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12 spring plays and operas Chicago worth leaving home for

The Rundown: The performing arts spring a comeback

Good afternoon! What is up with this week? I don’t know who doesn’t want to go to work more — me or the French. Anyway, here’s what you need to know today.

1. Chicago theaters and dance companies are going big this spring. Will audiences return?

It’s no secret that many cultural institutions in Chicago are struggling to bounce back from the pandemic, with live show attendance reportedly down as much as 20% from pre-pandemic levels.

So artists and promoters are staging a big comeback this spring, putting on bold productions and featuring new work they hope will lure back audiences.

It also means it’s a rich spring for cultural offerings in the city, says my colleague Cassie Walker Burke, who helped put together guides on what’s worth checking out this season if you’re itching to leave the house.

Here’s a look at the 12 best plays and operas to see in person, including the Lyric Opera’s Proximity that features a trio of new works tackling a variety of modern issues — from technology’s impact on human relationships to gun violence and the environment. [WBEZ]

And from jazz to hip hop, here’s a guide to the top 14 concerts this spring that focuses mostly on up-and-comers with new buzz and new projects. Among them is Maryland’s punk-rap princess Rico Nasty, whose shows are known to be ragers. [WBEZ]

And no cultural guide is complete without dance. Here’s a look at the companies literally putting their best foot forward with world premieres, bright multimedia presentations and dances that tackle thought-provoking themes. [WBEZ]

2. Former Gov. Pat Quinn endorses Paul Vallas for mayor

Quinn said he is backing Vallas after the mayoral candidate agreed to pursue term limits, property tax relief and a new ComEd franchise agreement that includes refunds to compensate consumers for the utility’s bribery scheme, reports my colleague Fran Spielman.

Quinn previously backed U.S. Rep. Jesús “Chuy” García’s unsuccessful mayoral bid in last month’s election, saying the congressman is a “progressive, and I am, too.”

But when it comes to Brandon Johnson, the self-styled progressive running with the backing of the Chicago Teachers Union, Quinn said he didn’t like Johnson’s history of support for the “defund the police” movement and his plan to raise taxes by $800 million to fund an array of social programs. [Chicago Sun-Times]

Meanwhile, Johnson and Vallas both went on the offensive during last night’s third televised debate as the race appears to be tightening.

Vallas accused Johnson of being a “wholly-owned subsidiary of the Chicago Teachers Union.” While Johnson countered that Vallas was linked to members of the “extreme Republican Party who did not believe the pandemic was real.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

3. Lollapalooza will generate more money for Chicago than the NASCAR street race — and in less time

Critics of the upcoming NASCAR street race are pointing to a study on Lollapalooza’s economic impact on Chicago to fuel their argument that the city cut a bad deal, reports my colleague David Struett.

The study, commissioned by the music festival, found Lollapalooza generated “a third of a billion dollars in economic activity last year, three times higher than the NASCAR Fourth of July weekend street race is expected to rake in,” Struett reports.

But NASCAR’s street race will occupy parts of Grant Park for nearly twice as much time during the busy summer season.

“The impact to the city in terms of cost and congestion will be more than Lolla, and the returns are significantly less,” said Ald. Brian Hopkins, whose 2nd Ward includes parts of the downtown area. [Chicago Sun-Times]

4. The City Council, long derided as a rubber stamp, is urged to postpone its declaration of independence

A plan to create a more independent City Council is being slammed by two prominent groups that have long advocated for … a more independent City Council.

But the Better Government Association and the League of Women Voters say a plan forged by allies of outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot could be “a recipe for corruption and waste.”

That’s partly because this plan expands the number of council committees from 19 to 28.

Chicago taxpayers already spend more than $5 million a year to bankroll council staffing, the groups say. And nearly all of that is spent on committees — “some of which have rarely met during the past four years.” [Chicago Sun-Times]

5. Riot Fest plans to return to Douglass Park, setting up another showdown with neighbors

Riot Fest organizers are seeking permits to once again hold the music festival at the West Side’s Douglass Park, which became the focal point last summer in a debate over holding private events on public property.

Two other festivals held at Douglass Park last year have since moved to other locations, making Riot Fest the lone holdout, reports Block Club Chicago.

“They are hellbent on staying in Douglass Park,” local organizer Princess Shaw told Block Club. “For them to feel this sense of ownership of the park and take a deaf ear to what we’re saying, it really hurts the community by not being good neighbors.”

Since last year’s heated debate, Chicago Park District officials overhauled their permitting process, allowing residents to have more of a say. [Block Club Chicago]

Here’s what else is happening

  • ComEd was pressured to hire a politically connected law firm as the utility company fought for key bills in Springfield, a former top official testified. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • With the leadership of the Chicago Police Department in flux, a new report on the nation’s law enforcement “crisis” offers a path forward. [Chicago Sun-Times]
  • Despite high mortgage rates and a dearth of affordable starter houses, these Chicago families saw the upside of making the investment now. [WBEZ]
  • Climate activists are targeting the nation’s biggest banks, urging divestment from fossil fuels. [NPR]

Oh, and one more thing …

Nearly 200 years after the death of Ludwig van Beethoven, researchers say they have a better understanding of what made him sick thanks to “locks of his hair that collaborators and fans collected as treasured keepsakes,” reports The Washington Post.

Hmmmm, maybe I should give away my hair during the next pledge drive so I can be cloned …

Anyway, the researchers examined Beethoven’s DNA and found genetic risk factors for liver disease and signs of a hepatitis B infection that could have contributed to his cirrhosis. [Washington Post]

Tell me something good ...

What hobbies make you happy and/or help relieve stress?

Nana A. writes:

“My hobby for stress relief these days that makes me happy is coloring. I like to turn on chill lo-fi music and just color. I bought a stress relief coloring book from Amazon a few weeks ago and I really look forward to moments when I can color in it; it has intricate patterns and designs so I really zone in and get creative with the colors.

“Sometimes I’ll just color a page or two from one of my kid’s coloring books for fun, too. I can’t draw and I’m not that great at original art creation and painting, so coloring is the perfect hobby. I enjoy it and it helps me stay connected to my creative side and my inner child, and it’s a nice break from all the technology I use throughout the day.”

Feel free to email me, and your response might be shared in the newsletter this week.

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