The Hershey Theatre, conceived in 1933 by noted philanthropist and chocolatier Milton S. Hershey, stands as an opulent tribute to the performing arts. Taking architectural cues from Saint Mark’s Basilica in Venice, the foyer’s towering arches gleam with golden paint and crystal chandeliers. The blue-and-gold mosaic that leads to the main seating area is the masterwork of two German artists who spent two years on its construction. Once inside the theater, audiences might think they’ve stepped onto the streets of Venice thanks to the atmospheric ceiling, stonework facades, and gondoliers paddling them to their seats. ####Bethel Woods Center for the Arts Music has permeated the 800 manicured acres where the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts has stood since 1969, when farmer Max Yasgur agreed to let love, peace, and harmony grow wild at the very first Woodstock festival. These days, the renowned outdoor venue and cultural center continues to attract the biggest acts in music to its pavilion stage. The open-air design ensures ample ventilation on the natural sloping lawn, and a roof protects up to 15,000 fans from inclement weather and the prying eyes of Cessna pilots.
Originally founded in 1957, Old Town School of Folk Music teaches and facilitates performances of arts rooted in the traditions of diverse American and global communities. More than 700 accredited music, dance, theater, and visual-arts courses expand the cultural horizons of students of all ages and abilities, and more than 300 concerts and events reach more than 200,000 audience members every year.
Founder Frank Hamilton hoped that through his nonprofit academy "teacher and student would be partners in learning." Today, the school continues that tradition, fostering supportive learning environments that draw from an accessible education model. The school also presents performances by internationally known touring artists and Chicago's local artists?as well as its own staff and students?nearly every weekend, with free world-music concerts on Wednesday nights. Old Town School operates three facilities in Lincoln Park and Lincoln Square, including one 425-seat and two 150-seat concert halls, 64 classrooms, two music stores, a caf?, and a resource center.
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.
The Gene Siskel Film Center is as famous to Chicago film-lovers as its namesake TV film critic has been to national audiences. As the Loop's only movie house, it draws crowds with an eclectic mix of programming rather than with blockbusters and violent popcorn battles. The Film Center has been around under the umbrella of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago since 1972, and its curators are devoted to the art of cinema at least as much as the business. A typical weekend night might offer a documentary, a concert film, a foreign classic, and an innovative modern drama?maybe even a world premiere or a guest artist appearance.
The theaters themselves make it easy to be sucked into the screen, with ultra-plush stadium-style seats, a cafe that serves wine and espresso in addition to traditional concessions, and capacity for 16mm, 35mm, and digital projections. According to Chicagoist, it's not simply a pleasant moviegoing experience?"point-for-point, the Siskel is the finest place to catch a movie in Chicago."
Wrigley Rooftop's multilevel, Chicago Cubs–endorsed spaces give baseball fans bird’s-eye views of all the action taking place on historical Wrigley Field. At the 1048 Sky Lounge, spectators perch in indoor bar and lounge areas or on executive seats in the outdoor rooftop deck.
Admission gets guests access to a menu of classic game-day eats, including a southwest appetizer bar, Chicago-style hot dogs, Italian sausage, beef burgers, and chicken breasts prepared fresh by onsite chefs instead of sitting on a buffet hotplate. Meanwhile, bartenders serve up premium draughts such as Goose Island 312, Fat Tire, Amstel Light, Corona, Leinenkugel, and Blue Moon. Refreshing cups of Budweiser, Miller Lite, Coors Light, California wines, and soft drinks also join the mix while in-house photographers often snap pictures of guests. These photos are ready for immediate download, and visitors can use free WiFi to do so before checking other game scores in an effort to prove that the Internet still exists.
At The ComedySportz Theatre, audience suggestions keep an all-ages, family-friendly and fast-paced vortex of scenes, games, and songs spinning in competitive shows that pit two improv teams against each other. Inside the intimate, 149-seat theater, spontaneity rules as a referee moderates the all-ages-appropriate hilarity pitched between the Chicago Bosses and The Evanston Express. At the end of each comedic duel, the points and audience votes are tallied to determine the winning team, sentencing the losers to feed the doves that live inside the winners' top hats.
The ComedySportz Training Center's seasoned instructors also teach six-week courses in the art of improvised hilarity and the essential virtues of spontaneity, risk taking, and engagement with the moment. Through scene work, ComedySportz games, and short- and long-form improv, students learn to keep audiences roaring in order to jump-start a career or become a more affable bank robber.