Stories by Hedy Weiss

Hershey Felder’s Dive Into the Music of Debussy Is A Fervent Elegy For His Mother

Hershey Felder in “A Paris Love Story.” (Credit: Christopher Ash)

For several decades, Hershey Felder has created a series of richly theatrical biographies of great composers. His latest work, “A Paris Love Story,” follows that essential pattern but adds a heartbreaking layer of autobiography.

Chicago Opera Theater Makes Flexibility the Operative Principle of Its Season

Mezzo-soprano Annie Rosen in “Rimsky Rebooted.” (Credit: Sean Su for Chicago Opera Theater)

With the coronavirus pandemic foiling plans for a trio of live performances, Chicago Opera Theater has adapted its 2020-2021 season to be a primarily virtual one. 

CSOtv’s Sessions an Ideal Musical Diversion for Pandemic Times

Assistant Concertmaster Yuan-Qing Yu (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The doors of Chicago’s Symphony Center may be closed to its audiences until the pandemic has been conquered. But its stage is still very much alive.

Tapping Into the Intimate Potential of Virtual Performance With ‘What is Left, Burns’

Pictured (from left): Steppenwolf ensemble members K. Todd Freeman and Jon Michael Hill in Steppenwolf’s virtual production of “What Is Left, Burns” by James Ijames, directed by Whitney White. (Photography and design by Lowell Thomas)

James Ijames’ 20-minute play marks the opening salvo in Steppenwolf Now — a series of six virtual productions designed to serve as placeholders until there is a return to live theater — a return that seems ever more elusive.

2020 Jeff Awards a Remembrance of Things Past in Chicago’s Theater World

“Spamalot.” (Credit: Brett Beiner)

This year’s announcement of the 2020 Jeff Awards, which honor excellence in Chicago’s Equity contract theaters, took the form of a virtual event. Here is a list of the top award winners.

Chronicling the Unhappy Lives of America’s First Ladies

Hilary Asare in a play about Lady Bird Johnson, in the world premiere of “45 Plays for America’s First Ladies.” (Courtesy of The Neo-Futurists)

The Neo-Futurists go virtual with “45 Plays for America’s First Ladies,” a 100-minute world premiere collage created by the company of writer-directors that was established in Chicago in 1988.

CSO’s New Virtual Concert Series a Sheer Delight

CSO Flute and Piccolo Jennifer Gunn. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg Photography)

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s newly devised CSO Sessions programming provides ample proof that “adversity is the mother of invention.” And its initial series of five on-demand, beautifully filmed video recordings is a sheer delight.

Porchlight Puts a Distinctive Virtual Spin on Broadway

Neala Barron (left) and Lucy Godinez perform “My Own Best Friend” from “Chicago” in “Broadway By the Decade” from Porchlight Music Theatre. (Courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre)

The 45-minute “Broadway By the Decade,” performed by a gifted six-person cast, features representative songs from musicals spanning 10 decades.

CSO Announces Innovative Fall Programming Plans

The CSO’s Lincoln Quartet composed of violinists Qing and Lei Hou, Lawrence Neuman on the viola and cellist Kenneth Olsen perform in a virtual recital in August. (Clay Baker / Chicago Symphony Orchestra)

For now, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra will be focused on intimate, virtual experiences for its fall 2020 season, which includes the launch of a new digital series of performances. 

Joffrey Ballet and Lyric Opera Cancel Their Fall Seasons

Cara Marie Gary in “The Nutcracker.” (Photo by Cheryl Mann)

This fall was to mark the Joffrey’s first season in its new home on the Lyric Opera stage after many years of residence at the Auditorium Theatre.

Dance for Life’s 2020 Benefit Rechoreographed For the Times

Dance for Life (Photo by Todd Rosenberg)

Dancers, perhaps more than any other group of performing artists, have been hit hardest, both artistically and financially, by the fallout from the coronavirus. So this year’s Dance for Life 2020 event will feature a new virtual format.

Writers Theatre Devises a Flexible Plan for 2020-21 Season

(Courtesy of Writers Theatre)

How do you design a pandemic-era theater season? The Glencoe-based theater has devised a multifaceted plan that combines a degree of certainty with the option of built-in flexibility, with the ultimate goal of keeping live theater alive.

Chicago Opera Theater Signals Return of Live Music Before Thanksgiving

A promotional image for “Il Postino (The Postman).” (Credit: Joe Mazza)

Amid all the dire warnings that live performances might not start up again until 2021, the news that the richly creative company plans to begin its three-production season in November comes as an enormous spirit-raiser.

Goodman Theatre Shuffles Schedule as Pandemic Uncertainty Reigns

(Courtesy of Goodman Theatre)

With all the uncertainty facing theaters and their audiences, the Goodman Theatre is postponing the four productions remaining in its current spring and summer 2020 season, and will announce additional shows for the coming season at a later date.

Grant Park Music Festival Joins List of Summer Cancellations

Music director Carlos Kalmar leads the Grant Park Orchestra in 2019. (Courtesy of the Grant Park Music Festival)

The news is increasing familiar, yet heartbreaking. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, yet another much-beloved live music series is being silenced this summer. 

Ravinia Festival Cancels Entire 2020 Summer Season

(Courtesy of Ravinia Festival)

The decision to cancel the season was made with the “health and safety of the festival’s artists, staff and neighbors,” in mind, Ravinia’s President and CEO Welz Kauffman said in a statement.

2020 Non-Equity Jeff Award Nominees Announced Amid Darkness of Pandemic

David Goodloe, center, with Lewon Johns, back left, and Michael Turrentine in Griffin Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of “Mlima’s Tale.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

With 10 nominations, Griffin Theatre led the pack on a list that serves as a vivid reminder of the exuberance of pre-pandemic times on Chicago stages. But it suggests what has been lost, too.

Lyric Opera Crafts Future Seasons with Postponed Productions, and Muti Turns to CSO Archives

Dan Burton in “42nd Street.” (Credit: Théâtre du Châtelet / Marie-Noëlle Robert)

Lyric’s canceled productions of “42nd Street” and “Blue” are now slated to run in 2022 and 2021, respectively. Meanwhile, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra is partnering with WFMT on a series beginning next week.

How Chicago’s Storefront Theaters Are Facing the Coronavirus Crisis

Courtney Rikki Green, left, Tamara Rozofsky, center, and MacGregor Arney in “Teenage Dick,” at Theater Wit. (Photo credit: Charles Osgood)

Because Chicago is the storefront theater capital of this country, it’s worth looking at the situation now facing some of these small companies and how they are trying to deal with the global pandemic.

A Smashing Lookingglass Premiere Captures Complex Chemistry Between Cabrini-Green and Jane Byrne

Ensemble member Christine Mary Dunford in “Her Honor Jane Byrne.” (Photo by Liz Lauren)

Lookingglass Theatre’s dazzlingly performed world premiere production is a theatrical and sociological gem of a work that should catapult its writer-director, ensemble member J. Nicole Brooks, to genuine fame.

Dance is the Name of the Game on Chicago Stages as Alvin Ailey Company Leads the Way

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater in Judith Jamison’s “Divining.” (Photo by Nan Melville)

Chicago’s dance card is full to bursting. And one of the city’s most beloved “visitors” – the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – is now drawing its usual huge crowds to the Auditorium Theatre.

TUTA Heightens the Shock Value in ‘Hedda Gabler’ With Blasts of Music

Lauren Demerath in TUTA Theatre’s world premiere adaptation of “Hedda Gabler: A Play with Live Music.” (Photo by Austin D. Oie)

When it comes to revivals of Henrik Ibsen’s plays in this era of neo-feminism, “A Doll’s House” attracts the most attention. But it is the title character in “Hedda Gabler” who takes the cake. And in this new production, she has never been more compelling and convincing.

Days and Nights of Classical Musical Magic at Symphony Center

Pianist Daniil Trifonov (Credit: Dario Acosta)

Many of the concerts at Symphony Center are one-time-only events for which Orchestra Hall’s 2,500 seats are nearly sold out. But attention must be paid to the hours of remarkable music-making brought to the stage. Here are a few recent cases in point.

Scintillating ‘Book of Moron’ Intellectually Invigorating in an Era of Catastrophic Dumbing Down

Robert Dubac in “The Book of Moron.” (Courtesy of Broadway in Chicago)

In 90 uninterrupted minutes of altogether irresistible satire, Robert Dubac – an actor, writer, comedian and grand master of sleight-of-hand (and mind) – ingeniously nails the current regrettable state of the nation and the world at large.

‘Mlima’s Tale’ Traces Global Trail of Destruction of a Grand, Endangered Creature

David Goodloe, center, with Lewon Johns, back left, and Michael Turrentine in Griffin Theatre Company’s Midwest premiere of “Mlima’s Tale.” (Photo by Michael Brosilow)

Lynn Nottage’s 2018 play about the savage slaughter and potential decimation of Africa’s “big tusk” elephant population, and the illicit trade in ivory that drives it, is a stunning piece of work – equal parts poetry, ritual and an anatomy of corruption.

CSO Infuses Beethoven Classics With New Energy and Captures Ophelia’s Descent Into Madness

Zell Music Director Riccardo Muti conducts the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in a program featuring Beethoven’s Second and Fifth Symphonies on Feb. 20, 2020. (Credit: Todd Rosenberg)

What Maestro Riccardo Muti and the orchestra have made continually clear throughout this year of celebrating the 250th anniversary of Beethoven’s birth is how thrillingly modern the composer’s work can feel.