By Philip Vidal
September has always been an exciting time in Chicago, when the social and cultural life reawakens after the languid days of summer. Many venues and institutions have been closed since early last year, so the re-openings and season openings are even more than ever welcome. The kicker is that as of August 20 masks are required in indoor public spaces, and the League of Chicago Theatres has said that in addition to the mask mandate, patrons will be required to show proof of vaccination to attend in-person events. “The show must go on,” as they say, so wearing a mask and showing proof of vaccination seem a small price to pay to keep Chicago’s restaurants, entertainment and cultural institutions open and available. I hope you agree.
Conductor Riccardo Muti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra present “Muti Conducts St. Georges, Price and Beethoven 3” on September 23 – 25. Photo by Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra (CSO) and conductor Riccardo Muti perform for the first time together since February 2020 at Symphony Center on September 23-35 in “Muti Conducts St. Georges, Price and Beethoven.” Herbie Hancock returns to Symphony Center on September 2, the first Symphony Center Jazz Presents concert in nineteen months. The concert is part of the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events’ Chicago In Tune, which celebrates 2021: Year of Chicago Music.
Sharel Cassity and more perform at the Hyde Park Jazz Festival, September 25-26. Photo by Hyde Park Jazz Festival.
In addition to the CSO concerts, Chicago In Tune includes hundreds of events at more than fifty-five venues, through September 19. Other highlights of the festival include four special evening programs at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park showcasing four music genres. The September 3 program showcases gospel music. September 4 features jazz music with the Jazz Institute of Chicago and others. On September 11 the focus is on house music, and Blues are featured on September 18. That evening’s program is also a celebration of the 50th anniversary of Chicago’s Alligator Records. If you’d like to hear more jazz, head to the Hyde Park Jazz Festival on September 25-26, which will be held outdoors this year.
The Chicago Philharmonic Society returns to live performances and opens their 32nd season on September 12 with the aptly named concert “Out of the Silence,” which includes works by Copland, Mozart, Norris and Still, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.
The Lyric Opera of Chicago launches its 67th season on September 17 with Verdi’s “Macbeth,” and with new seats, a new music director (Enrique Mazzola), and new masking and proof of vaccine requirements. The first performance of Chicago Opera Theater’s 2021/2022 season is a concert-style staging of Georges Bizét’s “Carmen” on September 16 and 18 at the Harris Theater.
Music of the Baroque celebrates its 50th anniversary with Baroque in the Park at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park on September 10. Photo courtesy of Elliot Mandel Photography and Music of the Baroque.
Music of the Baroque (MOB) celebrates its 50th anniversary with Baroque in the Park, a concert on September 10 at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park. Music of the Baroque’s 51st season opens with “Baroque Fireworks” at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts on September 19, and the Harris Theater on September 20. Both concerts include “Spectacle of Light,” MOB’s first-ever commission by Chicago-based composer Stacy Garrop.
Chicago has been a center of the avant-garde, and so I am really looking forward to learning more about the movement in Chicago in the 1930s, 40s and 50s by visiting “Chicago Avant-Garde: Five Women Ahead of Their Time” at the Newberry Library, September 10-December 30. The exhibition focuses on artist Gertrude Abercrombie, poet Gwendolyn Brooks, choreographers Katherine Dunham and Ruth Page, and dealer-curator Katherine Kuh. The Newberry’s fall term of adult education seminars (virtual and in-person) starts September 21. Two seminars compliment the exhibition: “The Katherine Kuh Gallery” and “Contemporary Chicago Avant-Gardes.”
See it before it closes! Now through September 12, check out to the Thresholds’ Creative Arts Therapy Program group exhibition “Identity: Perspective on Y(OUR)selves” at the Epiphany Center for the Arts. Photo by Sydney Armstrong and Thresholds Art Therapists.
Other exhibitions I want to see are all close to each other on the Near West Side. Thresholds’ Creative Arts Therapy Program group exhibition “Identity: Perspective on Y(OUR)selves” at the Epiphany Center for the Arts, formerly the Church of the Epiphany (built in 1885), closes September 12. In nearby Greektown, the National Hellenic Museum reopens on September 26 with “Resilience,” a photo exhibition running through late December by HRH Prince Nikolaos of Greece and Denmark. I still call it the U of I Circle Campus, but it’s now the University of Illinois Chicago. Gallery 400 at the U of I Chicago hosts the travelling exhibition of the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art, “Young, Gifted and Black,” including the works of Black artists like Kerry James Marshall, Kara Walker and Rashid Johnson, September 2-December 10.
The Chicago International Film Festival hosts “Lights, Camera, Chicago” in support of Cinema/Chicago’s programming on September 13. Photo by The Chicago International Film Festival.
The work of gifted filmmakers will be presented at Chicago’s annual local film showcase Chicago Onscreen. Films will be presented outdoors in six parks citywide August 30-September 4, or watch all of the official selections online from September 5-25. Facets plans to reopen for in-person screenings on September 17. Reeling 2021: The 39th annual Chicago LGBTQ+ International Film Festival is a hybrid of in-person and virtual screenings September 23-October 7. “Lights, Camera, CHICAGO,” supporting Cinema/Chicago’s programming, including the Chicago International Film Festival, is September 13 at Bridge 410.
Speaking of lights, Chicago has a new museum that opens in September, albeit for only eight weeks. The Neon and Light Museum, an immersive, pop-up museum, moves into the former Nacional 27 Restaurant space at 325 W Huron from September 9 to October 31.
Join the wildly popular Wright Plus Architectural Housewalk in Oak Park and River Forest on September 18. Photo by Frank Lloyd Wright.
Chicago might not be famous for its neon, like Las Vegas, but there is no question that Chicago is known for its architects and architecture. The fourth edition, “The Available City,” of the Chicago Architecture Biennial kicks off on September 17 with city-wide in-person programming and digital programming. The Frank Lloyd Wright Trust Chicago’s wildly popular Wright Plus Architectural Housewalk in Oak Park and River Forest is September 18. See “Romanticism to Ruin: Two Lost Works of Sullivan and Wright” at Wrightwood 659, September 24-November 27. The two lost works are Frank Lloyd Wright’s Larkin Building in Buffalo, New York, and Adler & Sullivan’s Garrick Theatre, which stood at 64 W Randolph in Chicago and which was demolished in 1961 for a parking garage. The Garrick was one of the buildings that sparked Chicago’s preservation movement. You can still see fragments of the Garrick in Chicago. Portrait rondels from its loggia are in the façade of The Second City, the world-famous comedy improv club, and in the wall in front of 827-831 N Dearborn. If you still need a Frank Lloyd Wright fix, then sign up for the book signing and lecture by Dr. Lisa D. Schrenk, Professor of Architectural History at the University of Arizona, concerning her new book “The Oak Park Studio of Frank Lloyd Wright” on September 16 at the University Club of Chicago.
Another place to go if you love books is the 36th annual Printers Row Lit Fest, the largest free literary event in the Midwest, at Dearborn and Polk, September 11-12. The Near South Planning Board presents this book sale that includes free literary programming from headliner Colson Whitehead, Pulitzer Prize winning author, as well as New York Times bestselling author, as well as Pulitzer Prize and National Book Circle Critics Award winners.
This year’s “James Beard Awards: Stories of Resilience and Leadership,” sponsored by the James Beard Foundation, will be at the Harris Theater rooftop on September 27, and streamed live on Twitter. This won’t be the usual awards presentation, and will focus instead on those in the restaurant industry who made a positive impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.
A highlight of Chicago Gourmet, “Tacos and Tequila” hosted by Chef Rick Bayless on September 23. Photo by Chicago Gourmet.
Chicago is also justly famous for its food and restaurants. Chicago Gourmet is back as a month-long event. Highlights include “Tacos and Tequila” hosted by Chef Rick Bayless on September 23 at the Harris Theater Rooftop, and “Hamburger Hop” hosted by Chef Stephanie Izard on September 24, also at the Harris Theater Rooftop. Burger lovers are encouraged to sample burgers around the city during the Monthlong Hamburger Hop in “Septemburger.” If you prefer beer and brats to burgers, then head to Oktoberfest at St. Alphonsus Church September 24-26 or to the Brookfield Zoo’s Oktoberfest on September 25-26.
Oktoberfest is a great way to celebrate Chicago’s German heritage. Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15-October 15. Destinos, the 4th annual Chicago International Latino Theater Festival at venues throughout Chicago, runs September 23-October 17.
Meet the cast of “Songs for a New World,” performing September 24-October 24 at the Howard Street Theatre. Photo by Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre.
Steppenwolf Theatre Company offers three new virtual short plays, “Night Safari,” “The Old Country,” and “The Stretch,” by Pulitzer-Prize winning Steppenwolf ensemble player Tracy Letts as a transition to their upcoming live performances. The three works are available for streaming September 29-October 24. Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre opens its season with “Songs for a New World,” the 1995 musical from Tony Award® winning Jason Robert Brown, at the Howard Street Theatre in Evanston September 24-October 24. Drury Lane Theatre in Oakbrook Terrace reopens with its first production of its 2021/22 season with an homage to the songs of the 50s, “Forever Plaid,” September 17-November 7. For another blast from the past, Hell in a Handbag Productions is back with the next installation of their “The Golden Girls” drag parodies. Hell in a Handbag Productions opens its 20th anniversary season with David Cerda’s “The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 5 – SEX!” at the Leather Archives and Museum Auditorium in Rogers Park, September 16-October 23. Billed as “Chicago’s longest running late-night show,” the Neo-Futurists Ensemble’s “The Infinite Wrench,” thirty original plays in sixty minutes, opens September 18 at the Neo-Futurarium, the Neo-Futurist Theater in Edgewater.
The theme of this year’s Alliance Française de Chicago symposium on the Arts of France is “La Vie Dans Le Jardin” (“Life in a Garden”). Hear terrific speakers such as Professor Larry Norman of the University of Chicago (September 9 – online and on-site), Laurent Le Bon, the President of the Centre Pompidou (September 22-online) and Mitchell Owens, former Decorative Arts Editor at Architectural Digest (September 29 – online and on-site), talk about the French garden in history and culture.
Fifth Third Bike the Drive returns September 5! Photo by Bike the Drive.
It was cancelled last year, so don’t miss your one chance to bike up and down a car-free Jean Baptiste Point DuSable Lake Shore Drive during Bike the Drive on September 5, which benefits the Active Transportation Alliance.
And of course, the Chicago Bears begin their regular season playing the Los Angeles Rams on September 12 at SoFi Stadium in Englewood, California. The Bears’ home opener is at Soldier Field against the Cincinnati Bengals on September 19.
Dates, times, locations and availability are subject to change. Please stay healthy and safe and keep up with the latest COVID-19 information, rules, mandates and guidelines.