This cabaret by singer-actors Nancy Hays and Alexa Castelvecchi pays homage to two of the greatest performers of the 20th century: Judy Garland and her daughter Liza Minnelli, who teamed up in November 1964 for a pair of concerts at the historic London Palladium, one of which was televised. At the time, Judy was a 42-year-old veteran of movies, TV, and vaudeville, while Minnelli was an 18-year-old fledgling on the brink of a promising career. Accompanied by a trio led by pianist Robert Ollis, Hays and Castelvecchi don’t try to imitate Garland and Minnelli; instead, through song and storytelling, they share their own perspectives on the stars’ enduring influence on them as artists in their own right.
Hays is a fine singer who shines in more reflective moments–her introspective rendition of “Over the Rainbow” is genuinely touching. And Castelvecchi is a dynamic belter and comic whose knockout rendition of the standard “Who’s Sorry Now?” is a first-act highlight; even more gripping is her second-act rendition of “Quiet Please, There’s a Lady Onstage,” the song that Minnelli’s onetime husband Peter Allen wrote in Garland’s memory following her 1969 death from an accidental overdose of barbiturates. The show’s best moments are the duet medleys, in which Hays and Castelvecchi evoke the deep and honest affection that bonded mother and daughter in both triumphant and trying times. v
Entering the Black Ensemble Theater, home to a company with the mission of eradicating racism, theatergoers are offered refrains of “Welcome to the Healing.” That’s the title of the opening number of Jackie Taylor’s Legends the Musical: A Civil Rights Movement, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow. It’s an invitation to confront racism; the cast of ten warns of uncomfortable content, urging viewers to get angry and to cry, but to eventually complete the journey in a place of love. It’s a noble goal, but the trouble is, they never provide space for all that to happen.
Legends does two things: it provides a history lesson in Black oppression and triumph, and it showcases some incredible singers. Both are great, but a lack of smooth transition means that the latter always overshadows the former, making for abrupt tonal switches and highlighting the lack of a uniting thread throughout the show. It needs to narrow its focus, too, since the blunt inclusion of the Holocaust, Indigenous genocide, border conflicts, and more only serve to muddy the sharpness of Black Ensemble Theater’s argument. It’s the gospel-style music that defines the show, highlighting Guides Dwight Neal and Dawn Bless–his easy belting and her jaw-dropping scatting and riffing. Well-known songs are such crowd-pleasers that watching the audience sing and dance along was as enjoyable as watching the musical itself.
Ensemble member MJ Rawls deserves a mention, too, for her narrative monologue. I was willing to forgive the awkward departure from the structure of the musical in exchange for the privilege of seeing an entire audience applaud a trans woman of color for telling her story on stage.
Perhaps I wouldn’t call this show a musical, but instead a combination history lecture, racial justice workshop, personal essay, and musical revue with lackluster choreography, using storytelling elements strangely reminiscent of John Mulaney & the Sack Lunch Bunch, although the tones could not be further apart. As a whole, Legends feels like it’s in the early stages of being something great. If you’re a fan of joining a lively audience to enjoy some exceptional vocalists–and you don’t mind a work in progress–it’s worth seeing. v
Dan Clancy’s four-person play about two couples living a middling life in a middle-class suburb, Middletown, is the kind of middlebrow play you go to when you don’t want your emotions stirred up or your assumptions about life challenged, and you don’t want to work very hard to figure out what it all means. It is 90 minutes worth of Kodak moments from the lives of Clancy’s characters–from first dates, first meetings, and first days of school, through sudden departures, final partings, last moments–all presented in series of reminiscences that skim along the surface of life, inspiring sweet smiles, lighthearted chuckles, and occasional glances at the watch to see how soon this all ends.
This production features three faded older-adult “name” TV stars–Sandy Duncan, Adrian Zmed, and Donny Most–and our own off-Loop-to-Broadway star, Kate Buddeke. None of them do badly. They can’t forget their lines; they read from notebooks, a la A.R Gurney’s Love Letters. And they put just enough acting into their performances to keep this from feeling like we are being read to before bedtime. Seth Greenleaf’s direction is subtle to the point of invisibility. If you want to be nice, you could call it seamless.
The play provides few moments of intense drama. The moments after one couple discovers their firstborn was killed on 9/11 comes close. And even that sorrow is muted by the fact that the actors stand behind a protective podium. And by the fact that we don’t ever really get to know these characters very well. When they pass on, as they must, as we all must, it is hard not to wonder: death, where is thy sting? v
My house smells like slow-cooked pot roast and marijuana.
Well, I’m slow cooking a pot roast and simmering marijuana, water, and margarine (though the recipe called for real butter) to make weed butter. The cartoons my four-year-old daughter just left play noisily in the background. Every time she leaves to stay with her dad for a few days, by the time they are down the street I’m rolling my first blunt to the theme song of Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.
I cook real good comfort food for myself on the three days a week that my daughter, Madison, is away with her dad. Wow, I have a four-year-old child.
Around this time five years ago, in 2015, I gave up my studio apartment to travel in a musty 12-passenger van with the Second City National Touring Company as the newest member of BlueCo. I was listening to five adults make a bit out of every sentence, drinking my weight in Jameson from a flask I once used as a prop, and figuring out what my road to comedy success could look like. With BlueCo boasting alumni like Amy Poehler, Jordan Klepper, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert, I couldn’t help but tune out the bits, stare out into the middle-of-nowhere fields of America, and fantasize about where this part of the journey could take me. Would I eventually write my own show that would get picked up by a major network and last for years? Would I write a show that would tank and get cancelled before the first season was over? Would putting up with earning $110 a week, scraping together my out-of-town per diem to finance my life in Chicago, and rewriting the end of this Angela Shelton monologue to update the now-outdated-yet-still-applicable references get me to my dream? Would the person I wanted to be when I grew up, the person I’d been fantasizing about since I was my daughter’s age, suddenly appear now that I am at the Second City?
I became the first Black woman at Second City to perform on a resident stage throughout her entire pregnancy. I was the first Black woman to be a part of a show that cast two Black women at the same time. I was not the first Black woman to voice grievances about not having proper working conditions.
In September 2016, with a one-year-old and daily mounting frustrations, it was time to go. Not only would I not be returning for another revue, but I broke my contract and left the show early. Performing onstage, what I thought to be my safest space in the world, had become tainted and disrespected. In 2019 I went to a therapist who acknowledged my PTSD and the dark cloud of creative discouragement that hung over me.
Quitting Second City turned into an unexpected four-year break away from the thing that I loved to do and have done all my life.
How did I get here, still in Chicago, designing my own flyer for my own show and another for a friend’s show that I produce? Meal prepping for a kid-free three days, mentally preparing to get my hustle on as I navigate the vastly unfamiliar territory that is my comedy career? I’m too tired to check e-mails, finish that script, get those edits in, update my website, sift through the 500 new photos of me to find one to post Tuesday around noon, ya know, the same time I plan to announce that my 420 comedy show tickets are on sale (STRATEGY!). I’ll wear sweatpants on stage, the audience will roar, and I will have fun. Oh, of this I am sure.
In 2008, after graduating from college, where I majored in jazz and spent most of my time in student government, the royal court, and singing in small bands throughout the city of Memphis, I followed my best friend Justin Key to Los Angeles to attend the American Musical and Dramatic Academy. I did the dual musical theater/acting track for two full years. I had access to large practice rooms with mirrors and pianos. I performed full-out everyday. For some reason, I knew that this would be my last opportunity to do nothing but that. I knew that adulthood loomed in the foreground and soon I would have to chase practical opportunities (like graphic design) that allowed me to afford to chase my dream of performing.
When I moved to Chicago from LA, my journey started at a Black-owned theater, eta Creative Arts Foundation. I was cast in my first show after singing a song from a fake show during my audition. Runako Jahi was my first director, and I still acknowledge him as my theater dad. I was cast as the comedic relief in that dramatic play set in the 60s. I was supposed to learn “C’est Si Bon” by Eartha Kitt. I didn’t. One day I was asked to sing it. I thought, “Nobody here knows French.” I sang the song with made-up French-sounding words, and when I was done, my castmates and Runako were impressed. I went home and learned it for real in case I had inspired anybody to start learning French only for me to be discovered as a fraud.
That’s my thing: pretending to be ready while learning on the spot, and executing a favorable rendition good enough to put up in front of a paying audience.
I met Rueben Echols while performing my second play at eta, and he recruited me to work at Black Ensemble Theater. I performed in kids theater during the day and on the mainstage at night. At the kids show, we were given the freedom to “make the character your own.” It came naturally. I had been making things my own since my days at Gary Christian Center, a nondenominational church that really became my first audience. You need somebody to do announcements? Perfect time to joke in front of an entire congregation. Drama club? Sign me up, please. Praise dance? Youth choir? My church experience was really a Christian version of Fame. It’s where I started paying my performing and rehearsal dues. At Black Ensemble Theater, I got a chance to do it all again–sing in beautiful ensembles, dance intricate choreography, and perform shows for a live crowd.
Soon I was encouraged to reach out to the Second City. I had never heard of the place and at the time, I was looking for the next paying show I could be cast in. At my intro to the comedy theater, people were talking about paths, buckets, and the training center. But my eyes floated to the casting wall that displayed all of the current paid working talent. The question “What do you want?” was asked, and I said, “I want to be on that wall.”
Classes at Second City? No, thank you. I had just racked up massive student loan debt training in LA and was already getting paid to do shows as an actor in Chicago. Instead, I booked a role at Court Theatre’s The Mountaintop. What did I want? A job.
I returned to Second City after closing The Mountaintop just as they were launching the Bob Curry Fellowship, a program dedicated to training underrepresented voices. There, I met my closest friends, friends who shared a lot of my thoughts, concerns, and questions about our career paths.
The more tumultuous my Second City life became, the more I craved to just simply play on stage with people I trusted. I’ve been fortunate, then, that I’ve gotten to play with my friends in 3Peat, a group formed a few years ago by Black improvisers who were tired of being the only Black person in an improv group. They held down Monday nights at iO and would often ask me to join. I valued my Monday nights, and the last thing I wanted to do was leave my kid and the south side to go to another improv theater. But the players at 3Peat were becoming a much-needed community outside of the white improv world.
Those Monday night shows at iO and our road trips were like my Second City National TourCo BlueCo days reimagined, but with faces that looked like mine. Nobody was concerned about “getting a stage,” everybody was hungry for what was next, and nary a cultural reference of mine hit the stage floor because it was held tenderly by a Black playmate of mine. “Yes AND, Vanessa went to have BIG FUN!” The audience would laugh so hard whether they knew the reference or not, because we set it up sweet and we would be laughing enough anyway.
We’ve done some really cool things together, like creating sketches for Comedy Central. In our first round of pitches, The Blackening, written by Dewayne Perkins, was selected for us to shoot. By this time, some of 3Peat’s members lived in Los Angeles and New York. After multiple calls, notes from Comedy Central, and a few video chats, we headed to New York to shoot overnight in a big, creepy house in the woods. The sketch premiered on April 13, 2018, and within the first few hours we got two million views. The views and shares kept going up, and we eventually got up to 15 million, which led to us working with Comedy Central more. We were performing all over and enjoyed being on set with each other. It further opened my mind to the world of my possibilities. Not only can I do this, but I can do this and get paid and be around people I like and have fun. What do I want? This is what I want. I want to work in a healthy environment where I get to make art that I think is funny and cool with people who I love. And those environments, sometimes, have to be self-created.
I’m transitioning from my dream of performing live onstage to the dream of being in film and TV. Sometimes the transition is weird, unrecognizable, and lonely. The transition feels less like a decision and more like a deliberate set of longterm choices, strategies, teams, connections, appointments, and meetings. I’ve grown accustomed to not performing nightly, but I really do miss the instant gratification. Ultimately, being in the right environment is more important to me.
Now, between producing one-off comedy shows, I develop my own story ideas and form writing partnerships with people I admire. I write webseries that I want to make. I design title-card art. I’m going back to finding my love for performing, period. And if I want to perform at this level, I have to create some of those opportunities myself because they don’t come fast enough on their own. I create those opportunities wherever I am. And today, it’s in my kitchen slow cooking a pot roast and simmering weed butter. v
It’s a Sunday and the theater is packed, an abnormality for any comedy spot in Chicago. Around 40 people situate themselves in chairs and chat with friends, patiently waiting for the mayhem about to ensue. The space used to be an old clothing store but is now home to the new Lincoln Lodge venue, complete with three theaters, two classrooms, and a bar. The show is Sauteed Stand Up: A Cooking Comedy Competitionhosted by Nathan Hall and Tad Walters. Judged by a panel of chefs, two teams of stand-ups face each other head on with their best material, all while cooking a dish of their choice to present the judges.
Lifted from typical cooking show setups, the comics not only run through the motions of their set, but also play within a spoof version of rhythms you might see on Top Chef or Cutthroat Kitchen. Chef Maija Barnes nods her head before choosing a winner. “This one,” she says about the rice pilaf Eggo waffle treat created by Sohrab Forouzesh and Meg Indurti. “This is the plate for me.”
This is one of many shows currently featured at the Lincoln Lodge, an independent comedy theater at 2040 N. Milwaukee, right where Logan Square meets Bucktown. Like many DIY theaters, the space is run by comedians in the scene, artists who have taken it upon themselves to create environments that let “far-from-the-norm” comedy thrive. Tight Five Productions oversees all shows, classes, special events, and building issues that come with the venue but as for actually running and producing the shows, that’s up to a curated group of local cast members familiar with running comedy shows around town, the ones in touch with people from the community.
“The owner, Mark Geary, really wanted independent comedy to still have a space in Chicago,” says lead cast member Deanna Ortiz. “As opposed to other cities that will maybe have one big club that books a couple comics, he wanted to make sure there’s room for everybody to do whatever weird idea they want, like a cooking show where you might start a fire or FreakFest with Megan Stalter.”
Enthusiastic performers have come together in recent years to open independent comedy spots of their own, like Logan Square Improv, Bughouse Theater, and the Juice Box, to name a few. Though all share the same humble beginnings, the Lincoln Lodge has a history that far surpasses its predecessors, producing a long line of steady talent, such as Hannibal Burress, Pete Holmes, and Cameron Esposito. It wasn’t easy, however. The show only recently found a home of its own after 21 long years.
“A big struggle was when the Lincoln Restaurant, our host venue of 15 years, closed, leaving us homeless,” says Geary. “We spent three years at Subterranean in Wicker Park and two years at the Newport Theater in Wrigleyville before opening our new space and ‘forever home.'”
Tom Lawler had approached Geary about starting a showcase room in the back of the Lincoln Restaurant in 2000. Geary’s production skills from his DIY mike at the Red Lion on Lincoln and Lawler’s innovative marketing savvy were a perfect match for the endeavor. Back then there was barely a stand-up scene, with only a few open mikes and Zanies compared to the much more robust community of today. Many of the showcases were on the south side, thanks to the notoriety of the Compass Players at 55th and College Avenue and clubs like All Jokes Aside in the South Loop and Jokes and Notes at 47th and King Drive–all have since shuttered.
Seeing an opportunity for a weekly show, the two put a spotlight on the up-and-coming comedians hitting mikes every night. The process helped kick-start the careers of many of the major players performing comedy today, half the reason comedians are eager to get involved with the theater.
“We had a lot of comedians before they were famous, people passing through like Nicole Byer,” says Stephanie Weber, a cast member who’s been involved with Lincoln Lodge for six years now. “The people who have performed here is a long, impressive list that would make anyone proud to be a part of this.”
The road to becoming a well-established pioneer, however, was long and filled with lots of trial and error. Between disputes with contractors and City Hall postponing sign-off on projects and plans over the last 18 months, it’s a miracle the doors finally opened in January. Despite years of looking for a venue, Geary never gave up.
“The last two years have been hell,” Geary says. “Luckily we have a benefactor, Ed Toolis, who stuck with us and provided the funding we needed to wade through the nightmare of dealing with the whole process with the city.”
It took the support of many in the community eager to see the Lincoln Lodge thrive to keep the show financially afloat before finding its own home. Through fundraising and donation-based shows, the owners have managed to pool resources to keep the Lincoln Lodge’s name alive.
The show and the venue are not one and the same–the addition of the latter requires a lot more hands on deck. The long-running show has been kept together by its cast members, a rotating group of people tasked with handling what goes into making the Lincoln Lodge perfect. What started off as a showcase at the back of a pancake house has now grown into three theaters, with capacity of 130 people, 80 people, and 30 people. The venue demands more of its cast performers now that simply running lights on a Saturday isn’t enough. They gladly give up their time to the Lodge knowing the opportunities that may come with it.
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“We do menial tasks like setting up chairs, take tickets, bus tables, and we have divided tasks every week that include writing newsletters, social posts, and e-mailing press contacts,” Weber says. “On top of that, the cast rotates performing on the shows every week. We work together to make the show what it is every week.”
Keeping things inclusive is incredibly important to the people at the Lincoln Lodge. In 2016, Lincoln Lodge members emphasized how excited they were to finally have an even ratio of male-to-female cast members. The 20th season features Olivia Perry, Stephanie Weber, Alex Dragicevich, Chris Higgins, Gena Gephart, Britt Ferguson, Kyle Scanlan, Deanna Ortiz, Jarrell Scott Barnes, Jessica Hong, Dan Drees, and Molly Kearney. When deciding who to bring in, the 12 have a strict democratic system where each decides on comics who are doing well or haven’t had enough opportunities to perform.
“Adding producers who are WOC or queer has helped highlight those performers on the show. Having a diverse cast lends to diverse booking,” Weber says. “That’s true for any show or institution. Diversify the people making the decisions, and the decisions will be diverse. Duh!”
“I remember we were at Subterranean, and this woman came up to me after the show and said she was so glad there was a girl on stage because sometimes when she had seen shows there wasn’t many girls,” Ortiz says. “There’s always going to be a person of color in the audience who wants to hear their point of view, and I think that’s something in our bookings that we are so aware of. There are so many great comedians to choose from, we can’t just keep picking the same six people who do well at the Lodge.”
On its first Sunday, Sauteeed Stand Up runs into a few issues at the new Lincoln Lodge. There’s worry of a fire breaking out–two extension cords are destroyed in the process of running two electric griddles, a mini oven, and an induction burner, and a fuse goes out, shutting down the power equipment immediately. The hosts handle it with ease. Then, a heckler gets on stage and challenges comedian Beckett Kenny for his queer material, potentially the worst decision one could make at a show where performers are given knives. The crowd boos the heckler as his friend leads him off stage. Lodge castmates reach out to Kenny after his set to apologize, and the audience applauds once the heckler’s gone. The bartender memorizes his face before he leaves, making sure he will not be let in if he comes back. Things fall apart, but everything is OK in the end. Setbacks can’t stop the energy of the people who have worked so hard to see this through, not when they finally have their own theater.
“We’re good at handling hecklers who get out of control because I know the cast members behind the scenes will help me and have my back in terms of asking people to be quiet,” Ortiz says. “I would hate for people to think the Lincoln Lodge space is somewhere that is not a welcoming space for audience and performers.”
This has always been the way of the Lincoln Lodge, handling situations thrown at them with stride. Finding a venue took almost two decades and yet the dream burned brighter than the letdown. Now the group finally has a physical space to maintain the practice of putting up shows they love in a supportive space for everyone. Life can be hard for a comic testing material, especially if they’re a part of a marginalized community. Even with no security and a tight budget, the Lodge manages to handle concerned patrons, clients, and class members with utmost concern. Here, their home is everyone’s home. v
Coronavirus COVID-19 has been on the minds of people around the world for the past few months, and for good reason. While COVID-19 originated in Wuhan, China, in December 2019, it has quickly spread throughout Asia toward the Middle East and into parts of Europe. Now, with over 600 cases confirmed in the United States, and 26 deaths nationwide, we should be more vigilant than ever in case of lasting effects on community health and the economy.
We have seen a lot of misinformation about coronavirus disease COVID-19 floating around the internet as panic sets in, but we’re here to offer some hopefully comforting advice to surviving this potential pandemic. While we can’t say these methods will certainly prevent you from contracting the disease, following these steps may assist in keeping you healthy and safe. But first, a few straightforward facts from the World Health Organization:
What is coronavirus COVID-19?
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen a coronavirus strain spread across the globe. Coronavirus can bring about a range of illnesses in animals and humans, primarily causing respiratory infections like the common cold, but also more serious cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
What are the symptoms of coronavirus COVID-19?
Symptoms take anywhere from 2 – 14 days to manifest. A mild fever, fatigue, and a dry cough are the first symptoms to occur, and are sometimes followed by aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat, and/or diarrhea. As these symptoms gradually increase, those infected with COVID-19 may have trouble breathing and need to be hospitalized. Older individuals are at a higher risk if they have underlying medical issues like high blood pressure, heart problems, or diabetes. Right now, about 1 in every 6 people infected with COVID-19 reach this level of serious illness. Around 80-percent of the infected recover without special treatment.
How can you contract coronavirus COVID-19?
If you have been in contact with someone who has the coronavirus, you are at risk for contracting the disease. COVID-19 is spread through small droplets from the nose or mouth, when someone coughs, sneezes, or even exhales, for example, and nearby healthy people breathe in those particles. These droplets will naturally land on surrounding objects and surfaces, so if you touch these and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose, you can contract the virus. If you know of someone who is sick with COVID-19, make sure to stay at least 3 feet away from them, or farther, if possible. COVID-19 is not currently airborne, but this may change as the disease spreads worldwide.
Wash your hands regularly for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or with an alcohol-based hand rub, like hand sanitizer, when soap and water isn’t available. Both methods can kill viruses that may be on your hands without you knowing it. To review all the steps to washing your hands, since most of us probably don’t do it correctly every time, Ellen DeGeneres has a few light-hearted tips:
Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth as much as possible and maintain at least a 3-foot distance from anyone who is coughing or sneezing. This is easier said than done. The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology (APIC) estimated in 2015 that people touch their face roughly 23 times an hour, and while you may think washing your hand and using hand sanitizer will keep you safe, as soon as you start touching thing again, the germs on your hands multiply.
Speaking of hand sanitizer, turns out we’ve been doing that wrong all along, too. When you use hand sanitizer, make sure to fully rub it into your skin until your hands are dry. And make sure to grab a bottle with at least 60-percent alcohol. Keep in mind that hand sanitizer will not be as effective when your hands are visibly dirty or greasy, and may not remove harmful chemicals, like pesticides and heavy metals, from your hands. Again, use soap and water whenever possible.
Use your knuckles to press buttons and your sleeves to open doors, whenever possible. This will reduce your chances of spreading germs to your face when you do, inevitably and probably subconsciously, touch it.
Make sure not to spread your own germs, which means covering your mouth and nose with a bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Dispose of the tissue immediately—don’t keep it in your pocket. That’s just gross. And unsanitary.
If you’re feeling unwell, stay home. While we understand that not everyone has the privilege of taking off work whenever they need to, it’s better that you stay healthy than spread germs to other people around you. If you have a high fever, a persistent cough, and difficulty breathing, seek medical attention. Make sure to call in advance before going, though, so medical professionals can direct you to the correct facility to avoid spreading germs at the doctor’s office. That being said, it’s also not too late to get your flu shot. You’re never too old.
If you are traveling, make sure to bring hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes on the plane with you, so you can wipe down armrests and trays, and stay clean as much as possible. If you are traveling overseas, particularly to Europe or Asia, call your airline to see if they have a policy on rebooking, postponing, or even canceling your trip. While that may be a disappointment to you, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Face masks are for the sick to avoid spreading germs, not for the healthy. Wearing a face mask as a healthy individual does not decrease your chances of contracting coronavirus COVID-19.
Turns out people are clearing out Costco, Walmart, Walgreens, Amazon, and more superstores of toilet paper, paper towels, water bottles, and canned goods. It might be time to start thinking about stocking up on non-perishables in case COVID-19 turns into a pandemic with economic consequences. We are still unsure how the world might be affected if the disease continues to spread, but it’s possible prices on certain goods will increase as panic rises.
Listen, guys, we know this is starting to get a little scary. We don’t want to tell you the reaction you’re supposed to have to the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, because everyone will deal with this differently, especially if you have any kind of anxiety disorder. What we will say is that you should continue to stay informed by trusted news sources and avoid reading articles that don’t seem legitimate. It might be hard to tell, so we recommend sticking to the World Health Organization, which is working around the clock to ensure all information is as up-to-date as possible. On a final note: the coronavirus COVID-19 does not give you or anyone a reason to be xenophobic or racist when in contact with other human beings. We are all in this together.
It’s nearly springtime in Chicago! As the weather starts to thaw, our months’ long hibernation can finally end. For those who are craving a night out with the ladies full of dancing or a more chill hangout where you can talk and catch up, there is something for everyone on this list! Here is where to go for a ladies night in Chicago.
Want to dance to some throwbacks? Beauty Bar hosts a Y2K night that plays all your favorites from the early 2000s. Plus, it’s a great place to start the night as you can drink while getting your nails done.
Sometimes, a girl just needs a tiki drink. When that happens, Three Dots and a Dash should be your go-to place. With adorably awesome tiki glasses to over the top garnishes and massive fish bowls you can share with your squad, the bar is unforgettable. Plus, the drinks are extremely powerful!
When the weather finally starts to cooperate again, check out the Roof on theWit. On the 27th floor, this State Street bar gives you some fantastic views while you catch up with your friends. Plus, the food is all about sharing, so you can try a ton of different plates, and don’t sleep on bottle service. Your whole table will enjoy the luxury.
Yet another great place for dancing, this place tends to play a lot of throwbacks. Belt out the 2000s music on the dance floor at this club. And make sure to hit up karaoke night for an even wilder time.
Want to do something completely different? The sketch comedy was created and performed solely by women at The Second City. It’s perfect for women who want to have a few laughs at things that only women encounter.
At UrbanMatter, U Matter. And we think this matters.
Tell us what you think matters in your neighborhood and what we should write about next in the comments below!
Since the release of their self-titled debut in 2017, Chicago’s Mute Duo–aka pedal steel guitarist Sam Wagster and drummer Skyler Rowe–have become one of the most versatile live acts in the city, performing and improvising in an array of configurations, including a quintet at the Empty Bottle’s Mirrored Series (curated by Rowe and devoted to improvised jazz and experimental music) and a thunderous quasi-orchestral octet that opened for Grouper at Bohemian National Cemetery. The painterly, panoramic songs on their new Lapse in Passage (which drops on Friday, March 20, via American Dreams Records) could soundtrack a walk through a beautiful but foreboding desert. On Thursday, March 19, they play a double release party at Constellation with Akosuen, aka multi-instrumentalist Billie Howard, who has a new EP called In Flux.
Chicago has no shortage of young bands cribbing from classic-rock albums more than twice their age, but the standouts in this crowded field are emerging six-piece Rookie. They mold earthy 60s roots rock, smoldering 70s power pop, and timeless psych into lean, focused pop-rock songs that impress even their elders–in fact, last month they opened a string of east-coast dates for Cheap Trick! On Friday, March 13, Bloodshot releases Rookie’s self-titled debut album, which they celebrate that night by headlining a sold-out Empty Bottle show.
Gossip Wolf has had a soft spot for Chicago DIY rap label and collective Why? Records ever since covering ebullient duo Free Snacks, aka MCs Joshua Virtue and Ruby Watson, in January 2019. Last week, Watson released his second solo album for the label, Carry Me, which includes appearances from the other rappers in the Why? Records crew (Virtue, Davis, and Malci) as well as Musa Reems of Watson’s other collective, Dumb Intelligence. Watson marks the arrival of Carry Me with a headlining set at Subterranean on Friday, March 13! v
Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who’ve been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place.
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Barb hates bowling alleys. She probably doesn’t feel great about pool halls either, but she definitely hates bowling alleys. The ones she remembers are filled with smoke, sticky with spilled beer, and smelly from all those recycling bowling shoes. Not to mention those awful polyester bowling shirts that were once the vogue. The net result is that I have not bowled a game (or a line, in bowler lingo) for close to thirty years–back when my nephews had birthday parties at some local lanes.
But my non-kegeling streak came to a gutter pounding end this weekend. With Barb out of town visiting permanent Florida snowbirds, I had my chance to meet up with Marty, the husband of another of Barb’s friends for a heart-pounding, thumb-popping trip to the boards. Yes, after declining Marty’s first two invitations over the past year, I finally said yes.
I assumed that at 2 pm on a weekend when Corona Madness is starting to grip the nation the bowling alley would be deserted, with perhaps one or two lanes occupied by bored oldsters who didn’t know the world has passed them by. I was stunned to find the place packed. A youth traveling-team tournament took up 3/4 of the lanes, boys and girls bowling, cheering, and bumping fists.
The smoke and the sticky floors I remembered from back in the day were gone, the former legislated away, the latter banished by the general sobriety of the kids bowling. Alas, the polyester bowling shirts remained, even more flamboyant than in days of yore, the shirts colored with in-your-face Day-Glo blues, reds, and purples. What was new to me was that many of the teens were bowling with two hands on their bowling ball throughout their backswing, something I had never seen before. Times have changed.
Our foursome settled onto our two quiter lanes, and I noticed something else new and confusing. The bowlers on the alleys to our right were going crazy with high fives every time one of their teammates rolled a nine on their first ball. Nines are OK, but what was the big deal? I asked Marty, and learned that those bowlers were paying something called “9 Pin, No Tap.” It’s a fancy way of saying that a nine counts as a strike. Say, what??? These were grown-ups! Man (and woman) up and admit that is just a way to jack up your scores. You need gutter bumpers too?
OK, enough griping. How did I bowl? My bowling shoes fit fine. My fingers still fit in my ball. It took me a few frames to nail down my starting point, my stride, and my release. But by halfway through the first of our 3 games, I felt as if I was in midseason form. I was throwing my ball as straight as a Daryl Dixon arrow (I don’t have the superhook most of the other bowlers were throwing) and it was popping nicely into the pocket. I was even picking up a decent percentage of my spares. My final scores were good, or at least good enough for me.
Will I bowl again? Sure, though it may have to wait until Barb goes to Florida again. But Marty, next time it’s on me!
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Hi! I am Les, a practicing pathologist living in the North Suburbs and commuting every day to the Western ones. I have lived my entire life in the Chicago area, and have a pretty good feel for the place, its attractions, culture, restaurants and teams. My wife and I are empty-nesters with two adult children and a grandchild. We recently decided to downsize, but just a bit! I will be telling the story of the construction of our new home, but also writing about whatever gets me going on a particular day. Be sure to check out the “About” page to learn more about where we plan to go with this blog!