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Andrew Alexander out at Second CityKerry Reidon June 6, 2020 at 2:30 am

In response to worldwide protests over the killing of George Floyd and other Black citizens by police, many arts organizations and other nonprofits publicly proclaimed their solidarity with the protesters and the Black Lives Matter movement. Second City tweeted their support on May 31, along with a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King (“There comes a time when silence is betrayal”) and the message “To say nothing is to be complicit. Black lives, stories, art, and souls matter.”

Dewayne Perkins, a Marquette Park native and DePaul grad who worked with the Wells Street comedy behemoth in several capacities, including as a member of a national touring company and in 2015’s Training Center show No Selfie Control before becoming a television writer (he has written for Brooklyn 99, among other projects), retweeted Second City’s BLM statement.

And he added several more of his own. “You remember when the black actors wanted to put on a Black Lives Matter Benefit show and you said only if we gave half of the proceeds to the Chicago PD, because I will never forget.”

A tsunami of tweets from other BIPOC artists and Second City alumni followed, calling out institutional racism. It was reminiscent of the controversy surrounding the 2016 Second City e.t.c. revue A Red Line Runs Through It, when half of the cast quit in response to what actor Peter Kim described in a Chicago magazine essay as an environment where audiences “hurled increasingly racist, homophobic, and misogynistic comments at me and my castmates: comments demeaning my Asian ethnicity, using the f-word to degrade my homosexuality, and shouting ‘whores’ at the women.” In response to the exit of the actors, Andrew Alexander, Second City’s owner, CEO, and executive producer, shuffled around some of the management team.

But after the Twitter backlash, and with the Second City empire (which includes outposts in Los Angeles and Toronto along with the mothership in Piper’s Alley) shuttered by COVID-19, Alexander, 76, announced his departure on Friday, June 5 in a memo now available on the company website. In this valedictory, he appeared to accept responsibility for the failures to address institutional racism in a meaningful way.

“The company has grown significantly–yet culturally homogeneously. There is no excuse for it, and I am not defending it,” Andrews wrote. “I succumbed to (what I now realize was) my unconscious biases, the biases of the theater community, and the biases of the city in which The Second City is embedded. I surrounded myself with people mostly of my own race and culture. As a theater producer, I like to think I have good instincts, not just commercially, but also as it relates to what is right. As an administrator, I have not always had good instincts. While diversifying the theater artistically, I failed to create an anti-racist environment wherein artists of color might thrive. I am so deeply and inexpressibly sorry.”

Alexander went on to say, “I am stepping down and fully removing myself from overseeing The Second City’s operations and policies and will divest myself from the company as it stands. The next person to fill the Executive Producer position will be a member of the BIPOC community. That’s a commitment I’m proud to make.”

Alexander, who produced the legendary sketch television series SCTV, took over the Toronto Second City operations in 1974 from Second City cofounder Bernie Sahlins and then became co-owner of the Chicago original in 1985, also overseeing revues for decades as the executive producer.

Alexander owns 50 percent of the company, and under his leadership, Second City expanded its brand through a range of initiatives, including corporate training and expansion of both the Training Center facilities and additional performance venues in Piper’s Alley. It’s unclear right now how the for-profit enterprise will move forward with changing leadership and who might be in contention to take over Alexander’s role, particularly given the economic turmoil of the coronavirus shutdown that has caused massive layoffs and drops in revenue throughout the entertainment sector.

In addition to the announcement of Alexander’s departure, Second City publicly committed to several other steps to address the problems with lack of diversity and institutional racism called out by the alumni on Twitter and by many others over the years.

“The Second City commits to reviewing internal hiring, casting, and student recruitment practices to ensure we are actively identifying and removing barriers to access and opening the doors to BIPOC in every area of the company. The Second City commits to using our resources to produce art by and for BIPOC artists and diversifying audiences in our theaters. We commit to company wide anti-racist training and education. The Second City will make ongoing financial and in-kind donations to organizations working to dismantle systems of oppression, as well as to Black-owned businesses and schools in underserved communities.”

How that plays out also remains to be seen. v






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Here’s What to Expect About Dining at Chicago RestaurantsLindsey Congeron June 5, 2020 at 9:29 pm

The exact date we will be able to eat at a restaurant is still unknown, but Chicago is already started to prepare for that glorious day. Of course, how restaurants and guests act will be very different than pre-coronavirus. The city released guidelines that restaurants must follow if they want to reopen.

Photo Credit: Twisted Spoke

Here are some of the highlights:

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  • Contactless pickup will still be available.
  • People are encouraged to use contactless payment.
  • Outdoor dining will be allowed, as long as social distancing protocols are followed.
  • Signs regarding hygiene, social distancing, PPE, and more should be posted throughout the facilities.
  • Employees are required to wear a face mask at all times, and guests are required to wear a mask when not seated.
  • Social distancing of at least six feet is still encouraged.
  • Employees should frequently wash their hands and disinfect the facilities.
  • Flexible time off is available if employees are feeling sick.
  • No more self-serving drink and food stations.

In addition, you won’t be able to go out to eat with a huge group of friends. All gatherings must be limited to no more than 10 people, with only six people allowed at each table that are spread at least six feet apart. You also likely won’t see any menus in restaurants — many restaurants will either switch to digital menus or fixed menu boards whenever possible. 

Chicago restaurants will be a bit cleaner; employees are required to clean and sanitize the entire restaurant before opening and as frequently as every 30 minutes. Bathrooms should be monitored, cleaned, and sanitized, often.

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The state is also suggesting that restaurant owners monitor the health of their employees and recommend that employees do a wellness check before coming to work every day. The guidelines also say that restaurants could take temperature checks or do other health screenings before allowing employees to work.

Photo Credit: Wells on Wells

One of the biggest topics still up for debate is regarding capacity. The maximum number of people allowed on a patio will be dictated by how many tables can fit within the space while still adhering to social distancing rules. While there were rumors of shutting down sidewalks for patios, the guidelines don’t make any mention of this. Right now, the guidelines merely suggest that whenever possible, a restaurant should set up an “impermeable barrier” from the sidewalks.

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Another decision that still needs to be made is what is considered an indoor space or an outdoor space. Currently, the language in the guidelines indicates that “dining areas considered outdoors include rooftops, rooms with retractable roofs and indoor spaces where 50-percent or more of a wall can be removed via the opening of windows, doors, or panels provided that dining tables are within eight feet from such openings.”

One of the main concerns of Mayor Lightfoot, restaurant owners, and Chicagoans, in general, is the city’s unpredictable weather patterns. A day of rain or extreme wind might put a damper on outdoor seating availability. By allowing indoor dining spaces that can be opened to the outdoors, it might allow restaurants to resume service with minimal disruption from the weather.

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Before restaurants can reopen, Mayor Lori Lightfoot is waiting for Chicago to hit certain health benchmarks, but it is expected to happen by June 10.

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Featured Image Credit: Chop Shop

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