Wednesday, April 23, 2014

TONIGHT: World Book Night, Shakespeare is 450, & Rare Lyrid Meteor Showers! #WBN2014 #Shakespeare #LyridMeteorShower

Books, Bards and Stars... Oh MY!

If you thought Easter and 4/20 coinciding this year was big... check out the forecast for 4/23!  Tonight brings thousands of FREE books being given away on the streets, to reluctant readers around the world, Shakespeare's 450th birthday, and an ultra rare Lyrid Meteor Shower peaking. It only orbits the sun every 415 years... so maybe you can celebrate the bard under the same shooting stars that inspired HIM!

Our undying affection for Chicago Shakespeare Theatre's Short Shakespeare Series continues with their awesome production of A Midsummer Night's Dream (see our full set of shots in the slideshow above).  Public shows have ended, but we'll give them another shout out since they're still touring schools and inspiring kids through the end of April. 

We LOVED the David Bowie-esque wigs for the fairies, (by Melissa Veal) reminiscent of the Troll King in Labyrinth. The wigs were custom made on site for the show! It was such a cooler, punk look and made their trickery (and plan to steal the changeling child-sound familiar) all the more sinister. Great edgy costume choices and so much more refreshing than the usual fairy tulle and flowers. 

An enchanted Titania (Lanise Antoine Shelley) desires Bottom (Alex Weisman), surrounded by her fairy attendants (left to right: Max Fabian, Justin Cornwell, Wesley Daniel, Michael Finley). Photo by Michael Brosilow. - See more at:

We also really dug the use of simple objects in unusual ways, like the umbrellas and the ever changing string that blocked & opened paths through the forest.

Puck (Steven Lee Johnson, far right) concocts magical mischief in the woods while Hermia (Tiffany Yvonne Cox) sleeps cradled in the boughs of a tree created by the fairies. Photo by Michael Brosilow. - See more at:

Demetrius (Ryan Hallahan) finds himself ensnared in the shadowy vines of the woods. Photo by Michael Brosilow. - See more at:

The whole show is packed up on tour now, making the rounds and blowing the minds of school kids all over Chicago. ChiIL Mama had a great chat with resident Scenic Designer, Scott Davis, and he gave us the scoop. They pretty much tour with the whole cast and most of the set... except the moon which is just too huge to move. 

You might recognize it from the recent production of Cyrano.  It's not only too big to tour, it's too big for the Chi-Shakes set storage area! So it just may be waxing poetic over more productions before it wanes.  That's cool with us. That orb is pretty impressive and worth mooning over.

Our predictions on this production:

  • A new generation is realizing Shakespeare wasn't as snooty as they thought and he wrote about wacky, cross dressing, unfaithful, confused, hilarious, murderous, magical characters.
  • A zillion jr high and high school students are crushing on the charismatic cutie, Puck (Steven Lee Johnson)! It was already starting with the tweens as early as opening day-- "No... you go talk to him..." "No, YOU. Giggle giggle."
  • More than a few students are inspired to see more theatre and/or try their hand at writing plays and poetry.
  • More than a few students are inspired to check out more circus arts, thanks to the best. wall. ever. and his uber creative block juggling work. Kudos to you!

David H. Bell Director
Scott Davis Scenic Designer
Melissa Torchia Costume Designer
Lee Fiskness Lighting Designer
Ethan Deppe Composer and Sound Designer
Melissa Veal Wig and Make-up designer

Nate Burger Lysander
Justin Cornwell Starveling/Fairy
Wesley Daniel Flute/Fairy
Max Fabian Snout/Fairy
Michael Finley Snug/Fairy
Don Forston Egeus/Quince
Ryan Hallahan Demetrius
Steven Lee Johnson Puck/Philostrate
Eric Parks Oberon/Theseus
Lanise Antoine Shelley Hippolyta/Titania

Bewitched by a fairy’s spell, Bottom (Alex Weisman) is transformed into an ass. Photo by Michael Brosilow. - See more at:

As queen and king of the fairy kingdom, Titania (Lanise Antoine Shelley) and Oberon (Eric Parks) share passion both in love and in conflict. Photo by Michael Brosilow. - See more at:

Next Up:  Henry V.  We can't wait!!

ChiIL Mama's ChiIL Tips for Chi-Shakes:
  • Kids love to get their programs signed by the actors who pose for photo ops and gladly sign in the lobby after each show at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre.
  • Go to the TOP floor and check out the coolest bathroom view in the city that we know of! Seriously. Go already.
A view from the loo:


  • Sure Navy Pier is all torn up and inconvenient at present, but snap some photos. We love to see things in the development stages... in the process of becoming.  It'll never look like that again, even in a few days. Catch & keep that moment in time. 

  • SUPPORT THE ARTS:  Buy some of their fun Shakes swag. Their water bottles and mugs are remarkably reasonably priced and they have unique gifts like Shakespearian insult bandaids, dolls, tees and Shakespeare quotes playing cards!

Birthday Bashes

First--Happy Birthday to the bard. Shakespeare is 450 today! Here at ChiIL Mama, we dig the bard. I was in Twelfth Night in college and even now I catch every show at Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Shakes and non alike--they have a diverse, world class lineup of shows!)  My kids have see at least 3 different productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream, multiple Macbeths and a host of others.

We'll be reviewing Henry V opening night as well as Joffrey's Romeo and Juliet, so check back with ChiIL Mama & ChiIL Live Shows like we vote in Chi, IL... early and often!

**Today is talk Like Shakespeare Day: April 23**
Everyone is dared on Shakespeare's Birthday on April 23 to break out your "thee-s" and "thou-s" and stock of Shakespearian insults in observation of the annual Talk Like Shakespeare Day.  Today is an opportunity for citizens across the globe to bring the spoken words of Shakespeare into their daily lives. Penning 154 sonnets and 38 plays, Shakespeare is credited with contributing over 1,700 words and countless phrases to the English language, including "bedazzled," "swagger," and "new-fangled." Shakespearean tips and useful expressions can be found at

On the Occasion of William Shakespeare's 

450th Birthday April 23

Chicago Shakespeare Theater joins Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Art Institute of Chicago and Joffrey Ballet in celebration of the Bard’s legacy and lasting vitality in Chicago

"Our City, Our Shakespeare" premieres 

on WTTW Channel 11

Additional Shakespeare Birthday Programs and Collaborations 

Also Announced

Chicago Shakespeare Theater (CST) along with Chicago’s civic and cultural leaders celebrate William Shakespeare’s 450th Birthday with the premiere of "Our City, Our Shakespeare," a documentary exploring Shakespeare’s enduring presence in Chicago, featuring Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Art Institute of Chicago, Joffrey Ballet, among others. Produced by Emmy award-winning HMS Media, the program premieres May 1 at 8:00 p.m. on WTTW Channel 11. Shakespeare’s 450th birthday on April 23 begins the internationally recognized Shakespeare Quadricentennial Celebration through 2016, marking 400 years of Shakespeare’s legacy since his death in 1616. On this occasion, Chicago’s cultural community heralds the prolific poet and playwright’s lasting impact on our lives—through our everyday speech and in cultural institutions, schools and neighborhoods across the city. All Chicagoans can join in on the birthday celebrations with activities, events and performances for everyone, everywhere to bring Shakespeare into their lives.

"Our City, Our Shakespeare" examines Chicago's special relationship with the world's most translated and performed playwright. By weaving together footage from theater, opera, dance and improv performances on Chicago's stages and interviews with civic and cultural leaders, theater critics and artists alike, it is clear that Shakespeare lives on in Chicago. The 30-minute program features interviews with notable Chicagoans, including: Mayor Rahm Emanuel; Michael P. Kelly, Chicago Park District General Superintendent/CEO; William J. Brodsky, Navy Pier, Inc. Chairman; Barbara Gaines, CST Artistic Director; Criss Henderson, CST Executive Director; Renée Fleming, Lyric Opera of Chicago Creative Consultant; Anthony Freud, Lyric Opera of Chicago General Director; Ashley Wheater, Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director; Douglas Druick, Art Institute of Chicago President; Martha Gilmer, Chicago Symphony Orchestra VP for Artistic Planning and Audience Development; Amina Dickerson, Arts Advisor/Non-Profit and Philanthropic Consultant; Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune Chief Theater Critic; Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times Theater and Dance Critic; Mike Nussbaum, Ora Jones and Kevin Gudahl, actors; Kirsten Kelly, CPS Shakespeare! director; the Q Brothers, GQ and JQ, actors/writers/musicians; Dr. Karen Boran, John Hancock High School Principal; Vincent Pinelli, Benito Juarez Community Academy Theater Director; Blaine Swen, The Improvised Shakespeare Company Creator and Director; and Robert Kameczura and Maureen Warren, visual artists.

"Our City, Our Shakespeare" producer HMS Media has received 17 Emmy Awards, 23 Emmy nominations, four Ruth Page Awards, the Arts & Business Council's ABBY Award and Gold and Silver Plaques from the Chicago International Film Festival for its broadcast specials about theater, dance, music and social issues, which have aired locally on WTTW and nationally on PBS. "Our City, Our Shakespeare" airs on WTTW Channel 11 on May 1 at 8:00 p.m., May 2 at 2 p.m. (WTTW Prime) and 7:30 p.m., and May 4 at 5:30 p.m.

All Chicagoans can join in on the birthday celebration in the coming weeks—whether at the bus stop, around the water cooler, inside the classroom, at home or out and about in the city. The following activities, events and performances offer a way for everyone, everywhere to bring Shakespeare into their lives:

Will's 450 is the New 30 Quiz: April 21–May 11

After all this time, he continues to influence the movies we watch, the books we read, and even the way we speak. To prove it, we created a quiz. When you take it, you’ll get a discount on tickets to our thrilling, upcoming rendition of Henry V and a chance to win awesome Shakespeare prizes.

Proving that Shakespeare's words have passed the test of time, Will's 450 is the New 30 Quiz features multiple-choice questions dealing with Shakespeare in pop culture and everyday speech, such as "Which Shakespearean phrase is the title of a current song?" and “Which of the following Shakespeare quotes inspired the title for a hit TV mini-series?” Not sure of an answer? Quiz-takers are encouraged to Google search answers, so they can see how "with-it" Will still is today. The quiz will be available between April 21 and May 11 at  

Shakespeare at the Newberry Library: April 21 at 6:00 p.m. & April 22–June 21
Those who want to dig deeper into Shakespeare's vast and varied contributions to literature and theater can join CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines in "Conversations at the Newberry" on April 21 at 6:00 p.m. for a discussion. Gaines will share the stage with Gail Kern Paster, director emerita of the Folger Shakespeare Library. This free event launches the Newberry's The Bard Is Born exhibition of Shakespeare-related artifacts, including the Library's treasured First Folio and Barbara Gaines's personal annotated copy of the play script for Henry V from CST's inaugural production in 1986. The exhibition is free and open to the public, April 22 through June 21.
Preview of "Our City, Our Shakespeare" on Chicago Tonight: April 23 at 7:00 p.m.
Host Phil Ponce welcomes CST Artistic Director Barbara Gaines and Joffrey Ballet Artistic Director Ashley Wheater to Chicago Tonight on WTTW Channel 11 and presents a sneak preview of "Our City, Our Shakespeare" on April 23 at 7:00 p.m. In honor of the Bard's birthday celebrations, Gaines will discuss CST's upcoming production of Henry V and Wheater will preview Joffrey Ballet's Romeo & Juliet.
Shakespeare's Henry V at CST: April 29–June 15
To experience Shakespeare up close and personal, theatergoers can catch a performance of Henry V, beginning on April 29 and running through June 15 in CST's Courtyard Theater. This rousing finale to the 2014 season is directed by distinguished British director Christopher Luscombe in his Chicago debut. Confronted by the ferocity of war on the fields of Agincourt, the charming, freshly crowned King Henry must prove his worth as a man and king in the ultimate test of his leadership.
Joffrey Ballet's Romeo & Juliet: April 30–May 11
Joffrey Ballet presents a modern retelling of Shakespeare's tale of star-crossed lovers set to Sergei Prokofiev's formidable score. Choreographed by Krzysztof Pastor and with live music performed by the Chicago Philharmonic, this production of Romeo & Juliet makes its United States debut at The Auditorium Theatre, April 30 through May 11.
"Our City, Our Shakespeare": May 1 at 8:00 p.m., May 2 at 7:30 p.m. & May 4 at 5:30 p.m.
Produced by HMS Media, "Our City, Our Shakespeare" explores how Shakespeare comes alive in Chicago through theater, opera, ballet, improv and visual art. "Our City, Our Shakespeare" premieres on WTTW Channel 11 on May 1 at 8:00 p.m., with additional broadcasts on May 2 at 2 p.m. (WTTW Prime) and 7:30 p.m., and May 4 at 5:30 p.m.
CST and Chicago Philharmonic in Romantic Rapture: May 11 at 7:30 p.m.
The extended birthday concludes with a collaboration between CST and the Chicago Philharmonic on Sunday, May 11 at 7:30 p.m. at Pick-Staiger Hall in Evanston. Together, the two organizations present Prokofiev's Romeo and Juliet as part of the evening's Romantic Rapture event. Directed by Scott Weinstein and conducted by Scott Speck, actors and musicians bring to life one of Shakespeare's most passionate and tragic tales.

For a full line-up of activities and events surrounding Shakespeare’s 450th birthday, see
For more information on Chicago Shakespeare Theater, see

World Book Night 2014

Tonight ChiIL Mama will again be a book giver for the 3rd year. We're proud to have been a part of World Book Night since it's first year in the US. Check out our past coverage here.  Last year we gave away 20 copies of The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho--and even gave a copy to a homeless man, looking for something to pass the time.

This year we're giving away 20 copies of Bridge to Terabithia 
By Katherine Paterson at our neighborhood park district.

 Check back for our photo filled recap later this week.

Bridge to Terabithia 
Jess Aaron's greatest ambition is to be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. He's been practicing all summer and can't wait to see his classmates' faces when he beats them all. But on the first day of school, a new kid, a new girl, boldly crosses over to the boy's side of the playground and outruns everyone.

That's not a very promising beginning for a friendship, but Jess and Leslie Burke become inseparable. It doesn't matter to Jess that Leslie dresses funny, or that her family has a lot of money -- but no TV. Leslie has imagination. Together, she and Jess create Terabithia, a magical kingdom in the woods where the two of them reign as king and queen, and their imaginations set the only limits. Then one morning a terrible tragedy occurs. Only when Jess is able to come to grips with this tragedy does he finally understand the strength and courage Leslie has given him. 

Middle Reader. 

Author biography
Katherine Paterson was born in China, where she spent part of her childhood. After her education in China and the American South, she spent four years in Japan, the setting for her first three novels. Ms. Paterson has received numerous awards for her writing, including National Book Awards for The Master Puppeteer and The Great Gilly Hopkins, as well as Newbery Medals for Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia. Ms. Paterson lives with her husband in Vermont. They have four grown children.

For more information:

About World Book Night

World Book Night is an annual celebration dedicated to spreading the love of reading, person to person.  Each year on April 23, tens of thousands of people go out into their communities and give half a million free World Book Night paperbacks to light and non-readers. 

World Book Night is about giving books and encouraging reading in those who don’t regularly do so. But it is also about more than that: It’s about people, communities and connections, about reaching out to others and touching lives in the simplest of ways—through the sharing of stories. 

World Book Night is a nonprofit organization. We exist because of the support of thousands of book givers, booksellers, librarians, and financial supporters who believe in our mission. Successfully launched in the U.K. in 2011, World Book Night was first celebrated in the U.S. in 2012. Thank you to our U.K. friends for such a wonderful idea!

Thank you for visiting us! We hope you explore our site to learn more about World Book Night, keep updated on new developments, support our organization, and apply to be a World Book Night U.S. book giver!

Meteor Showers 

As if all that isn't enough... April showers are upon us.  The Lyrid Meteor Showers that is!

Lyrid Meteor Shower Peaks Tonight: 
How To Watch Live

"The annual Lyrid meteor shower occurs every year when Earth passes through debris left behind by Comet Thatcher, which makes a full orbit of the sun once every 415 years. At its peak this year — which is expected to happen in the pre-dawn hours Tuesday (April 22) — the Lyrid shower should produce about 20 meteors per hour. You can watch the Lyrid meteor shower webcasts on via the online Slooh community telescope and NASA."

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