About the Town In March


Philip Vidal






By Philip Vidal


The McCormick Ice Rink at Millennium Park will close for the season on March 5, a sign that winter will soon give way to spring. Still, the Chicago Polar Plunge, benefiting the Special Olympics, is that same day. But a clear harbinger of warmer weather is the 101st Chicago Garden and Flower Show at Navy Pier, March 18-26.

Others may be obsessing about their March Madness brackets. My obsession is food, so I look forward to my good friend Doris Timmen’s annual fondue dinner in early March. Last year, in a moment occasioned by good food and warm fellowship, I imagined that Doris, her other guests and I were at a chic resort high in the Alps enjoying her fondue apres-ski. A strange fantasy as I do not ski.

Speaking of food, I have been to Copenhagen twice and was never able to snag a reservation to one of the world’s best restaurants, Noma. So I was delighted to enjoy an alternative: inventive cuisine with Scandinavian influences when friends invited me to the hot new Randolph Street restaurant Elske. I will return once it warms up and the patio is open.

The Gene Siskel Film Center hosts the 20th Annual Chicago European Union Film Festival from March 3 to 30. This is your chance to see the Chicago premiere of 62 films from all 28 EU countries. One of the films that caught my eye is “The Sense of Ending,” a film from the UK with a stellar cast that includes Jim Broadbent, Charlotte Rampling and Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary on “Downton Abbey”).

In celebration of Women’s History Month, the Smithsonian Channel will premiere “Victorian Rebel – Marianne North” on March 8 at 8 PM ET/PT. I was fortunate to see a screening of this film, and it is fascinating on many levels. Marianne North was an English Victorian botanist in a field dominated by men. She was an artist who documented rare species of plants in a style that broke away from the standard “plant on white background.” She traveled on her own to the remotest corners of the world when travel was difficult and dangerous. The Marianne North Gallery at Kew Gardens is already on my calendar when I visit London later this year.

I love Frederico Fellini films. The circus was a theme in many of his movies, and if here were alive today, I know he would be saddened that the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus is closing in May. But circus-themed events seem to be popping up all over. “Circus 1903 – The Golden Age of Circus” March 21-26 is at the Oriental Theatre, broadwayinchicago.com. “The Year I Didn’t Go to School: A Homemade Circus” is at Chicago Children’s Theatre through March 26. Further from home, Georges Seurat’s pointillist masterpiece “Circus Sideshow” (Parade de Cirque) is the centerpiece of a sideshow-themed exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum through May 29.

“Going Back in Time” is this year’s topic for what is always a memorable evening: the Chicago Literary Club dinner at a private women’s club on Bellevue, March 3. Barbara Wing has kindly invited me to attend. Great food and always entertaining, often erudite readings – what could be better? Vickie Dorgan and Laurie Hammel will present for the women’s club. Dixon Hollis and Stephen Thomas will represent the Chicago Literary Club.

But if you really want to go back in time, the new Deering Family Galleries of Medieval and Renaissance Art, Arms and Armor at the Art Institute of Chicago open on March 20 with the “Saints and Heroes: Art of Medieval and Europe” exhibit. I cannot wait to see what Jonathan Tavares, associate curator of Arms and Armor, and Martha Wolff, Eleanor Wood-Prince curator of European Painting before 1750, have assembled.

Chicago’s Music of the Baroque has a terrific chorus. MOB’s choral director, William Jon Gray, will conduct “Glorious Chorus – Bach and Vivaldi” at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie on March 26 and the Harris Theater on March 27. Choral pieces by Bach will also be featured at the Windy City Choral Festival at Orchestra Hall at Symphony Center on March 18.

I worked for R.R. Donnelley & Sons for many years. Donnelley had a magnificent library in their Lakeside Press Building at Cermak, just west of Lake Shore Drive. This behemoth of a building was designed by noted architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. The library moved to the Donnelley headquarters at 77 West Wacker where I worked. Just once in my career was I allowed to enter the inner sanctum of the library on the executive floor to view some of its treasures. Northwestern University makes it easier to see what they have. You can view “Hidden Treasures of Northwestern University Libraries” through March 18, artscircle.northwestern.edu.

Congrats to Thodos Dance Chicago, which is celebrating its 25th season. I hope to make it to their “Full Circle” 25th anniversary performance on March 11 at the Auditorium Theatre. Spring officially starts on the 20th, and two local dance groups present their spring series during the month of March. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs at the Harris Theater March 16-19. Giordano Dance Chicago performs at the Harris Theater March 31 and April 1. In addition, “Riverdance 20 Years” is at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora March 31, April 1 and 2. Michael Flatley, a native of the South Side of Chicago, founded this Irish dance troupe.

Friends have invited me to see “My Brother’s Keeper: The Story of the Nicholas Brothers,” a musical about one of the world’s most famous dancing duos of the 1930’s and 40’s, at the Black Ensemble Theater in Uptown, through March 26.

I look forward to seeing the Chicago premiere of Tom Stoppard’s new play, “The Hard Problem,” which runs March 9-April 9 at Court Theatre. Having been a subscriber to Court for many years, I was honored to finally meet its founder, Nicholas Rudall, at a dinner party last month.

Years ago I saw a production of the rock musical “Hedwig and the Angry Inch” at the American Theater Company. Hedwig happens to be my German grandmother’s given-name. I know she would vehemently disapprove of my going if she were still here, but I would nevertheless like to see the new 2014 production at the Oriental Theatre, March 7-19, broadwayinchicago.com.

“Defiant Requiem: Verdi at Terezin,” a concert to benefit Chicago area Holocaust survivors through Holocaust Community Services, is at Symphony Center, March 23, featuring Tovah Feldshuh as The Lecturer and Jeremy Piven, who grew up in Evanston, as Rafael Schaechter.

The 15th Annual Chicago Flamenco Festival continues through March 25 at the Instituto Cervantes of Chicago (31 W. Ohio St.). The Segovia Classical Guitar series brings artists from all over the world to perform at the Mary B. Galvin Recital Hall at Northwestern University’s Evanston Campus. On March 11, Thibaut Garcia, from France, will perform. He has won numerous awards and is only 22, concertsatbienen.org.

My March ends and April begins with the Art Institute’s Sustaining Fellows’ “Weekender: Asian Art in San Francisco,” hosted by John and Anne Grube. The group will have special access to the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco which was founded by Avery Brundage (a Chicago builder who constructed several pre-war apartment buildings, office buildings and hotels, and was the longtime head of the International Olympic Committee), the newly reopened San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, along with visits to significant private collections of Asian Art. While in San Francisco I will also see “Monet: The Early Years” at the Legion of Honor. It is the first U.S. exhibition focusing on his early works. A good way to close one month and launch into another.

Photo credit Kay Whitfield

Photo credit http://shawnacoronado.com/