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A decorated tree stands next to the portrait of President George Washington in the East Room during the 2019 Christmas preview at the White House, Monday, Dec. 2, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo / Alex Brandon)

“It is with great joy that our family welcomes you to the White House this holiday season as we celebrate the Spirit of America,” President Donald Trump, the first lady and their son, Barron, say in the signed introduction to a souvenir book visitors will receive as a holiday keepsake.

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Nondumiso Tembe in “Lindiwe,” left, Kelvin Roston Jr. in “Oedipus Rex,” center, and Christina Hall in “Always … Patsy Cline.” (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

It would be all but impossible to survey the many great, good and sometimes disappointing productions of the past 12 months. But three recent shows suggest the great variety of work produced in Chicago – and the immense amount of talent here.

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Andrew Bird in 2011 (WTTW News)

On Sept. 5, 2001, indie rock songwriter Andrew Bird invited WTTW into his Wicker Park home for a raw rehearsal with his band Bowl of Fire. As Bird prepares for a run of sold-out shows in Chicago, we revisit this archival footage.

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Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (10) throws during the first half of an NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo / Charles Rex Arbogast)

In a matchup between disappointing teams that made the playoffs last season, the Bears (7-6) came away with their fourth win in five games after dropping four in a row. The Cowboys (6-7) have lost seven of 10 since a 3-0 start.

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(WTTW News)

Remember the days when watching a movie at home required a trip to the video rental store? Blockbuster is long gone, but there are still a few places to rent movies in Chicago, including this well-stocked shop in Bucktown.

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Ghetto residents happily strolling, 1940-1944. (Courtesy of the Art Gallery of Ontario, Gift of the Archive of Modern Conflict)

The recovered photographs of Henryk Ross reveal complex stories of life in the Lodz ghetto. We visit an exhibit at the Illinois Holocaust Museum in Skokie.

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Can the Bears actually make a playoff push? Former Bears offensive lineman James “Big Cat” Williams joins us to preview their matchup with the Cowboys.

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(David Wilson / Flickr)

A festive CTA train, winter markets, irreverent attorneys and holiday hounds usher in the weekend. Here are 10 things to do in and around Chicago.

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Yoshihisa Arai and Amanda Assucena of the Joffrey Ballet perform Christopher Wheeldon’s Chicago-themed reinvention of “The Nutcracker.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

This highly original reimagining of the classic holiday tale is a monumental production both in its storytelling and its design, yet it manages to beautifully interweave its grand scale elements with human scale emotions. 

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Jonathon Solomon, left, of the James R. Thompson Center Historical Society introduces his group at the start of their public tour. (Evan Garcia / WTTW News)

The state says the building is too expensive to maintain and repair, but architectural activists are determined to highlight its unique features and its role in the city’s past, present and future.

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In this May 29, 2019, file photo, Chicago Cubs shortstop Addison Russell throws to first during the eighth inning of a baseball game against the Houston Astro in Houston. (AP Photo / David J. Phillip, File)

The Chicago Cubs did not offer a 2020 contract to shortstop Addison Russell on Monday, making the 2016 All-Star a free agent one year after he was suspended for violating Major League Baseball’s domestic violence policy.

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Cirque du Soleil’s world premiere show “‘Twas the Night Before …” (Credit: Errisson Lawrence)

We get a behind-the-scenes peek at “‘Twas the Night Before …,” the new holiday production from Cirque du Soleil that’s making its debut in Chicago.

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Nicole Paris, left, and Augusta Read Thomas speak with WTTW News about the making of “Sweet Potato Kicks the Sun.”

For years, beatboxer Nicole Paris and her dad Ed Cage have awed audiences with their beatboxing battles as Nicole and Popz. Paris recently broke from that duet to take on a feat of her own: beatboxing in an opera.

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Sondra Radvanovsky in “The Three Queens.” (© Todd Rosenberg Photography 2019)

In “The Three Queens,” the trilogy of semi-staged excerpts about the lives of Anne Boleyn, Mary Stuart and Queen Elizabeth I now in a brief run at Lyric Opera, soprano Sondra Radvanovsky captures their essence to sublime vocal and dramatic effect.

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Pictured is page 98 of “F*cking Forty” by Michael Knapp. (Courtesy of F*cking Forty)

Chicago comic artist Ed Siemienkowicz died before he could complete his nearly 250-page graphic novel. For the last two years, more than 150 artists and friends have donated their time and skills to finish what he started.

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This Sunday, Dec. 1, 2019, photo shows the word “existential” in a dictionary in the Brooklyn borough of New York. Dictionary.com picked “existential” as the word of the year. (AP Photo / Jenny Kane)

Climate change, gun violence, the very nature of democracy and an angsty little movie star called Forky helped propel “existential” to Dictionary.com’s word of the year.

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