A nonprofit theater helmed by passionate cinephiles, Facets Cinematheque instills a love of film in its youngest moviegoers through its groundbreaking children's programs. Since establishing their first children's film exhibition series in 1975, the theater's stewards have branched out into education and outreach, introducing students to positive films and the inspiring stories behind them through channels including family film events, in-school screenings, and the Facets Kids Film Camp. They also oversee the Chicago International Children’s Film Festival, which presents hundreds of films from around the globe during its annual autumn run. Though the festival caters to its smallest attendees, its scope is impressively large; welcoming over 20,000 attendees each year, the festival often offers the first screenings of award-winning fare, such as recent Academy Award winner The Fantastic Flying Books Of Mr. Morris Lessmore.
In addition to their children's programming, the theater also lights up its silver screen with indie films, award winners, foreign flicks, and documentaries. Celluloid-caretakers curate a collection of reels that seldom see screenings elsewhere in Chicago, frequently enjoying their city debut within the intimate 125-seat theater. Occasionally, production-team members or film experts join audiences immediately following the show for Q&A sessions—known as film dialogues—taking questions, exploring themes, and providing tips for removing stubborn popcorn kernels from teeth. Upcoming films can be found on Facets’ website.
Eyeballs absorb moving pictures thanks to the dual capabilities of Facets’ projection system, which handles digital and 35 mm films with equal aplomb. While the ephemeral stories fill brains with new ideas, soda and popcorn—acquirable at the old-fashioned concession stand—fill mouths with flavors that have defined every classic moviegoing experience since Orson Welles first invented the snack.
Chicago Elevated, run by effusive improv veteran Margaret Hicks, leads curious charges on eclectic group, private, and custom tours of the city. Jaunts lead natives and tourists alike through the city’s oft-overlooked nooks and crannies as Hicks’s jovial voice narrates every step, shedding light on secret areas and easily overlooked historic sites. Her pedway tour sojourns into Chicago’s tiled subterranean antecity, where retailers, restaurants, and mole people mingle. Tours explore sites of famous disasters, visit the ghostly red-light district that once stretched below what is now Printer’s Row, and gaze at downtown’s ornate architecture from the riverwalk.
Stationed in Wrigleyville after college, Hicks accrued the healthy sense of humor and comedic timing that pepper each tour at Second City, iO, and other theaters. Though she attempted a move to New York City, Hicks soon discovered she couldn’t stay away from Chicago’s majestic skyline or the skyscrapers’ subtly receding hairlines. A stint in the Chicago Architecture Foundation’s docent program, as well as acting as a tour guide for six years, arm her with insider’s knowledge that soon transfers to listeners’ brains.
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.
Simply put, Players Sport & Social Group helps more than 60,000 people each year get together, meet new friends, and have fun. The two-decade-old company has more than doubled in size in the last five years, due in no small part to the wide variety of sports leagues and clinics that it offers at venues throughout the city. Teams or individuals can sign up for sports ranging from dodge ball to beach volleyball to games of "bags," otherwise known as cornhole. Players can check their weekly standings online and review each sport's rules, learning exactly what is considered a foul in kickball or how to dispose of a football opponent's captured flag by burning it in a respectful ceremony.
The company also hosts and sponsors social events such as happy hours, fundraisers, and the Luau: a 55,900-participant grass-volleyball tournament with DJ music, food, and beer. Similarly, The Big Dig volleyball tournament offers the same mix of munchies, brews, and live entertainment, but on the sands of North Avenue Beach.