Previews of upcoming arts events

Midnight Circus in the Parks Coming in September

Midnight Circus in the Parks is coming to Ridge Park for four shows on Sept. 29 and 30. The event features a thrilling high-flying assortment of acrobats, aerialists, clowns, contortionists and even a dog. Ridge Park, located at 96th and Longwood Drive, is one of nine Chicago Park District Parks that will showcase the Midnight Circus under a little big top tent this summer and fall.  

Mary-Jo Viero, President of the Ridge Park Advisory Council (RPAC), said the circus’s presence is a huge win for the neighborhood and credits Ald. Matt O’Shea with bringing it to Ridge Park. Midnight Circus in the Parks performed at Mt. Greenwood Park in 2011.  

Proceeds from the local shows will be used for improvements at Ridge Park. Earlier this year, the house received a new roof and new windows are slated for later this year.  

Volunteers with RPAC are working to promote the shows and sell ads in the program book, which will be distributed at all 28 performances across the city, allowing advertisers to reach a wide audience. The deadline to submit ads is Aug. 25. For information, contact Viero, mjviero@yahoo.com. Sponsorship opportunities are also available. 

Midnight Circus in the Parks is an eclectic ensemble of artists that brings world class contemporary circus performances to communities throughout Chicago. Since 2007, the shows have drawn over 100,000 attendees and raised over $1 million for local park improvements.  

Midnight Circus will perform two shows each day Ridge Park, 2 and 5 p.m. General admission, $22; groups, $20; and children under age two, free. Tickets and information: midnightcircus.net.

BACinema Expands Selections for South Side Film Fans

Damon Griffin, the new film programmer for the Beverly Arts Center (BAC), is expanding the popular BACinema screenings to include more independent, classic and international movies. That’s great news for South Side film fans looking for access to the quality and versatility offered at places like the Music Box Theatre and Gene Siskel Film Center. 

“The BAC is a great place to view films,” Griffin said. An East Coast native, Griffin came to Chicago by way of college in Boston and New York when he enrolled in graduate school at Columbia College. He earned a Masters in Cinema Arts and Sciences with an emphasis on writing and directing, and is an ambitious filmmaker currently working on a new project.  

Griffin’s background, education and passion provide keen insights for selecting BACInema movies. “I consider the BAC the kind of place that celebrates both the commercial and independent sides of filmmaking,” he said. He finds that audiences are eager to be entertained by Hollywood movies as well as to be challenged by the thought-provoking issues tackled in independent films and art house cinema.   

BACinema screens films every other Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. in the Baffes Theatre at the BAC, 2407 W. 111th St. Special screenings are also scheduled on selected Saturdays. Tickets are only $6 ($5 if you’re a BAC member).  Griffin mixes up the styles and substance of the movies he chooses for BACinema, showing the first run features on everyone’s “movie night” list as well as works by award winning Chicago indie filmmakers, classics and documentaries. Many of the main attractions are preceded by short films, and some of them include post-screening Q&As with filmmakers and directors. 

Upcoming screenings include “Dick Biondi, The Voice that Rocked America,” a preview of a one-hour documentary about the Top 40 rock and roll rebel DJ on Wed., Aug. 8; Chicagoland Shorts Vol. 4, nine short films by award-winning women, LGBTQ and minority Chicago filmmakers on Wed., Aug. 22; “Among Wolves,” an award-winning documentary about a motorcycle club in post-war Bosnia working to heal themselves and others from the trauma of war on Sat., Aug. 25; the silent film classic “City Lights,” starring Charlie Chaplin as the Tramp on Wed., Sept. 5; and  “Driftwood,” a stunning dialog-free feature by writer/director/cinematographer Paul Taylor on Wed., Sept. 19.  

Griffin is especially interested in screening works by Chicago filmmakers, many of which have won awards from film festivals that include Chicago International, Cannes, Tribeca and Sundance.  The BAC is the only big-screen theater that shows art house cinema in this area. And it’s an excellent film venue with 400 comfortable seats, free parking, $2 popcorn and concessions options include beer and wine.   

For information on movies, concerts, main stage performances, classes and gallery exhibits, visit www.beverlyartcenter.org or call 773-445-3838.  

Music, Art, Food and Brews at Summer Swelter #5

Embrace the dog days of summer at Horse Thief Hollow’s 5th annual summer party, Sat., July 21, noon to 10 p.m., 10426 S. Western Ave. A day of live music, art and dance promises fun while benefitting a great cause — the proceeds from this year’s event will benefit the Beverly Area Arts Alliance, which seeks to identify opportunities and incubate ideas to advance Beverly/Morgan Park as a hub of culture and creativity.  

“It’s the fifth anniversary of the art alliance and our business,” said Lizzy Benner, Horse Thief Hollow Manager. “We thought this would be a great opportunity to give back to all they do for this community.” 

The local brewery and restaurant currently partners with the Beverly Arts Alliance to feature Local Art on Tap, an exhibit of paintings, sculpture, and other works by area artists that is updated quarterly. The exhibit, Rollicking Rampage, will feature works by Matthew Coglianese, Kevin Demski, Ben Schlitz, Christine Connor, Jeannie Higgins and Kristen Dobbins. Be sure to check it out!   

A Kiddies Swelter will take place from noon to 3 p.m. This will feature crafts and a group project that will be unveiled at the Beverly Art Walk this fall by Ellen King of Mrs. King’s Art Camp; face painting by Cathy Sorich of Marvelous Faces; and children’s music. An artisan craft fair will take place from 12 to 4 p.m., and artist Ben Schlitz will produce a chainsaw sculpture during the event that will be auctioned off at a later date with proceeds benefiting the Alliance.  

Live music will begin at 5:30 p.m. with The Pack Drumline and Dance Crew, which will be followed by a performance by H.a.R.D, featuring Jasmine Gill from 7 to 10 p.m. Molloy and Associates, local real estate agency, is sponsoring the party’s music scene, and artist Brendan Mack will be doing a live painting performance to the groves of H.a.R.D 

And of course, food and brews from Horse Thief Hollow will be served to hungry and thirsty partygoers. Because would it even be a party without them? 

Local Mountain Biker a Champion

By Abby Johnson 

Jim Pittacora is not the kind of person to fill his fireplace mantle with medals. He doesn’t want anyone to know that he has more than 100 of them for mountain biking. And even talking about the shiny prizes makes him anxious; he waves his hand in the air as if to say that particular piece of information isn’t important. 

But there is no hiding that Pittacora is a champion.  

He has won four state titles since his first big race in 2012 and twice finished first place in the Breck 100, a 100-mile cycling course climbing more than 13,700 feet that took Pittacora 12.5 hours to complete. This race is the most challenging, he says. And he’s training to do it again in August. 

One hundred seems to be the magic number for Pittacora: One hundred plus medals, 100-mile courses and his participation in more than 100 races. It’s a funny coincidence, the frequency of this number, because it’s also a reflection of Pittacora’s dedication to the sport. He gives everything his 100%.  

He’s currently preparing for a 15-miler that will take place in West Virginia on July 19. When asked if it’s a relief to be riding such a short distance, he shakes his head. In fact, this race will keep him up the night before, he says. 

“There is zero room for mistakes when you’re riding such a short distance,” he said. “You mess up one time, everyone flies by you and that’s it. You’re done for.” 

To lessen the possibility of any mistakes, he will spend every night for the next few weeks practicing his starting position, so it can be as close to flawless as possible when the starter pistol fires.  

For Pittacora, training isn’t a chore, it’s just part of a hobby. One that began in 2005 and accelerated in 2010 when he retired from his job as a Chicago Police Officer and began preparing for competitive cycle racing. Of course, it’s a good way to stay in shape, he says. But it’s not about the exercise. Pittacora does this because he enjoys it. 

“It’s tiring,” he said. “But that’s not something you notice if you like what you’re doing.” 

Sometimes he will ride to Dan Ryan Woods and time himself racing up and down the toboggan slides.  

Pittacora surely has the stamina, the endurance to excel at something so mentally and physically demanding. But his response when asked how he got to this point is surprising, considering he has certainly earned his bragging rights. It wasn’t hard, he says. Anyone could do it. 

“There’s no magic formula. Just ride.” 

Jazz-n-Q: Home-Grown Jazz with New Orleans Style

By Kristin Boza 

Morgan Park Presbyterian Church, 2017 W. 110th Pl., is holding its 3rd annual Jazz-n-Q event Sun., Jul. 22, 4 to 6 p.m. in the south courtyard of the church. Featuring Lance Loiselle, director of music at Beverly/Morgan Park Community Choir and Morgan Park Presbyterian Church, as well as a CPS elementary school teacher, and half of the members of his nationally-recognized band, the LowDown Brass Band, everyone in the community is invited to partake in free BBQ and delightful music on a pleasant Sunday. 

The LowDown Brass Band offers an exciting take on New Orleans-style jazz, featuring trumpets, trombones, saxophones, drums, and a sousaphone. Loiselle says he first became interested in New Orleans brass band music while still in high school after a friend had him listen to The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, a New Orleans-based group.  

“I was blown away with how they could improvise, sound so funky, and combine all these great styles of music — but that is the sound of the music from New Orleans — it’s the great melting pot because so many cultures intersect,” he said. “I was already interested in jazz music through playing the piano, but this combination of sounds and energy just blew my mind.”  

As Loiselle entered college, he became even more obsessed with the signature sound. After graduate school, he started the LowDown Brass Band. Through annual visits to New Orleans, Loiselle has cultivated friendships with musicians and performed there several times.  

Loiselle is not surprised that he made a career out of music; his mother, Frances Loiselle, was the biggest musical influence in his life. “I followed her passion for teaching and directing, and to this day I carry her legacy through [my work],” he said. “I advise aspiring musicians to be patient, put in the work, and never give up.” 

Learning music is not easy, especially in an ‘instant gratification’ environment, according to Loiselle. “So many kids … don’t have the patience for things they aren’t good at immediately,” he said. “With learning music, you need to be patient and put in the work to get better as a player through practice, lessons, and playing with others. Remember, in the arts or with your dreams, if you quit, that is when you lose. Surround yourself with people who are better than you and will challenge you to be better.” 

Last year, Jazz-n-Q drew a crowd of nearly 100 people, and more are expected this year. “The people are super friendly and fun; the community loves the camaraderie and the free food doesn’t hurt either!” Loiselle said. “It’s a community event for everyone; just bring a chair and sunscreen, sit out on the lawn, eat some great BBQ and listen to world-class jazz musicians.” 

Loiselle will also be selling his latest CD at the event; ‘Sound’ is a collaboration with former Mt. Carmel Dean of Students the Rev. “Padre” Benjamin Aguilar, O. Carm. “‘Sound’ is an interesting yet dark portrayal about teenage bullying. It was super fun to make and collaborate with Padre Aguilar, and I am really proud and blessed with this opportunity,” he said. All proceeds from the sale of the CD will be donated to the music program at Morgan Park Presbyterian Church. 

To stay up-to-date on the event as it approaches, visit www.MorganParkPres.org/events/jazz-n-q. 

Guide to Planning the Best Block Party

By Kristin Boza 

Summer is here and so is block party season. Block parties are great ways to foster camaraderie among neighbors. If you’ve never planned a block party before, or if you need some fresh ideas, use this step-by-step guide to plan the ultimate Beverly/Morgan Park block party. 

Step 1: Set a Date and Get a Permit. Survey your neighbors to determine the best date for the party; most take place on a Saturday afternoon to evening. Block parties must have a permit so that the city can block off the streets so revelers can eat, drink, and play. Permit applications are available at the 19th Ward Office website at www.19thwardmobile.com/block-party-permit.  

Step 2: Collect Money. Start by drafting a budget. Figure out if you want to use the funds to pay for a meal (like trays of chicken) and what type of entertainment you will provide. Also consider setting aside some money for game or raffle prizes. Since families come in all shapes and sizes, think about setting a price per child and per adult. Many blocks ask for $5/child and $10/adult. 

Step 3: Ask for Help. Rround out your food options by making a potluck list. Ask neighbors on one side of the street to bring a dessert and those on the other side to bring a side dish. Encourage everyone to bring a cooler of their own drinks, which will also cut down on costs. Recruit neighbors to bring their tables and chairs for setting up food tables; if everyone brings one, you won’t have to rent any, which can get expensive. 

Step 4. Plan Entertainment. Entertainment options are endless and depend on the ages of the people on the block. If there’s a ton of kids on your block, rent a bounce house. Just Kidding Around (773-414-5482 or JkaPartyRentals@gmail.com) and Nielsen Party Rentals (708-935-4184) are based in Mount Greenwood, and Big Mama’s Bouncy House is located in Evergreen Park (773-744-1712). Choose some music entertainment, too. If you’re on a budget, consider bringing out your own speakers and creating a playlist. If you have more money, hire a DJ for a few hours. DJ John Dreznes from Beverly Records is a popular choice for neighborhood gatherings; call him at 773.779.0066 . Another local DJ is Ruta Spencer; for info send an email rutavg@ameritech.net 

Step 5: Create Kid-Friendly Activities. The bounce house will only contain the kiddos for so long. Plan some games to keep them occupied, and more often than not, these games can be run for free. Some possibilities: set up a craft table with stickers and markers, have a water balloon toss, create a scavenger hunt, hire a face painter, and once dusk settles in, engage in an ultimate game of Ghost in the Graveyard. Don’t forget the grown-ups! An egg toss competition can be a lot of fun! 

Step 6: Clean-Up. The street will be messy after the block party. Be sure to recruit volunteers to help pick up the trash and haul it to the alley, and be sure there’s plenty of trash receptacles strategically placed along the street to encourage people to use them. 

While they’re a lot of work for the organizers, block parties are intended to strengthen the community. Getting to know your neighbors is what Beverly/Morgan Park is all about. 

Three Top Musicians Answer ‘Why We Sing the Blues’

Blues is the heartbeat of Chicago music, and Felicia Fields, Sam “Shake” Anderson and Chic Street Man are among the artists that make that music really sing in our souls. Hear them Sat., July 14, 8 p.m., when they perform a blues concert that answers the question: Why We Sing the Blues, Baffes Theatre, Beverly Arts Center (BAC), 2407 W. 111th St. 

Felicia P. Fields has performed widely on stage in the United States and Canada, as well as in concert, on television and in film. Best known for her portrayal of Sofia in the Broadway and first, national touring company of The Color Purple for which she received a Tony nomination, Theatre World Award and a Clarence Derwitt Award, Fields recently headlined in Let The Good Times Roll  at Victory Gardens Theatre and completed a very successful run of directing “5 Guys Named Moe” with Ron O.J. Parson.  TV and film credits include roles on Chicago Fire, Sense 7, and Kingfisher Chance the Rapper. She has been nominated for numerous Joseph Jefferson acting awards. When not performing on theatre stages, Felicia loves performing in Blues sets in some of the biggest Blues fests in the states. It gives her great joy to work with The Smiley Tillmon Band and Shake Anderson to name a few.   

Sam “Shake” Anderson was just age 22 when he became the music director for The Impressions. Soon he was performing as back-up musician and collaborating with such musical talents as Earth Wind & Fire, Stevie Wonder, Aretha Franklin, Bruce Hornsby, Bonnie Raitt, and Static Major. Anderson has been performed in many of the great music venues around the world — Carnegie Hall, The Apollo Theatre, Radio City Music Hall, Ryman Auditorium and Symphony Music Hall, to name a few. 

As a staff writer for Warner/Chappell Music, Anderson co-wrote original music alongside industry giants such as Ray Charles, Michael Bolton, Static Major and Ruben Studdard. He collaborated on gold and platinum movie soundtracks for big screen features, including “Dr. Doolittle,” “Blue Streak” and Austin Powers. 

Chic Street Man has spent more than 40 years performing in clubs, colleges, theaters, special events, school, festivals and benefit shows as a musical ambassador for human rights. Street Man incorporates a variety of musical forms in his performance, all of which have roots in the ancient African tradition of storytelling with call and response. He is a talented actor who has performed in theaters across the country; the writer, singer and composer of several albums including “Lullabies,” “Make it Thru the Night.” “Everybody be Yourself” and “Beau-ti-ful.” He was the subject of a documentary, “Chic Street Man – Passin’ The Blues Along.”  

Tickets to Why We Sing the Blues are $30 ($27 for Beverly Arts Center members). Tickets/info: 773-445-3838 or www.beverlyartcenter.org 

Catherine Rogers ‘18 Named National Merit Scholarship Winner 

Mother McAuley graduate Catherine Rogers has been named a National Merit $2,500 Scholarship Winner by the National Merit Scholarship Corporation (NMSC).  She is one of 2,500 designees who were chosen from a talent pool of more than 15,000 outstanding finalists in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program.  

Rogers is a Beverly/Morgan Park resident and graduate of St. John Fisher School.  

With a grade point average of 4.49, Rogers earned the distinction of valedictorian for the McAuley class of 2018. Last year, Rogers earned the highest possible ACT composite score of 36. On average, less than one-tenth of one percent of students who take the ACT earn a top score. She will attend the University of Illinois where she plans to study engineering. 

“The distinction of being selected as a National Merit Scholarship winner is the perfect capstone to Catherine’s Mother McAuley career,” said Eileen O’Reilly ’03, school principal. “Throughout her years at McAuley, Catherine’s academic success has been a testament to her drive to never settle for less than her best. As she moves into college and a career, I know that she will continue to set and achieve the impressive goals she sets for herself.”  

National Merit $2,500 Scholarship winners are the finalists in each state judged to have the strongest combination of accomplishments, skills, and potential for success in rigorous college studies. Scholars were selected by a committee of college admissions officers and high school counselors, who appraised a substantial amount of information submitted by both the finalists and their high schools: the academic record, including difficulty level of subjects studied and grades earned; scores from two standardized tests; contributions and leadership in school and community activities; an essay written by the Finalist; and a recommendation written by a high school official. 

Rogers is a Catherine McAuley Honors Scholar, a program which recognizes superior academic achievement. She also is a member of the National Honor Society, National English Honor Society, Junior Classical League, Student Ambassadors, Book Club, Math Macs and runs Cross Country and Track.  

Her freshman year at McAuley, Rogers received the Sister Agatha O’Brien Memorial Scholarship which recognizes students who score in the top five percent on the High School Placement Test.  She also was one of 16 students to receive the Tradition of Excellence Scholarship for legacy students.  

Art and Culture at the Ridge Park Art Fair

 By Krsistin Boza 

The inaugural Ridge Park Art Fair & Festival is slated for Sat., June 23 at the Ridge Park Cultural Center, 9625 S. Longwood Dr. As a joint effort between the Ridge Park Advisory Council (RPAC), the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association and the Chicago Park District, the art fair promises to bring art, culture and fun to the community. 

Irene Testa, president of the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association, came up with the idea of the summertime art festival to enhance the rise of the vibrant arts community in Beverly/Morgan Park.  

“Artists need our support and their contributions to society are not adequately acknowledged and rewarded,” Testa said. “The Art Fair fits perfectly with the mission of the John H. Vanderpoel Art Association, which is to aid children and adults in acquiring a knowledge of and an appreciation for art.” 

The Art Fair is supported by Ridge Park supervisor Dan Ryan, and RPAC, led by Mary Jo Viero. Testa says that the assistance and support from the park district and RPAC has been invaluable to gaining momentum for the Art Fair. 

Forty-one artists will open booths at the Art Fair, selling their art and chatting with attendees. Participating artists will be selling paintings, photos, jewelry, ceramics, and even dolls.  

“I invite the public to support the artists by purchasing their art. It takes a lot of work to set up a booth and dedicate a day to selling their creations,” Testa said. “Let’s make it a rewarding day for the artists, and the community will benefit from having an Art Fair right here in Beverly.”  

The Ridge Park Art Fair will also offer visitors many opportunities to experience community fun. The ceramics studio at Ridge Park and the Vanderpoel Gallery will be open for tours, and local artist Judie Anderson will create a watercolor rendition of Ridge Park during the event. 

Families with young children are welcomed as well, and a bounce house will be set up for the kids to enjoy. Three food trucks will be selling food onsite, including Calabria’s, Pollo Locuas and Smokin’ BBQ Kitchen. Attendees can also dance and enjoy live music. 

For more information, visit the Ridge Park Art Fair & Festival website at RidgeParkArtFair.org. 

Zeshan B and the Transistors at Beverly Art Center June 22 

Zeshan Bagewadi, one of the Rolling Stone’s 10 New Artists You Need to Know, will be performing Fri., June 22, 8 p.m., at the Beverly Arts Center (BAC), 2407 W. 111th St.  Zeshan B and the Transistors will play a concert that mixes Memphis R&B, Chicago Blues and the sounds of Bagewadi’s roots in India and Pakistan.  

Zeshan B and the Transistors is composed of some of Chicago’s brightest musical talent. Now on tour, they performed at the Lincoln Center in New York last month and will be at the Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival in Tennessee in June before heading to Chicago for their concert at the BAC.   

Born in Chicago, Zeshan B’s distinctive musical style was formed by the influences of the local music scene as well as the music played in his home. Bagewadi’s parents are from India, and exposed their son to traditional Indo-Pakistani music in addition to an extensive collection of music from the 1960s and 1970s, including blues, soul and R&B.  

Music lovers and the media took notice when Zeshan B released “Vetted” in 2017. The album charted at 8 on Billboard’s Top Ten Albums (World Music), and received excellent reviews from Rolling Stone, NPR, ABC, and the Times of India. Zeshan B’s hit single, a cover of George Perkins’ 1970 civil rights-inspired “Cryin’ in the Streets” that resonates with today’s social justice and political issues, earned high praise from American Songwriter (which called it “an anthem for modern protesters”), New York Times, Chicago Tribune and other media.  

Tickets for Zeshan B and the Transistors are $27 ($24 for Beverly Arts Center members) and available at www.beverlyartcenter.org, the BAC, 111th and Western, Chicago, or by phone 773-445-3838.