About the Town in April






By Philip Vidal


I usually write about upcoming events, not those that have already occurred.  But last month I was struck by how interconnected the world truly is.  

It all started with a before-hours tour of the “Helio Oiticica: To Organize Delirium” exhibit at the Art Institute (through May 7).  A few days later, I went on a gallery tour led by curator Lynn Warren of the exhibit “Merce Cunningham: Common Time” at the Museum of Contemporary Art (through April 30). Choreographer Merce Cunningham collaborated with many artists, musicians, and fashion designers. There was a large Nam June Paik video installation, and several pieces entitled “Fluxus” in a vitrine.  Two days later, I went on a gallery tour led by its curator, Christine Mehring, of the “Vostell Concrete 1969-1973” exhibit at the Smart Museum of Art (through June 11).  Wolf Vostell was one of the artists in the international art group Fluxus that also included Nam June Paik, Yoko Ono, and Joseph Beuys.  Also attending Christine’s tour was Helio Oiticica’s cousin, Angela Olinto, who is chair of the University of Chicago’s Astrophysics Department.

The next day I went with my editor, Judy Bross, to a lecture given by two art historians at the Arts Club that discussed the club’s current exhibition, “Ralph Coburn: Random Sequence” (through April 22).  It turns out Ralph Coburn was a friend of Merce Cunningham.  Both historians mentioned Helio Oiticica and concrete and neo-concrete artists, including Wolf Vostell.  I later attended a lecture about the “Arts AIDS America” exhibit at the Alphawood Gallery (through April 2) given by Jonathan D. Katz, who co-curated the show.  He showed a number of Jasper Johns’ works and mentioned that Johns was a friend of Merce Cunningham.  Jasper Johns was also the Artistic Director of the Merce Cunningham Dance Company for many years.  

So much overlap and so many connections!  Uncovering connections is one of life’s sure and simple pleasures.  Now onto what is coming up in Chicago this month:

In March I mentioned several circus-themed events.  On a recent trip to Hyde Park I noticed a white tent being erected just north of McCormick Place.  This is the “White Big Top” that will be the venue for Cavalia’s “Odysseo,” a live equestrian extravaganza featuring 68 horses and an acrobatic show, April 1-23.

On April 1, Mies Van Der Rohe’s Farnsworth House in Plano, Illinois, reopened for the season (through November).  The last time I was there, the house was owned by Lord Palumbo, who had many of his outdoor sculptures located around the property.  I live in a Mies building so I am drawn to this icon of modernist architecture.

April begins with a foot race, the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle on April 2, and ends with the 12th annual “Race to Wrigley 5K,” on April 29.  Proceeds benefit Cubs Charities.

Will the Chicago Cubs win the world championship again this year?  The new season starts April 2. Their home opener is April 10.  Opening day for the Chicago White Sox is Monday, April 3.

April marks the 5th annual Chicago Dance Month.  Also this month, the Perceptual Motion dance concert on April 8 at the Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts on North Dearborn looks particularly interesting. Three of the four pieces in the program feature inter-generational performers ranging from 23 to 83.   

“A Night at the Opera” is not the musical version of the Marx Brother’s classic comedy, but a new Chicago a cappella concert created by ensemble member Kathryn Camp for those who love opera, and those who couldn’t be bothered.  The concert finale will be a rousing rendition of “Bohemian Rhapsody” from Queen’s “A Night at the Opera” album.  You can see it April 7 at the Wentz Concert Hall, Naperville; April 8 at the Nichols Concert Hall, Evanston; April 22 at the Logan Center for the Arts, Hyde Park/Chicago; and April 23 at Pilgrim Congregational Church, Oak Park.

For a true night at the opera, go to the Harris Theater for the Chicago premiere of “The Perfect American” by Philip Glass presented by Chicago Opera Theater on April 22 and 30.  The COT’s annual gala follows the April 30 performance.  The opera is about the alleged darker side of Chicago-born animator Walt Disney.

Chicago Chamber Music Society wraps up its 81st season with a concert featuring Alon Goldstein and the Fine Arts Quartet followed by a black-tie dinner at a private  club on Michigan Avenue, April 8.  That same club will host a Stradivari concert on April 19.  Stephen Kim will perform on a Guarnerius del Gesù violin on loan from the Samsung Foundation of Culture of Korea and the Stradivarius Society of Chicago.

Milos Forman’s film “Amadeus” about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his nemesis Antonio Salieri will be shown while Members of the Chicago Symphony and the Chicago Symphony Chorus perform “Amadeus Live,” at Symphony Center, April 18-19.  The 1984 film won eight Academy Awards®.  It stars Tom Hulce as Mozart and F. Murray Abraham as Salieri.  Winnetka born and bred Christine Ebersole stars as Katerina Cavalieri.  Ebersole is currently wowing them on Broadway as cosmetics queen Elizabeth Arden in the musical “War Paint,” which had its pre-Broadway run here in Chicago at the Goodman Theatre.

I recently heard Mark Kelly, the new commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, speak at the Arts Club. He mentioned that 2017 is Chicago’s first Year of Public Art.  But I have been celebrating Chicago’s public art for years:  I regularly take out-of-towners on a walking tour starting at Calder’s “Flamingo” at the Federal Center, then past the Miro’s “The Four Seasons” mosaic mural, up to Miro’s “Miss Chicago,” and finally across the street to Daley Plaza to view the Picasso sculpture, which turns 50 this year.

It is also the 50th anniversary of “The Wall of Respect,” a mural that appeared on a South Side building, but is now covered over.  Two exhibitions commemorating this mural are: “We Are Revolutionaries: The Wall of Respect and Chicago’s Mural Movement,” opens April 21 at the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University, through June 18; “The Wall of Respect: Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power” runs through July 30 at the Chicago Cultural Center.

I was not familiar with the true story behind the hit movie “Hidden Figures” about NASA’s Black female mathematicians who helped put men on the moon.  First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook is currently presenting the Midwest premiere of Lauren Gunderson’s “Silent Sky” about Henrietta Swan Leavitt, who worked at the Harvard University Observatory in the 1920s.  She assisted Harvard’s astronomers with their calculations even though the observatory’s telescope was off limits to her as a woman (through April 30).   “The Wall of Respect: Vestiges, Shards and “The Wall of Respect: Vestiges, Shards and the Legacy of Black Power.”  .”  

Several local theater companies have closed, but it is a good time to be a playwright in Chicago. Playwrights Lauren Yee and Karen Zacharias each have two plays running.  Lauren Yee’s “King of the Yees” is at Goodman Theatre through April 30, and her “Hookman: An Existential Slasher Comedy” opens at the Steep Theatre April 15.   Karen Zacharias’ “Destiny of Desire” is at the Goodman through April 16, and her “Into the Beautiful North” opens April 13 at the 16th Street Theater in Berwyn.

Douglas Post’s “Forty-Two Stories: A High-Rise Condo Comedy” opens April 14 at the City Lit Theater Company.  It is all about the drama – – portrayed as comedy – – in a Lake Shore Drive condo building.  It sounds intriguing, but living in a Lake Shore Drive condo building, I am fully aware of the drama that eventually becomes a part of everyday life.  

If you are headed in or out of downtown remember that April is “bridge-raising” month, which marks the beginning of the all-too-short sailing season on Lake Michigan.

Have a wonderful spring!


Photo credit Kay Whitfield