Chicago Bears: Teammates hint they want Mitchell Trubisky replacedon March 18, 2020 at 1:32 am

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Chicago Bears: Grading the signing of Robert Quinnon March 18, 2020 at 11:00 am

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In Whiteout Conditions, grief permeates the past and presenton March 17, 2020 at 7:00 pm

Ant loves funerals. He doesn’t have family left, so when he goes to funerals, he no longer fixates on the deceased. Instead, he’s fascinated by the minute observations of each spectacle: “The whole show–the bouquets and black-out drapes, the living room chapels, the organs droning out dirges to drum machine beats, the discount casket coupons thumbtacked by the phone, padlocked basement door–none of it is morbid, to me, anymore.”

Tariq Shah’s Whiteout Conditions (Two Dollar Radio) is not a quick read. Shah reminds you that even though he’s written a novel, he’s still a poet. Reading it is like floating down a river made of dark molasses, cycling consistently, and yet hampering your movement enough to let you sit in it, to feel cloaked in heaviness. Whiteout Conditions explores how nostalgia and toxic masculinity operate (and fail) as a conduit for grief.

This midwestern noir takes place in the Chicago burbs and Wisconsin, and follows Ant as he joins his friend from home, Vince, on a snowy drive to Wisconsin to mourn the death of Vince’s younger cousin, Ray. When Ant hears of Ray’s death, he sees it on the news; the freak accident was bad enough to make its way to New York, where he now lives. After hearing about it, Ant calls Vince and insists on coming to the funeral. Vince doesn’t seem invested in Ant coming, and it feels like Ant is begging to go because he wants a reason to visit home.

When Vince picks him up at O’Hare, the exchanges between the two are awkward. They lost touch after Ant left, and Ant finds that he really doesn’t know Vince; he only has the version of Vince that crystallized in his recollection. After the funeral, they make a pit stop to visit Ant’s childhood home, which is now a parking lot. Ant is surprised and emotional, and Vince mocks his naivety. “Home is where the heart is, Ant. Nobody tell you?” Through Ant, we find ourselves wiggling in the limitations of nostalgia. It’s impossible to experience home the way that he wants to experience it. He can’t connect with anyone from his past, especially not when they’re in the throes of grief. At the funeral, Ray’s mom, Marcy, has a breakdown. He and Vince arrive at Ray’s parents’ home after the funeral, and Ant struggles through a conversation with Dan, Ray’s dad. He narrates: “I’m not sure what else to do, nor am I sure whether Dan expects a different sort of performance of grief.” He reverts to small talk about the weather and traffic, and doesn’t ask about Marcy. Sure, Ant loves funerals, but only when he can sideline the discomfort. Coming home involves a discomfort that feels like an ambush, and his response is to deflect.

Some old patterns do hold up, but flimsily. Ant and Vince relate most when ribbing each other and engaging in playful physical violence, like they did when they were young. The book’s exploration of toxic masculinity comes through the combination of a conversational tone and carefully constructed description, which are restrained by emotional repression. Complicated emotions are packaged into quick-moving small talk. In their first conversation in person in years, Vince tells Ant, “We think you’re embarrassed by us. We think you’re ashamed.” When Ant asks who “we” means and why he’s bringing it up, he responds, “Just making conversation. We got a ways to go still and I thought–what better time to drill down to the heart of things?”

Ant doesn’t make space for his feelings outwardly without detachment. It isn’t until he and Vince stop at a motel for a night, and go to bed, that Ant ruminates in his grief. He mourns an ex, but only under the anonymity of nighttime. Vince expresses his grief through emotional outbursts, which are often hazy and fueled by painkillers. His attempt to find closure after Ray’s death takes a disturbing turn, and Ant makes a decision that brings his barely-hanging-on friendship with Vince to a boil.

Shah captures Ant’s world of performing masculinity, and points out the way that performance falters when entering a home that no longer belongs to you. Whiteout Conditions tantalizes the reader with the prospect of breaking Ant’s emotional tethers, which peeks through the fault lines of the restrained language. Instead, we leave with the lingering familiarity of Ant’s hometown, which feels both soothing and ominous, frozen in time. Ant’s pining for the past doesn’t work for him. But in a historical moment like this one, where everything is uncertain and terrifying, it’s a relief to dip into the sweet and sad nostalgia of a preserved memory of Chicagoland past. v

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Kimberly Dowdell builds equity in architectureon March 17, 2020 at 7:20 pm

Kimberly Dowdell looks down at her
iPhone, which blasts red app badges and notifications from a cluttered screen. She has thousands of messages, e-mails, and calls that beg her attention, but she merely smiles at them and closes her phone case. The 36-year-old architect and director is used to it by now.

Dowdell is a senior principal at Chicago’s HOK architect firm, where she is settling into her new role as the director of business development, which began last May. Her life is bubbling with many other firsts, too: she is the first millennial president of the National Organization of Minority Architects (NOMA), started two new programs under the organization to boost diversity, and led its largest conference in history that saw a 60 percent increase in membership. She is a new cochair of her company’s diversity advisory council and in February, she won the Young Architects Award from the American Institute of Architects (AIA) for her leadership and contributions in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive industry for women and architects of color. It’s her career’s mission, and it’s reaching new heights in 2020.

“It’s a real honor to have received that award,” Dowdell says. “I didn’t apply for it in an effort to make myself feel good about the work that I’ve done. It was more so because [I am] NOMA president. I really wanted to elevate the organization and promote what we’re doing.”

Dowdell started at Cornell University, where she cofounded the Social Economic Environmental Design (SEED) Network in 2005 during an internship with the chief architect of the General Services Administration. Then she worked at HOK in New York City from 2008 to 2011. Since taking over as NOMA president in January 2019, Dowdell has created the NOMA President’s Circle, a team of diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants who work with firms wanting to expand their diversity, a request that has come to Dowdell from many, she says. She also founded the NOMA Foundation Fellowship, which starts this summer and provides internship experience to students in leading firms around the country.

“We really need to create greater pathways into the profession and greater access to our K through 12 students, our college and graduate students, our licensure candidates, [and] support them through that process,” she says.

These are part of her big goals for the nearly 50-year-old organization, which has 1,400 members as of 2020–but Dowdell’s aim is to reach 2,000 more members and 3,000 new students by October, when NOMA hosts its annual conference. Dowdell has no time to mess around, and that’s the way she likes it.

“We’re a serious organization that is committed to increasing diversity in the profession, and we need help,” she says. “We need everyone to join us.”

The architecture industry, predominantly white and cisgendered, is slowly changing. AIA has increased its representation in members in recent years, and the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards (NCARB), a community of architects, educators, and experts, reported in 2019 that 50 percent of new architects working toward their license were women and 46 percent identified as an ethnic or racial minority. Two in five new architects are women, and the racial and gender divide closes more in early-career stages than before, per the NCARB.

That’s good news for Dowdell, but it’s not enough. With only about two percent of Black architects in an industry of 115,000 U.S. architects, the “needle needs to be moved” on the representation to accurately mirror the community it serves, she says. NOMA and AIA have partnered to fix that problem by creating the 2030 Diversity Challenge: to double the number of licensed architects who are African American by 2030.

“Creating access to the profession for people who are generally less positioned to enter the profession makes it better for everyone,” she says, referencing her own career.

Dowdell is known in the architectural community not only for her NOMA involvement but also with work that goes back more than a decade. SEED, the network she formed in 2005, is now a global movement that sets standards for economic, social, and environmental justice for design projects and has more than 2,000 pledged members today. She also started HOK IMPACT in 2010 when she worked at its New York City office, one of the profession’s first corporate social responsibility programs.

During her time in NYC, she met Natalia Lombardi, her friend and colleague who joined the firm’s diversity advisory council shortly after it began in 2013. Lombardi, who has known Dowdell since 2008, says while she has seen progress for women in leadership in her own firm in her 17 years at HOK, the industry still lacks women of color in senior roles. “For women to feel encouraged and stay in the workplace, they need to be able to see women like them on that path ahead,” Lombardi says.

She calls Dowdell a “phenomenal example” of a leader filling that gap. Dowdell’s honesty, sincerity, and openness to challenges are what draw people to her leadership style, Lombardi says.

Dowdell’s efforts in making the industry more inclusive have left her with little time to explore Chicago’s neighborhood culture. However, she got to know Little Village through a recent study by HOK aimed at spurring economic and commercial development with community partners in the neighborhood, a nod to the design skills that began her career. She hopes to have more time for similar community projects but is also happily challenged with what’s on her phone notification list to keep her busy.

“We’re excited about the growth and the energy people have about increasing diversity,” Dowdell says. “Literally our student population looks like the United Nations. It’s really refreshing that these young people from all over the country, even the world, are all-in for NOMA.'” v

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Adjust your feminist lens with Hood Feminismon March 17, 2020 at 8:30 pm

Hood feminism is unabashedly angry, a little asshole-like, proactive, and, sometimes, it’s illegal–but in her latest release writer Mikki Kendall argues that hood feminism is necessary for all women to win.

In Hood Feminism (Viking), Kendall, a Chicago native from the south side, asks readers to reconsider what they’ve been taught feminism is and what they’ve done to show up for women–women of color, that is. A collection of essays ranging from personal accounts of the army veteran’s childhood, with peers forced to participate in illegal activities for survival, to analytical pieces about the assumptions made about Black moms suffering from not-so-uncommon poverty in America, Kendall forces so-called feminists to reckon with who their feminism is really for.

Gentrification is a hot-button issue, reaching across cultural conversations as rural and suburban people move to parts of cities that had been long abandoned–but what’s not been as largely discussed is that gentrifiers are often young white women. The book’s chapter “Housing” frames affordable housing issues in a way no “feminist” could deny. A place to live that doesn’t break your bank is the centerpiece of most people’s livelihood, a livelihood that includes having a job, physical safety, and, quite frankly, peace of mind. Given that young white women are the more common gentrifiers, it’s clear many feminists blatantly ignore affordable housing as a feminist issue. Especially with a pay gap that affects women of color to varying degrees more than white women, housing becomes even more of an issue for women of color because they tend to spend more of their income on housing than white men and women.

It’s a reminder that being a “girlboss” and “leaning in” aren’t priorities to all women, for good reason. Some are still trying to find a stable workplace while others are trying to handle more important matters, like feeding their families, without a job at all.

Yet, from police brutality to the stereotypes pitted against women of color–like the Sassy Latina and the Strong Black Woman–to how poverty affects how kids are educated, Kendall does more than just lay out the facts. She puts every issue in perspective, contrasting how the current women’s equality landscape looks with a focus on poor and working-class women, and shows how a strong revamping could create what women of all races, ages, and income need: equity.

Every anecdotal piece in the book reaffirms that despite some folks’ efforts to exclude certain needs and people, hood feminism is real feminism, and Kendall is a real feminist, too. One of the most jarring reveals is when she delves into the backlash from her viral 2011 Salon piece, “Abortion saved my life.” Along with harassment from pro-lifers (many followers of former suburban Oak Lawn nurse Jill Stanek), she was met with demands, rather than support, from mainstream feminists.

“They wanted me to speak at rallies, to testify, to give them copies of my medical records,” Kendall writes. “Amid the lawyers and activists reaching out, no one seemed to care that I was scared, that my family was being threatened, or that I couldn’t expect the same support from the police that they took for granted. I was supported by the hood. By the people who put my safety and sanity above whether I was a candidate to testify before Congress.”

The support she received reminded me of the radical love I feel when friends and peers ask, “How can I support you?” when I express hardships rather than silently shying away or ignoring my distress altogether, because, at the core, feminists should have each other’s backs, and not just when they need something from you. As Kendall said on her recent appearance on The Daily Show, “Bootstraps are stupid. No one can pull themselves up by their bootstraps.” Empathy, if anything, is the bare minimum everyone deserves.

Two years after publishing her piece in Salon, Kendall created the #SolidarityisforWhiteWomen hashtag on Twitter in response to white feminists showing limited support for women of color online, but today, the hashtag is still relevant. It’s easy to tweet, or even say, you stand with “insert group of people.” What’s difficult is self-evaluating how you show up for low-income women of color at work, in educational spaces, and even at your local grocery store, and taking action. We all play a part in lifting the next woman up–Kendall’s Hood Feminism shows us where to begin. v

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Teddy Roosevelt: The Man in the Arena reminds us what a leader looks likeon March 17, 2020 at 9:45 pm

By the time I had the opportunity to see Derek Evans’s 75-minute solo biographical lecture enactment, Teddy Roosevelt: The Man in the Arena, this past Sunday afternoon, it was one of a single-digit number of theatrical productions not yet canceled or postponed in Chicago due to COVID-19. The other holdouts included another one-performer play, shows with drastically reduced house sizes, or productions making on-the-fly preparations to stream digitally.

A latex-glove-wearing Saint at the Greenhouse took tickets without tearing them (to avoid back-and-forth contact); another politely gestured toward a stack of programs a few feet away. To the audience of about a dozen in the upstairs mainstage space, all spaced mindfully apart, Evans warmly performed his most recent iteration (he pulls from three or four hours of written content emphasizing different periods in Roosevelt’s life) as the mustachioed Bull Moose, here focusing on his self-determined rise to the presidency. Even if only for an hour or so, it was comforting to focus on tales of a ballbuster in the White House who threw his weight around on behalf of the common good; a chapter on Roosevelt’s father pressuring wealthy investors with brute sentimental pressure to fund a hospital is particularly moving.

How would I have felt about Teddy if I had experienced it under normal circumstances? Hell if I know. I was just grateful, frankly, to be in the company of an audience, however spare, for what could very well be the last time in a while. v

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Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist is introspective and interactiveon March 17, 2020 at 10:00 pm

A global pandemic isn’t the best time to be hooking up with random strangers, so if you’re looking for some vicarious erotic thrills, Pride Films And Plays’s Five Encounters on a Site Called Craigslist will satisfy your desire. It will also make you consider how casual hookups impact your emotional well-being as playwright Sam Ward recounts his personal experiences with the now-shuttered personals section of Craigslist. As a bisexual twentysomething coming to terms with his sexuality, Ward learns a lot about himself through this mixed bag of flings, and his script makes audience members a part of the action with a heavy amount of interaction.

Performed with inviting warmth by Eric Sorensen and sensitively directed by Jeremy Ohringer, Five Encounters is an intimate and engaging piece of interactive theater. A hit at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017, the show offers an inventive approach to the confessional one-man show, but its success relies on the willingness of audience volunteers to participate. Volunteers get a name tag before the show so you won’t be asked to interact if you don’t want to, although there is a moment when Sorensen asks everyone to write something personal on a note card.

As one of the few shows currently running in the city, [see note at end of this review], Five Encounters delivers a satisfying hour of introspection that is more active than the usual solo fare. The timing is unfortunate for a show built on audience interaction, but Sorensen and Ohringer do commendable work creating an atmosphere that encourages viewers to open up and share some of themselves in the process. v

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The Two Character Play gets the context it deserves.on March 17, 2020 at 11:00 pm

“Having the necessary arrogance to assume that a failed production of a play is not necessarily a failed play, I have prepared this new version for publication and subsequent reappearance on other stages. . . . As for my depression over the failed production, I believe it is temporary,” wrote Tennessee Williams in his foreword to Out Cry, his published revision of The Two Character Play, which opened to critical rejection in London in 1967, wrecked his relationship with his literary agent in Chicago in 1971, and lasted all of ten days on Broadway in 1973. A decade in the drafting and continually revised for years after its premiere, The Two Character Play has never had the context it deserves–until now. Theatre l’Acadie, which declares its mission to focus on the “lesser known” and “rejected” works of Louisiana talents, presents Williams’s play (directed by Kaitlin Eve Romero) to arresting effect in a moment defined by claustrophobia, confinement, and mass anxiety about going to the grocery store.

Felice (Daniel Westheimer) and Clare (Emily Daigle) are sibling actors on tour, trapped somewhere between a play that never seems to be fully written and the memory of a shared trauma. The torment of their uncertainty is the main attraction– like Waiting for Godot on the barren waste of a black-box stage, the two bicker and cling, fretting about the dark reality of debts and the darker reality of dreams. Daigle’s performance as a woman on the razor’s edge between ruin and revelation is exceptional. v

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PHOTOS: Chicago public spaces emptied in the age of coronaviruson March 17, 2020 at 9:14 pm

ChicagoNow Staff Blog

PHOTOS: Chicago public spaces emptied in the age of coronavirus

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PHOTOS: Commuters use public transportation during coronavirus crisison March 17, 2020 at 9:26 pm

ChicagoNow Staff Blog

PHOTOS: Commuters use public transportation during coronavirus crisis

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