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.

Man, do these kids have it good at the playground

By Jon Cohn

I recently checked out the Maggie Daley Park kids playground. Oh, to be young again!

The playground of my day was a couple of chain swings, maybe a teeter-totter (remember those things?) and a really COOL  jungle gym. 

Fast forward some 50 years and welcome to today’s state-of-the-art playground.

At Maggie Daley Park, visitors can start with the watering hole, a special play area for 2-5 year olds. Adjacent to this is a separate area dedicated to swings, which includes three old-school, strap-in swings and one grand luxury swing, complete with big bucket seats and extra leg room.

Decked out with two giant climbing tree-house towers and a beautiful wooden suspension bridge, the main area really has the ‘wow’ factor that made me want to just climb on in, but I didn’t because I was over the age limit.  Connected to the tree-house towers are two gigantic winding slides that I would have loved as a young kid. Suddenly my old jungle gym didn’t seem so cool.

I was dubious about a four-pronged metal slide I spied. I’m not sure what metal bars were all about, but it sure would be very painful for any fully formed adult male to slide down and so I didn’t try it.

Just when I thought the playground tour was over, I stumbled across a pirate-ship area, really cool nest swings (think giant baskets where two can ride), and an enchanted forest.    

Yes, an enchanted forest, complete with winding paths, cool trees, mini statues, a maze of mirrors and more slides. They just don’t make playgrounds like they used to.

The grass, mud and wood chip flooring we had in our playgrounds has been replaced by a comfy and colorful soft, spongy surface.

I’m not sure I would say today’s kids are soft but the surface they walk on sure is.

Keep it on the down low, but I may go back when it’s a little dark and not many people are around. I just might climb up that tower and go head first diving down that giant winding slide.

Forever young.

Doorperson of the month: Jose Rivera, 530 N. Lake Shore Drive

By Jesse Wright

Jose Rivera knows how to keep his eye on the ball and stay in the game. Whether it’s playing centerfield in the softball field at Horner Park, or in the lobby of 530 N. Lake Shore Drive, where he is the doorperson, Rivera likes staying on his toes.

Rivera has worked at the Streeterville building for nearly seven years and he said it’s his first doorperson job. But he loves it. 

As the head doorperson he trains staff and manages guests and residents. Rivera said he likes the energy of the job.

“Normal days here are a rollercoaster,” he said. “It’ll get super busy for a little bit and then nothing. And then it’ll get super busy again and then nothing. And it’s like that most days.”

But Rivera keeps up with the pace. “You ride the wave,” he said.

The building includes 188 units, and over the past six years, Rivera said he’s gotten to know all the faces in the place. Everyone, he said, is pleasant. Rivera said he has never had much of an issue as a doorperson.

“You get the occasional tourist who walks in because they’re lost or they need to use the bathroom but no real problems with anybody,” he said. Rivera thinks of himself as a positive person and said that that is a quality he looks for in new doorstaff.

“They got to have a good personality, patience, and they’ve got to be positive. If you’re not positive you’re not going to succeed,” he said.

Away from the desk, Rivera likes to spend time with his family. His three boys and a girl keep him busy and he also plays sports. In the winter he’s on the basketball court and during the rest of the month he’s in centerfield as part of his softball league.

Why centerfield? “There’s lots of action,” Rivera said. “I like to keep in the action.”

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.

Chicago Experiencing a Magic Renaissance

Chicago has been known as a cow town, a town of bootlegging gangsters, and even a town with long-winded politicians but few people know that Chicago was also a place for all things magic. 

At the turn of the 20th century, famous magicians, such as Harry Houdini and Howard Thurston, performed in theaters throughout the city. Chicagoans were hungry for magic and other live entertainment.  Another famous magician of the era, Harry Blackstone Sr. was from Chicago and took his name from the Blackstone Hotel, noted David Witter, author of “Chicago Magic: A History of Stagecraft & Spectacle.”

In the 1950s and 1960s, Chicago was known for its magic bars, where magicians delighted patrons with tricks right at their tables.

“From the ’20s to the ’90s there were at least 16 different magic bars operating around the city,” writer Raf Miastkowski said.

Starting in the 1970s, Marshall Brodien, who played Wizzo the Wizard on TV’s “The Bozo Show,” brought magic into homes as spokesperson for TV Magic Cards, Watkins said.

But by the end of the 20th century, the age of magic in Chicago becan to dry up, and magic bars and shows began disappearing.

Now Chicago’s rich magic history is re-emerging throughout the city as well as the US.

Chicago Magic Lounge, 5050 N Clark St., opened a permanent location in 2018. Dennis Watkins,  a magician, mentalist and entertainer, does five weekly shows of The Magic Parlour at the Palmer House hotel since 2011. He’a also performed in Chicago plays that have incorporated magic into their shows.

Shows like “Penn and Teller: Fool Us” are getting people interested in magic again, Watkins said. 

“Magic isn’t just for kids,” he said. “People are looking for childlike wonder, a virtuosic performance, a puzzle and mystery.”

Close-up magic was Chicago’s speciality in comparison with big-production value disappearing acts. “Chicago magic history has been rooted in close-up and parlor style for a long time,” said Watkins. 

He said his intimate show for 44 guests takes place in the famed Empire Room, where magic legends have performed since the turn of the century. Audience members “get to experience something magical, not in front of you, but with you,” he said.

Ultimately, Watkins said that he and most magicians hope that their audience members will experience the “childlike wonder” of the show. After all, that’s what magic strives to do.

Historic Final Resting Places—Some popular downtown cemeteries

By Angela Gagnon, Staff Writer

Graceland Cemetery, 4001 N. Clark St., is an active park-like Victorian era burial ground and arboretum featuring architectural masterpieces and a lush local history. Established in1860, Graceland was part of a movement toward garden or rural cemetery design, which incorporated native plants and naturalistic landscaping techniques. Graceland is still an active cemetery connecting past, present and future through fascinating stories that combine prominent figures and historical architecture. For more information on cemetery services, including burial plots, creation options and genealogy, visit www.gracelandcemetary.org.

Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood Ave., is the largest cemetery in Chicago. It is the final resting place of many known Chicagoans including Oscar F. Mayer, Jack Brickhouse, Leo Burnett, John G. Shedd and Richard Sears, as well as scores of Civil War soldiers and generals. Incorporated in1859, Rosehill continues to welcome visitors with its famous entrance archway designed by William Boyington. Each October, Rosehill becomes the course for a candlelit Crypt 5K where participants experience the 350-acre Victorian-era cemetery’s frightful scenic paths, historic monuments, fire fighters’ memorial and spirited mausoleums. For more information, call (773) 561-5940.

Bohemian National Cemetery, 5255 N. Pulaski Road, was founded in 1877 in an effort to provide an eternal resting place, free of religious restrictions, for Bohemian Americans. Today the cemetery is available for people of all races, nationalities and religions. The landmark cemetery greets visitors with its breathtaking limestone gatehouse and offers 122-acres of rich aesthetic and genealogical history, including ornately decorated columbariums, war memorials and sculptures. For information, call (773) 539-8442. 

Oak Woods Cemetery, 1035 E. 67th St. on Chicago’s South Side, is a large garden cemetery and the final resting place for many notable public figures, including Mayor Harold Washington, Olympian Jesse Owens, Civil Rights Activist Ida B. Wells and an estimated 6000 confederate soldiers and prisoners of war who perished at Camp Douglas. Established in 1853, Oak Woods was constructed with landscape architecture and features beautiful wide lawns and four small peaceful lakes that offer the perfect place for quiet reflection. For information, call (773) 288-3800. 

Lincoln Cemetery, 12300 S. Kedzie Ave., is comprised of 112 pristinely maintained acres and has provided a range of burial choices since 1911. The space includes a unique dedicated Veterans cemetery that honors those who have served. Visitors can also experience the Veterans Walk of Remembrance, participate in a veterans memorial service each Memorial Day, or visit the 9/11 Memorial. For more information, call (733) 445-5400. 
Irving Park Cemetery, 7777 Irving Park Road, is a small, quiet cemetery on Chicago’s Northwest side. It was established in 1918 to serve nearby communities in a nondenominational fashion when the area was primarily prairie, farm and forest. It was constructed with Frank Lloyd Wright-style architecture that features a peaceful prairie landscape. For information, call 773-625-3500.

Streeterville author tells history through the cemetery

By Jesse Wright, staff writer

Streeterville photographer and author Larry Broutman knows a little about cemeteries.

His newest book about the city’s cemeteries, “Chicago Eternal,” in April was awarded a silver award in the regional book category by the Independent Book Publisher’s Association. 

For Broutman, cemeteries aren’t maudlin but rather are instructive.

“The history of Chicago can be quite well told by walking through the cemeteries and looking at Chicagoans who have passed away,” he said.

His previous book, “Chicago Monumental,” focuses on the city’s monuments. After that book was published, Broutman said he began thinking that many monuments are in cemeteries. So, he went searching.  

“Some of the monuments were done by world famous sculptors,” he said. “I had been in a couple of cemeteries when I realized, ‘Wow there are some pretty incredible stories there.’”

So, he began to tell those stories.

His research took him to more than 30 cemeteries across Cook County and when he wrapped up, he had 300 stories.

“It’s a hefty book and a time consuming one, but I am retired,” he said.

Before going into a cemetery, Broutman checks with the keeper.

“I always was careful about the respectful aspect of it and first I consulted the cemetery staff and told them what I was doing, and I asked them if photography was OK,” he said.

Broutman said nearly every cemetery was fine with the project as he took photos of grave markers, monuments, tombs and war memorials.

Streeterville residents might recognize Broutman’s work from the walls of the Lurie Children’s Hospital. Broutman said he’s been a photographer for years and has travelled through Africa taking nature photos.

Several years ago, the Lurie Hospital asked him to take photos of Chicago scenes, so he mixed them together with his African photos. The result included  a tiger lying in the flowers along Michigan Avenue and he replaced the horses on a horse drawn carriage with zebras.

The project also sparked another interest, photographing the city.

“Once I did that I couldn’t stop,” he said. “I spent another year taking Chicago scenes all over the city.”

Then he moved on to the grave yard.

“Chicago Eternal” is available at Amazon.com.

Coyotes have adapted to big city living

By Elisa Shoenberger

There are 3,000 to 4,000 coyotes living in the Chicago area, according to Stanley Gehrt, professor at Ohio State University. And they can be found across city, even in Grant Park and Graceland Cemetery.

“They are finding ways to use all parts of the landscape in most parts of Chicago,” Dr. Gehrt said. Coyotes make use of green spaces, such as cemeteries and golf courses, but also may curl up in bushes during the day and people might not notice them. 

Their population began increasing in the 1990s, but numbers have leveled off in the past ten years, according to Gehrt.

Some residents could be concerned about a predator living in Chicago. But the number of problems has been low, only a few incidents per year, said Seth Magle, Director of the Urban Wildlife Institute at the Lincoln Park Zoo. “Ninety-nine percent of these coyotes are really good at not drawing attention,” he said.

Coyotes are good at finding places to avoid humans. Golf courses are great because they aren’t used much during the winter, Magle said. One coyote even had a den of pups in Soldier Field’s parking lot in 2014. The best time to see the animals is at sunset in cemeteries like Graceland or Rose Hill in Uptown. 

Occasionally, a coyote’s behaviour is unpredictable, like the coyote who walked into a cooler at a Quiznos downtown restaurant in 2007. But that’s unusual, Magle said, likely the result of some strange interactions between humans and the animal. When not hiding from humans, coyotes hunt rabbits and rodents, which is great for keeping those populations down.

The animals have made other interesting adaptations. Gehrt’s research found some coyotes look both ways before crossing the road, which is necessary in busy traffic areas. Through direct observation and cameras on the coyotes themselves, scientists have seen them observing traffic and adjusting their crossing strategies. 

The Urban Wildlife Institute has a scientist citizen project called Chicago Wildlife Watch in which people help scientists gather data on animal patterns. There are remote motion-sensitive cameras set up throughout the city. People can access the photos and tag animals in photos to help scientists gather data

Death cafes remove mystery from the end

By Jesse Wright

Talking about death isn’t easy, but Rebekka James tries to make it painless.

James guides Death Cafes, discussions around the end of life, aimed at older people who need to plan for the end. In September she hosted a discussion in Streeterville. She will host a cafe anywhere, for free.

The Death Cafe provides a safe, confidential forum where people are invited to discuss thoughts about death, dying, and mortality freely and openly,” James said. “While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea (though tea is served), many people have questions, feel fear, suffer loss, and simply wonder about the future.” 

James usually hosts the cafes in a public space, such as a library, though she’s also done private Death Cafes. She said a variety of people of all ages attend. The cafes were started by Bernard Crettaz and Jon Underwood, and to host an “official” cafe through the deathcafe.com website, James said a leader needs to follow certain guidelines.

The guide states, ‘The Death Café model is an agenda-free discussion, with topics determined by attendees,’” James said. “Facilitators are there to move the discussion if it stalls.”

She said each cafe is different. The best maximum is 10-12 people and the conversation moves according to who is present and what they want to discuss.

“That’s the beauty of this forum,” she said.

Generally people talk about familiar topics, including power of attorney information, health care information and how one even begins talking about death with family.

James is also a registered celebrant with the Celebrant Foundation, an institution that trains people to officiate weddings and other celebrations. It’s at the foundation that she first heard the term death cafe.

I attended my first one in June of 2018, led by Sheryl Barajas. Sheryl had done a great deal of work promoting and establishing Death Cafes at numerous Chicago-area libraries.”

The schedule is at deathcafe.com. James said she regularly hosts cafes at the Wilmette and Arlington Heights libraries.
“Also, the cafe part is important—there will always be coffee, tea, and sweets to comfort the soul,” she said.

Chicago care services making house calls

By Elisa Shoenberger

Throughout Chicago there are doctors and other medical professionals who will go to residences. Instead of traveling to a doctor’s office or hospital, people can reach out to different services for non-emergency medical care in their home. 

Decades ago, it was common practice for doctors to travel to people’s homes with their recognizable black bag. Today, though the practice is not as common, doctors still bring medicines and IVs to treat patients in their own homes with many of these services even having specialists on staff, such as wound care specialists or technicians who bring along portable X-ray machines.

Locally, Chicago Express Doctors, founded by a few emergency room doctors, wanted to address the problem of crowded waiting rooms. One of the staff doctors, identified only as Dr. Allen, said the doctors thought, “Why don’t we do something more convenient?” and Chicago Express Doctors was born. Patients can call the service and have a doctor dispatched within an hour.

Another service, MD at Home, which has 9,000 unique patients each year, works largely with patients in their homes, typically with patients that have mobility or cognitive issues. MD at Home provides primary care services as well as helping coordinate other services as needed. Dovi Weill, Director of Business Development, said MD at Home is trying to solve a “gap of care” and prevent hospitalizations.  

The virtual medical service, Teledoc, allows people to speak with a licensed doctor or therapist via phone, web or mobile. Teledoc has more than 20 million members, or patients, in 130 countries.

Other medical groups provide at home nursing services as well as hospice assistance. Each service caters to different patient populations. For instance, Chicago Express Doctors works with travelers who don’t want to go to the ERs while away from home, and people with tight schedules. MD at Home works more with geriatric patients in their homes.

However, all the services are meant for non-emergency medical care. Even with former ER doctors on staff, Chicago Express Doctors advises people go to the ER when facing emergency situations.

Mercy Home Marathon Runners Run for Home

By Stephanie Racine

Mercy Home is a privately funded full-time home for displaced youths that has operated in Chicago since the 1800s. 

In 1887, Reverend Dennis Mahoney put together a plan to refuge homeless young men. Mercy Home’s 1140 W. Jackson Blvd West Loop location still exists as its headquarters. Today, Mercy Home offers comprehensive support for youth in need.

“We provide kids with safety, housing, food, therapy, job opportunities, tutoring, and career guidance 24-7 throughout the year,” said Director of Communications Mark Schmeltzer.

Running the Chicago Marathon as a Mercy Home Hero is a way to support the organization. The Chicago Marathon is set for 8 a.m. Oct. 9.

Mercy Home Heroes can be anyone. Two heroes running this year, Reggie Williams-Rolle and Patrick Zamkin, both former youths at Mercy Home, are running to support their home.

“I’ve made it my life’s mission to do everything I can to make sure that folks know about [Mercy Home]” Zamkin said.

This is Zamkin’s fourth year running the marathon. Despite a number of metal replacements following a motorcycle accident when he was 20, Zamkin is gunning for five Chicago Marathons.

“It gives my orthopedic surgeon fits,” Zamkin said.

Zamkin was dropped off at Mercy Home on his 15th birthday. He said the support he got from the home helped him move forward. He works as a financial advisor after 10 years at the Chicago Board of Trade. 

“You got these guys in your corner. There’s nothing you can’t do,” Zamkin said.

Williams-Rolle is preparing for his first marathon. Training has been difficult, he said, but he’s excited to be giving back to Mercy Home.

“It’s just been a matter of being able to give back in any way that I can because I understand the importance of Mercy Home,” Williams-Rolle said.

Williams-Rolle was at Mercy Home for his final two years of High School. He graduated from St. Ignatius and got his Bachelor’s in Political Science from Emory University. He works in HR and is working on his Master’s Degree in Industrial Organizational Psychology.

Both runners are looking forward to the point in the marathon that passes by Mercy Home at mile 16.

“It’s at the perfect time because you’ll be at that point in the race where it is a little exhausting,” Williams-Rolle said.

“What a boost, seeing my family out there, all the employees, and the kids, they’re really out there rooting for you.” Zamkin said.

Mercy Home invites everyone to join their cheering section on Jackson Blvd. between Aberdeen and Racine.

For more information about Mercy Home, visit their website mercyhome.org.

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