Are you ready for culture overload?

Opinion: Ken Trainor

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By Ken Trainor

Staff writer

Doing anything this weekend? If not, don't blame it on a dearth of options. Most weeks when I edit the Calendar section (see page 39), I'm impressed by the rich array of cultural offerings in our communities. But the weekend ahead is nothing short of Culturepalooza.

If you're a theater buff, you've got a choice of five productions, two of them at Madison Street Theatre, former home of Village Players. This is the final weekend for both Concordia University's Cabaret on the main stage, and in the studio space, Festival Theatre's Seascape (I've seen it and can vouch for its lithe and likable lizards). In Berwyn, 16th Street Theater, whose reputation is building, presents Living Large in a Mini Kind of Way (see Doug Deuchler's review in LifeLines, page 37), an exploration of the American Dream by several Latinas. And Thursday is opening night for Open Door Repertory Company's latest, Superior Donuts, a play that was previously a hit at Steppenwolf Theatre. Don't know yet if they'll be serving donuts at intermission.

In addition to the aforementioned theater foursome, add The Visit, a student-directed production in Dominican University's Martin Hall about an impoverished town offered a billion dollars if they'll just kill one man. If maddening moral dilemmas aren't your favorite weekend fare, Friday provides a plethora of other temptations. The convergence of National Poetry Month and National Library Week produced Shel-Abration! a kids' poetry slam event inspired by Shel Silverstein (among other wordsmiths) at the Oak Park Public Library. The River Forest Public Library, meanwhile, has scheduled something modestly titled, Librarypalooza!

Or sample the Oak Park Arts District's Third Friday Gallery Walk along Harrison Street (6-9 p.m.). Or a chamber music concert at Pilgrim Congregational Church (7 p.m., freewill offering). Or an appearance at Magic Tree Bookstore by Emily Gravett, two-time winner of Britain's best illustrated children's book (7 p.m.). Or the Pro Musica Youth Chorus Gala, "Days of Wine and Roses," at Pleasant Home, featuring songs of Sinatra (7-11 p.m.). Or live music (Quatour de Force) with spoken word poetry and a special pre-fixe dinner at Buzz Café (7-10 p.m.). Or Teen Open Mic Night at the Oak Park Public Library, 7-9 p.m., with a special performance by the OPRF High School Show Choir, which would be worth the price of admission (if there were an admission price). Or bluegrass music by Special Consensus and the Henhouse Prowlers at FitzGerald's Night Club down on Roosevelt Road.

Dizzying, ain't it? And that's just the weekend's opening salvo.

Saturday, in honor of Earth Day (which actually falls on Monday), you can take a spring bird walk, hosted by birder Jill Anderson and the Thatcher Woods Savanna Restoration Project, starting at 7:30 a.m. at Trailside Museum, Thatcher and Chicago avenues. At 10 a.m., you can attend the "Handel is Fun Workshop" at the Oak Park Public Library, where, astonishingly, you can "build an instrument, learn to conduct, and write an opera." Now that's a workshop! Or head over to the Lake Theatre to watch A Place at the Table, a documentary on widespread food insecurity in America. From there, if you dare, you can go to the Oak Park Arms for their Chili Cook-Off, though the pairing of retirement facilities and chili contests seems incongruent. After lunch, head to Open Door Theatre at Ridgeland and Harrison to watch films about Israelis and American Jews speaking out against the dispossession of the Palestinian people. Then back to the main library where the renowned violinist Rachel Barton Pine will conduct a master class demonstration with a middle-school student and two high-school students. Followed by an Earth Day musical program by Joe Reilly and "Miss Tracy" at the Fenwick High School Auditorium. And that's all before dinner.

In the evening, if you haven't had enough of worthy causes, drop in on the Legacy Guild spring fundraiser at FitzGerald's, which provides college scholarships to local high school students who have lost a parent. Or go to Unity Temple's 3rd Saturday Coffeehouse, hosted by Charlie Rossiter, which should be quite a trick since he's scheduled to host the Oak Park Area Arts Council's Artful Object fundraiser, where a pronounced Beatnik theme will be in vogue.

If Friday was devoted to theater and Saturday to worthy causes, Sunday is the musical motherlode, beginning at 10 a.m. with the Church of Beethoven Third Sunday Series at Open Door Theatre, emceed by Val Camilletti of Val's halla Records.

From there you'll need to do some venue hopping as the late afternoon is alive with the sound of music, including two a cappella concerts (Oak Park Concert Chorale at Grace Lutheran and Chicago a cappella at Pilgrim Congregational). In addition, there will be live jazz by the Terry Sullivan Trio at Pleasant Home, and the Symphony of OP-RF concert at Dominican University's Lund Auditorium, where you can hear Strauss' "Overture to Die Fliedermaus," Rachmaninov's "Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini," and Beethoven's Symphony No. 8. All of the above begin at 4 p.m.

Then swing over (so to speak) to FitzGerald's for Big Band Night with the Southland Jazz Ensemble (6 p.m.).

After that, feel free to collapse and get ready for work on Monday morning.

You might think this clusterculture is an aberration, but it only gets worse. The busiest weekend of the year around here is traditionally the first weekend of May.

Oak Parkers like to complain. Taxes too high. Too little parking. Trees planted too far apart on the parkways. Not business-friendly enough.

But there's one complaint you should never hear around these parts.

Not enough to do?


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Charlie Rossiter  

Posted: April 18th, 2013 7:33 PM

Good eye, Ken. I'll be at the Arts Council...The 3rd Sat. Coffeehouse will have a very special surprise MC...

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