“Drink sir, is a great provoker” Drunk Shakespeare delivers unpredictable laughs

by Doug Rapp

Behind an unmarked door on Wabash Street on a narrow stage, actor Courtney Rikki Green downs four shots of whiskey.

She isn’t fighting stage fright—this is part of the show.

Welcome to Drunk Shakespeare, a self-proclaimed drinking club with a Shakespeare problem. The small troupe performs one of his plays with a twist: one actor is drinking. A lot. 

The chosen actor takes four shots before the show, then two more during the performance in a space modeled to look like a hidden library speakeasy. 

“It’s taking a fresh look at Shakespeare and playing with it and letting people know that it’s approachable,” resident director Kathleen Coombs said.

At two recent performances of Macbeth, Courtney Rikki Green imbibed 12 shots of whiskey throughout the night while playing Macduff, Macbeth’s nemesis.

Drunk Shakespeare mainly sticks to the plot but allows plenty of room for improvisation. The actors, including Elizabeth Rentfro and Chelsea David, faithfully recite monologues while breaking into contemporary songs (Radiohead’s “Creep”), pulling audience members on stage or bringing out a birthday cake for actor Jordan Golding, who played Macbeth.  

Thomas Toles is the host, or “designated plot driver” as he calls it.

“I’m there to keep the story somewhat on track and also enable [the actors] at any moment to be their worst selves,” he said.

Green, for her part, held up remarkably well. She did drink hot sauce on stage, made a puppet do inappropriate things and poke Golding in sensitive areas with props, but returned to form to deliver her lines when needed.

“The alcohol helps so much,” Green said. “I’m into it.”

Before joining Drunk Shakespeare, she said the idea of drinking before a performance was unthinkable.

“Now, I’m like ‘Yes!’ That is how I unlock and unfurl and uncover the best parts of my acting ability,” Green said.

Coombs said alcohol helps the actors’ improv, allowing surprises and discoveries for a unique show each time. It all dovetails with Chicago’s reputation as the mecca of improv.

“I think it’s a really great fit for Chicago,” Coombs said. “We’re a theater town, an improv town and a town that loves drinking and having fun.”

Toles said drinking makes Shakespeare more relatable. High school English teachers have told him they wish they could bring classes to see what makes Shakespeare “so special and interesting and fun.” The show is 21 and over.

The diverse audiences at the frequently sold-out shows are approaching Shakespeare from various angles, Toles said.

“That’s a nice feeling when you get the nerdy Shakespeare fan and the jock from the frat house and they both are invested,” he said. “That’s so cool.”

“It’s a unique beast of a show that is truly unlike anything in Chicago,” Green added.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, binge drinking (having 4 or more drinks within 2 hours) has serious health risks such as strokes, liver disease, various cancers plus memory and learning problems (like forgetting lines from MacBeth).

Drunk Shakespeare performs Wednesday through Sunday at 182 N. Wabash Ave. Visit drunkshakespeare.com for showtimes and tickets.

Run, Naruto, Run: Cosplay event planned around Trump Tower

By Doug Rapp

If you see a group of people wearing shiny headbands and running around Trump Tower, know it was planned.

Called the “Naruto Run Around Every Trump Tower,” the Sunday, Nov. 3 event is hosted by a comedy podcast, Thought Cops, which takes a weekly look at “outrage culture.”

The plan is for attendees to gather at 4 p.m. in cosplay (costume play) as Naruto, the young ninja star of a Japanese manga series, said Kevin Podas, one of the organizers and co-host of Thought Cops. Naruto runs leaning forward, with his arms sticking straight behind him. Participants will then run Naruto-style around Trump Tower at 4:20 p.m.

“This is apolitical,” Podas said. “It’s about coming together. It’s for a good cause.”

People in the cosplay community are at both ends of the political spectrum, he said.

If people see it as a Trump protest, “that’s up for interpretation,” Podas said.

“Most people just want to dress up and run around like cartoons,” he said.

Podas is hoping for a couple hundred participants, using word of mouth and plugging the run on the podcast, co-hosted by Grant Mooney, to boost attendance. Up to 75 people have expressed interest so far, he said.

“I’m grateful that people have taken an interest in anything we do and the fact that people are sharing this is pretty cool,” Podas said.

Another Naruto Run around Trump Tower was organized in 2017. Even though Podas and Mooney didn’t organize it, they filmed a short video of it for their YouTube Channel.

Podas said there was “quite a police presence” near Trump Tower at that event. The run barely started before one participant ran into the street, prompting the police to arrest him and shut down the event.

Podas said, like the 2017 event, they’re hoping to attract college students from DePaul and Columbia who are into Naruto.

“It’s supposed to be fun and funny,” he said. “If anyone can enjoy [Naruto] the way we do, I’m thankful for that.”

Jane Eyre ballet adaptation brings literature to life

by Stephanie Racine

The Joffrey Ballet’s performance of Jane Eyre brings the Victorian Bildungsroman to life. 

The ballet opened its 2019/2020 season Oct. 16 with the Chicago premiere of Cathy Marston’s adaptation of the novel. There will be just 10 performances at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr., running through Oct. 27.  

Jane Eyre’s difficult journey is highlighted by the presence of the “D Men,” which stands for “death” or “demon.” Constantly looming, Jane struggles with her own demons and insecurities throughout the production. She repeats arguments with the D Men, fights them off and loves them, mirroring her actions throughout the story.

Jane’s tortured upbringing is fractured by violence. Her aunt, cousins and headmaster all cruelly shun her with forceful motions. These movements are later juxtaposed with the languid, loving and passionate pas de deux Jane has with Rochester. 

Jane moves to Rochester’s home, Thornfield, as the governess for his ward Adele—who may be his daughter. Adele is flighty in her pink dress, constantly moving and prodding at those around her. 

Jane becomes a fixture at Thornfield, feeling at home despite an ominous feeling of mystery. Jane does not notice Bertha, the woman in the ragged red dress lurking and watching her interactions with Rochester, as they grow fond of each other. Bertha, the mentally ill wife of Rochester, is kept away from the public. Once Rochester and Jane are blissfully engaged and in the process of getting married, Bertha reveals herself in a frenetic and rough display. 

Jane leaves Rochester, but cannot stay away for long. She returns to find Thornfield in flames—a stunningly realistic set display—as Rochester fights to save Bertha from the fire and her own mind. He is blinded by the flames, falling into Jane’s arms upon her return. 

Tickets for Jane Eyre, starting at $35, are available at The Joffrey Ballet’s box office in the lobby of Joffrey Tower, 10 E. Randolph St., at the Auditorium Theatre Box Office, at (312) 386-8905, or at joffrey.org.

Chicago’s downtown offers spooky history

By Elisa Shoenberger

Downtown Chicago has a rich history of ghost stories and and many popular landmarks have spooky tales associated with them.

A famous site is the Iroquois Theater, now the James M. Nederlander Theatre, 24 W. Randolph. Hundreds of moviegoers, mostly women and children, perished in a horrible fire during a Christmas musical in 1903.

Many people died in an alley behind the theater when the panicked crowd ran out the upper-level fire escape doors and fell to their death because fire escapes had not been installed. 

There have been reported sightings of ghosts in the alley as well as the theater.

One reported haunting is inside the theater. Adam Selzer, a local historian, said theater workers report a backstage toilet that flushed by itself and the sound of a little girl giggling. 

However, Selzer explains, people assume that all the ghosts behind the Nederlander theater are from the Iroquois Theater Fire.

“Plenty of other people got killed there,” he said. The street, known as “Hairtrigger Block,” was filled with gambling halls.

Selzer has led ghost tours all over Chicago. This fall he’s running haunted river cruises as well as tours of Lincoln Park Zoo. 

Selzer said he does his research “to get the history right.” While studying haunted places, he’s found the stories can change as they are passed along.“

“Like a game of telephone,” he said.

Selzer said some stories involving Congress Plaza Hotel are more legend than history. However, he said, the location’s proximity to the Auditorium Theater offers some “gruesome” history. Many opera singers who stayed in the hotel ended their lives there.

Selzer said he once heard a gunshot in the hallway behind the Congress ballroom while leading a tour. They never found the cause.

Other haunted places include the site of the S.S. Eastland Disaster on the Chicago River at Clark St. and Wacker Dr., where 844 people perished when the boat capsized in 1915, and the site of Fort Dearborn at Wacker Dr. and Michigan Ave. where soldiers died in the Battle of Fort Dearborn.

Your move: Board game night offers residents a chance around the board

(Published Aug. 31, 2019)

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

A group of New Eastside—and nearby—residents have come together to form a board game night. The group meets monthly in the party room at The Tides, 360 E. South Water St.

New Eastside resident Ishmeet Lamda started the game night by reaching out to neighbors on the social media application NextDoor. She was excited to discover many people in the neighborhood like to play board games.

“I’m an extrovert who likes to socialize and also love to play board games,” Lamda said. 

New Eastside resident Jeffrey Molsen regularly attends. 

“The neighborhood board game night is great because it allows me to meet new people through sharing some of my favorite games and getting the opportunity to try out new ones,” he said.

A typical board game night includes a warm-up game to account for any latecomers. Short games, such as Uno or Iota, are played. 

“We then either split into groups and play, or we all come together and play cooperative games which are super engaging,” Lamda said. Those games, like Pandemic and Avalon, are more strategic and take a longer time.

Lamda’s favorites to play at game night are Stone Age, Iota, Hanabi, Uno, and Code Names.

Molsen said his favorite is Fluxx. 

“The rules start simple, and you just have to do what the cards say after that,” he said. “However, it can quickly devolve into delightful mayhem.”

The board game club welcomes all new members.

“It is a pretty flexible and happy-go-lucky group,” Lambda said. 

Plans are put together on NextDoor. Lamda posts information about meetings. The next planned meeting is 6 p.m. on Sept. 6. Lamda asks interested parties to RSVP on NextDoor.

[Board Game Night members rounding out the night with Uff-Da and free massages from (name) photo by Stephanie Racine]

Chicago’s WWII medical professionals to be honored

(Published Aug. 9, 2019)

A free lunchtime public event will honor the World War II 12th General Hospital Unit, which was comprised of Northwestern University Medical School physicians and dentists, Chicago-area nurses, dieticians and physical therapists, and enlisted men who treated nearly 30,000 patients during the war. 

The event, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Wednesday, August 14, will launch a physical and digital exhibit featuring the 12th General Hospital Collection. The event will take place in Baldwin Auditorium, 303 E. Superior St., on Northwestern’s Chicago campus.  

The event is hosted by Northwestern’s Galter Health Sciences Library & Learning Center.

Dr. Sanders Marble, senior historian for the U.S. Army Office of Medical History, will speak about surgery and recovery during World War II. 

The 12th General Hospital Unit was officially activated on January 28, 1942. Following nearly a year of military and medical training, the unit was deployed first to the Algerian seaside resort, Ain-el-Turck, and then to Naples, Rome and Leghorn in Italy until the unit was deactivated on September 15, 1945. 

Along with performing emergency surgeries, the staff treated outbreaks of infectious diseases like typhus and malaria, and the high prevalence of venereal disease among American troops. Several members of the group were individually recognized for their service and the unit as a whole was awarded the Meritorious Plaque. 

Gabrielle Barr, a research associate at Galter, curated the exhibit. “What struck me most as I went through the papers was how deeply the medical personnel believed in their mission, how they overcame adversity, the tight-knit nature of their unit and the fond memories they had of their World War II service,” she said. 

Both the digital exhibit and its companion traveling iteration, which are predominately drawn from the papers of Michael L. Mason and James A. Conner, highlight the recruitment, training and medical experiences of those in the 12th General Hospital. The exhibits also provide a window into the types of leisurely activities that bonded such a diverse group of people together and touch on how these servicemen and women, many of whom had never ventured far from their hometowns, explored their surroundings while abroad.  

Born in 1895, Mason attended undergrad, graduate and medical school at Northwestern. In World War I, he served as a sergeant, first class in charge of the operating theatre in France and tended to patients in Austria. Before assuming his role as the chief of surgical service for the 12th General Hospital division during World War II, Mason was an attending surgeon at Passavant Memorial Hospital, specializing in hand surgery, and an associate professor of surgery at Northwestern University Medical School. Mason passed away in 1963.

Conner, born in 1903, received his medical degree from Northwestern in 1933. Before being called to join the Armed Forces, Conner was a part of Northwestern’s pediatrics department and an instructor of contagious diseases. He was promoted to be part of the senior staff of Wesley Memorial Hospital in 1948, where he treated patients for many years. Conner passed away in 2001.

Golden Knights, Blue Angels headline 61st annual event by the lake

(Published July 31, 2019)

By Elisa Shoenberger, Staff Writer

The U.S. Navy Blue Angels, the U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights and the U.S. Navy Parachute Team Leap Frogs will headline the 61st annual Chicago Air and Water Show, set for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 17-18.

Last year’s show drew an estimated 1 million people, said Mary May, Marketing and Communications, Public Relations Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for the City of Chicago.

The show will also feature the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team The Red Arrows from the United Kingdom. Nineteen other groups will be performing with nine military demonstrations and ten civilian teams. 

This year’s special guests, the RAF Red Arrows have performed nearly 5,000 times in 57 countries since 1965, according to a City of Chicago news release. The Red Arrows will perform in more than 20 displays in the U.S. and Canada on its first North American tour in 11 years, according to the Red Arrows website. 

To get the Red Arrows’ Hawk T1 jets to North America, they will be flown over three days, the tour website said. They will have 12 Hawk aircrafts and 1 Atlas A400M RAF transport aircraft. The tour will include 108 people, “including pilots, engineers and support staff.”

A regular of the Air and Water Show, the U.S. Navy Blue Angels includes 16 officers. The Commanding Officer, known as the “Boss” who flies the number 1 jet, is required to “have at least 3,000 tactical jet flight-hours and have commanded a tactical jet squadron,” according to the Blue Angels website. Officers in jets 2 through 8 must “have an aircraft carrier qualification and a minimum of 1,250 tactical jet flight-hours.” 

The U.S. Army Parachute Team Golden Knights was founded in 1959 but received its name in 1962 due to all the gold medals the Knights had won, according to the Golden Knights website.

“The team has earned the U.S. Army 2,148 gold, 1,117 silver, and 693 bronze medals in national and international competition,” the site said. “Team members have also broken 348 world records.” The Golden Knights currently have nearly 95 men and women, including four parachute units and five aircrafts, according to their website. They perform annually in over 100 events.

New, improved Riverwalk is open for business

(Published June 30, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

The city’s renovated Riverwalk is open, and although some renovations continue, the scenic spot is a hotspot for both visitors and locals alike.

Among the improvements the Riverwalk now offers more greenspace, a walking path closer to the river and a community marketspace.

Two longtime Chicago Architecture Center tour directors praised the work.

“It’s gorgeous,” said Lorie Westerman, a CAC docent. “And it’ll be even better when it’s finished.”

“I like the amphitheater and the River Theater,” said Robin Bauer.

Westerman echoed Bauer, and noted the amphitheater is a very popular spot to sit down and relax. 

“One day on a recent tour, when we got done, I noticed people were sitting arm to arm at the amphitheater,” Westerman noted. “It’s very popular. 

One of the more ambitious additions to the Riverwalk is a marketspace. The Riverwalk has long featured businesses and restaurants but this space is intended to highlight women and minority-owned vendors. The vendors are selling food and drinks and the small kiosks are set up between Wabash and Michigan avenues.

These vendors have a six-month contract to sell at the Riverwalk. In addition, Lakeview’s Beat Kitchen has a three-year lease to operate under the staircase of the Michigan Avenue bridge.

According to the city, vendors are intending to make tourists aware of Chicago neighborhoods they can visit during their trip.

Visitors and locals can get a free, guided one-hour tour of the Riverwalk Thursday through Sunday. Anyone interested must meet at the Bridgehouse Museum Plaza at 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. The walks are first-come, first-served.

Bridgehouse Museum prepares for cruise fundraiser

(Published June 19, 2019)

By Jesse Wright

Though the main Riverwalk entrance to the McCormick Bridgehouse and Chicago River Museum is shuttered as city workers renovate that space, the museum is open and busy planning for an upcoming cruise fundraiser.

The cruise is June 26 and the boat ride offers a unique voyage on the Chicago River.

“It’s unlike any other tour,” Coles said. “We go places where other tours typically don’t go. We go all the way to Damon Avenue on the south branch.”

The Bridgehouse Museum celebrates the history of Chicago’s bridgehouses—the small offices once used to manually raise and lower the city’s drawbridges—as well as the history of the Chicago River. Aside from the museum, many of the bridgehouses are now closed and unused.

The museum, at the northern corner of Columbus Drive and upper Wacker, is only open during the spring, summer and early fall. Museum director Josh Coles said, despite the construction, he’s happy with attendance so far this year. He even praised the work on the Riverwalk, which he said will improve the exterior space.

“They are expanding the plaza space,” he said. “They’re going to add two large long planters full of native plants. It should be good.”

Inside the museum, Coles said the organization continues to welcome locals and tourists with a robust schedule of river-related events through the summer.

“In July and August we do a speaker series,” he said.

The free series will kick off July 8 and run from 12:15 to 12:45 p.m. xperts will talk on a variety of topics, from the history of the area to the ecology of the river.

“We have all kinds of great people who know a lot about river-related issues,” Coles said. “Also, in late June, we have our annual fundraiser for the museum and it’s a summer cruise.”

Tickets are $85 for a single or $155 for two tickets, available online at bridgehousemuseum.org.

In September, the Bridgehouse Museum will offer a temporary exhibit, The Tender House project, which imagines the potential use of the other bridgehouses in Chicago.

The Bridgehouse Museum is open Fridays through Mondays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and on Thursday from noon to 7 p.m. The museum is closed Tuesday and Wednesday.

Navy Pier Pride Presented by American Airlines returns for fourth annual daylong celebration of love and equality

(Published June 13, 2019)
 
Navy Pier Pride Presented by American Airlines will soar onto the Pier with flying colors for the fourth consecutive year on June 29, offering a variety of festivities to embrace diversity and celebrate the vibrant LGBTQ culture in Chicago. The full-day free event, from noon to 11 p.m., positions the Pier as an inclusive Pride destination for all ages, with activities ranging from build-your-own Pride bracelets to musical performances by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus and a colorful and vibrant fireworks display.
 
As part of its Pride Month tribute, the Pier will be decorated with Pride flags all month long and display the symbolic rainbow colors in the center digital screen of the iconic Centennial Wheel. Further illustrating a visual celebration of diversity and inclusion, two essential tenants of Navy Pier’s values, the Pier will also adorn staircases near the Centennial Wheel and Crystal Gardens in rainbow colors, as well as project a custom “togetherness” wall asset highlighting the Pier’s mission to welcome all.
 
For the day-of celebration, guests can begin with an opening activity at Chicago Children’s Museum’s Family Resource Activity Station to celebrate LGBTQ families. On the Pier’s South Dock, create a rainbow bracelet as a symbol of Pride and learn about the museum’s LGBTQ inclusion resources that are available for parents and teachers from noon to 2 p.m.
 
PFLAG Council of Northern Illinois will be on-site from noon to 4 p.m. to speak to their mission of building a foundation of loving families united with LGBTQ people and allies who support one another. PFLAG envisions a world where diversity is celebrated and all people are respected, valued and affirmed inclusive of their sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression, and the Northern Illinois Council is a coalition of chapters within the Chicagoland area. Navy Pier is passionate about partnering with other likeminded nonprofits in the area to promote dynamic and eclectic experiences.
 
Reading gets revamped from 1 to 2 p.m. during Story Time with Drag Queens presented in partnership with Chicago Children’s Museum, where classic children’s books will be brought to life in fabulous fashion.
 
A variety of other performers will create an energetic musical atmosphere throughout the event starting at 2 p.m. through 11 p.m. at the Miller Lite Beer Garden.
 
All guests are welcome to join and follow the festive music processional led by the Lakeside Pride Marching Band from the People’s Energy Welcome Pavilion down the South Dock from 2 to 2:30 p.m. and revel in the musical stylings from the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus during a special performance at the Fifth Third Bank Family Pavilion from 3 to 4 p.m.
 
As the sun sets, enjoy an energetic live performance as part of Navy Pier’s ongoing Wave Wall Wax weekly DJ series featuring reigning queer Chicago female DJ All the Way Kay at the Wave Wall Platform from 4 to 6 p.m.
 
Coinciding that evening will be the signature Aon Summer Fireworks lighting up the Chicago sky for a 10-minute vibrant display at 10:15 p.m. as a breathtaking closing to the celebration.
 
Please see below for the full schedule for Navy Pier Pride Presented by American Airlines:

1 2 3 5