About the Town in March



By Philip Vidal




Chicago continues to be a very Irish city with a strong Roman Catholic tradition.  As I was raised Catholic, and went to Catholic schools, major holidays in my household are Christmas, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day… and of course whenever the Bears, Bulls, Cubs, Fire or Sox win a championship.


Even though my family is German-American, my sister was a member of an Irish-American dance troop in the 1960’s at our Northside grammar school, Our Lady of Mount Carmel.  My parents took my family down to Old St. Patrick’s auditorium around St. Patrick’s Day to see her perform. After all, as the saying goes, everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day.  In those days, the neighborhood around Old St. Pat’s was desolate.  Now it’s a vibrant neighborhood full of restaurants, bars, and tall apartment towers.


Father Thomas Hurley is the current pastor of Old St. Patrick’s Church (the oldest public building in Chicago), and the grand marshal of the 65th annual Chicago St. Patrick’s Day Parade that kicks off downtown on March 14, shortly after the Chicago River is dyed green.  Do you think that Father Hurley has some connection with Tommy O’Hurley’s Pop-Up Pub?   This pop-up will be a heated tent in front of Old St. Patrick’s Church, and will be the venue for a  new festival “Shamrock’n the Block,” also on March 14.   It sounds like this replaces Old St. Patrick’s “World’s Largest Block Party,” which had been around for 35 years.


The South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place on March 15 from Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th Street.


The following day, on March 15, the South Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade marches down Western Avenue from 103rd to 115th Street, and the Northwest Side Irish St. Patrick’s Day Parade  kicks off from the William J. Onahan School, at 6634 West Raven Street.


The Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle®  takes place March 22. Photo by Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle®.


One never knows what the weather will be for any of the three St. Patrick’s Day Parades.  It’s a meteorological fact that the weather in March is at its most variable with a possible 100 degree range, so check the weather forecast if you’re running in the Bank of America Shamrock Shuffle® 8K race, on March 22.  Besides the heated tent for “Shamrock’n the Block,” another indoor event, where  the weather will not be a factor, is the “The Chieftains & Friends: The Irish Goodbye” concert on March 6 at Symphony Center.  This is the Irish musical group’s final Chicago performance.


The 21st annual Chicago Irish Film Festival  ends March 1, but it’s not the only film festival that hopes to attract cinephiles.  The Jewish Film Festival Chicago continues through March 15 at seven venues around Chicagoland.  The Gene Siskel Film Center hosts the 23rd annual Chicago European Union Film Festival from March 6 through April 2, and although Britain is no longer in the European Union, the festival includes several films from the United Kingdom.


The 30th annual Onion City Experimental Film and Video Festival is at Chicago Filmmakers’ Firehouse Cinema March 12-15.  Brian De Palma’s 1987 “The Untouchables,” filmed on location in Chicago about the Eliot Ness pursuit of Al Capone, is just one of the films shown during the 6th iteration of the Music Box Theatre’s “70MM Film Festival,” March 5-19.  There’s something about seeing a big film on a big screen.  It reminds me of Norma Desmond’s famous line from “Sunset Boulevard”…”I am big! It’s the pictures that got small.”


Just hearing Little Edie Beale exclaim “Oh, Mother it’s the Maysles!” in her heavily-accented East Coast upper-class accent was worth the price of admission to Albert and David Maysles’ 1975 documentary film “Grey Gardens” about Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis’ aunt and cousin, filmed at their delipidated Long Island mansion, Grey Gardens.   Based on the documentary, the musical version of “Grey Gardens” is at Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre March 6-April 26.


Matt Crowley’s 1968 “The Boys in the Band”  runs through April 19 at Windy City Playhouse. Photo by Windy City Playhouse.


A couple of revivals of note are Matt Crowley’s 1968 “The Boys in the Band” at Windy City Playhouse, through April 19, and the 1965 satirical play “Day of Absence,” Congo Square Theatre Company at the Richard Christiansen Theatre, through March 22.  The play is about what happens in a Southern town when all of its black and brown citizens suddenly disappear.


A revival of sorts is Dan Clancy’s “Middletown” at the Apollo Theater Chicago, through March 22, which stars several blasts from the past: Sandy Duncan (“Peter Pan”), Donny Most (“Happy Days”), and Adrian Zmed (“T.J. Hooker”).


The Goodman Theatre hosts Brian Friel’s “Molly Sweeney,” March 27-April 26. Photo by Goodman Theatre.


Apparently, actor Brendan Coyle, who played Mr. Bates on “Downton Abbey,” liked Chicago’s theater scene so much (he was in “St. Nicholas” at the Goodman Theatre last year) that he’s back at the Goodman in Brian Friel’s “Molly Sweeney,” March 27-April 26.  He stars with one of my favorite Chicago actresses and Court Theatre regular, Kate Fry.


The Writers Theatre’s “The Last Match”, about  what happens on and off the professional tennis court, runs March 18-June 7. Photo by Writers Theatre.


Nicole Kidman starred in the 2015 London production of Anna Ziegler’s “Photograph 51.” I very much enjoyed Court Theatre’s production of “Photograph 51” last year, so I’m looking forward to seeing this very talented playwright’s  “The Last Match” at Writers Theatre in Glencoe, March 18-June 7, about what happens on and off the professional tennis court.


Competition in an exclusive Ghanaian boarding school sets the scene for Jocelyn Bioh’s comedy “School Girls; or, The African Mean Girls Play” at the Goodman Theatre’s Owen Theatre, March 7-April 12.


As a native Chicagoan, I have the Chicago Transit Authority’s elevated and subway train system seared into my memory so I can’t wait to see the premiere of “Chicago By ‘L’ with Geoffrey Baer’” on WTTW on March 4.


I’ve enjoyed the Museum of Contemporary Art’s “Chicago Works” series of exhibitions, which is probably a riff on Mayor Richard J. Daley’s moniker for Chicago, “the city that works.”  Next in the series is “Chicago Works: Deborah Stratman” based on the artist’s film “The Illinois Parables.” March 17-July 26.


The DECADANCE/CHICAGO by Ohad Naharin runs March 12, 14 and 15 at the Harris Theater. Photo by Todd Rosenberg.


Chicago can also be called the city that dances.  Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs their “Decadance/Chicago” program March 12, 14 and 15 at the Harris Theater.  Hyde Park School of Dance sets the Cinderella tale in Chicago in “Amira: A Chicago Cinderella Story” at Mandel Hall on the University of Chicago campus, March 28-29.  The 15th annual Dancing with Chicago Celebrities benefit at the Hyatt Regency Chicago is your chance to cut a rug with a local celeb and support breast cancer prevention research.


City Winery Chicago hosts the Voices of Chicago: Musical Diversity in the Windy City concert, March 30. Photo by City Winery Chicago.


Celebrate music made by Chicago jazz, blues and pop vocalists such as Mel Tormé, Lou Rawls, Dinah Washington, and Chaka Khan (to name a few) at the Voices of Chicago: Musical Diversity in the Windy City concert on March 30 at City Winery Chicago.  Celebrate Women’s History Month by attending the Chicago Philharmonic Brunch series: “Strings, Syrah and Sisterhood”  on March 22 at City Winery Chicago.  The Civic Orchestra’s 100th anniversary concert is March 29 at Symphony Center.  Architect Mies van der Rohe would be 134 this month.  Join the Mies Society as they host their annual Mies van der Rohe’s Birthday Party Celebration at his S.R. Crown Hall on the Illinois Institute of Technology campus on March 26.


An interactive exhibition in  Mies van der Rohe’s McCormick House, “Could Be Architecture: McCormick AfterParti,” continues at the Elmhurst Art Museum through April 12.  A new tome about the Modernist master, Alex Beam’s “Broken Glass: Mies van der Rohe, Edith Farnsworth and the Fight over a Modernist Masterpiece,” will be released this month.


I’ve spent countless hours poring over “Chicago Apartments: A Century of Lakefront Luxury” by Neil Harris. I’m excited to attend a reception, dinner and book signing this month at a private club in the Gold Coast for the updated version, “Chicago Apartments: A Century and Beyond of Lakefront Luxury,” which he has written with Teri J. Edelstein.  The book is available this month.


I’m sure to study several of the buildings featured in the Neil Harris book when I’m on the ten-week outdoor walking tour, “Best Addressed: Notable Residential Streets in Chicago,” that I’m taking through the Newberry Library from March 28-May 30.  Wish me luck with Chicago’s fickle March weather!



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