About the Town in November





By Philip Vidal


The holidays are upon us, and with the holidays come traditions. 

A Hispanic tradition, Dia de los Muertos, or the Day of the Dead, is not to be confused with Halloween. The 37th annual Pilsen Dia de los Muertos celebration is November 2 in Dvorak Park, chicagoparkdistrict.com. The first Dia de los Muertos event by the newspaper Hoy will be held at Joe’s Bar on Weed Street on November 3, vivelohoy.com/diademuertos. The National Museum of Mexican Art will host “Masquerade” a celebration of the spirits of the living and the dead on Saturday, November 5, NationalMuseumofMexicanArt.org/LoveNeverDies.  I plan to see the largest annual exhibition of Day of the Dead artwork in the U.S., “#30 Dia de los Muertos: Journey of the Soul,” celebrating its 30th year running. I look forward to learning more about the traditions associated with this holiday.  The exhibit continues through December 11 at the National Museum of Mexican Art, nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org.

Attending the SOFA Show (the sculpture, objects, functional art expo) at Navy Pier has become one of my favorite autumn traditions.  I am a big admirer of the Italian glass artist Lino Tagliapietra; his work is always one of the highlights of the show. Opening night is November 3. The show then runs through November 6, sofaexpo.com.

The various farmers markets around the city this year were great; they gave us all the opportunity to enjoy fresh tomatoes right from the vine.  Most have closed, and the tomato season is now only a memory, but the French Market at Nettlehorst (where I attended kindergarten) is open until Saturday, November 5 at Melrose and Broadway from 8 am to 2 pm.

One of the mainstays of the holiday season and a tradition for many families is Charles Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” at the Goodman Theatre, which opens November 19 and runs through December 31, goodmantheatre.org.

The twinkling lights of the Lincoln Park Zoo as seen close-up, from the east along Lake Shore Drive, or from the west in a Lincoln Park hi-rise are always a holiday treat, November 25-January 1.  Another longstanding Chicago tradition is the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, which is in its 103rd year. This year it is on November 18.  Remember that the tree is no longer at Daley Plaza; the tree was moved last year to Millennium Park near Washington and Michigan. Ice skating at the McCormick Tribune Ice Skating Rink in Millennium Park begins November 18.  If you need to warm up after skating, head over to the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza for hot chocolate or glühwein, November 18-December 24, christkindlmarket.com.

The 25th annual Magnificent Mile Lights Festival is November 18-19.  On Saturday the 19th the parade (5:30-7:00 pm) will proceed down Michigan Avenue from Oak Street to Wacker Drive, and there will be fireworks at 6:55 pm.  Also in its 25th year is the annual “Wreathing of the Lions” at the Art Institute, where each of the massive bronze lions is tamed with a bright red bow, this year on November 25 at 10:00 am, artic.edu.

If you are looking for a diversion from the holiday festivities, there are plenty of options.

Ballet Folklorico will perform at the Paramount Theatre in Aurora on November 4, ParamountAurora.com. The Paramount Theatre’s programming is terrific and it led in Equity Jeff nominations this past year.

The 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death is winding down, but there are still many Bard-inspired events. The Chicago premiere of Mike Barlett’s “King Charles III” opens November 5 at Chicago Shakespeare Theater and runs through January 15, chicagoshakes.com. Spymonkey’s “The Complete Deaths” is upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, November 30-December 11, chicagoshakes.com. The last performance I attended at the Shakespeare Theater was “The Merchant of Venice.” It was terrific, and all of these promise to be just as good. 

A Red Orchid Theatre’s production of Harold Pinter’s rarely performed first play, “The Room,” continues through November 13, aredorchidtheatre.org.

“Red Velvet,” a play about the first Black actor to perform “Othello” on the London stage in 1833 continues through November 27 at Raven Theatre, raventheatre.com.

Soprano Renée Fleming, the first creative consultant at the Lyric Opera, along with mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen and baritone Takaoki Onishi will delight in the “Beyond the Aria” series of cabaret-style concerts at the Pritzker Pavilion on November 16, harristheaterchicago.org.

The Renaissance Society, although a long-established institution in Hyde Park, has always been on the forefront of the arts. Chair of the University of Chicago’s art history department Professor Christine Mehring will lead a walk-through of the Ren’s latest exhibition, “Sadie Benning: Shared Eye,” on November 29 at 6:00 pm, renaissancesociety.org. Dr. Mehring is responsible for the reinstallation of “Concrete Traffic,” a 1957 Cadillac encased in concrete, at the University of Chicago. She was just recognized in an effusive article that appeared on the front page of The Wall Street Journal.

In November I look forward to going back to two exhibits I saw in October: “Moholy-Nagy Future Present” at the Art Institute, through January 3, and “There was a whole collection made: Photography from Lester and Betty Guttman,” at the Smart Museum of Art, through December 30, smartmuseum.uchicago.edu. The Guttman exhibit is extraordinary, beautiful and extensive. It presents a carefully curated selection from their gift of 830 photographic works ranging from the beginning of photography to contemporary times. This show demonstrates what enthusiastic, committed and knowledgeable collectors can accomplish. If you go, you will see wonderful photo-montages by Moholy-Nagy that will remind you of the Art Institute’s superb retrospective. 

If the holidays put you in a philanthropic mood, there are worthwhile causes with benefits in November. 

Children’s Oncology Services Inc. (COSI) will have their benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel on November 11. COSI raises funds to send children with cancer to summer camp, onestepcamp.org/events/flight. On November 18 is the 15th annual pet-friendly, black-tie PAWS Chicago Fur Ball at the Drake Hotel to support homeless dogs and cats, pawschicago.org/furball.  Where else can you break bread in a tuxedo with your pooch, other than at home? 

Over the Rainbow Association hosts their 27th annual Celebration concert starring Patti LuPone at Northwestern University’s Galvin Recital Hall on November 13 at 4:00 pm, concertsatbienen.org/rainbow.

The Chicago Comedy Film Festival is November 10-12.  I am sorry that I never saw comedienne and south-suburban Chicago native Jane Lynch when she performed with Second City or when she played Carol Brady in Annoyance Theater’s long-running “The Real Live Brady Bunch.” This past June I did see her in “See Jane Sing!” where the audience, the singers and the band were all on the Lyric Opera’s stage. It was intimate, ribald and great, good fun. And yes, she can sing. On November 10 she will be presented with a Lifetime Achievement in Comedy Award at the Chicago Comedy Film Festival. Congrats!

November ends with Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving is about acknowledging one’s blessings, family, friends and traditions. And there is the possibility of establishing a new tradition with family and friends by attending one of the sing-a-long “Sound of Music” screenings at the Music Box Theatre. The lyrics are on-screen and every attendee gets their own package of “magic moment gifts” to interact with the film. November 25–27 and December 3-4, go to musicboxtheatre.com for show times. This brings to mind a screening of “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” which encourages singing along, dressing up, and props, but “The Sound of Music” promises to be more family-friendly. I have long outgrown the lederhosen my German grandmother gave me many years ago, so I will not enter the costume contest the Music Box has planned. But there is still time for me to craft a pair out of curtains as was done in the movie, which should add to the show.

On a somber note, Art AIDS America opens on World Aids Day, December 1, at the Alphawood Gallery, a temporary space in a former bank (which was my grandmother’s bank during the depression and was one of the few in Chicago that did not close) at 2401 N. Halsted. This is the last stop of this touring exhibition which shows how the AIDS crisis changed the art world. Artists included in the show are Keith Haring, Annie Leibovitz, and Robert Mapplethorpe. The Chicago exhibit also includes works by Chicago imagist Roger Brown, ArtAIDSAmericaChicago.org. Northwestern’s Mary and Leigh Block Gallery also has an AIDS related arts exhibition that runs through December 11, blockmuseum.northwestern.edu.

December begins with a treat: Philippe de Montebello, the former long-time director of the Metropolitan Museum, will speak at the Art Institute’s Old Masters Society dinner at a private club in the Gold Coast on December 7.  Todd Schwebel chairs the event with Susan and Harlow Higinbotham.

Travel is a holiday tradition for many, and I too will be on the move. Safe travels and comfortable travels for everyone over the holiday season!