About the Town in September



By Philip Vidal



For many people, autumn connotes the beginning of the end the year, but to me autumn, and in particular September, marks the exciting beginning of a new season of music, theater, dance, performances, benefits, social gatherings, and an opportunity to explore Chicago.  Many Chicago cultural institutions are hosting inaugural events and celebrate milestone anniversaries.


Chicago Live! returns to Navy Pier to showcase local Chicago talent, September 24-25. Photo by Navy Pier.


Two multi-genre events this month are the Museum of Contemporary Art’s first annual Chicago Performs on September 15-16, with not only performances by Chicago artists, but a chance to meet and speak with them.  The 2nd annual Chicago Live! festival at Navy Pier on September 24-25 also showcases Chicago talent with performances by more than 60 of Chicago’s dance, music, theater, and cultural institutions.


Start of September with the Chicago Jazz Festival at Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, September 1-4. Photo by City of Chicago.


September starts with one of the many things Chicago is noted for:  jazz.  Presented by the City of Chicago and programmed by Jazz Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Jazz Festival at Millennium Park and the Chicago Cultural Center, September 1-4, showcases not only the best local jazz artists, but also national and international musicians.  Later in the month, the Hyde Park Jazz Festival has performances at a dozen venues in Hyde Park, September 24-25.


Composer Philip Glass, who attended the University of Chicago, turned 85 this year.  The Chicago-based and Grammy® award-winning ensemble Third Coast Percussion opens its 2022-23 season with an all-Philip Glass program at the Field Museum on September 13.  Chicago Sinfonietta’s “NEXT” concert opens their 35th season at the Wentz Concert Hall on September 17, and at Symphony Center on September 19.


Music of the Baroque (MOB) which just celebrated its 50th anniversary, makes its Ravinia Pavilion debut on September 3 with a program that includes Handel’s “Music for the Royal Fireworks,” then opens its 2022-2023 season with Handel’s final oratorio “Jephtha” at the North Shore Center on September 18, and the Harris Theater on September 19.  Congratulations to Dame Jane Glover on her 20th season as the MOB’s music director, and Nicholas Kraemer on his 20th anniversary as principal guest conductor.


Making a stop at the United Center on September 19 as part of their 50th anniversary tour is Roxy Music. Photo by Live Nation.


To celebrate the 40th anniversary of Chicago’s Metro and Smartbar, Ravinia hosts a “Queen!” bash at the carousel stage on September 17.   I went to Metro and Smartbar back in the day.  Another blast from my past and favorite bands, Roxy Music, comes to the United Center on September 19 as part of their 50th anniversary tour.


Check out Mariachi Sirenas perform at the Chicago Botanic Garden at part of “Flourish: The Garden at 50,” September 24-25. Photo by Chicago Botanic Garden.


To celebrate their 50th anniversary, the Chicago Botanic Garden is hosting Flourish: The Garden at 50, a series of musical pop-ups this summer.  The final pop-up of the season is  Mariachi Sirenas, Chicago’s first all-female mariachi band performing in the garden on September 24-25.  Check out the special art installations through September 25 that are also part of the 50th anniversary celebration.   It’s the Morton Arboretum’s centennial and this month the Grand Garden is set to open.


Back for the 7th year, The Great American Lobster Festival at Navy Pier will feature lobster, live music, games and more on Labor Day weekend, September 2-4. Photo by The Great American Lobster Fest.


Before the weather turns colder, other things to enjoy in September are several (mostly) outdoor festivals and events.   The Midwest’s largest lobster and seafood festival, The Great American Lobster Festival (7th year), at Navy Pier, September 2-4, includes music… and maybe a sing-a-along “This Was a Real Nice Clambake” from Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Carousel”?  Billed as the largest Polish festival in the country, the Taste of Polonia Festival is back this year at the Copernicus Center, September 2-5.


Enjoy a live polka music performance at Brookfield Zoo’s Oktoberfest, September 24. Photo by Chicago Zoological Society Brookfield Zoo.


One of the top food events of the year, Chicago Gourmet, runs September 22-25 at the Harris Theater Rooftop, and other venues.  The festival includes Chicago’s world-renowned chefs, Grand Cru, Hamburger Hop, Late Night Gourmet, Somm Sessions lunch, Tacos & Tequila, and the new Prost! In the Park, an homage to Munich’s Oktoberfest.  There will also be Oktoberfest celebrations around Chicago.  Brookfield Zoo hosts its Oktoberfest on September 24. Oktoberfest Chicago at St. Alphonsus Church runs September 23-25.   (I attended Mass in German in the lower chapel of St. Alphonsus Church).  My German relatives try to avoid Oktoberfest, which in Munich runs from September 17 to October 3.


The weekend-long Ravenswood ArtWalk takes place September 10 and 11 celebrating the local creative community. Photo by Ravenswood Chicago.


The largest free literary event in the Midwest, the 37th annual Printers Row Lit Fest, is September 10-11, on South Dearborn from Ida B. Wells Drive to Polk Street.  The fest includes a book sale and free literary programming.  This year’s headliner is Natasha Trethewey, U.S. poet laureate.  That same weekend, September 10-11, is the 20th annual Ravenswood ArtWalk, on Ravenswood Avenue from Lawrence to Waveland.  The 7th annual River North Design District Fall Gallery Walk on September 9 and 10 is a signifies that the busy fall season has started.


Your one chance of the year to bicycle along DuSable Lake Shore Drive is the family-friendly Bike the Drive on September 4.  In its 20th year, the event benefits the Active Transportation Alliance.  Next July a stretch of DuSable Lake Shore Drive will be part of the course for the NASCAR race.


An experience for the whole family! Featuring twelve Chicago neighborhoods to explore, Chicago Children’s Theatre presents the “Walkie Talkies” podcast tour. Photo by Chicago Children’s Theatre.


After Bike the Drive, take the kids to explore and learn about a Chicago neighborhood on a Chicago Children’s Theatre (CCT) Walkie Talkies podcast tour.  CCT added five new neighborhood audio walking tours this summer, bringing the total of twelve Chicago neighborhoods to explore with episodes created by local theater artists.


Know Your Chicago has various tours and their symposium in September, organized in conjunction with University of Chicago’s Graham School. Photo courtesy of Rihards Sergis/Unsplash.


As a lifelong Chicagoan, I enjoy exploring Chicago and am always curious to learn about our city.  One of Chicago’s grand dames, Mary Ward Wolkonsky, founded Know Your Chicago in 1948, but I only recently heard about the Know Your Chicago symposium and tours that are organized in conjunction with the University of Chicago’s Graham School.  I’m booked for the symposium on September 7 at the Union League Club and on one of the three tours.  Mrs. Wolkonsky was certainly an advocate for Chicago.  Kitty Freidheim, the chair, Joan Blew and Linda Celesia who are in charge of the symposium and tours, have done a terrific job of honoring Mrs. Wolkonsky’s legacy.  It all promises to be great fun.


Proceeds from the FACETS Screen Gems Benefit will go to the John A. Bross Student Scholarship Fund, serving Chicago’s under-resourced youth and providing free access to the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and Summer Film Camp. Photo courtesy of FACETS.


There are several galas in September that honor local advocates of Chicago and Chicago talent. On September 12 the AIA Chicago honors Perkins&Will‘s global design director, Ralph Johnson, with the AIA Chicago Lifetime Achievement Award at Designight 2022, a free ceremony, open to the public at the Pritzker Pavilion.  Hill Hammock will be the Cultural and Civic Leader honoree at the American Writers Museum’s OnWord 2022 benefit at the Four Seasons Hotel Chicago on September 15.  The honorees of the Chicago Artists Coalition (CAC)’s annual Work in Progress benefit on September 22 are artist and educator Candida Alvarez and art dealer Monique Meloche.  FACETS’ Screen Gems Benefit honoring Chaz Ebert is September 28 at the Arts Club of Chicago.  Proceeds from the benefit go to the John A. Bross Student Scholarship Fund which serves Chicago’s under-resourced youth and provides free access to the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival and Summer Film Camp.  I’m privileged and fortunate to have known the late John Bross.


3 more films will be shown in September as part of the Chicago International Film Festival’s free Summer Screenings series. Photo by Chicago International Film Festival.


I can’t wait to curl up with Chicago International Film Festival founder Michael Kutza’s new book “Starstruck: How I Magically Transformed Chicago into Hollywood For More Than Fifty Years.”  The Chicago International Film Festival’s free Summer Screenings series continue on Wednesdays through September 21 at the Chicago Cultural Center.  Check out a movie at the 40th annual Reeling: The Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival, September 22-Oct 6.  Screenings will be available in-person at three Chicago theaters and virtually.


Robert Falls, a staunch advocate for Chicago’s theater scene and artistic director of the Goodman Theatre, begins his final season after 35 years.   Goodman presents the Chicago premiere of Lynn Nottage’s comedy “Clyde’s” September 10-October 9.  Leslie Liautaud’s immersive “Southern Gothic” was a huge hit at Windy City Playhouse (WCP) on West Irving Park Road.  In conjunction with the Goodman, WCP will bring the production to the Loop to the Playhouse at Petterino’s, starting September 15.


Buffalo Theatre Ensemble opens its 2022-2023 season at the MAC in Glen Ellyn with Bruce Norris’ Pulitzer and Tony Award winning play “Clybourne Park,” September 8-October 9, which was inspired by Lorraine Hansberry’s “A Raisin in the Sun,” which in turn was inspired by her family’s experiences with restrictive covenants in Chicago.


The 5th annual Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, Destinos, returns for National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 14-October 16. Photo by Chicago Latino Theater Alliance.


One way to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15-October 15, is by attending a performance at Destinos, the 5th annual Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, at various locations, September 14-October 16.


I had lunch recently with a good friend, Phyllis Neiman, who had just returned from a train trip from Venice to Istanbul on the Golden Eagle. When she disembarked in Istanbul, she stayed at the Pera Palace Hotel, purported to be where Agatha Christie wrote “Murder on the Orient Express.”   I suggested to Phyllis that we head to the Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace to see “Agatha Christie’s Murder on the Orient Express,” August 31-October 23.  The immensely talented cast includes Larry Yando (who will be portraying Ebenezer Scrooge for the 15th year in the Goodman’s production of “A Christmas Carol”) as Hercule Poirot and Janet Ulrich Brooks as Princess Dragomiroff.


The Seldoms Dance Company brings their “Toolbox @ Twenty: The Seldoms” exhibition to Hyde Park Art Center, September 24-November 13. Photo by Hyde Park Art Center.


As the Year of Chicago Dance comes to end, there are plenty of events to continue the celebration.

The title for Chicago Dance Crash’s main production of their 20th anniversary season is “Booms Day,” which runs August 26-September 10 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 North Dearborn.

Kyiv City Ballet performs for the first time in Chicago on September 24+25 at the Auditorium Theatre.  As part of its 50th season, Muntu Dance Theatre presents DanceAfrica Chicago “Jamboree” on September 25 at the Harris Theater.  Celebrating 20 years, The Seldoms dance company — internationally known for their multimedia performances — brings their “Toolbox @ Twenty: The Seldoms” exhibition to the Hyde Park Art Center, September 24-November 13.


While you’re in Hyde Park, head over to the Smart Museum of Art to see the stunning “Monochrome Multitudes” exhibition curated by Orianna Cacchione, Curator of Global Contemporary Art at the Smart Museum of Art, and Christine Mehring, Mary L. Block Professor in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago, and “Museum as Classroom” organized by the Feitler Center for Academic Inquiry.  Both shows run September 22- January 8, 2023.  The Elmhurst Art Museum wraps up its 25th anniversary year with “Sentrock: The Boy Who Wanted to Fly,” the first solo museum exhibition of the work of the Pilsen-based street artist aka Joseph Perez, September 9-January 15, 2023.


The late Richard Dreihaus was also a strong advocate for Chicago.  The last project  he initiated at his eponymous museum was “Capturing Louis Sullivan: What Richard Nickel Saw,”  which runs from August 26 to February 19, 2023.  Richard Nickel tried to preserve Chicago’s rich architectural history. He photographed buildings during demolition and died in 1972 when he was salvaging remnants in Sullivan’s Chicago Stock Exchange building that was then being taken down.


I close this month by recognizing a major milestone for a beloved institution — the 125th anniversary celebration of the Woman’s Athletic Club of Chicago (WAC), September 9, 2022 to September 8, 2023.  The WAC has been a wonderful host and supporter of so many cultural events in Chicago.  Congratulations and best wishes.


Dates, times, locations and availability are subject to change.  Please stay healthy and safe and keep up with the latest COVID-19 information, protocols, mandates and guidelines.