In honor of Mellville’s 200th birthday, Chicago Opera to perform ‘Moby Dick’

(Published April 18, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger

Next week the Chicago Opera Theater, 70 E Lake St., will perform an operatic adaptation of Herman Melville’s “Moby Dick” by composer Jake Heggie and librettist Gene Scheer at the Harris Theater.

The performances will be April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and April 28 at 3 p.m. The performances wrap up several months of celebrations in honor of Melville’s birth, 200 years ago.

The “Moby Dick” opera focuses on Captain Ahab’s quest for revenge, Starbuck’s struggle against the quest, and the transformation of Greenhorn (Ishmael) from a lost soul to future storyteller.

Scheer said when he was asked to write the libretto, he found “there was a lot of operatic potential and a lot of operatic challenges. But there were these huge themes, great characters and a beautiful text that can be exploited in a libretto.”

Scheer said his job was to, “distill … it down to big broad strokes that tell the story and invite music in, so that music conveys emotional content and subtlety of the storytelling.”

Scheer said he’s happy his opera is part of the overall celebration of the author.

“It’s fantastic to celebrate a great artist who have an enduring legacy. These kinds of anniversaries remind people to pick up of the book and see what all the fuss is about,” Scheer said.

Besides the opera, the Newberry Library opened an exhibition “Melville: Finding America at Sea” that in January showcased the Newberry’s collection of Melville works and artistic responses.

The exhibition also showcased art inspired by Melville. Hansen explains that there has been a “long lineage of people reimagining or thinking about what Melville’s work looks like.” One of the centerpieces was the 1930s Rockwell Kent illustrated Moby Dick that is “typically thought of as one of the most beautiful books of the 20th century.”

With the exhibition, the Newberry had a Moby-Dick Read-a-Thon where about 150 speakers who read aloud the full text in 25.5 hours. There was a symposium “Making Melville Legible” as well as several performances.

The next exhibition is “The Legacy of Chicago Dance” that explores the history of dance in Chicago. It will open April 27 and closes July 6.

CAC to offer spring break programming for local families

(Published April 4, 2019)

The Chicago Architecture Center is offering a slew of activities for kids over spring break, April 15 — 19.

The STEM programming offers educational activities for kids 5-16 and some projects involve make-and-take activities. Everything is free with CAC admission, $12 for adults and $8 for students. Kids must come with an adult, though older teens may come alone. The camps are from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. daily.

Chicago Architecture Center is located at 111 East Wacker Drive, steps from Michigan Avenue.

The Joffrey Ballet’s Winning Works Showcases Diversity

By Stephanie Racine

The Joffrey Ballet presented its ninth annual Winning Works showcase this weekend, March 9 and 10at the Edlis Neeson Theater, located inside the Museum of Contemporary Art. Winning Works featured four choreographic competition-winning ballets—all by ALAANA (African, Latinx, Asian, Arab, and Native American) artists. 

Líneas, choreographed by Edgar Zendejas, is an intricate and stunningly complex piece. Groups of dancers clothed in simple white costumes, weave in and out with one another, as individuals and smaller groups momentarily break from the crowd. The modern presentation is juxtaposed with a classical composition, filled with strings and piano. Tommie-Waheed Evans’s Coup de Grâce is futuristically dynamic and frantically beautiful. Flashing lights, frenzied pas de deux, and drums bring a sense of doom. The ominous atmosphere is ultimately overcome by the dancers uniting together.

Vessels Bearing focuses on rice and the rice bowl being an essential part of Asian culture. Xiang Xu’s ballet uses rice bowls to enhance the production. Dancers bow to the bowls in a circle around a soloist in an unassuming nude leotard. The bowls are slid around the stage, adding to the musical arrangement. Bowls adorn the stage, as the dancers leap around them. To conclude, the soloist moves in a hypnotically robotic way as she exists. Give the People What They Want, by Marissa Osato,  explores humanity’s societal expectations, and how it can be a struggle to conform. Patterned-clad dancers perform together in unison with big smiles on their faces. A soloist struggles against what is expected of her, turning her costume inside-out while she violently moves across the stage. The others attempt to help her to no avail, but ultimately turn their clothing inside out as well.

To learn more about The Joffrey and Winning Works, visit Joffrey.org/winningworks.

Holi celebration set for Navy Pier

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

Holi is coming to downtown Chicago.

Holi is a Hindu celebration that runs March 20-21. Navy Pier is hosting a free Holi festival on March 23, from 1 to 5 p.m. in the Aon Grand Ballroom.

Holi is known as the festival of colors and the festival of love.

It is a celebration of letting go of resentments, while playfully dousing others in colored powder or water. Holi begins with the lighting of a bonfire, meant to symbolize the triumph of good over bad, according to the official Holi Festival website.

A number of legends attached to the festival.

The legend that is said to have led to the celebration of colors involves the Hindi god, Krishna becoming jealous of his soulmate Radha’s light complexion, according to the Holi site. Krishna complained to his mother, who told him to color Radha’s skin any color he wished. He did so, and the mischievous act turned into a celebration, and a symbol of love between partners.

“Lovers long to apply color on their beloveds face and express their affection for each other,” the Holi site said.

Navy Pier’s celebration will feature musicians Red Baraat and Funkadesi. There will also be dance performances from groups including Peirce Elementary School and Mandala Arts. Bombay Wraps will sell food and colored powders will be available to be thrown outside in the Miller Lite Beer Garden, as supplies last, until 4 p.m. Visitors may not throw powder inside.

To learn more about the Holi celebration at Navy Pier, visit navypier.org/event. To learn more about Holi, visit holifestival.org.

Tough and hearty, the tradition of tulips along Michigan Avenue celebrate the city’s spirit, history

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

All along Michigan Avenue, flower boxes sit, topped with a layer of pine boughs and inches of snow, ice and street salt.

They are as gray as winter skies.

But, buried within the boxes are bulbs—thousands of tulips and hyacinth bulbs—ready to erupt into a riot of color just as soon as the mercury allows.

The seasonal routine began in the early 1990s, an initiative of Mayor Richard M. Daley and business leaders on Michigan Avenue as a way to spruce up the busy thoroughfare. In the decades since, the flowers have become nothing short of a national phenomenon.

In 2016, the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the city and the Michigan Avenue Streetscape Association its Landmark Award for 20 years of Magnificent Mile blooms.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Mike Claffey said the flowers have found fans in cities far and wide. CDOT is now in charge of the planting program.

“Many cities have reached out to CDOT for background on how to launch a similar planting program—including New York City and San Francisco,” Claffey said in an email. “When Gavin Newsom (now governor of California) was mayor of San Francisco, he asked for and was given a tour of Chicago’s tulips on Michigan Avenue and he asked a number of detailed questions about the program.”

Maintaining the 2.3 miles of Michigan Avenue included in the program is a big job.

Claffey said each November the city plants 110,000 bulbs on Michigan from Roosevelt Road to Oak and the southern section where the planters are bigger, from Roosevelt to the river, includes 78,000 grape hyacinth.

Over eight days in November, a 10-person crew of A Safe Haven workers plant the bulbs. A Safe Haven Foundation employs at-risk youth, veterans and people recovering from substance abuse. This year’s tulip varieties are show winner, margarita, orange emperor, double negrita, apricot impression and pretty princess. Later, the beds are covered with pine boughs to protect the bulbs from extreme cold.

The flowers must be chosen carefully, as not too much can survive Chicago’s winters which can be downright arctic, even without polar vortices. But, Claffey said, when the bulbs bloom, usually in early April, it’s a treat for Chicagoans.

“They represent the spirit of Chicago,” Claffey said, adding that the city’s motto is urbs in horto, Latin for city in a garden.

“It’s a way to celebrate another winter is over in Chicago and the toughness of the city,” he said.

By May, however, it is over and the city replants the planters with summer selections. But the bulbs live on.  

“They’re transported to the Garfield Park Conservatory where each year the public is invited to pick up a bag of tulip bulbs in late May for the low, low price of zero dollars,” Claffey said.

A look behind the dye

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

Dyeing the Chicago River green is a downtown tradition that spans decades.

Plumbers with the Plumbers Local 130 union began using dye for spotting water leaks and river pollution in 1962, after Mayor Richard M. Daley sought attractions to draw crowds downtown and to the river—which at the time wasn’t developed.

Pat McCarthy, a recording secretary with the Plumbers Local 130 union and the boat coordinator, said volunteers still prepare the dye and sift it by hand into the water.

“We use about 50 pounds of dye,” he said. “It’s a powder and it starts off [as] an orange color. We sprinkle that into a quarter mile stretch of the river.”

The group dyes the same stretch of the river every year—the section separating Streeterville and the New Eastside starting at either Wabash or State Street and following Wacker to the lake. The exact portions of the river that will be dyed are announced closer to the day of.

The dye—whose exact formula remains a mystery—is harmless to fish and other living organisms in the river, and McCarthy said it only lasts a day or a day and a half.

It’s a messy job that leaves volunteers covered in color.

“There’s a lot of cleanup on the boats afterward,” he said.

McCarthy works to coordinate the St. Patrick’s Day parade in addition to his river duties. It’s a busy, dirty and long day for him, but he doesn’t mind.

McCarthy said he’s proud to be involved in the events because he’s a first-generation American. His parents emigrated from Ireland, so being involved with an Irish holiday in the city that adopted his family is a special experience for him.

Area businesses lend a hand to help Girls Scouts sell cookies

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Girl Scouts are busy selling their famous cookies all over downtown Chicago while partnering with local businesses that provide warm spaces where scouts can sell extra boxes through the end of March.

Troop 20461, from South Loop Elementary, recently sold cookies at Pinstripes in Streeterville on a blustery Saturday morning. Troop co-leader Angelica Prado helped set up, and fourth grade troop members Mia Prado and Katie Boone sold to Pinstripes customers.

“My favorite part of selling Girl Scout cookies is asking people to buy our cookies,” Mia said. “Even if they say no, they know who we are and they can tell more people about the cookies.”

“I like selling Girl Scout cookies because it teaches me to set a goal and try to complete that goal,” Katie added.

“The girls decide on a cookie goal and work to reach that goal,” Katie’s mom and troop co-leader Aimee Boone, said. Troop 20461 set their goal for each girl to sell 100 boxes of cookies.

At the end of cookie season, the troop can decide what to do with their share of the profits, which is about 90 cents per box.

A portion goes to a charitable donation of the troop’s choice. Troop 20461 will be donating to Mercy Home for Boys and Girls this year. They also vote on something fun to do as a troop, as a reward for all the hard work they do during cookie sales.

Girl Scouts will set up booths at select locations until the end of March. Troop 20461 will be back at Pinstripes, 435 E Illinois St., March 24 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.

On March 2, they will be selling cookies at Sod Room, 1454 S Michigan Ave., from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

“Inviting them to sell at Sod Room helps shift the ownership back to the child,” Sod Room owner Cynthia Valenciana said. “That’s hard in today’s climate, and there’s so much power in that.”

For a list of cookie booth locations, dates and times, visit the Girl Scouts’ website, girlscouts.org, and use the “cookie finder” to locate nearby booths.

Tough and hearty, the tradition of tulips along Michigan Avenue celebrate the city’s spirit, history

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

All along Michigan Avenue, flower boxes sit, topped with a layer of pine boughs and inches of snow, ice and street salt.

They are as gray as winter skies.

But, buried within the boxes are bulbs—thousands of tulips and hyacinth bulbs—ready to erupt into a riot of color just as soon as the mercury allows.

The seasonal routine began in the early 1990s, an initiative of Mayor Richard M. Daley and business leaders on Michigan Avenue as a way to spruce up the busy thoroughfare. In the decades since, the flowers have become nothing short of a national phenomenon.

In 2016, the American Society of Landscape Architects awarded the city and the Michigan Avenue Streetscape Association its Landmark Award for 20 years of Magnificent Mile blooms.

Chicago Department of Transportation spokesperson Mike Claffey said the flowers have found fans in cities far and wide. CDOT is now in charge of the planting program.

“Many cities have reached out to CDOT for background on how to launch a similar planting program—including New York City and San Francisco,” Claffey said in an email. “When Gavin Newsom (now governor of California) was mayor of San Francisco, he asked for and was given a tour of Chicago’s tulips on Michigan Avenue and he asked a number of detailed questions about the program.”

Maintaining the 2.3 miles of Michigan Avenue included in the program is a big job.

Claffey said each November the city plants 110,000 bulbs on Michigan from Roosevelt Road to Oak and the southern section where the planters are bigger, from Roosevelt to the river, includes 78,000 grape hyacinth.

Over eight days in November, a 10-person crew of A Safe Haven workers plant the bulbs. A Safe Haven Foundation employs at-risk youth, veterans and people recovering from substance abuse. This year’s tulip varieties are show winner, margarita, orange emperor, double negrita, apricot impression and pretty princess. Later, the beds are covered with pine boughs to protect the bulbs from extreme cold.

The flowers must be chosen carefully, as not too much can survive Chicago’s winters which can be downright arctic, even without polar vortices. But, Claffey said, when the bulbs bloom, usually in early April, it’s a treat for Chicagoans.

“They represent the spirit of Chicago,” Claffey said, adding that the city’s motto is urbs in horto, Latin for city in a garden.

“It’s a way to celebrate another winter is over in Chicago and the toughness of the city,” he said.

By May, however, it is over and the city replants the planters with summer selections. But the bulbs live on.  

“They’re transported to the Garfield Park Conservatory where each year the public is invited to pick up a bag of tulip bulbs in late May for the low, low price of zero dollars,” Claffey said.

A look at One Bennett Park

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

With work wrapping up, developers of One Bennett Park said residents of the upper floor condominiums will begin moving into the property in March.

Floors one through 39 opened in November.

The 70-story project gives Streeterville one of the tallest buildings in the city and will add hundreds of residents to the 451 East Grand Ave. location.

Tricia Van Horn, vice president of marketing and communications for Related Midwest, said her company is no stranger to the Streeterville area.

Related Midwest has developed highly successful apartment and condominium buildings in Streeterville for more than two decades, including 500 Lake Shore Drive, and we know it’s a terrific place to call home,” she said in an email.

Van Horn cited the neighborhood’s history and proximity to retail, transportation and cultural institutions as attractive features for developers. She said she expects the One Bennett Park development will be a good fit.

The building was designed by Robert A. M. Stern Architects (RAMSA), and Van Horn said the exterior reflects a classic, historic style.

“One Bennett Park, Related Midwest and RAMSA have created an all-residential, heirloom building whose design pays homage to the city’s beloved pre-war architectural heritage. A limestone podium, formal motor courts, ornamental metalwork, vertical setbacks and a lantern ‘crown’ distinguish the building from most new construction towers,” she said.

The exterior might look old-school, but the inside amenities are modern. Apartments and condominiums range from $3,700 to $18,500 per month, with floor plans from 905 to 3,323 square feet.

Residents will have access to fitness and wellness facilities located on the third and fourth floors. These include training studios, a club-level gym with cardiovascular and strength equipment, a 60-foot indoor pool and a 10,000-square-foot deck overlooking Bennett Park with an outdoor pool, fire pits and grilling stations, Van Horn said.

The third and fourth floor amenities include a children’s play area, prep and catering kitchens, and a “tween room” with games, televisions and modular lounge seating.

Additionally, the two-acre Bennett Park is expected to open in summer 2019. Designed by Michael Van Valkenburgh, the creator of Maggie Daley Park, the park will lie adjacent to the property and include a playground, dog runs and meandering pathways, Van Horn said.

The park will be closed certain days each year for One Bennett Park residents to hold private events.

As of February, units were still available. Contact a Related representative at www.onebennettpark.com for information.



Tom Bohlen is the Streeterville doorperson of the month

By Elizabeth Czapski, Staff Writer

Tom Bohlen has been a doorman at 201 E. Chestnut St. since 2007. Previously, he worked in construction, but after he was laid off, a friend of a friend suggested he apply to the building. He’s been there ever since.

Morning is madness, a scramble to get residents out the door and on their way, into cabs and off to work, Bohlen said. After that, it settles down and he accepts packages and greets visitors.

Bohlen said he’s always been a people person, and his favorite part of his job is interacting with residents.

“I enjoy my job [and] watching people go by,” he said.

His most memorable experience as a doorman has been seeing the kids in the building grow up, Bohlen said.

Aspiring doorpeople should be attentive and polite, he said. Anyone who wants to work in the field must be a people person, ready to learn the ways and the routines of residents.

“Keep your eyes and ears open. Get to know people, what their habits are,” he said.

Bohlen said when he’s not working, he likes to golf and he enjoys spending time with his rescue dog, a red nose pitbull named Bear, whom he calls “Cookie.”

Bohlen was nominated for Streeterville Doorperson of the Month by Gayle Hargrove, a resident and board secretary of the building. She praised Bohlen’s dedication to his job and the building.

“In all my years as a resident, I have not known him to ‘call in’ an absence unexpectedly—including during the recent polar vortex when his train broke down on his way to work,” she wrote in an email. “Tom has an uncanny way of learning our (resident’s) habits…and always has a kind word to offer.”

To nominate your favorite doorperson, email info@neweastsidecommunity.com with the door person’s name and why you think they should be the doorperson of the month. Each winner will receive a $25 gift card to Mariano’s.

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