Sun Spots: Chillin' at Summer Breeze (2010)


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Summer Breezin'

Wednesday night was another perfect night to enjoy the summer breeze at the 5th Annual Summer Breeze Jazz Concert Series!  If you come to Summer Breeze, here's what you'll find:  a mature crowd.  Truly.  Ages range from the 30s probably into the mid-50s.  Seating is pretty reasonably available, although, with some acts, if you get there late, you'll definitely be on your feet.  Aside from "The Pit" in front of the stage, seating is open.  That means, no reserved seats, no bottle service requirements, no bar completely devoid of bar stools.  As I said, this is a mature set!

Folks stone-cold chill at Summer Breeze, taking full advantage of the outdoor seating area.   In fact, well after the music has ended, you're likely to still find people lounging outdoors, enjoying conversation and cocktails.  Situated in the West Loop, parking is relatively easy to find and there are plenty of restaurants in walking distance from the venue.  This means that, while pizzas are available at the venue, you can leave your car in place and enjoy some al fresco dining between sets or after the performance!

The Details:  Summer Breeze takes place at Red Kiva, 1108 West Randolph, on Wednesdays through July 28th (with a break on 6/30) from 6-9pm.  The first set is at 6:30pm.  Admission is free!  View the upcoming lineup!



Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968

It was only because of the invitation from my best friend who was visiting from out-of-town that I went to Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968 at the Field Museum. It just kinda seemed old hat - I've studied civil rights and didn't think I had anything to gain from the exhibit, so it wasn't really on my radar. But, as I viewed the exhibit and rounded the corner from the first wall, I found myself frozen in place and time, and in tears.

The Road to Freedom is the largest exhibit of civil rights photos and memorabilia that has been assembled in twenty years. As soon as I entered the space, I was struck by the solemn and reverent air, an ambiance created by low lights, deep blue paint, the continual looping narrative of a video tape about the civil rights area and, of course, the photographs. The solemnity was so profound that people spoke in hushed tones and there was the occasional "shhhhhhhhh" directed toward children.

Alone . . . Alone . . .

While the civil rights era is not a new subject for me, nor for most of us, the images were compelling. I was struck by the youth of the people photographed, unknowns as well as Jesse Jackson, Julian Bond, John Lewis and, of course, Dr. King. But, my breakdown occurred when I reached the photos of the desegregation of Little Rock Central High. Young Elizabeth Eckford did not get the message that the date for the African American students to start school had been pushed back by one day. So, this fifteen-year-old girl arrived alone and was the target of unimaginable venom. Even as I look at the picture today, I get chills as I think of the strength it must have taken for her to keep moving.

The exhibit gave a clear sense of the commitment people had to this movement that lasted not days, weeks or months, but years. Years to attain basic civil rights. Years. Commitment. Personal danger.

As I moved further through the exhibit, I was captivated by photos of people on the sidelines. African-Americans cheering on the protesters - both Black and White. Whites glaring as protesters passed in front of their homes.

I remember after Roots aired, a popular Black male comedian joked with great braggadocio about what he would have done to massa if he were Kunta Kinte. The Road to Freedom made me wonder: what would I have done if I were alive then? Would I have been on the front line or would I have been on the sidelines cheering the protestors on or would I have been too scared to participate in any way whatsoever. I then asked myself - is what I'm doing now reflective of what I would have done then? What about you? Are you a participant or a spectator? Are you committed to a cause? Passionate about it?

I urge you to visit the Road to Freedom: Photographs of the Civil Rights Movement 1956-1968, and take your children or a child in your life and ponder these questions. It is a powerful reminder of changes that can be made with sacrifice and commitment. The exhibit ends on September 7th.

Looking for more To-Do? Visit!

Alvin Ailey Return to Chicago Celebrating the Big Five-Oh!

stephanie_small1Stephanie S. Green, NBC Chicago Street Team

Spring has come and so has the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Anniversary Celebration!

The Company. Photo by Andrew Eccles. The Company - Photo by Andrew Eccles

For dance fans in Chicago, the coming of Spring means far more than the anticipation of good weather - it means that the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater returns to the Auditorium Theatre! This year, Alvin Ailey celebrates its 5oth Anniversary and there are numerous ways that you can join in the celebration!

On Tuesday, March 31st, go for broke with the Alvin Ailey Circle 50th Anniversary Celebration! The $5oo ticket price may pull a hamstring, but, don't let that cramp your style. You'll get to enjoy cocktails, dinner, rubbing elbows (tootsies) with the dancers and the satisfaction of knowing that your generosity will help provide complimentary performance tickets to children attending AileyCamp in Chicago!

The Company - Photo by Andrew Eccles

Okay, maybe $500 is a little too rich for your currently lean body. No worries, because on Wednesday, April 1st from 5-7pm, you can schmooze for a mere $50 at the Pre-Show Reception at Russian Pointe Dance Boutique! Enjoy hors d'ouevres, wine and the company of the Alvin Ailey dancers (including Glenn Allen Simms and Tina Monica Williams) and dance enthusiasts at the luxuriously appointed, theatrical setting of Russian Pointe. Afterwards, a trolley will whisk you off to the Auditorium Theatre for the 7:30pm performance.

2008 Official Photo by Dwight Carter Sweet Honey In the Rock. Photo by Dwight Carter

At the April 1st performance, you'll enjoy traditional favorites (can't miss Revelations!) and new works! But, wait - there's more: AAADT will be joined by Sweet Honey In the Rock for one night only! That's right, the soulful, soul-stirring, melodious sounds of Sweet Honey In the Rock can only push the already moving performances to even more incredible heights! If April 1st doesn't work for you, you'll still have an opportunity on April 3rd, 4th or 5th to experience the beauty, grace, emotion and passion that is always the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater! Don't miss it!

Clifton Brown and Linda Celeste Sims. Photo by Andrew Eccles.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater was founded in 1958 by dancer, choreographer and visionary, Alvin Ailey. Mr. Ailey created the company to establish a multi-racial repertory company dedicated to presenting dance works from the past and present from both established and emerging choreographers.

Today, under the artistic direction of Judith Jamison, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater is made up of 30 of the most talented and versatile dancers in the world. Its impressive repertory features work from choreographers like Ulysses Dove, Talley Beatty and Alvin Ailey. Since its inception, Ailey has performed in over 71 countries on six continents. A typical Ailey season includes an international tour, US tour to over 20 cities,and a five-week New York season at New York City Center. (

Theater Tour Ideas

Kudos to the Tofu Chitlin' Circuit for putting together yet another excellent forum for discussion at The A la Carte: Candied Yams Edition.  A number of folks were pretty passionate about their position, but the tone was respectful and the learning opportunity was cool.  (Okay, the candied yams, roasted chicken, battered tofu and sweet potato chips with bleu cheese & roasted pecan dip were all so very tasty!)  I have a lot to learn about theater, so I always try to take advantage of post-performance discussions as they tend to make the theater experience so much more enriching.  Believe me - there have been a number of times that I've left a performance a little lost; unsure of what the message was supposed to be.  Sometimes discussions with a friend or a well-written review provide a little clarity that may have been more helpful before the performance than afterwards.  And, sometimes after a performance, I find myself listing to bits of conversations or searching the faces of others leaving the performance, wondering what they're thinking. 


I've always been a little perplexed about the lack of cultural diversity at many of the culturally-themed performances that I attend.  I wonder whether it's due to the neighborhood (typically northside), perceived haughtiness, or a simple failure to get the word out.  Why is it that Tyler Perry can draw thousands, but Black Theater companies are struggling?  Is traditional theater "superior" to "urban" theater? These are some of the issues that we have discussed at A la Carte and these issues have led me to contemplate the idea of a Theater Tour.


My thought so far is to select a wide range of theater performances at various venues.  We'd have an educational session or discussion forum in advance of the performance, which would be open to the public.  Then, on a selected date, we'd attend the performance as a group, followed by some discussion and socializing.  Since I'd like for you to participate, I'd also like your ideas!  What type of format would you be interested in?  Would you be interested in pre-performance events?  Would you prefer to just keep it uncomplicated and enjoy a good laugh?  Do you have recommendations for performances?  Are you open to attending a play for a couple of hours and spending an hour or two afterwards talking and hanging out?


I'd really appreciate your feedback!


"Black Face" In the Post-Racial Year of Obama

So I started this blog recently because I'm now a member of the NBC Street Team (yea!), but I've really wanted a forum where we could exchange ideas for some time now.  Here we go . . . !

Maybe you've gotten word about the controversial Emperor JonesYesterday marked Goodman Theatre's Chicago premiere of the Wooster Group's take  - performed in "Black Face" by Kate Valk.  Yes, black face.  Provocative? You bet.

Emperor JonesFirst released in the early-1930s, The Emperor Jones, starring Paul Robeson, tells the story of Pullman porter, who loses his temper and his job; lands not only in jail, but on a chain gang; kills a white guard, but manages to escape to Haiti where he crowns himself emperor. In this production, The Wooster Group, apparently notorious for their radical productions, clearly has a message that they find well-worth the risk of offending cultural sensibilities

Barack's historic "post-racial" bid for presidency may, for some, mark the end of racism in America. But, we've got a mighty long way to go before the revival of a seemingly minstrel-like performance can escape the ire of people who routinely feel the effect of racism in this country. That being said, Goodman Theatre has an undisputed record of including culturally diverse productions - and not just during the month of February! Giving Goodman the benefit of the doubt, I would be disappointed to find that the use of "black face" was purely gratuitous.  Are the wounds from that history that linger into the present still too painful that any purpose could every be justifiable?  Or should we be past all that by now?