Founded in 1997 by inventive Chicago artist Sean Graney, The Hypocrites curates unorthodox theatrical endeavors with inimitable panache and an underlying emotional vulnerability. Praised by the Chicago Sun-Times for its propensity to “never do things the expected way,” The Hypocrites have applied its unconventional approach to classic texts such as The Threepenny Opera, Frankenstein, and Kafka's The Trial. Throughout the years, these productions have earned the company a trophy case of Joseph Jefferson citations, as well as an After Dark Award and a letter of recommendation from Shakespeare’s great-great-great-great grandfather.
For nearly 40 years, the Civic Opera Barber Shop has offered straightforward men's grooming services inside the Civic Opera building, with all its gold-leafed art-deco finery. A red, white, and blue barber pole outside the salon beckons potential customers while representing the three colors of human hair. Within, plush burgundy thrones elevate heads to the ideal styling height, giving the veteran barber full sway over every strand as he shaves stubble with straight razors and hot lather, cuts hair into no-nonsense styles, and trims back beards to distinguish man from wolfman.
A 15-year veteran of the Chicago theater community, Lauren Wolf returned to the Second City after recording her debut album All My Secrets in LA in 2011. Backed by a talented band—including Josh Groban’s guitarist Ricky Z—the singer and single mother has graced the stage at The House of Blues, Hard Rock Cafe, and Mayne Stage, drawing comparisons to Janis Joplin for her powerful pipes. Lauren soulfully croons lyrics inspired by her personal struggles and unfinished macramé projects set to upbeat rhythms influenced by the music of the '60s, '70s, and '80s.
Occupying a building that sprang up at the turn of the 20th century, the Irish American Heritage Center (IAHC) somehow manages to cram Ireland into one of Chicago?s city blocks. Work from Irish artists hangs in the building?s art gallery, books from Irish authors fill its library, Irish plays light up its 658-seat theater, and Irish food and drinks delight the crowd on the main floor at the Fifth Province Pub. The IAHC also has a knowledgeable staff of instructors, who teach classes on everything from Irish dance and music to Irish language and genealogy.
Chicago Sinfonietta was already markedly different from its counterparts when it played its first notes in 1987. Its founder and conductor Paul Freeman wanted to create a symphony that actually reflected the community in which it existed. The ensemble he formed brought together musicians from diverse racial and cultural backgrounds, who interpreted both classical pieces and forgotten compositions from composers of color. His concept proved successful—the symphony toured Europe, played the Kennedy Center twice, and produced 14 albums, all while tunefully demonstrating the universality of music.
Today, Chicago Sinfonietta continues to perform unique programs, and supports music education and professional development opportunities for members of underrepresented communities. Freeman retired from his post at the end of the 2011 season, passing the reins new music director Mei-Ann Chen, but his legacy lives on in the music of performers he helped get started, including classical-music legend Yo-Yo Ma.
And lets stop right there - because we're not going to get anywhere unless we acknowledge the 1,000 pound gorilla in the room. Everyone knows there are two kinds of people in this world. There are those who are along for every step of the roller-coaster sequence of set-the-stage upbeat ditties, then something-went-wrong sad crooners, and finally the hopeful-resolution-entire-cast-sings-final-chorus ballads. And then there are those who insist that musical is the basest and shallowest art form on the face of the earth.