About the Town in February



By Philip Vidal



The Cadillac Palace Theatre hosts Riverdance’s 25th Anniversary Show, February 4-9. Photo by Broadway in Chicago. 


February opens with Riverdance’s 25th Anniversary Show at the Cadillac Palace Theatre, February 4-9.  One of the founders of Riverdance, Michael Flatley, grew up on Chicago’s South Side.   The month ends on Leap Day, February 29, with two performances by Trinity Irish Dance Company at the Auditorium Theatre.


February is historically a great month for dance in Chicago. In between Riverdance and Trinity Irish Dance are dance concerts by one of Chicago’s most innovative dance companies, Same Planet Performance Project with Ivy Baldwin, which will debut two new works  at the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago on February 21-22.  Overlapping the performances of the Same Planet Performance Project, the Joffrey Ballet performs “Times are Racing” at the Auditorium Theatre between February 12-23.   The times are a changin’ too. This is the Joffrey’s last season at the Auditorium before it moves to the Lyric Opera House.


The Auditorium Theatre was at one time in danger of being torn down.  Fortunately, it wasn’t.  Now there is talk that the State of Illinois might put the Helmut Jahn-designed Thompson Center up for sale to a developer, who might elect to demolish the building.  Perhaps, for this reason, the Thompson Center appeared on Preservation Chicago’s  2019 “Chicago 7” list of Chicago’s most endangered buildings.  The updated list, 2020 “Chicago 7,” will be the subject of a free (advance registration required) talk at the center on February 26.   My father worked in the then State of Illinois Building in the late 1980s.  Years later, when I worked downtown, I would sometimes have lunch at the food court in the lower level.


February is Black History Month.  Beginning on February 27 through November, the DuSable Museum of African American History hosts “The March,” the world premiere virtual reality exhibition about Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and the 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. “Freedom Ride” commissioned and presented by Chicago Opera Theater at the Studebaker Theater, February 8-16, tells the story of Freedom Riders, civil rights activists in the South in 1961.  The Chicago Children’s Choir Black History Month series of free concerts with singers from all 57 Chicago zip codes is at Symphony Center from February 10-12.  On February 27, WTTW will air “DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis,” showcasing African Americans contributions to Chicago’s history and culture.


Kristine Thatcher’s “Voice of Good Hope” runs through February 23 at the City Lit Theater. Photo by City Lit Theater.


A new exhibition at the Museum of Science and Industry, “Black Creativity: 50 Years,” continues through March 1.   A revival of Kristine Thatcher’s play “Voice of Good Hope” about African American congresswoman Barbara Jordan is at City Lit Theater through February 23.  Invictus Theatre remounts Chicago playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s play “A Raisin in the Sun” (February 17-March 15), which mirrored her own family’s struggles with segregation in Chicago.   Her family was a party to the Supreme Court case “Hansberry v. Lee” concerning a restrictive covenant.


Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg is profiled in “Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg,” which runs February 9 to August 16 at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie.


The fascinating life of Jun Fujita, a Japanese-born poet, and photojournalist who came to Chicago in 1909, is featured in “Jun Fujita: American Visionary,” an exhibition co-presented by the Newberry Library and the Poetry Foundation at the Newberry Library through March 31.  His poetry was published in Chicago’s “Poetry” magazine.  His photographs captured some of Chicago’s most famous events: the 1915 Eastland Disaster, the 1919 race riots, and the 1929 St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.


“Diary: April 25th, ‘81,” one of Tetsuya Noda’s silkscreen works shown for “Tetsuya Noda: My Life in Print” at the Art Institute of Chicago, February 29-July 21. Photo by Art Institute of Chicago.


Tetsuya Noda: My Life in Print,” a retrospective of works by a celebrated Japanese artist who was one of the first to manipulate a photograph when making a screen print, runs February 29-July 21 at the Art Institute of Chicago.  This is the first major exhibition of this artist’s work in the United States and follows large and important shows at the British Museum and in Taiwan.


Seven artists ponder artificial intelligence in “In Real Life,” an exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Photography (MOCP) that continues through March 29.  You can support exhibitions like this at MOCP by attending their annual Darkroom Benefit  — an auction and benefit — at the Columbia College Student Center on February 27.


The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago’s exhibition “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago” runs February 29-May 10. Photo by Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.


Nigerian-born British designer Duro Olowu combed Chicago’s private and public collections and combined them with his own fashion designs to create the exhibition “Duro Olowu: Seeing Chicago,” at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago February 29-May 10.


“Wave of Materials” will be shown at Wrightwood 659, February 7-May 3. Photo by Museum Associates/LACMA.


Last year I saw “The Allure of Matter: Material Art from China” at its first venue, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).    I am looking forward to seeing it again when it comes to Chicago, where it will be co-presented at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum and Wrightwood 659, February 7-May 3.  Wu Hung, Smart Museum Adjunct Curator and Professor in Chinese Art History at the University of Chicago, and Orianna Cacchione, the Smart’s first Curator of Global Contemporary Art, co-curated the exhibition.  The public opening at both venues is February 8 from 3-7 PM and will feature gallery talks led by the University of Chicago graduate students at the Smart Museum, and by Wrightwood 659 Education Associates (registration required) at Wrightwood 659.   One of the most beautiful and largest pieces in the LACMA show was Zhu Jinshi’s “Wave of Materials,” an enormous installation made of paper, cotton thread, bamboo, and stones.  It will be shown at Wrightwood 659.


The University of Chicago continues its terrific series of concerts with a performance by the early-music orchestra Concerto Köln at Mandel Hall on February 28.  Vivaldi’s masterpiece “Four Seasons” is part of the program. My paternal grandmother was from a town just outside of Cologne (German: Köln), so I have two reasons to go:  to reminisce about my grandmother, and to hear Vivaldi’s reassurance that the seasons form a cycle, and that winter will soon give way to spring and summer.


Starting my reminiscence now, Cologne is famous for Karneval, the German version of Mardi Gras. I remember my grandmother had an LP entitled “Carnival on the Rhine.”  Playing this forward, DANK Haus German American Cultural Center holds its first ever Karneval celebration on February 22.


The Chicago Theatre hosts the Il Volo-The Best of 10 Years” tour on February 15. Photo by the Madison Square Garden Company.


I also have Italian roots, and have marked my calendar to hear the Italian singing trio Il Volo when they’re at the Chicago Theatre on February 15 as part of their “Il Volo-The Best of 10 Years” tour.  It could make for a romantic post-St. Valentine’s Day date.  Beethoven’s 250th birthday celebration continues with Sir John Eliot Gardiner + Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique performing the complete Beethoven Symphonies at the Harris Theater, February 27-March 3.  The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians perform their “Beethoven 250” concert on February 16 at Nichols Concert Hall in Evanston, and on February 18 at the Cliff Dwellers Club in Chicago.


February also marks the return of Chicago Theatre Week, presented by the League of Chicago Theatres and Choose Chicago. It boasts tickets to over 120 shows for $30 or less, February 13-23.


Rock musical “Verböten” continues at The House Theatre of Chicago at Chopin Theatre through March 8.


The world premiere of the rock musical “Verböten” continues at The House Theatre of Chicago at Chopin Theatre through March 8.  I was on the edges of the new wave, punk scene in Chicago in the 1980s, so I want to see this show, which is about a punk rock band made up of Evanston teenagers who hope to get a gig at the famed Cubby Bear.  It is sure to bring back memories.


Mayor Jane Byrne’s 1981 three-week stay at the Cabrini-Green Homes housing project is the subject of a new play “Her Honor Jane Byrne” at Lookingglass Theatre Company, February 26-April 12.  It’s written and directed by Chicago-native and Lookingglass ensemble member J. Nicole Brooks.


“Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theater” by Mark Larson is a must-read for anyone interested in the history of Chicago’s world-famous theater scene.  Last month, I attended a fascinating lecture at private club given by the author about this new book.


I often refer to Neil Harris’ “Chicago Apartments: A Century of Lakefront Luxury.” This month, he and Teri J. Edelstein release the sequel “Chicago Apartments: A Century and Beyond of Lakefront Luxury” (The University of Chicago Press).  I can’t wait to attend Neil’s presentation about his new book at a private club next month.


Another favorite book I love to pour over (but it always makes me hungry) is the culinary encyclopedia “Larousse Gastronomique,” so I’m anxious to hear Rebecca Spang and Richard Shepro at an event “Talk & Taste! The Invention of French Restaurants & Food Pairing” at the Alliance Française on February 13.  The event will conclude with a book sale and signing of a special 20th anniversary edition of Rebecca Spang’s “The Invention of the Restaurant:  Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture.” If you prefer cooking and eating at home to dining out at restaurants, then the Alliance offers some great cooking classes led by Madelaine Bullwinkel.


New restaurant in Chicago: Time out Market Chicago. Photo by Time Out.


Restaurants are so ubiquitous now, especially in Chicago, and often so much a part of our daily lives, that it’s hard to believe they were once a novelty. New restaurants in Chicago that I’d like to try are the old-school Italian themed Ciccio Mio, Paul Virant’s Gaijin, Time Out Market Chicago, and WoodWind.  North Shore Restaurant Month has great deals at participating restaurants from February 1-29.


This column was submitted a week before it was posted on February 2, Groundhog Day, so I don’t know if the groundhog did or did not see its shadow, and therefore I don’t know how much longer winter will last.  But I certainly hope that winter is almost over, particularly for those jumping into Lake Michigan at North Avenue Beach on March 1 for the 20th annual Chicago Polar Plunge benefiting Special Olympics Chicago.


Dates, times, location and availability are subject to change.