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.
While audiences laugh it up at the rib-tickling comedians, Morty's slick performance space entertains their eyes. Eschewing the dowdy aesthetic of many comedy clubs, Morty's features sleek, modern tables and chairs and a wood-paneled bar. A full menu of tasty food, meanwhile, quells hunger while drinks and craft beers cool tongues and help keep people from spontaneously combusting.
Founded in 1884, the Mendelssohn Performing Arts Center is among the oldest community music organizations in the U.S., inviting patrons into its halls year after year to support and experience the excitement of live music. The center is home to the Mendelssohn Chamber Orchestra, which won the 2011 award for Best Chamber Orchestra from the Illinois Council of Orchestras. The group of in-residence musicians keep fans of classical music thoroughly entertained with concerts throughout the year and tag-team wrestling matches between the string and brass sections.
Designed to mimic the French palace of Versailles, Rialto Square Theatre's magnificent interior awes showgoers with its gilded opulence. In the regal inner lobby, a 20-foot, 250-light chandelier?dubbed The Duchess?illuminates a circular series of delicate reliefs that depict allegories of man triumphing through labor and scenes from Greek mythology. A scaled-down replica of Paris's Arc de Triomphe leads from the lobby to the rotunda, adding to the space's grandeur and commemorating miniature Napoleon's victory at the adorable Battle of miniature Austerlitz.
Metropolis Performing Arts Center enriches the community with the beauty and culture of the theater, so it only makes sense that their version of a 5K is intensely theatrical. Dressed as a favorite stage, screen, or TV character, participants walk, jog, and monologue their way through a route that rolls by the verdant lawns and tree-lined streets of Arlington Heights. Twists and turns down Walnut and Maple and Chestnut streets breaks up Evergreen and Highland Avenue straightaways, and prizes at the finish line reward out-of-breath thespians for creating the best group or individual costumes.
After more than a decade spent establishing an innovative contemporary dance company in Santa Fe, Foster Dance Studios founder Ronn Stewart has touched down once more in a studio beside the Foster Purple Line stop. As the flipside of training the pros of the Joffrey Ballet, Stewart stretches an artistic arm toward as wide a student base as possible with his trademark MoPeD—or More People Dancing—curriculum. Exercises designed to develop rich internal imagery and a strong connection to one's body bear fruit in fluid, aerobic movements that spring from within each student. The center's inclusive philosophy extends to Everybody Move classes, where young children develop motor skills that go beyond racecar imitation by twirling scarves in the air, bouncing balls, and playing musical instruments. The newly constructed studios also find room for Gyrotronic fitness classes and dance schooling in nearly every established mode, along with vivid abstract art accidentally produced by a dancer in a just-painted tutu.