About the Town in May



By Philip Vidal




I clearly remember the terribly, cold, windy and rainy weather the first week of May when I helped a friend move into a new apartment. I also vividly remember when I was the best man at a wedding during the first week of May.  It was so hot that the groom fainted not once, but twice.  Though at the wedding, it may have been the prospect of marriage, not the heat.


Every Chicagoan has experienced the city’s changeable weather in May, and with few exceptions, events this month are held indoors, even though it feels like summer is almost here.


Kick off the month by attending FACETS’ Screen Gems gala, hosted by Chaz Ebert, on May 1. Photo by FACETS.


I love movies and there are a host of film festivals and movie-related events this month. May opens with a bang.  FACETS is just one year shy of its 50th anniversary, but is celebrating its 49th in a big way. This year’s Screen Gems gala, hosted by Chaz Ebert on May 1 at the Arts Club of Chicago, honors Chicago-native Jacqueline Stewart.  Just a few things on the impressive list of Stewart’s credentials are that she is an author, archivist, the director and president of the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, host of Turner Classic Movies’ Silent Sunday Nights, and professor in the Department of Cinema and Media Studies at the University of Chicago    The gala benefits the John A. Bross Student Scholarship Fund, which supports under-resourced youth with free access to FACETS’ Summer Film Camp and the annual Chicago International Children’s Film Festival.   Co-chairs of the benefit committee are Penny Brown and Judy Bross, my Classic Chicago Magazine editor, and wife of the late John Bross.


Alan Ruck from the iconic movie “Ferris Buehler’s Day Off” will be at the Auditorium Theatre for a special screening and Q&A event on May 2. Photo by Auditorium Theatre.


On May 2 at the Auditorium Theatre, Alan Ruck, one of the stars of John Hughes’ memorable movie “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” (shot in Chicago and the North Shore in 1986) engages in a Q&A in “An Evening with Alan Ruck and a Screening of ‘Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.”  One of Evanston-born actor John Cusack’s early roles was in another John Hughes’ movie, “Sixteen Candles’ (1984), also set on Chicago’s North Shore.  Cusack later went on to star in “High Fidelity” (2000), again set in Chicago.  Cusack will talk about his career and the making of this movie at the Auditorium Theatre on May 31 in “An Evening with John Cusack and a Screening of ‘High Fidelity’.”


Chicago’s only all-documentary film festival, Doc10, runs May 2-5 at the Davis Theater and the Gene Siskel Film Center.  One of my favorite bands of the 1980s is the subject of the festival’s opening night screening of Chris Smith’s documentary “Devo,” on May 2.


The Music Box Theatre hosts a variety of films for the Chicago Critics Film Festival,  May 3-9. Photo by Chicago Critics Film Festival.


The country’s only film festival curated by a major critics’ group, the Chicago Critics Film Festival, runs May 3-9 at the Music Box Theatre.   The final film of the fest is the Chicago premiere of “Ghostlight,” co-directed by Chicagoans Kelly O’Sullivan and Alex Thompson.   The Gene Siskel Film Center helps celebrate Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month with the 27th annual Asian American Showcase, May 17-23.


Happily, movie-going begins to migrate outdoors in May, signaling the prospect of more outdoor movie venues later in the summer.  But you can start with the Rooftop Cinema Club at Fulton Market on the terrace of the Emily Hotel, beginning May 8.


An evening of cabaret! The Rhapsody Theater presents “Studs’ Place: One More Time – A Musical Salute to Chicago’s Own Studs Terkel” from Studs’ books “And They All Sang and Giants of Jazz,” May 13. Photo by Chicago Cabaret Professionals.


Stephen Sondheim’s musical “Sunday in the Park with George” was inspired by Georges Seurat’s masterpiece “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte,” which hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago.   Porchlight Music Theatre presents “Porchlight in Concert: Sunday in the Park with George” at the Studebaker Theater, May 11-12.   When I was growing up, author and radio host Studs Terkel lived just a few blocks away.  The Rhapsody Theater presents “Studs’ Place: One More Time – A Musical Salute to Chicago’s Own Studs Terkel” on May 13.


Chicago has a long-standing tradition of cabaret.  The third annual Chicago Cabaret Week, at venues throughout the city and suburbs, celebrates that legacy, as well as today’s vibrant and diverse cabaret scene, May 10-19.


The Newberry Library presents “Comedy in Black and White: Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen” on May 16 for their series “Conversations at the Newberry.” Photo courtesy of the Newberry Library.


Visit the Newberry Library’s “A Night at Mr. Kelly’s” — an exhibition about the legendary Chicago nightclub, running through July 20.  Learn more about nightlife in Chicago of yore at two public events (registration required) the Newberry is presenting in conjunction with this exhibition:  “Nightlife on Rush Street” on May 11, and “Comedy in Black and White: Tim Reid and Tom Dreesen” on May 16.  Dressen grew up in suburban Harvey.


Set during the Red Summer of 1919 in Chicago’s Black Belt, the world premiere of Joshua Allen’s “The Prodigal Daughter” is at Raven Theatre, May 16-June 22.  Set on Chicago’s South Side during the 1930s, Chicagoan Nambi E. Kelley’s adaptation of Richard Wright’s novel “Native Son” runs May 10-June 30 at Lifeline Theatre. The world premiere of Kelley’s “Stokely: The Unfinished Revolution” is at Court Theatre, May 24-June 16.


Join the American Writers Museum and Chicago Public Library for the 2nd annual American Writers Festival at Harold Washington Library Center for in-depth conversations with writers and fun activities on May 19! Photo by American Writers Festival.


The biennial Chicago Writers’ Bloc New Play Festival at Theater Wit features five new plays and five new musicals from fourteen Chicago playwrights, composers and lyricists, May 5-19.  The 2nd annual American Writers Festival presented by the American Writers Museum and the Chicago Public Library is a free literary festival on May 19 at the Harold Washington Library Center.


Watch how art can transform lives in the four-part documentary series “The Express Way with Dulé Hill: Chicago on WTTW, May 14. Photo courtesy of WTTW.


A fascinating four-part documentary series takes the viewer across the U.S. to look at artists and how art can transform lives.  The final stop is Chicago.  WTTW airs “The Express Way with Dulé Hill: Chicago” on May 14.


Chicagoland non-profit Arts of Life will host their annual fundraiser to support artists who have developmental and intellectual disabilities on May 3rd at Garfield Conservatory. Photo by Arts of Life.


You can help support the arts and related social programs in Chicago by attending the Arts of Life Enchanted Garden benefit auction at the Garfield Conservatory on May 3.  Arts of Life provides artists who have developmental and intellectual disabilities with two professional art studios, one in Chicago and another on the North Shore, as well as gallery space that is open to the public.  Proceeds from the auction will help Arts of Life open a third location on Chicago’s South Side.


René Lalique, Chrysanthemum Pendant Brooch, c. 1900. Richard H. Driehaus Collection, image courtesy the Driehaus Museum. Photography by John A. Faier.


The non-profit CPS Lives pairs members of Chicago’s creative community with Chicago Public Schools (CPS) to support the Chicago Public School system’s mission to provide a high-quality, well-rounded education for every child in Chicago. The 6th annual CPS Lives Gala will be at the Arts Club of Chicago on May 22.   We last saw Art Design Chicago in 2018.  Organized by the Terra Foundation for American Art, this series of events and exhibitions is back and runs through 2024.  “Designing for Change: Chicago Protest Art of the 1960s–70s,” opens May 18 at the Chicago History Museum.  Over 200 pieces, including pieces on loan from the Chicago History Museum and other prominent local collections, comprise “Chicago Collects: Jewelry in Perspective,” which opens May 23 at the Driehaus Museum.


The final stop of the “Chryssa & New York” exhibition’s national tour is at Wrightwood 659, May 3-July 27, and is on my ‘must-see’ list.   This show highlights Chryssa’s relationship with Chicago and includes works from the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul Art Museum and the Smart Museum of Art.  The seemingly endless parade of Chicago’s outdoor art and street festivals begins with the Do Division Street Fest on May 31-June 2.  A sure sign that summer is almost here is the 77th annual 57th Street Art Fair, June 1-2.


Take part in the Cicada Parade-a, a large-scale collaborative art project on display in and around Chicago starting in May. Photo by Cicada Parade-a.


May is expected to end with a long serenade that is celebrated by the  Cicada Parade-a, a large-scale collaborative art project organized by The Insect Asylum and Formstone Castle Collective, which is intended to coincide with the emergence of trillions of cicadas that have been living underground in Chicago and its suburbs.  In late May/early June, the cicadas will emerge from the ground and move to trees and woods for approximately four to six weeks, where they’ll mate, lay eggs, and make a lot noise.


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