A daily dose of arts and entertainment

May 2013 Archives

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Claiming the 5th annual TBS Just for Laughs comedy festival, in town from June 11-16, should be doing more to spotlight locally based performers, Laugh Factory Chicago honcho Jamie Masada has organized a showcase of his own for natives only.

June 11-16, the club will host a week of shows in its space at 3175 N. Broadway. Agents, managers, producers and network execs "who show affiliation" get in free and even can enjoy a drink on the house. For everyone else there's a suggested $10 donation, which goes to support Red Cross efforts in tornado-torn Oklahoma.

"A majority of the out-of-town comics listed for this 'festival' got their start in Chicago, for crying out loud," Masada said in a statement.

Since the Laugh Factory officially opened in 2012, Masada has striven to increase awareness of his young venue in a city where countless comedy clubs have failed.

Harvey-born Laugh Factory Chicago investor Tom Dreesen, who got his start doing stand-up in town, was also critical. "The first time the comedy festival came to Chicago, we thought it would spotlight some of the brightest and [most] talented comedians in Chicago," he said. "Instead, it became a venue for big business to charge high prices by bringing in outside names" to take advantage of local money..."

This year's highest priced imports (top end: $69 plus fees) include Russell Brand, Seth Meyers, Bob Newhart (Chicago-born and bred), Bill Maher, David Cross and others. On the homegrown front, venues such as the Lincoln Lodge and Annoyance Theatre will host Just for Laughs talent at Stage 773 on W. Belmont instead of in their own spaces.

Autumn Ernhard, 30, solved a "tough" puzzle Thursday on "Wheel of Fortune," a feat that earned her $1 million.

Ernhard guessed "Tough Workout" for the $1 million prize, only the second time that amount has been won in the history of the show. The Laguna Niguel, Calif. animal pharmaceuticals sales rep only had four letters on the board -- a G, an R and two Ts -- when she pulled the answer out on her first try.

"I am in complete and utter shock," she told ABC News. "I'm shaking. I came here today because I love the game, I wanted to have some fun and solve some puzzles - I feel like I'm in a dream!"

Also looking shocked and excited -- hosts Pat Sajak and Vanna White, who are celebrating the show's 30th anniversary.

Zac Hanson expecting third child

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Want to feel old? The youngest Hanson band member is expecting his third child with wife Kate.

The new MmmBaby will join siblings Shepherd, 5, and Junia Rosa Ruth, 2½.

"We are so happy and thankful to add more life and love to our family!" Zac told PEOPLE.

Last week, the band announced the arrival of something else entirely -- MmmHops -- the band's own beer.

That's not all -- Hanson's new album, Anthem, is out June 18.


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Interested in making your own short-form videos like those that populate the immensely popular web site funnyordie.com? Second City has just the answer: a 12-week course ($995) in which students will learn how to produce comedic shorts. Starting July 2, the pilot program will launch at Second City's Hollywood-based training center. Come Fall, it's slated to expand to SC's training centers in Chicago and Toronto.

"We were kind of stunned that they would come to us but I guess they know what they're doing," Funny or Die creative director Andrew Steele joked of the partnership. "This is a natural fit for us. We both have short form comedy in our DNA. And it gives us that added bonus of maybe stealing some of their better talent."

In case you're not aware, one of Funny or Die's co-founders is "Anchorman" and "Talladega Nights" director Adam McKay, who starred on Second City's mainstage in the mid-1990s and launched the comedy web site along with actor Will Ferrell and Chris Henchy in 2007.

Sneakerheads have been blowing up the Internets anxiously awaiting his Yeezus' new project, set to drop June 18.

It's not just the rhymes that have people buzzing, it's the anticipation of the Willy Wonka-esque golden ticket -- or more likely red ticket -- that allows the holder to score a pair of his limited edition Nike Air Yeezy 2 in red. Hip Hop Wired reports there are only 1000 pairs on offer, and there are no presales in advance of the record's release.

Perhaps this is his way of getting fans back to the record stores, and away from iTunes.

Kanye did sport a pair while performing on Saturday Night Live, but for closeups, head to Nike fan jsusneaks for Instagram shots.

No word from the Kanye camp if these kicks are set for a public release like his previous versions, but that's just the way of the Kanye.


From the Caribbean to Southeast Asia, diners heading to Taste of Chicago can sample nosh from far-flung destinations.

Newcomers to the 35 tents include Bombay Spice Grill & Wine, Flip Crepes (French) Lao Ma La Chinese and Wishbone (American Southern).

"Taste of Chicago is a great long-standing tradition of summer in the city," said Mayor Emanuel in a statement. "As our culinary reputation has grown on the national stage, this event continues to reflect the vibrant and diverse restaurant community of Chicago with old favorites and new, exciting worldwide cuisines. Taste-goers are guaranteed an endless variety of dining options to suit every palate and I am excited to announce the offerings for this summer."

The annual food and music festival begins July 10 and runs for four days in Grant Park. Check either the Taste of Chicago website or on Twitter.

5 Things To Do This Weekend 05.31.13

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No excuses! Get out there and enjoy the weekend.
Here are some suggestions:

Head to Butler Field in Grant Park for the 'Self Workout in the Park,' 11 a.m. to 3 p.m June 1. The daylong event features fitness workouts, delectable treats and fabulous health and fitness product booths. $20. Visit selfworkoutinthepark.com.

mix-WKP-053113.1.jpg Icona Pop

Okay, so technically, this is happening Monday, but it will make you feel like the Weekend is still going on! 103.5 KISS-FM presents the Fantabuloso Tour featuring The Wanted and Icona Pop (pictured), 6 p.m. June 3, at the Aragon Ballroom, 1106 W. Lawrence. $35. Visit www.1035kissfm.com.

Pitchfork announces new film site, the Dissolve

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After weeks of rumors, Chicago-based Pitchfork Media finally released details Thursday about its new film-related site, called the Dissolve.

Set to launch in July, the Dissolve will offer reviews, commentary, interviews, and news about "the films of the moment, while also exploring more than a century of film history," the company said in a statement. The staff consists largely of former AV Club members, including editorial director Keith Phipps, editor Scott Tobias, senior editors Tasha Robinson and Genevieve Koski; writers Nathan Rabin and Noel Murray, and news editor Matt Singer (of Indiewire).

""Pitchfork has spent the last 17 years devoted to becoming the most respected voice in music journalism," said Pitchfork Media founder and CEO Ryan Schreibe in a statement Thursday. "We've long wanted to bring that same authority, knowledge, and passion to the discussion of film."

Since its launch in 1996, Pitchfork has become a leading tastemaker in the pop music field, and now hopes to do the same for film, even though the Dissolve will operate out of Chicago, instead of Los Angeles, the capital of the U.S. movie industry.

Pitchfork promises "updates in the coming weeks" at the site's home, thedissolve.com. For non-buffs who might wonder, a dissolve, in film terminology, is an editing technique in which the image of one shot is gradually replaced by image of another. A notable example of the use of dissolves comes in the beginning of "Citizen Kane" (1941), in which the film introduces its protagonist, Charles Foster Kane, and his home, Xanadu (below).


HARVARD_WINFREY_39426489.jpg (Oprah Winfrey is applauded as she speaks during Harvard University's commencement ceremonies in Cambridge, Mass., Thursday, May 30, 2013. She earlier received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Oprah Winfrey, Chicago's former most famous resident, donned a cap and gown today to deliver the commencement address at Harvard University's 362nd graduation ceremony.

"Oh my goodness. I'm at HAAAARVARD!" the talk show mogul said, according to USA Today. "Not too many girls from rural Mississippi have made it all the way here to Cambridge."

She then describes herself as "Harvard as they come," a woman who was always "pushing, pushing, pushing myself," the paper reported. She also told students to get off Facebook and experience personal interactions.

"You want to max out your humanity," she said.

She picked up an honorary Doctor of Laws degree while on campus.

(Actor and Model Fabio in Santa Monica, Calif., Monday, Aug. 28, 2000. AP Photo/Kim D. Johnson)

Fabio has moved on from "I Can't Believe It's Not Butter," apparently.

The romance novel cover model known for his long, flowing locks will be appearing at a variety of local Whole Foods stores to promote his Healthy Planet Nutrition line of protein powders.

The dates and times are as follows:

Wednesday, June 12
1 p.m. to 3 p.m.
30 W. Huron

Wednesday, June 12
5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
3640 N. Halsted St

Thursday, June 13
12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
1101 S. Canal St.

Thursday, June 13
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
1550 N. Kingsbury Ave

Friday, June 14
12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
500 E Ogden Avenue

Friday, June 14
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
2607 W. 75th St

Saturday, June 15
11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
15260 S. LaGrange Road

Saturday, June 15
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
750 N. Martingale Rd

Sunday, June 16
12 p.m. to 3 p.m.
20281 North Rand Road

Sunday, June 16
4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
6020 N. Cicero Avenue

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In a repeat performance, "Saturday Night Live," film star and former Second City/iO Theater standout Tim Meadows will appear in the celebrated improv show "Messing with a Friend" during Chicago's TBS Just for Laughs festival in June.

Meadows last played (to use the improv term) with "Messing's" inventor Susan Messing in 2010. His upcoming gig happens June 12 at 9:30 p.m.

Messing with a Friend @ CIF 2010 from Chicago Improv Productions on Vimeo.


Former "Growing Pains" star Kirk Cameron, who now creates and stars in evangelical Christian films, is heading to Naperville on June 7 with his "Love Worth Fighting For" tour, an evening of prayer, stories and songs designed to heal and reinvigorate marriages.

I spoke with Cameron about the tour -- more on that in next week's Chicago Sun-Times -- but also asked him about this bizarre viral photo sensation known as "Kirk Cameron's Sad Birthday Party."

In the photo (seen above), Kirk Cameron appears to be celebrating his 41st birthday with a modest party. In our interview, Cameron called the resulting hubbub "such a sad commentary on how bad our press and media has gotten. There are massively important things happening in our country and world and they they want to report a lame story about a birthday party that wasn't even a birthday party."

Cameron said that a friend surprised him with a cupcake with a candle in it at his office. The picture suddenly became "Kirk has no friends." He has plenty of friends, he said.

Dispatch concert in Chicago moves indoors

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sizzle-CST-053013.jpgAs weeks of lousy weather slow the renovation project at Charter One Pavilion, a concert scheduled for this Saturday has been moved indoors.

The show starring jam band Dispatch, with guest Guster, instead will go on at the UIC Pavilion with the same 7 p.m. start time. Previously purchased tickets will be honored, and new ones are on sale now at TicketMaster.com.

A statement from concert promoter Live Nation said weather knocked the Charter One Pavilion's expansion project off schedule. The Northerly Island venue is being overhauled to boost capacity from 7,500 to 30,000.

Dispatch is scheduled to appear at a pre-show tailgate from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Saturday at the UIC Pavilion's Parking Lot 11.

Fans who bought $41 Charter One tickets will receive a $4 credit on their credit cards to refund a prepaid parking fee.

bing.jpg (Credit: Chicago Sun-Times)

The Chicago-based Irish American Hall of Fame will induct 8 new members at a black tie ceremony hosted by MSNBC's Lawrence O'Donnell on June 1.

Those receiving the honor include:

James Cagney, Bing Crosby (above) and F. Scott Fitzgerald, Arts and Humanities
Daniel Rooney, Business & Industry
Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Public Service
Gene Tunney, Sports
Monsignor Ignatius McDermott, Religion
Archbishop John Carroll, Education
Colonel Eileen Collins, Science

The Irish American Hall of Fame was founded, in 2010, by members of the Irish American Heritage Center. For more information about the hall of fame, as well as the induction ceremony, click here.


In the season three finale, "Windy City," Molly (Melissa McCarthy) gives Mike (Billy Gardell) his boss' personal belongings, from Peggy.

After being pulled last week due to the deadly tornado in Oklahoma, the season three finale of "Mike & Molly" will air at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.

Titled "Windy City," the episode in question has Mike and Carl stuck working at the Renaissance Faire as a tornado approaches Chicago. Melissa McCarthy, the actress who plays Molly, hails from Plainfield, which experienced a devastating tornado in 1990 that killed 29 people and injured hundreds.

CBS ran a rerun last week in place of the finale.

The scheduling change is just the latest in recent months as television networks have shuffled their line-ups in response to national tragedies.

ABC and NBC both pulled their respective episodes of "Castle" and "Hannibal" after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Sensitivity concerns prompted Fox to swap originals for repeats of its irreverent animated series "Family Guy" and "American Dad" after December's shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn. That same event led to the Syfy network shelving an episode of its supernatural drama "Haven" because it contained scenes of violence at a high school.

Itasca resident Brian Emmett, 43, is one of 10 amateur bakers who will compete in the new CBS reality series "The American Baking Competition," premiering at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

STONES1.JPGThe Rolling Stones play the United Center on Tuesday in the first of three shows on their "50 and Counting" tour, but almost 49 years ago they were in Chicago getting barked at by a "square cop" as they tried to hold a news conference in the middle of Michigan Avenue.

The Stones, called a "form of British blight related to the Beatles" in the June 11, 1964, story buried on Page 56 of the Chicago Daily News, moved to the sidewalk just north of the Michigan Avenue bridge, drawing some squealing teenage girls and other onlookers.

The five Stones -- Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Brian Jones, Keith Richards and Charlie Watts -- were described as in their 20s and distinguishable from their female fans by their neckties. And "they boast that they have never had a music lesson in their lives but still hit the top of the London hit parade."

The story went on: "In the crowd on the sidewalk was Mrs. J.L. Kopenga of Clarendon Hills whose daughter Judi, 14, is president of the Stones Fan Club here. 'There's nothing we parents can do about the craze,' she said. 'Ministers and psychiatrists sat it's healthy.' Uh-huh. Andrew Oldham, 20, the Stones' manager, said, 'Americans think we're freaks ... but time will change that.' "

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Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada/Credit: Rich Hein, Chicago Sun-Times

As Laugh Factory owner Jamie Masada notes, one of the most famous funnymen of all time started out as a local weather forecaster in Indiana: David Letterman. Come June 11 at 6:30 p.m., Masada's local outpost on N. Broadway will host a slew of other comedic media types from radio, television, print and web. An official list of participants isn't yet available, but it's a good bet you'll recognize at least some of the names. Their mutual goal: to make you laugh in five minutes or less with jokes, songs, poems -- whatever.

"This is a great opportunity for the people of Chicago to see their favorite media stars in a new light," Masada said.

Whether or not that light is flattering remains to be seen. But you won't know if you don't go.

And since the winner gets a check for his or her favorite charity, rest assured your $15 entry fee (which also includes a VIP cocktail hour) is money well spent. Unless maybe the favorite charity is one of these.

Anyway, here are all the details.

Chicago's Funniest Media Personality
Tuesday, June 11 at 6:30 p.m. (doors open at 6)
The Laugh Factory
3175 N. Broadway (corner of Broadway and Belmont)
Tickets $15 (includes VIP cocktail hour; two-beverage minimum once inside)

So, how is this for a come-on to see a production of Shakespeare?

"'Romeo and Juliet," presented by The Backroom Shakespeare Project & Ada Street. Serious actors. No director. One rehearsal. At a bar."

Curious? The performance is set to begin at 9 p.m. on June 3, as The Back Room Shakespeare Project, which blithely describes itself as comprised of "some of Chicago's brightest young Shakespeare stars," performs, as advertised. What can you expect? Well, THEY are hoping for "an adventurous, spontaneous and refreshing take on the classic."

Held outdoors at the Ada Street (www.adastreetchicago.com), a ticket ($40.00; $42.39 w/service fee) includes admittance to the play, food (Ada Street's Bar Bites) and a choice of "thematic beverage." Doors open to "Romeo and Juliet attendees at 7:30 p.m., when the kitchen/bar will be open for additional dining and drinking.

avfest.pngAfter a solid debut in 2011, The A.V. Club Fest grew for 2012 and paired with the Hideout, the host venue, taking over for the annual Hideout Block Party. Past headliners have included Wilco, Iron & Wine, Hum, and Archers of Loaf.

Now the 2013 lineup is here and it's looking to be another solid outing for attendees on September 6 and 7 at The Hideout. According to The A.V. Club, the lineup is as follows:

The Hold Steady
Neko Case
Mavis Staples
The Walkmen
The Both (Aimee Mann & Ted Leo)
Young The Giant
Nude Beach
Jon Langford
Girl Group Chicago
and Vision Celestial Guitarkestra.

At $60, the fest is a great deal. You'd pay close to $30 to see several of these acts on their own. To get them all at this great price, at a great outdoor space run by some great people, well, that's a damn nice bargain. Buy tickets at that price now while you can.

The Hold Steady covers Huey Lewis & The News

[Full disclosure: I am a former employee of the A.V. Club]


Gospel music will again ring out in Bronzeville -- the neighborhood considered the birthplace of the genre -- at the 28th Chicago Gospel Music Festival from June 20 to 23. The festival kicks off with a Gospel Choir showcase on the Jay Pritzker Pavilion Stage at Millennium Park on Thursday, June 20 followed by a day of concerts at the Chicago Cultural Center on June 21.

The festival then moves south to Bronzeville. Saturday and Sunday events are in Ellis Park, 37th and Cottage Grove.

The Saturday schedule is:
12pm Elder Carl Hearne & Priesthood
12:30pm 2nd Nature
1:00pm G.A.3
1:30pm "Chicago's Next" featuring Freddie White & Nex Level, Ev3 and The Turner Sisters
2:10pm Ray & Spirit of Praise
2:40pm Percy Bady
3:10pm Malcolm Williams & Great Faith
3:40pm Kenny Lewis & One Voice
4:10pm AM:PM - Anthony McGahee & Praise Motivated
4:40pm Joshua's Troop

Saturday evening's headliners are Smokie Norful, John P. Kee, Lecrae and Tamela Mann and emcee Vickie Winans.

Sunday's performances include:
12pm Tony Tidwell & Uncommon Favor
12:30pm Tim White
1:00pm The Heavenly King Jr.'s
1:30pm Bill Winston Presents...Living Word Recording Choir
1:55pm Spiritual Feet Dance
2:10pm Martin Woods
2:40pm The Young Adult Choir of Greater Harvest M.B. Church
3:10pm Janet Sutton & The Voices of Acme
3:40pm Dr. Charles G. Hayes & The Cosmopolitan Church of Prayer Choir
4:10pm Jonathan McReynolds
4:40pm Chicago Mass Choir

Joe Ligon and The Mighty Clouds of Joy, Kierra Sheard and The Brat Pack: Bishop Hezekiah Walker, Ricky Dillard & Donald Lawrence featuring "How Sweet the Sound" winner Dexter Walker & Zion Movement on backing vocals close out the festival Sunday night.

For more information, click here.

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It's been 36 hours since I completed the final episode of Arrested Development's fourth season and, to be honest, I still don't know what to really think about the series. Granted, it's been only 36 hours since I finished so to think I would have come up with some sort of magnificent insight into the series is laughable. And, too, this, more than any other season of the show, will demand repeat viewings just for everything to sink in. With a seven year wait, you'd think Twitter would be lit up with "LOVE IT" or "HATE IT" but what I suspected might be a cacophony over the Memorial Day weekend was simply a murmur, an indication that people are taking longer to work through the series and, most likely, longer to sort through their feelings.

Adding a surreal edge to my experience was, of course, the fact I watched the entire series in one day. Last week, creator Mitch Hurwitz advised against that with the advice, "You'll get tired." I dismissed it, thinking there wouldn't be a problem, that I've breezed my way through two or three hour chunks of AD episodes before in a weekend afternoon easily. But the problem is that this isn't the Arrested Development of 2005. This is a far more complex, more bloated version. And nothing hammers that home like the very first scene.

Hanson on the verge of MmmHops?

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If the Hanson's hit song "MmmBop" is still hanging around your playlist, get ready to hear it a whole lot more if some marketing guru somewhere has his or her way. That's because the '90s popster trio are reportedly creating their very own beer brand, titled, yup... MmmHops pale ale, and what better tune to promote the beverage than the song that inspired it?


Well, the beer's not actually available yet, but according to www.eonline.com the brothers have ventured into the beer world through the Oklahoma-based Mustang Brewing Company. An early version of the beer made the rounds (for promotional purposes only) at a recent afterparty for the film "Hangover Part III." The craft beer's secret formula is still being fine-tuned, so fans of Taylor, Zach and Isaac will have to wait mmmlittlewhilelonger to purchase the suds.

Hanson headlines Chicago's House of Blues on Oct. 13. Tickets are available at www.houseofblues.com.

Maybe the MMMHops will debut right here in Chicago. Hey if the Three Stooges can have their own beer...


8:40 a.m.
Hello, and welcome to a running diary that could be a mistake like trying to fool the Japanese investors into think that hillside wasn't full of moles. But I'm doing it anyway and you can follow my progress and some general thoughts on the experience and new episodes below.

8:45 a.m.
I got this in my email this morning which only made me more excited, that, yes, the day was finally here.

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BACHELORETTE-CST-05XX13-6_39100699.jpg (From her Deerfield home, Dana Weiss writes www.possessionista.com, the Possessionista blog that tracks who is wearing what on various TV shows. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times)

Monday kicks off the latest iteration of "The Bachelorette," which makes it a good day for the Chicago Sun-Times to take an overdue look at Possessionista blogger Dana Weiss. She's a hilarious suburban mom of two who blogs and Tweets at and with a wide variety of "Bachelor" contestants and friends (she was even a guest at Ashley and J.P.'s wedding). She'll be filling you in this season on where to get "Bachelorette" Desiree Hartsock's clothes and a lot of other critical information.

You can read more about Weiss in Monday's paper, but in the meantime enjoy a few of her tweets about the world we live in.

So has Amanda Bynes been hoarding My Little Ponies to make her wig?

According to @instyle, @target just launched bridal gowns. Great, you go in for bottled water and Tide and you come out a bitchy bridezilla

Wait a minute. Someone isn't here for the right reasons? That's so weird! #Bachelorette

Instead of #Bachelor Pad, this summer we're just gonna watch Justin Rego run away from things while on crutches.

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Credit: biography.com

The longtime Food Network and Cooking Channel host Alton Brown ("Good Eats") will soon be downtown when he embarks on his Alton Brown Live! The Edible Tour, which hits Chicago's Oriental Theatre February 8, 2014.

The high-energy foodie and culinary scientist of sorts has also appeared in key roles on "Iron Chef America" (11 seasons) and "Next Iron Chef" (five).

His new tour will include live music, cooking demos, multi-media extravaganzas and more.

"I've been cultivating material for this show for about a decade, so it'll feel pretty darned good to finally get it out of my head and onto a stage," Brown said in a statement. "I feel we've come up with some pretty amazing food demos, and the multi-media segments are solid....but I do have to say I'm a bit nervous about the singing parts."

Tickets are $25-$65 and available at all Broadway in Chicago box offices, the Broadway in Chicago ticket line (800-775-2000, via www.ticketmaster.com or at www.broadwayinchicago.com.


Among several free exhibits at Northwestern University in Evanston this June is a stage adaptation of locally based author Alex Kotlowitz's 2004 book "Never a City So Real" -- this year's One Book, One Northwestern selection. You can reserve tickets online for the June 8 and 9 event. The stagings will take place in the galleries of NU's Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art.

"What I so love about Chicago is it's a place where we can understand, as [Peter] Finley Dunne once wrote, how we lived, not how we died," Kotlowitz said several years ago. "It's a city which, within it's boundaries, you can find most of what there is to celebrate and criticize in this country. It's a place constantly in search of itself."

The multi-prize-winning Kotlowitz, who also penned the bestselling "There Are No Children Here," recently collaborated with documentary filmmaker Steve James on "The Interrupters," an examination of Chicago's violence problem and how one citywide activist group is trying to solve it.


By the dawn's early light of Memorial Day weekend the Highland Park based website web2carz is reported that late actor Charles Durning fabricated much of his involvement in World War II.

Earlier today Web2carz staff writer Steve Karras wrote, "As a frequent contributor to the National Memorial Day Concert, Durning shared war memories of his own with millions. In a 2007 Memorial Day speech about D-Day he recalled 'I was the second man off my barge, and the first and third man got killed.'
"But military records show that Charles Durning did not land at Omaha Beach on D-Day."

Here is Karras' entire in-depth report:

The two-time Oscar nominee died on Dec. 25 at the age of 89.
He was nominated for an Academy Award for his exaggerated role as a comically corrupt governor in 1982's "The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas." The next year he received an Oscar nomination for a bumbling Nazi officer in Mel Brooks' "To Be or Not to Be." He also played a crooked cop trailing con artists Paul Newman and Robert Redford in "The Sting."

Karras said that Durning's is just one of many worth re-exploring.
He talked to Joseph Davis, Public Affairs Official for the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) who fought in the Gulf War during 24 years in the Air Force. Davis said, "The best thing about the internet is you can call BS on people who lie."

Among the media outlets who have repeated Durning's unsubstantiated claims are The Boston Herald, The Orlando Sentinel, AOL.com, salon.com, The Washington Post, The Huffington Post, The Guardian, Reuters, The New York Times, USA Today, and the Associated Press.


On Sunday, Netflix will unleash the newest set of Arrested Development episodes on the world, an event almost 10 years in the making. Over the next few days, leading up to the new episodes, we'll be revisiting some of our favorite moments from the cult television comedy culminating in a running diary as we binge-watch the new episodes on Sunday.

Today, a call for patience when consuming the new episodes when they hit the Internet on Sunday.

Previously: Top 10 recurring jokes, Top 10 cameos and guest stars, Post-Development careers of the cast

On Sunday, the almost unthinkable happens with the unleashing of 15 new episodes of cult TV comedy Arrested Development, seven years after the last episode aired on Fox. I say "almost" unthinkable because this isn't the first time a show canceled too soon has been resurrected thanks in part to a rabid fan-base (see: Family Guy). But the stature of the show has only grown over these last seven years as rumors and teases about further, well, developments have careened around the Internet.

That the show was saved isn't a miracle; that the survived its original run as long as it did is. In the age of shows getting canceled after a single episode, the fact Fox chose to keep alive a show of such low ratings for so long - 53 episodes over three seasons! - is something to behold. In its first season, the show averaged 6.2 million viewers a week, placing it 120th overall for the 2003-04 TV season, but saw dips in viewers over the next two seasons. (It should be noted 6.2 million viewers would have placed it 36th overall on the Nielsen landscape of May 2013.

And yet it was renewed twice, thanks in part to loud critical acclaim and a collection of Emmy nominations and wins. That first season, it won five Emmys including Outstanding Comedy Series, casting, and writing. That the show survived for so many episodes is thanks to that vocal minority and the reason the show has only grown in popularity, the reason you'll be able to get up on Sunday and, provided the Netflix servers can handle the traffic, watch new episodes.

Can an "American Idol" alum breathe new life into the Fox singing competition that's shedding viewers at an alarming clip?

Fox officials must be hoping so. E! News reports that Jennifer Hudson has signed on as judge for season 13. E! also says the other two judging spots are intended for former "Idol" contestants: Kelly Clarkson and either Adam Lambert or Clay Aiken.

According to E! sources, Clarkson is close to signing on but no word yet on whether Lambert or Aiken will fill the final spot. Producers are expected to keep the panel to three members.

The Oscar-winning actress and Chicago native returned to the stage last week on "Idol," the show that first put her in the spotlight back in season three. She sang a duet with Candice Glover, the latest contestant to wear the "Idol" crown.

Chief Keef with his young daughter, Jasmine, presumably not listening to "I Kissed A Girl" after a court appearance in March 2013. Photo: Jessica Koscielniak ~ Sun-Times

Because there aren't more important things in the world happening this week, let's take a second to look at a brief feud between pop star Katy Perry and Chicago rapper/poet Chief Keef. It all started when Perry heard Keef's "I Hate Being Sober" and took to Twitter to say it negatively affected her view of the world which is understandable given Keef is technically a minor and has already spent time in jail for pointing a gun at a cop and then violating parole from that charge.

Anyway, Keef, who should be more worried about his arrest earlier this week, clearly decided to take the high road when he responded by suggesting Perry perform a sexual act and threatened to smack her. Perry then apologized because okay, sure, that's what you should do when a 17-year-old rapper wants to smack you for making a level-headed analysis of a song. And just like that, things were cool and Keef absolves Perry of her sins.

So to review: Katy Perry said a Chief Keef song made her worry about humanity, Chief Keef made very threatening remarks to Perry, and Perry is the one who apologized.

Okay, whatever.

Read the ridonkulous exchange for yourself below.

(WARNING: Naughty language used below)

New Yorker artist designs 57th St. Art Fair poster

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Chicago's own Tom Bachtell, best known for his distinctive illustrations in the New Yorker magazine, especially its Talk of the Town section, has designed the poster for the 66th annual 57th Street Art Fair in the Hyde Park neighborhood.

The Midwest's oldest art fair, the 57th Street event often commissions posters designed by the fair's exhibitors but this year, the fair's organizers tapped Bachtell for the task. His vision was to "make the people a part of the art, since they are an integral part of the air fair experience," said one organizer. "Everyone is a piece of artwork."

Bachtell, shown above in a self-illustration, has had his work published in many national outlets, including Entertainment Weekly, Newsweek, Forbes, Bon Appetit, Town & Country, Mother Jones, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine, the New York Observer, London's Evening Standard and Poetry magazine. His design for the 57th Street Art Fair poster appears below.

Free movie series at Millennium Park this summer

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A tribute to Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert will launch a new series of free outdoor film screenings at Millennium Park's Pritzker Pavilion this summer. The 10-week series, presented by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, will begin June 18, with a screening of the Oscar-winning "Chicago" (2002), based on the hit Kander-Ebb musical. June 18 is the birthday of the late critic, who died April 4 at age 70.

The films will be shown on a 40-foot-long, 22.5-foot high, state-of-the-art LED screen, purchased especially for this series, with sound projected from the pavilion's concert-hall-quality system. The Tuesday-night series, with films starting at 6:30 p.m., runs through Aug. 20. Seating is first come, first served.

"Kicking off the film series with a tribute to Roger Ebert will remind us of how he championed Chicago as a center for filmmaking and critiques," said Mayor Rahm Emanuel in a statement.

The schedule:

June 25, "Funny Face" (1957), with Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, directed by Stanley Donen.

July 2, "Yankee Doodle Dandy"
(1942) with James Cagney, directed by Michael Curtiz.

July 9, "Amadeus" (1984) with F. Murray Abraham and Thomas Hulce, directed by Milos Forman.

July 16, "Moulin Rouge" (2001): with Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, directed by Baz Luhrmann.

July 23, "The Jungle Book" (1967), Disney animated feature.

July 30, "The Buena Vista Social Club" (1999), documentary directed by Wim Wenders.

Aug. 6, "Singin' in the Rain" (1952), with Gene Kelly, Donald O'Connor, Debbie Reynolds

Aug. 13, "Cabaret" (1972), with Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Joel Grey, directed by Bob Fosse.

Aug. 20, "Dreamgirls" (2006), with Jennifer Hudson, Beyonce, Eddie Murphy, directed by Bill Condon.

Earlier in June, there will be two "pre-screenings," also at the Pritzker: "Muddy Waters & The Rolling Stones: Live at the Checkerboard Lounge, 1981" on June 4, to salute the Chicago Blues Festival and "The Triplets of Belleville" (2003) on June 11, as part of Chicago Bike Week. The latter film will start at dusk. For details, go tomillenniumpark.org.

PHOTO: Roger and Chaz Ebert are honored during a CSO Night at the Movies concert in 2011. Sun-Times photo by Scott Stewart

Roger gets a giant thumbs up at Cannes

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CANNES, France -- Film fans congregated on the beach here to raise their thumbs to the late Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert during the annual Cannes International Film Festival.

The tribute Thursday followed a panel discussion about his impact on film criticism. Before his death in April, the Pulitzer Prize-winning critic was a frequent presence at Cannes. In 2009, the festival named a conference center at the American Pavilion after him. The thumbs up sign was a hallmark of approval introduced on the long-running TV show "Siskel & Ebert at the Movies," hosted by Ebert and colleague Gene Siskel.

Chaz Ebert, the critic's wife, has been at Cannes this year, supervising coverage for RogerEbert.com. For years, she accompanied her husband to the festival, but this year, she's carrying on their tradition alone. "Knowing Roger," she said, "he'll be looking down [from heaven], and he'll see everyone's thumbs."


CAPTION: Chaz Ebert (center, second row) joins others in giving the thumbs up sign Thursday at the Cannes Film Festival to honor her late husband, film critic and Cannes stalwart Roger Ebert. (AP photo/Nekesa Mumbi Moody)


If you can't get enough of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" (and you know who you are), the Los Angeles Opera announced Thursday that it will screen Kenneth Branagh's 2006 film version on June 9 and 11 at six Southern California cineplexes. The film, which Branagh updated to a World War I setting, features several opera favorites with Chicago ties: James Conlon, music director of the Ravinia Festival, conducts, and tenor Joseph Kaiser, a Ryan Center alum, who has performed at Chicago Opera Theater and Lyric Opera of Chicago, sings the role of Tamino (above, center left).

Although "The Magic Flute" had a limited run in Europe, it has never been picked up for U.S. distribution, and the L.A. engagements will mark the film's belated U.S. premiere. L.A. Opera will stream a live webcast with Branagh after the 2 p.m. (CST) screening June 9, and invites opera fans worldwide to submit questions either online or via Twitter. For details, go to laopera.com.

The film features a new English language libretto by British actor Stephen Fry. Also in the cast are bass Rene Pape (Sarastro), soprano Lyubov Petrova (Queen of the Night), soprano Amy Carson (Pamina) and baritone Benjamin Jay Davis (Papageno). For more info about the film, go to magicflutemovie.com

The work of Kerry James Marshall, the Chicago-based artists with a global reputation, is headed to the nation's capital.
The National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. will host that city's first solo exhibition of the acclaimed American painter with an exhibit, "In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall," on view June 28 - Dec. 7.

The show will include 10 paintings and more than 20 works on paper that deal with such themes as the Middle Passage of slave ships between West Africa and North America, immigration, class mobility and the sense of aspiration central to American life. And they should provide broader context for "Great America" (1994), the Marshall painting that is part of the National Gallery's permanent collection and depicts two couples in a small boat exiting an amusement park Tunnel of Love ride -- a seemingly innocent scene of middle-class leisure that is filled with such troubling details as the appearance of ghosts in the dark tunnel and the bobbing head of a man in the water.

"In the Tower: Kerry James Marshall" marks the sixth in a series of Tower installations focusing on developments in art since the mid 20th century. And it coincides with the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation.

In a prepared statement, Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery, observed: "Kerry James Marshall is one of the most exciting and celebrated painters currently working in the United States. His art is a reflection on African-American history and the reverberations of the past in contemporary life."

Marshall, 57, was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in South Central Los Angeles. A 1978 graduate of Otis College of Art and Design, he taught at the School of Art and Design at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Although Chicago has been his home for many years, he credits the time he spent in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles -- where he observed the Black Power and Civil Rights movements -- as a major influence on his work.

stairs.jpg (Credit: Museum of Contemporary Art)

Field Trip, a new app from Google, is offering free admission to Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, Adler Planetarium and Field Museum.

"Field Trip is your guide to the cool, hidden, and unique things in the world around you," according to the app description. "It can help you learn about everything from local history to the latest and best places to shop, eat, and have fun. You select the local feeds you like and the information pops up on your phone automatically, as you walk next to those places."

You can download the app here. Look for the May 17 post about the free museum pass for more information on how to work the app.

If you are traveling this weekend, you can also get free admission at:

Conservatory of Flowers, SF
California Academy of Sciences, SF
Walt Disney Family Museum, SF
Museum of Contemporary Art, LA
Museum of the city of New York, NY
Museum of Arts and Design, NY
National Building Museum, DC
Portland Children's Museum
Portland Art Museum
Pittock Mansion, Portland


On Sunday, Netflix will unleash the newest set of Arrested Development episodes on the world, an event almost 10 years in the making. Over the next few days, leading up to the new episodes, we'll be revisiting some of our favorite moments from the cult television comedy culminating in a running diary as we binge-watch the new episodes on Sunday.

Today, we look at the post-AD careers of the main cast members. Head's up: a few clips have some naughty language so grab the earphones.

Previously: Top 10 recurring jokes, Top 10 cameos and guest stars

Jason Bateman (Michael Bluth)

For gals of a certain age, Justin Bateman had all the right moves. And as many Teen Beat covers. (Take that, Ricky Schroeder...) So after Michael ("Well, isn't it the boy who cried Phoenix") rode off into the sunset, some fans wondered where to get their former teen idol fix. Thankfully, Michael Bluth revitalized the former Teen Wolf Too's film career, and Bateman landed supporting roles in Dodgeball, A True Underdog Story and The Breakup and a dramatic role -- albeit small -- in the "Kingdom." But it was Juno -- the feature film that should have been an afterschool special in the '80s -- where Bateman found himself alongside Jennifer Garner and opposite Ellen Page, reprising a version of his dang oh-so-adorable father character. His over-the-top supporting role opposite Russell Crowe in State of Play gave us a glimpse of Michael's cray cray -- if Michael was a material witness desperate for the next hit off a crack pipe. He partnered with Will Arnett (Gob Bluth) to launch an award-winning digital production company dumbdumb.com, which creates custom comedy spots for clients. - Meg Moore

Lil Rel.png

Comedy Central recently announced a development deal with Chicago comic Hannibal Buress. But he's not the only homegrown talent you'll see on the network in the coming weeks and months. Another local stand-up, Milton "Lil Rel" Howery, is slated to appear Friday, June 7 at 11 p.m. as part of a Comedy Central showcase called "The Half Hour."

Cast last year for a remake of "In Living Color" that never got off the ground, the Chicago native has also appeared in several films (including the Chicago-shot "Barbershop 2") and an array of television specials: among them, "Russell Simmons Presents" (2010), "Martin Lawrence 1st Amendment" (2011) and "Jamie Foxx 2011 NBA All Star Comedy." He also scored a seat in 2012 at Chelsea Lately's comedic roundtable on E!

Warning: some strong language

paws.jpg ("Yvonne", a Great Pyrenees, is adopted by the Entler family, Rachell, Eric, Madelyn, 6 and Jax, 8, of Forest Park. Homeless, unwanted and rescued dogs, cats, kittens and puppies were on display and available for adoption during the PAWS Chicago Sixteenth Annual Angel with Tails event along Michigan Avenue and Oak Street on Sunday, May 19, 2013. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times)

Volunteers from PAWS CHICAGO, the city's largest no-kill animal shelter, will travel Friday to rescue approximately 75 pets from the Oklahoma City-area, site of Monday's deadly tornado.

Oklahoma City Animal Care & Control is out of space after taking in more than 150 animals left homeless by the tornado. PAWS is taking animals, some which have significant medical problems, and transporting them back to Chicago. Some of the animals should be ready to adopt at 11 a.m. Monday, May 27. Others will be in a foster home and receiving medical care until they are ready to be adopted.

For more information about PAWS CHICAGO and the adoption event, click here.


With the just-released "Star Trek Into Darkness" now playing at theaters, and continuing the saga of Captain James Kirk and the crew of the starship Enterprise, you can experience a bit of where it all began thanks to veteran actor William Shatner.

Shatner is in town this weekend to host special screenings of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" May 24 (screenings at 6:15 and 8:45 p.m.; appearance between 4 and 10 p.m.), and May 26 (screenings at 1:30, 4 and 6 p.m.; appearance between 1 and 7 p.m.) at Hollywood Boulevard Cinema in Woodridge; and May 25 at Hollywood Palms Cinema in Naperville (screenings at 11:30 a.m. and 10 p.m.; appearance between 1 and 9 p.m.)

Commenting on the newest entry in the "Star Trek" feature film dynasty, Shatner said: "The new film has story based on the old film. So it's of interest from many points of view of folks interested in 'Star Trek.' ... This new one, for example, is masterpiece of special effects and wonderful storytelling devices that we didn't have in the old show. But we didn't know that. This sophistication wasn't around. ... It's a monument to the longevity of 'Star Trek,' almost 50 years, and here we are with energetic, vibrant film that brings new magic to this old franchise."

Working on the original "Star Trek" feature films, specifically "Wrath of Khan," Shatner has only fond memories.

"The story, the actors, we all had a good time doing that," he said. "When it was done everybody was very proud of the result.... Nobody could have anticipated this new film would come around one day. ... To be part of this continuity and the phenomenon of 'Star Trek.' ... The series and movies are all over the place [television syndication and DVD sets]. I did a documentary on it. I did personal docs on the individual actors of the 'Star Trek' franchise. [Laughing] I've been peripherally useful for 'Star Trek' [franchise] over the last several years."

The 82-year-old actor is currently appearing in the television series, "Weird or What?" on the SyFy network, in which he investigates various oddities and mysteries.

"The show is about all the weird things that exist, and [we] give it and explanation," Shatner said. "I'm just gratified that I continue to work and put stuff out that I find interesting."

So what are some of the strangest stories he's come across in the series?

"Well, two guys fall out of the sky [while] window washing 44 stories up. One guy gets mashed on the pavement, the other floats to safety. Why? A boat goes down in the middle of the ocean, and they find it upright, pristine, no damage. How did it sink? ... The overall picture is we know nothing. And we look at these mysteries and wonder why and how. These little things that happen, these anomalies are so interesting to try to explain.

In an homage to Mr. Spock, perhaps, Shatner said: "The fact that science tries to explain a mystery is continuous. Trying to give some logical explanation to the strangeness around us. It's my belief that science in the next few years will have a 180-degree turn about everything... a wrenching moment of realization that everything they thought is wrong."

In the realm of the strange and odd, Shatner is also remembered for an iconic episode ("Nightmare at 20,000 Feet") of perhaps the ultimate sci-fi series, "The Twilight Zone," in which he starred as a man, just recovered from a nervous breakdown, who looks out an airplane window to see a very strange creature indeed. The actress who portrayed his wife in the episode, Christine White, recently passed away.

"I'd lost track of her after the show," Shatner said.

Shatner says he is also set to release a new book titled "You Can Hire Yourself," about people being out of work after age 55.

"People who are 55 or over are out of work longer presumably because they get more money than a kid coming out of college. But they have with them a fund of knowledge that has to be used."

So what's the worst job Shatner ever had?

"Several of my movies," he says laughing heartily.

For more info on tickets and show times for Shatner's appearances this weekend, visit atriptothemovies.com.

article-2327323-19DD6753000005DC-526_634x687.jpg (Credit: http://www.dailymail.co.uk)

Dame Helen Mirren, who played Queen Elizabeth II in the 2006 movie "The Queen" and is currently starring as her in the West End play "The Audience," recently stayed in character for a visit with a 10-year-old boy with Downs Syndrome who is dying of cancer.

Young Oliver Burton wanted to meet the actual queen, but she wasn't available. So Mirren stepped in, inviting Burton and his family to her play and then drinking pop and sharing tea sandwiches with him after the show. The show's corgi canine stars, Coco and Roco, also made an appearance, according to the Daily Mail.

"She stayed in character for the whole thing," James Browne, Oliver's father, told the paper. "Oliver thought she was the real Queen, and well, that's good enough for us.
She was really lovely. She did the whole thing - had a butler there, was dressed in costume and did it all properly for him."

Oliver was first diagnosed with leukemia in 2003 and has twice beat the disease. The paper reported that his most recent diagnosis is grim.


As all Liberace fans must know by now, the upcoming HBO film "Behind the Candelabra" depicts the final years of Mr. Showmanship, and his affair with the much younger Scott Thorson. The film, supposedly director Steven Soderbergh's swan song, has received mostly rave reviews (check out the one by Sun-Times' Lori Rackl), with Michael Douglas and Matt Damon in particular singled out for their fearless performances.

But many don't know that Lee, as his friends called him, was a child of the Midwest, born less than 75 miles away from Chicago in West Allis, Wis. Here are some more tidbits to ponder before "Behind the Candelabra" debuts at 8 p.m. Sunday:

+ He made his professional debut at age 16 with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, under music director Frederick Stock. Later he appeared again with the CSO in a 1940 concert at the Pabst Theatre in Milwaukee. In a Milwaukee Journal article published in 1993, Liberace's former teacher Florence Kelly recalled that the young pianist was terrified of Stock, a legend in the classical music world. She told him, "You're going to play like you've never played before. This is it!" Then he performed so well at his 1936 audition that Stock "let him play the entire Liszt A Major Concerto without interruption."

+ He had a ribald sense of humor. One of his favorite jokes: "What's better than roses on your piano? Tulips on your organ."

+ He made his very last public appearance on "The Oprah Winfrey Show," broadcast on Dec. 25, 1986, just six weeks before his death of AIDS-related causes on Feb. 4, 1987.

+ He plays an undertaker in the film satire "The Loved One" (1965), directed by Tony Richardson (also a closeted homosexual), and billed in its promotional material as "the motion picture with something to offend everyone!" (DVR alert! TCM will broadcast "The Loved One" at 10:45 p.m. Friday.)

+ He was born with a stillborn twin, as was the case with Elvis Presley. Later, his mother would say of the tragedy, "Even then, he wanted too much."

"Million Dollar Quartet," the musical that conjures the unique 1956 recording session that brought together rock and roll legends Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Johnny Cash and Carl Perkins, will break a record this Saturday, May 25 as it becomes the longest-running musical in Chicago history. With 1,949 performances over the course of its 5 years in this city, the Tony Award-winning rock 'n' roll musical has surpassed both "Wicked "and "Pumpboys and Dinettes."

In a prepared statement, producer Gigi Pritzker noted: "After five incredible years, with 500,000 tickets sold, 1,949 performances, 6,000 guitar picks, and 500 cans of hairspray, it's an absolute thrill for 'MDQ' to take its place as the longest-running musical in Chicago history. Since the very beginning, Chicago has embraced [this show], and we are grateful for the continued and enthusiastic support of our hometown audiences."

The show, which also has found success in New York, London, Japan, Las Vegas and on a national tour, has extended Chicago performances through Sept. 1, with cast members Brandon Bennett (Elvis Presley), Shaun Whitley (Carl Perkins), Lance Lipinsky (Jerry Lee Lewis), Chris Damiano (Johnny Cash), Tim Decker (Sam Phillips), Whitney Kraus Jones (Dyanne), Marc Edelstein (Jay Perkins/bass player) and Dan Leali (Fluke/drummer).

Directed by Eric Schaeffer and Floyd Mutrux, with a book by Colin Escott and Floyd Mutrux, "Million Dollar Quartet"
features such rock 'n' roll, gospel, R&B and country hits as "Blue Suede Shoes," "Fever," "Sixteen Tons," "Who Do You Love?," "Great Balls of Fire," "Ring of Fire," "Whole Lotta' Shakin' Goin' On," "Folsom Prison Blues," "I Walk the Line," and "Hound Dog."

"Million Dollar Quartet" is at the Apollo Theater, 2540 N. Lincoln. For tickets ($25-$85) call (773) 935-6100 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. For more show information, visit www.milliondollarquartetlive.com.

Joel Murray.png
Credit: Will Barrat/imdb.com

Joel Murray -- of the Wilmette Murrays -- first met Chris Farley when they were students at Marquette University in Milwaukee. After graduation, they performed sketch comedy and improvised together on the stages of Second City and elsewhere.

In a recent Facebook post, Murray ("Mad Men," "Shameless," "The Artist") wrote that he and other Farley pals from Marquette "are still angry at the universe that [Chris] is gone." Farley, who long struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, died of an overdose in Chicago on December 18, 1997. He was 33.

Murray posted this, too: a fairly recent remake of the first scene Murray and Farley ever improvised together. Shot early last year by some expat Chicagoans from Backyard Productions (Rob Pritts directs), it centers around a dad (Murray, as "Mr. Farley") picking up his son (Chris, played by Daryl Sabara) from jail after Chris is collared for public drunkenness. The duo frequently performed it on the road during Second City touring shows.

Murray, by the way, says he's slated to sing the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley Field on June 21 (even though the Cubs supposedly nixed celebrities at the mic). Later that evening, he'll emcee the 2nd Annual Hot Stove Cool Music Chicago benefit concert at Chicago's Metro.

June 21 also happens to be the day that Pixar's "Monsters University" comes out, and Murray is among several Chicago area folks (Bonnie Hunt, Sean Hayes and Julia Sweeney) with plum voice roles.

Credit: www.hannibalburess.com

He went from struggling local standup to local headliner to national headliner to "Saturday Night Live" writer to "30 Rock" writer to co-starring in the lauded "The Eric Andre Show" on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim.

Now Chicago's own Hannibal Buress -- a favorite of Louis C.K. and Chris Rock, among others -- has his own development deal at Comedy Central. Per promotional verbiage, it includes a co-starring role on "Broad City" (a popular web series that's slated to debut on Comedy Central in 2014), a pilot commitment, a one-hour stand-up special and a nationwide stand-up tour.

"This is really exciting," Buress said in a statement. "I can finally quit my day job at Quiznos. People talk down about the illuminati a lot, but this is proof that membership has its benefits."

If you want to see Buress live and in the flesh, he'll be back in town next month for a June 14 appearance with Northwestern grad, native Evanstonian and future Jimmy Fallon replacement Seth Meyers at the Chicago Theatre during the TBS Just for Laughs Chicago comedy festival.

fd4d71ac1092486d9b232e21688c0bc41.jpg (Credit: Chicago Park District)

You don't need to know how to build a fire, catch a fish or pitch a tent to camp in select Chicago city parks this summer.

The Chicago Park District, working with The North Face's Explore Your Parks, is offering novice family camping. For $50 for up to six people in a group, the park district provides families with tents as well as fishing equipment and lessons in fire building and cookout camping. A parent or guardian must participate.

Dates on Northerly Island are sold out but you can register here for:

Aug. 17-18, Palmisano Park, 2700 S. Halsted St.
Sept. 14-15, Gompers Park, 4222 W. Foster Ave.
Oct. 5-6, Jackson Park, Wooded Island, 6401 S. Stony Island Ave.

A registration date has not yet been announced for:
Sept. 21-22, Bull Frog Lake, Palos Park, Ill., in conjunction with the Cook County Forest Preserve

Second City celebrates Chicago Playwrights anniversary

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The Second City is celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Playwrights Theatre Club with a free reunion event at 3 p.m. on June 23 at UP Comedy Club (230 W. North, 2nd Floor of Piper's Alley).

The event reunites Playwrights Theatre (the precursor to The Compass Players and The Second City) original members including Ed Asner, Helen Axelrood, Rolf Forsberg, George Goritz, Zohra Lampert, Sheldon Patinkin, Bernie Sahlins, and David Shepherd, along with Joyce Piven, Carol Sills and Joann Shapiro, for a panel discussion.

The Playwrights Theatre Club began in Chicago in the early 1950s by a group of young theater pioneers including founding members David Shepherd, Paul Sills and Eugene Troobnick. In two years, the company presented nearly 30 productions, with the company members, several of whom lived in the theater, making all sets and costumes. In addition to show rehearsals, company members regularly played "theater games" (now considered the basis of improvisational theater). The troupe was rechristened The Compass Players in 1955, presenting regular improvisational theater shows. Roger Bowen, Elaine May and Barbara Harris are among the original Compass Players.

For reservations, call (312) 337-3992 or reserve online at www.SecondCity.com.


For those who are familiar with his writing from the Internet, a touching parenting memoir may not be what some expected from Drew Magary. But Magary's newest book, Someone Could Get Hurt, is a collection of essays about raising his children that manages to be profane, touching, and hilarious all at the same time. Hurt shows growth for Magary as a writer, pushing him beyond the dick-joke-laden tirades he still occasionally posts on Deadspin (his weekly Jamboroo posts during the NFL season are must-reads). He's taken the boundaries he's stretched through some Deadspin writing as well as pieces for outlets (his fantastic Justin Bieber profile from last year that now seems downright prophetic) and pushed them to include a far more personal zone that now encapsulates his entire famiuly, something that Magary adapts to deftly even if his kids will be upset with him a few years down the line.

From the essay that frames the book about being with his third child in NICU to throwing glass bottles into a creek with his daughter to the anxiety-riddled experience of guiding his sobbing toddler son through a playground obstacle course, Magary dips into the experience of parenting and, ultimately, comes away far more humanizing than in any of his other writings. In an era of Mommy Blogs and competing views on parenting that seem to turn in upon themselves in a weird pretzel logic, Magary's take is straight-forward and, most refreshingly, brutally honest.

Before he hits Chicago for a reading and signing at the Book Cellar, 4736 N. Lincoln, on Thursday, May 23 (7 p.m.), I called Drew to talk about the book, how his family feels about him sharing these stories, and whether or not it's okay to (sometimes) hate your kids.

Sun-Times: Why a parenting book?

Drew Magary: The first blog I had was about raising kids so I've been writing about dad stuff for a while now. It mostly gets pretty well-received. Obviously, there are going to people who say, "I don't give a shit about your kids." Which is true! I can't argue with them about not giving a crap about my kids [laughs]. But a lot of people seemed to like it and I thought there has to be a way to write a book about parenting that's at least a little different than the usual, whack-a-doodle, "Hey! Being a dad is crrrraaaazy!" stuff you see in the store.

One adaptation of a classic 20th century novel (William Golding's "The Lord of the Flies"), and one Chicago premiere of a provocative contemporary play ("Leveling Up" by Deborah Zoe Laufer), will be the two productions comprising the 2013-2014 season for Steppenwolf for Young Adults - the program designed for school groups that also has developed an enthusiastic following among general audiences.

Adapted by Nigel Williams, "The Lord of the Flies," to be directed by Halena Kay, artistic director of The Hypocrites, tells the story of a group of English schoolboys who are in a plane wreck on a deserted island during wartime. Gradually, the boys form two groups-one that attempts to maintain a civil society and the other that turns savage and brutal. The show will run Oct. 16-Nov. 10.

"Leveling Up," running in Feb.March, 2014, and to be directed be Hallie Gordon, artistic director of the Young Adults program, is about three twenty somethings holed up with their video games in a Las Vegas basement where they are at play in the virtual universe. When one of them gets a job with the National Security Agency, launching missiles and drones, real world consequences arise.

For general public tickets ($20), call 312 (335-1650). School groups call (312) 654-5643 or visit www.steppenwolf.org.

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One of these days, a national television show will swing through town and focus on something other than Chicago's deep-dish pizza, Navy Pier, blues music and Second City.

Today, literally, is not that day.

The "Today" show broadcasted live from The Bean in Millennium Park this morning, with Evanston-born Willie Geist and Natalie Morales representing for the morning show crew -- all five of whom were supposed to be here. But breaking news surrounding Oklahoma's deadly tornado derailed those plans. Matt Lauer and Al Roker stayed in Oklahoma while Savannah Guthrie returned to New York.

While the city's deep comedic roots with Second City have been well reported, the show's producers managed to put together a nice package on Second City's history and legacy (video above).

Second City alum and Oak Park native Cecily Strong, who became quite a hit during her freshman season on "SNL," stopped by Millennium Park to chat with Willie and Natalie. Willie admitted his fondness for her recurring "Weekend Update" schtick, The Girl You Wish You Hadn't Started a Conversation With at a Party, prompting Cecily to get into character by breaking out her cell phone to check her email. Looking forward to seeing more of her on "SNL" next season.

The "Today" show planned to visit five spots across the country in five days this week before breaking news forced them to change gears and scale back plans. (They skipped Yellowstone National Park altogether Tuesday.) Tomorrow they'll broadcast from Orlando, wrapping up Friday on the Jersey Shore.

Christopher Nolan's highly anticipated Superman roboot opens June 14, but the new trailer, titled "Fate of Your Planet" is all Michael Shannon.

The dark clip, clocking in at 1:47, has the Chicago favorite Shannon narrating as General Zod, hell-bent on finding Superman on Earth. Chaos, doom and extreme anticipation ensue.

If you missed the other trailers, enjoy on a rainy day:

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It came down to an "American Idol" alum and a Disney Channel star, but when all the fancy footwork was done, country music singer Kellie Pickler and her pro partner Derek Hough emerged as the season 16 champions of "Dancing with the Stars." Their final dance, a jive set to Little Richard's classic "You Come A-Knockin' (But You Can't Come In) earned them a perfect score and the famed mirrorball trophy. It marks Hough's fourth win on the series.

NFL star Jacoby Jones rounded out the final top three, following the surprise elimination early on in the evening of Olympic gymnast Aly Raisman.


The historic Patio Theater, 6008 W. Irving Park, will close for the summer because of a faulty air conditioning system.

Patio owner Demetri Kouvalis entered a lottery for a Small Business Improvement Fund (SBIF) grant from the city that typically goes for interior remodeling and storefront improvements. The Patio (what locals call the pay-show) was a no show , finishing 13th out of 15 applications from West Irving Park. The SBIF money only covered nine projects.

"It was completely luck based," Kouvalis said on Tuesday.

The 86-year-old theater will go dark around June 1 and reopen under a different business plan in September.

"About 90 per cent of operating single screen theaters in America are non-profit," Kouvalis said. "If that is a route we have to take I will look into. That definitely is a possibility."

The Patio air conditioning system is not original. Kouvalis guessed it was installed in the 1950s.

"I got an estimate today and was told it would cost $42,000," he said. "Utilities are the hardest thing in operating an old theater; heating and air conditioning." Kouvalis did use a Kickstarter campaign to buy a new digital projector, a necessity for all of today's movie theaters.

Ald. Tim Cullerton's 38th ward covers the Patio.
He is trying to lend a helping hand by reloading the TIF fund which feeds the SBIF fund.

"We're looking into that right now," Cullerton said Tuesday. "I contacted the Department of Housing and Economic Development to see if there is enough money in our West Irving Park TIF to roll over some more money. We put the Patio on a waiting list. When all the projects are done, they may have a surplus and that rolls over to numbers 10, 11, 12 and so on.
"Since it opened (in mid-2011) the theater has helped a number of businesses over there and the business district overall. They run a lot of movies that are suitable for families and kids so we hate to see them close down for any reason. My Mom and Dad used to go to that theater. I was amazed he raised the $80,000 he needed for the digital projector. It is an indication of how much the community wants him to stay there."

The Patio opened in 1927 with a screening of "The Blonde Saint."

It is not known if "Body Heat" ever played at the Patio.

First Folio, the west suburban theater company whose performances take place on the grounds of the Mayslake Peabody Estate, has announced its indoor and "Under the Stars" offerings for the 2013-2014 season. They include:

± "The Rainmaker" (July 31-Sept. 1, outdoors): N. Richard Nash's story about a charming confidence man named Starbuck who comes to a drought- stricken Western town and sets a family's world on end -- romancing their spinster daughter and promising to change everything. With Hayley L. Rice, Joseph Wycoff, Aaron Christensen and David Rice.

± "Rough Crossing" (Jan. 30-March 3, 2014): Tom Stoppard's zany shipboard frolic. As the S.S. Italian Castle heads to New York, two playwrights and a composer  struggle to finish their latest musical hit. The trick is to stay focused as the jealous composer worries about the screen star he loves, and her lothario leading man. Aided by the most inept steward ever to tread the deck of a cruise ship, the trio must save their show from disaster. Featuring Kevin McKillip and René Ruelas .

± "Salvage Logo" (March 26-April 27, 2014), Joseph Zettelmaier's play about the shy owner of a collectibles store in Detroit who finds his staid existence turned topsy-turvy when a mysterious women enters his life with valuable items that just should not exist any more. Featuring Melanie Keller.

± "The Merry Wives of Windsor" ( July 9-Aug. 10, 2014, outdoors): Shakespeare's great comic character, Sir John Falstaff, is short on money, so he sets out on a quest to seduce two wealthy married women who then decide to turn the tables on him.

Three and four-show subscriptions are now on sale, with an extra $5 off if purchased before Aug. 1. Call (630) 986-8067.

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

As part of its week-long travel series, NBC's "Today" show planned to broadcast live from Chicago on Wednesday morning.

Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie, Al Roker, Natalie Morales and Willie Geist were all supposed to visit the Windy City, but Oklahoma's deadly tornado has forced the program to tweak its plans. Only Willie and Natalie will swing through town, hosting the 8 a.m. hour (9 a.m. Eastern) live from Millennium Park's Bean sculpture. Matt and Al will stay in Oklahoma and Savannah will be live from New York.

This marks the second time this year weather has forced the show to change its Chicago plans at the last minute. A powerful storm headed for the East Coast in early February meant "Today" had to cancel its live broadcast from here as part of its Field Trip Fridays.

The show's week-long "Great American Adventure" got off to a smooth start Monday in Hawaii. The anchors were supposed to move on to Yellowstone National Park for a live broadcast from Old Faithful on Tuesday but they went to Oklahoma instead to cover the natural disaster. Plans called for traveling to Chicago on Wednesday before heading to Orlando and the New Jersey shore.


The "Today" show's Willie Geist and Natalie Morales will broadcast from Chicago on Wednesday without Matt Lauer, Savannah Guthrie and Al Roker.



On Sunday, Netflix will unleash the newest set of Arrested Development episodes on the world, an event almost 10 years in the making. Over the next few days, leading up to the new episodes, we'll be revisiting some of our favorite moments from the cult television comedy culminating in a running diary as we binge-watch the new episodes on Sunday.

Today, we look at our 10 favorite cameos (celebs playing themselves) and guest star roles, many of whom will be featured in the new season. Be sure to share yours in the comments.

Previously: Top 10 recurring jokes

Henry Winkler

One of the greatest talents of the AD writers and producers was convincing stars of years gone by to not just join this small, complex sitcom but to completely toy with their own image by playing outlandish roles. None of the regular guest stars reached greater heights with this than Winkler. Known primarily as the icon of cool, The Fonz, Winkler joined AD as the Barry Zuckerkorn, the Bluth's bumbling, bigoted, prostitute-chasing lawyer. While there were a handful of clever winks towards Winkler's Happy Days history, they weren't even necessary; Winkler's just that good and fun in the role.

'Pirates' take over Tall Ship Windy

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Ahoy there, stage musical mates!

You can enjoy a fully theatrical staging of the Gilbert and Sullivan classic operetta, "The Pirates of Penzance," while sailing over Lake Michigan aboard the Tall Ship Windy, June 22-July 13.

Presented by Tall Ship Adventures Chicago and co-directed by Emma Couing and Jessie Mutz, the 100-minute show features a full cast of actor-singers performing the musical while the fully functioning tall ship is under sail. The production was staged last year for the first time, with this year's version promising more stunts, more sword fights, extended sailing time and a newly remodeled bar area.

The Tall Ship Windy is a 148-foot, traditional four-masted gaff topsail schooner, and was awarded the status of official flagship of the City of Chicago, by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2006.

For tickets, call (312) 451-2700. For more information, visit www.tallshipwindy.com.


A scene from the "Mike & Molly" season three finale, titled "Windy City," which was pulled Monday out of deference to Oklahoma's tornado victims

CBS yanked Monday's season three finale of "Mike & Molly" Monday because of the episode's tornado storyline. A deadly twister wreaked havoc in Oklahoma earlier that day.

The episode, titled "Windy City," had Mike (Billy Gardel) and Molly (Melissa McCarthy) confessing important news to each other "as a tornado descends on Chicago." McCarthy hails from Plainfield, which experienced a devastating tornado in 1990 that killed 29 people and injured hundreds.

CBS ran a rerun in place of the finale, which the network said will air on an unspecified future date.

The scheduling change is just the latest in recent months as television networks have shuffled their line-ups in response to national tragedies.

ABC and NBC both pulled their respective episodes of "Castle" and "Hannibal" after the Boston Marathon bombings.

Sensitivity concerns prompted Fox to swap originals for repeats of its irreverent animated series "Family Guy" and "American Dad" after December's shooting rampage in Newtown, Conn. That same event led to the Syfy network shelving an episode of its supernatural drama "Haven" because it contained scenes of violence at a high school.

Redmoon awarded grant for Great Chicago Fire Festival

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An artist's rendering of the inaugural Great Chicago Fire Festival, presented by Redmoon in partnership with the City of Chicago.

Chicago's Redmoon theatre/public art group today was awarded a $250,000 grant from ArtPlace America for the Oct. 2014 Great Chicago Fire Festival. The event, presented by Redmoon in partnership with the City of Chicago, will culminate in a procession of illuminated floating fiberglass sculptures as well as a fire spectacle on the main branch of the Chicago River.

"The Great Chicago Fire Festival was chosen from over 1,200 applications as an exceptional example of creative placemaking," according to a statement from Redmoon announcing the award. ArtPlace America is a collaboration of leading national and regional foundations, banks and federal agencies committed to accelerating creative placemaking -- putting art at the heart of a portfolio of strategies designed to revitalize communities.

"The Festival will activate our City's public spaces, engage Chicagoans of all ages and advance many goals of the Chicago Cultural Plan," said Michelle T. Boone, Commissioner of the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events.

Inquiries for the grants were received from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia. The complete list of 2013/2014 ArtPlace America awards can be found at www.artplaceamerica.org

Credit: Scott Stewart/Sun-Times

Greatest of ease, my %$#@. That's what I suspected about learning trapeze basics at Trapeze School New York Chicago. And that's what I learned about what I'd suspected once I actually had a go at it.

Here's TSNYC head instructor Steve Hammes in today's Sun-Times telling us what he knows about the trapeze.

And here are several tweets and photos from when I tried -- and mostly failed -- to learn the ropes a few weeks back at the Chicago Park District's Broadway Armory. Warning: some minor gore.


Great Big World releases new tracks today and plays SPACE in Evanston on Sunday.

By Matthew Schwerha

With music that stresses the appreciation of life, Ian Axel and Chad Vaccarino -- the duo that makes up A Great Big World -- have come to appreciate the talents of one another.

As juniors at NYU nearly eight years ago Vaccariano, 27, met Axel, 28, and instantly was drawn to his musical abilities.

Spree%2c-Tapeko%2c-and-Allie-Bottlenose-Dolphins-1.jpg (Three of Brookfield Zoo's bottlenose dolphins are pregnant and due to give birth this summer and fall. Pictured left to right are: Spree, 10; Tapeko, 31; and Allie, 26. Credit: Chicago Zoological Society)

Brookfield Zoo is having an aquatic baby boom. Three of the zoo's dolphins -- Spree, 10; Tapeko, 31; and Allie, 26 -- are pregnant and expected to deliver later this summer or in the fall.

"Allie, Tapeko, and Spree are all healthy and their pregnancies are progressing well," said Jennifer Langan, associate veterinarian for the Chicago Zoological Society, in an email.

Just like pregnant humans, ultrasounds and blood work are part of a dolphin's regular prenatal care routine. Staff at the zoo's Seven Seas also use a computer program they developed that helps track dolphin behavior. Changes to the routine can indicate that labor is imminent.

Allie and Tapeko are experienced mothers with five children between them. Two of Tapeko's daughters -- Noelani, 9, and Allison, 7 -- live at Brookfield Zoo. This is the first pregnancy for Spree, who met Allie, Tapeko and Allison at the Minnesota Zoo in 2009 when the three dolphins were moved there during Brookfield's Seven Seas renovation.

Tapeko and Spree's babies were sired by Chinook, said Sondra Katzen, zoo spokeswoman. Semo, who is at another facility, impregnated Allie. All the dolphins are part of the Bottlenose Dolphin Breeding Consortium, which facilitates breeding to grow a healthy dolphin population at seven member institutions, including Brookfield Zoo.

The orphaned Spree, named after the candy, never clicked with the animals at Minnesota but found companionship in the three from Brookfield. She moved to Illinois with her new social circle in 2010.

Dolphin-ultrasound-2.jpg (Jennifer Langan, associate veterinarian for the Chicago Zoological Society (center), performs an ultrasound on Tapeko, 31, one of three pregnant bottlenose dolphins at Brookfield Zoo. She is assisted by Kate Sladek, senior veterinary technician (left) and Mark Gonka, lead keeper. In addition to routine ultrasounds, other prenatal factors staff track include weight gain, body temperature, dietary intake, blubber thickness, and girth. Credit: Chicago Zoological Society)

Billy Gardell and Melissa McCarthy in CBS' "Mike and Molly."

CBS has taken the scheduled season-ending episode of "Mike & Molly" off the air because its plot line revolved around a tornado threatening the couple.

The network said it replaced the comedy with a rerun on Monday out of sensitivity to victims of the deadly tornado in Oklahoma.

CBS said the show's season finale will air "at an appropriate date." The plot had the two lead characters confessing important news to one another as a tornado threatens Chicago.

Dozens of fatalities were reported Monday when a giant storm hit the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore.

Associated Press

Doors keyboardist Manzarek dies at age 74

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Ray Manzarek, founding keyboardist for the Doors, has died at age 74.

The Chicago-born musician passed away from cancer this morning in Germany, according to a statement from his publicist and posted to the band's official web site.

Bailiwick Chicago Theater's 2014 season will feature a new comedy and a recharged Broadway musical classic. Here's a closer look:

± "BOOTYCANDY" (March-April, 2014), the Chicago premiere of a play by Robert O'Hara, directed by artistic director Lili-Anne Brown: Behind a tall church pulpit, a fire-and-brimstone preacher delivers a shocking sermon to his congregation. On the tropical sands of a deserted island, two lesbians come together. And at the home of Sutter, a young boy, his mother scolds him for reading Jackie Collins romance novels. This is O'Hara's anthology of sassy lessons in sex ed - a kaleidoscope of sketches that portray growing up gay and African-American. "With variety-show vivacity, outrageous humor and real heart and soul, "Bootcandy" tests how we talk about human desire and racial stereotypes at home, in church and on the corner."

± "APPLAUSE" (May-July 2014): A revival of the 1970 Broadway musical with book by Betty Comden and Adolph Green, music by Charles Strouse and lyrics by Lee Adams, to be directed and choreographed by Christopher Pazdernik, with musical direction by Aaron Benham, and with Katherine Condit starring.

Based on the film "All About Eve ,"and the original story by Mary Orr, the musical tells the story of legendary actress Margo Channing and her decision to take a stage-struck young hopeful, Eve Harrington, under her wing. With youth, beauty and talent at her fingertips, Eve quickly devises a plot to oust Margo from her leading role on Broadway, ensnaring the aging actress in a trap that keeps her from the stage and out of the limelight. Suddenly, a devastated Margo must choose between the love of her life and the life she's loved for so long.

All performances will be at the Victory Gardens Studio, 2433 N. Lincoln. Tickets will go on sale at a later date. Visit www.bailiwickchicago.com.

Meanwhile, in November of this year, Bailiwick's Chicago Casting Auction will return for its third year with a live auction "selling" roles in performances of a yet-to-be-announced musical to be staged in Jan./Feb., 2014. More than 50 roles are auctioned off during the annual event at Chicago's Dank Haus German American Cultural Center Grand Ballroom, 4740 N. Western. Contenders for leading and major supporting roles take the stage during the live auction, often edged on by the crowd to show off their vocal and dancing talents. Additional supporting and chorus roles are won via silent auction. After casting is complete, and with five weeks of rehearsals, all the fun culminates in a public production. The event raises more than $50,000 annually for Bailiwick Chicago Theater programming.

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Credit: www.imdb.com

If you're in New York this Wednesday, May 22, you can catch former Chicago-based actor/improvisor Peter Grosz's one-man show "Recipe for Success with Chef Michael Denardi" at the Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre on W. 26th Street in Chelsea. "Chef Denardi is like Guy Fieri," Grosz wrote in a Facebook post, "only more pathetic and desperate. Who else would come up with a Mac n' Cheeseburger?"

If you're in New York starting June 2 (that's when previews begin -- the official opening is June 17), you can catch the Northwestern grad and Emmy-winning former "The Colbert Report" writer in action Off-Broadway -- at the Claire Tow Theater -- when he stars alongside "New Girl's" Carla Gugino in the Daniel Pearle play "A Kid Like Jake." Directed by Evan Cabnet, it's a big departure from the comedic roles Grosz has long played.

Following a long stint at Second City, Grosz ("Veep," "Curb Your Enthusiasm") left town to write for fellow Northwestern alum Stephen Colbert before moving out to Los Angeles to pursue acting opportunities.

On the commercial front, he's best known as the dark-haired guy seated next to fellow Chicago improviser T.J. Jagodowski in popular ads for the fast-food chain Sonic. (Here's a New York Times story on the spots from 2012, after they brought the pair back from retirement. And here's a Sun-Times article from when they were just starting out, in 2007.)

After rehearsal one recent afternoon -- prior to catching a train back home to Brooklyn, where the Scarsdale, NY native lives with his wife, Second City alum Deb Downing, and their toddler son -- Grosz called to talk about his latest and somewhat unexpected career development.

Q: You're a comedy guy. How did this Off-Broadway thing come about?
A: When I quit "The Colbert Report" [in 2010] I knew I wanted to perform more and just not be committed to working on a writing staff five days a week. So I went out to L.A. to pursue a little bit of everything, then when I came back my agency, ICM, has a team of theatre agents. And I met with the New York crew and said, "I'll audition for anything, really." Because so much of the acting world is doing auditions and getting used to being put on the spot. Having a million auditions is a lot better than having two, because you're getting used to it and you're not so precious about every one. This is really the first theatre audition that I had in New York, and I was very fortunate. And I am fully aware of how fortunate I am. Not just to get it, but also for it to be a part of a guy in his late 30s who has a four-year-old son and is dealing with the issues involving his son and the marriage. I think there's a reason why I showed off well in the audition -- I was bringing a lot of stuff to it. It's very funny, I'm living my life at home and then I go to work and live an alternate reality version of my life.

Q: Is it hard to shake that alternate reality? Are you now in the process of shaking it off?
A: A little bit. I think it'll be really good for the part and for the play and for my performance, but psychically it's not going to be particularly easy on me. But the good news is that my life in the show is a lot worse than my real life, so at least I get to walk away and go back to the better one.

The Black Ensemble Theater will present its first International Theater Festival this summer. A mix of dance, music and film, it will run June 23-25, July 21-22 and August 25-26, and will use the arts "to explore the global impact of racism and how its ramifications across the globe relate to the fight at home."

The Festival opens June 23-25 with "Curfew," a multimedia dance, music and visual production by Karim Tonsy, founder of Karim Tonsy Egyptian Physical Dance Theatre (KTED). Infused with images of the 2011 revolutionary uprising in Cairo's Tahrir Square, the piece looks at "the transformation of an oppressed society to one with promise." Tonsy, now based in Chicago, studied at the American University in Cairo and attended the London Contemporary Dance School. He has worked with directors from Egypt, Italy, London and Lebanon as well as Chicago. In addition, he has choreographed music videos for some of the Middle East's most popular artists.

The Festival continues July 21-22 with the Romanian film, "After the Fall--HIV Grows Up," which looks back at the pandemic of pediatric AIDS in Romania and the health care workers on the front lines. Set in 1989, as communist regimes fell across Eastern Europe, the film looks at how doctors and nurses in Romania quickly discovered they were dealing with an epidemic. Faced with a lack of medicine and very limited knowledge of the disease, many health care workers risked their lives to help the nearly 13,000 children infected with HIV and AIDS.

A third production will be announced for Aug. 25-26.

The Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center International Theater Festival will be held at the Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clarkt. For tickets ($50) call (773) 769-4451 or visit www.blackensemble.org.

Mel Brooks to receive AFI Life Achievement Award

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Director-producer-writer-actor Mel Brooks will receive the American Film Institute's 41st Life Achievement Award, regarded as the nation's highest cinematic honor, at a black-tie gala June 6 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood. The ceremony will be aired at 8 p.m. June 15 on TNT and will be repeated as part of a tribute to Brooks on Turner Classic Movies beginning at 7 p.m. July 24.

Oscar-winning director and fellow AFI Award recipient Martin Scorsese will present the honor to Brooks. "For over 50 years, Mel Brooks has given the world its greatest gift -- laughter," said Howard Stringer, chairman of the AFI Board of Trustees. "At the American Film Institute, we also want to shine a proper light on his contributions to the art form as writer, producer, director and actor -- and who better to bestow this honor than one of the masters of American film, Martin Scorsese."

Along with the AFI special, TCM will screen Brooks' "The Twelve Chairs" (1970), in its TCM debut, "The Producers" (1968) and TV interviews with Brooks by Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett.

Proceeds from the AFI gala benefit national education programs and film preservation.

From Mike Thomas:

The annual National Restaurant Show's second to last day in Chicago Monday included appearances by celebrated foodie/world traveler Anthony Bourdain and bestselling author/star chef Marcus Samuelsson.

Bourdain held court at Barbara's Bookstore in Macy's on N. State and Samuelsson at McCormick Place as part of the World Culinary Showcase.


The soundtrack album for "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County" a new stage musical by John Mellencamp, Stephen King and T Bone Burnett, will be released June. 4.

AEG Live has announced and Broadwayworld.com reports that that the southern gothic, supernatural musical "Ghost Brothers of Darkland County," will kick off a national tour on Oct. 10 in Bloomington, Mich.
Written by Stephen King, with music by John Mellencamp and T Bone Burnett, the musical, according to the website, is set in the town of Lake Belle Reve, Miss., and tells the tale of two sets of brothers: the ghosts of Jack and Andy, dead in an apparent murder/suicide, and their nephews, the living Frank and Drake, who seem to be headed toward the same downward spiral as their uncles.

Accodording to the tour's schedule, the closest the show gets to Chicago is an Oct. 29 date at the Pabst Riverside Theatre in Milwaukee, Oct. 26 at the Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford, and Oct. 24 at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, Ind.

The play's backstory, according to aeglive.com, began when "Mellencamp told King about a cabin on his land in Indiana where two brothers had gotten in a fight over a girl; one brother accidentally killing the other, only to die along with the girl in a car crash a short time later. King came up with an outline for a play in a matter of days. And then off and on, back and forth, they began to develop it into a full-length musical. The blues and roots music of Ghost Brothers reflects the wide range of styles and influences needed for a work that jumps back and forth across decades. Rather than use the songs to propel the play's narrative, as in a conventional musical, Mellencamp chose to make them a way to reveal the emotions and inner workings of the characters."

Tickets are now on sale via aeglive.com. The show's soundtrack album will be released June 4.


Tickets are on sale for Bon Appetit's "Grub Crawl," a June 8 progressive lunch or dinner through some of Chicago's most well-known restaurants.

Tickets are $149 each for the day crawl, which focuses on the West Loop, or night crawl, in the Logan Square neighborhood.

The day crawl takes you to a few spots owned by recent local James Beard Award winners, including Paul Kahan's Avec and Blackbird.

Other "Grub Crawl" cities are New York, Charleston, Los Angeles and Miami.

For more information, including how to purchase tickets, click here.

UPDATE - Stephanie Izard and Little Goat will not be participating, a Bon Appetit representative told the Sun-Times.


On Sunday, Netflix will unleash the newest set of Arrested Development episodes on the world, an event almost 10 years in the making. Over the next few days, leading up to the new episodes, we'll be revisiting some of our favorite moments from the cult television comedy culminating in a running diary as we binge-watch the new episodes on Sunday.

Today, we look at 10 of our favorite recurring jokes from the series, in no particular order. Share yours in the comments and be sure to explore both NPR's mapping and the Recurring Developments map of recurring jokes from the series, essential, fun tools for any AD fan.

"I've made a huge mistake"

One of the great quotable lines among hundreds of quotable lines from the series, it also perfectly captures the Bluth family's nature of making a big mistake and then dooming itself to repeat it over and over.

Top 5 moments of the 2013 Billboard Music Awards

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When you pick Tracy Morgan to host your awards show you're pretty much guaranteed a ridiculous show, and boy did the Billboard Awards deliver.

Here are our picks for the top moments of the 2013 Billboard Music Awards:

1. Justin Bieber performed twice, but it was the audience's reaction to his 'milestone' award that lands him on the 'top moments' list. After being named the winner, the crowd began booing Bieber. The Biebs stood there onstage in his sunglasses and leather top for a moment before lecturing the audience: "I'm 19 years old; I think I'm doing a pretty good job. And basically from my heart I really just want to say it should really be about the music, it should be about the craft that I'm making. This is not a gimmick," he said. "I'm an artist and I should be taken seriously and all this other bull should not be spoken."

At least he took off his sunglasses to thank 'Jesus Christ':

2. Best backstage moment belongs to our girl Taylor Swift. Swift, who is supposedly best friends with Bieber ex-Selena Gomez, catches the former couple in a brief intimate moment and her reaction tells it all. Watch at 1:00 minute in:

3. And then J Lo wore this...


4. The most talked about moment of the awards show came in the middle of Miguel's performance. While singing his hit song "Adorn," the singer tried to jump over the audience but didn't quite make it:

Miguel apparently met with the fan immediately after the performance and tweeted:

So apparently she lived to tell the tale.

5. But the ultimate moment? That would be Prince's performance because Prince. Always. Wins.

Though Fred Armisen hasn't said officially that he's leaving "Saturday Night LIve," and the show hasn't either, the veteran cast member closed out the show's 38th season with the type of star-studded sendoff usually reserved for a departing favorite.

Befitting his musical history, the former Chicago punk drummer was joined not by comedy legends, but by icons of rock 'n' roll. He took the stage as Ian Rubbish, the Johnny Rotten-esque character introduced just last month, and declared, "It's our last night here."

Rubbish then wailed an upbeat number about lovely days and nights, backed up by Sex Pistols guitarist Steve Jones, Sonic Youth singer Kim Gordon, Dinosaur Jr. leader J. Mascis, married singer-songwriters Aimee Mann and Michael Penn, and Wild Flag singer Carrie Brownstein (Armisen's partner on the IFC comedy series "Portlandia").

The Eifman Ballt of St. Petersburg, Russia in "RODIN"
When: Through May 19
Where: Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress
Info:(800) 982-2787; www.auditoriumtheatre.org
Run time: 2 hours and 15 minutes with one intermission

Is Russian choreographer Boris Eifman the Baz Lurhmann of classical ballet?

Highly theatrical, emotionally explosive and visually arresting, his full-length works unquestionably have a grand cinematic sweep and irresistible dynamism that suggest the style of that Australian-bred filmmaker. And, as Eifman stunningly demonstrates in his latest epic, "Rodin" -- his vision of the French sculptor, and his tortured relationships with his wife, his mistress and his art -- he is a master of using his magnificent, astonishingly pliable dancers to tell stories (admittedly, sometimes on the brink of psychodrama) that use a movement language all his own.

The Eifman Ballet's production of "Rodin" (at the Auditorium Theatre through Sunday only), is a stunner. Subtle it is not. But it is, at every turn, audacious, inventive and stunningly beautiful, and full of ingenious homages to the history of dance, as well as to the life and loves of Rodin (1840-1917).

The ballet begins in a madhouse, a locale that often comes into play in Eifman's works about tormented artists and others. A large group of women in white pantaloons forms a circle reminiscent of that in Matisse's painting, "The Dance," or the sacrificial moment in "The Rite of Spring."


Calling it "the best piece of work I've ever been part of," CNN's resident foodie/adventurer/cynic-poet Anthony Bourdain -- who'll attend the National Restaurant Association show in Chicago to talk and sign books Sunday and Monday, May 19 and 20 -- recently posted online a summary of his visit to Libya for a segment of his new program "Parts Unknown."

"Some of that pride comes from recalling how difficult it was," he wrote. "My crew and I are not exactly seasoned veterans when it comes to shooting in "conflict zones". We had to adapt to a whole new style of shooting--where prior preparation, instead of being a religion--became a security risk. Destinations couldn't/shouldn't--to the greatest extent possible -- know we were coming. We had to learn to keep moving, spending only a short period at each location before moving on. We changed hotels frequently, spent as little time as possible milling about between vehicle and destination, refrained from social media, rarely went out for dinner off-camera."

To read the rest, go here.


Beyonce attends last week's Met Gala ball. | Getty

The Internet is about to break.

While Beyonce did say on "Good Morning America" last week that "I would like more children. I think my daughter needs company. I definitely love being a big sister [to Solange Knowles]" sources close to her camp doubted she was in the family way.

But other sources tell E Online that the Grammy-winning singer is pregnant with her second child with her husband Jay Z.


Attention, James Levine fans. The Metropolitan Opera, where Levine has long been its music director, will simulcast his first public performance in more than two years as he leads the MET Orchestra on Sunday at Carnegie Hall.

The concert, which begins at 1:55 p.m. (CST), will be streamed on the Met's site (metopera.org/stream.aspx) as well as on the Met Channel (74) on Sirius XM satellite radio. The program consists of the prelude to Wagner's "Lohengrin"; Beethoven's Piano Concerto No. 4 with soloist Evgeny Kissin, and Schubert's Symphony No. 9, "Great."

After a health-related hiatus, Levine is easing back into his Met schedule. Next season, he will lead performances of Mozart's "Così fan tutte," Verdi's "Falstaff" and Berg's "Wozzeck." He recently conducted an interview with Met/Sirius host Margaret Juntwait, in which he discussed his return.

He remains a favorite of Chicago audiences, given his long association with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and the Ravinia Festival, where he was music director from 1973 to 1993.

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To celebrate the 90th anniversary of silent film star Harold Lloyd's 1923 hit "Safety Last" -- the one where he's seen dangling from a massive clock high above city streets -- the Music Box Theatre will present four screenings of the iconic film -- digitally restored from the original nitrate camera negative -- May 24 through 27.

Live organ music, from in-house organist Dennis Scott, will accompany the showing Saturday, May 25.

If you want to learn more about how Lloyd shot his stunts in the days before special effects, check out this site.

For tickets and more information, go here.


The Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers (CCLAW) returns to the Logan Square Auditorium, 2539 N. Kedzie, on June 7 for "CLLAW XVI" for their "Sweet 16" match.

Brought to you by Sideshow Theatre Company, the evening will include a cavalcade of lady arm wrestlers decked out in over-the-top outfits, cash bar, shady referees and audience participation. Entertainment includes the Chicago bands the Black Laces and the Lucky Shiners. All proceeds will benefit Sideshow Theatre and this match's partner charity, C4 - Community Counseling Centers of Chicago, a behavioral health advocate and social service provider.

Tickets for CLLAW XVI are $10. Doors open at 10 pm with the first match at 10:30 pm. Tickets are currently on sale at www.cllaw.org.

An investigation into our city's drugs, gangs and violence epidemic is the subject of "The War in Chicago," a six-month "48 Hours" investigation airing at 9 p.m. Saturday on CBS.

"48 Hours" correspondent Maureen Maher and CBS News correspondent Armen Keteyian look at what's driving the murder rate in Chicago, focusing on the link between street violence and drug trafficking in the city and the burbs. (See a clip below with the Will County coroner addressing the heroin scourge.) The report deals with what residents, city officials and the Drug Enforcement Administration are doing to fight back.

John Lutz.png

Before he starred on NBC's recently ended series "30 Rock," John Lutz honed his skills on the stages of Chicago's ImprovOlympic (now iO Theater) and Second City, where he was also part of the national touring company.

Now, a decade after Lutz penned "15 Things You Should Know About Touring" for Second City road crews, he's devised another rundown: "10 Things To Know About Life After The Second City."

Here's a sample. The whole thing can be viewed on The Second City Network.

If you own a pair Skechers, throw them out.
"This one is for the guys. It doesn't matter if they are Skecher sneakers or what their website describes as "dress" shoes. Throw them out! One of the first things ladies notice are a man's shoes, and Skechers scream, "I still have action figures displayed on my bookshelf." I know you think that contrast stitching means business in the front, party in the back, but think about it. I've just described a mullet. You are wearing the feet equivalent of a mullet*."

*Except in Middle Earth. The feet equivalent of a mullet for hobbits is an actual foot mullet.

Note: Although it features SNL's Bill Hader, this video also contains and ample portion of John Lutz

Movies in the Parks 2013 summer schedule announced

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"Skyfall," starring Daniel Craig, is among the film lineup for this year's Movies in the Parks festival.

The 13th annual "Movies in the Parks" series, presented by the Chicago Park District, kicks off June 13 with "Rise of the Guardians" at Ken-Well Park, 2945 N. Kenosha.

195 screenings will take place in 150 citywide parks. The screenings are free and movies begin at dusk (weather permitting). Films on the docket include: "Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark," "How to Train Your Dragon," "It Happened One Night," "Life of Pi," "Ferris Bueller's Day off, "Spaceballs" and "Jurassic Park" among hundreds more.

Highlights of the season include:
--The James Bond 60th anniversary celebration featuring screenings of "Dr. No."(June 23, Grant Park, Grove 5 at Balbo and Columbus)), "Thunderball" (Aug. 5 at Rainbow Park Beach, 3111 E. 77st St.) and "Skyfall" (Aug. 9 at Oakdale Park, 965 W. 95th St.);

--The Lakeside Cultural series, which kicks off with Alfred Hitchcock's "The Birds" (June 17 at Belmont Harbor);
-- Bollywood movie screenings plus a dance program as part of the Eye on India festival (June 23 at Bosley Playground Park, 3044 S. Bonfield);
-- "The Curators of Dixon School," a documentary by local filmmaker about a school on Chicago's south side (Aug. 11 at Nat King Cole Park, 361 E. 85th St.).

A complete schedule can be found at www.chicagoparkdistrict.com.

Call the Movies in the Parks hotline at (312) 742-1134 for daily listings and updated weather-related cancellations.

01RAVTIX-CST-042613_38746979.jpg (Credit: Ravinia Festival)

Grammy-award winning musician Sting was recently added to the lineup for next month's Printers Row Lit Fest. He's speaking on the same weekend he was previously scheduled to be in town for two concerts at Ravinia.

The former Police frontman will be part of a Saturday, June 8 discussion about Narrative 4, described on co-founder Colum McCann's website as "A brand new literary charity - a Global Forum for Young Storytellers." Other founding members are Lisa Consiglio and Luis Urrea. Narrative 4 launches in New York City on May 31.

Sting will be part of a "discussion about the launch of the organization and its "How to Be a Man" initiative," according to the Printer's Row Lit Fest website. The site also has information about when, where and how to see Sting.

Sting's June 7 and 8 concerts at Ravinia are sold out.


Rachel Barton Pine's new disc "Violin Lullabies," released by Chicago-based Cedille Records, debuted at No. 1 Billboard magazine's Traditional Classical Albums chart (in the May 18 issue).

The achievement marks the first time that an album released by Cedille Records, an independent label devoted to Chicago based and locally born classical music artists, has claimed a No. 1 chart position on Billboard.

Released April 30, "Violin Lullabies" features works by Brahms, Gershwin, Schubert, Fauré, Ravel and Richard Strauss, with Pine accompanied by pianist Matthew Hagle. Barton Pine and Hagle will perform selections from the disc at two recitals this weekend: 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Music Institute of Chicago in Evanston and at 11 a.m. Sunday at the Old Town School of Folk Music. For tickets, go to musicinst.org ($10-$30) or oldtownschool.org ($11-$12).

James Ginsburg, Cedille Records founder and president, noted that "Violin Lullabies" "leapfrogged over two former No. 1 albums that had been on the chart for 34 and 61 weeks, respectively." The disc, which Ginsberg produced, was recorded at WFMT-FM's Jay and Daniel Levin Performance Studio of Chicago.

For more information about Cedille, founded in 1989, go to cedillerecords.org.


Three local artists are finalists in a national contest judged, in part, by David Lee Cscsko, a Chicago artist and designer whose work is part of the new Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital of Chicago and the El's Belmont station.

Kara Johnson of Chicago, Ben Salus of Homewood and Jessica Williams of DeKalb are three of the final five competing in the Tully's Gathering Grounds Art Contest. The winner, which is determined by public voting through Facebook, will receive $1,000 cash and a trip to Tully's Coffee's Vermont hometown to create art through a town community revitalization project. The winner will also get $2,000 in building materials to work on the project.

One vote is allowed per day through May 24. You can view the five finalists and vote here.

"Suburban Chicago's Got Talent," a local talent competition, will hold auditions from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. June 6 to 8, by appointment only at the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre, 111 W. Campbell St. in Arlington Heights.
The overall winner will receive a trip to a 2014 "America's Got Talent" audition to peform for ashow screening panel -- a travel package valued at $2,000.
The organizers of "Suburban Chicago's Got Talent," stress that the audition trip does NOT guarantee the winner will ultimately be seen by "America's Got Talent" celebrity judges.
The entrance fee for a solo act is $5; $10 for a group act. Only amateur acts will be accepted.
For more information and to sign up for an audition time, go to www.MetropolisArts.com/scgtauditions.

73039385SO009_MICROBREWERIE_20477905.jpg (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Lincoln Park Zoo will be pouring an expanded list of local microbrews this summer at the Patio at Cafe Brauer and Cafe at Wild Things, both of which open Friday, May 24 through Labor Day.

Goose Island Brewing Co. will again be creating its "Boardwalk Blue," a blueberry-flavored lager made especially for the zoo. Two Brothers, 5 Rabbit Cerveceria and Revolution Brewing are other local brewers available.

For more information, click here.


"The Tomorrow People" (above)

The CW Network knows when it's onto a good thing. This season's biggest hit has been "Arrow" starring Stephen Amell. Keeping it all in the family, Stephen's cousin Robbie Amell will star in the CW's new action-adventure drama "The Tomorrow People," debuting this October on Wednesdays after "Arrow." Robbie Amell ("Revenge") plays a young man "with abilities he is only beginning to understand." It's executive-produced by Greg Berlanti ("Arrow," "Green Lantern").

The younger-skewing network announced next season's line-up to advertisers on Thursday in New York City. The good news is nothing looks as bad as last year's "Beauty and the Beast," which somehow has managed to hang on for another season.

Next season's plans call for a highly-anticipated spinoff of "The Vampire Diaries" -- the net's highest-rated series -- called "The Originals." Airing Tuesdays, it features Joseph Morgan, Daniel Gillies and Claire Holt as the original vampire family in New Orleans. The cutdown looked intriguing. It probably has the most promise of the bunch, given "TVD's" appeal.


"The Originals" (above)


The Chicago engagement of "The Book of Mormon" will come to an end on Oct. 6. Word came out today officially of the closing date. According to the official statement from the show's producers, the musical is slated to return to Chicago in the 2014-2015 season.

The final block of tickets for the hit musical's final four weeks, Sept. 10-Oct. 6, at the Bank of America Theatre, 18 W. Monroe, will go on sale at 10:30 p.m. May 18 at all Broadway in Chicago box offices, by phone at (800) 775-2000 or online at www.broadwayinchicago.com.

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Now folks all over the country can catch the action at Chicago's TBS Just for Laughs comedy festival, taking place June 11-16 around town. Thanks to a so-called "digital hub" located at Stage 773 on W. Belmont, comedy fans can tune into Stage 773 performances on such popular online outlets as Conan O'Brien's Team Coco, Dailymotion, Yahoo!, Twitter, YouTube, Google+ and more.

One of the most prominent participants, O'Brien's Team Coco, will select some of its favorite material from the hub's "Cabaret" stage (one of four venues at Stage 773) -- podcasts, solo shows, ensemble performances -- to broadcast on Teamcoco.com.

Other participants include stand-up, "The Green Room" host and frequent "Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me!" guest Paul Provenza as well as the all-female comedy troupe The Katydids (presented by Lorne Michaels' Above Average digital outlet). Pandora internet radio service and SiriusXM are on board as well.

For more info and tickets to live events, go here. Or here.

The Katydids: How to Live Like Beyonce


It was a devastating day for smoked meats.

Popular BBQ emporium Lillie's Q was damaged by a fire March 14, but from the ashes rises the phoenix of all things beef and chicken.

Charlie McKenna, chef and owner of Lillie's Q plans to reopen his Bucktown restaurant in mid-June.

His team heads to Memphis to compete in the World Championship Barbeque Cooking Contest -- entering in the whole pork shoulder category. McKenna and his 'Q team hope to bring home the honors (the contingent won in 2007) in advance of serving the goods back in Bucktown.

"It's been a long road trying to get Lillie's Q in Bucktown back open, but we're getting close," McKenna said in a press release. "The outpouring of support from other chefs and restaurant owners, loyal customers, and friends of Lillie's Q has been absolutely incredible. We're hoping to put together a really amazing finish at Memphis In May this weekend, and ride that wave right into getting the Bucktown location of Lillie's Q open. We can't wait to open our doors again and feed everyone."

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The Drury Lane Oakbrook Terrace Theatre has nabbed a big prize. It has secured the rights to produce the epic Schonberg-Boublil musical "Les Miserables."

The show (previously seen in a non-Broadway edition at the Marriott Theatre) is to be directed by Rachel Rockwell ("Oliver!, "Annie" and next season's "Brigadoon" at the Goodman), will run March 21- June 1 2014 as part of the theater's 30th anniversary season.

For tickets call (630) 530-1111 or visit Drury Lane's website.

cheese.jpg (AP Photo/Niamh O'Neill-Culhane)

One of France's most popular exports, cheese, will be celebrated in a pop-up shop from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturday, May 18, at 1051 N. Rush St.

Cheese Cafe, from the Cheese of France Marketing Council, will offer more than 20 French cow's milk cheeses at wholesale prices. Admission is free. There will be samples of Brie, Camembert, Fourme d'Ambert and Pont l'Evêque, among others, and chef demonstrations using French cheeses in classic American dishes.

For more information about the event of French cheese, click here.


Michael Mosley (left) as Johnny Farrell and Kevin Daniels as Hank St. Clare star as a couple of EMTs in the Chicago-based comedy "Sirens." (Photo by Tommy Garcia/USA Network)

Add another television series to the list of those being filmed in Chicago: USA Network announced Thursday that it's picked up the half-hour comedy "Sirens" from Denis Leary ("Rescue Me") and Bob Fisher ("Wedding Crashers").

It's part of the cable net's plans to beef up its comedy offerings now that it has the rights to start airing repeats of the ABC hit "Modern Family" this fall (Sept. 24, to be exact).

The recently-ordered original comedy series are slated to debut early next year and include the sitcom "Playing House" from Jessica St. Clair ("Bridesmaids," "Best Friends Forever") and Lennon Parham ("Best Friends Forever," "Accidentally On Purpose"). USA also ordered the comedy pilot "Love Is Dead."

"This is the right time to be introducing half-hour original comedies to the USA audience. With 'Modern Family' joining our line-up in the fall, we can leverage television's most popular comedy to serve as a powerful launch pad for new originals in this genre," said Chris McCumber, Co-President of USA Network. The network unveiled its programming plans to advertisers Thursday.

"Sirens" follows three of Chicago's best EMTs whose "sometimes silly, self-righteous and even self-destructive personalities make them unqualified for sustaining relationships, friendships and most occupations. They are, however, uniquely qualified for saving anyone who winds up in their ambulance," according to press materials.

That means we can expect to hear plenty of sirens blaring in Chicago later this year, when filming also starts on the second season of NBC's "Chicago Fire" and its new spin-off, "Chicago PD."

"Sirens" is based on a British show and stars Michael Mosley ("Pan Am"), Kevin Daniels ("Modern Family"), Jessica McNamee ("The Vow") and Kevin Bigley ("Game Change"). Leary and Fisher co-wrote the pilot and both executive produce the series. A USA spokesperson said Leary is on the production side, not the acting side, "at this point." Jim Serpico ("Rescue Me") of Apostle, and Hal Vogel, David Aukin ("Hyde Park on Hudson"), and David Leach of Daybreak Pictures also executive produce. Filmed on location in Chicago, the series is from Apostle and Fox Television Studios, in conjunction with Daybreak Pictures.

The network also unveiled a new drama slate of upcoming development, including "Horizon," a period genre project from Gale Anne Hurd ("Walking Dead"). USA's newest original series "Graceland" (no, it has nothing to do with Elvis -- but it does star Chicago native Daniel Sunjata), from "White Collar" creator Jeff Eastin, will kick off the network's summer slate of original dramas.


Are you jacked up for Riot Fest yet? The first wave of bands was announced Wednesday and it features Fall Out Boy and Blink-182 as headliners for the festival.

Three-day passes - VIP and regular folk varieties - are on sale now.

You can click on the image above for a larger version of the lineup listing.

Can't wait til September for the shows? Here's some highlights from the 2012 installment, which finished to mostly rave reviews for it's largely rawk ambitions:

MORE: Thomas Conner talks to Fall Out Boy's Pete Wentz

Chicago actress Deanna Dunagan, who won a Tony Award as best actress for her role in "August: Osage County," and who most recently appeared in "Other Desert Cities" at the Goodman Theatre, will be featured in a play reading with the Route 66 theater company on Monday, May 20th. It will be held Upstairs at Mrs. Murphy's Irish Bistro, 3905 N. Lincoln. (Suggested donation: $5.)

The play being read, part of Route 66's Monthly Reading Series, will be Bill Cain's "How to Write a New Book for the Bible." Joining Dunagan will be actors Tim Decker, Randy Steinmeyer, and Route 66 artistic director Stef Tovar, with Damon Kiely directing.

Cain (a Jesuit priest as well as a playwright) has based his new work on his own experiences caring for his often-maddening (but always funny) dying mother. As told in a series of evocative flashbacks, the play reunites estranged members of the Cain family. As they emerge into new and often frightening roles, their questions speak to the heart of every family: What will never change...and what has to?

For additional information visit www.route66theatre.org.

Sorry, no Diddy on 'Downton Abbey'

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Screen shot 2013-05-15 at 4.36.32 PM.pngDiddy a regular on "Downton Abbey"? It seemed too good to be true -- and it wasn't.

The rapper-actor-producer-mogul tweeted Wednesday afternoon a gleeful announcement that he'll be "a series regular on DOWNTON ABBEY-my favorite show" and promised a "sneak peek" that night, setting off a flurry of retweets and online reports.

But a spokeswoman for WGBH, the Boston public TV station that brings the British series to America, quickly shot down the notion as "not true."

Despite the apparent disconnect between the refined "Downton" tone and the tough-talking founder of Bad Boy Records, the notion wasn't entirely ludicrous. The erstwhile Sean Combs has made a few respectably received attempts at highbrow acting (in "Monster's Ball" and in both stage and TV versions of "A Raisin in the Sun"), and "Downton Abbey" already dipped into the musical world to cast soprano Kiri Te Kanawa for season 4.

One-Minute Play Festival set for Victory Gardens

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The third-annual Chicago One-Minute Play Festival, presented by Victory Gardens and the One-Minute Play Festival (OMPF) will be presented June 17-18 at Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln.

The micro-plays, one-minute in length, by sixty of Chicago's top playwrights, will be directed by ten Chicago directors: Will Rogers, Jeffrey Stanton, Jess McLeod, Jason Gerace, Adam Webster, Sydney Chatman, Sarah Gitenstein, James Palmer, Lavina Jadhwani and Scott Weinstein.

In addition to the one-minute plays, a one-day dialogue and consensus-building workshop exploring the questions: "Who Are We? What is our relationship to each other? To our work? To the city that we live in?" will be held at 1 p.m. June 16 by Dominic D'Andrea, producing artistic director and founder of the OMPF and Victory Gardens' Geoffrey Jackson Scott. The session is free, but space is limited to 60 participants. To register, please email rsvp2@victorygardens.org by June 14.

For information, visit www.oneminuteplayfestival.com.


But will this play in Peoria?

Actor and singer Richard Pryor Jr., the son of the late Peoria, Ill, icon (along with late hipster saint Sam Kinison) is guest-starring in Lipstick Goes On Last, a stage comedy which makes its world premiere May 25 at the Den Theatre, 1333 N. Milwaukee in Chicago.

Pryor, Jr., a former gospel singer, will be making his Chicago stage debut. He lives in Peoria.

His father starred in the 1976 smash movie "Car Wash."

In order to raise awareness about the world premiere stage comedy he and the cast will be manning the towels from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. May 18 at the non-urban Key West Car Wash & Detail, 215 Randall Rd. in South Elgin (847-888-8486). The Key West Car Wash is easily found by the large palm trees that border the property. (Rain date is May 19).

While he won't be dressed as his father's Daddy Rich, Pryor, Jr. and the rest of the cast will be clad Seventies-style as befits the new play.

Free hot dogs and Dilly Bars while they last for those getting their rides cleaned and 8 X10 glossies will be distributed. Actors aim to sell a few raffle tickets to support this indie production at the same time.

Period hits from Rose Royce, Parliament, Chic, Vickie Sue Robinson, Leif Garrett, and Meco will be heard all the way to Barrington.


In "Lipstick Goes on Last," Meredith (Kathleen Lawlor), a former community teen pageant winner, struggles with aging, alcoholism, a defiant daughter, a philandering husband, and her high school nemesis, now a Girl Scout Leader From Hell with her own problematic family. Her best friend Rita (Ashley J. Dearborn) struggles with overeating, a still-in-the-closet husband ( Pryor, Jr.), and her feuding friends.

General admission tickets priced at $30 for the 60-seat theater are available online in advance through Brown Paper Tickets, as are half-priced tickets for groups of ten or more.

West Side native Phillip Jimenez has been appointed to the newly created post of vice president and chief operating officer of the National Museum of Mexican Art.

Jiménez, who begins Friday, will work with president Carlos Tortolero and the museum's board of directors on the institution's strategic growth and its mission. He also will oversee the Pilsen-based museum's fiscal operations, marketing, human resources, technology and strategic planning.

Previously president and CEO of San Miguel School Chicago, he will continue to serve on the school's board of directors. "As one whose career and personal interests revolve around community, I am honored to serve NMMA and the City of Chicago in this role," Jiménez said in a statement. "When I was growing up on Chicago's West Side, a sense of community was lacking. That experience gave me the desire to not only help Latinos discover and embrace the educational, cultural and spiritual touch points that help define identity, but also to share that heritage with the larger community."

Evanston's Over the Rainbow Association, the non-profit organization that has been providing affordable independent housing to Chicagoland's disabled community since the 1970s, must be "over the rainbow."

Set to provide the entertainment for this fall's benefit and "Celebration" show will be Tony Award-winning Broadway stars Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin (who just happens to be Chicago-bred).

The benefit, to be held Oct. 5 at the Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on Northwestern' University's Evanston campus, promises to be Over the Rainbow's largest fundraising event to date.

Tickets are $100 - $250 a seat and will be available to the public beginning June 18. For more details visit www.pickstaiger.org/event/rainbow.

Chris Yerga, Google engineering director for Android, announces the new Google Play Music All Access today in San Francisco.

Getting the jump on Apple, today Google announced its new streaming music service linked to Google Play for Android.

All Access -- unveiled Wednesday at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco -- is a competitor for Pandora and Spotify, a new service costing $9.99 a month (with a 30-day free trial, or sign up before June 30 and you'll get it for $7.99 a month).

The signs going up will read : "Pardon the dust."

That's the word from Steppenwolf Theatre as construction is set to begin next week on the repurposing of the former Ethan Allen furniture store at 1700 N. Halsted that stands immediately adjacent to its home at 1650 N. Halsted.

"We are bursting at the seams in our main building and garage space," said Martha Lavey, Steppenwolf's artistic director. "And this is part of our long-discussed effort to expand our campus. We're tentatively calling the new space 'The Lab' [naming rights are open to offers], and at this point we plan to use it for Steppenwolf Young Adult activities, as well as public events, classroom space and a variety of ancillary programming."

As of now, there are no plans for a formal black-box or studio theater space.

"With about 700 events a year now we really feel landlocked, to the point where we have been renting nearby spaces for the School at Steppenwolf, our 10-week summertime program for professional actors," said Lavey. "About five years ago we opened up some possibility to expand our subscription base by moving one offering to the Upstairs space, and that has been a success, though because it has only 300 seats, actors must commit to very long runs in order for us to play to all our subscribers.

The 18,000-square-foot Ethan Allen building (and its small outdoor parking lot), was purchased last year for a reported $6.4 million. Fundraising is currently underway, but the plan is to alter the facade to create a fully transparent street wall -- quite different from the rather obscuring wall of the Garage space -- and to install the proper ventilation and air-conditioning system. The architect for the project is Gordon Gill of the Chicago-based firm of Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture (AS+GG).

Blue Man Group announces Chicago art competition

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Chicago's "Blue Man Group" production has announced an art competition for professional and emerging artists.

The art should be "inspired by the exuberant and joyful essence of Blue Man Group without featuring a Blue Man."

Six winners will be chosen and 10-foot-by-10-foot reproductions of their artwork will be created for a semi-permanent outdoor art gallery on the south exterior wall of the Briar Street Theatre, 3133 N. Halsted, where the production is staged. The original pieces will be displayed inside the lobby.

The gallery will open in September as part of Chicago's Expo Art Week, which will be held Sept. 19-22 at Navy Pier.

"The celebration of creativity and connectedness has always been a priority for Blue Man Group as well as making art and artists accessible to all," said Resident General Manager Mary Grisolano in a prepared statement. "This gallery is a way to continue that mission while offering a big 'Thank You' to Chicago and the neighborhood that has been our home for 15 years."

Interested? Visit entrythingy.com/www.blueman.com for more details, full rules and regulations and entry requirements.

Nate Hartstock made waves aggressively calling born again virgin Sean Lowe a "playboy" when he was wooing his sister Desiree on last season of "The Bachelor". Now Desiree is back as "The Bachelorette," which premiers May 27, and her brother is, too.

Desiree said in a conference call with reporters today that her brother's issue with Sean was personal, not about the show itself (one guy, 25 ladies). She said her brother was supportive of her being "The Bachelorette."

"He will meet the men," she said, later adding "That was a very Sean-specific conversation and it was because he saw that Sean wasn't right for me. But he is very supportive of me being able to choose and decide."

Desiree was low-key in the conference call and couldn't say much about the show, including whether she found love or a prospective mate. At one point, a reporter pointed out that "you do not sound happy at all - is that fair to say?"

Desiree replied that she is "a naturally happy person" but "can't say at this time" if she was happy with the show's conclusion.

"You know, the journey was incredibly emotional and it was really surprising throughout," she said at one point, echoing the words of many a "Bachelorette" before her.

Other trivia tidbits - she worked out with a trainer for the weeks leading up to the show; she designed her own rose ceremony dress in the third episode; none of the previous "Bachelorettes" contacted her with any advice except for a tweet from Season 6 "Bachelorette" Ali Fedotowsky.


While the competition hammers away with multiple additions to its primetime schedule, CBS is rearranging the furniture and embarking on a relatively modest renovation.

Such are the spoils of being television's No. 1 network, not only in total viewers but in the key demo of adults ages 18- to 49-years old -- a feat it hasn't pulled off in over two decades.

That last part won't stop late night host Jimmy Kimmel from poking fun at CBS' reputation as the geriatric network.

"Those jokes aren't over until my grandmother throws away her 'Mentalist' hemorrhoid donut," Kimmel said at ABC's schedule roll out Tuesday.

The Eye net announced Wednesday that it's adding eight new series next season. That's less than half the number ordered by beleaguered NBC.


This is like, totally, killer.

The Gene Siskel Film Center is so going retro and bringing back the '80s June 1. Radical, right?

Ten of the most righteous films of the era will be shown in 33mm prints, except for the 4K digital restoration of like, "Raiders of the Lost Ark." And to make this series even more tubular? Saturdays have a double film discount. That's like $7 for general admission. Take a chill pill.

No way. Way.

On the schedule are John Hughes seminal teen flicks "Breakfast Club" and "Ferris Bueller's Day Off;" Two from the canon of Arnold Schwarzenegger, "The Terminator" and "Conan the Barbarian;" "Raiders of the Lost Ark;" "Back to the Future (finally a place to sport those Nike Hover shoes); "They Live," "Repo Man," dancing primers "Footloose" and "Dirty Dancing;" and finally, "The Right Stuff."

Tickets are on sale now.

Nora Dunn to star in 'Boeing-Boeing' at Drury Lane

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"Saturday Night Live" alum/comedienne Nora Dunn is set to star as Berthe in the Drury Lane Theatre Oakbrook production of "Boeing-Boeing," beginning previews June 13.

Dunn is no stranger to Chicago stages, having recently performed in "Love, Loss and What I Wore" at the Broadway Playhouse.

Set in Paris in the 1960s, the comedy follows the the tale of a jet-setting architect who is juggling three flight attendant fiancees with the help of his reluctant housekeeper.

Tickets, $30-$74, are available at the theater box office or by phone at (630) 530-0111 or visit www.drurylane.com.

Is Chief Keef engaged? Tweets point to yes.

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The teenage Chicago rap star had previously confirmed that he was dating popular 'video star' Pretty Mesha. Now it appears the pair may be engaged.

Last week, Keef instagramed the photo above which was posted to MediaTakeout.com.

Although they haven't confirmed their engagement, the couple's recent tweets seem to do just that:

Earlier this year, Keef was sued for child-support by a young woman with whom he had a child when he was just 15-years-old.

Will and Monifa Sims, the dynamic husband and wife who became Internet sensations after their "Tonight Show" Pumpcast karaoke video went viral last week, appeared on "The Today Show" this morning so set the record straight about all the fallout buzz surrounding the performance after it was revealed they are actors, notably Congo Square Theatre ensemble members and that Monifa had previously appeared in another Pumpcast video two years earlier --- at the very same gas station pump.

Asked my Matt Lauer, "Is it real?"
"Yes. That's us," Monifa answered.

Amid ear-to-ear smiles, the couple denied that they were tipped off by the "Tonight Show" staff about the "hidden camera."

"I always sing," Will said cheerfully."All the time. When I wake up I sing. When I came in the studio i was singing."

"We had no idea," Monifa said adding that she "goes to that same gas station every Wednesday to get gas after training her client. ... This is a blessing we did not plan," Monifa gushed.

Monifa also added that the only reason she got out of the car was that her Costco card was expired and that she had to ask the guy in the next car if she could use his card. (This sequence is not visible on the video.)

While the couple reiterated that they make a living as a bartender and fitness instructor, when asked about their "other" careers as actors, Monifa added, "We WISH we could say, 'Hey I'm on a TV show. Hello somebody! That's our dream.'"

They were not pressed by Matt Lauer or Savannah Guthrie about their careers as actors either in Chicago or Los Angeles where they are based.

Lauer had gushed during their introduction that "I wanna hang out with these guys... they're endearing."

At the end of the segment, Lauer played yesterday's video reply from Jon Bon Jovi who thanked Will for his gas station take on "Living On a Prayer."

"Thank you for having fun with the song. We appreciate it. Hope to see you on the road sometime," Bon Jovi says in the cell phone video from South Africa.

Lauer interpreted Bon Jovi's remark as an invitation from the singer for the couple to sing backup at some point for the legendary band.

What will Bon Jovi say to that?

Did Will and Monifa finally convince the deluge of naysayers?

credit: imdb.com

Deadline.com recently reported that former Chicago sketch-and-improv comedy stand-out Dave Koechner -- profiled last year in the Sun-Times -- will star in a half-hour comedy called "Whitey" on one of A&E's networks. The pilot is slated to film in mid-June and produced in part by "Hatfields & McCoys" creator Leslie Greif.

Koechner, as you might know, also starred as Todd Packer on NBC's "The Office" and is well known for his role as good-ol-boy sportscaster Champ Kind on Adam McKay's "Anchorman" films. Sample quote: "I will smash your face into a car windshield, and then take your mother, Dorothy Mantooth, out for a nice seafood dinner and never call her again."

He's also the goofy interviewer in online ads for Denny's.

According to Deadline.com, "'Whitey' centers on Guy 'Whitey' White (Koechner), a bright, conservative and frustrated guy in his 40s who is struggling to understand the changing values of a country in a world that has forever gone with the wind. Whitey graduated high school, married his high school sweetheart and spent his career working at the local engine factory until he got laid off. Now what?"

"The Pianist of Willesden Lane," the spirit-raising one-woman show featuring storyteller and concert pianist Mona Golabek, is extending through July 7 at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 North Halsted Street. Adapted and directed by Hershey Felder, and based on the book "The Children of Willesden Lane," by Golabek and Lee Cohen, this acclaimed Chicago premiere follows successful productions of the show in both Los Angeles and Boston.

Golabek tells the story of her mother, Lisa Jura, a young Jewish piano student in Vienna who is saved from the Nazi onslaught by securing a place on the "kinder transport," the British program that brought thousands of children to relative safety. Jura's independent spirit, talent and passion for the piano kept her going throughout the war. And as Golabek pays homage to the woman who clearly transmitted her many gifts to her daughter, she plays Bach, Beethoven, Chopin, Scriabin and Grieg (all superbly) while spinning an inspiring story.

Golabek has appeared at the Hollywood Bowl, the Kennedy Center and the Royal Festival Hall alongside major orchestras worldwide. A Grammy nominee, she has been the recipient of numerous awards including the Avery Fisher Prize, and has been the subject of several PBS television documentaries. Golabek is the creator and voice of "The Romantic Hours," a syndicated radio program which combines classical music with readings of poetry, letters, and stories, and can be heard on 80 stations and XM Satellite Radio.

For tickets call (312) 988.9000 or visit www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.

In what's shaping up to be an especially ambitious season for the big broadcast networks, ABC unveiled its plans Tuesday for 14 new series.

The highlights:
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- Tuesdays are all new this fall, kicking things off with Marvel's first TV series, "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." from Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"). An elite group of agents protect the planet from the strange and unknown. That's followed by a couple of new family comedies, "The Goldbergs," starring Chicago comic Jeff Garlin, and "Trophy Wife," co-written and produced by Chicago native Sarah Haskins. The Steven Spielberg-produced "Lucky 7," a drama centered on lottery winners, caps things off.
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War, academia, adolescence, kids' stories, red and blue state battles, immigration issues and clowns. It doesn't get more eclectic than that, which is the whole point of the programming for Theater on the Lake's 61st summer season at is home at Fullerton Ave. and Lake Shore Drive.

This ever-popular series, presented under the Chicago Park District banner, features week-long remounts of eight recently successful productions by many of Chicago's smaller and widely varied companies. It will kick off June 12 with a special "USO Dance," and there will a variety of special activities throughout the summer.

Here's the full lineup, which has been co-artistic curated by Halena Kays, artistic director of The Hypocrites, and Joanie Schultz, freelance director of numerous operas and plays:

± The New Colony in "The Bear Suit of Happiness" (June 12-16): Evan Linder's play, directed by Sean Kelly, is set in 1943 as Woody, a young gay American, enlists in the army. After being shipped to a remote Pacific Island, he is given an order: "Put up a show to entertain the men. Keep it simple. Needs music. And they like drag." Woody becomes a one-man war as he fights to write a show worthy of his fellows' last laughs. Torn between fantasy and reality, his silly camp show grows to be a dream of an impossibly hospitable world.

± MPAACT in "Blackademics" (June 19-23): Idris Goodwin's play, directed by Shepsu Aakhu and Marie Cisco, in which two female African-American scholars break down ideas while breaking bread and celebrating black history month in their favorite bistro. The women become deeply engrossed in spirited discourse, weaving the personal and political, academic and pop culture, and boasts and criticisms. This metaphysical comedy dramatizes the question: What does it mean to be a Black in America?

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Several days after a video of them animatedly karaoke-ing at a Burbank gas station went viral, Chicago-trained thespians Will and Monifa Sims have declared a media moratorium.

That wasn't the case just last Friday, when the bartender and fitness instructor were eager to speak with the Sun-Times about their sudden fame.

"Thanks for reaching out," Monifa (who also goes by her maiden name Days) wrote on May 14 when reached via Facebook. "Right now we are not doing any interviews." Her husband was silent as well, failing to return a phone message.

Then again, it has been a bit nutty lately. In less than a week their Web hit -- shot for a long-running TV segment called "Pumpcast News," which airs on NBC's "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" -- has garnered more than 10 millions hits on YouTube and won countless fans. Rocker Jon Bon Jovi, whose '80s tune "Livin' On a Prayer" Will busted out with gusto, is among them.

"Hello Will and Monifa Sims, we are in Johannesburg, South Africa and received word of the viral craziness that you have caused singing 'Livin On A Prayer' while pumping a tank of gas," Bon Jovi wrote on Facebook. "Thank you both very much for having so much fun with the song!"

The founding members of Chicago's Congo Square Theatre Company were even invited on Leno's program for a short interview last Wednesday and to reprise their performance. No mention was made of their professional acting backgrounds or the fact that Monifa had appeared on the "Pumpcast" segment before, not even three years prior.


Oak Brook's First Folio Theatre has announced its next season -- its 18th -- with a slate of shows this summer through next.

First is "The Rainmaker" (Aug. 3-Sept. 1), a Depression-era tale by N. Richard Nash -- originally premiered in New York in 1954 and made into a 1956 film starring Burt Lancaster and Katharine Hepburn -- about a charming con man's effect on a drought stricken Western town.

The official word came down today: Chicago's Luna Negra Dance Theater, after nearly 15 years, is "ceasing operations... due to financial constraints" until further notice.

The news, rumored for months, about the financially strapped company, comes on the heels of the resignation of its artistic director Gustavo Ramirez Sansano on April 29 and the cancellation of the troupe's entire spring series. Following the resignation announcement, Luna Negra's recently arrived executive director, Esther Jeles, had announced the launch of an international search for a new artistic director, raising the hopes of some that the company would persevere.

"Luna Negra is very proud of having provided a wonderful medium in which to celebrate and showcase Latino inspired dance in the city of Chicago. Sharing the rich Latino culture has been a source of pride and inspiration to all those involved with the company over the last 14 years. It's been tremendously difficult to come to the conclusion to cease operations, but the financial reality could not be avoided any longer," said Jorge Solis, Board President for Luna Negra Dance Theater in a prepared statement.

The Latino-rooted dance company's most recent budget was just over $1 million, and included (among other programs), an annual performance at the Harris Theater, collaborations with the Museum of Contemporary Art and a family series at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.


Here's something worth drinking to - Chicago Craft Beer Week kicks off a 10-day local tribute to beer and Chicago's many places to drink it on Thursday.

Sponsored by the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild, the fourth annual beer week is themed "Chicago: A City of Neighborhoods." It starts with the "Beer Under Glass" opening event from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. on May 16 at the Garfield Park Conservatory and ends with the "West Loop Craft Beer Fest Closing Event" on Saturday, May 25.

More than 250 venues will be participating, offering specials and $4 rare beer tastings. For more information about where, when and how to drink craft beer in Chicago, click here.


"Ralph's World: Time Machine Guitar" lands in Chicago for its world premiere broadcast at 2:30 p.m. May 17 on WTTW (Channel 11).
The show stars Chicago rocker Ralph Covert, the Grammy-nominated creator of the popular kids music imprint Ralph's World.

Think of a plugged-in Mr. Rogers with way more hair......

ABC's older-skewing but still popular ballroom blitz, "Dancing With the Stars," will only air on one night during future seasons, the network entertainment president said.

"We're focusing our energies on Monday," Paul Lee said in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday, the day the network rolls out its 2013-14 primetime schedule to advertisers.

This means Tuesday's hour-long results show will go away and the results portion will be wrapped into Monday's two-hour program. Lee said it's still possible to have a viewer voting component even if the show is condensed to one night, but he didn't elaborate on specifics.

The competition show remains popular on ABC but its audience is older -- something advertisers don't like. Lee said the network will make an effort to attract younger viewers through smart casting choices, much like it did with the last season of "The Bachelor."

ABC is adding 14 new shows to its lineup next season, including a spinoff of its fairytale saga "Once Upon a Time" and an action-adventure series stemming from the Marvel Comics world called "Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." from Joss Whedon ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer").

Other new shows the network is adding to its schedule next season include "Super Fun Night," written by and starring "Bridesmaids" actress Rebel Wilson, and a Texas Rangers drama called "Killer Women."

Two of its new shows will be filmed in Chicago: "Betrayal" is about a photographer and a lawyer who become lovers and find themselves on the opposite side of a murder investigation. It will air as a "limited series" of around 12 episodes this season and could be back for more the following year. The other is "Mind Games," starring Steve Zahn and Christian Slater as a couple of brothers who solve clients' problems using the science of psychological manipulation.

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Shortly before he does a couple of New York shows at Caroline's on Broadway with Arab American comic Mo Amer, Chicago's own Azhar Usman -- co-founder of the stand-up revue "Allah Made Me Funny" -- is scheduled to appear May 21 on Fox's "The O'Reilly Factor" to talk terrorism and whatever else the famously bulldog-ish host deems pertinent and/or amusing. Amer, who's based in L.A., will be on hand as well.

A former attorney and the son of Indian-Americans, Usman recently opened (with Amer) for Dave Chappelle and has described himself thusly: "Intellectually White, emotionally Japanese, spiritually Indian, psychically Persian, physically Arab, artistically Southeast Asian, romantically Latino and psychologically Black."

And here's what he has to say about stand-up in general: "Great standup is neither didactic nor message-laden; it is honest, raw, sincere and fearlessly truthful. It is these attributes that make it authentic and therefore relatable. This is the basis of being not merely funny, but hilarious, and that's the real goal for the comics' comic."

Obvious poll: Americans are sick of hipsters

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hipsters.jpgSometimes pollsters go forth into the world and come back with data that reveals truths so obvious one wonders why they bothered. So if you need the proof, here it is: Americans are sick of hipsters.

A new national survey from Public Policy Polling has found that 42 percent of Americans are sick of hearing about their craft beers and buzz bands. Only 16 percent of those surveyed like hipsters, and 43 percent were indifferent.

Yo-Yo Ma, CSO players perform for kids at Lurie

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As part of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's Citizen Musician initiative, cellist Yo-Yo Ma and several CSO players will visit the Lurie Children's Hospital for a private concert Tuesday.

Ma, the CSO's Judson and Joyce Green creative consultant, will join the Civitas Ensemble, which consists of CSO members Yuan-Qing Yu (assistant concertmaster), Weijing Wang (viola), Kenneth Olsen (assistant principal cello) and J. Lawrie Bloom (clarinet/bass clarinet, to celebrate the group's work at the hospital. The ensemble regularly performs and visits at hospital to demonstrate the healing power of live music.

Launched in 2011, the CSO's Citizen Musician initiative seeks to expand the role of music in civic and cultural life "by creating and enhancing communities through music." For more info, go to cso.org/Institute/CitizenMusician.aspx

Nico Muhly concert to be live streamed Tuesday

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If you can't be in New York City on Tuesday night for the highly anticipated "An Evening with Nico Muhly, Two Boys and Other Works," you can watch it via a live video stream, beginning at 9 p.m. CST on NPR Music (npr.org/music) and WQXR-FM's Q2 Music online contemporary classical station (wqxr.org/q2music).

The concert at NYC hot spot Le Poisson Rouge serves as a run-up for the Metropolitan Opera premiere this October of Muhly's "Two Boys." One of classical music's rising stars, Muhly, 31, will appear at the concert Tuesday as host and performer, joined by Met singers Jennifer Zetlan and Paul Appleby (who will play the opera's lead roles at the Met). Muhly also will perform selections for piano and viola with Nadia Sirota, his frequent collaborator.

Viewers can participate in a live webchat hosted by NPR Music's Tom Huizenga. Afterward, the program will be available as an archival video on both sites.

"Two Boys," the story of a fatal online friendship between two male teenagers, with a libretto by Craig Lucas, had its world premiere at the English National Opera in June 2011. For details, go to metopera.org.

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David Sedaris discusses his social theories with John Stewart last week.

He seems to be the Odysseus of the book tour.

Author and satirist David Sedaris returns to Chicago Nov. 2 at the Auditorium Theater, another stop on his Iliad-like promotional tour for his latest book "Let's Explore Diabetes With Owls."

Tickets start at $55, and go on sale to the public on Friday.


For this year's annual Corporate Night benefit May 20, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be "young," as R&B singer Janelle Monae replaces Aretha Franklin as the concert's headliner.

CSO reps announced Monday that Franklin had to cancel because of upcoming medical treatment. The Grammy-nominated Monae, best known for performing with the pop band fun. on the mega-hit "We Are Young," will reprise a program that she will perform May 16 with the San Francisco Symphony

Now in its 24th year, the CSO's Corporate Night salutes Chicago's business community with a one-night-only performance that pairs CSO musicians with hitmakers from the pop, jazz and R&B/soul fields. Proceeds benefit the CSO's general operations, along with music education and community engagement programs. For more information, go to cso.org.

PHOTO: Janelle Monae at this year's Coachella Festival in Indio, Calif. | (Karl Walter/Getty Images)

Illinois men, represent! Of the 25 men competing for Desiree Hartsock's final rose on the new season of "The Bachelorette," three are from Chicago and one is from west suburban Winfield. The only state with more men on the show is California.

The lucky local guys are:

Grammy Awards two weeks earlier in 2014

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To avoid conflicting with the Winter Olympics and the Super Bowl, the Grammy Awards will be two weeks earlier next year: Jan. 26. The Recording Academy, which presents the Grammys, and CBS, which telecasts the awards, announced the date change Monday. For 2015, the awards will return to their traditional second Sunday in February slot (Feb. 8). The 2014 event will be at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

This year's awards show was seen by 28.4 million people, the second-largest audience for the program since 1993, according to the Nielsen Co. This year's show featured pop superstar Justin Timberlake (above, with Jay-Z) and collaborations honoring Bob Marley and Levon Helm. For more info, go to grammy.com.

In his recent book, "Dancers Among Us: A Celebration of Joy in the Everyday" (Workman, $17.95), photographer Jordan Matter has captured dancers in every possible environment but their most usual ones -- the rehearsal studio and the theater.

His high energy, offbeat, often acrobatic shots capture them in mid-flight and mid-spin on the beach, at a construction site, in a library, in an office cubicle, in a restaurant, a park, a shoe store and beyond. It's gimmicky, eye-popping fun, and the photographs also serve as a vivid reminder of just what extraordinary feats dancers can pull off.

Matter will be paying a visit to the Chicago Photography Center, 3301 N. Lincoln, on Friday, May 31 at 7 p.m., to give a lecture on the making of the book, and the various trials and tribulations involved in capturing its images.

A New York-based portrait photographer, Matter's work has been featured on "Today," CBS, NBC, and the BBC and in many publications worldwide.He began his "Dancers Among Us" project by asking a member of the Paul Taylor Dance Company to dance for him in an unexpected place. Dressed in a commuter's suit and tie, the dancer flew across a Times Square subway platform. That image is joined by many others in his book.

Work out the Netflix subscriptions already, because the digital streaming service brings the Bluths back May 26. The company posted a 90-second clip on YouTube Sunday, and fans get an update on each member of the dysfunctional family.


Backstreet's back, alright.

And to celebrate 20 years in the business, the recently reunited band kicks off their World Like This tour at Charter One Pavillion at Northerly Island August 2.

"That's right, baby! All five of us are back together. It's our 20th anniversary tour. We've got a brand-new album coming out," Nick Carter said, on Ryan Seacrest's website.

That's the SAME DAY as Lollapalooza, folks.

Openers included "Jersey Shore's" DJ Pauly D and Jesse McCartney.

Tickets go on sale Friday, but their Facebook fans are already in the know.


When Mike and Ike broke up last year, celebrity fans, including Lamar Odom, were devastated and took to YouTube to express their condolences.

nelly.jpegHip-hop music star Nelly helped broker candy peace, and will be in Chicago for the 2013 Sweets and Snacks Expo May 21 to spread the news of the reunion.

"I have always loved Mike and Ike candies, and they are a must-have in my dressing rooms and tour bus and for my entire team!" Nelly said in a press release. "I, along with thousands of fans, was devastated when I heard of the split. I'm thrilled they have reunited and look forward to sharing that excitement with both my fans and those of Mike and Ike."

"Sean Saves the World"
Comedy starring west suburban native Sean Hayes as a divorced gay dad
Debuts this fall, 8 p.m. Chicago time on Thursdays


Tick tock tick tock: The Kiefer Sutherland-starring, adrenaline-pumping cat-and-mouse thriller "24" -- Fox's addictive series that gave rise to binge-watching -- will be back in the summer of 2014, the network announced Monday.

"24: Live Another Day" will catch up with super-agent Jack Bauer (Sutherland) "several years" following the events of the final season, which wrapped in 2010 after an eight-season run.

It really should be called "12" instead of "24," since that's how many episodes will make up the shortened season, scheduled for a May 2014 premiere. The network promises it will "retain the real-time, pulse-pounding, fast-paced format with split screens and complex interweaving storylines, with 12 episodes representing 24 hours."

The show is designed to be a one-time event but could potentially return for more.

The resurrected series, long rumored to come back as a feature film, will reunited Sutherland with Howard Gordon ("Homeland"), who served as showrunner for most of the series' duration.

"Jack Bauer has always been an exciting, thrilling character, and I confess that I've missed him," said Gordon, executive producer. "The character has evolved through the years, and this new and exciting event series format is perfect to tell the next chapter of his story and continue to reflect how the world is changing. Fans can rest assured that the Jack they know and love will be back."

Originally debuting in the fall of 2001, "24" was nominated for 73 Emmys over the course of its eight seasons. (It won in 2006 for Outstanding Drama Series.) Sutherland himself gleaned seven Emmy nods for best actor along with one win.

Taste of Chicago names chef of the day lineup

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Winning a James Beard Award always is a wakeup call to Chicagoans that they want to try that chef's food.

Last week Paul Kahan was named the James Beard Outstanding Chef of 2012 (an honor shared with New York's David Chang). Ah, but try getting into a chef's restaurant right after they've won; it's a challenge.

Well, here's your chance to sample Kahan's award-winning fare. Diners will have a chance to experience Kahan's talents at Taste of Chicago. He and several other past Beard winners will make up the Celebrity Chef Du Jour team during the Taste, which kicks off July 10 and continues through July 14. Tickets for the popular Du Jour meals go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday at tasteofchicago.us. (There is a limit of four tickets for each meal. Also, tickets for the Taste concerts go on sale at the same time.)

Launched at last year's Taste, the dining option features a different celebrity chef each day who creates a sitdown, three-course meal -- in an air-conditioned pavilion -- for $40 a person. Sort of an award-winning restaurant away from home.

The meal will be a dinner that begins at 6:30 p.m. during the weekdays of Taste and a noon brunch on Saturday and Sunday. Kahan -- whose restaurants include Blackbird, The Publican, avec, Big Star and Publican Quality Meats -- will prepare brunch on July 14 along with Publican's Chef de Cuisine Brian Huston.

Other award-winning chefs participating in Chef Du Jour include Rick Bayless (July 10), Carrie Nahabedian (July 11), Giuseppe Tentori (July 12) and Gale Gand and The Hearty Boys (July 13).

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Chicago's parks will be alive with the sights and sounds of music, theater, dance, movies, the circus and many other cultural events this summer.

In an announcement being made ast the Garfield Park Conservatory on Tuesday, Mayor Emanuel will herald plans for 750 citywide performances and other activities as part of the expanded programming under the umbrella title of "Night Out in the Parks." Devised by the Chicago Park District and the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, in collaboration with many local arts organizations, the summer programming will build on the success of traditional activities like Movies in the Park and last summer's hugely successful inaugural season of Shakespeare in the Park. The goal is to expand access and exposure to the arts, as well as "to make community parks a safe haven and a hub of activity." Many of the events are offered with free admission.

As first announced by Mayor Emanuel in January, an additional $2 million in NATO Summit legacy funds is being invested in neighborhood parks and cultural programs, with $750,000 of those private funds to expand cultural and arts programming throughout the city. Those funds will help pay for the expansion of these summer programs.

In a prepared statement, Chicago Park District Superintendent Michael P. Kelly said: "We welcome Chicagoans and visitors alike to save a trip downtown and visit their local park to enjoy the breadth of world-class cultural programming that we will be offering in their community." The hope is to reach more than 20,000 people throughout the summer.

Among the new programs that will be part of the programming are: Grant Park Music Festival choral performances; the Juicebox series for children; The Hypocrites' "Romeo and Juliet"; the Eye on India festival; Collaboraction's "Crime Scene: Let Hope Rise"; Elastic Arts' Culture Coach; and the Chicago Children's Theatre and Redmoon's "The Elephant and the Whale."

Seth Meyers named 'Late Night' host at NBC

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Seth Meyers, the longtime "Weekend Update" anchor on "Saturday Night Live," will take over as host of NBC's "Late Night" when Jimmy Fallon moves to "The Tonight Show," the network announced Sunday.

"We think Seth is one of the brightest, most insightful comedy writers and performers of his generation. His years at SNL's 'Weekend Update' desk, not to mention being head writer of the show for many seasons, helped him hone a topical brand of comedy that is perfect for the 'Late Night' franchise," said NBC Entertainment Chairman Bob Greenblatt.

The Chicago-trained comedian will be only the fourth host of "Late Night" since David Letterman launched the 11:35 p.m. (Chicago time) show in 1982. Conan O'Brien succeeded Letterman in 1993, and Fallon took over in 2009, when O'Brien left for his brief run as the "Tonight Show" host.


Alain Weber, president of the Lycee Francais de Chicago, will receive the Legion of Honour in a presentation Saturday night at the Radisson Blu Hotel.

Established by Napoleon Bonaparte, the Legion of Honour is France's highest decoration and is given to those who promote French culture at an exemplary level. Weber will receive the award from Francois Delattre, France's ambassador to the United States.

Weber has been with the school, an international K-12 school on the city's Near North Side, since 2007. He is known for his work citywide in supporting the French community and culture. For more information about the school, go to lyceechicago.org.

PHOTO: Alain Weber (center) gives France's first lady Valerie Trierweiler a tour of a classroom at Lycee Francais de Chicago last year. | AFP PHOTO

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The two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, Presidential Medal of Freedom recipient and celebrated biographer of Harry Truman, John Adams, Teddy Roosevelt has been selected to receive the Newberry Library Award as Chicago's Gold Coast-based institution wraps up its 125th anniversary campaign.

The award was established in 1987 to honor those who make "outstanding contributions to the humanities, particularly in fields of endeavor related to the Newberry's collection."

With more than 400 people in attendance, including high school teachers and students, the sold-out event (during which McCullough is scheduled to speak) takes place Monday, May 13, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Harvest Bible Chapel on N. Dearborn. A ticketed reception follows at the Newberry.

"I'm just thankful I'm able to do the thing I most love to do in life," McCullough told AARP magazine in 2011. "[I] still love to get up out of bed in the morning and get to it. The research is like working on a detective case. But I love the writing best of all. And I'm still asking: Can I do this better than I did it before? Am I good enough to express what I really feel, what I really want this piece of work to impart?"

McCullough previously received another Chicago honor, the Carl Sandburg Literary Award, in 2000.

Opera stars pay tribute to John Denver on CD

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Stars of the opera world pay homage to the late pop/folk singer-songwriter John Denver on the upcoming CD, "Great Voices Sing John Denver," due out June 11.

John Denver's music is featured on a new tribute album by stars of the opera world.

Produced by Cherry Lane Music Publishing founder Milt Okun, the roster features legendary tenor Placido Domingo and Placido Domingo Jr. on "Perhaps Love" (a duet originally recorded by Placido senior along with Denver); soprano Danielle de Niese on "Rhymes and Reasons"; mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves on "Sunshine on My Shoulders"; bass-baritone Shenyang on "Shanghia Breezes" and baritone Nathan Gunn on "Calypso."

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Nathan Gunn

Gunn will be featured at Chicago's Lyric Opera next season (which kicks off in October) in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville." Also featured on the album (and headed here for the Lyric's new season) are: Patricia Racette ("Leaving on a Jet Plane") in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly"; Thomas Hampson ("Sweet Surrender") in Wagner's "Parsifal" and Evanston native Matthew Polenzani ('Per Te") in Mozart's "La clemenza di Tito."

For ticket information to the Lyric Opera's current or next season click here.

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While "Chicago Fire" isn't exactly burning up the Nielsen's ratings list, the Dick Wolf drama does turn out solid numbers and is white hot in Chicago.

And now next Wednesday's show sets the stage for a spinoff, "Chicago P.D." The description reads a bit like "Hatfields and McCoys" or cowboys vs. ranchers. But the two sides of the police force -- beat cops and Intelligence Unit -- find common ground patrolling the streets of Chicago.

Leading the Intelligence Unit is Sergeant Hank Voight (Jason Beghe) who mentors Detective Antonio Dawson (Jon Seda) despite his troubles with the boss.

Hats off to Sun-Times colleague Darel Jevens for linking Will and Monifa -- that cute couple from "The Tonight Show" 'Pumpcast News" skit who have become Internet sensations---- with Chicago's own Congo Square Theater company where the Sims husband-and-wife duo are ensemble members.

NU to return Napoleonic era documents to France

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The Northwestern University Library will return a letter written by the brother of Emperor Napoleon I at a repatriation ceremony Thursday in Evanston.

Dated April 27, 1792, the hand-written letter by Joseph Bonaparte, the emperor's 22-year-old brother, discusses a skirmish in Corsica. Northwestern will present the letter, along with 250 documents, to M. Graham Paul, consul general of France in Chicago, at the ceremony. In 2009, NU archivist Jason Nargis discovered the letter, written in Italian and signed "Buonaparte," while cataloging the library's McBride Collection.

The library received this collection from the family of an American entertainer named Jack McBride, who was stationed in Corsica during World War II. McBride is credited with saving the collection when he stopped soldiers from burning the documents.

The ceremony follows an NU symposium, "Retour a la France: Restoring Cultural Heritage in the 21st Century," in which Northwestern librarians will discuss the rediscovery and identification of letters in the McBride Collection. Also speaking will be Northwestern historian Peter Hayes and Theodore Zev Weiss, NU's Holocaust Educational Foundational professor, on "The U.S. and the Repatriation of Objects Taken in World War II."

The symposium and ceremony will start at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Big Ten Room of Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Dr., Evanston. The free event, which is open to the public but seating is limited. For more information, go to northwestern.edu.

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If you happen to be bumming around Navy Pier from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. this afternoon/evening (Friday) and you're a fan of Chicago-bred/trained comedian Jeff Garlin of "Curb Your Enthusiasm" fame, be on the lookout for erstwhile "At the Movies" host Ben Lyons.

As part of the national Yahoo! On the Road tour, he'll be randomly stopping folks and issuing various challenges. Those who successfully complete said challenges, which aren't likely to be all that challenging, nab tix to Garlin's private performance at 6.p.m. this evening at the House of Blues on N. Dearborn. Lyons has 100 to hand out.

'August: Osage County' movie trailer released

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The Weinstein Company today released the official movie trailer for the much-anticipated "August: Osage County" based on the Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play by Steppenwolf Theatre ensemble member Tracy Letts, who also penned the screenplay. The sizzling drama premiered at Steppenwolf in 2007.

The film version, directed by veteran TV writer/producer John Wells and produced by George Clooney and Grant Hezlov, stars Meryl Streep, Sam Shepard, Julia Roberts, Dermot Mulroney, Abigail Breslin, Juliette Lewis and Ewan McGregor in a story about a dysfunctional Oklahoma family reuninting over a family crisis during which old wounds are reopened and truths (and lives) are ripped apart.

The film is due out in November.

Riccardo Muti weighs in on the Rachel Shteir debate

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In this Sunday's edition, the New York Times Book Review reports that it received more than 100 letters in response to Rachel Shteir's controversial essay, published April 21, on three Chicago-related books: "The Third Coast," "Golden" and "You Were Never in Chicago" (the latter by Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg).

One of the letters comes from Chicago Symphony Orchestra music director Riccardo Muti, reprinted below:

To the Editor:

As someone who has chosen Chicago as an adopted city, I read Rachel Shteir's review of a number of books about Chicago with great interest. I strongly disagree with the negative portrayal of a city I have come to love. As a European, I can confirm the deep respect that Chicago has throughout Europe as one of the great symbols of the United States.

Chicago is a beautiful city with many resources, including the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, one of the best orchestras anywhere in the world.

Chicago's greatest resource is its wonderful people, who do not see music merely as an entertainment but also as cultural enrichment. This is a city rich in neighborhoods with great diversity that have been nothing but incredibly responsive to our attempts to bring music to those who may not or cannot come to us in the concert hall, whether because of cost or other barriers.

In each case, these efforts to share our music widely have been received with tremendous openness and affection, an outpouring of feelings from the heart that is as profound as any I have experienced conducting the great orchestras of the world across many cities and countries. Chicagoans are proud of their city, as we all should be.

The writer is the music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra

For more letters, go to www.nytimes.com/2013/05/12/books/review/chicago-manuals.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&


She penned the much loved lip-reader episode of "Seinfeld" that starred Chicago's own Marlee Matlin. She even dated Jerry (Seinfeld, that is) for a year, decades ago, but for the last 16 years has lived with a female partner with whom she raises an adopted son.

There've been stints with "Saturday Night Live," "The Larry Sanders Show" and "Modern Family," as well. Her work on the latter nabbed a 2012 Writers Guild Award.

All of which is to say that Carol Leifer has kicked butt in an historically dude-dominated field for a long time.

"[W]hen I started stand-up in the late '70s, it felt so easy to get into stand-up because there were so few people doing it and so few women," Leifer, 56, told Time magazine in 2009. "I always saw it as a tremendous advantage, and I always tell women that if you're in the minority in whatever you do, there are advantages to that which I think are enormous. Especially in a performing way. It sets you apart."

On Sunday, May 19, you can see Leifer in the flesh when the former "Celebrity Apprentice" contestant performs her one-woman show "Judaism is in my DNA" at the North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe. The show includes bits on growing up Jewish, her coming out (at age 40) and her rise through the testosterone stoked ranks of stand-up -- which included 25 appearances on David Letterman's show.

"It's a great time for women in comedy now," Leifer told Boston magazine in April. "They're really coming to the forefront of everything. Now, they're not even seen as funny women, but just funny people."

Judaism is in my DNA
Starring Carol Leifer
Sunday, May 19 at 5 p.m.
North Shore Congregation Israel
(847) 835-0724
Tickets $72 in advance, $82 at the door

CHICAGO_PICASSO_33955965.JPG (AP Photo/Caryn Rousseau)

Time is running out to see "Picasso and Chicago," the popular show at the Art Institute that explores the relationship between the visionary Spanish artist and our city. The show closes May 12.

On Friday and Saturday night, the museum will keep the Picasso show open until 8 p.m. If you are currently a member or subscribe to a membership, museum entrance is free and you can get in to the show at 10 a.m. Saturday and Sunday, 30 minutes before the museum opens to the general public.

If you take advantage of the extended hours, you must enter through the Michigan Avenue door after 5 p.m.

Ticket prices and museum information can be found here.

Stage Left Theatre is partnering with the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events to present LeapFest 10, the company's annual new-play festival which will be held June 11-30 at the Storefront Theater, 66 E. Randolph.

LeapFest is an annual event featuring several new plays with socio-political themes, presented as workshop productions in rotating repertory. This year's festival includes new works from Scott Barsotti, Steven Haworth, Kristin Idaszak, Jayme McGhan, Steven Simoncic and Katie Watson.

The three-week LeapFest event is designed to help playwrights and their plays bridge the gap between development and full production. To further this objective, the festival features an extensive rehearsal process for each play, multiple workshop performances before the public, and post-show audience discussions after each performance. In addition to our general audiences, regional theater producers and artistic directors are invited to attend the festival in order to get an advance look at promising work.

The kick-off for LeapFest 10 is a First Night celebration beginning at 7 p.m. on June 11 at The Storefront Theater . It will feature a preview of the six plays to begin at 7:30 p.m, with the playwrights, directors, cast, designers, members of the Stage Left ensemble, and friends and supporters joining for a free meet-and-greet event. Tickets and information for all events are available by calling (800) 595-4849 or visiting www.stagelefttheatre.com. Single tickets are $11, or you can purchase a LeapPASS for $25 that entitles the bearer to full access to all LeapFest shows and special events.

Here's the complete LeapFest lineup:

'Blood and Gifts'
When: Through July 28
Where: TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington
Info:(773) 281-8463, ext. 6; www.timelinetheatre.com
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

For years the most nagging question in U.S. foreign policy was this: How did we get into Vietnam? In more recent times, that question (among many, many others) has been replaced by this one: How did we get into Afghanistan, and what kind of dirty double game has been going on in Pakistan?

In "Blood and Gifts," the ferociously smart, thoroughly excoriating 2011 drama by J.T. Rogers -- now receiving a TimeLine Theatre production that is altogether as bloody brilliant as the play itself -- those questions are answered in terms that are not only thrillingly dramatic and non-dogmatic, but deeply personal. Rogers knows the political machinations inside and out, but far more importantly, he understands how to bring to life the passions, pride, resentment, fanatacism and egotism that can drive nations, tribes and individuals to the edge of the abyss and beyond.

The two most frequently used words in Rogers' play are "trust" and "secrets." More often than not, trust is betrayed. As for secrets, they exist like a set of trick boxes -- one lodged inside countless others. And so goes the world.

Mark your calendar and bake a cake. The Filament Theatre Ensemble is gearing up to present the Bob Dylan Birthday Bash, a celebration and concert featuring performances by local musicians of some of the legendary singer/songwriter's classic songs on Saturday, May 18 starting at 7:30 p.m. at the Filament space, 4041 N. Milwaukee. (Doors open 30 minutes earlier.)

The event will be hosted by Tom Jackson, who has been celebrating Dylan's birthday on Chicago radio station WLUW for more than 15 years, and is the primary host of "Somebody Else's Troubles", a roots music show that broadcasts on WLUW on Saturdays at 11 a.m. Performers are set to include Dan Aranda, David Bragman, Bucky Halker, Luke Heiden, Tom Jackson, Laura Joy, Peter Oyloe, and others. The concert will be in the style of a folk hootenanny, with each performer taking multiple turns in a "round robin."

The Bob Dylan Birthday Bash is part of Filament Theatre Ensemble's ongoing special programming in its still unfinished new theatere space in the Portage Park neighborhood. Admission is free of charge, but donations are welcome. All proceeds from donations will go to Filament to help fund the build-out of their theater.

For more information phone (773) 270-1660 or visit www.filamenttheatre,org.

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Wondering what to do with Mom after Mother's Day brunch this weekend? Been striving to appreciate her more despite the differences between you?

Here's a fun way to satisfy both at once: see the 1981 flick "Mommie Dearest" when it screens Sunday afternoon, May 12, at the Music Box Theatre. There'll be a pre-show featuring Dick O'Day and the Hell in a Handbag Players, as well as a mother/daughter matching outfit contest. Sorry, sons.

Based on a 1978 bestselling memoir of the same name by troubled movie star Joan Crawford's adopted daughter Christina, the film (like the book) garnered lots of media attention and spawned some quotable lines (see above).

If you haven't seen it, Faye Dunaway's often over-the-top portrayal of Crawford is simultaneously disturbing, comical and even enlightening. "Hey," you might realize if you haven't already, as Dunaway neglects her progeny or launches into a frightening tirade, "my old lady rocks."

Mommie Dearest
Music Box Theatre
3733 N. Southport
Sunday, May 12 at 2 p.m.
(773) 871-6604
Tickets $12 (pre-show/screening only) and $42 (includes brunch)

A trio of Chicago theater talents -- John Stoops (who has a long connection to the comedy scene), Tim Evans (executive director of Northlight Theatre), and Marc Grapey (the veteran actor) -- have joined to establish the new summertime Three Oaks Theater Festival, to be presented in association with Harbor Arts of Harbour Country, Michigan.

The festival's inaugural season will feature remounts of three shows previously produced in acclaimed Chicago productions, as well as a world premiere musical from Poi Dog Pondering. Here's a closer look at the lineup for the inaugural season:

± "THE SELFISH GIANT," a 45-minute work presented by Blair Thomas & Co. for one performance only (July 6), recommended for audiences of all ages. The creation of two Chicago theater icons--master puppeteer Blair Thomas and singer-songwriter Michael Smith--the show is based on an Oscar Wilde classic that tells the story of a grumpy old giant who forbids the children in his village from playing in his beautiful garden. After the children are locked out, the trees and flowers refuse to grow and the garden plunges into an eternal winter. Then one morning the children sneak back into the garden, bringing with them the joyous rebirth of spring. The show, commissioned by the Chicago Children's Theater, received its world premiere by that company in 2008. (Tickets are $15 and free for children 4 and under.)

± "THE GLASS MENAGERIE," a remount of the acclaimed Mary-Arrchie Theatre Co. production, also for one performance only (July 20). This Tennessee Williams classic -- a memory play about a Depression era family -- is directed by Hans Fleischmann (who also plays Tom), and features an original score by Daniel Knox. Maggie Cain plays Amanda), with Joanne Dubach as Laura and Walter Briggs as the Gentleman Caller. (Tickets are $25.)

By Kyle Macmillan

When the weather improves, make a point to see how art intersects with the outdoors.

From works by such luminaries as Mary Miss and Mark di Suvero at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park at Governors State University to Augustus Saint-Gaudens' noble 19th-century equestrian statue on South Michigan Ave., Chicago boasts a wealth of public art old and new.

The Sun-Times asked five area art professionals to name their favorite pieces:

alba.jpg (Courtesy Land of Nod)

Local mom-to-be Casey Arendt partied with actress/hot mom Jessica Alba yesterday at a baby shower at Chicago's Land of Nod.

Arendt, who lives on the Northwest Side, was the winner of a Facebook contest looking for a deserving pregnant woman committed "towards creating a safe and healthy environment for her family while dedicating herself to the service of others and charitable work, education, or overcoming adversity," according to a written statement. She started a mom's group that focuses on greener living for children.

Outside of acting in films like "Sin City," "Machete" and "Spy Kids: All the Time in the World in 4D," Alba is founder of the eco-friendly baby supply Honest Company. She's the mother of two little ones, Honor, 4, and Haven, who turns 2 in August.

Arendt hauled away some major loot, more than $10,000 worth, including a $3,000 gift card at Land of Nod, $1,000 gift card for Tea Collection children apparel, $3,000 credit at Honest.com and gifts from Orbit, Naturepedic, Cloud B, Hatch Collection, Stonyfield, Beco and Sprinkles.

wentz.jpg ( Pete Wentz attends the 2013 NBCUniversal Summer Press Day held at The Langham Huntington Hotel and Spa on April 22, 2013 in Pasadena, California. Credit: Paul A. Hebert/Getty Images)

Wilmette native Pete Wentz, bassist for the band Fall Out Boy, revealed to "Rolling Stone" that he misused anti-anxiety drugs Xanax and Klonopin in the days following the 2009 hiatus of his band through his 2011 divorce from Ashley Simpson.

"I was probably physically and mentally addicted," the 33-year-old Wentz said, as reported by Usmagazine.com. "It started from insomnia and anxiety from flying, then it spiraled....I felt like a loser already. I'd basically gone from being the guy in Fall Out Boy to being the guy, who, like, hangs out all day. I didn't see how I'd ever come out on the other side."

Paranoia also crept in, Wentz said.

"I thought there were always people listening to me," he said in the interview in the May 23 "Rolling Stone." "Like, I had my house searched for bugs. It was crazy."

Regular therapy sessions helped him sort it all out. His son Bronx, 4, was also "super helpful for my soul."

Fall Out Boy is back together and about to start touring. The May 16 show at Chicago's Riviera Theatre is sold out.


Because when you think glitz, glam and high fashion, you think ... Sheryl Crow?

Er, well, that's who's headlining the event now known as Macy's Passport Presents Glamorama 2013. Cirque du Soleil also will bring its current Vegas production to Chicago for the event.

"Saturday Night Live" is getting ready to launch a Mexican version of its late-night comedy showcase.

Chicago's legendary iO Theater will be the site for June 5 talent auditions (the first in a series of nationwide talent showcases) in which Spanish-speaking performers will get the opportunity to present a 5-minute routine in front of producers and iO Artistic Director Charna Halpern. Mexican comedian Eugenio Derbez, Fernando Rovzar (Lemon Films), and Adriana Bello ("Dias de Gracia") are among the production team that will translate the "SNL" format for Latin American audiences. Nine writers and nine cast members are being sought.

Interested parties must contact Halperrn via email at charna@ioimprov.com or iO Creative Director Michael Balzer (mikebalzer@ioimprov.com) for information about available audition slots.

The final cast and writers will shoot a "live" pilot of "SNL Mexico" for NBC in Mexico City.

Michael Buble, backed by Naturally 7, entertains on a New York City subway platform last month performing an a capella version of the Smokey Robinson-penned "Who's Lovin' You'.

He's been singing everywhere lately-- on all the latenight and early morning talk shows, and even a New York subway station.

But pop star/crooner/Grammy winner Michael Buble has selected Chicago as the city to kick off his new U.S. tour in support of his just-released CD, "To Be Loved." The album marks Buble's fourth consecutive chart-topper, in a career that boasts sales of more than 45 million albums world-wide.

Tickets for the Chicago show on Sept. 7 at the United Center, 1901 W. Madison, go on sale at 10 a.m. May 17 at all Ticketmaster outlets, the United Center box office and by phone at (800) 745-3000.

DL-WILLEY-080510-P1_36139556.jpg (Walt Willey, known as Jackson Montgomery on "All My Children." Credit: MARINA CHAVEZ)

If you thought the only thing funny about soap operas was the convoluted plots, think again. A number of soap stars will be appearing at Zanie's comedy clubs throughout the Chicago area this summer.

Laura Wright and Kelly Sullivan of "General Hospital's" will have meet and greet and question and answer sessions with fans at 1 p.m. June 23 at Zanies in St. Charles.

At 7 p.m. July 31, Maurice Benard from "General Hospital" will host a similar event at the Zanies in Chicago.

Finally, Walt Willey, who played Jackson Montgomery on "All My Children" for more than two decades, will hit two Zanies. He'll be in St. Charles on Aug. 17 and Rosemont on Aug. 18. He'll be doing meet and greets as well as a comedy show.

For ticket information and Zanies locations, click here.

When: Through June 16
Where: Chicago Shakespeare Theater, 800 E. Grand on Navy Pier
Info:(312) 595-5600; www.chicagoshakes.com
Run time: 2 hours and 30 minutes with one intermission

England's King Henry VIII is familiar to us as the man who had six wives, who severed ties with the Roman Catholic Church in order to divest himself of one of them, had another beheaded, and along the way fathered the daughter who would become Queen Elizabeth I. We have met him by way of a slew of plays, films, novels and television shows, as well as a pop song (calling Herman's Hermits), and a classic painting (the Holbein masterpiece that depicts him as a bloated man dressed in the most extravagant of outfits).

Surprisingly, we are far less familiar with Shakespeare's portrait of the man. Director Barbara Gaines' altogether stunning production of "Henry VIII" for the Chicago Shakespeare Theater -- a Chicago premiere that has arrived here exactly 400 years after the play was first staged at London's Globe Theatre -- changes all that. It is a true revelation.

So why has this play been so neglected? Perhaps it is because some scholars believe it to be a work of joint authorship -- written late in Shakespeare's career in collaboration with his successor, John Fletcher. Some might be superstitious knowing that during a performance of the play at the Globe in 1613, a cannon shot used for special effects ignited the theatre's thatched roof and beams, resulting in a fire that burned the original building to the ground.


By Natasha Wasinski

After a month-long hiatus, NBC's "Chicago Fire" was back on TV airwaves last Wednesday night.

The return of the Windy City drama put me one step closer to making my big television debut. That's right. Look for my signature blond waves tonight at 9 p.m.

I play "city chick on her cell phone during a lunch break." I have no speaking parts and, more or less, blend in with the background. But, if you look closely and don't blink, you might spot me. An extra.

A friend had alerted me to a casting call in early April when a Facebook page said the show sought "sharp-looking female reporters and male reporters."

The opportunity to be within shouting distance to the male members of the cast?

Sign me up.


What'chu talkin' 'bout, Bruce DuMont?

The Museum of Broadcast Communications, 360 N. State St., is hosting the original exhibit "The Life and Times of Gary Coleman," from June 26 to Sept. 14. Coleman, a native of far north suburban Zion, got his big break doing a local commercial for Harris Bank and became a household name as Arnold Jackson, the fast-talking adopted son of the wealthy white man Phillip Drummond played by Conrad Bain.

"This is the first time that anyone has really focused on one of the most popular personalities of the 80s," said Bruce DuMont, founder and president of the museum. "We learned that Gary Coleman's parents had a large collection of his artifacts. We reached out to the family."

Coleman's parents, Sue and Willie, not only gave the artifacts, including Coleman's first contract, "TV Guide" covers, photographs with Nancy Reagan and Lucille Ball and Coleman's writing samples. The couple will appear in a public talk discussing Coleman's life on July 20. Coleman died in 2010 at age 42 from a brain hemorrhage.

"He was a very talented young man, a kid with a big smile," DuMont said, adding the "Diff'rent Strokes" was groundbreaking in the sensitive issues it was willing to broach.

"Some of the issues that were dealt with on the program were drugs, discrimination, jokes abut short people," he said. "They deal with issues of pedophilia and child molesting. Not necessarily things you would expect to have on a sitcom."

The Colemans still live in Zion, but Gary Coleman's relationship with them was uneasy to say the least. He won $1.3 million in a lawsuit against them for misappropriation of the money he made on "Diff'rent Strokes." Willie Coleman told Joy Behar after Gary Coleman's death that when Gary turned 18, he put his parents "out to pasture."

DuMont said there is "debate about the specifics" of Gary Coleman's relationship with his parents.

"That is one thing that will come out during our seminar," he said. "This is also a cautionary tale...Though he brought great happiness to many people he may not have found the happiness he was looking for."


Latin pop star Miguel Bosé is the 2013 Latin Recording Academy Person of the Year, the Latin Recording Academy announced Wednesday. Chosen for his philanthropic and professional achievements, the Spanish singer, author and actor will be honored Nov. 20 as part of the annual Latin Grammy Awards, held at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center in Las Vegas.

Previous recipients of the award include Plácido Domingo, Gloria Estefan, Vicente Fernandez, Juan Luis Guerra, Carlos Santana, Shakira and Caetano Veloso,

Bosé, 57, has recorded more than 30 albums and appeared in more than 35 films. Born in Panama, he is the son of actress Lucia Bosé and bullfighter Luis Miguel Dominguín.

His philanthropic work focuses on social and environmental causes. His foundation Paz Sin Fronteras (Peace Without Borders) has been recognized by the United Nations. In 2010, he received honorary Colombian citizenship for his efforts toward peace.

For more about the artist, go to miguelbose.com

PHOTO: Miguel Bose performs at the Vina del Mar festival in Chile earlier this year. AP photo.

MacFarlane comes to 'The Simpsons'

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seth-macfarlane-fox-all-star-party-01.jpgSeth MacFarlane, creator of Fox's "Family Guy," "American Dad" and "The Cleveland Show," will be doing even more for the network May 19 when also guest-stars on "The Simpsons."
On the season finale, airing at 7 p.m., MacFarlane will be play a charming married man whom Marge (Julie Kavner) inadvertently meets on a swingers' website.
The season finale will also feature the winner of the couch gag contest. The three finalists were announced in January. More information is available at fox.com.

Zoppe Circus returns to Caputo's in Addison

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Zoppe, the Italian Family Circus, returns to Caputo's Fresh Market, 510 W. Lake St., Addison, for shows May 9-12.

The one-ring circus, under its familiar blue-and-white big-top tent, honors the best of the old world Italian tradition featuring Nino "the clown prince of Italy," acrobats, equestrian showmanship, canine capers, and audience participation. No seat is more than 20 feet away from the ring.

Receive $7 off each ticket purchased in advance at any Caputo's Fresh Market location.

For complete information, show times and prices, visit www.zoppe.net.

If it's not comics, beer or bacon -- Chicago's next affinity has got to be sneakers.

The next "con" on the calendar is Saturday's Sneaker Con Chicago. Those who know their Yeezys from their Jordans and Marty McFlys -- and even those who need the education -- can hit up the event at Broadway Armory Park, 5917 N. Broadway.

Tickets are $15. Buy 'em here.

MPAACT, the theater that focuses on new work and collaborative art exploring African-American culture and the African diaspora, has announced its three-play 2013-2014 season. It will include:

± "Warm on the Coolin' Board" (Oct. 11-Nov. 24): Shepsu Aakhu
's play, directed by Marie Cisco. Everybody has a plan, and Day is no exception. He has a plan for his baby brother Brian but the trouble is that Brian is off plan. He's taking a break from school and picking up the family business, stripping the Roseland community to the bone. This decaying community is being pillaged by its own inhabitants, its politicians, and its few remaining businesses. As Day and Brian work to find their place in a community that is literally being picked clean, they struggle to come to grips with whether they are hastening the process, or part of the restoration.

± "Quark" (Jan. 17-March 2, 2014): A play by Gloria Bond Clunie, directed by Chuck Smith ("By the Way, Meet Vera Stark"), and produced in association with the Goodman Theatre. In this tale of love, death, and the stars, Dr. Alexandra Seabold, an astrophysicist, and her husband Terry, a kindergarten teacher, wrestle with personal tragedy, commercial space travel, and feeding our starving planet as they wonder, "Is a taste of space worth it?"

± "Mutant Circa 1982" (April 18-June 1, 2014): Amina Henry's play, directed by Carla Stillwell, is set in New York in 1982, where siblings Olivia, a pre-op transgender woman obsessed with Olivia Newton-John, and her brother, Kyle, an unemployed break dancer and aspiring superhero fight, to fulfill their dreams.  While Olivia and Kyle work to take on their new identities, the world around them (and the people in it) seem to be working overtime to deny them the things that they believe will bring them true happiness.

MPAACT's shows are at The Greenhouse Theatre Center, 2257 N. Lincoln. For tickets ($15-$25) call (773) 404-7336 or visit www.mpaact.org.

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Instead of doing something useful with its mega-millions, like purchasing a yacht (name suggestion: Terms of Enjambment), the Chicago-based Poetry Foundation -- which publishes Poetry magazine -- decided to make its flagship product available via iPhone and iPad.

An annual subscription fee of $29.99 gets you a digital version that includes content from the print edition and a monthly podcast. There's a discussion guide as well. It's available at the Apple Newsstand.

"By making the magazine available on iPad and iPhone, we hope to engage new readers and expand our accessibility for international users," outgoing Poetry editor Christian Wiman said in a statement. "The digital edition maintains the elegance of the print magazine while enhancing the reader's experience though expanded content, such as a discussion guide and editors' podcast. We're excited for this opportunity to make Poetry available to the growing community of digital readers."

Cost-wise, a Poetry spokeswoman said, "by partnering with 29th Street Publishing we were able to get an out-of-the-box solution - which meant that we didn't pay anything up front for the app."

Which means there's more money for a yacht?

Teatro Vista Season

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Teatro Vista, Chicago's leading Latino theater company, has announced its 2013-2014 season, which also will mark its participation in the Resident Theater Program at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theatre, which is hosting productions by outside companies for a full season.

To launch its Victory Gardens residency, Teatro vista will present the world premiere of "White Tie Ball"by Martín Zimmerman, who also joins the company as its newest playwright in residence. In the spring it will stage a revival of the Arthur Miller classic, "A view from the Bridge," a play whose story of undocumented immigrants clearly relates to Latino issues. Here's a closer look:

± "White Tie Ball" (Sept. 6-Oct. 13): Zimerman spins the story of two brothers -- one easily identified as Latino, another who isn't, and the moral and emotional dilemmas they find themselves in. Edward looks just like his mother, a mestiza from Mexico. Beto looks just like his father, a white man from the United States. Despite the two of them being raised in an impoverished Latino neighborhood in Tucson, Arizona, Edward has worked his way through law school to become an Arizona County Attorney. Beto, however, fell in with a Latino gang and at the age of 19 was convicted of armed robbery. At the start of the play, Beto has recently been paroled from prison, Edward has recently been elected to office, and the bond between the two brothers is the strongest it has been in years, largely due to Edward's tireless efforts to help re-build Beto's life. But when one of Beto's former friends from his gang mistakenly kills an on-duty Latina police officer, Edward has to prosecute the case. The decisions Edward faces about what charges to pursue put both his career and his relationship with his brother in jeopardy. Edward Torres will direct.

± "A View from the Bridge" (April 11-May 18, 2014): Miller's drama is set against the backdrop of Italian-American immigrant life in 1950's Brooklyn. Longshoreman Eddie Carbone is devoted to his wife, Beatrice, and to his niece, Catherine. When Beatrice's impoverished Sicilian cousins enter the U.S. illegally in the hope of finding work, Eddie gives them a helping hand. But when Catherine and one of the cousins fall in love, Eddie's obsession with his niece becomes the tragic undoing of the family. Ron OJ Parson will direct.

Both productions will be staged in the 109-seat studio theater at the Victory Gardens Biograph, 2433 N. Lincoln. A Season Pass is $50 for two shows. For information about subscribing to the season visit www.teatrovista.org beginning June 1. Single tickets will go on sale July 1. Call (773) 871-3000 or visit www.victorygardens.org.


How did you or your family come to live in Chicago?

StoryCorps, one of the country's largest oral history projects, wants to know.

StoryCorps is teaming up with the Chicago Public Library to record migration stories, part of the library's programing with "One Book, One Chicago" and the American Library Association's "StoryCorps@YourLibrary" pilot program.

The current "One Book, One Chicago" selection is "The Warmth Of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration" by Isabel Wilkerson. In the book, Wilkerson writes of the Great Migration of African-Americans from the South to the North.

"Our intention is is to get people thinking about not only migration of African-Americans from South to North," said Leland Elder, library spokesman. "Chicago is made up of a lot of people who came from a lot of different places. They make this city what it is."

Those participating will receive a copy of their recording. The library also will get a copy, and the final copy will be put at the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress. More than 90,000 people have participated since StoryCorps started in 2003.

"We do this to remind one another of our shared humanity, strengthen and build the connections between people, teach the value of listening, and weave into the fabric of our culture the understanding that every life matters," explains the StoryCorps website. "At the same time, we will create an invaluable archive of American voices and wisdom for future generations."

Those who want to participate need to register by calling (312) 747-8191 or emailing onebookonechicago@gmail.com.

May and June times and locations are as follows:

Woodson Regional Library
9525 S. Halsted Street
Saturday, May 11, 11:00 a.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Wednesday, May 15, 5:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Northtown Branch
6435 N. California Avenue
Thursday, May 16, 4:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, May 25, 12:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State St.
Talking Book Center, 5th Floor
Saturday, June 8, 1:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. (during the Printer's Row Lit Fest)
Thursday, June 13, 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Greater Grand Crossing Branch, 1000 E. 73rd St.
Monday, June 10, 4:30 p.m. - 7: 30 p.m.
Saturday, June 15, 10 a.m. - 1 p.m.

Sulzer Regional Library, 4455 N. Lincoln Ave.
Thursday, June 20, 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.
Saturday, June 29, 12 p.m. - 3 p.m.

"Signs of Life, A Tale of Terezin," a new musical drama based on the true story of the Nazi-established concentration camp (sometimes dubbed "ghetto") of Theresienstadt, will have its Chicago premiere on the mainstage of the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N Lincoln, with a limited six-week engagement Sept. 18 - Oct. 27. The show is being independently produced at Victory Gardens.

Theresienstadt, located in what was then Czechoslsovakia, was specifically designated by the Nazis as a camp for the academic and artistic Jews of Europe. Its goal was to deceive the Red Cross and sway public perception, so the Nazis decided to "beautify" the ghetto and commissioned a propaganda film about it. "Signs of Life" shows the struggles of the captives of Theresienstadt to expose the truth of the place through art and music.

The show is the brainchild of Virginia S. Criste who visited Theresienstadt, to learn more about her grandparents, who spent their last days there. At that time, there was only a small exhibit and a depository of artifacts she was permitted to view only in the company of a museum official.

"Spending a day with the remnants of hand-drawn posters announcing show performances, cabaret tickets, albums of dorm life, and so much more was hard to forget," said Criste, in a prepared statement about the production. Inspired by how the captives there strove to keep music and theater alive, she commissioned composer Joel Derfner, lyricist Len Schiff and librettist Peter Ullian to come together and shape the musical, incorporating a number of examples of the original artwork from the camp. Lisa Portes will direct the Chicago production, with Mike Pettry serving as musical director.

Collaboraction will be partnering with the Chicago Park District this summer to tour four city parks with an "evolved" version of the company's hit 85-minute play "Crime Scene: A Chicago Anthology." The sequel, bearing the title "Crime Scene Chicago: Let Hope Rise," will present the admission-free show at the following sites:

± LeClaire -Hearst Park, 5120 W. 44th St. (July 12-13)

± Sherman Park , 1301 W. 52nd St. (July 26-27)

± Hamilton Park , 513 W. 72nd St. (Aug. 16-17)

± Austin Town Hall Park , 5610 W. Lake St. (Aug. 23-24)

"Crime Scene Chicago: Let Hope Rise" is a bold theatrical reaction to Chicago's history of violent crime, as well as a call to discover what it might take to create lasting change in our city. The show, a Collaboraction world premiere conceived and directed by Anthony Moseley, couples nonfiction source material such as interviews, articles, and online comments with re-enactments of true Chicago crimes, all with the intent of raising critical questions surrounding segregation, poverty, the news media, popular culture, and our numbness to it all.

In adapting the play for the tour, the Collaboraction team plans to take a closer look at the systemic conditions that aid and abet violence, and will incorporate a more hopeful tone than the original piece, whose primary goal was to awaken theatergoers to the epidemic of senseless violence in the city.

Leonard "I am THE Spock" Nimoy and Zachary "I am NOW Spock" Quinto do battle (of sorts) in a new LONG commercial for Audi in which they challenge each other in a race to the country club for a round of golf. The last one to arrive buys lunch.

As another "Trek" alum would say: "Priceless!"

"Star Trek Into Darkness" hits theaters May 16.

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Besides Russell Brand, additional performers at this year's TBS Just for Laughs Comedy Festival in Chicago (June 11-16) include Paul F. Tompkins, Pete Homes, Brian Posehn, Doug Benson and Todd Glass. There'll also be a slew of former Second City and iO Theater folks: "30 Rock's" Scott Adsit, Kevin Dorff, Jon Glaser, TJ Jagodowski, David Pasquesi, former SNL-er Horatio Sanz, UCB Theatre co-founder Matt Walsh, recent Second City standout Brad Morris and Chicago-trained comic Joe Nunez.

But wait, there's more! Namely, an advance screening of "The Heat" with director Paul Feig.

Stay tuned to the Sun-Times for more updates.

To purchase "Just for Laughs' tickets, go here.

Steve Edwards talks with TJ and Dave from WBEZ on Vimeo.


Major star power has just been added to the "Just for Laughs Chicago" comedy festival. Brit comedian and actor Russell Brand -- who starred in such films as "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "Get Him to the Greek" -- will do a solo show at the Chicago Theatre June 12. Also announced Monday are the additions of funnymen Pete Holmes, Paul F. Tompkins, Brian Posehn, Doug Benson, Todd Glass, Scott Adsit, Kevin Dorff, Jon Glaser, TJ & Dave, Horatio Sanz, Matt Walsh, Brad Morris and Joe Nunez to the festival's 5th anniversary lineup.
Due to popular demand, there will also be a second Nick Swardson show added to his gig at The Vic -- now scheduled for June 14.

Tickets For Newly Announced Shows On Sale This Saturday, May 11, at 11:00 a.m.

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Sushi and sake -- been there, done that. But add to the mix a couple of impressively fleshy, enormously strong, furiously grappling, almost certainly sweaty men in traditional fundoshis (essentially, loincloths) and you've got yourself a memorable meal.

At least that's what the folks at LivingSocial hope you'll think of their May 17-19 sumo wrestling events at Germania Place in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood.

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Interested? You can buy tickets here to sup and sip and watch three-time World Sumo Champion Byambajav Ulambayar (370 lbs. and better known as "Byamba") take on four-time U.S. Sumo champ Kelly Gneiting in a literal clash of the titans.

"Sumo is the first martial art. Many people don't know this," Gneiting has said. "There is no difference in mentality one takes to the dojo. It's all warrior to warrior, man to man, soldier to soldier. But Sumo to me is more of this than the other martial arts. We're not out there nearly naked for no good reason. We bring strictly the energy we came out of our mother's womb with, communication with God, and battle in a dojo that has been blessed through a series of spiritual rituals. Sumo must have the distinction of being God's favorite sport."

So eat and drink and watch and learn. But not necessarily in that order.

Sumo Wrestling in Chicago
Friday through Sunday, May 17-19
Germania Place
108 W. Germania Place
Tickets $69-$89


Christopher Bell, choral director of the Grant Park Music Festival, has won the 2013 Michael Korn Founders Award from Chorus America. Named after one of the founders of Chorus America, this award was established in 1978 to honor lifetime achievement in the field of choral music.

Since 2001, Bell has served as Grant Park's chorus director and guided the chorus through its 50th anniversary last season with a series of special events. He also is the chorus master of the Edinburgh Festival Chorus, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra Junior Chorus, and the Belfast Philharmonic Choir. A founder of the National Youth Choir of Scotland in 1996, he has been its artistic director ever since.

Bell will receive the Korn Founders Award at Chorus America's 36th annual conference June 12-15 in Seattle, Wash.

Grant Park begins its 2013 season on June 15. For the schedule, go to grantparkmusicfestival.com.

Celebrate Mah Jongg at Chicago History Museum

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Mah Jongg. It's all a game!

To the uninitiated, Mah Jongg is one of the oldest games of strategies on earth, beginning in ancient China and eventually gaining huge popularity in the Western hemisphere in the 1920s and 30s and up through the 1950s when it became a popular household party/social game adapted by many cultures across Europe and the U.S.

All of this and more will be made enormously clearer (and in a much more fun and engaging way) at the Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark, from 2 to 5 p.m. May 12, 19 and 26 during "Celebrate May with Mah Jongg" with open play sessions in the museum's North and Clark Cafe. Mah Jongg groups are encouraged to participate.

On May 15, from 6-9 p.m. a 1950s-style party will be held featuring Kosher-style appetizers, music, and martinis and games of Mah Jongg.

On May 21, from 6:30-8 p.m., discover the history of the game via "Chinese Roots of Mah Jongg," a discussion in which the Chicago Chinese community experts share the beginnings of the game and its various incarnations in the Chinese and Jewish-American communities.

For more information about Mah Jongg May and registering for events (various admission/participation costs apply), visit the Chicago History Museum website.

Richard Cotovsky to receive special Jeff Award

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The Non-Equity Jeff Awards ceremony on June 3 at the Park West (322 W. Armitage) will include a special award and tribute to Mary Arrchie Theatre artistic director Richard Cotovsky. The honor is in recognition for his long-time achievements at the North Side theater and his contributions to the non-Equity and storefront theater scenes for the past 40 years.

Tickets are $40 in advance, $45 at the door. Visit www.jeffawards.org.


Call it a stroller or call it a pram, Kate Middleton appears to have joined the ranks of well-heeled parents pushing Bugaboos, long regarded as a status symbol of posh parenting, the Daily Mail is reporting.

Her choice of the top-of-the-line Dutch-designed stroller (the Donkey model starts around $1,200) is being greeted with some skepticism in England, where the iconic Silver Cross pram has long been a royal favorite.

Click here for more information about Middleton's choice and a photo gallery of Bugaboo owning-celebrities.


The museum takes it all: ABBA enshrined

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Visitors enjoy a karaoke with giant holograms featuring members
of Swedish pop band ABBA in an interactive installation at world's
first permanent ABBA museum in Stockholm.
(Getty Images)

A lone telephone sits in a corner at the new ABBA museum. If you're there and that phone rings, answer it.

Members of the revered Swedish pop band have promised to "Ring, Ring" and occasionally speak to visitors.

A museum devoted to the pop superstars opens today in Stockholm, celebrating the band's long list of hits. But it also shows off paraphernalia, including the helicopter featured on the cover of its "Arrival" album, a star-shaped guitar and dozens of glitzy costumes the Swedish band wore at the height of its 1970s fame.

Carrie Coon, the actress who forged her career on the stages of Steppenwolf, Theatre, Writers' Theatre in Glencoe and Next Theatre in Evanston was named one of 12 recipients of the 2013 Theatre World Awards honoring performers who made outstanding Broadway or Off Broadway debuts during the 2012-2013 season.

Coon was cited for her performance as Honey, the increasingly inebriated wife of a young professor in the Broadway remount of Steppenwolf's production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" The awards ceremony will be held June 3 at Broadway's Music Box Theatre.

What's 'Cops' gonna do? Move to Spike

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TV-COPS-MOVING_38951269.JPG"Cops" is leaving Fox after 25 years, but we'll still be able to see what bad boys do when someone comes for them.

Like a drunken miscreant in the back of a squad car, the show is on its way to a new residence. The longtime Saturday night fixture will air on Spike -- still on Saturdays -- starting in September.

"We were delivering for Fox over the 25 years," show creator John Langley told the AP. "I understand that new regimes have different attitudes. I just felt that we needed a change as well."

"Cops" premiered in March 1989, back when reality TV wasn't yet a thing and the long-range survival of the Fox network was far from certain. Its premise has stayed pure over the decades: just camera crews riding along with police officers, filming the workaday questioning and arresting of criminal suspects.


By Andrew Patner

For the third annual Chicago Beethoven Festival, Chicago-based pianist George LePauw is coming at old Ludwig van from an array of imaginable ways -- including concerts with Wilco drummer Glen Kotche.

LePauw (above left) and his International Beethoven Project announced Monday a nine-day set of concerts and other programs -- billed as LOVE 2013 -- for Sept. 7-15 at the Joy Faith Knapp Music Center of the Merit School of Music, 38 S. Peoria, and other locations in the West Loop.

German-born Matthias Pintscher, 42, incoming music director of Pierre Boulez's Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris and associate artist of the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, will lead major works of Bach, Beethoven and Wagner as well as his own music. Other artists announced include pianist and "From the Top" radio host Christopher O'Riley, the International Contemporary Ensemble, cellist Matt Haimovitz, violinist Rachel Kolly d'Alba, soprano Arianna Zukerman, the JACK Quartet, jazz pianist Dan Tepfer, violinist Ambi Subramaniam, lutenist Hopkinson Smith and Chicago-launched rising cello star Gabriel Cabezas.

Wilco's Kotche will work with 12 bands to create original "Rockatelles" to go with a set of commissioned solo piano bagatelles in many genres, all inspired by the opening theme of Beethoven's Fifth Symphony. The festival also promises visual art, fashion and literary takes on the LOVE 2013 theme, aiming for more than 100 events, including its first collaborations with an area arts summer camp.

Local philanthropist Richard H. Driehaus also announced an ambitious $100,000 matching challenge grant from his foundation for the project. Tickets and passes go on sale in July. Info: internationalbeethovenproject.com.

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Bowersox and Walker, with son Tony, in 2011 (Credit: PRNewsfoto)

"Mine all mine, baby are you mine all mine?" "American Idol" runner-up Crystal Bowersox sings in a track from her 2010 debut album called "Mine All Mine." "Boy cuz I am your fool, for you I would walk the line/Just in time, you came into my life and now I'm fine/No one else will do, baby are you mine all mine?"

The Toledo, Ohio-bred, formerly Chicago-based musician and rising country star offered up an extra-sweet, all-acoustic rendition of the tune in 2011 from centerstage at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville. Watching from the wings was the man who inspired her to write it: husband Brian Walker.

Now comes the news from People magazine, which also had exclusive rights to cover the couple's Chicago nuptials at Uncommon Ground on N. Clark (where Bowersox and Walker had met six years prior during an open mic night) in late 2010: the two are divorcing.

"After two-and-a-half years, we have decided to end our marriage," they told People.com in a joint statement. "The friendship and love which brought us together remains strong, and we will continue to support each other in our careers and personal lives. We are hopeful that people will be respectful of our privacy as we face this emotional and challenging time for our family."

Bowersox, who is slated to debut on Broadway this summer in a Patsy Cline musical, was introspective and content-seeming when she spoke with Sun-Times pop music critic Thomas Conner in late February. "I keep quoting Ani DiFranco: 'If you're not getting happier as you get older / then you're f---ing up,'" she said. "It's true. I feel like at this point in my life, I've noticed the serendipitous ways things have been for me. I've worked very hard, but there's also been lots of luck. Every moment has lead to this moment I'm in now, all the bad and all the good. In my darkest days, I did not really believe it was going to get better. But it did, and now I'm on the good side of things, and I'm kind of surprised that it all worked out."

The war in Afghanistan. Life in a small town on the American plains. And a contemporary Hollywood love story. Three plays that unspool in three very different worlds comprise Signal Ensemble's 2013-2014 season. Here's a closer look:

± "This Is War" (Aug. 22 - Sept. 28): The U.S. premiere of Canadian writer Hannah Moscovitch's play, directed by Ronan Marra. It is 2008 and Canadian forces are holding Panjwaii, the most volatile region of Afghanistan, with very little support from NATO-ISAF. Captain Stephen Hughes is always looking for the next threat, knowing it can come at any time from any direction. He just didn't expect it would come from within. From the writer of Signal's sold out hit double bill of "East of Berlin/The Russian Play."

± "Plainsong" (Jan. 30-March 8, 2014): The Chicago premiere (contract pending) of Eric Schmiedl's adaptation of the novel by Kent Haruf, directed by Bries Vannon. Deep in the plains of eastern Colorado lies a town called Holt. It's not a busy town, but there's a lot going on. Tom Guthrie is raising two young sons as his wife steps deeper into depression. Victoria Roubideaux , 17, finds herself pregnant and desperate, turning to schoolteacher Maggie Jones for help. And the solitary ranching brothers Harold and Raymond McPheron aren't at all prepared for the ways in which they will be involved.

± "The Next Thing" (May 1-June 7, 2014): The world premiere of a musical with book by Ronan Marra and music and lyrics by Jon Steinhagen ("Successors"). Two up-and-coming film stars, Kate and Conor, meet on a troubled period epic, then find themselves working on a movie together every 18 months. This "will they or won't they" Hollywood love story spans 18 years, seven films and one very combustible relationship.

Tickets to Signal Ensemble Theatre's 11th season go on sale April 22. The theatre is located at 1802 W. Berenice. Call (773) 698-7389 or visit www.signalensemble.com.


Columbus Day may seem a long way off -- coming, as it does, in October -- but it's not too early for the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans to put out a call for candidates to enter the annual Columbus Day Parade Queen Pageant.
Prospective queens mus be single, never married between the ages of 18 and 25 and be at least 50 percent of Italian heritage.
For more information on how to enter the contest, go to www.jccia.com or call (708) 450-9050.

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From young orphan in Ethiopia to nightmarish kitchens around the world to chef/owner of several acclaimed restaurants, James Beard Award winner and bestselling author of the recent memoir "Yes, Chef." In a nutshell, that's the life trajectory of Marcus Samuelsson.

The cook, philanthropist and writer -- adopted by a Swedish family in his toddler years -- will make an appearance at the Merchandise Mart May 18, in partnership with the Lincoln Square-based Book Cellar, to sign paperbacks of his critically lauded work.

It even appears the New York-based Samuelsson took some inspiration from Chicago.

"The first time I read Charlie Trotter's -- the Chicago chef's -- first cookbook, I was blown away," he told Food & Wine Magazine.

Unfortunately, Trotter's longstanding haute cuisine Mecca on Armitage is now closed. So, for that matter, is a local place Samuelson opened called C-House. There's an ever-so-slim chance, though, he'll find decent grub elsewhere in town.


All 79 Chicago Public Library locations, including the flagship Harold Washington Library and Woodson Regional and Sulzer Regional Libraries, will be closed Thursday, May 9, for staff training. The libraries will reopen on Friday.

For more information, click here.

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Kanye West and Kim Kardashian | Courtesy of Us Weekly

Forget the "Devil Wears Prada" -- the pregnant wear Prada.

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West joined Anna Wintour at her New York City home for dinner Sunday night. The pregnant reality star chose a black Prada dress with the help of stylist Rushka Bergman.

According to Us Weekly the rising fashion designer West and his fiance shared an intimate meal with the Vogue magazine Editor in Chief.

The pair are expected to attend the Met Gala this evening.


Addison born, Norwood Park-raised professional hockey player brothers Bates and Anthon Battaglia, battle for the $1 million prize in the finale of "The Amazing Race.

It's a different kind of playoff situation for two hockey players Sunday night.

For Bates and Anthony Battaglia, the "Amazing Race" finale plays a sudden death competition -- but to the winners go the spoils of a $! million dollars, currency more readily accepted worldwide than a silver Stanley Cup.

The pair joined two other teams, the newlyweds (Max and Katie Bichler) and the roller derby moms (Mona Egender and Beth Bandimer) in the final leg of the race. But before the retired Carolina Hurricanes (Bates) and current Huntsville Havoc (Anthony) players could cross the finish line, the athletes needed to knock off a series of challenges -- including bog swimming and barrel rolling in Belfast and raising a pint in London before heading to Washington D.C. for the remaining road blocks.

Teams ran into some "Amazing Race" favorite challenges in the nation's capital. One had Bates telling "spies" walking the Tidal Basin path that he wasn't dressed for the weather hoping to receive a briefcase in return. After catching a baseball on the second try -- while dressed as a masked mascot -- at Washington Nationals Park, the hockey brothers appeared to have a considerable lead going into the final contest.

Anthony was tasked with finding inflatable globes with the race stops circled -- and lined up in order of pitstops.

Bates said the pair spent their long haul flights studying maps in the inflight magazines.

"If we had to find those countries before this race, there's no way," Bates said.

"Walking away as the first loser is not an option," he said.

Bates Battaglia found the reality show contest grueling, but an exhilarating experience telling the Raleigh News & Observer that despite running the race nonstop for three weeks, it was an experience he'd love to do again.

"It's a lot like hockey. It's very competitive. You're going nonstop. It gets your competitive spirit going. It's nonstop racing, just a great time."

You can watch the entire episode here.

Chicago Reader's Michael Sula wins James Beard Award

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Mike Sula of the Chicago Reader received the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award tonight in New York at the 2013 James Beard Broadcast and Journalism Awards ceremony for his article titled "Chicken of the Trees."

The award is named in honor of the late Mary Frances Kennedy Fisher, the preeminent American food writer and cookbook author.

You can see the entire list of tonight's winners here. The awards for restaurant, chefs and designers will be announced Monday.

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Michael Shannon is having a killer run lately playing mostly dark and brooding characters in, for instance, HBO's "Boardwalk Empire" and (on the big screen May 17) "The Iceman." You can also see him in a smaller and quirkier role in the Matthew McConaughey film "Mud" (out now), and come June he'll appear as Superman nemesis General Zod in the widely anticipated "Man of Steel." As he recently told the Sun-Times, he'll be back in Chicago this summer for a run of playwright Sam Shepard's "Simpatico" at Old Town's A Red Orchid Theatre, where Shannon is an ensemble member.

Lately, as we've documented here, Shannon is perhaps getting the most notice for a gutbusting online video, produced by and initially posted on funnyordie.com, in which he channels his inner psycho to read aloud a vicious letter penned by a Delta Gamma sorority sister. It was done in seven takes with the help of cue cards, he told Vanity Fair's Bruce Handy. Here's what else Shannon had to say on the subject.

"It was very subconscious. The director asked me before the first take, "Have you thought about how you're going to approach this? Do you want to talk about ideas?" I said, "No, that sounds awful. I don't want to do any of that. I just want to read it and see what happens."

You can read other highlights from their exchange here.

Man of Steel trailer (brief Shannon scene at 2:11)

All-star lineup set for 'Boston Strong' benefit

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Aerosmith, James Taylor and Jimmy Buffett are among the performers set for "Boston Strong," a benefit concert May 30 at the TD Garden, for victims of the Boston Marathon bombing.

Proceeds will go to One Fund, a collection of donations that will be distributed to victims' families and survivors of the April 15 attack.

Other confirmed acts include Jason Aldean, Boston, Extreme, Godsmack, The J. Geils Band, Carole King and New Kids on the Block. Comedians Dane Cook and Steven Wright also are in the lineup. Tickets, $35 to $285, go on sale at 9 a.m. (CST) Monday at Ticketmaster.com.

Bloggers bake to help child hunger campaign

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Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies. Homemade mandelbrot. Peanut butter banana bread.

And the fun twist is that these goodies and a whole lot more are going to be made by Chicago bloggers and foodies, all for a good cause.

The fourth annual Chicago Pop Up Bake sale will be held from noon until 3 p.m. May 11 at the 900 Michigan Shops, Level 2. Among the blogs that will be providing tantalizing treats are:

Dishing Up Delights (dishingupdelights.thedailymeal.com)

Eat Your Heart Out: (eat-your-heart-out.net)

In Good Taste (ingoodtasteblog.net)

My Daily Find Chicago (mydailyfindchicago.com)

The Pink Apron (pink-apron.com)

Whipped Baking (whippedbaking.com)

During the afternoon Johanna Cook of Momma Cuisine will do demonstrations of her go-to baking techniques.
All profits from the bake sale will go to the No Kid Hungry campaign, which works to alleviate childhood hunger in the United States.

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Since co-founding it in 2008, Chicago-based stand-up comic and podcaster Drew Michael has performed with Comedians You Should Know at Timothy O'Toole's Pub on N. Fairbanks in Streeterville. The six-man group's self-titled 2011 release topped the charts on iTunes, and now Michael is recording an album of his own, "Lovely," May 16 - 18. All shows are open to the public.

"I've always planned on having material 'culminate' into an album," he says. "The album is the artifact, more or less. It's a somewhat 'official' stamping of the work. It just feels like it's time now. So, there is that element. My material is somewhat dark and provocative, so the DIY capabilities we have allow me to create something like this without having to go through all the suited checkpoints of yore. That said, the distribution is also DIY, so in that sense, we're hoping to improve upon the success of the 'Comedians You Should Know' album.

"It is also something I'm hoping to distribute to fans and industry alike to help get my name out there. It's by no means an attempt to get famous, but there is always a market for comedy albums. People are listening to all sorts of podcasts, watching hours of television shows; this is my way of trying to get my voice, my ideas, my perspective through the doorway."

Drew Michael: Lovely
Live at Timothy O'Toole's Pub
622 N. Fairbanks Ct.
Thursday May 16 and Friday May 17 at 9:00 p.m.
Saturday, May 18 at 10:00 p.m.
Tickets $10 (advance purchase recommended)
21 and over

Warning: strong language


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Credit: auburnpub.com

From Wikipedia.com, by way of introduction: Pierogi (Polish pronunciation: [pjɛˈrɔɡʲi]; also spelled perogi, pierogy, perogy, pierógi, pyrohy, pirogi, pyrogie, or pyrogy... are dumplings of unleavened dough - first boiled, then they are baked or fried usually in butter with onions - traditionally stuffed with potato filling, sauerkraut, ground meat, cheese, or fruit.

In other words, ideal for shoving down one's gullet in record numbers and at record speeds. The amazing Takeru Kobayashi regularly does it with hog dogs. Chicago's own grub snarfing king Patrick "Deep Dish" Bertoletti apparently is ranked number 2 in the world. As you might know, there's even a competitive eating organization that presides over officially sanctioned eating events.

Polish Fest's pierogi pig-out, which takes place on May 4, isn't one of them. The winner's only prize, therefore, is deep-seated pride in having out-gorged his or her competitors after three strictly timed minutes of utter (and, promotional verbiage notes, slightly disgusting) gluttony.

Polish Fest Pierogi Eating Contest
Saturday, May 4 at 3 p.m. (rain or shine)
Main outdoor covered stage at Copernicus Center
5216 W. Lawrence Ave. (Jefferson Park)
Admission to festival: $5 (12 and under free)

So come one, come all with your hearty appetites and suppressed gag reflexes and vie for the chance to be Chicago's Pierogi Eating Champ.

But please, let's avoid a repeat of this (warning: may gross out some viewers).

Dance, perhaps more than any other art form, is transmitted from one artist to another, one generation to the next.

Unlike music, which has a brilliantly refined, widely known notation system, partsgirl.gifdance has only the useful but clumsy and rarified system known as Labanotion that cannot fully capture the expressive subtleties of choreography. And while in recent decades video has become an invaluable tool for documenting dance, it also lacks the nuances of body-to-body transmission.

That is why Gemze de Lappe -- dancer, choreographer, teacher and longtime protege of Agnes de Mille, the woman who changed the way dance was used in the Broadway musical -- is such a treasure. And that is why, seemingly ageless at the age of 91 -- still fleet, disciplined, razor sharp and funny -- she has become such a focus of the Lyric Opera's production of "Oklahoma," for which she has recreated de Mille's original 1943 choreography, including the crucial 15-minute "Dream Sequence" ballet. To be coached by de Lappe is like consulting a dance oracle.

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credit: imdb.com

Kudos once again to Splitsider.com for another entertaining interview -- this time with former Chicago actor/improviser Matt Walsh, who trained with the likes of Matt Besser, Horatio Sanz and Adam McKay starting in the early 90s. Among other topics, he talks 'Veep,' British comedy and past Chicago shenanigans.

Here are few excerpts of the latter, but you can (and should) read the whole thing at splitsider.com.

Doing guerilla theatre outside Wrigley Field
"There was a show called Thunderball where [Matt] Besser and Ian [Roberts] and [Adam] McKay and Horatio, we all got chased. I wasn't in the show, but I was watching it. [They held] a candelight vigil outside of Wrigley Field, and they were mourning the death of Shoeless Joe Jackson. The minute the cops showed up, everybody ran. In the old days, people would have committed and said, "We're doing street theater," but after an arrest or two had happened in the early days, nobody stuck around the minute the cops showed up. Everybody bolted. I thought that was funny. It's like, 'Oh, we're growing up.'

Getting audiences drunk and high
In the early days, we got an audience drunk because we had a "pleasure drink" that we were making the audience drink that was basically grain alcohol and Kool-Aid... Then, when we were in New York, we got the audience high. That was fun ... We were doing, like, an "Up with People." We were like a fake improv group, if I remember correctly. We wanted to transport people to another level, so we started passing out marijuana joints and people started smoking, which is pretty wild.

Getting arrested in Chicago
I think there were run-ins with the police, actually. At one of the parties, Horatio and I were on the roof of [iO Theater owner] Charna [Halpern]'s house and the cops heard complaints. They literally climbed up on this peak roof. They were really mad at us and were threatening [that] if we didn't get down, we'd have to go to jail. We had many run-ins with the police, but I guess the only official arrest might be Horatio. But as we got older, we didn't push it as much.

According to Radar Online, the power Kouple plan to marry shortly after the their baby arrives.

This fuels speculation that the pair have set June 18 as their wedding date, rather than Kanye dropping an album.

A source close to the Kardashian camp says Kim will wear an "etheral white wedding dress" and the ceremony will be outside "where they can hear the waves and be married under the moon and stars" for her third wedding.

An Atlanta police officer's squad car dashboard video of the April 19 arrest of actress Reese Witherspoon hit YouTube, and it's more captivating than her Academy Award-winning performance in "Walk the Line."

Her Southern drawl in full effect, Witherspoon expresses outrage to the police officer who had asked her to stay in the car after he performed field sobriety tests on her husband, Hollywood agent Jim Toth.

"I have to obey your orders?" an outraged Witherspoon tells the officer. "No, sir, I do not!"

"You're harassing me as an American citizen," Witherspoon said. She later added "I'm obstructing your justice? Really? I'm being anti-Amerian. Wow."

The police office maintains a professional demeanor at all times, even trying to help a handcuffed Witherspoon ease her way into the back of a squad car.

"Sit your butt first, it'll be a lot easier on you," he tells her.

Even this is met with scorn.

"Interesting," she replies sarcastically.

Yesterday, she appeared on "Good Morning America" to do some damage control. Later in the day, Toth pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to 40 hours of community service, alcohol education classes and probation. Witherspoon pleaded no contest, which isn't an admission of guilt, and paid a $213 fine.

The Black Ensemble Theater will present a special Mother's Day concert, "To Mother - With Love (A Concert Just for Her)," on Sunday, May 12 at 3 p.m. at its home at 4450 N. Clark.

The performance will feature stars of the Black Ensemble -- including Rashawn Thompson, Melanie McCullough, Dawn Bless, Meghan Murphy, Lyle Miller, and more --singing love songs dedicated to "Mom."

For tickets ( $50), call (773) 769-4451 or visit www.blackensembletheater.org.

5 Things to Do This Weekend

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Arlington Park, 2200 Euclid, Arlington Heights, kicks off the season with Kentucky Derby weekend with Fan Appreciation Day at 1 p.m. May 3. The first race is 3 p.m. Kentucky Derby Day, May 4, includes live racing (the first race is 12:15 p.m.); a simulcast viewing of the Derby from Churchill Downs; and a red-carpet experience in the Derby Day Party Zone! ($69; $42, kids 4-11; three and under free). The Million Room hosts a Derby buffet, $47; $20, kids 4-10; three and under free. The day also includes a Derby hat contest! Gates open at 10:45 a.m May 4 for a full day of thoroughbred racing.

andrew-firestone-600.jpg (JEFF MINTON/People.com)

We'll let you decide if time has been good to former Bachelors Jake Pavelka, Bob Guiney and Andrew Firestone (above, from left to right). The boys are back in a People magazine recap of 25 seasons of the ABC hit that has doled out hundreds of roses and tearful backseat limo rides.

"I was in a hot tub every episode," Firestone tells the magazine. "And I'm built for deep-sea diving, not hot tubs! I don't have the Jake Pavelka abs."

Firestone is one of the show's cast members who had a strong Chicago connection. When he was the season 3 Bachelor, he became engaged to Chicago resident Jen Schefft. The two fan favorites brought their reality romance to town, dining on sushi in Old Town. Ultimately the TV show relationship couldn't hack it in the real world and they called the engagement off.

Schefft went on to become "The Bachelorette" but that didn't pan out. She found love off-air with Joe Waterman, and the two are living in the north suburbs with two young daughters. Currently, she is lobbying on Twitter @jschefftwater for her friend and wedding cake baker Sarah Levy to host "Check Please!".


The life and legacy of prima ballerina Maria Tallchief Paschen will be celebrated at 3 p.m. Sunday in a memorial at the Francis W. Parker School auditorium. The ceremony is open to the public.

Ms. Tallchief Paschen, who died April 11 at age 88, was the first star of George Balanchine's New York City Ballet, and helped pioneer a revival of dance in Chicago (her primary residence after marrying husband Henry Paschen in 1956). Her advocacy work eventually prompted the Joffrey Ballet to relocate to Chicago in the 1990s. She was director of ballet for Lyric Opera of Chicago from 1973-79, and in 1980, founded the Chicago City Ballet and acted as co-artistic director until the company closed in 1987.

Among those speaking at the memorial Sunday include Elise Paschen, her daughter and award-winning poet; Jacques d'Amboise, legendary dancer, choreographer and longtime colleague; William Mason, director emeritus of Lyric Opera of Chicago; Kenneth von Heidecke, founder of the Von Heidecke Chicago Festival Ballet; Peter Bensinger Sr., a family friend, and Bill Kurtis, television journalist. George Lepauw, founder of the International Beethoven Project, will offer a music tribute. The program will conclude with a celebratory film tribute by Donna LaPietra.

"My mother was a ballet legend, who was proud of her Osage heritage," said daughter Elise Paschen in a statement. "Her dynamic presence lit up the room. I will miss her passion, commitment to her art and devotion to her family. She raised the bar high and strove for excellence in everything she did."

The Francis Parker auditorium has a 1,000-seat capacity, and admission will be first come, first served.

Barrington student doodles her way to Google glory

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Barrington 13-year-old Meg Mehta is in the running to have one of her doodles rotate in as a new variation of Google's signature website logo.

The Internet search giant, which has become known for its seasonal and celebratory logo changes, selected the Station Middle School student as the Illinois winner of its Doodle 4 Google contest.

Read Pioneer Press reporter Bridget O'Shea's full story in the Barrington Courier-Review here.

Lake Zurich grad fired up for Lay's $1M announcement

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Lake Zurich High School graduate Tyler Raineri could become a millionaire Monday.

But in the meantime, he is sweating out the final days of voting in Lay's "Do Us a Flavor" contest. Voting ends at midnight Saturday, May 4 with Raineri's Sriracha submission in the running with Chicken and Waffles and Cheesy Garlic Bread.

On May 1, with about 80 hours of voting left, Raineri admitted that losing out on the $1 million grand prize would be the ultimate letdown, so he is maintaining an "expect the worst and hope for the best" mentality.

Read Laura Pavin's interview with Rainieri in the Lake Zurich Courier here.

For its 2013-2014 season, Evanston's Next Theatre, under the artistic direction of Jennifer Avery, has assembled a trio of plays that explore the theme of "the ramifications of secrets kept, and the reverberations of lies exposed." The lineup is as follows:
± "COMPULSION" (Oct. 10-Nov. 17), the Chicago premiere of Rinne Groff's play, directed by Devon de Mayo (who staged this season's "Everything Is Illuminated"). Set in 1951, it follows Sid Silver, who is on a mission to be the guardian of one of the most moving and provocative accounts of 20th century barbarism. Inspired by the true story of author Meyer Levin, and his obsession with Anne Frank's diary, "Compulsion" uses complex and inventive storytelling to explore the lengths that one man will go to honor Anne Frank's powerful and enduring legacy, and looks at "the thin line between idealism and fanatacism."
± "LUCK OF THE IRISH" (Jan. 16-Feb. 23, 2014): The Midwest premiere of Kirsten Greenidge's play, directed by Damon Kiely, that looks at black middle-class life. When an upwardly mobile African-American couple wants to buy a home in an all-white neighborhood of 1950's Boston, they pay a struggling Irish family to "ghost-buy" a house on their behalf. Fifty years later, the Irish family wants "their" house back. Moving across two eras, "Luck of the Irish" explores racial and social issues and the long held secrets that tie two families and one house together.
± "GREAT GOD PAN" (April 3- May 11, 2014): The Midwest premiere of Amy Herzog's play ("After the Revolution," "4000 Miles"), directed by Kimberly Senior. It is the story of Jamie, a guy who seems to be "doing great," with a beautiful girlfriend, a budding journalism career and parents who live just far enough away. But when a possible childhood trauma comes to light, he begins to question not only his past, but his seemingly positive present as well in this drama about the nature of memory, and the question of how definitively the past shapes present behavior.

All three plays will be presented at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes, Evanston. For tickets call (847) 475-1875, ext. 2 or visit www.nexttheatre.org. Note: Talkbacks follow every 2 p.m. Sunday matinee during the season.

Credit: imdb.com
Perhaps best known for her six seasons on NBC's "Saturday Night Live" and her turns on such hit shows as "Curb Your Enthusiasm," actress, comedienne and Chicago's own Nora Dunn hosts a "Myths and Legends" fundraiser Thursday, May 2 at the Hilton/Asmus Gallery in support of her forthcoming one-woman show "Mythical Proportions." It's scheduled to premiere at Theater Wit on W. Belmont August 20.

According to Dunn's web site, she's halfway to a $50,000 goal, and goodies go to those who kick in for the remainder either at tonight's event or online. Between $50 and $500 earns a silk screen Mythical Proportions poster. $501 to $1499 gets a limited edition "Piggely," sculpture, handmade by Dunn herself. Big spenders -- $1500 or more -- nab two tickets to opening night, an invitation to the after-party and a Piggley of their own.

A tax-deductible gift of $75 for the May 2 affair includes open bar, grub from Enoteca Roma in Wicker Park and desserts by local artist Chana Zelig. A silent auction will feature mythology-themed works by local artists Brent Houston, Frank Navin, John Kurtz and L.A.-based creator of erotic paintings Scott Siedman. Some of Dunn's pieces will be included as well.

Myths and Legends Fundraiser with Nora Dunn
Thursday, May 2 from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Hilton-Asmus Gallery
716 N. Wells

North Coast Music Festival headliners announced

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Method Man of Wu-Tang Clan performs at Coachella on April 14. (Getty)

from Thomas Conner's Via Chicago blog:

Like most music fests now, the North Coast Music Festival sold out its first round of discounted tickets in December before announcing a single act. Now regular tickets for the summer-ending, three-day event are on sale -- and here's who's playing.

The first wave of headliners for NCMF 2013, announced today, hit the fest's three nodal points (hip-hop, EDM, jam) square on: Wu-Tang Clan, Afrojack and Big Gigantic.

John Clay III from Oak Park, Ill. (Oak Park River Forest High School) and Taylor Marie Sherry from St. Charles, Ill. (St. Charles North High School) are this year's recipients of Illinois High School Musical Theater Awards, presented by Broadway in Chicago.

The two students will represent the state of Illinois at The Jimmy Awards (the National High School Musical Theater Awards) on Broadway on July 1. The national awards are named for legendary Broadway theater owner and producer James M. Nederlander.

Read the Oak Leaves interview with John Clay III here.

The National High School Musical Theater Awards were established in 2009 to elevate the importance of theater arts education in schools and reward excellence in student performance. The program impacts over 50,000 students annually who participate in high school musical theater competitions sponsored by thirty professional theaters across the United States.

Since its inception, NHSMTA has been the catalyst for more than $750,000 in educational scholarships.


There is a lot of excitement at the Waukegan Public Library. Not only has the Far North library been chosen as one of the recipients of the 2013 National Medal for Museum and Library Service -- the the library officials have just learned they will be presented the award by first lady Michelle Obama herself in a White House ceremony, Wednesday, May 8.
The first lady will be joined by Susan Hildreth, the director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services.
Along with the Waukegan Public Library, the East Room ceremony will honor the Boston Children's Museum, Columbus (Ohio) Museum of Art, Delta Blues Museum (Clarksdale, Miss.), Discovery Science Center (Santa Ana, Calif.), Marshalltown (Iowa) Public Library, National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library (Cedar Rapids, Iowa), Pierce County (Washington) Library System, Public Library of Cincinnati & Hamilton County (Ohio), and Rancho Cucamonga (Calif.) Public Library.

REESE_WITHERSPOON_ARREST_38878509.jpg (AP Photo/ABC, Ida Mae Astute)

A sheepish-looking Reese Witherspoon appeared Thursday on "Good Morning America," saying her April 19 arrest in Atlanta with husband Jim Toth was a result of too many drinks over dinner and then panic.

"I have no idea what I was saying," she tells George Stephanopoulos of her encounter with an Atlanta police officer. "That night I saw him arresting my husband, and I panicked. I said all kinds of crazy things. I said I was pregnant. I'm not pregnant. I said crazy things. I had no idea what I was talking about."

While the police report didn't mention her faux-pregnancy line, it does say Witherspoon told the arresting officer "'Do you know my name?", "You're about to find out who I am" and "You're going to be on national news."

"We are so sorry and just so embarrassed," she told Stephanopoulos. "We made a mistake, and it was something that will absolutely never happen again."

The hardest part wasn't the short stint in jail but explaining this to her children, she said.

Toth, a Hollywood agent, was charged with driving under the influence and has a May 23 court date. Witherspoon was charged with disorderly conduct. Her next court date is May 22.

See Witherspoon's GMA act of contrition here.


Nas performs at the 2012 Espy Awards. | Getty Images

While the Labor Day weekend North Coast Festival has WuTang, AfroJack and Big Gigantic are listed as headliners, the full fest lineup is an eclectic mashup of hip-hop and electronica heavies.

Nas returns for another spin, as well as Aloe Blacc, Mac Miller and Aluna George join the other 23 acts announced -- in the first wave.

The festival takes place at Union Park Aug. 30-Sept 1. Three-day festival general passes are on sale now and are $120.


The National Veterans Art Museum will offer free admission and a series of artists talks on Memorial Day, May 27, as it opens its new exhibit "Tenacity and Truth: People, Places and Memories."

Mike Helbing, curator for the new show, combed through 2,500 works in the permanent collection, all made by veterans, for the exhibit. Some vets were professional artists; others used art to process their military experience. The show draws from works produced by those involved in World War II, Korea, Vietnam, the Cold War and Iraq.

"Subjects range from the adrenaline and anguish of combat to the thoughts and memories of the people to the shaping power of place," Helbing said in a statement. "Boredom and quotidian experiences of war are represented in some. Mental strain and slippery realities appear in others. There is beauty and there is torment. Ultimately there is change."

The National Veterans Art Museum is located at 4041 North Milwaukee, 2nd floor. For more information, click here.

And with those two words, and the only tweet still displayed on his previously amazing account, Kanye has set about a frenzy of speculation of what it means. Kim's baby date? New tour? Or... more likely a new album?

June 18 is a Tuesday, the day on which most new music hits stores. Within the last few days, rumors have circled the Interwebs that he's done recording his next album. So that seems to be rumor number 1.

Rumor number 2? Kim Kardashian's due date. Some outlets have mentioned sometime this summer though she's also being accused of lying about it because why not?

He's the tops and he will be on "From the Top."

Eric Goldberg, 17, a percussionist from Chicago, will perform on NPR's "From the Top," featuring America's best young classical musicians and hosted by acclaimed pianist Christopher O'Riley. His episode will be broadcast nationally the week of May 13 and locally on WFMT-FM (98.7) at 7 p.m. May 19. The episode was taped March 8 before a live audience at Jeanne B. McCoy Community Center for the Arts in New Albany, Ohio.

A student at Whitney Young High School, Eric is a winner of the Jack Kent Cooke Young Artist Award, presented by NPR. He studies with Doug Waddell at the Percussion Scholarship Group in Chicago. He attended the Interlochen Arts Camp on a full scholarship in the summer of 2012

For more information, go to fromthetop.org.

More than 1,000 vintage motorcycles, scooters and hot rods will invade the Aragon Balloom (1106) W. Lawrence) on June 15 for the 9th annual Mod vs. Rockers show.

Twice the size of last year's the show runs noon to 6 p.m., followed by the "Rockabilly Rumble," with performances by the Reverend Horton Heat, JD McPherson, "Stray Cat" Lee Rocker, and the Supersuckers.

Daytime entertainment on an outdoor stage will feature a performance by the cast of Chicago's "Million Dollar Quartet," and performances by the Dyes, Bama Lamas, and Krank Daddies. The event also features an outdoor pub, stunt bike show, motorcycle film festival and a vintage pinup contest with $500 cash prize.

Ballot-determined trophies will be awarded to vehicle owners in 16 categories at 5:30 p.m.

Daytime spectator admission to the rally is $10. "Rockabilly Rumble" nighttime concert admission is $30. All access passes for both concerts are $40 (doors for the evening concert open at 6 p.m.)

Visit ModsvsRockersChicago.com.

Steve Harvey a double Emmy nominee

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TV_STEVE_HARVEY_28624269.JPGAlready a hit with viewers, Steve Harvey on Wednesday got an endorsement from another illustrious group: Daytime Emmy voters.

The comedian was nominated in the outstanding talk show host category after the first season of his Chicago-based chatfest. He's up against fellow syndicated stars Anderson Cooper, Ricki Lake, Dr. Mehmet Oz and Rachael Ray.

In the best talk show category, "Steve Harvey" was snubbed. But the man himself scored another Emmy nomination: as outstanding game show host, for his side gig as the "Family Feud" emcee. He's believed to be the first person nominated in both categories the same year.

Winners will be named June 16.

Teatro Luna will kick off its first Lunada of 2013 with a staged reading of Milta Ortiz's play, "You, Me, & Tuno," the winner of the inaugural Diane Rodriguez Award for the Advancement of Latina Voices. The award furthers Luna's mission to provide development and opportunities for emerging and established Latina voices and pays homage to Rodriguez, the actress who has been a trailblazer for Latino and Chicano American theater.

Ortiz's play is described as "a brave, exuberant new work that investigates environmental inequality through the lens of America's most complicated special interest group: teenagers." The reading is set for May 11 at 2 p.m. at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont. It will be directed by Steppenwolf's associate producer, Jacob Padrón and will feature Teatro Luna ensemble members Kristiana Rae Colón and Abigail Vega, artistic affiliate Elizabeth Nungaray, and guest artists Sipriano Cahue, Jesse David Perez, Angelica Roque, and Norm Woodel. Development of the play continues the company's engagement with young Latino audiences, a journey which began with the 2012 launch of the VeraLuna Young Artist Lab.

In "You, Me & Tuno," the parents of teen sisters Marisol and Luna leave to pick pomegranates in the fields of the Central Valley, California. They are left under the care of their barely present Tia in East Oakland. Desperate for a way out, the girls and their cousin, Tuno, set out on a quest, leaving their food desert barrio for the aisles of elusive "Real Foods" to taste a pomegranate.

A $5.00 donation is suggested, and groups & youth are encouraged to RSVP in advance. Call (773) 819-5862 or visit www.info@teatroluna.org.

"The Australian Bee Gees Show" will make its Chicago premiere at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place , 175 E. Chestnut this summer, with a four-week engagement, July 9 to Aug. 4. Tickets go on sale May 10.

From the same producers as those behind "Rain - A Tribute to The Beatles," and similar shows, this celebration of the hugely famous and influential group captures the sound and mannerisms of the original Bee Gees band.

Described as "a multimedia theatrical concert experience," the show takes a nostalgic trip through the legacy of the Bee Gees and celebrates four decades of the infectious music written by the Gibb brothers. Together for more than 17 years, the members of The Australian Bee Gees Show reinvent the look, sound and personality of the trio as it moves from early hits ("Massachusetts," "New York Mining Disaster 1941," "To Love Somebody") to later classics ("Stayin' Alive" and "You Should Be Dancin'").

For tickets to "The Australian Bee Gees Show" ($35-$80) call (800) 775-2000 or visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com.

It's better than barbecue. "Smokey Joe's Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller," the exuberant show that began life at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre and has recently been playing in a commercial run at the Royal George Theatre Cabaret, 1641 N. Halsted, has now been extended through June 30.

The hit production, which has received rave reviews all along the way, recently received five non-Equity Jeff Award nominations -- for best production of a revue, best ensemble, best director (Brenda Didier), best choreographer (also Didier) and best music direction (Jeremy Ramey).

Reprising their roles from the original production is the full cast, which includes Justin Adair, Kasey Alfonso, Sydney Charles, TJ Crawford, Robin K. DaSilva, Vasily Deris, Jaymes Osborne, Steven Perkins and Britt-Marie Sivertsen. The band includes Danny Howard (drums), Zach Moore (bass), Kory Danielson (piano) and Joshua Therriault (sax).

For tickets ($25 - $46.50) call (312) 988-9000 or visit www.ticketmaster.

'Ploughed Under: An American Songbook'
When: Through June 9
Where: The House Theatre of Chicago at Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division
Info:(773) 769-3832; www.thehousetheatre.com
Run time:1 hour and 45 minutes with one intermission

Consider this as a thumbnail description of the trajectory of American history: We went as far as possible from East to West; we waged a brutal fight between North and South; and then, having no place else to go, we took the vertical route, building skyscrapers that pierced the clouds.

That (and I've taken a few liberties) is the map laid out in "Ploughed Under: An American Songbook," the ambitious world premiere song cycle created for The House Theatre of Chicago by Kevin O'Donnell, the composer, drummer, lyricist (and now director) who has created the scores for more than 20 House shows and a slew of other theater companies.

Given the title, it should come as no surprise that O'Donnell -- whose work is being performed by six conviction-filled singers (Kevin Barry Crowley, Alejandro Cordoba, Abu Ansari, Christine Mayland Perkins, Carla Kessler and Genevieve VenJohnson), and a first-class band (Matt Martin, Yahvi Pichardo, Maria McCullough and the composer) -- has homed in on the darker and sometimes forgotten or buried aspects of our nation's past.


Chicago Sun-Times columnist Neil Steinberg's new memoir "You Were Never in Chicago" can be yours for free -- at least the e-book version.

The University of Chicago Press is making Steinberg's seventh book available, gratis, in electronic-book form for five days. Shelf price for the 256-page book, published in October, is $25. The e-book version typically costs $15. Click here to get your free copy.

The late Sun-Times film critic Roger Ebert had this to say about his colleague's latest work: "In this wonderful book, Steinberg weaves a poetic mosaic of his life and the life of Chicago -- past, present, real, imagined. Like many of its citizens, he came here from elsewhere, drawn by its brawny allure. He lives in Chicago and Chicago lives in him."

Donald Harrison, Jr.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday announced the lineup for the 35th Annual Chicago Jazz Festival as it celebrates a milestone in its new home of Millennium Park on August 29- September 1.

New this year, the Chicago Labor Day tradition will offer more hours of free music than ever before. Headline performers including NEA Jazz Master drummer Jack DeJohnnette, the legendary saxophonist Charles Lloyd, pianist and composer Jason Moran and New Orleans saxophonist Donald Harrison with his Congo Nation Tribe Mardi Gras band.

Harrison and his group will provide the grand finale' to the festival at 8:45 p.m. Sept. 1 at Pritzker Pavilion.

Just last week I saw Harrison and his Congo Nation Tribe on the Congo Square stage at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.....

Appearing before a large throng of fans at the Chicago Comic & Entertainment Expo last weekend, stand-up and actor Patton Oswalt spent part of his hours-long session answering questions on a wide array of topics. A good summary of the Q&A was posted online at www.comicbookresources.com.

Here are some excerpts:

On how long it took to get paid for doing stand-up comedy: "Just keep going on stage and everything else will become clear and follow."

"Being a comedian is the easiest thing on the planet, but staying a comedian is almost impossible."

His ideal "Avengers" roster: The Golden Age Sandman, John Garret from 'Elektra: Assassin,' 'Alias'-era Jessica Jones, Daredevil and Nico Minoru from Runaways.

His Chicago restaurant favorites: Mo-To and Schwa for "high-scale," SkrineChops for ribs.

On whether he'll re-appear in Season 5 of FX's hit drama "Justified": Yes, he said, showrunner Graham Yost confirmed it privately.

On getting the snot kicked out of him during an episode of "Justified": "The fake blood is just corn syrup, and I probably swallowed eight cokes worth of sugar filming that scene."

On his now-famous "Star Wars" filibuster improv scene on "Parks & Recreation": "They brought me on to talk for one minute, and they didn't say cut. So I kept talking, terrified I was going to be fired."


They finally have a start date for John Oliver as Jon Stewart's fill-in on "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart" -- while the faux news anchor and comedian goes on hiatus to direct his first feature film, "Rosewater," this summer.
Oliver, who joined "The Daily Show" in 2006, will take over as guest host at 10 p.m. Monday, June 10, and serve in that role for the following eight weeks of original episodes.
Over the past seven years, Emmy-winning writer and standup comedian Oliver has entertained viewers in a variety of roles -- ranging from interviewing U.N. ambassadors to covering the World Cup in South Africa to breaking his nose fighting for the Confederate Army.
For his first week of hosting, Oliver's guests will include Seth Rogen, Armando Iannucci, Chicagoan and R&B and gospel legend Mavis Staples and Fareed Zakaria.
Stewart is scheduled to return to "The Daily Show" anchor chair on Tuesday, Sept. 3.

Mona Golabek's stunning one-woman show, "The Pianist of Willesden," in which she serves as both concert-level pianist and actress in order to weave the story of her own extraordinary mother, has been extended through May 25 at The Royal George Theatre, 1641 N. Halsted. For tickets call (312) 988-9000 or visit www.theroyalgeorgetheatre.com.

Score another interview coup for Oprah Winfrey. The Queen of Talk will speak with NBA player Jason Collins, his twin brother Jarron and family for their first interview together on the heels of Collins' public announcement as the first openly gay active pro athlete in a major American sport.

The episode of "Oprah's Next Chapter" will air this Sunday, May 5 from 7-8 p.m. CT on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.

Says OWN: "Collins reflects on the worldwide reaction following his decision to reveal that he is a gay man and how he hopes his story will further the conversation around equality. Oprah and Collins are joined by his twin brother, former NBA player Jarron Collins, his parents Portia and Paul Collins, his sister-in-law Elsa Collins and aunt Teri Jackson, a San Francisco Superior Court judge and the first family member he came out to."

ABC's George Stephanopoulos interviewed Collins earlier this week. Here's that interview from Tuesday's "GMA:"

A new Cameron Mackintosh production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber classic, "The Phantom of the Opera" is headed to Chicago next year as part of a U.S. national tour. The show, running Jan. 22-March 2, 2014 at the Cadillac Palace Theatre here, has been directed by Lawrence Connor, who previously restaged "Les Miserables." The revised edition already has been seen in London.

For tickets ($25-95) call (800) 775-2000 or visit WWW.BroadwayInChicago.com.

Fans of the popular radio quiz show "Wait Wait ... Don't Tell Me!" have an opportunity to watch the show live Thursday in select movie theaters.

It's the first-ever cinecast of the NPR show, hosted by Oak Park resident Peter Sagal.

"We do the show live in front of an audience every week [usually in Chicago]," Sagal said. "Sometimes we do it in various cities. Rockford was our last road trip. This time we're going to do it in a theater on the campus of NYU in Manhattan, and we're going to broadcast it live to movie theaters all over the country, including those in Chicago."

The show starts at 7 p.m. (CT) Thursday. Tickets cost $20 and can be purchased here. A re-broadcast will be shown at certain theaters on May 7.

Sagal and official judge and scorekeeper Carl Kasell will be joined by panelists Paula Poundstone, Mo Rocca and Tom Bodett to play the quiz in front of a live audience.

"Carl reading limericks! Celebrity guests answering stupid questions! Faces made for radio!" promotional materials read. "You've heard it in 1D, now see it live in glorious...2D."

green.jpg (Produce from the Mick Klug Farm in St. Joseph, Michigan. Customers shop at the outdoors Green City Market in Chicago's Lincoln Park on Saturday, July 14, 2012. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times )

The Green City Market, the city's largest farmer's market, moves outdoors on Saturday.

The market will be held on the south end of Lincoln Park, across from Hotel Lincoln, 1816 N. Clark St. Saturday will feature two chef demonstrations -- Shelley Young from Uncommon Ground will present at 10:30 a.m. followed by Andrew Hroza from Goose Island Clybourn at 11:30 a.m.

For a list of participating farmers and other vendors, click here. The market runs from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m.

And then there were five.

The field of 17 finalists vying to be crowned the next "Check, Please!" host has been narrowed down to five. Their names were made public Wednesday on the WTTW restaurant review show's website.

Here's who made the cut:

Senam Amegashie
This stay-at-home mom was on the way to Evanston from her West Rogers Park home when she got the news Tuesday morning that she made the Top 5.

"I pulled over and got out of the car to scream, I was so excited," said Amegashie, 33, whose trip to Evanston included a stop at Edzo's Burger Shop to sate a specific craving.

"If Jesus had a flavor, it would be the lobster fries from Edzo's," said the graduate of Bolingbrook High School, where she was class president and prom queen. She studied broadcast journalism at University of Missouri and poetry at Columbia College Chicago.

Amegashie's first name mean's "God's gift" in Ewe, a language spoken in the West African nation of Ghana, where her parents and three older brothers were born.

"My mother had a catering business while I was growing up," Amegashie said. "I pride myself on being a fantastic home cook."

She has three children: a daughter who's 7 and 4-year-old twin boys named Cassius and Clay in honor of one of her heroes, Muhammad Ali. She's also stepmom to her husband's two teenagers. Her kids often make appearances in the humorous videos she shoots for her YouTube Channel, SistaTV.

"I don't have the super wine knowledge like Alpana," she said, "but I love food and I love laughing."

Donny de Castro
Acting is what this Kentucky native -- who's been in a few national commercials and had a bit part on "Dawson's Creek" -- studied at Wesleyan University in Connecticut.

"As they say, acting often leads to restaurant work," said de Castro, 41, a managing partner and co-owner of Tavern at the Park.

He moved to Chicago nine years ago to open the upscale eatery across from Millennium Park, along with his brother and the other partners behind Keefer's Restaurant. He lives in Bucktown with his wife and 3-year-old son, Luke.

De Castro's theatrical side shines through in his comical audition video, where he smiles for the camera with a big chunk of parsley stuck in his teeth.

"Normally when you try out for a new job you don't tell a lot of people in case you don't get it," de Castro said. "This has been the complete opposite. With the voting, you had to tell everyone. People I hadn't talked to in 15 years were getting emails from me."

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