By Philip Vidal
October has many milestones and anniversaries. Perhaps the most important is the 150th anniversary of the Great Chicago Fire on October 8-10, which was so significant that it became part of the City’s flag — one of the four stars represents the fire.
On October 3, the Chicago Tribune will publish a special magazine section about the Great Chicago Fire. Watch “The Great Chicago Fire: A Chicago Stories Special” on WTTW on October 8 and take a look at WTTW’s “The Great Chicago Fire: A Chicago Stories Special“ website to learn more about the fire. Another Chicago story on that site concerns William Bross,* co-owner of the Chicago Tribune at the time of the fire. On October 11, 1871, his newspaper proclaimed “Chicago shall rise again,” and indeed it did.
The “City on Fire: Chicago, 1871” exhibition opens on October 8 at the Chicago History Museum. Northwestern University historian Carl Smith, who wrote Chicago’s Great Fire: The Destruction and Resurrection of an Iconic American City, is the guest speaker at what is billed as the “hottest ticket in town,” the Guild of the Chicago History Museum exhibition opening event and dinner “A Hot Time in the Old Town” on October 8. The Chicago Fire led to the founding of the Apollo Chorus of Chicago. Its “We Will Rise: Celebrating Apollo’s 150th Anniversary” concert is October 16 at the Chicago History Museum. The Chicago Architecture Center’s wildly popular annual Open House Chicago (OHC) is usually a weekend event in mid-October. This year, in addition to in-person visits on October 16-17, OHC will be a month-long event including a special self-guided tour by car or bike tracing the path of the fire.
Chicago History Museum and Chicago Architecture Center
Sometimes known as Paris on the Prairie, Chicago was allegedly the first U.S. city with Parisian-style cabarets. Celebrate 100 years of Chicago cabaret by attending the Chicago Cabaret Professionals’ “Chicago Cabaret, Part 2 – Black Voices in Cabaret and the French Connection” concert (free, registration required) at Haven Entertainment Center in Bronzeville on October 3. Bronzeville, aka The Black Metropolis, is a fitting locale for this concert as it was the hub of African-American entertainment, commerce and culture in Chicago for many years.
Journalist, civil rights activist and suffragette Ida B. Wells, who passed away ninety-years ago in 1931, was a Bronzeville resident and was honored with a monument in Bronzeville that was created by Chicago artist Richard Hunt and dedicated this summer. Learn more about Ida B. Wells by watching another WTTW Chicago Stories Special, “Ida B. Wells: A Chicago Stories Special” on October 15.
Ida B. Wells
The theme for the Chicago Chamber Music Society’s 86th season is “Back to the Ballroom.” Their 2021/22 season kicks off with the Neave Piano Trio performing in the ballroom of a private club just off Michigan Avenue on October 20.
Cheers for sixty-five years! Help the Chicago Children’s Choir celebrate their 65th season by attending their Red Jacket Optional gala at The Geraghty on October 16. To celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Chicago-based Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians (AACM), the American Composers Forum presents the Great Black Music Ensemble of the AACM in concert (free, tickets required and available on October 1 at tickets.uchicago.edu) on October 30 at Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts at the University of Chicago.
The first issue of the Chicago Reader was published on October 1, 1971. The Reader will publish two 50th birthday issues on October 14 and 28. One of the longest-running TV shows, “Soul Train” premiered nationally fifty years ago on October 2, 1971. The show premiered locally on Chicago’s WCIU-TV on August 17, 1970.
The final performance of Ensemble Español Spanish Dance Theater’s 45th anniversary season is October 16 at the Auditorium Theatre. Uptown’s Black Ensemble Theater, which is celebrating its 45th anniversary, presents the first concert, “The Feel Good Musical Revue,” of their concert cabaret series, on October 1-3. The Saint Sebastian Players launches its 40th season with Garson Kanin’s “Born Yesterday” on October 15-November 7 at St. Bonaventure, 1625 W Diversey.
Spanish dance theater and uptowns black ensemble theater
Chicago was a significant manufacturing center for musical instruments, jukeboxes and pinball machines for people’s amusement. A Chicago company, Midway Games (now gone), introduced Pac-Man to the U.S. about forty years ago. I remember a huge neon “Seeburg” sign on the North Side when I was growing up. The J.P. Seeburg Company produced jukeboxes. Still going strong, and billed as “the longest running event of its kind in the world,” the 37th annual Pinball Expo runs October 27-30 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Convention Center Hotel.
Chicago’s early music ensemble, the Newberry Consort, celebrates its 35th season with its Welcome Back Gala at the Halim Museum in Evanston on October 30. The Rembrandt Chamber Musicians’ 30th anniversary season opener “Chiaroscuro” will be performed in Evanston on October 10, and in Chicago on October 11, and features the world premiere of Stacy Garrop’s “Chiaroscuro.”
The final performance of Deeply Rooted Dance Theater’s 25th season features “Roots & Wings” (October 23 at the Auditorium Theatre) and marks the troupe’s return to the Auditorium after a twenty two-year hiatus.
Elmhurst Art Museum’s Soirée 2021: Par-Tee at the Museum on October 23 is a fundraiser for programs in 2022, their 25th anniversary. Guests at the gala can play on the museum’s artist-designed miniature golf course Par Excellence Redux: The Back 9, which is open October 13-January 2, 2022.
The Lincoln Park Conservancy celebrates the 20th anniversary of its restoration of an urban oasis, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool, with an open house on October 16-17 that’s part of OHC. The restoration put the site on the National Historic Register.
Lincoln Park Conservatory
Haymarket Opera Company wraps up its 10th anniversary season with Handel’s “Orlando.” Stream the opera through October 31. Ten years ago, artist Sabina Ott founded Terrain Exhibitions in Oak Park, and in 2013 she created the Terrain Biennial, an international public art festival, which runs this year from October 2 to November 15.
There are also new events in October. More than thirty breweries and cider houses are offering samples at the inaugural Chicago Brew Fest on October 3 at Rockwell on the River to benefit The Trotter Project’s Pillars of Excellence Program. Named after legendary chef Charlie Trotter, the program mentors young people to reach their goals in the culinary, hospitality and agricultural industries. If you didn’t have your fill at Chicago Brew Fest, then consider going to the Field Museum on October 9 for the Chicago Beer Festival, which features 65 breweries.
Windy City Playhouse’s new immersive “A Recipe for Disaster: A Food-Filled Farce” by Chef Rick Bayless, Carl Menninger, and Amy Rubinstein, runs October 6-December 31 at Petterino’s club space. Also new to Chicago, the immersive Dr. Seuss Experience takes over the former Macy’s space in Water Tower Place from October 8-January 2, 2022. Will there be green eggs and ham?
Raven Theatre stages the world premiere of Chicago writer Joshua Allen’s “The Last Pair of Earlies” about a Black couple who are part of the Great Migration from the South to Chicago, October 2-December 12. Just in time for Halloween, First Folio Theatre in Oak Brook presents the world premiere of Joseph Zettelmaier’s “The Jigsaw Bride: A Frankenstein Story,” October 13-November 14. The Joffrey Ballet Chicago returns to in-person performances and opens its inaugural season at the Lyric Opera House on October 13-24 with “Home: A Celebration.”
These milestones and anniversaries remind me that my mother’s, my two sisters’ and two aunts’ (one now turning 100) birthdays are all in October. Each is acknowledged and celebrated.
*Note: My Classic Chicago Magazine editor is Judy Bross, whose late husband, John Bross, was a collateral descendant of editor and politician, William Bross.
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.