas Hytner. It received its Chicago premiere in an acclaimed production by TimeLine Theatre.


Looking to find your way?

The Chicago Humanities Festival can help.

The festival is looking for usher volunteers for the spring theater festival Stages, Sights & Sounds. They need volunteer help for the following shifts:

Wednesday, May 8 from 9:30 am to 2:00 pm for Paige In Full and Under the Stars at the Museum of Contemporary Art- 220 E. Chicago Ave.

Wednesday, May 15 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm for Sleeping Beauty Dreams at Victory Gardens- 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

Thursday, May 16 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm for Sleeping Beauty Dreams at Victory Gardens- 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

Friday, May 17 from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm for Sleeping Beauty Dreams and Murder on the Midwest Express at Victory Gardens- 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

Saturday, May 18 from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm for Murder on the Midwest Express at Victory Gardens- 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

Saturday, May 18 from 6:00 pm to 8:30 pm for Cloud Man at Storefront Theater- 66 E. Randolph St.

Sunday, May 19 from 10:00 am to 3:30 pm for Sleeping Beauty Dreams at Victory Gardens- 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

Sunday, May 19 from 4:00 pm to 6:30 pm for Murder on the Midwest Express at Victory Gardens- 2433 N. Lincoln Ave.

Volunteers are entitled to two free Festival tickets for each shift worked (8 tickets maximum).
Contact Saloni Dar, Associate Director, Administration & Operations, at 312-661-1028 ext. 715 for details about volunteering or visit Chicago Humanities. There is a link for online volunteer registration, first come first served.

All this reminds me of my old usher pal John Drenan, whom I encountered in October, 1987 down Aisle 3 of the Chicago Theatre.
He was a gusher of an usher....

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Singer and actor Harry Connick, Jr.'s summer tour will bring him to Chicago's Symphony Center on South Michigan this summer. The two 7:30 p.m. concerts will take place Friday, July 19 and Saturday, July 20, with tickets going on sale Monday, April 22.
The tour for Connick and his band will support the release of his new album, "Every Man Should Know," being released June 11. The album is a collection of original songs, touching on some of Connick's feelings about life and love.

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Credit: www.ishtarthemovie.com

Here is what the late film critic Roger Ebert had to say about the ostensible comedy "Ishtar" upon it's release in 1987:

"It's hard to play dumb. There's always the danger that a little fugitive intelligence will sneak out of a sideways glance and give the game away. The best that can be said for "Ishtar" is that Warren Beatty and Dustin Hoffman, two of the most intelligent actors of their generation, play dumb so successfully that on the basis of this film there's no evidence why they've made it in the movies.

"'Ishtar,' he added, "is a truly dreadful film, a lifeless, massive, lumbering exercise in failed comedy."

He gave it half a star. Half. And by the tone of his prose, perhaps he was being generous.

You can read the rest of his evisceration here.

Widely thought to be one of the worst comedies of all time, "Ishtar" was penned and directed by the great Chicago-trained talent Elaine May and to date has grossed a bit over $14 million on a then-massive $51 million budget.

But could it be that May's screenplay simply got mangled in translation from page to screen? Decide for yourself when a May-approved cut of the film (not available on DVD) has multiple screenings over several days at Chicago's Music Box Theatre starting Sunday, April 21 at 7:20 p.m. and 9:40 p.m.

As the writer Peter Biskind put it in his 2010 biography of Warren Beatty, excerpted in Vanity Fair, "Hoffman could see that May was proprietary and inflexible, foibles with which he was all too familiar. But Beatty took Hoffman aside and told him, "You saw those movies that Elaine did. I'm going to be there, and I'm going to make sure that she has the room to do her best work." Hoffman continues, "He was saying, 'Don't worry about the script. Go with her talent. Go with us.' He wasn't wrong. You do go with the talent, and you do go with the synergy of what's going to take place. What he didn't predict--what no one predicted--was that he and Elaine were going to clash."

Someone uploaded the whole dang thing to YouTube in case you haven't seen the original and want to compare it with May's new version.

Andrew Volkoff has been named the new artistic director of About Face Theatre, the Chicago company known as a national leader in the development of new work that explores gender and sexual identity. Volkoff, who served as associate artistic director of the Barrington Stage Company in Massachusetts for five years, and spent three years leading the Genesius Theatre Group in New York City, will succeed Bonnie Metzgar this spring.

A native of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Volkoff attended Macalester College in St. Paul, Mn. where he graduated cum laude with a double major in French and Dramatic Arts. He is currently developing the musical "Swish; or my quest to become the gayest person ever" with the team of Joel Derfner, Tim Acito and Dan Marshall.

At the Barrington Stage, Volkoff's credits included "The Fantasticks," "Underneath the Lintel," "This Wonderful Life," "I Am My Own Wife," "Fully Committed," "Santaland Diaries," "Thief River," "The Shape of Things," "The Laramie Project," "Love and Happiness" and "My Scary Girl."

In addition to directing at many regional theaters, Volkoff was co-artistic director of the Hangar Theatre Lab for one season. And he was selected as the first director to participate in the US/Bulgaria Directors Exchange Project , staging the Bulgarian premiere of John Kolvenbach's "Lovesong" at the Nikolai Binev Theatre in Sofia, where it is in its second year of repertory.

Since its founding in 1995 by Kyle Hall and Eric Rosen, the About Face Theatre has produced more than 45 world premieres by recognized writers and directors.

Northwestern's Waa-Mu Show 'Flying Home'

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This year's annual Northwestern University Waa-Mu Show, 82 years old and going strong, is all about a world in which Alice's Wonderland, Dorothy's Oz and Wendy's (not Michael Jackson's) Neverland collide.

Titled "Flying Home," the full-out original musical, in which the classic stories are blended to create a new fantasy adventure, will be directed and choreographed by David H. Bell.

Performances run May 3-5 and May 9-12 at at Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St., on Northwestern's Evanston campus.

Tickets, $10-$30 are on sale at the TIC box office, by phone at (847) 491-7282 or online at www.waamu.northwestern.edu. Visit the website for show times and more information.


Bob Harper, Jillian Michaels, Alison Sweeney, Danni Allen (last season's winner from Wheeling) and Dolvett Quince on "The Biggest Loser." (Photo by Trae Patton/NBC)

The most recent "Biggest Loser" hails from the Chicago suburbs. Could another local be crowned next season?

The NBC weight-loss competition is launching an 11-city search to find new contestants for the next edition. People who have at least 80 pounds to shed are being encouraged to apply. The casting call will swing through Chicago May 4.

Casting producers are looking for "charismatic individuals who have the desire to change their lives forever and vie for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lose weight and compete for a grand prize of $250,000." You must be at least 18 years old. Click here for details on how to apply.

People won't be allowed to line up prior to three hours before the start of the open call. Candidates should bring a non-returnable photo of themselves.

Here are "The Biggest Loser" casting call dates and locations:

Who's the latest Chicagoan to clean up on 'Jeopardy!'?

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Michelle_Martin_6588.jpgAnother Chicagoan is hardly in jeopardy on "Jeopardy!"

Michelle Martin won $24,800 on the quiz show Wednesday. She'll be back for more at 2 this afternoon, on WLS-Channel 7.

Martin is a writer for the Catholic New World, the newspaper of the Chicago archdiocese.


The Illinois Holocaust Museum recently announced its upcoming exhibit, "Fire in My Heart: The Story of Hannah Senesh" on the life of the heroic poet from Budapest known as the "Israeli Joan of Arc."

Senesh (also spelled Szenes) was 23 years old when she was killed by a firing squad after attempting, with help from the British Army, to parachute into the former Yugoslavia to assist in the rescue of Jews about to be deported to the Nazi death camp Auschwitz. Captured and tortured, she refused to give up details of the mission. Her story is widely known in Israel, where she is considered a national hero.

The exhibit features her personal artifacts and writing.

"We feel privileged to have the opportunity to tell Hannah's story. Her courage and idealism will resonate with younger audiences who will be inspired by her determination to change the world," said Rick Hirschhaut, Executive Director of the Illinois Holocaust Museum, in a statement. "This exhibition will move visitors of all ages with the prose and poetry of a young hero, and serve as an example of Jewish response to the Holocaust - bold initiative and action against all odds."

The exhibit runs May 14 - September 8, 2013.

Here's Senesh's hymn "Eli, Eli":


Peter Sagal, waving, runs next to William Greer around Mile 24 of the Boston Marathon, roughly 20 minutes before the bombs went off.

Oak Park resident Peter Sagal, host of NPR's news quiz show "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!," crossed the Boston Marathon finish line minutes before the first bomb exploded.

We talked to the avid marathoner Wednesday about his experience:

Q. Where were you when the bombs went off?

A. I was about 100 yards beyond the finish line. I'd just crossed with my running partner, William Greer, a legally blind runner who I was guiding. I think we reached the place where they were handing out water when we heard this tremendous boom -- the loudest boom I'd ever heard. It sounded like a car crash. We all spun around and saw this white plume of smoke going up just on the other side of the finish line.

Q. What did you think had happened?

A. There are two kinds of people in the world. The first kind goes, "Oh my God! That must be a horrible bomb explosion!" The other kind of person, of whom I am apparently one, says to himself, "I'm sure it was nothing. What are the odds of it being a bomb? That would never happen." All I was thinking was that was really loud and big for anything that's easily explainable. It was clear that people were immediately worried.

Q. What did you do next?

A. I had this blind runner who I was responsible for, who wasn't feeling very well. I needed to get him back to his wife. We didn't know what had happened. We were just going through the chute. While the paramedics were descending on the scene and applying first aid, William and I were calmly collecting our medals.

The Consulate General of Israel to the Midwest is presenting the first Israeli Jazz Festival in Chicago. The five-day event will run from Sunday, May 19 through Thursday, May 23 at different venues throughout Chicago.

The full schedule for the Festival is as follows:

± Rafi Malkiel Quintet (May 19 at 7 p.m. at the Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln). Tickets are free. Call
(773) 728-6000; http://www.rafimalkiel.com/live/. Composer and trombonist Rafi Malkiel, originally from Israel, is an active musician in both the Jazz and Latin scenes in New York City. Leading his quintet, Rafi plays original compositions, as well as unique arrangements fusing Jazz and Latin-American standards with Afro-Caribbean rhythms.

± Amir Gwirtzman (May 19 at 8 p.m. at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse). Tickets are $10. Call (773) 381-4551 or visit www.info@maynestage.com. Amir Gwirtzman, world-renowned Israeli multi-culti jazz artist, plays more than 20 different woodwinds, reeds, horns, pipes, flutes and percussion instruments as a one-man band called Inhale-Exhale. Gwirtzman infuses Inhale-Exhale with a combination of R&B, jazz and rhythms of Cuban jazz, along with Middle Eastern, Gypsy, Jewish Klezmer, Armenian, Irish Celtic and Native American influences. (http://amirgwirtzman.com/).

± Gilad Hekselman Trio (May 20 at 9:00 p.m.; three sets until 1 a.m. and CD release party at Green Mill Jazz Club, 4802 N. Broadway). Tickets are $10 at door. Call (773) 878-5552 or go to www.greenmill@comcast.net. Born in Israel in 1983, Gilad Hekselman has been earning a reputation as one of the most promising guitarists in New York. He has played the Blue Note, The Jazz Gallery, Smalls, 55 Bar, Dizzy's Club, Minton's Playhouse, and toured in Switzerland, Japan, Scotland, Canada, Norway, Hungary, and Israel. He has also played in world famous Jazz festivals such as Montreux JF, Duke Ellington JF, San Francisco JF and Tel Aviv JF. (http://www.giladhekselman.com/).

Best-selling novelist Scott Turow will be joining recent exoneree Juan Rivera, as well as Jeff Urdangen (Director, Center for Criminal Defense, Bluhm Legal Clinic, Northwestern University School of Law) for the opening night post-show discussion about "The Exonerated," a co-production between Evanston's Next Theatre and Northwestern's Theater and Interpretation Center.

It's all happening Friday, April 19 at 8 p.m. at the Josephine Louis Theater, 20 Arts Circle Drive on Northwestern University's Evanston campus.

Based on interviews conducted by playwrights Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, "The Exonerated" follows six former Death Row prisoners whose convictions were reversed. From their trials, to their incarcerations, to their eventual releases, this award-winning play uses the words of these innocent men and women as they share the stories of everything and everyone they lost when they were wrongly convicted. They also talk about the lives they are working to rebuild. The performances here will feature a cast of professional and student artists working together on this exploration of the criminal justice system.

Performances of "The Exonerated" will run April 19-May 5, and are co-produced by Next Theatre and the Interpretation Center at Northwestern University (presented in partnership with The Center on Wrongful Convictions). For tickets ($10-$25), call (847) 491-7282 or visit www.nexttheatre.org.

Chiara Mangiameli, the flamenco dancer who appeared alongside Rick Bayless in the 2012 Lookingglass Theater production of "Cascabel," has created her own new show, "Quejios - Cries In The Air," inspired by the emotional range and power of the flamenco voice.

Showcasing the traditional songs and dances of Andalusia, Mangiameli's show will weave together original poetry from Madrid-based writer Luis Lorente and soundscapes designed by Static Studios as it takes audiences on a journey from the joy and sensuality of a "cantinas" to the sorrowful, unrelenting rhythm of a "seguiriya." It also will showcase the talents of student dancers, from novice to the most advanced, with Mangiameli performing a new solo work.

Featured on the program will be some of Chicago's best flamenco and world music musicians, as well as guest singer and Seville native Alfonso Cid. Other performers will include Carlo Basile and Diego Alonso on guitars, and Bob Garrett on percussion.

Performances will take place at the Vittum Theater, 1012 N Noble Street in Chicago, on May 31st and June 1st at 8 p.m. A June 2 performance at 5 p.m. will be followed by a show discussion and meet and greet with the artists. Tickets are $25 and $15 for children ages12 and under.

Christian Gordon, a student at Chicago's American Academy of Art, was named one of three winners of the Canvas Artist Series Contest, presented by Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Folio Fine Wine Partners. Gordon will receive a $5000 scholarship award from Hyatt and Rob Mondavi, Jr. for his design for a signature wine label for Canvas wine bottles. The new wine labels will be available at Hyatt hotels and resorts in the United States starting next month.

Gordon's design was for the Merlot label. Katelyn Comeau of the Massachusetts College of Art in Boston won for her Cabernet Sauvignon design, and Alexandra Grahame, of the same school, won for her Chardonnay design.

In addition to the scholarship money, the winners will have their artwork displayed on the Canvas bottle.

Cheers, Chicago

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POTION-WKP-020813-104_30713709.jpg (Credit: Richard Chapman/ Chicago Sun-Times)

Chicago start-up Dabble.co offers a one-time class experience on a wide variety of topics, from using Excel software to recreating the makeup of Downton Abbey, from Fermentation 101 to Sewing 101.

There's one broad category of classes Chicago dabblers consistently gravitate toward, said Erin Hopmann, CEO and co-founder of Dabble.co. Classes involving alcohol.

"People are using them as social outings and things that involve drinking tend to do pretty well," she said in a recent interview about the emergence of Chicago studios linking painting and booze.

The site has offered multiple sessions of "Drink Like A Mad Man with Eat Drink Educate," where the cocktails of the AMC hit are recreated.

"Whether you fancy yourself a Roger or Joan, there's a classic drink in this class to match every personality," the class description reads. "We'll walk through a number of classic cocktail recipes that transcend eras, and you'll walk away with the know-how to impress guests at your next Mad Men viewing party or '60s era soiree."

The $25 class is next in session on Thursday.

The 28th Chicago Gospel Music Festival, June 20-23, will feature the Bronzeville neighborhood as its main home this year, with two music stages at Ellis Park, 37th and Cottage Grove. Millennium Park will host opening night performances on June 20, and the Chicago Cultural Center will host various events on June 21.

This year's theme is "The Year of the Choir," and the festival's newest event, Battle of the Chicago Gospel Choirs, will be held May 18 at Austin Town Hall Park and June 1 at the Washington Park Fieldhouse. The grand finale round will take place on the June 20, at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. The winner will perform at the festival in Millennium Park on June 23. Choirs interested in participating will find more information at chicagogospelmusicfestival.us; entries must be received by May 7.

Headliners include: Grammy winner Smokie Norful, John P. Kee and New Life, Lecrae and Tamela Mann, Vickie Winan, Joe Ligon and The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Kierra Sheard, The Brat Pack (Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Ricky Dillard & Donald Lawrence featuring Dexter Walker & Zion Movement).

For more information, including lineups and show times, visit chicagogospelmusicfestival.us.

Stacie Scott/Sun-Times

His stained glass and mosaic tile work adorns the chapel at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago in Streeterville. And late last year, he decked a White House hall (and its garden and the State Dining Room) with stained-glass wreaths, wooden Christmas trees and ceramic ornaments.

Now Chicago-based designer and artist David Lee Csicsko has agreed to help judge the Gathering Grounds Art Contest. He'll be joined by fellow artists Kat Clear and Tabbatha Henry.

The national competition, sponsored by Tully's Coffee, requires participants to submit original works of art that uniquely convey their thoughts on the meaning of community.

Two winners get $1,000 each, $2,000 worth of building materials and a trip to Tully's home state of Vermont to assist with a community art installation.

If you're up to the task, or know someone who is, enter here by May 3.


Filmmaker and playwright Neil LaBute will make his television series debut this fall on DirecTV.

The satellite service provider announced Wednesday that it's ordered 10 episodes the original drama, "Full Circle." It's being written and co-executive produced by Detroit-born LaBute, who's had a long affiliation with Chicago's Profiles Theatre. The North Side theater is hosting the world premiere of his revised stage play, "In the Company of Men," on May 16. (LaBute shot to fame after "In the Company of Men" was released as a film in 1997.)

When: Through May 12
Where: Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn
Tickets: $14-$45
Info: (312) 443-3800; www.GoodmanTheatre.org
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

Talk about being an over-achiever. True, this might be the very last term playwright Quiara Alegria Hudes would use to describe herself, yet the evidence suggests it could not be more accurate.

Consider this: Hudes wrote the book for the Broadway musical "In the Heights," which received the 2008 Tony Award for best musical, earned her a Tony nomination for best book of a musical, and was a 2009 Pulitzer Prize finalist.

Meanwhile, she was already at work on what would develop into "The Elliot Trilogy," three plays about war and the quandaries of family, including: "Elliot, A Soldier's Fugue," about three generations of soldiers in a Puerto Rican-American family (first staged in a 2006 Teatro Vista-Rivendell Theatre production at the Steppenwolf Garage); "Water by the Spoonful," the story of a soldier who returns from Iraq and struggles to find his place in the world, and the work that earned her the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama (it is set for its Chicago premiere next season at Court Theatre); and finally, "The Happiest Song Plays Last," now in its world premiere at the Goodman Theatre, in association with Teatro Vista.


Before leading the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a performance Tuesday night of Bach's Mass in B Minor at Symphony Center, music director Riccardo Muti addressed the audience: "I think that the entire world is shocked about what happened in Boston [the bombings and deaths Monday at the Boston Marathon]. Tonight, by coincidence, we perform, for the fourth time, the big work of Bach [Mass in B Minor]. It's one of the greatest monuments of music and of the culture of mankind. The piece ends with 'Dona nobis pacem,' which means 'Give Us Peace.' But the problem is that Bach didn't mean only give us eternal peace, but give us peace on Earth. And violence is something that is increasing around the world.

"I think that we musicians try to help with our music, which brings harmony and love and brotherhood to the world, but we can do just our part. We can do something that can help throughout the world through music that reaches without words, so to speak, from heart to heart.

"Before we perform the mass, we -- my colleagues of the orchestra and members of the chorus -- want to dedicate it to the victims of the tragedy in Boston and would like to ask you for a moment of concentration and silence. Please stand. [Pause.] Thank you."

PHOTO: CSO music director Riccardo Muti leads the orchestra Thursday night in Bach's Mass in B Minor. (Photo by Todd Rosenberg/courtesy of the CSO)

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Herbie Hancock/credit: www.progarchives.com

Herbie Hancock, Mavis Staples, Regina Carter, Joshua Redman, Wynton Marsalis, Branford Marsalis and Joe Lovano.

Those are several of the starriest artists who'll grace the stage of Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center (220 S. Michigan Ave.) for the 20th year of "Symphony Center Presents Jazz."

Over the course of 10 concerts, there'll be a special focus on artists with Chicago roots such as Hancock and trombonist Ray Anderson. Two more "special" concerts will feature famed saxophonist Sonny Rollins and the Cuban jazz ensemble Orquesta Buena Vista Social Club featuring Omara Portuondo & Eliades Ochoa.

The full schedule is below.

For more info or for subscriptions ($234-$776 for 10 concerts; $130-$433 for five), head to www.cso.org.

Single tickets go on sale August 16.

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He's been a writer on NBC's "30 Rock" and "Saturday Night Live," and for years he has stalked stages in Chicago and around the country. Now comic and Chicago native Hannibal Buress can add another creative accomplishment to his growing resume: music video director.

Together with local filmmaker Austin Vesely, Buress helmed a shoot for Chicago's Chance the Rapper. Their collaboration, for a funny and freewheeling tune called "NaNa," (from Chance's forthcoming mixtape "Acid Rap," out April 30) shows Buress and Chance (a rising rap star) buying odd stuff as they bum around L.A. -- courtesy of a $5,000 advance from jash.com. (As Chance exclaims in the video -- after sensuously wiping his face with the five Gs in check form prior to its cash conversion -- "This is hellaf------ money.")

"The high point was getting the opportunity to do something that I've never done before," Buress wrote in an email, indicating that he'd like to direct again.

"It was a lot of fun. I had to think in a different way and we shot a lot on the fly. I was able to work with a new artist that I respect. Austin Vesely killed it with the shooting and editing. It was a cool experience and I'm glad people enjoy the video."

Asked about the weirdest or most extravagant thing he's purchased after getting a sudden windfall, Buress said his tastes actually are rather pedestrian.

"I really don't buy weird and extravagant stuff. I like to go to basketball games and I like to sit close, so that's my main thing that I spend money on. I'm pretty low key. I live in NYC, so I don't own a car."

However, he allowed, "I might buy a Japanese seagull."

On the Next Mad Men from Press Play Video Blog on Vimeo.

"Mad Men" fans are used to it by now. In fact, it's become a bizarre little ritual some of us even look forward to: the promos for next week's episode of the AMC drama.

These promos, of course, are nothing more than random quotes taken out of context and strung together in a meaningless reel as inscrutable as the corporate tax code written in hieroglyphics. I'd have a better chance of braiding my hair in a wind tunnel than making sense of what the hell next week's episode will be like based on these teasers.

The folks at Indiewire.com took a shot at creating their own "Next week on 'Mad Men,'" shown in the video above. It's pretty creative. Don Draper would approve.


Leigh Anne Tuohy, the real-life inspiration behind "The Blind Side," whose portrayal in the film by Sandra Bullock won the actress the Oscar, will be in Chicago Wednesday.
Tuohy will be in the vicinity of 225 N. Michigan Ave, 1 to 2 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m. as part of a nationwide bus tour promoting her new GMC-TV reality show, "Family Addition with Leigh Anne Ruohy."
GMC will be rebranded at UP beginning June 1, and this is also a joint project with ASPiRE, the African-American-target network from Magic Johnson Enterprises.
Tuohy's new program will be launched in June on UP -- originally six, one-hour episodes following the lives of families who have been fostering children and are on the verge of adopting one or more of them.
That mirrors the real-life experience of Tuohy's family who fostered, then adopted Michael Oher, who went on to become a star player on the Baltimore Ravens.

Chicago's own Jazz Record Mart, 27 E. Illinois, is among the stores across the nation Billboard magazine has named as being the best places to find vinyl treasures.
Billboard called Jazz Record Mart a "must for friends looking for live tunes on Record Store Day," which will held on April 20. Conceived in 2007 to celebrate independent record stores, Michael Kurtz, the president of the indie coalition Department of Record Stores, says "Record Store Day launched the vinyl resurgence."
For this year's Record Store Day, the Jazz Mart will have local blues singer Tail Dragger stopping by to play a set, as well as free jazz saxophonist/composer Nick Mazzarella.

'The Whale'
When: Through May 5
Where: Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, 2433 N. Lincoln
Tickets: $20-$60
Info: (773) 871-3000; www.victorygardens.org
Run time: One hour and 50 minutes with no intermission

It's a good bet you will not find five more lonely, alienated, often angry, sometimes inadvertently funny characters on a single stage than those who gather in Samuel D. Hunter's "The Whale," now in its Chicago premiere at Victory Gardens Theatre. So the question is this: Will THEIR dysfunction serve as YOUR catharsis?

We meet all these characters in the small apartment in northern Idaho that is home to Charlie (Dale Calandra), a 600-pound man who can barely breathe, and who has enormous difficulty hauling himself up off his couch for periodic visits to the bathroom. The inescapable irony here is that Charlie just might be the most well-adjusted of the five people in Hunter's play.

In fact, Charlie, who harbors a fitting passion for Melville's "Moby Dick," is employed (he works as an online writing teacher unseen by those he tutors). He knows he is dying, but he refuses to go to the hospital just to prolong his misery. Besides, he has no health insurance and hopes to hold on to his secret savings for a far more important purpose.


In 1968, a group of five visual artists from Chicago's South Side -- Jeff Donaldson, Jae Jarrell, Wadsworth Jarrell, Barbara Jones-Hogu and Gerald Williams -- formed AFRICOBRA, the African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists. Their work and impact will be celebrated in a variety of exhibitions and events throughout the South Side running from May 10 through Sept. 29.

"Our mission was to encapsulate the quintessential features of African-American consciousness and world view as reflected in real time 1968 terms," Williams wrote on the AFRICOBRA website.

AFRICOBRA in Chicago will be presented in three separate exhibits:

• AFRICOBRA: Prologue - The 1960s and The Black Arts Movement at The South Side Community Art Center
May 10-July 7, 2013
• AFRICOBRA: Philosophy at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago
June 28-August 11, 2013
• AFRICOBRA: Art and Impact at The DuSable Museum of African American History
July 26-September 29, 2013

A website with additional materials will launch in May when the first exhibit begins.


The male-skewing cable network Spike TV unveiled its reality-show development slate Monday and Chicago chef Graham Elliot Bowles is on the menu.

Elliot, Lollapalooza culinary director and owner of his eponymous Michelin two-starred eatery in River North, is involved with a show called "Covert Kitchens," according to Deadline.com. The program takes viewers on a trip to the underground restaurant world, where chefs try to pull off clandestine, one-night-only culinary events in such unlikely locations as alleyways and tattoo parlors.

The tatted-up toque has become a bit of a fixture on the small screen, serving as a judge on the Gordon Ramsay-hosted culinary competition "MasterChef" and competing on Bravo's "Top Chef Masters."

The pilot is being produced by Shine America, the studio behind "MasterChef" as well as "The Biggest Loser."

If the pilot gets picked up to series, I wonder if WLS-Channel 7's Hungry Hound Steve Dolinsky will be allowed to watch?

It makes perfect sense that the Chicago Children's Theatre and Redmoon have forged a creative partnership for the world premiere production, "The Elephant and the Whale," now at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

After all, both companies have a reputation for devising highly imaginative projects that take the most sophisticated approach to entertaining kids. And both make sure that the work they create is artful and sophisticated enough to fully enchant the adults who carry these "future audience members" into the theater.

As I watched "The Elephant and the Whale," which features a story by that ever-quirky writer Seth Bockley (conceived in league with co-directors Maugeri and Leslie B. Danzig), and the endlessly inventive visuals and engineering feats by that multimedia magician Frank Maugeri, I DID begin to worry that the whole thing might just be a bit over the heads of the tots of all ages in attendance. But then the cardboard tail of a very large sea creature moved into view and a wholly engaged little observer cried out, "It's the WHALE!" And amid laughter from all corners of the house it became clear that everyone was safely on board for this voyage.

It all begins in 1919, as the long-established Hoogebeck Family traveling circus, hit by hard times and changing tastes, is forced to sell the business to the rich and hateful Quigley. The change of ownership is particularly hard on the Hoogebeck's star act -- a sweet, high-flying elephant named Ella, who is soon relegated to serving as Quigley's "throne." But Ella's fate is not half as painful as that of the whale who is trapped as an "exhibit" inside a great tank when he should be swimming freely in the ocean. So it isn't long before these two enormous creatures forge a bond of friendship and eventually embark on a grand escape that opens out into the even more mind-expanding cosmos.


Calling all bad girls: An open casting call for the next season of Oxygen's "Bad Girls Club" will take place between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m. Saturday (April 20) at Dearborn Station's Bar Louie, 47 W. Polk St.

From the press release: "Bad Girls Club" will bring together a cast of self-proclaimed 'bad girls' in a beautiful mansion. These women recognize that their fun, outrageous behavior has hindered their relationships, careers, and lives. Will living together help them move forward and turn their lives around - or will the claws come out and chaos rule?

I'm guessing the latter.

For those who can't make it to the open call, applications can be submitted via email. Visit www.bmpcasting.com/casting/bgc/ for details.

Applicants must bring a recent picture of themselves (which won't be returned) and a photo ID. The minimum age to apply is 21.

Ayad Akhtar, the 42-year-old American-born actor and writer of Pakistani parentage, who was born in New York, but spent most of his childhood in Milwaukee, Wisc., has received the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for his play, "Disgraced," the story of Amir, a successful, seemingly assimilated corporate lawyer of Pakistani Muslim heritage. Married to a white, Midwestern woman -- a Christian and an artist -- and employed by a Jewish law firm, Amir finally must confront many aspects of his conflicted identity.

The play received its world premiere at Chicago's American Theater Company in January, 2012, and subsequently was staged at New York's Lincoln Center Theater. It is soon to be staged at London's Bush Theatre. The Pulitzer award, "for a distinguished play by an American author, preferably original in its source and dealing with American life," comes with a prize of $10,000.

After earning a degree in theater from Brown University, Akhtar moved to Europe and studied acting with Jerzy Grotowski , and then returned to the U.S. to teach acting classes with Andre Gregory (of "My Dinner with Andre" fame), and to get his M.A. in directing from Columbia University.

While at Columbia, Akhtar and classmates Tom Glynn and Joseph Castelo devised the idea for "The War Within," a film about an ordinary man radicalized into becoming a terrorist. Akhtar later starred in the film as Hassan, a would-be terrorist. In 2011 he played Neel Kashkari in the HBO film "Too Big to Fail." His first novel, "American Dervish," was published by Little Brown January, 2012. It is a quasi-autobiographical story about a young Pakistani-American boy growing up in the American Midwest and his struggle with his identity and religion.

The two finalists for this year's Pulitzer Prize for Drama were: Gina Gionfriddo, whose "Rapture, Blister, Burn" has been described as "a searing comedy that examines the psyches of two women in midlife as they ruefully question the differing choices they have made," and Amy Herzog, whose "4000 Miles," about the relationship between "a spiky 91-year-old who locks horns with her rudderless 21-year-old grandson when he shows up at her Greenwich Village apartment after a disastrous cross-country bike trip." Herzog's play is set to open Northlight Theatre's 2013-2014 season.

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Credit: www.imdb.com

Throughout several years of work in commercials, former Chicago comedy star Ithamar Enriquez has played roles ranging from depressed guy in a Cymbalta ad to, most recently, a K-mart store manager who declares, "You can ship your pants -- right here."

That last one may prove to be his biggest splash yet. Created by Chicago-based firm Draft/FCB, it's dubbed (no surprise) "Ship My Pants" and already has garnered roughly eight million hits online, most of those via YouTube.

"When we were shooting it, we all thought it was a really funny spot," says Enriquez, a stand-out with Second City's e.t.c. and mainstage troupes until his departure in late 2008. "But among the actors, we were like, 'Is this going to run? Are they going to let this on the air?' But we're not technically saying anything bad."

In fact, the spot that some have dubbed "over the line" and "controversial" owing to its barely veiled scatological humor hasn't aired yet -- not on television. But a Draft/FCB spokeswoman told Chicago Business Journal's Lewis Lazare that K-mart intends to do just that, though she didn't indicate when.

In the meantime, online popularity is surging.

Summer is still a dream away, but the powers that be at the 2013 Chicago Fringe Festival, which is already gearing up for its fourth season, are deep into the planning stage.
Slated to run Aug. 29 - Sept. 8 at various locations in Chicago's Jefferson Park neighborhood (a new neighborhood for the event), the Festival has already booked 50 performance groups from Chicago, around the United States, the United Kingdom and Austria. And artistic director Vinnie Lacey has named this year's design winner -- Chicago artist Alex Kostiw -- whose iconic work, a brightly colored fruit tree with a playfully absurd contemporary Adam and Eve seated on a bench beneath its branches, will appear on all marketing and promotional materials.

A complete schedule of performances and locations will be announced in July.

About the choice of Kostiw's work, Lacey said: "We look forward to seeing Alex's design in Jefferson Park and all over Chicago this summer on our ads, posters, t-shirts and more. The design sends a strong message and was chosen for several reasons: the colors invoke the Chicago flag, the use of the tall fruit-bearing tree reflects the audience's emphasis on choice - picking the ripe fruit of the performances they would like to see."

Artist Alex Kostiw, originally from New York and now living in the Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago, is a freelance designer in editorial, book, poster/ad and web illustration. She also designs for print and apparel. Describing her inspiration for her design she said: "The [Fringe Festival's] "pack a lunch" theme wound up evoking this design for me. The Festival strikes me as nourishing, both for audiences and performers. I originally thought of a salad growing out of this guy's neck, but the explosive flavor of oranges and their bright color and abundance seemed more fun--Fringe-like."


There will be quite an art happening Tuesday at the East Bank Club ---- all one-ton of it.
It's all about the installation of Chicago sculptor Jeffrey Breslow's new, massive sculpture -- entitled "Watch Me Play" -- being placed on the top deck of the popular health club at 500 N. Kingsbury.
Here's the interesting part: Because the deck of East Bank cannot accomodate heavy machinery, Breslow's sculputure won't be able to be installed the usual way -- via a crane.
So, "Watch Me Play" will be placed in its new home the old-fashioned way: Hoisted aloft and positioned using only ropes, pulleys, levers -- and clearly a TON of human muscle power.
It's all scheduled to begin at 7 a.m. Tuesday.


No question about it, blues legend and Chicago music superstar Buddy Guy still keeps an eye out for young talent -- proven as he mentors young blues guitarist Quinn Sullivan, 14.
The teen phenom -- who just played with Guy at the Crossroads Guitar Festival at New York's Madison Square Garden -- has his first album, "Getting There," due out June 18th.
But before that, Quinn will hit Our Town June 6 -- playing a gig as the special guest of Shemekia Copeland at Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park.

Paul McCartney to play Milwaukee ballpark show

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"My concert schedule is going to be thiiiiiiis long!"

Paul McCartney has been painstakingly announcing summer concert dates one by one for the last couple of weeks. This morning, he at least got closer to Chicago -- revealing a show July 16 at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

Riveredge Park Music Garden to open in Aurora

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The Chicago area's newest outdoor music venue, the Riveredge Park Music Garden, will open Jun 14-15 with the Blues on the Fox music festival in west suburban Aurora.

The venue will be anchored by the John C. Dunham performance pavilion that features flexible seating allowing up to 2,500 seats in front of the stage, general admission for 6,000-8,000, plus a rooftop deck that hosts 300 VIPs. Total capacity is around 10,000 for the inaugural season concert schedule that will, in part, include:

June 14 and 15 Blues on the Fox, featuring Dr. John, JJ Grey & Mofro, The Stone Foxes, Tommy Castro and The Painkillers, Robert Randolph and The Family Band

June 16 Amped Up Adventure Race

June 28 97Nine and American English

June 29 Loretta Lynn and Randy Travis

July 4 Bruce in the USA and Fox Valley Orchestra with post-concert Fireworks

July 13 Trace Adkins, Aaron Lewis, Drake White and Blackberry Smoke

August 9 Sing-a-long-a Grease Movie in the Park

August 16 Peter Frampton's Guitar Circus with Peter Frampton, Sonny Landreth and B.B. King

August 17 The Pink Floyd Experience

August 30 Get the Led Out - The American Led Zeppelin

The venue's website, RiverEdgeAurora.com, launches today. Tickets to Loretta Lynn and Randy Travis go on sale Saturday, April 20 at 10 a.m. Tickets to all performances go on sale April 22 at 10 a.m. and can be purchased by calling (630) 896.6666.


Justin Bieber made a visit to the Anne Frank house in Amsterdam on Friday with his entourage to pay respects. It's not entirely clear, though, from what the Biebs wrote in the guestbook what those respects might be.

The staff at the house posted to their Facebook page that Bieber thought, well, you read it:

Yesterday night Justin Bieber visited the Anne Frank House, together with his friends and guards. Fans were waiting outside to see a glimpse of him. He stayed more than an hour in the museum. In our guestbook he wrote: "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was a great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."
Tonight Bieber will give a concert in Arnhem in the Netherlands.

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The reactions and comments on the post were mostly astonishment and incredulity at Bieber's sense of self-importance.

Meanwhile, schools in Norway shifted their midterm schedules because of Bieber shows there, so maybe he gets the final word on these broader cultural questions now.

What do you think? Simply a goofy comment? Or bizzaro and disrespectful. Or both?

"Head of Passes"

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At the center of "Head of Passes," the fervent, questioning play by Tarell Alvin McCraney that is now receiving its world premiere at Steppenwolf Theatre, is a house that can no longer stand, either literally or figuratively.

Built on the marshy land at the mouth of the Mississippi River from which the play takes its title, the house's foundation is shifting, its roof is leaking and a storm is doing the rest. Yet nature is almost the least of the problem here.

As Abraham Lincoln once remarked: "A house divided against itself cannot stand." And though Shelah, the matriarch who for decades has fought off every vicissitude to keep this treasured home upright, is determined to expend her last breath and prayer to keep it intact, she now finds herself more mightily tested than ever. Facing her own mortality, and then quickly hit by by a tidal wave of human tragedy, she is still hoping for some sign from God that he is watching. There are precious few indications that this is the case. But, like a black female incarnation of the Old Testament's beleaguered Job, she is not one to lose her faith easily.

In "The Brother/Sister Plays," McCraney's earlier acclaimed work at Steppenwolf -- which, like "Head of Passes," was directed by Tina Landau -- ritual held sway over reality. This time around, in a play set in "the distant present," reality rules. And yet, against all odds, the spirit abides through language that bears echoes of August Wilson, as well as McCraney's own early church days.

In bringing together Orbert Davis' Chicago Jazz Philharmonic (CJP) and Frank Chaves' River North Dance Chicago (RNDC) for "Havana Blue" -- the multifaceted, one-night-only centerpiece of the new Music + Movement project, the Auditorium Theatre has engaged in an ideal exercise in cultural cross-pollination and audience building. And it is an exercise wholly organic rather than artifically engineered.

Saturday night's collaboration made it possible for an audience that loves its jazz somewhere between big band style and classical to make the acquaintance of a dazzling dance company that can move to anything, but all too often lacks live accompaniment. At the same time, dance audiences had the chance to see and hear a rousing orchestra that includes everything from congas to clarinets.

The opening warmup session featured a chamber ensemble from CJP playing three short works: Orbert Davis' spirited "Seraphim," inspired by his and Chaves' nine-day (legal) visit to Cuba, and the 80-year-old man, Orlando, who took the two men on a five-mile walk around Old Havana; Davis' arrangement of Dizzy Gillespie's rousing "Manteca," full of
hard-driving brass and percussion; and a somewhat uneven rendering of Antonio Carlos Jobim's "Chega de Saudade."

Then came a big surprise: The Chicago premiere of Chaves' "Eva," a new work set to four standards recorded by Eva Cassidy -- a hugely talented singer who died in 1996 at the age of 33.

Each section of 'Eva" begins to the sound of the charming Cassidy herself introducing a song during what must have been a live recorded club date. And Chaves, a master of the duet in all its many manifestations, embellishes Cassidy's splendid vocal interpretations to perfection, creating a piece (beautifully lit Joshua Paul Weckesser and costumed by Jordan Ross) that has all the marks of an instant classic.

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Revolutionary comedian Jonathan Winters has been dead only a day, since April 11, and already the tributes are piling up. Jamie Masada, owner of the Laugh Factory comedy clubs in Chicago and Los Angeles, offered his own remembrance:

"Dear Friends," Masada wrote in an e-mailed note, "I met Jonathan Winters 27 years ago. I thought he was the most brilliant and original comic I had ever met. Winters created the persona of the wild kid grown to adulthood. In addition, his ability to transform into different and recurring characters became a staple of the SNL sensibility. Robin Williams and Steve Martin are among today's comics influenced the most by Winters' quick wit, but all owe some development to his manic and vivid imagination.... This is one special talent that the world should remember."

Masada interviewed Winters in August of 1986 for an edition of the long defunct Laugh Factory magazine. Here, with Masada's permission, is a copy of their exchange.

LFmag_Jonathan Winters.pdf

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Credit: www.nj.com

Here's something light for a Friday, and maybe you know about it already: a site devoted entirely to Bill Murray stories. It's not new, but it seems to be ever-growing. "Bill Murray and the Autographed Baseball." Murray golfing on Long Island. Murray rubbing noses with a woman because she declined to shake his hand for religious reasons. "You crazy Eskimo girl!" And on and on and on.

Submit a story here. Follow them on Twitter here.

Years ago, before my Sun-Times days, I had a brief and (pretty quickly in retrospect) amusing run-in with the abundantly talented, famously mercurial and often elusive Mr. Murray. While helping to research a biography on the late comic Andy Kaufman, I showed up at the old Goodman Theatre to see if I could get the Wilmette-bred former Second City star to recall any Andy memories from the 1970s.

After he finished a television interview onstage with then "Fox Thing in the Morning" hosts Bob Sirott and Marianne Murciano, my intent and I were brought to his attention. As he began talking a bit off-the-cuff about Andy (after declaring that the late "Taxi" star was dead and I should let him rest in peace -- fair enough), I stupidly held up my bulky tape recorder and asked something to the effect of, "Mind if I record this?" Boy, did he mind. "Whoa!" he declared. "I knew you were creepy!"

He was at one end of the room, I at the other. The audience of spectators between us was surely entertained, or at least bemused, by the exchange -- most of which I've forgotten. Or blocked out.

But I held, and hold, no grudges. At an event later that evening, I even bought four of the golf memoirs Murray was in town to hawk. More important -- and far less expensively -- I had a Bill Murray story of my very own to tell. Over and over and over again.

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Filmmaker Steve James shoots a scene for Kartemquin's "The Interrupters"/Credit: www.kartemquin.com

After being twice shot down by the state in its attempts to secure sales tax exemption, a locally based maker of documentary films is being denied review of a third application. Why? For, allegedly, the "making and selling of propaganda DVDs."

That's according to Tim Horsburgh of Kartemquin Films, whose productions include Oscar-nominated doc "Hoop Dreams" (1994) and the Oscar-snubbed doc "The Interrupters" (2011) as well as a forthcoming film about the life of late Sun-Times movie critic Roger Ebert.

When a representative from the Illinois Department of Revenue ("Nancy") called yesterday in response to a recent sales tax exemption that Kartemquin Educational Films' had submitted last week for the the third time, Horsburgh explained via email, "She advised that because our prior apps in 2007 and 2010 were denied, there would be no further review of our application."

"She then told [Kartemquin's] director of finance and operations, Suzanne Niemoth, that the 2007 application was denied for the 'making and selling of propaganda DVD's.'"

Niemoth was "shocked," Horsburgh wrote, and again asked why Kartemquin had been denied. The representative's answer was unwavering: for the "making and selling of propaganda DVD's."


Plenty of haters have surfaced after Thursday night's "Shooting Star" episode of "Glee," where a supposed school shooting was one of several storylines (and that, to me, was the big problem).

The A.V. Club gave the episode an F, calling it "a harrowing piece of exploitative trash." Vulture said "the depths of the emotional manipulation are unforgiveable." The Newtown Bee, understandably enough in the wake of the shooting spree at Sandy Hook Elementary School last December, felt like it hit too close to home.

TVWithoutPity, well, had no pity:

I actually liked the episode. Let me rephrase that. I liked one part of the episode: the part that dealt with the supposed school shooting. The Coach Beiste-in-heat, Lord Tubbington nonsense and the Manti Te'o catfishing crap (what? no time to work in a Lance Armstrong doping scandal storyline?) were trifling distractions that detracted from the heft of the shooting, which deserved to be the focus of the entire episode.

The supposed shooting (in which no one was actually shot) turned out to be the result of Becky bringing a gun to school because she's afraid. Coach Sue took the fall for Becky in a hard-to-believe but extremely touching scene played perfectly by Jane Lynch. We didn't know any of that until the end.

Rewind to the moments immediately after the shots were fired, and that was some riveting, tense, emotional TV. Mr. Schue shut off the lights and the kids hid in the choir room. A pot boiled over and a cell phone went unanswered as Marley's mom, Millie, hunkered down in the school's kitchen. Brittany took refuge in a toilet stall. The panic was palpable, thanks to some stellar acting by all involved. Artie took video of the kids saying heartfelt goodbyes to their parents. Manipulative? Exploitative? Maybe. But it was undeniably compelling and another vivid reminder -- this time, fictional -- that it shouldn't take a tragedy to get us to say what you need to say.

"Glee" is a wildly erratic, imperfect show. Last night's episode embodied that. (Ratings wise, it fared unusually well, leading the albeit soft competition in the key 18-to-49-year-old demo.) But I give it credit for tackling controversial, taboo subjects, even if it does it with all the grace of an awkward teenager.

What did you think of the episode?


Maria Tallchief stands next to a picture of her Great Grandfather, Big Heart. | Al Podgorski~Sun-Times

Maria Tallchief, a longtime resident of Chicago, died Thursday at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. She was 88.

Her father was a chief of the Osage Nation, her mother was Scots-Irish, and she was born on an Indian reservation in Oklahoma. Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief would go on to become Maria Tallchief -- one of the great American ballerinas -- renowned for her performances in Fokine's "The Firebird," as well as in such other feathery classics as "Swan Lake" and "The Black Swan."

Initially a dancer with the fabled Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, she became the first prima ballerina of the newly established New York City Ballet, dancing with that company from 1947 to 1960. Married to the company's director, choreographer George Balanchine, from 1946 to 1952, she created the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy in his version of "The Nutcracker." And in 1962, in the wake of his defection from the Soviet Union, Rudolf Nureyev chose her as his partner for his American television debut. -- Hedy Weiss

Chet Haze, Tom Hanks' son, drops new music video

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Chet Haze, perhaps better known as the son of Tom Hanks, released a new music video for his song "Finest Girl" last night. Although claiming Chicago as his home for the past few years while attending Northwestern University, the video features the New York City skyline spliced between nightclubbing scenes.

The video's release got off to a bumpy start Thursday:

But then, success!

Here's a video Haze did last summer for a song called "Do It Better"


Cicero-born Dominic "Dom" Capone, 37, will start filming his new reality series, "The Capones," in two weeks.

Cameras will follow the graduate of Lake Park High School in Bloomingdale both at home and at work, where one of his several jobs includes running Capone's Restaurant and Pizzeria with his "meddling mother" Dawn, according to a Reelz Channel press release. The 10-part docuseries is slated to debut on Reelz cable network this fall.

In a phone interview Thursday, Capone talked about his upcoming show, what it's like to have the last name Capone and what he thinks about critics who say shows like this perpetuate negative stereotypes about Italians:

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Writer Bradford Evans, of the swell comedy site Splitsider.com, has assembled an equally swell rundown of several roles former Second City and Annoyance Theatre star (and Northwestern alum) Stephen Colbert never landed or barely had on his way to becoming a truthiness-telling comedy icon.

Here's a partial and very condensed version for those who are time-challenged and/or just very impatient.

1) Saturday Night Live: Colbert tried out in 1992 when SNL writers and producers visited Second City. At the time, Colbert was Steve Carell's understudy.

2) Late Night with Conan O'Brien: Just as the program was launching in 1993, comedy writer Robert Smigel introduced Colbert to O'Brien. Smigel: "Conan didn't quite see how Colbert could fit in." Fortunately, Colbert was hired to a writer on "The Dana Carvey Show," which tanked in 1996.

3) Good Morning America: Colbert was hired as a correspondent for the morning news-and-talk show. "I pitched 20 stories in a row that got shot down," he told mediabistro.com. Soon, however, Comedy Central's "The Daily Show" called.

4) An "Ambiguously Gay Duo" Movie: In 2000, Colbert teamed up with Smigel to pen a script based on Smigel's animated shorts for SNL. The film was to be live-action. But since Colbert and Carell (who voiced one of the SNL characters along with Colbert) weren't yet widely known, they didn't cut it as leading men.

For the rest of the story, go here.

cusack.jpg (In this March 20, 2010 photo, actor John Cusack poses for a portrait in Los Angeles. AP Photo/Reed Saxon)

tucker.jpg (Chris Tucker arrives at the 24th Annual Producers Guild (PGA) Awards at the Beverly Hilton Hotel on Saturday Jan. 26, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif. Photo by Jordan Strauss/Invision for The Producers Guild/AP Images)

Actor John Cusack and comedian Chris Tucker will be appearing at Thursday's tribute to Roger Ebert. Doors open at 6 p.m. for "Roger Ebert: A Celebration of Life" at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State St. The event is free open to the public.

Tucker is in town to perform his stand-up show Friday at the Chicago Theatre.

Others expected to speak at the tribute include Ebert's wife of 22 years, Chaz, his stepdaughter Sonia Evans, and granddaughter, Raven Evans, as well as:

Andy Davis, director of "The Fugitive, "The Package," and "Holes"

Michael Barker, President of Sony Pictures Classics

Greg Nava, director of "El Norte," "Selena," and "Mi Familia"

Julie Dash, producer and director of "Daughters of the Dust"

Dick Gregory, comedian and philanthropist

Ava Duvernay, director of "I Will Follow" and "Middle of Nowhere"

Richard Roeper, film critic, columnist and co-host of "Ebert & Roeper At the Movies"

Thea Flaum, creator/producer of the "Siskel & Ebert" TV series

Tom Luddy, co-founder of the Telluride Film Festival

Bill Kurtis, award-winning broadcast journalist and producer and the Voice of Roger on "Ebert Presents at the Movies"

Christie Hefner, former Chair and CEO of Playboy

Milos Stehlik, founder of Facets, largest supplier of independent films

Marlene Iglitzen Siskel, wife of Gene Siskel

Marca Bristo, founder of Access Living and disabilities rights pioneer

Monica and Magan Eng, journalists and longtime friends

Bruce Elliot, author, TV show host

Josh Golden, founder of Table XI Digital and co-founder of Ebert Digital

To reserve a seat send an email to rsvp@ebertpresents.com, or call 773-528-7700. Tickets can be picked up at the Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State St., on Wednesday from 12 to 8 p.m. and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Tickets are first-come-first-served and required for entry.

brad-womack-600.jpg (Photo courtesy ashleefrazier Instagram)

We didn't see this one coming.

AshLee Frazier, the professional organizer sent packing by the most recent "Bachelor" Sean Lowe, has apparently made a love connection with former two-time "Bachelor" Brad Womack. Womack's "Bachelor" fiance Emily Maynard rejected Lowe. Got that?

Long story short, it appears two more people who failed to find love on "The Bachelor" are dating off-camera. Frazier posted photos of herself and Womack embracing at a Houston Astros game on Instagram and Twitter.

Frazier had a compelling back story as a former foster child who found a forever family in Houston. Womack has an identical twin brother named Chad (rhymes with Brad), is the only "Bachelor" to ever reject both of the final contestants and apparently has a temper. His family called his hot streak "poking the bear."

To review:

Brad was once with Emily:

But Brad and Emily didn't last. So she became "The Bachelorette" and took up with Sean:

Emily rejected Sean. So he became "The Bachelor" and dated AshLee:

That didn't last. So now Brad and AshLee are giving it a go.

When: Through May 19
Where: A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells
Tickets: $25-$30
Info: (312) 943-8722; www.aredorchidtheatre.org
Run time: Two hours, with one intermission

Howard Korder's "In a Garden" is the furthest thing imaginable from a docudrama. Yet the play, now receiving an enthralling production at A Red Orchid Theatre, may very well be the finest evocation of the long, troubled relationship that continues to unfold between the United States and nations of the Middle East.

The genius of this work, deftly directed by Lou Contey, lies in the subtle shrewdness with which Korder captures the uneasy friendship and pervasive psychological tension between these two very different worlds by chronicling the interaction of two men who develop personal, artistic and entrepreneurial ties. Unspooling over 15 geopolitically turbulent years, from 1989 to 2004, "In a Garden" begins as the Minister of Culture of Aquaat, a fictional country very much like Iraq, welcomes a struggling American architect who hopes to win a fat commission for a major project.

The Minister is a Saddam Hussein-like character by the name of Othman (Rom Barkhordar in one of the more brilliant performances you are likely to see this season). Earlier in his life he studied in the U.S., and he still has fond thoughts for his liberated American girlfriend there. A sophisticated man, Othman is passionate about Hollywood movies, deeply versed in the work of contemporary "starchitects," connected to several wives and mistresses, and tightly bound to an extended family, including a brother, Najid (Emilio G. Robles, as a Middle Eastern Mussolini).

'South Pacific'
When: Through June 2
Where: Marriott Theatre, 10 Marriott Dr., Lincolnshire
Tickets: $40-$48
Info: (847)634-0200; www.MarriottTheatre.com
Run time: 2 hours and 45 minutes with one intermission

Sometimes it is good to be reminded of just how transcendent the familiar can be. A case in point: Director David H. Bell's sublime revival of the Rodgers and Hammerstein classic, "South Pacific," now at the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire.

Bell's ability to make a story unspool with the most natural fluidity and deftly punctuated wit is a given, and here he has even handed over his usual choreographic duties to Matt Raftery, very much the skilled protege. But this expertly cast production is particularly impressive for the way it brings a deep intimacy to the musical's epic tale of love and war, prejudice and acceptance, and the quests of both the fugitive and the seeker

The individual performances here are superb. And the big production numbers are irresistible. But best of all Bell and his cast make you listen afresh to the show's exceptionally bold and ambitious book -- the work of Hammerstein and Joshua Logan, drawn from the stories of James A. Michener. The actors truly capture the sense of what happens when, far from home, people try to cope with internal and external chaos.

Ed Asner reschedules cancelled Gary performance of "FDR"

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Veteran actor Ed Asner has rescheduled his Gary, Ind., performance following his collapse onstage last month during a performance of his one-man show "FDR."

The new show date is April 23, and will take place at Wirt Emerson VPA Theater Auditorium, 210 N Grand Blvd., Gary. All tickets from the previous performance will be honored. Additional tickets ($35-$40) are now on sale at www.edasneringary.eventbrite.com.

Read Sun-Times reporter Mike Thomas' interview with Asner at www.suntimes.com/entertainment.

5 Things To Do This Weekend

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No excuses! Here are five events definitely worth your time April 12-14:

Rufus Wainwright

Rufus Wainwright performs in support of his new album "Out of the Game" at 8 p.m. April 14 at Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N. Lincoln. Tickets are $80. Call (773) 728-6000; www.oldtownschool.org.

Chris Tucker | AP PHOTO

Comedian/actor Chris Tucker performs stand-up at 11 p.m. (the 8 p.m. show is sold-out) April 12 at the Chicago Theatre, 175 N. State. Tickets are $55.50-$75.50. Visit www.ticketmaster.com.

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You don't have to be Beyonce or Jay-Z to visit Cuba. To luxuriate in the irresistible dance and music of the island all you have to do is head to the Auditorium Theatre at 50 E. Congress at 8 p.m. April 13 to see "Havana Blue," a joint program by River North Dance Chicago and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic. Tickets, ($32-$76) call (800) 982-2787; www.AuditoriumTheatre.org.


It's officially "Good vs. Evil" when celebrity chefs Anthony Bourdain and Eric Ripert bring their interestingly titled tour to Chicago for a show at 7:30 p.m. May 9 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress Parkway.

Expect an evening of frank anecdotes from the best buds about the restaurant business, television careers and their vastly different approaches to all things food.

Bourdain is a best-selling author, television personality ("The Taste," "Top Chef") and chef-at-large for New York's Brasserie Les Halles. His latest television series, "Parts Unknown" premieres April 14 on CNN.

Ripert, is chef/co-owner of New York's multi-Michelin-starred Le Bernardin, author and host of his own PBS cooking series.

Tickets, $35 to $150, are available by phone at (800) 982-ARTS (2787) or online at www.ticketmaster.com. For more information, visit www.GoodVsEvilTour.com.

AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

The next step in the evolution of the hip-hop diss track has arrived thanks to - who else? - Jay-Z. The artist also known as Shawn Carter made headlines in the news and politics section recently thanks to a federal government-blessed trip to Cuba he made with his wife, Beyonce. The visit to Fidel's World earned the rap star a lot of criticism from a handful of politicians and now the rapper has returned the vitriol in kind with a new track called, "Open Letter," addressing the Havana haters.

The Swizz Beatz/Timbaland-produced track - which is loaded with naughty words so use those headphones if you're at work - is pretty clear in its aim from the get go with Jay-Z bragging that he's turned "Havana to Atlanta" and: "Politicians never did shit for me / except lie to me, distort history / Wanna give me jail time and fine / Fine, let me commit a real crime." There are also references to the White House and an apt reference to Bob Dylan's "Idiot Wind." It's also one of Jay-Z's better tracks in a while (and sounds similar to some of the Caribbean beats from early Clipse tracks). Besides, you have to love the swagger of the world's biggest rapper when he drops the line, "Obama said, 'Chill you're going to get me impeached' / You don't need this shit anyway, chill with me on the beach." (And for Chicago fans, there's also a reference to buying a whole lot of drugs for our own lightning rod rapper, Chief Keef.)

The trip was noteworthy because of the attention the pair received and because Americans are forbidden to travel to Cuba for tourism without government permission due to a trade embargo. Among the reasons one can travel to Cuba from the U.S. is via a "people-to-people" license or, as ABC News explains it, "a licensed program that encourages 'meaningful contacts' with the Cuban people." Hova and B were traveling to Cuba in a group of 12 that was totally okay'd by the Treasury Department.

The approval didn't keep Florida Republicans, especially Sen. Mark Rubio, from griping that the trip was being used for propaganda purposes by Cuba. Which is totally understandable because it's not like their are more pressing matters right now, both domestic and foreign that they should be worried about more than a rap star and his wife going to Cuba.


Cheese lovers of the world, unite.

The 3rd annual Pastoral's Artisan Producer Festival will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, April 27 at the Chicago French Market, 131 North Clinton St., Chicago. The free fest, organized by Pastoral Artisan Cheese, Bread & Wine, invites visitors to sample the wares from 25 cheesemakers as well as makers of charcuterie, beer, wine and spirits.

The weekend includes book signings and an appearance by Ari Weinzweig of Michigan's Zingerman's Creamery.

For more information, visit www.pastoralartisan.com.

There are more than 80 culinary producers participating. The full list can be found by clicking below.

A Pepperdine University senior named Shaina got a pleasant surprise on the "Today" show this morning when Joe Jonas invited her to be his date in Chicago when he kicks off his concert tour here July 10.

The invite follows a popular YouTube video (above) Shaina made asking the singer to go with her to her sorority formal this weekend.

Turns out Jonas is tied up this weekend, but he made his own video inviting her to Chicago for the show later this summer. He also surprised her on the "Today" plaza, disguised as a hirsute man in the crowd looking. He peeled off his wig and fake nose on camera and made Shaina's day.

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Credit: imdb.com

Long before he hated spunk as the hard-bitten newspaper editor Lou Grant on "The Mary Tyler Moore" show, University of Chicago alum Ed Asner cut his thespian teeth in town as a member of the Playwrights Theatre Club. The predecessor of Chicago's Compass Players, which in turn spawned Second City, Playwrights included other future showbiz luminaries such as Mike Nichols, Barbara Harris and Elaine May. Longtime Evanston resident Joyce Piven (Ari Gold's mom) was a member, too.

One of the group's most mercurial and sometimes volatile personalities was the deep-thinking, b.s.-shunning director Paul Sills, who co-founded the group in 1953 with Harvard-schooled improv guru David Shepherd. Sills' charges knew that with his brilliance came bursts of fury -- and, occasionally, hurled furniture.

Steppenwolf Theatre has announced the lineup for this summer's eighth annual First Look Repertory of New Work, running July 29-Aug. 25. The project, which unspools in the Steppenwolf Garage, 1624 N. Halsted, will include three developmental productions presented in rotating repertory, as well as three free play readings, plus the continuation of First Look 101, which gives audiences a unique two-month "behind-the-scenes" access to the work.

The three productions to be staged are:

± "Buena Vista," a new play by Edith Freni (who currently teaches at the University of Miami), to be directed by ensemble member Tim Hopper. When Noah shows up at his family's isolated Colorado cabin, he discovers his estranged mother has been squatting there for months. Then Dad walks in--questioning the reason for his son's retreat--and Noah's weekend getaway turns into a bizarre, snowed-in family nightmare. A series of revelations ignite the play's surreal conclusion, unfolding in a frozen wooden box at 12,000 feet above sea level.

± "The Gospel of Franklin," by Aaron D. Carter (literary manager at Steppenwolf), directed by Robert O'Hara. Franklin is a man of God with a talent for recognizing people who suffer in secret. A working-class black man, he mentors young white men at the factory with a preacher's zeal. But when Franklin himself needs help, it is his son William who comes to the rescue. The play asks the question: can you save someone who doesn't want to be saved?

± "Annie Bosh is Missing," a new play by Janine Nabers (a 2012 New York Theatre Workshop playwriting fellow), directed by Shade Murray. Annie Bosh, 22 years old, of mixed race and just out of rehab, is desperate for a connection, no matter the cost. She escapes her gated Houston subdivision into the confusion of post-Hurricane Katrina looking for something -- a hookup, a high, or maybe a journey to New Orleans to find the father her family shut out long ago.

The production team for First Look 2013 includes William Boles (scenic design), Heather Gilbert (lighting design) and Kevin O'Donnell (sound design). Additional credits include: Erica Daniels (casting), Cassie Wolgamott (lead stage manager), Michelle Medvin (stage manager) and Jon Nook (stage manager).

The free readings will be:
± "Tempo," by Mike Batistick, about a pharmaceutical salesman who is flailing at his job. He's taking his own medicine. He drives a Ford Tempo. And his wife is about to leave him. But he's about to come up with a plan that he hopes will right the ship: too bad it's not legal.
± "Your Name Will Follow You Home," by Carlos Murillo, about Javier and Alvaro's quest to tell the story of reclusive Chicano writer Danny Santiago. This leads them down the rabbit hole of American identity. Can they tell a story where Charlie Chaplin, aristocratic ex-Stalinists, the black list, 50s B-Monster Movies, East LA gangbangers, serial plagiarists and forgers, fake Latinos, and Jesse James intermingle? And will their friendship survive?
± "Barbacue," written and directed by Robert O'Hara, about a pot head, an alcoholic, a pill popper and a control freak -- the last four people who should ever try to perform an intervention, though they decide it's time for their crack-head sister, Zippity Boom, to get HER life together.

First Look 101, the two-month experience running June 2 - Aug. 10 takes enrolled participants on a backstage journey through all aspects of the new play development process--from the first rehearsal to the final performance. The program is open to anyone interested in learning about new plays. Enrollment in First Look 101 begins April 12 at 11a.m.

Tickets to First Look Repertory of New Work ($20) go on sale Friday, April 12 at 11am. Student tickets ($15) are available with valid ID. Passes to all three plays are available for $45. Enrollment in First Look 101 ($100) also begins April 12 at 11a.m. Student enrollment ($45) is available with valid ID. Enrollment includes access to all First Look 101 events, plus tickets to all three First Look productions. To enroll call (312) 335-1650 or visit www.steppenwolf.org.

Question: What do you get when you schedule three-weeks of performances that blur the boundaries between theater, music, dance, puppetry and more, and include a community picnic and performances for children, all staged in unique, often historic spaces?

Answer: You get the new Pivot Multi-Arts Festival which is set to run June 6-22, and which promises to "reignite the spirit of the vaudeville era" in Chicago's Uptown and Edgewater neighborhoods. Designed to help reinvigorate the Uptown Entertainment District, the Festival will unite artists, businesses and local organizations around a variety of "pop-up" performances that will occur in everything from a former vaudeville theater, to Essanay, the space once used by Charlie Chaplin as his film studio, as well as other historic spaces throughout these communities.

To date, the participating groups and individual artists include: 6018NORTH, Backroom Shakespeare Project, Chicago Architectural Foundation, Molly Shanahan/Mad Shak Dance Company, Manual Cinema, Mucca Pazza, Neo-Futurists, Theater Oobleck, RE|Dance Group, Steep Theatre Company, Ruth Margraff and Café Antarsia Ensemble, Jorge Ignacio Cortinas, Alice Austen, Martin Zimmerman, Steve Moulds and Tanya Palmer. Children's performances will be presented by: Alternatives Youth Group, Crooked Door Storytelling, Dream Big Performance Workshop, Storytown Improv, People's Music School and more.

The venues to be used include: Berger Park, Broadway Cellars, Burke's Public House, Chase Park, Essanay Studios at St. Augustine College, FLATStheatre (an historic vaudeville space/bank building), Francesca's Bryn Mawr, Kitchen Sink Café, Lickity Split, Senn High School, Uncommon Ground and The Waterfront Café at Berger Park.

Tickets (no more than $15 per event) go on sale April 30. For complete Festival information and tickets call (773) 609-0782 or visit www.Pivotarts.org.


Among the three pilots IFC announced being ordered Wednesday was one from Chicago-based writer-producer-director Steve Conrad ("The Secret Life of Walter Mitty," "The Pursuit of Happyness," "The Weather Man").
According to a statement from IFC, "Timms Industrial Piping" (working title) is a scripted comedy set in the ficitional town of Timms Valley, Wisconsin. As is often the case in small towns, the lives of many residents are dominated by the community's largest employer -- Timms Industrial Piping.
When the firm's founder and CEO disappears in a plane crash, the entire town is thrown into a tizzy.
The program will be shot in stop-motion animation with baby dolls used to represent the cast of adult characters -- with the overall theme inspired by the "Dynasty"-type primetime evening soaps from the 1980s.
Among the voice talent featured for the pilot are Maria Bamford, Elizabeth Banks, Lance Barber, Giancarlo Esposito, Ed Flynn, Kathryn Hahn, John Lithgow and Seann William Scott.


Our correspondent Andrew Patner will have a full report soonest but until then, here are the big takeaways from the press conference today with music director Riccardo Muti and CSO president Deborah Rutter:

* Muti and the CSO will embark on their fifth tour together in January, with stops in Spain's Canary Islands; Essen, Germany, and Luxembourg.

* Muti will lead the CSO in its first-ever online simulcast, Oct. 10, a performance of Verdi's Requiem, at cso.org.

* CSO Resound will release a live recording of Verdi's "Otello," led by Muti in April 2011, on Sept. 3 via digital outlets and at retail on Sept. 24.

* This year's free community concert for CSO and Muti will Sept. 18 at the Chodl Auditorium in Cicero.

* The contracts of composers in residence Mason Bates and Anna Clyne have been extended through the 2014-15 season.

Muti also spoke at length on the importance of Verdi, whose bicentennial is being celebrated worldwide in 2013:
"Verdi is the music of the future; he speaks in a direct and simple way to audiences of the world."

AP photo

"Othello: The Remix," the Q Brothers' exhilarating hip-hop interpretation of Shakespeare's play, has become a huge hit and the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre has just extended the production by seven weeks through June 15.

More than half the audiences that have so far come to the show- which features four multi-talented actors backed by an onstage deejay - are first-time attendees at the Shakespeare Theatre. Encouraging high attendance is the relatively low ticket price of $20 for those under age 35.

In other good news, the show, which had its world premiere in London last summer at the Globe Theatre as part of the Cultural Olympiad, will be returning to London this fall for a three-week engagement at the Unicorn Theatre.

For Chicago Shakespeare tickets call (312) 595-5600 or visit WWW.chicagoshakes.com.


Reality TV is getting another helping of the Chicago mob with a new docuseries centered on Al Capone's restaurant-owning descendants.

A 10-episode series called "The Capones" will debut this fall on the cable network Reelz Channel. It stars Capone's great-nephew, Dominic "Dom" Capone III, as he runs the family's eponymous restaurant and pizzeria in Lombard along with his mother, Dawn.

"The spirit of the infamous gangster Al Capone still lives on in Chicago in the form of his drama-filled, lasagna-loving dysfunctional family, the Capones," reads a Reelz Channel press release. "With a notorious bloodline and larger-than-life personalities, this workplace docuseries follows the goodfellas as they run the family Italian restaurant and try to keep peace at the Capone mansion with the extended family all living under one roof."

Justin Timberlake was among a host of great musicians - including Chicago's legendary Mavis Staples - in performing at the White House for "Soulsville USA: The History Of Memphis Soul," a workshop for middle and high schoolers. The entire performance will air on PBS this Sunday but we've been given the gift of Justin Timberlake performing the Otis Redding classic, "(Sittin' On) the Dock of the Bay" to get us excited. Enjoy! [via Stereogum]

What a world: Thatcher death re-charts 'Ding Dong!'

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387301651.661068.jpgAnd this week's big pop hits are from ... "The Wizard of Oz"?!

Many Britons saw Monday's news of former prime minister Margaret Thatcher's death as a cause for celebration. After years of pop songs excoriating the conservative British leader, those cheered by Thatcher's demise have turned to a standard as they raise their pint glasses.

By the end of Tuesday, three different versions of the song "Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead" had re-entered the charts.

wonder.jpgBen Affleck finds special meaning in knowing his new movie was the subject of Roger Ebert's last review.

"It was viewed through the prism of this wonderful man who was at the very end of his life," Affleck said at the West Hollywood, Calif., premiere of "To the Wonder." And to see the movie through that lens was one of the most powerful things to ever happen to me in my career."

Ebert's review of the movie, directed by Terrence Malick, was published online Friday, the day after his death. "To the Wonder" is scheduled to open April 19 in Chicago.

The late critic wrote admiringly of Malick's attempt "to reach beneath the surface, and find the soul in need."

"I did read it," Affleck said. "I thought it was lovely. I went and visited Roger last summer and talked about 'Argo.' I was in his [Chicago] home, and met his wife and saw how tough [conditions] were after his surgery. I was so moved by the cheerfulness that he had toward this, the sort of way that he bore that burden.

"I mean, for days after I left -- he gave me a copy of his book and I read it, I just was so inspired by that. By a guy who was fighting something that was really debilitating, and was so gracious and warm and loved life."

The movie's co-star, Rachel McAdams, said she usually avoids reviews but made an exception for Ebert's. "It made me cry," she said. "It's a really interesting review to be his last. It's very apropos, in a way -- talking about, 'Does a movie have to have all the answers? Why not, not quite know what's out there and what it's all about?' "

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Biba Golic

Chicago-based table tennis company Killerspin -- the ones who helped launch the career of world-famous player Biba Golic -- recently announced a partnership with Chicago Public Schools.

Unplug 'N Play "will create activity, exercise and stimulation for thousands of...students."

Killerspin's president, Robert Blackwell, Jr., sees his sport as "a safe and fun social alternative. If kids and their parents would take just 15 minutes a day for some sort of activity together -- whether it be table tennis or something else -- the connections within the family can be so much stronger."

To launch Unplug 'N Play, Killerspin and CPS are staging a table tennis demonstration at the Chicago Military Academy , (3533 S. Giles) on Tuesday, April 16 at 10 a.m. In addition to promoting the sport's many benefits, the demo also will include "a few other surprises."

Like maybe Biba versus Rahm?

A first love in Indochina. An interplanetary encounter on the Sahara Desert. And a look inside Charles Darwin's heart. That, in a nutshell, are the three stories to be told during the 2013-2014 season at Lookingglass Theatre, located in the Water Tower Water Works at 821 N. Michigan.

Here's a closer look at the lineup:

± "The North China Lover" (Sept. 25 - Nov. 10): This world premiere production, adapted and directed by ensemble member Heidi Stillman, and based on the novel by Marguerite Duras, is set in the seamy French Quarter of Southern Indochina in the 1930s. That is where the 14-year-old impoverished schoolgirl who will someday become Duras is about to meet and captivate a wealthy 27-year-old Chinese aristocrat. This story of awakening and sacrifice "reveals the delicate and indelible effect of life on art."
± "The Little Prince" (Dec. 4, 2013 - Feb. 12, 2014): In this adaptation by Rick Cummins and John Scoullar of the classic novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupery -- to be directed by ensemble member David Catlin -- a pilot, stranded in the Sahara Desert, encounters an enigmatic, charismatic young prince who has fallen from the sky. The prince regales the pilot with tales of life among the stars -- tales that just happen to have earthly importance. Catlin promises a production featuring "gravity-defying, awe-inspiring physical feats."
± "In The Garden: A Darwinian Love Story" (April 16 - June 15, 2014): This world premiere play, written by artistic associate Sara Gmitter, and directed by Jessica Thebus, is set long before "The Origin of Species" is published, forever changing our understanding of the world. Here, Charles Darwin meets Emma Wedgewood, and they forever change each other -- two fiercely independent people, divided by ideology, but united by "a fire that fuels the passionate lifelong debate over evolution vs. salvation."

Subscriptions ($103 - $177) are on sale now. Call (312) 337-0665 or visit lookingglasstheatre.org.

Amy Morton (the Steppenwolf Theatre actress and director who has starred on Broadway in both "August: Osage County" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"), and S. Epatha Merkerson (the Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award-winning actress who starred on TV's "Law and Order"), will be the recipients of the 2013 Awards for Excellence in the Arts when The Theatre School of DePaul University presents its 25th annual gala benefit April 22 at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago, 120 E. Delaware Place.

The two recipients of the Alumni Award for Excellence in the Arts will be Stana Katic (star of the hit ABC-TV series "Castle," and the upcoming film, "CBGB"), and Paul Miller (the Broadway lighting designer).

The annual awards ceremony recognizes distinguished artists and visionaries who have proven their dedication, talent, and leadership in support of the arts.

This year's event, to be hosted by Dexter Bullard, the gifted director who serves as Head of Graduate Acting at The Theatre School, also will present Allstate Insurance Company with the Leadership Award for Excellence in the Arts.

Tickets for the benefit are $500 per person, with tables for 10 starting at $5,000. The evening begins with a cocktail reception at 5:30 p.m., followed by dinner and the awards presentation at 7 p.m. For tickets or more information, call DePaul University's Office of Advancement at (312) 362-8455, or email eventRSVP@depaul.edu.

The event benefits The Theatre School's Scholarship Fund, which provides necessary financial assistance to the young artists-in-training at the school.

You don't have to be Beyonce or Jay-Z to visit Cuba. To luxuriate in the irresistible dance and music of the island all you have to do is head to the Auditorium Theatre at 50 E. Congress this Saturday at 8 p.m. to see "Havana Blue," a joint program by River North Dance Chicago and the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic.

Last fall, choreographer Frank Chaves, artistic director of River North (who was born in Cuba), and Robert Davis, founder of the Chicago Jazz Philharmonic, spent nine days in Havana as part of a cultural exchange, soaking up the "romance, angst, energy and uncertainty" of the place. Now they've put together a program exploring the origins and evolution of Cuban jazz and music of the Afro-Cuban diaspora, with a major collaboration in the title work, as well as individual pieces by each group.

For tickets ($32-76) call (800) 982-2787 it visit www.AuditoriumTheatre.org/music and movement.

Second City, Onion combine for new writing program

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The Second City and The Onion, have partnered to present a new writing program at The Second City Training Center's Chicago campus, 1608 N. Wells.

The first course (already sold out) is titled, "Basic Writing with The Onion," a one-of-a-kind writing course taught by founding editor of The Onion, Scott Dikkers.

"The assets required of writers at The Second City and The Onion are very compatible - they need to be smart, funny and satirical," said Andrew Alexander, CEO/Executive Producer of The Second City in a prepared statement.

"Aside from being America's finest news source, The Onion is the most literate, most entertaining, most influential and most profitable publication in the United States of America, including Texas," said Steve Hannah, CEO of The Onion in the joint statement. "Partnering with the Second City, we will--for the first time in recorded history--share the mysterious creative secrets that have made The Onion a three-time Nobel Prize winner. Plus, upon completion of the course, you will be much smarter, much cooler, more attractive to members of the opposite sex and immensely more interesting at parties. That alone is worth the price of tuition."

Additional levels will be added to this writing program including intermediate and advanced writing as well as a Master Class.
The next term at The Second City Training Center is scheduled for June 24 - Aug. 25. Early registration begins May 24. Visit www.SecondCity.com for more information.

GN91794_028d.jpg (Credit: Karen Bean, The Field Museum)

Chelyabinsk_meteor_trace_15-02-2013.jpg (Car dashboard video of Chelyabinsk meteorite)

The Chelyabinsk meteorite was 24,250,848 pounds when it hurtled to Earth on February 15, injuring 1,500 people. It was the largest space object to hit the Earth since 1908, and parts of it will be on display at The Field Museum starting Wednesday, April 10, museum officials said today.

Collector Terry Boudreaux donated pieces of the Chelyabinsk meteorite to the Field Museum, which will be available for scientists to study.

With approximately 6,500 pieces of meteorite in the Field's Robert A. Pritzker Center for Meteoritics, the museum has the largest non-governmental meteorite collection in the world.

Beyond the meteorite's size and speed, the collision revealed to the rest of the world that Russian drivers have video cameras on their cars, many of which captured the fireball hurtling to the ground.

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Talk about eye candy.

With the explosion Instagram and Twitter feeds full of foodies documenting their dinners, The Chicago Artists Coalition tapped into art as cuisine, and hosts its third annual Starving Artist extravaganza June 29 at 217 N. Carpenter.

The gig pairs Chicago artists with local chefs, who collaborate on both a dish and a visual work. In addition to the culinary/artist teams, the event also showcases the work of "artisanal food installations."

164379979_35409933.JPG (RESTON, VA - Jillian Michaels speaks during the 2013 Get Radical Women's Conference at Hyatt Regency Reston on March 23, 2013 in Reston, Virginia.(Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images)

Jillian Michaels, "The Biggest Loser" trainer and woman behind the powerful "30 Day Shred," is bringing her brand of tough love to Chicago's Auditorium Theatre on May 10.

"In this intimate and uniquely personal experience, The Biggest Loser's Jillian Michaels shows you how to harness your potential, kick-start your goals and live an exceptional life - sharing her keys to health, success and happiness," information from the show promises. "No hype, no false promises: just results."

It's unclear if Michaels' will ask audiences to push through their pain or drop down and do 20. Prices run from $25 to $150. You can purchase tickets here.

If you miss Michaels when she's in town, there's always the Biggest Loser ranch coming to suburban Itasca.

Real-life 'Catch Me if You Can' Abagnale to speak here

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The real-life Frank Abagnale Jr., whose life story was told in the best-selling book, in a feature film that starred Leonardo Di Caprio, and in the stage musical "Catch Me If You Can,"currently at the Cadillac Palace Theater, 151 W. Randolph, will make a special appearance for a post-show Q&A after the April 13 evening performance.

Tickets for for the play, $18-$85, are available by phone at (800) 775-2000 and online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

Back in the 1960s, David Steinberg ruled the local comedy roost in Chicago -- first on his own with partner Gene Kadish and then (even more impressively) on the stage of Second City in Old Town. During those formative years, co-stars have recalled, Steinberg's brilliance was outshone only by his spotlight-basking confidence. Robert Klein, the storied stand-up and Steinberg's brief Second City colleague, was witness to said basking.

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The two veterans meet up tonight at 10 p.m. for a chat on Showtime's "Inside Comedy." Whether they'll discuss their occasionally discordant past is anyone's guess, but it's certainly a rich topic.

Here's some of what both men -- and former Second City directors Sheldon Patinkin and Bernie Sahlins (also a co-founder) -- told me several years ago about their time together onstage in 1966. The Paul Sills to whom Klein refers was a sometimes confounding force of nature who directed several early Second City shows -- and hurled several Second City chairs in the process.

Sheldon Patinkin
David is perfectly willing to admit that he was impossible. He was very difficult. We screamed at each other a lot -- disagreements about the work. But we also really liked each other.

Bernie Sahlins
It was difficult to get [David] to play ensemble. As was true of Joan Rivers. In fact, those two were probably the most difficult of people to work with...Not that they were mean or hostile. It's just that they found it difficult to allow somebody else the limelight.

Robert Klein
Paul Sills was after the truth. And there wasn't an awful lot of praise coming from him. Other the other hand -- and I supposed it was heightened by this competition [I had] with David Steinberg, who was the reigning guy -- Steinberg always seemed to please him. And he never criticized David for hogging the stage, or any of the other things.

Stay classy, stars! Kanye & Kim vs. Ray J

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kshock.jpgWhile Kanye West and Kim Kardashian await their new baby, one of Kim's ex-boyfriends has stated quite literally for the record: "I Hit It First."

The new single from R&B singer Ray J goads the Chicago icon with lascivious lyrics. The title's crude statement of fact is hardly necessary, though, given that a sex tape of them both leaked in 2007, back before anyone knew who either of them was.


Food Network star Robert Irvine ("Restaurant: Impossible") has cooked up an unusual live show he's bringing to Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet at 8 p.m. April 20.

"Robert Irvine Live" -- Irvine's first theatrical tour -- incorporates challenges, audience interaction and video projection.

"This is not just me cooking on stage for two hours because that has been done before," Irvine said in an emailed statement. "I wanted to do something totally different that makes cooking a vehicle for being able to create a theatrical event."

Talk about ideal timing. Lookingglass Theatre's production of "Still Alice" -- a stage adaptation of the best-selling 2009 novel by Lisa Genova that looks at an accomplished 50-year-old woman's sudden descent into early onset Alzheimer's disease -- was in final rehearsals for its world premiere at the very moment that two closely related stories became headline news.

First, President Obama announced plans to include $100 million of federal funding in his budget proposal to Congress -- money that would kick start the BRAIN Initiative (or Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies). Then, the New York Times ran a story that began: "The most rigorous study to date of how much it costs to care for Americans with dementia found that the financial burden is at least as high as that of heart disease or cancer, and is probably higher . . . and will more than double within 30 years."

Theater should not be confused with scientific research or health-care policy. But in her debut novel, Genova -- who has described herself as "a Harvard-trained neuroscientist, a [Sanford] Meisner-trained actress, and an entirely untrained writer," and whose grandmother suffered from Alzheimer's -- was clearly dancing on the curve of the moment.

Her principal character, Alice Howland, is a happily married woman with three grown children and a house on Cape Cod. She also just happens to be at the height of her career as a Harvard professor studying the human brain. But what starts out as a worrying forgetfulness ultimately turns into a devastating diagnosis as Alice learns she is suffering from early onset Alzheimer's disease. Fiercely independent, she struggles to maintain her lifestyle and to live in the moment, though her sense of self is gradually being eroded.

Christine Mary Dunford's adaptation takes us inside Howland's head, with two actresses -- Eva Barr (as Alice) and Mariann[cq] Mayberry (as "Herself") -- playing an intriguing variation on "the watched and the watcher."


"Mad Men" fans are famous for parsing every line, every shot, every song choice -- probing the smallest details for clues about what it all means.

Sunday's season premiere of the AMC drama will keep them plenty busy. (SPOILER ALERT: Stop reading if you haven't watched it.)

Packed with symbolism and cryptic, thought-provoking fodder, the sublime two-hour episode could be the subject of a college course. Topping the list of required reading: Don Draper's peculiar choice for a beach book: Dante's "Inferno."

The episode is permeated with the first installment of the Italian poet's "Divine Comedy," a three-part allegorical journey through the afterlife. Don is a '60s version of Dante, trapped in the depths of hell, searching for his Virgil to guide him along the virtuous path that leads to eternal paradise.

A heavenly setting on Waikiki Beach is where we find Don sunbathing next to a bikini-clad Megan (with Diamond Head in the distance, doubling as the Mountain of Purgatory, perhaps?). He reads a line from Dante's allegorical tale:

"Midway in our life's journey, I went astray from the straight road and woke to find myself alone in a dark wood," he says.

This opener dovetails with the season five finale, when a tempting female stranger in a dark bar asks Don that pivotal question: "Are you alone?"

We're well aware by the surprising end of the premiere that Don is still very much alone, a lost soul in need of salvation. He's embroiled in another affair, this time with a married neighbor -- a Dante fan who turned him onto "The Inferno."

When a show arrives with a title like "Let Them Eat Chaos," you might expect all things revolutionary and turbulent. But there is no guillotine or Reign of Terror in The Second City's 101st revue. Instead, the upheaval comes in the form of stylistic experimentation. The result is a show -- directed by the gifted Matt Hovde, the Jeff Award winner behind "Studs Terkel's Not Working" -- infused with music and projections and literary conceits.

Throughout, there is the sense that we are all living in our own personal Absurdistan (apologies to that wonderful writer, Gary Shteyngart) -- a world in which terrible things might be happening, and no one gets romantic love or marriage quite right, but in which cat videos thrive and social media outlets of every variety are not just distractions, but the sure indication of a pervasive level of distraction and stupidity.

Consider the woman (Katie Rich), who can walk through life in a totally oblivious state -- glued to her mobile device while her daughter begs for attention, random men engage in sex with her, the world passes her by and Bob Dylan's "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" plays in the background.

A dim-witted sailor (Steve Waltien), heads off to sea, passes through the Panama Canal, and is interrupted by a Siren (the seductive-voiced Tawny Newsome), only to get a history lesson in American foreign policy and financial corruption. And while we're in Latin America, a bohemian poet dad (Ross Bryant), encounters his estranged daughter (Holly Laurent), also a poet, in a sketch that plays fast and loose with artificial mating techniques and magic realism. As the father proclaims: If you try to make order out of a chaotic world you are fighting the nature of the universe.

SHAIN.JPGThey showed up in camouflage and "Gandee Candy" T-shirts at Shain Gandee's funeral, and that's the way the "Buckwild" star would have wanted it.
Family members say the rowdy reality TV personality was never one to dress up.
Friend Ricky Sater, 23, told the AP that if Gandee saw the Charleston Municipal Auditorium crowded with camo-clad mourners, "He probably would walk in there going, 'BUCKWILD!' "
Gandee's mom, Loretta, had little doubt what awaited her son, a notorious carouser but also a publicly proclaimed and baptized Christian.
"I know where Shain is," Loretta Gandee told the family, friends and fans crammed into the Charleston Municipal Auditorium. "He said about a month ago, 'I know when I die I'm going to heaven.'"
Gandee, his 48-year-old uncle, David Gandee, and 27-year-old friend Donald Robert Myers were found dead April 1 in a sport utility vehicle that was partially submerged in a deep mud pit near Sissonville. They had last been seen leaving a bar at 3 a.m.
Autopsies determined all three died of carbon monoxide poisoning, possibly caused by the tailpipe being submerged in mud. That could have allowed the invisible gas to fill the vehicle's cabin.

Extraordinary theater can be created with little more than "two planks and a passion," to quote the title of a play on the subject. But who would deny that the addition of sets, costumes, lighting, sound, props, projections and all the rest that comes under the heading of basic stagecraft can be a great enhancement to any script and collection of fine performers?

The annual Merritt Awards, which honor Excellence in Design and Collaboration by the many gifted artists who create that fuller theatrical world, is now celebrating its 20th anniversary. The awards ceremony, along with a full program that delves into the design process, is set for April 15 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theater at 800 E. Grand on Navy Pier. For information visit http://merrittawards.com/.

This year's award recipients include:
± Jess Goldstein, costume designer, winner of the Michael Merritt Award for Excellence in Design and Collaboration: Goldstein recently designed the lush, richly folkloric costumes for Tracy Letts' adaptation of "Three Sisters" at Steppenwolf. Scenic designer Walt Spangler-- who designed the sets for the Goodman's current production of "Measure for Measure," and is Goldstein's former student, collaborator and close friend, will present the award.

± Sarah Hughey, lighting designer, winner of The Michael Maggio Emerging Designer Award: This annual award recognizes and supports the work of an outstanding emerging theatrical designer within the Chicago area and comes with a $2000 honorarium in acknowledgment of excellence in artistry and collaboration. Presenting Hughey with her award will be her collaborator, teaching colleague, and close friend, scenic designer Collette Pollard.

Anyone who has been watching Hubbard Street Dance Chicago over the past couple of decades knows that not only is it widely traveled (it is currently on tour in Morocco, Spain and Algeria through April 21 under the U.S. State Department's DanceMotionUSA project), but its repertoire has been heavily infused with the work of some of the foremost choreographic talents on the international scene.

The troupe's 2013-2014 season -- with four different engagements at its home base at the Harris Theater for Music and Dance at 205 E. Randolph -- will showcase the works of five of these master dancemakers, including Nacho Duato, Mats Ek, William Forsythe, Jiri Kylian and Ohad Naharin. It also will include works by Hubbard Street resident choreographer Alejandro Cerrudo, and rising artist Robyn Mineko Williams, a longtime dancer with the company who recently turned her focus to choreography.

Here's a closer look at the lineup:

± Fall Series (Oct. 10-13): "Passomezzo" (1989), an athletic, romantically tough duet by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin; a new work by Robyn Mineko Williams, 2012 winner of the Pretty Creatives International Choreographic Competition; "Casi-Casa" (2009), by Swedish choreographer Mats Ek; and the quintet "Compass" from "AZIMUTH," Hubbard Street's recently premiered full-length piece by Bay Area choreographer Alonzo King.

± Winter Series (Dec. 12-15): An encore presentation of Alejandro Cerrudo's "One Thousand Pieces" (2012), the company's first full-length work, inspired by Marc Chagall's stained glass "America Windows" at the Art Institute, and set to music by Philip Glass. This work, danced jointly by Hubbard Street's main company and Hubbard Street 2, will also be performed in Fall 2013 in Ann Arbor, Michigan through UMS (the University Musical Society), and at Canada's National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Ontario.

"Longing for Another Life." That's the umbrella title Raven Theatre's artistic director Michael Menendian has devised to describe the four plays in his company's 2013-2014 subscription season. And here's a toast to one of the more alluring themes imaginable.

As Menendian explains: "Longing for another life is a common urge in many of us, often driven by the desperate realization that our current lot in life is woefully missing the key ingredient for ultimate happiness. With soaring poetry and realistic bluntness, each of these four shows reveals the aches and desires of those who wish for a better world."

The Raven lineup includes:

± "The Trip to Bountiful" (Sept. 17 - Nov. 17), Horton Foote's poignant tale of an elderly woman hellbent on returning to her beloved home in Bountiful, Texas after being forced to live with her hen-pecked son and resentful daughter-in-law in a cramped apartment in Houston. The play, celebrating the 60th anniversary of its original tv and Broadway production (it is being revived in NY next season, too, with an African American cast) will be directed by Raven's co-artistic director JoAnn Montemurro.

± "The Playboy of the Western World" (Feb. 4 - April 5, 2014): In this classic by Irish playwright John M. Synge, directed by Michael Menendian, we see what happens when a handsome young stranger swaggers into a small pub in rural Ireland, telling grand tales and boasting of dark deeds. The men praise his bravado and the women vie to win his affection, but not everything is grounded in truth.

± "Good Boys and True" (March 4 - May 3, 2014), Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa's play, directed by Cody Estle, is set in motion when a salacious video of a teenage couple makes the rounds at St. Joseph's Preparatory School for Boys. The face that remains out of view resembles the football team captain and Ivy League-bound son of two doctors who repeatedly deny it's him. A story about the culture of privilege that reveals its dark side through sexuality.

± "Vieux Carre" (May 6 - June 28, 2014): Tennessee Williams' play, directed by Estle, is about a nameless, newly-transplanted innocent -- an aspiring writer struggling with his literary career, poverty, and homosexuality who survives alongside other starving and ailing tenants of a rooming house in 1930's New Orleans. This autobiographical tragicomedy is filled desperation and loneliness, as well as Williams' unique brand of poetry.

Raven Theatre is located at 6157 N. Clark. Tickets are $22 during previews, $45 on opening nights, and $36 for all regular performances. Subscription packages are $56 (for previews) or $88 (valid anytime). Call (773) 338-2177 or visit www.raventheatre.com.

Cru Kitchen & Bar, 25 E. Delaware. Celebrate womanhood, food and fashion during "Sequins at Breakfast" 9-11 a.m. April 5, $35 per person. The prix-fixe menu includes beignets filled with raspberry sauce and pastry cream, choice of breakfast wrap with scrambled eggs, guacamole, black beans, sour cream and pico de gallo or smoked salmon with toasted bagel, cream cheese, capers and hard cooked egg. Fresh fruit with seasonal berries complete the meal. A portion of the proceeds benefits Bright Pink. Purchase tickets at www.stayclassy.org/sequinsatbreakfast.


The Flatlanders

FLAT SOUNDS The Flatlanders -- Joe Ely, Jimmie Dale Gilmore and Butch Hancock -- perform at 10 p.m. April 6 at Mayne Stage, 1328 W. Morse. Tickets are $40. Visit www.maynestage.com.


Artists' work and living spaces are open to the public during Wicker Park/Bucktown First Fridays at 6 p.m. April 5 at the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee. A $5 donation is suggested. Through Oct. 3. Visit www.flatironartists.org.




Jazz vocalist/musician Madeleine Peyroux is touring behind her latest release, the sizzling "The Blue Note," and she brings her tour to the Old Town School of Folk Music, 2424 N. Lincoln, for a show at 7 p.m. April 5. Rebecca Pidgeon is also on the bill. Tickets, $40-$42, are available by phone at (773) 525-2501 or online at www.oldtownschool.org.

Adam Levine of Maroon 5

Adam Levine and his Maroon 5 bandmates headline the Allstate Arena at 8 p.m. April 6. Tickets, $29.50-$79.50 are available at (800) 745-3000 or online at www.ticketmaster.com.

When: Through June 16
Where: Mercury Theater, 3745 N. Southport
Tickets: $25-$59
Info: (773) 325-1700; www.mercurytheaterchicago.com
Run time: 2 hours and 5 minutes with one intermission

More often than not there is a reason why a Broadway musical fails to have a long "afterlife." The expertly mounted, talent-filled Mercury Theater revival of "Barnum," the 1980 show created by a trio of Broadway veterans -- composer Cy Coleman, lyricist Michael Stewart and writer Mark Bramble -- is a perfect case study. You can almost feel the large, polished cast pumping its last best breath into the material in order to fill the show with color. And in a sense, this seems to echo what Phineas Taylor ("P.T.") Barnum -- that quintessential, never-say-die, humbug-before-tedium circus impresario -- invariably did in his own life.

The musical, skillfully directed here by L. Walter Stearns, turns out to be far less about the circus than about a man who suffered countless failures, disappointments and frustrations. He also almost upended a terrific marriage to a remarkable woman (his temperamental opposite, but also his fan) who was in many ways years ahead of her time. (Though the show unfolds in the mid-19th century, it intriguingly reflects the impact of the feminist movement of the 1970s.)

The "Barnum" score is solid but not hugely memorable. And in a way, the whole thing might have been better as a play. All the circus trappings seem like so much forced cheer.

The head-in-the-air Barnum (an easefully graceful, more understated than charismatic Gene Weygandt), has no intention of working in the local clock factory in Bridgeport, Connecticut, despite the gentle coaxing of his down-to-earth, suffragette wife, Chairy [cq] (Cory Goodrich, an actress of formidable emotional heat, humor and a lustrous, honeyed voice).


Cat fanciers, rejoice! The Hallmark Channel is running "the greatest feline showdown in television history" on Feb. 2, 2014, next year's Super Bowl Sunday.

This "mother lode of cat agility competition" will feature adoptable kittens running through tunnels, jumping through hoops and somehow competing against each other on "A-frame Alpine scratchers."

"Any form of cuteness is the key to the game," an email from the Hallmark Channel reads.

The showdown happens Feb. 2, 2014.

Global Activism day set for UIC Forum

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More than 3,000 activists representing dozens of organizations working to make a difference in more than 100 countries around the world are convening at the UIC Forum from noon to 6 p.m Saturday for the 6th annual Global Activism Expo.

The event (free admission) is a chance for Chicagoans to meet with organizations, participate in on-site volunteer projects, shop for free-trade jewelery and clothing, and sample food and world music.

Organizations include: Living Water International; Malawi Matters Inc.; One Heart For Congo; Women's Global Education Project and Sun Ovens Internationa, among others.

Highlights include: CircEsteem (for kids and adults) encouraging participants to learn juggling, balance feathers and have fun; Working Bikes will bring an array of demonstration bikes (power a phonograph or your cell phone) as well as mini bikes; The Vocalo Music Stage will feature various local and international artists; the International Food Court will feature treats from around the world, with local vendors including Raj Dashan, Swim Café, Café Marbella and more.

The Forum is located at 725 W. Roosevelt Road. For more information, visit http://www.wbez.org/air-events-6th-annual-global-activism-expo-102172


Christopher Abbott, who fans have dubbed "The Cute One" on the HBO hit "Girls," is leaving the show over creative differences with show creator Lena Dunham, the New York Post reports.

"[Chris] is grateful for the experience of collaborating with Lena, Judd [Apatow], and the entire 'Girls' cast and crew, but right now he's working on numerous other projects and has decided not to return to the show," Abbott's rep told the tabloid.

Abbott's character Charlie Dattolo was the on-again, off-again boyfriend of Marnie, played by Allison Williams.

"He didn't like the direction things are going in, which seems a bit odd since the show put him on the map," the source told the paper.

Baz Lurhmann's "The Great Gatsby" reboot hits theaters May 10, and the tracklist includes as many heavy hitters as the cast list.

Beyonce covers Amy Winehouse's "Back to Black," while Florence Welch harmonizes about Jay Gatsby's green light. Also included are Lana Del Rey and Andre 3000.

We already knew that the gloriously amazing cult comedy show Arrested Development - criminally abused by Fox and canceled too soon - is coming back thanks to Netflix but now we know when and - surprise - that there will be more than expected. Both the show and Netflix took to social media this morning to announce the May 26th return date for the show with an order of 15 episodes after the producers apparently found some scripts hidden in the walls of the banana stand. The episodes will go live at 12:01 am PDT/2:10 am Chicago time on that day - the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend - giving viewers plenty of time to hole up in the TV room and catch up over the holiday in one big chunk. And, as previously reported, each episode of the new run will focus on one character, all leading up to a proposed motion picture.


Field Museum officials announced Thursday that they reorganized 166 employees under a new department title, the first major change in the internal structure of the museum in 120 years.

The museum had been organized in roughly the same departments -- anthropology, botany, geology and zoology -- since its founding in 1893. A new department called Environment, Culture and Conservation (ECCo) was added in 1995. On Thursday, officials said all museum science staff employees are now working for the Science & Education unit, headed by Debra Moskovits, a museum vice president who formerly led ECCo.

"The Field Museum is, and will continue to be, one of the world's top scientific institutions," said Museum President Richard Lariviere in a statement released by the museum. "The new plan not only saves money, it makes us better by more sharply focusing our efforts. A 19th century organizational model doesn't make sense today. We need to break down barriers and communicate more directly to the public."

In December, Lariviere announced the museum would launch a fundraising campaign to shore up its endowment by $100 million. In 2012, the museum ran a deficit of $5 million on a $70 million annual operating fund, he said.

"Everything is on the table," he told the Sun-Times editorial board in December including staff layoffs and changes to long-standing exhibits.

Buyouts were offered to select Field Museum staff last month. No one has been laid off at this point as a result of the reorganization, said Emily Waldren, museum spokeswoman. Lariviere also said Thursday that museum staff are in discussion with the University of Chicago and University of Ililnois at Chicago regarding museum research.

Neil Steinberg wins Midland Authors award

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Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg is one of several local writers to be honored by the Society of Midland Authors during its annual awards ceremony May 14 in Chicago

The awards honor the best books by Midwest authors published in 2012. Steinberg won in the non-fiction category for his book "You Were Never in Chicago," published by the University of Chicago Press.

Winners will receive a cash award and a plaque. Founded in 1915, the society has given out annual awards since 1957. The annual juried competition is open to authors who live in, were born in, or have strong ties to Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin.

The dinner ceremony will be May 14, in the LaSalle Room at Holiday Inn Chicago Mart Plaza, 350 N. Orleans. Tickets, $75, are available at midlandauthors.com.

UPDATE: FX messed up its listings and as a result, many folks' DVRs cut off the last seven minutes of Wednesday's episode, "Safe House." The network has made the entire episode available here.

SPOILER ALERT: If you haven't seen tonight's episode of "The Americans" ("Safe House") on FX, stop reading now.

While I wouldn't call Wednesday's installment of "The Americans" a game-changer, it certainly was one of the bigger episodes of the season -- especially for two feds in the FBI's counterintelligence division: Agent Stan Beeman (Noah Emmerich, pictured above, right) and Agent Chris Amador (Maximiliano Hernandez, pictured above, left).

As you know by now if you've watched the riveting hour-long show, Amador is no longer alive to fight the good fight in the Cold War. He bled out in a dank basement after Phillip (Matthew Rhys) stabbed him in a fight.

Another casualty was poor, I'm-not-cut-out-for-this Vlad (Vitaly Benko), who barely got to eat his American fast food before Stan shot him in the back of the head.

Emmerich talked to reporters Wednesday about Stan's behavior in the pivotal episode:


"Are you alone?"

A flirtatious young stranger posed that question to Don Draper at the end of "Mad Men's" last season -- the most polarizing yet of the AMC drama. (I loved it, but the Emmy magnet that snagged Outstanding Drama Series four seasons in a row left last year's award ceremony empty-handed for the first time.)

Season five was especially full of chaos and upheaval, much like the counterculture of the 1960s that serves as the show's mesmerizing backdrop.

Fortunes changed. Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce lost one of its namesakes. But when we left the advertising agency in the spring of 1967, it was no longer in dire financial straits.

An aging Don, perpetually in a state of reinvention, struggled to start a new life with the much-younger Megan. He also said goodbye to his protégé Peggy.

Joan got promoted, but not in a way that would make the women's liberation movement proud. Suburban Pete got pugilistic. Roger dropped acid -- and his trousers -- in a hotel room, alone.

That critical question -- are you alone? -- is one that each of "Mad Men's" richly drawn characters will grapple with again this season, starting with Sunday's premiere.

Written by series creator Matthew Weiner, the richly symbolic two-hour episode suggests this penultimate season will be no less tumultuous than the last.

Before diving into new drama, here's a refresher on what happened with key players last season:

The Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress, has announced its dance-packed 2013-2014 season. Here's the lineup:

± BALLET WEST (Oct. 4-6): This acclaimed Salt Lake City-based company will present Adam Skulte's new production of the full-length classic, "Sleeping Beauty" (Oct. 4 and 5), and the Midwest premiere of "a new classic" -- Val Caniparolli's "The Lottery" (Oct. 6, in conjunction with the Auditorium's gala benefit).
± THE IDAN RAICHEL PROJECT (Nov. 9): A chart-topping star of the Israeli popular music scene, Raichel will showcase his work which blends African, Latin American, Caribbean and Middle Eastern sounds.
± HUNGARIAN STATE FOLK ENSEMBLE (Nov. 22): Considered one of the greatest folkloric dance ensembles in the world, this troupe returns with its rich and colorful repertoire, all of which is based on authentic Hungarian dances. It will be accompanied by the Hungarian Folk Orchestra and the world-famous Gipsy Orchestra.
± "TOO HOT TO HANDEL: THE JAZZ GOSPEL MESSIAH" (Jan. 18 and 19, 2014).
± ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER (Feb. 28 - March 9, 2014): In its annual visit to Chicago.
± CLOUD GATE DANCE THEATRE OF TAIWAN IN "SONGS OF THE WANDERERS" (March 14 and 16, 2014): A visually stunning work by choreographer Lin Hwai-min that explores the religious practices found throughout Asia.
± HOUSTON BALLET IN "ALADDIN" (March 22-23, 2014): This marks the Chicago debut of celebrated choreographer David Bintley's ballet.
± CHICK COREA AND BÉLA FLECK (April 5, 2014): These two master songwriters, musicians, and band leaders will meet in a historic duet of piano and banjo.
± RIVER NORTH DANCE CHICAGO (April 12, 2014): Returning to the Auditorium for the third time, with details tba.
± PAUL TAYLOR DANCE COMPANY (May 17 and 18): In a rare visit to Chicago, this world-renowned company, led by one of the great masters of American modern dance both classics and recent works.

Subscription packages go on sale April 15. Call (312) 341-2357. Go online at www.AuditoriumTheatre.org starting May 1.

10174Adsit Lutz UCB 12.12.jpeg
Scott Adsit (left) performs with John Lutz at UCB Theatre in New York

Former Second City standout Scott Adsit -- late of NBC's "30 Rock" and currently a star of the stop-action animation shows "Moral Orel" and "Mary Shelley's Frankenhole" on the Cartoon Network's Adult Swim -- is all over the place this week performing at and being interviewed during the 16th annual Chicago Improv Festival.

Before things got too nutty, he called to talk about improv, "30 Rock" fame and the role of Tina Fey in his career.

On improvising versus writing
I get nervous writing. Just sitting by myself. Because I've got no one to improvise with. The way I learned to write was with an ensemble, but it's not the way I write anymore because I tend to write TV scripts and that's kind of a lonely process. The blank page is so daunting. You can't look over at someone and say, "All right, you think of something."

On the pressure to perform
I tend to write for people who I know and respect and who already like me in some fashion. The only thing I really worry about is disappointing people. Not, like, failing or realizing I'm a bad writer. It's just not quite giving them what they wanted. In the past, I had to prove myself. And now I don't feel I have to prove myself so much as just be specific enough in getting across my idea. It's more of not wanting to disappoint someone who already liked me. So the pressure is maintaining respect. But I write pretty low-stakes TV, so it doesn't really matter [laughs]. Nobody's watching Adult Swim anyway.

Most bright guys between the ages of 16 and 21 spend their time getting through high school, college or a first job and finding a girlfriend. But Frank Abagnale, Jr. enjoyed a whirlwind life that could only be imagined in the movies, or on Broadway.

Frank lived it all for real -- spending his salad days as the most hapless but successful of confidence tricksters, check forgers, counterfeiters, impostors, and escape artists. And though caught by a dogged FBI agent, after serving seven years of a 15-year prison sentence he eventually emerged as the head of his own business, advising many, including the F.B.I., on fraud issues.

It was only decades later that his story got the big screen treatment by Stephen Spielberg, and subsequently was musicalized with a swinging score by Marc Shaiman and Scott Wittman (of "Hairspray" fame), and a book by Terrence McNally that gently massages the facts.

"Catch Me If You Can" is now on stage at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in a high-energy, enjoyable, non-Equity national touring production. And here's the good news: Not only is there not a single drag queen here, but there are some solid attempts at old-fashioned male-female relationships. Beyond that there is a big, brassy orchestra on stage to play the jazzy score -- a pastiche of 1950s and early '60s supper club and variety show styles. There is a "child of divorce," father-and-son story that explains many things. And there is a deliciously quirky case of mentoring, too. (Think of Javert embracing Jean Valjean.)

Abagnale's story is set in motion at the moment of his capture. After blithely eluding authorities, amassing $2 million, and posing as an airline pilot, doctor and lawyer, the gig is up. But Frank (Stephen Anthony, a wiry, boyish-looking actor with a sensational voice and easeful acting chops) is innately theatrical and wants to explain his exploits with sound up, and a line of shapely chorus girls and other characters.

There is his dad (Dominic Fortuna, who looks like an extra in "The Sopranos"), who passes on his own scamming impulses to a son who finds he can both run and hide. There also is a chic French mom (Caitlin Maloney), who strays.
But most crucially there is Carl Hanratty (Merritt David Janes), a plodding but determined and totally unhip F.B.I. agent who wants to catch the youthful Frank alive. Janes, sweet and goofy, does a fine job with his big number, "Don't Break the Rules," and is an oddly winning surrogate dad to Frank.

As for Frank's love interest, she's a nurse (big-voiced Aubrey Mae Davis), who may be jilted, but retains a soft spot for the guy.

The show's ramped set is a mix of panels, curtains and projections. The best costumes are the robin's egg blue suits worn by Pan Am stewardesses -- almost enough to make you nostalgic for old-fashioned scams and identity theft.

The 2013 season of Evanston-based Light Opera Works will kick off with Gilbert and Sullivan's "H.M.S. Pinafore" (June 8-16), followed by Kander and Ebb's "Cabaret" (Aug. 10-25); "Gershwin's Greatest Hits" (Oct. 4-13,) and, for its holiday special, Irving Berlin's "Annie Get Your Gun" (Dec. 21-31).

The big news is that the company's artistic director, Rudy Hogenmiller, a veteran dancer, choreographer and director, will star as the Master of Ceremonies in Cabaret," to be directed and choreographed by Stacey Flaster (whose previous shows for Light Opera Works were "Carousel" and "The Secret Garden"). This will mark Hogenmiller's first stage appearance anywhere since assuming the artistic director title in 2005.

All productions other than the Gershwin concert will be performed at Evanston's Cahn Auditorium, 600 Emerson St. The Gershwin show will be performed at Nichols Concert Hall (Music Institute of Chicago), 1490 Chicago Ave., Evanston. For tickets or season subscriptions call (847) 920-5360 or visit www.LightOperaWorks.com.

AP_TV_Leno_Fallon.jpgWith a mere one year's notice, NBC made it official Wednesday, announcing that Jimmy Fallon will succeed Jay Leno as host of "The Tonight Show" in spring 2014.

Confirming widespread reports in recent weeks, the network said the iconic late-night vehicle will return to New York for the Fallon incarnation. Plans for Fallon's current slot at 11:35 p.m Chicago time are "in development," NBC said.

"I'm really excited to host a show that starts today instead of tomorrow," Fallon joked in NBC's announcement, alluding to his current post-midnight slot on the coasts.

By the time he leaves, Leno will have fronted "Tonight" for 22 years, except for a nine-month hiatus in 2009-10 to make room for the ill-fated "Tonight Show With Conan O'Brien." He now is the top-rated late-night host.

"Congratulations Jimmy," Leno said. "I hope you're as lucky as me and hold on to the job until you're the old guy. If you need me, I'll be at the garage."

Of course, this is not the first time Leno has yielded the "Tonight" microphone. In 2004, NBC famously announced a five-year transition that would culminate in O'Brien's elevation to "Tonight" host in 2009. Once put into place, the new era proved short-lived as viewers rejected both O'Brien at 10:35 and Leno in his new prime-time slot at 9, and Leno was restored to "Tonight."

O'Brien left NBC and now hosts a rival show on TBS.


They say the food is great on cruise ships. The meals on this cruise should be better than most.

"Top Chef: The Cruise" sets sail from Miami on April 11 with "Top Chef Masters" Hubert Keller and Tim Love and 14 former "Top Chef" contestants. The roster includes Fabio Viviani, who recently opened Siena Tavern in Chicago. "Top Chef" judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons also will be on board.

While most of the cabins are sold out, there appears to be some availability for the four night cruise which includes chef demonstrations, "quickfire" challenges, an hour-long cocktail party and a question and answer session with the hosts, master chefs and chef'testants.

Jill Valentine.png
Jill Valentine, executive director of Chicago Women's Funny Festival/Credit: jillvalentineactor.com

Back for its second year, the Chicago Women's Funny Festival is set to take place June 6 through 9 and features hundreds of female comics performing in a variety of comedy styles.

From sketch and stand-up to improv, vaudeville and musical, acts will run the comedic gamut and showcase talents both local and national. Some of them include Chicago improv masters Susan Messing and Rachael Mason as well as stand-ups Kelsie Huff and Tara DeFrancisco.

The festival is curated by Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival executive director Jill Valentine.

All shows are at the Stage 773 building, 1225 W. Belmont, and tickets range from $14 to $15.

For more info: www.chicagowomensfunnyfestival.com

Warning: Language/content may not be suitable for all viewers


Cure fans: You've waited too long. Lollapalooza tickets for this summer's festival are sold out. All of 'em.

The Lollapalooza twitter account noted that all tickets were sold out shortly before 11 a.m. Wednesday.

Complete lineup announced for Chicago Blues Festival

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Shemekia Copeland, Bobby Rush, Irma Thomas, Jimmy Johnson, Otis Clay, The Bar- Kays, Eddie Floyd and Sir Mack Rice are among the marquee names booked for the 30th annual Chicago Blues Festival, running June 6-9 in the city's Millennium and Grant parks.

The annual free festival, presented by the city's Department of Cultural Affairs, begins June 6 at Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, with Shemekia Copeland, daughter of blues great Johnny Copeland, and blues guitar prodigy and Buddy Guy collaborator Quinn Sullivan. As previously announced, this will be the first time ever for the festival to kick off at the Pritzker Pavilion.

The festival then moves to the Petrillo Music Shell in Grant Park for the rest of its run.

For the full lineup, announced Wednesday, go to chicagobluesfestival.us

"America's Got Talent" is coming to Rosemont in May and you can get free tickets to be in the audience. But first, some other "AGT" news.

You already know the NBC summer series has new judges. It also has a new home, NBC announced Wednesday. "AGT" is moving into Radio City Music Hall for its upcoming eighth season.

The talent show that has contestants vying for a $1 million prize will air live from Radio City Music Hall twice a week when live episodes begin on Tuesday, July 23 (8-10 p.m.) and Wednesday, July 24 (7-8 p.m.). The premiere date for the series is Tuesday, June 4 (8-10 p.m.) and will begin its regular hour-long Wednesday edition on July 10 (7-8 p.m.).

Before the season debut, "America's Got Talent" will be taping its talent search live at The Rosemont Theater for three days, May 8-10. You can join the judges in the studio audience for free. Find out how to get tickets here.

Radio City Music Hall in New York's Rockefeller Center holds nearly 6,000 seats and has long been the home of the world famous Rockettes, who star in the annual Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The show previously had been based in New Jersey.

The show recently announced other changes to its judging panel. Supermodel, producer and TV host Heidi Klum joins former Spice Girl Mel B as the newest judges alongside shock jock Howard Stern and comedian, TV host and producer Howie Mandel.

'The Company You Keep'? Check out this photo

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Robert Redford, the Oscar-winning director and Sundance Film Institute founder, has a new movie out next week, "The Company You Keep." To promote the film, Redford and "Company" co-star Shia LaBeouf conducted a Q&A session Tuesday night with New York Times media reporter David Carr.

Carr, however, looks like questionable "company" -- or perhaps the proverbial pencil-necked geek -- in this photo released by the New York Times.

The Q&A session is viewable online at www.Livestream.com/NYTimes.


Legendary rockers the Rolling Stones announced their long-awaited 2013 tour plans Wednesday morning. They'll kick off their "50 & Counting" Tour through the U.S. and Canada in Los Angeles at the Staples Center. (Date to be determined pending sports playoff schedules.) They'll swing through Chicago to play at the United Center in late May.

Tickets for Chicago, Oakland, San Jose and Toronto go on sale beginning Monday at 10 a.m. local time and will be available at rollingstones.com.

Citi cardmembers will have access to presale tickets beginning Friday at 10 a.m. local time through Citi's Private Pass Program. For complete presale details visit http://www.citiprivatepass.com.


A vision of Martin Luther King, Jr.; an ancient Greek take on the nightmarish obsession that is war; a lyrical meditation on African-American life in the 1940s; a Pulitzer Prize-winning play about an Iraqi war veteran on the homefront; and a highly theatrical study of East-West identity. That is just a brief summary of Court Theatre's 2013-2014 season. Here are the details:

± "The Mountaintop" (Sept. 5-Oct. 6): A play by Katori Hall, directed by Ron OJ Parson, that is set on the eve of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination. As the weary man returns to his lonely motel room in Memphis and begins work on his next speech, he strikes up a conversation with a young hotel maid, Camae, who turns out to be something other than she appears. A drama in which "the material meets the divine."

± "An Iliad" (Nov. 13-Dec. 8): A reprise of the stunning 2011 production that features Lisa Peterson and Denis O'Hare's riveting adaptation of Homer's epic poem about three millennia of war and bloodshed. Directed by Court's artistic director, Charles Newell, and featuring a one-man tour de force performance by Timothy Edward Kane (who received a Jeff Award for his work), this is a must-see sure to bring return viewers.

± "Seven Guitars" (Jan. 9-Feb. 9, 2014): Set in Pittsburgh in 1948, this entry in August Wilson's "Century Cycle" about African-American life deals with fate, violence, justice, and the blues. It looks at six characters who gather to mourn Floyd "Schoolboy" Barton, a blues guitarist "with feet of clay" who died with fame and celebrity just beyond his reach. Ron OJ Parson directs.

± "Water by the Spoonful" (March 6-April 6, 2014): This Chicago premiere of Quiara Alegría Hudes' 2012 Pulitzer Prize winner, with Henry Godinez making his Court directing debut, "takes a painfully honest and surprisingly humorous look at the unconventional communities we create when we seek redemption from our personal failings." It focuses on Iraq war veteran Elliot Ortiz who returns home to find ghosts from his past, an overachieving cousin, and his estranged mother, who struggles to stay clean as she moderates a chat room for recovering crack addicts like herself.

± "M. Butterfly" (May 8-June 8, 2014): This Tony Award-winning classic by David Henry Hwang, to be directed by Charles Newell, deals with sex, espionage, and imperialism as it interweaves the story of Puccini's opera "Madame Butterfly" with the true tale of Rene Gallimard, a meek French civil servant who meets the woman of his dreams in Song Liling, a beautiful, Chinese opera diva who is not at all who or what she appears to be.

For three, four and five-play subscriptions ($90-$247) call (773) 753-4472, or visit www.CourtTheatre.org. Individual tickets for all shows will be available on July 16.

'The Dream of the Burning Boy'
When: Through April 28
Where: Profiles Theatre, 4147 N. Broadway
Tickets: $35-$40
Info: (773) 549-1815; www.profiles.profilestheatre.org
Run time: 90 minutes, with no intermission

"The Dream of the Burning Boy" is an early work by the still young Canadian-bred, New York-based writer David West Read. It bears some of the weakneses of a fledgling playwright, including an overly manipulated plot. But it also bursts with emotion as it deals with issues of failure and grief, and as it captures adolescent voices with dead-on precision both comic and crushing.

Read's 90-minute play, which takes its title from a setion of Sigmund Freud's "The Interpretation of Dreams," is now receiving its Midwest premiere by Profiles Theatre where, under the direction of Joe Jahraus, four hugely impressive young actors (one still in high school and three in college) join several veterans.


Itasca resident Brian Emmett, 43, is one of 10 amateur bakers who will compete in the CBS' upcoming reality series "The American Baking Competition," premiering May 29.

Based on the same format as "The Great British Bake Off," the Stateside version will be hosted by comedian Jeff Foxworthy and judged by chef Marcela Valladolid and baker Paul Hollywood, also a judge on the British series.

The 10 bakers were culled from a nationwide search of amateurs at local casting bake-offs. They including a firefighter, photographer, homemaker, attorney, advertiser (that would be Emmett), home health care provider, college student, retiree, project manager and a baking enthusiast trying to go pro.

Each week, the show has the bakers competing in three challenges - "Signature Bake," "Technical Bake" and "Showstopper Bake." The contestant who out-bakes the rest is that week's "Star Baker," while the one whose creations fail to impress gets the boot. The winner gets a lot of dough: $250,000, as well as a publishing contract with Simon & Schuster to publish their own cookbook with Gallery Books.

Here's the skinny on Emmett (apparently a big fan of exclamation points), courtesy of CBS, followed by a video peek at the show:

Poetry magazine, published by the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation, has been named a finalist for a National Magazine Award in the category of "General Excellence, Print." Its competitors for the award include MIT Technology Review, Mother Jones, The New Republic, and The Paris Review in the group classified as "Literary, Political and Professional Magazines."

This is the second National Magazine Award nomination for Poetry magazine, and the fourth total for the Poetry Foundation. The Chicago Poetry Tour and the Poetry magazine podcast were nominated for Digital Ellies in 2010 and 2011, respectively. In 2011 the Poetry magazine podcast won the National Magazine Award for Digital Media in the "Podcasting" category and the print magazine won the National Magazine Award for General Excellence, Print.

A sign that summer is just around the corner -- Millennium Park has announced their Downtown Sound lineup for 2013.

Downtown Sound is the free summer concert series held on Monday nights during the summer months, starting at 6:30 PM.

Here's the lineup for 2013:

Monday, May 27, 2013
Lee Ranaldo Band + Marc Ribot's Ceramic Dog

Monday, June 3, 2013
Sharon Van Etten + Speck Mountain

Monday, June 10, 2013
An Evening with Glen Hansard, featuring Lisa Hannigan and members of The Frames

Monday, June 17, 2013
Daniel Lanois + Brokeback

Monday, June 24, 2013
Carolina Chocolate Drops + Angela James

Monday, July 1, 2013
Lee Fields & the Expressions + TBA

Monday, July 8, 2013
Dawes + The Cairo Gang

Monday, July 15, 2013
Fatoumata Diawara + Alasdair Roberts and Friends

Monday, July 24, 2013
The Handsome Family + AZITA

Monday, July 29, 2013
Dessa + Psalm One

Check out this Spotify playlist of all the artists in case you want to brush up before summer starts:

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Credit: commons.wikimedia.org

Rock legend and veteran music producer Todd Rundgren -- perhaps best known for his lingering hits "Hello It's Me" and "Bang the Drum All Day," is scheduled to take up residency at Columbia College Chicago's music department April 8 through 12. He'll be the last artist-in-residence of the school's 2013 spring semester.

While he's in town, Rundgren will lead workshops, hold master classes and hold forth in classroom settings. And for the piece de resistance, he'll give a concert on his final day.

Besides his frontman duties, Rundren has for decades produced for a plethora of rock's most famous names, including Cheap Trick, Meatloaf, Hall and Oates and Grand Funk Railroad. He also composed music for such beloved TV shows as "Pee-wee's Playhouse" and the partly Chicago-shot drama "Crime Story."

The Dance Center of Columbia College will be marking its 40th anniversary during the 2013-2014 season. To celebrate it has assembled an action-packed lineup of local, national and international dance companies as follows:

± Susan Marshall & Company (Sept. 19-21): The New York-based troupe in the world premiere of "Play/Pause," about the collision of high art and pop culture.
± Mordine & Co. (Oct. 3-5): A revival of the Chicago choreographer's "I Haven't Gone There," inspired by the commedia dell'arte style, and featuring Chicago's maverick marching band, Mucca Pazza.
+ Same Planet Different World and Peter Carpenter Performance Project (Oct. 10-12): Performing a new work by Israeli-New York choreographer Netta Yerushalmy that suggests a stroll through an art museum.
± Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Co. (Oct. 24-26): Performing "Story/Time," a chance-determined collage of dance, music and Jones' own short stories.
± Khecari and The Humans (Feb. 6-8, 2014): Featuring three new works by Chicago-based choreographers Jonathan Meyer and Julia Rae Antonick, and Rachel Bunting.
± Compagnie Kafig (Feb. 20-22, 2014): Dancing the work of a hip-hop master of French-African background that explores Brazilian influences of samba, hip-hop and capoeira and the lives of favela dwellers.
± Raphael Xavier (Feb. 27-Mar. 1, 2014): Featuring "The Unofficial Guide to Audience Watching Performance," which looks at rapper-breakdancer Xavier's work and is directed by Ralph Lemon.
± Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (March 14 and 16, 2014 at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress): Lin Hwai-min's "Songs of Wanderers," exploring Asian religious practices and Herman Hesse's "Siddhartha, and featuring an epic shower of golden rice grains.

All performances except those by Cloud Gate are at the Dance Center at 1306 S. Michigan. Tickets: (312) 369-8330 or visit www.colum.edu/dancecenter.

jason vincent.jpg

Foodandwine.com has released its list of best new chefs for 2013 and the list includes chef Jason Vincent of Nightwood among the 10 winners.

According to the site, Vincent was selected because "when so many chefs are using avant-garde techniques, he's making simple, delicious food with superb skills, not technology."

Vincent explains his technique thusly: "There's that saying that a well-dressed woman should take off one accessory before leaving the house. I believe that. We don't need to put truffles on everything and hike up the cost."

The site also reveals this about the chef: Former Life Focus Following cult-favorite band Phish; "I just went to a lot of shows. I was never that dirty hippy living in the back of his Volkswagen. My wife would kill me if I said I followed Phish."

jonas brothers.jpg

The Jonas Brothers are back to making beautiful music together -- embarking on their first North American tour in three years -- and will bring their "Jonas Brothers Live Tour" to the Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island for a concert on July 10.

Tickets (general public) will go on sale April 13. Fan club members and Citi Card holders can take advantage of special pre-sale dates on April 9 and 10 by visiting www.jonasbrothers.com or www.citiprivatepass.com.

The tour, so far, is scheduled to make 25 stops before winding up on Aug. 16 in Los Angeles.

asner.jpg (Ed Asner)

Exhaustion can't keep 83-year-old Ed Asner down, apparently.

After collapsing in Gary, Indiana during his show "Ed Asner as FDR," he plans to return in the presidential role on April 17 during a performance at south suburban Governor's State University.

Best known for "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and its spinoff "Lou Grant," Asner had been touring in the show for more than three years before making some headlines last month when he collapsed offstage during a Gary, Ind. performance. He was treated and released from a local hospital.

For tickets, visit GSU Center's box office at CenterTickets.net or call (708) 235-2222. The box office is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and two hours prior to performances.

GSU Center for Performing Arts is located on the campus of Governors State University, 1 University Parkway, University Park, Illinois.

Asner is also scheduled to appear in "I've Got a Life In Kalamazoo," a live-stage reading, April 13-14 at the Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State St., Chicago. Asner will co-star in that with Marion Ross of "Happy Days" and "Gilmore Girls."


Is Lindsay Lohan pregnant? Well, she's either carrying child and the joke is on the world; or she doesn't know when April Fools is, and the joke's still on us because well, I am writing about it.

The sometimes actress tweeted, "Its official. Pregnant..." today - the day after April Fools.

Lohan has reportedly been dating Max George from The Wanted.

You may now all breathe a collective sigh of relief. Lilo is not preggers.

Where is our sense of humor? We left it behind on Monday - the day 'April Fools' actually falls on.

Oh, no! Yes cancels local concert date

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Make that no for Yes. Just hours after the prog rockers announced details of their upcoming tour, which included an Aug. 14 concert at the "Rosemont Theatre," came word that the show was canceled due to scheduling conflicts.

No additional details were forthcoming. Given that the Akoo Theatre is now the name of the former Rosemont Theatre, maybe that had something to do with the cancellation (just spitballing here).

But no, this is NOT an April Fools Day prank. The long-distance "Roundabout" will roll on, just not to the Akoo.

For tour info, check out yesworld.com

UPDATE: We're wrong! As of March 7, the Rosemont Theatre returned to its original name. Details here:


When: In previews; opens April 16 and runs through June 9
Where: Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted
Tickets: $55-$78
Info: (312) 335-1650; www.steppenwolf.org
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

Tarell Alvin McCraney, the award-winning actor-turned-playwright, is a man with many artistic homes.

Since 2010 he has been a member of the Steppenwolf Theatre Ensemble where his trilogy, "The Brother/Sister Plays," attracted wide attention. In Miami, where he grew up, and is now involved in a Shakespeare program that brings theater to 10,000 school kids, he is a member of the Teo Castellanos/ D Projects Theater Company, an organization that creates performances fusing world cultures, religion, music and social issues. He is a member of New Dramatists, the New York-based consortium devoted to the nurturing of the playwright's art. And, since 2008, he has been an RSC/Warwick International Playwright-in-Residence at the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Yet ask McCraney, now 32, about his home address, and he ruefully admits he is still living out of suitcases simply because the peripatietic nature of his life -- work in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, London, Miami and beyond -- makes having an apartment impractical, even if not having a home is beginning to wear him down.

"Doing theater is like being a shark -- you have to keep moving," said McCraney. "But you DO get to an age where you must stop, where you want your gym and your doctor and all the rest in one place."

The on-the-move life has not, however, diminished his creativity. McCraney's latest play, "Head of Passes," is about to receive its world premiere at Steppenwolf. Director Tina Landau, his longtime collaborator and mentor, will once again be at the helm. Playing major roles will be actress Alana Arenas, who McCraney met when they were both students at the New World School of the Arts High School in Miami, and who he later followed to the Theater School of DePaul University here, as well as Cheryl Lynn Bruce, who was his teacher at DePaul.

Head of Passes is an actual geographical location -- the place at the mouth of the Mississippi River that lies between Mississippi and Louisiana.

"I've never lived there, but I've visited," said McCraney, who wrote an earlier play, "The Breach," about the Katrina disaster, the Gulf of Mexico and the state of the nation. "Yet in a sense it is a fictional place, because the land there is forever shifting, with silt washed away by storms. Every map shows it differently."

Beyond geography, it was The Book of Job, one of the great sections of the Hebrew Bible, that helped McCraney map his play. And it all began with a workshop in which the playwright teamed with Landau and eight actors, reading both "Job" itself and the scholarly material it has generated.

"I'm fascinated with the Bible in general," said the playwright, whose grandfather was a pastor, and who, until the age of 13, considered being one himself. "And I found myself wondering: Why would God even have this conversation with a person so quiet about their inner personal life, yet so full of suffering?"

In McCraney's take on the story, the Job figure is now a contemporary woman -- Shelah (played by Arenas) -- whose family and friends gather at her home in the marshy Head of Passes area to celebrate her birthday. But as the guests appear, so do ghosts from the past. And Shelah's convictions about her life begin to dissolve, along with her home, which is deluged by the Louisiana rain.

"In my play, God and Satan don't arrive to say 'I told you so.' Shelah's suffering grows out of what she desires. She is a strong person who tries to hold her family together."

"Working with all these women I've known for so many years is such a joyous experience," said McCraney, noting that his play, as always, will be infused with music and singing.

Asked to name his primary influences in the theater, McCraney said: "I can name many different poets, as well as my playwrighting colleagues. And then there is Horton Foote, and Ntozake Shange, and Amy Herzog -- a classmate of mine at the Yale School of Drama who became a close friend." [Herzog's acclaimed drama, "Belleville," will be produced by Steppenwolf this summer, at just about the same time that another McCraney play, "Choir Boy," already seen at London's Royal Court, will be staged at the Manhattan Theatre Club.]

And then there is his ongoing friendship with the legendary director, Peter Brook, who he first met in 2003 at a Chicago Shakespeare Theater audition.

"We check in with each other periodically," said McCraney. "As for what I've learned from him, it is to be ferociously detailed, and to be adamant about simplicity. Just strip everything way, which is staggeringly hard to do. It makes me think of that stunning line in Job that comes after so much suffering: 'Blessed be the name of the Lord'."


Chicago high school senior Devin Velez has found himself on the receiving end of some surly tweets from "American Idol" judge Nicki Minaj.

Minaj's social media smackdown started after the Portage Park teen responded to a question from reporters Friday about whether Minaj over-reacted to the males' group performance during Motown week. (Devin, Lazaro Arbos and Burnell Taylor gave a shaky rendition of "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)." After they sang, a displeased Minaj basically told them to get off stage.

"Looking back at the video I know where Nicki was coming from," Devin said. "I agree with the first half of her critique, when she said it felt like it was Hollywood Week. When she went crazy was when she was like, 'Get off the stage, blah blah blah.' And it's just like, 'Whoa Ms. Minaj, I need you to calm down please.'"

"We're still human. We still have feelings," said Devin, whose tone of voice was more matter-of-fact about the incident than mortally wounded. "She doesn't care sometimes. It's all good. We still love Nicki."

Well, Nicki didn't love hearing that Devin might be the least bit miffed about his public dressing down.

She unleashed the following tweets later that Friday:

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One of the funniest comics I've ever seen perform live was the late Robert Schimmel at Zanies on Wells. I don't recall the year he was in town nor do I recall specific jokes, but I clearly recall nearly blowing beer out my ample schnozz on more than one occasion throughout the jam-packed show.

Now, two-and-a-half-years after the cancer-surviving and unabashedly raw standup (a favorite guest of radio host Howard Stern) died in a car accident at age 60, his brother Jeff Schimmel is trying to scare up cash via a kickstarter.com campaign to produce an e-book on Robert's life.

If $14,250 is pledged by Thursday, April 18, the project -- titled "Leave 'Em Laughing" -- will be funded sufficiently and the bookmaking can begin. So far the tally is a bit over $7800.

"Leave 'Em Laughing" is a story so worth telling, about a man who has earned this tribute," Jeff writes on kickstarter.com. "The only way I can be sure to bring it to you in the best, most satisfying, and most genuine way, is to raise the funds and produce it myself."

In a thematically related story, film director and ex-Chicago performer Adam McKay's comedy site funnyordie.com has posted an April Fool's Day parody of kickstarter campaigns -- none even close to as serious or heartfelt as Jeff Schimmel's. Such as this one (warning: adult material) from Israeli super model Bar Refaeli , which Robert would surely have appreciated.

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Credit: Chicago Sun-Times

If you caught Macca in action at Wrigley Field in 2011 (photo above) and have the time/means to see/hear him jam at another historic ballpark, here's your chance.

On Friday, April 5 at 9 a.m. CT, tickets go on sale for his one-night-only July 9 concert at Boston's Fenway Park -- the first concert of McCartney's 2013 "Out There" tour.

The former Beatle hasn't played there since early August of 2009, when the storied venue set a two-day concert attendance record.

But don't expect to see Paul toss out the first pitch at a Red Sox game before his shows. The team is out of town for several days before and after his arrival.

Tickets at www.livenation.com or www.redsox.com

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When latenight jester Conan O'Brien left his host chair at the "Tonight Show" in January 2010, after a rocky seven months of low ratings and much publicized friction with returning frontman Jay Leno, he travelled the country for a while on his "The Legally Prohibited from Being Funny on Television" tour and finally ended up at TBS in 2010, where bosses essentially gave him carte blanche.

At first, not surprisingly, ratings were elusive. Here's part of what I wrote in the Sun-Times around eight months after "Conan's" debut:

Metaphorically speaking, recent ratings from Nielsen Media Research have some observers wondering whether O'Brien's show is plummeting as well.

Not only did "Conan" lag in June behind Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert and E!'s Chelsea Handler for total viewers in the all-important 18-49 and 18-34 age groups, but the show slipped below a million total viewers for the first time since O'Brien's TBS advent. That's a long way from the 2.97 million he averaged at "The Tonight Show," before predecessor Jay Leno snatched back the throne.

And despite four Emmy nominations, good critical response and ratings up 13 percent so far this month over June in the 18-34 and 18-49 "demos," not everyone's rosy about "Conan's" prospects.

"I wouldn't call it a slump," says Brad Adgate, senior vice president and director of research at Horizon Media, of O'Brien's TBS performance. "I'd say it's disappointing. A slump means that he's going to get out of it, and we don't know if he's going to get out of it."

GREEN-FOO-072512-14_27653271.jpg (Beth Eccles of Green Acres Farm in North Judson, Indiana, holds a bunch of beets. Shoppers visit the outdoor Green City Market in Chicago's Lincoln Park on Saturday, July 14, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times)

Chicago's powerhouse farmer's market, the twice-weekly Green City Market, wants to know how you use their local fruits, meats and veggies for a new cookbook they are putting together.

Submit your recipes here and remember, the focus is on local. The deadline is May 15.

The market, currently at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, moves outside May 4.


On a Sunday night when most broadcast nets were busy airing reruns, "The Walking Dead" season three finale was very much alive with viewers, pulling in a series' record of 12.4 million for the 8 p.m. (Central) airing.

Not only was AMC's zombie-fest the No. 1 program for the night in total viewers, it also took top spot among folks 18- to 49-years-old. The powerful, hour-long finale (R.I.P. you know who) gleaned 8.1 million viewers in that advertiser-coveted demographic.

"Two words: Grateful. 'Dead,'" said AMC president Charlie Collier in a statement. "In just three seasons, 'The Walking Dead' has become a pop-culture phenomenon, entertaining millions of passionate viewers and obliterating traditional lines between cable and broadcast television."

According to AMC, "The Walking Dead" averaged more viewers this season in the key demo (7.027 million) than any series on television, including CBS' "The Big Bang Theory," which averages 6.787 million. The once almighty "American Idol" is averaging 5.55 million in the key demo this season for its Wednesday night performance shows.

Sure, you've been waiting months for season 3 of the epic HBO swords and sandals thriller "Game of Thrones." Or maybe you're just trying to jump in. Either way, can't tell your Red Waste from your Cersei Lannister? This interactive map will help with the former while the following character list may help with the latter if you're still a little hazy:

Tyrion Lannister (Peter Dinklage)

For holding the city of King's Landing until his father, Tywin, and his forces arrive to thwart the attack of Stannis Baratheon, an unappreciated Tyrion is rewarded with relative banishment to a small chamber to recover from his battle wounds. No longer the magisterial Hand of the King, the crafty Tyrion must devise a way to rebound.

Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey)

The mother of the cruel King Joffrey must struggle to rein in her son's worst impulses, even as she fights as a woman for her seat at the Lannister ruling table.

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