"What’s past is prologue," William Shakespeare once wrote, but this weekend proves that drawing on the past makes for a pretty excellent present. Lillstreet Arts Center and Delmark Records both celebrate birthdays, appropriately marking their milestones with art-making festivities and live blues, respectively. An anniversary isn’t required to have fun with history, though; elsewhere, photographer David Gremp showcases images from late-’70s Chicago, ArchiTech Gallery spotlights rough drafts from acclaimed 20th-century designers, and a pair of improvisers adapts the work of Shakespeare himself into a madcap two-man show.
Delmark Records 60th Anniversary Blues Show
Chicago blues label celebrates its sixth decade with performances by blues legends, such as Tail Dragger and Jimmy Burns.
When: Friday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: SPACE | Evanston
Tip: After the show, pay homage to Robert Johnson's midnight trip to the crossroads by grabbing a bite of Greek-American cuisine at Cross Rhodes.
In the world of blues LPs, time is divided in two: the decades before Junior Wells's Hoodoo Man Blues, and the revolutionary years that followed. The first blues album to showcase a full set rather than a series of singles, the 1965 recording captures the exuberant spirit of Junior's live act and the vibrant sound of a Chicago music scene at the height of its power. The late bluesman was one among many in the Delmark Records family, whose 1960s and ‘70s stars included legends such as Mighty Joe Young and Otis Rush.
The Delmark Records 60th Anniversary Blues Show celebrates the label’s six decades of achievement with a show featuring salty veterans and budding talent alike. Performers at the Friday night showcase include Tail Dragger, guitarist Lurrie Bell, and Mike Wheeler, who's shared previous stages with icons including Buddy Guy and B.B. King. Thanks to SPACE’s intimate confines (no seat is farther than 40 feet from the stage), guests can catch an intimate glimpse of masters at work without having to perch all night on band members' shoulders.
David Gremp's Chicago 78/79
Taken in 1978 and 1979, a series of 30 prints captures the city's shop owners, baseball fans, and neighborhoods.
When: Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Where: Alibi Fine Art | Ravenswood
Tip: Read up on more Chicago history at Sulzer Regional Library, one of the 60+ public library branches to open after David Gremp's project.
For his year-long residency with the Chicago Council on Fine Arts, David Gremp had a simple task: snap pictures of the Chicago Public Library's nine branches and the neighborhoods they served. As the Chicago Reader revealed in its approving review, David's 100 rolls of film yielded 150 black-and-white prints, capturing everything from pennant-waving fans at Wrigley Field to young sweethearts posing outside Mendel High School. Rarely seen until now, 30 of those prints get their belated coming-out party at Alibi Fine Art's Chicago 78/79, which ends its summer-long run this Saturday. Taken together, the photographs form a distinct portrait of the city on the cusp of the Reagan era, highlighting the ways Chicago has simultaneously grown and remained the same in the ensuing decades.
Rough draft sketches and blueprints from luminaries of 20th-century design including Frank Lloyd Wright and George Fred Keck.
When: Friday–Saturday, noon to 5 p.m.
Where: ArchiTech Gallery | River North
Tip: After perusing Frank Lloyd Wright's sketches, check out some of his finished products on tours of former Wright haunts in Oak Park and North Shore.
The starting points from which rich ideas emerge, rough drafts mostly remain hidden in drawers or woven into the sleeves of artists’ lucky coats. Design 1810–1995 shines a light on these unpolished beginnings, giving viewers a glimpse at the brainstorms of some of 20th-century design's most influential figures. The assemblage of blueprint excerpts and freehand drawings on tissue paper include sketches by George Fred Keck, wallpaper designs by Frank Lloyd Wright, and toy car designs by Ron Martelet. The exhibit even reaches back to 1810 with engravings from a British scientific journal that foreshadow the types of machinery that would later dominate the Industrial Revolution.
Ghost Dad: A Two-Man Hamlet
Two comedic actors distill Shakespeare's tragedy into a semi-improvised show.
When: Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: The Public House Theatre | Lakeview/Wrigleyville
Cost: $15; $10 for students
Tip: The show is 18+, though younger Shakespeare fans can get their Bard fix with Twelfth Night at Oak Park Festival Theatre or The Comedy of Errors, part of Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks. Like Ghost Dad, both productions end this weekend.
There are nearly 30 characters in Shakespeare's Hamlet, from the titular Prince of Denmark to bit parts such as "Third Player." But Ghost Dad, Griffin Sharps's semi-improvised adaptation of the classic tragedy, doesn't have 30 actors at its disposal—it only has two. Performers Bryan Duff and Mitch Salm distill Shakespeare’s five-act opus into a 75-minute romp of uproarious accents, Bard-inspired riffs, and expertly timed physical routines. The result, according to a glowing review from Chicago Theater Beat, is a “hilariously reimagined” production fueled by the sharp comedic instincts of its stars.
Lillstreet's 10th Anniversary Block Party
The art center celebrates its first decade with art-making projects, live music, and free local food and drink.
When: Saturday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Where: Lillstreet Loft | Ravenswood
Tip: Besides the block party, Lillstreet's weekend-long 10th anniversary includes an exhibition of coffee-related ceramics, an open house, and a meet-and-greet for artisans and businesses.
With its residencies, gallery, studio space, and outreach program, the Lillstreet Art Center has served as Ravenswood’s hub for local art since 2003. To celebrate its first decade as an artistic incubator, Lillstreet's team is doing what it does best: making art. At the center's 10th anniversary block party, visitors can leave their mark during a community mural-painting project, watch youngsters produce masterworks at the kids’ art station, or take in a live painting demonstration from TJ Kiser. TJ isn’t the only artist showcasing his skills—Baby Money and Can I Get an Amen each present their take on folk music, and brewers exhibit their beer-making process during live demos. Free libations and treats from neighborhood vendors such as Koval Distillery, Half Acre Beer Company, and Margie's Candies also celebrate the art found in a well-prepared snack.