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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Manual Cinema comes home to debut The End of TV

Posted By today at 06.00 AM

Vanessa Valliere is a QVC home shopping host in Manual Cinema’s The End of TV. Below the screen are Valliere and fellow cast member/puppeteer Jeffrey Paschal. - JUDY SIROTA ROSENTHAL
  • Judy Sirota Rosenthal
  • Vanessa Valliere is a QVC home shopping host in Manual Cinema’s The End of TV. Below the screen are Valliere and fellow cast member/puppeteer Jeffrey Paschal.

In a cool room with brick walls, blankets block any light coming through the windows. In the middle of the room, three overhead projectors sit opposite a white screen, where four actors perform as silhouettes, then quickly run behind the projectors to place and move the slides that create the set and backdrop for their performance. Much like an assembly line, there are many moving parts in this rehearsal space as Manual Cinema prepares for the July 19 Chicago debut of The End of TV at the Chopin Theatre.

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Sixties garage rockers the Riptides won their only studio session at a talent show

Posted By today at 06.00 AM

Since 2004 Plastic Crimewave (aka Steve Krakow) has used the Secret History of Chicago Music to shine a light on worthy artists with Chicago ties who've been forgotten, underrated, or never noticed in the first place. Older strips are archived here.

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Monday, July 16, 2018

Pirates of Penzance and more of the best things to do in Chicago this week

Posted By on 07.16.18 at 06:00 AM

Saltbox Theatre Collective's Pirates of Penzance, at Stage 773 - RACHAEL NUCKLES
  • Saltbox Theatre Collective's Pirates of Penzance, at Stage 773

There are plenty of shows, films, and concerts happening this weekend. Here's some of what we recommend:

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Rauner showers praise on Mike Pence, leaving no doubt how he feels about gay marriage

Posted By on 07.16.18 at 06:00 AM

Governor Bruce Rauner and Vice President (and former Indiana governor) Mike Pence - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Governor Bruce Rauner and Vice President (and former Indiana governor) Mike Pence

It's been almost a week since Governor Rauner was outed for attending—maybe even officiating—the wedding of a gay friend.

And he still hasn't commented on it.

The Sun-Times ran a picture featuring Rauner reading something from his cell phone at a recent wedding ceremony—either the wedding oath or some sort of celebratory speech or poem.

Maybe he was reading "Funeral Blues," by W.H. Auden, always a favorite at gay weddings.

For all I know Four Weddings and a Funeral—where that poem plays a key role—is Rauner's favorite movie of the 90s.

Though if you asked him, I'm sure Rauner would probably say it was Goodfellas—you know, something more in line with his all-out effort to convince Trump-loving voters he's really one of them.

Obviously, the governor's hoping the whole gay marriage things blows over really fast so he can get back trying to woo the far-right vote he needs to defeat J. B. Pritzker in November's election.

Good luck with that, governor.

After the wedding story broke on the Illinois Review, a conservative website, Rauner's been blasted by right-wingers.

First he supports HB 40—the abortion rights bill—and now gay marriage! What's next, the abolition of ICE?

"It's clear that the governor has learned nothing from his near-loss in the Republican primary this year," the Illinois Family Institute's executive director, David E. Smith, told the Illinois Review. "He's not interested in attracting social conservatives to get out and vote Republican this fall."

Reading Smith's lament makes me realize yet another double standard of the right.

Conservatives love to mock liberals for their political correctness. But liberal PC is tame compared to the straitjacket that shackles Republicans like Rauner, who feels compelled to drop his g's, pose in working-class Carhartt gear, ride a Harley, and talk up his love for weaponry—anything to divert attention from the fact that he actually has a gay friend, much less that he attended that friend's gay wedding.

To drive home the point, Rauner made sure he was on hand at Friday's Republican fund-raiser in Rosemont, featuring Vice President Mike Pence, one of the most notorious homophobes in the Trump White House.

In 2015, when he was governor of Indiana, Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, an abominable attempt to legitimize discrimination against gays on the grounds that you can't compel someone to serve someone if it violates their religious convictions.

Jim Crow-loving racists all over the south much have been thinking—religious liberty? Dang, man, how come we didn't think of that?

Rauner opened the fund-raiser in Rosemont with the following ode to Pence . . .

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

Oh, wait—that's the Auden poem. My bad.

No, here's what Rauner actually had to say: "Mike Pence, along with President Trump, are doing it for every American right now. Let's hear it for them."

I guess desperate times require desperate measures. Rauner's always walked a tightrope around social conservatives and Trump. In 2014, he ran as though he were agnostic on social issues—said he had no social agenda—in the hopes of winning suburban moderates and social conservatives.

For the longest time he wouldn't mention Trump's name or even say who he voted for in 2016.

But now, down in the polls and worried about losing Republican voters to state senator Sam McCann, who's running as an independent, he's openly in the president's arms.

So he throws his friends under the bus to win the votes of bigots. Shame, shame on you, Bruce Rauner.

I realize that President Obama went through his own evolution on gay marriage.

At first, back in the 1990s, Obama was for it—when he was running for state senator from liberal Hyde Park.

Then he was against it, when he was running statewide for Senator in 2004.

And then, once he was safely reelected as president for his final term, he was for it again.

But I’ll give Obama this. He finessed the issue to try to get elected so he could do something noble, such as pass an universal—if watered down—national health-care plan.

Rauner's playing the role of a bigot in order to get reelected so he can go back to his main agenda of destroying public education and eradicating unions.

The governor's behavior is just one example of the way we’ve regressed as a civilization in the age of Trump.

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Friday, July 13, 2018

Guess who’s on our cover for a chance to win passes to the 2018 Pitchfork Music Festival

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 04:00 PM

click image Something’s different about the skyline, but I can’t quite put my finger on it. - JASON WYATT FREDERICK
  • Jason Wyatt Frederick
  • Something’s different about the skyline, but I can’t quite put my finger on it.

Donald Trump is still president. America's immigration policies have become the shame of the planet. Climate change is turning our oceans into globe-spanning acid baths. We've got to suffer through several more months of ads from two billionaires running for Illinois governor. The future of the U.S. Supreme Court almost hurts too much to think about.

If you'd like to stop thinking about the impending apocalypse for a few minutes, though, may we suggest our annual Pitchfork Music Festival cover-illustration contest?

Take a look at the Jason Wyatt Frederick illustration on the cover of next week's Reader, our annual Pitchfork preview. It's a little like Where's Waldo?, except you're trying to find dozens of people (and in some cases places) without knowing in advance who or what any of them are. With a little patience and an eye for visual puns, you'll find a bunch of Chicago fixtures (well-known and obscure) and lots of Pitchfork artists—but be warned, plenty of the weird shit Jason drew is just there to distract you from the answers.

Here's the contest part: Name as many people, things, and musical acts from the cover as you can and e-mail your list (with your full name) to The person who correctly identifies the most will win a pair of three-day general-admission passes to this weekend's Pitchfork Music Festival. To get a better view, click the image above for a bigger version. (If you're on a mobile device, click this link to zoom in.)

Deadline is noon on Thursday, July 19. Those two passes are worth $350, so why not give it a shot?

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iLLANOiZE Let's Get Social music showcase gives a platform to Chicago's rising hip-hop stars

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 03:33 PM

The upcoming Let's Get Social showcase will feature some of Chicago music's rising stars. - COURTESY ILLANOIZE
  • Courtesy iLLANOiZE
  • The upcoming Let's Get Social showcase will feature some of Chicago music's rising stars.

Chicago based hip-hop media company iLLANOiZE is hosting the third installment of its Let's Get Social event series, a music showcase featuring rising hip-hop and R&B artists from across Chicagoland. The Let's Get Social series is the brainchild of hip-hop artist Bekoe, the founder of iLLANOiZE. Bekoe launched iLLANOiZE in 2012 with the clothing line iLLANOiZE Apparel, a brand inspired by the meteoric rise of the Chicago hip-hop scene.

"During that time Chicago was the center of hip-hop culture," says Bekoe. "Even so, there still was a lot of really good artists being overlooked."

That’s where iLLANOiZE came in. Bekoe expanded iLLANOiZE into a digital media company, conducting interviews and providing release news that covered artists from around the city. Alongside cohosts Pretty Riot and Illinois Jones, he now broadcasts on iLLANOiZE Radio, a channel dedicated to the promotion of the artists that he’s been championing. For Bekoe, the only thing that matters is the music.

"I understood that as an artist myself," Bekoe continues. "There was so much politics that went into who was on the radio and who wasn't; who got to book venues, and who didn’t; who got to play shows and who didn’t."

It was with this in mind that Bekoe began the Let's Get Social music showcase. He uses the social media engagement of the Chicago hip-hop audience to determine the lineup for each event. The iLLANOiZE Radio team takes into account how often and how effectively each artist communicates with his or her fan base, then they share their music via iLLANOiZE social media pages and gauge the response from their own audience. "Social media can sometimes be superficial but it can also show you who’s putting in the [groundwork] to get themselves heard," says Bekoe. Ultimately, though, it is the quality of the music that trumps all. That distinction was especially important to Law tha Dragon who, along with Mika Luciano, is slated to perform at the showcase as The Wonder Twins.

The Wonder Twins, Mika Luciano (left) and Law Tha Dragon - COURTESY LAW THA DRAGON
  • Courtesy Law Tha Dragon
  • The Wonder Twins, Mika Luciano (left) and Law Tha Dragon

"We see it all the time, where these mainstream media outlets and venues will pay more attention to the image artists maintain, rather than the music," Law says. "Mika and I stand out for [plenty of] reasons but the most important thing to us is that we can both rap."

But social media plays an important role in propelling an artist's career. For R&B artist LaJé, who is currently preparing for the release of her upcoming mixtape and pushing her single "Lemonade," mastering the use of social media has become a career skill in and of itself.

"I basically had to teach myself how to use it to my advantage," she says. "Using things like Twitter analytics, I'm able to determine the peak times to make posts in order to maximize engagements, and what types of posts are getting the most acknowledgement."

Through giving artists the platform of iLLANOiZE radio and their various showcases, Bekoe wants to see the Chicago hip-hop scene become even more fruitful than it was when he started his company. The artists appreciate his work.

East Rogers Park rapper OG Stevo is also slated to perform at Let's Get Social - COURTESY OG STEVO
  • Courtesy OG Stevo
  • East Rogers Park rapper OG Stevo is also slated to perform at Let's Get Social

"I want everything we're doing in the music business send the message that this is possible to do, even while we're young," says 18-year-old producer turned rapper Rick Stevenson. "People like Bekoe giving us this platform is necessary in being able to do that."

Stevenson is also scheduled to perform at the upcoming showcase and was recently featured as a guest on iLLANOiZE Radio discussing his art.

Bekoe has made it a point to stress the uniqueness of his angle in hip-hop media to the artists that he hopes to share his platform with.

"I want them to know that, as an artist, I've been in their shoes. I still am."

iLLANOiZE presents Let’s Get Social showcase Sat 7/14, 8-11 PM, AMFM art gallery, 2151 W. 21st, 312-971-7502, $15 at the door.

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Father Pfleger, top cop Johnson, and a tinge of hope for the city’s future

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 12:00 PM

Father Michael Pfleger and Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson at the protest that shut down the Dan Ryan last Saturday. - ASHLEE REZIN/SUN-TIMES
  • Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times
  • Father Michael Pfleger and Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson at the protest that shut down the Dan Ryan last Saturday.

At the risk of sounding hopelessly naive, I must say the sight of Chicago police superintendent Eddie Johnson and Father Michael Pfleger walking arm in arm down the Dan Ryan at last weekend's protest march left me with a tinge of hope about the future of Chicago.

Oh God, I feel really naive just writing that.

Yes, I realize Johnson was at the march only at Rahm's permission.

And of course, I understand that Father Pfleger has generally been an ally to Emanuel, as he was to Mayor Daley—despite the major roles both have played in perpetuating the economic inequities Pfleger denounces.

But as long as Johnson and Pfleger are united in demanding that something must change to lessen the inequities in this town, I'm eager to join the chorus.

So allow me to direct them to the giant cookie jar the mayor doesn't want any of us to know even exists.

It's called the tax increment financing program, and each year upwards of $500 million or so of property tax dollars pours into it. Last year, the take was $566 million. The county has'nt itemized this year's TIF take yet.

Basically, state law allows the mayor to slap a surcharge on the property tax we pay for things we want—like schools and cops. And then that money gets diverted into bank accounts controlled by the mayor, who's pretty much free to spend it on things we might not want.

One of the worst parts of the TIF scam is that the money is not evenly distributed ward by ward. Instead, most of the money goes to gentrifying communities, even though the program was intended to eradicate blight in low-income communities.

For example, there's the North Branch South TIF district near North Avenue and the Chicago River—in one of the hottest areas of town, where Jeff Bezos is thinking of moving his second Amazon headquarters.

Since it was created in 1998, it's gathered about $89 million in property tax money.

In contrast, there's the 79th Street Corridor TIF, which was also created in 1998. Pfleger's church, Saint Sabina, happens to be located in that TIF district. It's gathered about $12.7 million.

So let's get this straight. In the same 20 years, the booming north-side community has collected $89 million and the struggling south-side neighborhood has collected $12.7 million in TIF dollars.

In what universe is that fair, just, or right?

Pfleger's community isn't the only victim of the TIF scam. TIF dollars are diverted from all Chicago's schools, parks, libraries, and police.

I tend to focus on how schools have been shortchanged by the TIF program. But the police department could also use some of that money.

Wednesday's Sun-Times had a somber story by Fran Spielman about Brandon Krueger, a 36-year-old police officer who committed suicide last Sunday while sitting in his squad car in the parking lot of the Calumet District station.

"Officers have very high rates of exposure to trauma similar to the communities in which they serve," Alexa James, executive director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, told the Sun-Times. "You wear your vest. You carry your weapon. You make sure you go home at the end of the night. We do everything to mitigate physical injury to our law enforcement. We have to do the same for their mental wellness."

And yet, according to the Sun-Times, the CPD's "employee assistance program has only three full-time counselors to provide mental health services to 13,500 employees and their families."

You could hire a whole lot of police counselors with just a little of the TIF cash that flows into the one north-side district.

Just to remind you, Mayor Rahm infamously closed mental health clinics in low-income, high-crime areas as part of his infamous budget, unanimously approved by the City Council in 2011.

There wasn't enough money to keep the clinics open, the mayor said.

Apparently, black people have more in common with the cops that patrol their neighborhoods than anyone realized.

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George Clinton and more of the best things to do in Chicago this weekend

Posted By on 07.13.18 at 06:00 AM

George Clinton - ETHAN MILLER
  • George Clinton

There are plenty of shows, films, and concerts happening this weekend. Here's some of what we recommend:

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Thursday, July 12, 2018

Profiles abuse scandal inspires new magazine examining Chicago theater

Posted By on 07.12.18 at 01:00 PM

  • courtesy Almanya Narula
  • Almanya Narula

When Almanya Narula enrolled in graduate school at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, she wanted to find a way to bring her passions for journalism and theater together to tell stories of the theater community. The fusion of her interests led her to create Chicago Theatre Now, a new biannual magazine that will discuss and explore issues of accountability, inclusion, diversity, and equity within the Chicago theater scene.

Narula traces the creation of Chicago Theatre Now back to the summer of 2016 when the Reader published an article about abuses occurring at the now-defunct Profiles Theatre. The story hit home for Narula who was then a theater student at Columbia College Chicago studying fight choreography. "Being a fight choreographer, being a person in the industry, that was very triggering for me," she says. "It was also triggering because some of the people who were a part of Profiles were faculty members at Columbia College Chicago. What was going on within Profiles was an open secret for years, yet they were allowed to come to my institution and recruit people who might be under the age of 18 to intern for them."

Shortly afterward, Narula applied to arts journalism graduate program at SAIC. "Within my theater art, my main goal was to make a difference," she says. "At that point, I didn't think my art was conveying that, but I wanted to highlight the good things that were going on in Chicago, and I wanted to document that within journalism."

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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

The Silver Room Block Party announces the lineup for its 15th festival

Posted By on 07.11.18 at 04:28 PM

Golden age hip-hop icon Bobbito Garcia will be quite busy during this year's Silver Room Block Party. - JON LOPEZ PHOTOGRAPHY
  • Jon Lopez Photography
  • Golden age hip-hop icon Bobbito Garcia will be quite busy during this year's Silver Room Block Party.

Today the organizers of the Silver Room Block Party announced the full lineup for their 15th blowout. Its three outdoor stages will present the likes of foundational Chicago hip-hop producer the Twilite Tone, classic-house veteran Ron Trent, hip-hop icon Bobbito Garcia (of beloved 90s New York radio program The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito Show), and singular singer, producer, and polymath Georgia Ann Muldrow.  Eight indoor venues, including the Silver Room and the Promontory, will also play host to live performances. The Silver Room Block Party takes place Saturday, July 21, in Hyde Park, and this year it includes movies too—the Harper Theater will screen five of them, including the Chicago premiere of Garcia's autobiographical documentary, Rock Rubber 45s. The fest has even organized a series of basketball events, including a three-point drill run by former Chicago Bull Craig Hodges and an exhibition game with Garcia.

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Agenda Teaser

ASAP Ferg, Jay IDK House of Blues
July 17
Performing Arts
Guards at the Taj Steppenwolf Theatre
June 13

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