Feds Cordon Consumer Building
“The federal government has closed the sidewalk in front of buildings it owns at the southwest corner of State and Adams streets” and hopes to raze, “citing a threat to pedestrians from deteriorating facades,” reports the Sun-Times. “Fences were put up at the site days after the group Preservation Chicago last week put the buildings at 202 and 220 South State on its ‘most endangered’ list for 2023. The group is opposing the federal government’s plan to level the site as a security risk. The structures back up against the Dirksen Federal Building…The federal government has appropriated $52 million to demolish the buildings. But it can’t act unilaterally because the buildings are listed with the National Register of Historic Places… Scaffolds have been in front of the buildings for years, but only now has pedestrian access been cut off.”
South Side Alder Blocks Congress Theater Redevelopment Plan
“An $88 million plan to revive the crumbling Congress Theater, the second attempt to restore the historical theater in recent years, was introduced in City Council,” reports Block Club. “Ald. Susan Sadlowski Garza (10th), a staunch union supporter who represents the Southeast Side, temporarily blocked the proposal from advancing to the council’s Finance Committee, citing labor concerns… Sadlowski Garza said questions remain over whether the new Congress Theater will generate ‘quality’ jobs.. The project calls for $27 million in tax-increment finance dollars.”
Railroad Merger Means More Freight Trains Through Chicago
The $31 billion merger of Canadian Pacific and Kansas City Southern has been approved, reports the Trib. “The move will create the first rail line linking Canada, the U.S. and Mexico, but was lambasted by Metra, suburban towns and Illinois members of Congress… The number of daily freight trains is projected to increase by an average of about eight extra freight trains per day along the line, bringing the total number to an average of just over eleven per day by 2027.” U.S. Senators Durbin and Duckworth and U.S. Representatives Krishnamoorthi and Ramirez said they were “deeply disappointed that the Surface Transportation Board has sided with corporations over our constituents in the Chicago region.” Surface Transportation Board chairman Martin Oberman, a former Chicago alderman and Metra board chairman, said “the merger, which involves combining the two smallest of the major railroads that operate in the country, would improve competition.”
NBC 5: The “Coalition to Stop CPKC,” “made up of mayors from the suburbs of Bartlett, Bensenville, Elgin, Itasca, Hanover Park, Roselle, Wood Dale, Schaumburg, as well as parts of DuPage County, say the merger could also compromise rail safety, create gridlock traffic and increase the chance of train derailments.” The New York Times: “The deal is the first merger between two major railroads since the 1990s. It also culminates a yearslong campaign by Canadian Pacific to grow. The company had unsuccessfully pursued mergers with several other large railroads, including Norfolk Southern and CSX, over the past decade.”
DINING & DRINKING
Lagunitas Taproom Reopening
“Lagunitas is reopening its West Side taproom after being closed for years due to the pandemic,” reports Block Club. The brewery made the announcement on Instagram: “We’re back, Chicago!” the brewery wrote on Instagram. “Yeah, that’s right – After 3 LONG years, we are finally re-opening our TapRoom doors…for-real-really!” No specific date was offered.
312 Chicago Reopens After Three Years, Marking A Quarter-Century
Long-shuttered Loop locale 312 Chicago, at 136 North LaSalle, reopens later this month in time to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary. After three years closed, the 312 debuts a renovated space and a modern take on authentic Italian cuisine by Chef Marcello Florio, complemented by an extensive Italian wine list and craft cocktail program. 312 is next to the Cadillac Palace and near the Chicago Theatre, James M. Nederlander, PrivateBank, and Goodman Theatre, an option for pre- or post-show dining, Tuesdays-Saturdays. More here.
Ling Ma Winner Of Story Prize For “Bliss Montage”
The Story Prize winner for books published in 2022 is Chicago-based Ling Ma for “Bliss Montage.” The Story Prize’s $20,000 top prize is among the largest first-prize amounts of any annual U.S. book award for fiction. “Bliss Montage” is Ma’s second book, after the award-winning novel “Severance.” “The collection blends speculative and realistic elements in narratives that frequently verge on the absurd and the surreal. Despite the often-comical situations Ma’s characters find themselves in, these precise and skillful stories also reveal hard truths in a plain but elegant style that powerfully amplifies their revelations.” The judges share reflections on the stories here: The stories “sneak up on you. Relationships old and new, a marriage on the rocks, a friendship that’s run its course, a wildly challenging pregnancy—we think we’ve heard these setups before. But then Ma takes a remarkable tack: one hundred ex-boyfriends in your home, an unexpected baby arm, a Yeti, a harrowing homecoming (of sorts). At first the absurdities reveal a familiar sense of disbelief and loss. Sit longer, and the comically outlandish stories in ‘Bliss Montage’ reveal a thrumming rage and grief, the shocking truths we try to ignore.”
Schoolbook Publisher Alters Texts About African American History, Craving Florida Adoption
“In Florida, textbooks have become hot politics, part of Governor DeSantis’ campaign against what he describes as ‘woke indoctrination’ in public schools, particularly when it comes to race and gender,” reports the New York Times. “In the last few months, as part of the review process, a small army of state experts, teachers, parents and political activists have combed thousands of pages of text [in social studies textbooks]—not only evaluating academic content, but also flagging anything that could hint, for instance, at critical race theory… One publisher created multiple versions of its social studies material, softening or eliminating references to race—even in the story of Rosa Parks—as it sought to gain approval in Florida.”
Salem Collo-Julin Promoted To Reader Editor-In-Chief
Salem Collo-Julin is the Reader’s editor-in-chief. Collo-Julin has been part of the editorial staff of the Reader since 2019, most recently as managing editor, the Reader announces in a release. Collo-Julin replaces Enrique Limón, editor of five months.
TikTok In Battle For American Life
“The Biden administration is demanding the Chinese company that owns TikTok sell the app or face a possible ban due to national security concerns,” reports the New York Times. But “Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo has said that banning TikTok would ‘literally lose every voter under thirty-five, forever,'” reports Businessweek in a long report on the TikTok tempest. “The U.S. thinks the Chinese-owned social media app is a major national security risk. TikTok is running out of ways to avoid a ban… TikTok may go on the offensive to fight for its survival, by equating limits on the app’s existence with censorship, or even anti-Asian racism, and taking its fight out of Washington and to the public.” Britain has banned the app from government work phones; TikTok’s VP Public Policy, Europe, posts: “We are disappointed with the UK decision to stop government staff from using TikTok on their work phones. The government say it is precautionary and not based on any actual incident. It appears to us to be driven by wider geopolitics, in which TikTok and our users play no part.”
Axios Fires Florida Reporter Who Called DeSantis PR “Propaganda”
“An Axios reporter has been fired after he called a press release from Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s Education Department ‘propaganda,'” reports Yahoo. The press release concerned a DeSantis roundtable taking on “diversity, equity and inclusion” and “critical race theory.” (“DEI is trying to paper over what the left did to destroy our culture… DEI tries to bring more socialism.”) DeSantis was quoted in the release: “In Florida, we are not going to back down to the woke mob, and we will expose the scams they are trying to push onto students across the country.” In response, Ben Montgomery, the Tampa Bay reporter at Axios and a Pulitzer Prize finalist, three minutes later “emailed the Florida Department of Education press office saying: ‘This is propaganda, not a press release.'” Reaction by other journalists and columnists was swift. Los Angeles Times’ Matt Pearce: “Not a fan of editors who prioritize politicians’ feelings over their own journalists’ jobs and are willing to throw a whole human being away over a single email or a tweet. This is why guild contracts have just cause.”
Atlantic Contributing editor Norman Ornstein: “This is just what Orban does in Hungary, and Axios is contributing to the intimidation of journalists by an authoritarian thug.” Montgomery tells the Washington Post: “It’s incredibly important that their organizations stand up on their behalf and realize that this is nothing but a political tactic to gain right-wing votes and disrupt the lives of hard-working journalists…It might seem like a little thing for a guy in Tampa, Florida, to be out of a job for a minute, but this has ripple effects for an administration that’s really had their way with the press and run roughshod over a lot of people—good people.” Montgomery tells Talking Points Memo that he got a call from Axios’ executive editor for local news, Jamie Stockwell, who confirmed that he had sent the email. “She then sounded like she was reading from a script and she said … ‘Your reputation has been irreparably tarnished in the Tampa Bay area and, because of that, we have to terminate you.’ On the call, Montgomery said he ‘objected with my full fucking throat on behalf of every hard-working journalist.’ … According to Montgomery, his laptop and access to company email were swiftly shut down.”
Ravinia Announces Attractions
Ravinia has announced its complete 2023 summer lineup, with forty-eight artist debuts and more than 240 hours of live music, including the eighty-seventh annual summer residency of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra with chief conductor Marin Alsop. Highlights include debuts by artists like Charlie Puth, Ne-Yo, Natalia Lafourcade, Boyz II Men, and the Maria Schneider Orchestra, as well as returning favorites such as Santana, Carrie Underwood, Chicago, Train, Lara Downes, Jason Mraz, Michael Feinstein, Brandi Carlile, John Legend, Buddy Guy, Pat Metheny, Kenny Loggins and Heather Headley. Tickets go on sale May 1.
Robert Smith Finds There’s No Cure For Ticketmaster
The Cure’s frontman puts Ticketmaster on blast on his personal Twitter feed: “WE HAD FINAL SAY IN ALL OUR TICKET PRICING FOR THIS UPCOMING TOUR, AND DIDN’T WANT THOSE PRICES INSTANTLY AND HORRIBLY DISTORTED BY RESALE – WE WERE TOLD ‘In North America the resale business is a multi-billion $ industry. The touts are sophisticated businesses that are expert at acquiring tickets, and the major marketplaces like Vivid, Stubhub and Seatgeek spend tens of millions of dollars on marketing. The touts get an unfair share of tickets and resell them on these marketplaces.’ WE WERE TOLD ‘Ticketmaster’s Verified Fan platform has been used more than 400 times to qualify buyers and reduce the % of tickets on the secondary market.’ WE WERE CONVINCED THAT TICKETMASTER’S ‘Verified Fan Page’ AND ‘Face Value Ticket Exchange’ IDEAS COULD HELP US FIGHT THE SCALPERS (WE DIDN’T AGREE TO THE ‘DYNAMIC PRICING’ / ‘PRICE SURGING’ / ‘PLATINUM TICKET’ THING… BECAUSE IT IS ITSELF A BIT OF A SCAM? A SEPARATE CONVERSATION!) … I AM AS SICKENED AS YOU ALL ARE BY TODAY’S TICKETMASTER ‘FEES’ DEBACLE. TO BE VERY CLEAR: THE ARTIST HAS NO WAY TO LIMIT THEM. I HAVE BEEN ASKING HOW THEY ARE JUSTIFIED. IF I GET ANYTHING COHERENT BY WAY OF AN ANSWER I WILL LET YOU ALL KNOW. I HAVE BEEN TOLD: StubHub has pulled listings in all markets except NY, Chicago, Denver (IE. CITIES IN STATES THAT HAVE LAWS PROTECTING SCALPERS). PLEASE DON’T BUY FROM THE SCALPERS – THERE ARE STILL TICKETS AVAILABLE – IT IS JUST A VERY SLOW PROCESS… X”
Practical Theatre Company Brings Forty-Fourth Anniversary Shows To Evanston
Nearly four decades after leaving their storefront theatre on Howard Street in 1985, The Practical Theatre Company, the improv sketch comedy troupe that launched the careers of Julia Louis-Dreyfus and “Saturday Night Live” veterans Brad Hall, Paul Barrosse and Gary Kroeger, has set a residency at Studio5, where they recently sold out a limited run of their comedy hit, “Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post Pandemic Revue.” The [email protected] residency will feature sketch comedy, stand-up, film nights, parties and other shows, hosted and performed by Practical Theatre Company members and guest artists from Chicago’s theater and music communities and beyond. The shows will take place most weekends March 18-July 2. “When we first started the Practical Theatre Company, we always had the most fun creating colorful, zany characters that were full of energy, having fun with current events, politics, and the human condition. We loved the sense of community that we created with our audience—and we’d love to recreate that same atmosphere at Studio5,” Barrosse says in a release. An April 15 party will celebrate the company’s forty-fourth anniversary, “where the company hopes to rekindle the joyous spirit of its musical parties on Howard Street,” with songs and performances by Practical Theatre Company members backed by Steve Rashid and the Studio5 All-Stars.” Shows and tickets here.
Skylight Music Theatre Names Executive Director
The Skylight Music Theatre board of directors has announced Susan Varela as their new executive director. Varela has been interim executive director since January 2023 and was chosen for the position after a national search. She will begin in her new role immediately. Varela has a thirty-plus-year career in theater that includes performing, directing and producing. As an actor, Varela performed on Broadway in “Les Misérables” and in the national tours of “Little Women: The Musical,” “Cats” and “Evita.” At Skylight she appeared in “Les Misérables,” “Into the Woods” and “Sweeney Todd.” “We value Susan’s leadership, enthusiasm, and passion for Skylight Music Theatre,” Valerie Johnson, president of the Skylight Music Theatre board of directors, says in a release. “We are confident she will help Skylight successfully move forward as we continue to recover from the challenges of the pandemic and help Skylight grow and strengthen what we do best–entertaining and delighting audiences with the full range of music theater.” More here.
Here’s “Here We Are,” The Final Sondheim Musical
Last notes from the late Sondheim: “Here We Are,” “previously known as ‘Square One,’ … written at the end of the late Sondheim’s life, features a book by the playwright David Ives and was inspired by two Luis Buñuel films, ‘The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie’ and ‘The Exterminating Angel.’ Both movies satirize elitist pretension, a frequent theme” in Sondheim’s work, reports Chris Jones at the Tribune. Manhattan’s nonprofit, 500-seat The Shed will co-present the limited engagement. Reports Michael Paulson at the New York Times: “In an interview days before his death in late 2021, Sondheim described it… ‘I don’t know if I should give the so-called plot away, but the first act is a group of people trying to find a place to have dinner, and they run into all kinds of strange and surreal things, and in the second act, they find a place to have dinner, but they can’t get out.'”
Albany Park Theater Project Looking For Director of Development
Albany Park Theater Project has an opening for director of development. APTP “creates transformative experiences that forge an inclusive community of youth artists, adult artists, and audiences to envision and build a more just, equitable, and joyful world. APTP’s teen ensemble and adult artistic team collaborate to devise world-class original theater that amplifies and illuminates the real-life stories of immigrants and first-generations of the Albany Park community,” the group summarizes. “Founded twenty-five years ago with a trifold commitment to art, youth development, and social justice, APTP serves as a cultural and community anchor in the Albany Park neighborhood and contributes to its vital and vibrant reputation. Since 1997, APTP has engaged more than 5,000 young people through its Performing Ensemble and [email protected], its school-based program. Fueled by their participation in APTP’s creative community, teens envision and prepare to lead choice-filled lives, which they pursue with support from APTP’s mentoring, tutoring and post-secondary planning programs.” More here.
ARTS & CULTURE & ETC.
NASCAR Likely To Drain Millions From Shedd
“Leaders with Shedd Aquarium and the Grant Park Advisory Council are pressing for more details about the summer’s NASCAR race in Grant Park as concerns grow about the expanded presence of the event,” reports Block Club. “Typically Shedd Aquarium sees at least 10,000 guests a day during Fourth of July weekend, officials said. Aquarium leaders estimate the Shedd could lose $2-$3 million during race weekend, setup and teardown if parts of the museum campus are cut off or harder for visitors to reach, which may force the building to close.”
Cubs Land In Lincoln Park
Lincoln Park Zoo has named the three male lion cubs born January 9. The cubs were named in partnership with Ilchokuti (Ill-cho-koo-tee), or “lion guardians,” who are Maasai community members who work in Tanzania alongside Lincoln Park Zoo’s partner, KopeLion. Based in the Ngorongoro conservation Area of Tanzania, the Ilchokuti selected the names for the growing pride: Pesho (pe-sho), Sidai (see-dye),and Lomelok (low-mey-lock). In the Maa language, Pesho translates to an unexpected gift, while Sidai means good like “good food” or “good lion” and Lomelok means sweet.
Mayoral Candidates Support Video Gambling In Taverns, Eateries
“Both candidates for Chicago mayor say they would support legalizing long-outlawed video gambling machines,” reports the Sun-Times. “Local governments can prohibit video gambling machines from operating at restaurants or bars within their city limits. Chicago already had an ordinance on the books banning video gambling in the city, and rather than opting to legalize the machines, Chicago mayors have instead put their efforts into creating a casino in the city limits.”
Wicker Park Fest Is The Longest Street Fest By Length
Wicker Park Fest is the longest Northside street fest by length in Chicago, spanning almost a mile of Milwaukee Avenue from Damen Avenue to Ashland Avenue, the Wicker Park Bucktown Chamber of Commerce advises. The fest has long been an incubator for Chicago indie bands, with more than fifty featured each year. Over 200 small local businesses are featured, with over a hundred pop-up vendors within the festival limits, many of which are independent and family-owned operations from around the city. There are also over a hundred brick-and-mortar shops including bookstores, vintage sellers, acclaimed restaurants, cafés and more reside within the festival boundary. More here.
States With Child Labor Rollbacks Also Privatizing Education
“The same states that are rolling back child labor protections are also rushing to privatize education. That’s not a coincidence,” writes Jennifer Berkshire at the Nation.
Send culture news and tips to [email protected]