An after-school-arts -education program for youngsters aged 4–18, CYT Chicago culminates each of its three yearly sessions with a host of musical productions. This October–December, CYT will be hosting the following classical productions throughout the area:
Seasoned boat captains and crustacean prospectors Sig Hansen, Johnathan Hillstrand, and Andy Hillstrand gather to share with audience members their tales of struggle and survival during crab season on the high seas, as partly documented by the Discovery Channel’s Deadliest Catch. Fishing the Bering Sea in the middle of winter demands strong wills—which can come together in times of treacherous weather and 100-foot waves or come to blows about who performs better in the three-legged crabwalk race. Selected audience members will also have the chance to don the survival suits from the Time Bandit. Following the story-swapping and previously unreleased video footage, greenhorns and avid fans will have the opportunity to launch questions at the captains, wave giant foam claws, and learn how to communicate in claw-snap Morse code.
The Little Gym of Gurnee, a branch of the nationwide network of Little Gyms, fosters educational wonderment, physical development, and self-confidence in children aged four months to 12 years old through engaging, interactive classes. Trained instructors lead the classes and impart motor skills, language development, and leadership skills through karate and dance classes, as well as brain boost activities—all with the goal of encouraging age-appropriate development in a safe and enjoyable atmosphere.
Tucked away inside Gurnee's Holiday Inn sits Juz Jokkin Comedy Club, a new venue with a respectable pedigree. Although young, the club has already attracted heavy hitters such as Dave Chapelle and Gabriel Iglesias to its Friday and Saturday night shows. Each of these performances is hosted by Sonya D, a native Chicagoan who's appeared on BET, Showtime at the Apollo, and on stage with Kanye West.
Beneath the night sky's smattering of stars, Cascade Drive-in projects double features of the latest first-run films. Customers tune car radios to 88.5 FM or attach celebrity impersonators to their car windows to hear audio synchronized to the narratives unfurling onscreen. Throughout the evening, moviegoers can chow down on Cascade Drive-in's concessions or dump their own charcoal into the theater's onsite grill to simmer feasts for friends gathered in the picnic area.
Tressa Thomas has a résumé most performers would envy. She launched her career on stage with dozens of performances throughout Chicago as both a solo singer and band member. She landed a role in Robert Townsend’s film about 1960s R&B music, The Five Heartbeats, which led to a duet with the legendary Patti LaBelle on the film’s soundtrack.
This was all before Thomas turned 13.
Since then, her momentum hasn’t slowed—it’s just swerved in a few new directions. The Columbia College grad was cast in other movies (including Flatliners and Message in a Bottle), produced three independent shorts, and worked on a fourth that came just short of an Academy Award nomination. In the midst of her cinematic endeavors, she also pursued plus-sized modeling, eventually appearing in Ebony, Jet, the LA Times, and other national publications.
Given that she first started singing publicly at age three, when most children can’t yet tell the difference between music and the sound the vacuum cleaner makes, Thomas has never had an issue with confidence. But she realized that as a successful African-American, plus-sized female performer, she was a rarity. And so she decided to share her confidence with other women. She founded ThYck Troupe, a group that started modestly as a “modeling interest club” and grew into a nonprofit organization that creates performance opportunities for other plus-sized women.
Today, ThYck Troupe has gained the support of Secretary of State Jesse White and Governor Pat Quinn in its mission to enrich the Chicago arts community. In addition to mentoring young women and promoting size acceptance, the troupe produces an original web series, organizes fashion shows, and showcases performers in theatrical and musical productions. The company members represent nearly every medium of the creative arts—there are singers and dancers, poets and songwriters, models and actresses, journalists and radio personalities. With the Thyck and Fit Initiative, they broadcast a message of health as well as confidence, giving full-figured women and men the tools they need to achieve good exercise and nutrition habits at any size.