Pablo Picasso never came to Chicago - never even set foot in the United States. But in 1967 Picasso gave Chicago an incredible gift: that fifty foot, 162 ton sculpture (or giant slide, depending on your age and point of view) in the heart of Daley Plaza.
The architects developing the plaza (then known as the Chicago Civic Center) sought Picasso out for the job. After all, by that point he was firmly established as the great artist of the 20th century. Picasso accepted, though apparently he rarely did commissions and he wouldn't take any money for the work.
Of course not all Chicagoans considered it a gift, disagreeing then (and now) over what the work actually represents, and whether it's more eyesore than work of art.
As big an event as that unveiling was, it wasn't Chicago's introduction to Picasso.
I still remember where I was when news broke about the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton Colorado. I was a graduate student in Pittsburgh, although I was already plotting my escape from academia and a move to Chicago.
I ran into two professors in the hallway, who were analyzing media coverage of the event. One of them, in tones both sardonic and frustrated, said (of the way the news outlets were portraying the shooters Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold) “So what’s our choice? To call them evil? Or to call them insane?”
columbinus, the newly reworked 2005 play by P. J. Papparelli, is an attempt to unpack and unravel the way events like Columbine, even before they’re over, get trapped in such rigid moral framings.
The play is an oral history of the events, based on interviews with survivors, witnesses, police and other community members in Littleton. Some of the videos Harris and Klebold made are reenacted, and their short stories and journal entries are part of the script.
With her first feature film Afternoon Delight, Jill Soloway has created a comedy that’s as family-centric and as “oh no she didn’t!” cringe-inducing as a Judd Apatow movie.
But the Chicago-born Soloway’s no Apatow fembot. For one, she’s actually interested in women. And she isn’t just gross for the sake of being gross. Her gross-outs have a higher purpose.
Take the scene in Afternoon Delight where a group of long-standing friends gather for their regular “Women and Wine” night. As their increasingly drunken and rambling talk turns to sex and sexual turn ons, a couple of them invoke the rape scene in The Accused.
Their admission prompts shrieks of horror and recognition from the others.
Theater Oobleck has been creating strange plays about strange people for 25 years now.
At this stage of the game, the troupe and their productions generally get a good critical reception, whether they open in Chicago or elsewhere (their plays have been produced in places as far-flung as Houston, Los Angeles, London and Helsinki).
But founding member and playwright Mickle Maher says it wasn't always all hearts and roses. Back in the day, at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, getting started was rough going. Maher likens it to a boxer with his teeth knocked down his throat – a defeat on the verge of disaster.
Still, the company figured it out. Their first play did succeed. And Oobleck found its identity.
"It was the first time I really thought we can do this, we can pull this off," Maher said.
This year, the concert coincides with the second Inauguration of President Barack Obama. So it's fitting that McGill is part of the Sinfonietta line-up: After all, he got the gig of a lifetime when he performed at the previous Inauguration of President Barack Obama in 2009.
McGill played with an all-star line-up of classical musicians that day: Violinist Itzhak Perlman, cellist Yo Yo Ma, and pianist Gabriela Montero. Together they performed John Williams' "Air and Simple Gifts," live on the Capitol steps.
Well, sort of.