Wednesday, March 31, 2010


On Saturday night the CSers went to a Chicago Bulls Game! Yes, we saw the court where Michael Jackson played (or soared, really!) and where every basketball player in the late 90s wanted to play.
Now the Bulls haven't exactly been playing very well lately, at least according to my RedEye (the Chicago social paper I read every day over my lunch break. It's waaay left of center, but it's fun so I'm addicted! Ok, moving on...) So I wasn't expecting anything outstanding, but we were expecting a decent game because the teams have similar stats. The Bulls seemed to shoot more, but the New Jersey Nets seemed to get the ball in the basket more often. It was a strange site to behold. But however they managed it, the Bulls scored over 100 points so everyone with a coupon book got a FREE BIG MAC!!! The booklets were full of coupons depending on who won in the little animated races between quarters and other entertainments. They really knew how to keep us watching! The LoveaBulls (the dancers) could have been worse, but we just wondered if they had another job besides looking pretty. Just kidding! I heard that they are expected to be in school or something like that, which would be cool. But I haven't verified that info, so don't quote me on it! Haha

Sunday night Matt, Meredith and I went down to the Rock'n'Roll McDonald's off Clark Street to enjoy our Free food! I was able to get a rare Shamrock Shake with my Big Mac. Why not, huh? That McD's is the most swankified McD's I've ever been in with two IKEA-style decorated floors with an escalator in the middle! It was slightly awkward to be eating our fast food in that nice environment, but it was fun! A novelty, even. So it was the perfect place to go for the occasion. Oh Good Times they just keep on coming :)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Marriage of Figaro at Lyric Opera Chicago

This is the paper I wrote for my final Encounter for the Arts and the City Seminar. We were told to think of something we had not encountered before and I chose opera. I interviewed members of the Lyric Opera Chorus and did some research on my own. This is the culmination of all those experiences. It's long, but I could go on and on about this incredible experience. Just ask me, I dare you ;)

On Wednesday, March 24, I attended the 7:30pm performance of Lyric Opera’s “The Marriage of Figaro.” It was a night I will never forget. The atmosphere, the music, the talent of the singers and the beloved characters they portrayed were of excellence that I have never encountered before. I cannot wait until I encounter it again. So writing about it will be close enough for now.

The evening began with meeting Martha outside the stage door to begin a personalized tour of the Lyric Opera backstage. We were able to see the dressing rooms, the prop department and wig making department. All the designers were in the shops and willing to show us around. The wigmaster, Richard Jarvie, showed us each of the stages of wig making and told us most people are trained in one of the steps, but everyone on his staff knows how to do all the steps; fitting, placing the hair and styling the hair. It was incredible to see how they did it! The costume shop was huge! The ladies in the costume shop showed us around the halls of costumes, the lines of mannequins and the wash rooms. They wash all the clothes that touch skin after every performance. That’s a lot of work! Martha also showed us some of the rehearsal space for the dancers and singers. Someone was in the middle of an audition! As we walked around, we could hear people warming up in their rooms. No one was in the dressing room yet, so we wandered a bit and saw all the fun stuff they had on their mirrors. I liked how they had the costumes in hung on bars in the middle of the room. It was an ingenious set up.

Next, Martha also showed us back stage. We walked where everyone in the cast was going to be walking, waiting and performing a few hours later. What an exhilarating feeling! It really made me miss performing. We had to crane our necks as we tried to see through the seven floors of ropes, curtains and backdrops! The set blew my mind at how simple yet effective it was. Usually in our high school productions it was a miracle if we could make a set floor straight, but this stage set was made to tilt up on purpose so that every character could be seen as they walked around. Brilliant! To change the rooms they left the main floor and moved in up to four pieces to make the rest of the room with windows, furniture and other important features like the closet and gazebos. It was mind boggling to see those up close and then see them from the audience a few hours later.

As we left the backstage area we saw Joyce DiDanto, who played the boy Cherubino, coming in to prepare for the show. She is considered one of the best American opera singers today. I was surprised to see her with a boot on her foot! She had previously been in a cast but now she’s on the mend. I have a feeling she jumped out the window (which is what her character does trying to escape the Count’s wrath!) and injured herself. But being that close to her was like being next to a movie star for me. And I hadn’t even seen her on stage yet and I was already stoked!

Before the opera began there was a short lecture held on the main floor. We just had to show our tickets and we could sit on the main floor as the director told us an overview of the story with some sound clips of the music we were going to hear later. This was really helpful! I would recommend that anyone going to an opera for the first time, or any time, should go to a lecture like that so that they know what they are going to see and hear.

Our seats we in the uppermost balcony, but this was the perfect spot to be. We could see everything from a bird’s eye view. The way they had the stage set up, we were always looking in from a corner of the room. We could also read the ‘supertitles’ above the stage and watch the action without having to move my head much at all. The only thing that was lost was some of the facial expressions.

The opera itself was a magnificent display of music, singing and acting. The story was a very close second to the music. The storyline is this: It is Figaro and Susanna’s wedding day. They both serve the Count and Countess as their personal servants. However, the Count is trying to prevent the wedding because he wants Susanna for himself. Of course, the Countess knows all about his floundering nature but loves him and wants to please him herself. So Figaro, Susanna and the Countess come up with a plot to trick the Count, but it falls apart because Cherubino is in the wrong place at the wrong time. Figaro denies knowing anything and that leaves the women to plot on their own. Their plan actually works as they switch places to catch the Count in his own trap. Of course it ends happily like a Shakespearean comedy. There are many pranks, misunderstandings and comments on the relationships between men and women which are still true today and very amusing.

The heightened drama as expressed through the music and the performers was almost overwhelming, but in the best way possible. Every performer was able to make their characters very three-dimensional, very human; imperfect and fun to watch. One big surprise for me was the recasting of the Countess. The original Countess fell ill and went home to Germany so Nicole Cabell took over the part. I had seen her in a televised version of La Boheme as Musetta so I was flabbergasted that I would get to see her in person! Joyce DiDanto was the perfect teenage, lovesick boy. She had the swagger down and everything! She and Nicole Cabell sang with such conviction, control and beauty that they both brought me to tears. I could hardly believe that their voices could fill up the entire gilded theatre! I kept thinking, “Am I really here? Am I really experiencing this?” My favorite character turned out to be the Count because he is someone you enjoy seeing him get fooled. He was slightly over the top, but that made his character redeemable. I surprised that the solos were pretty even among the men and women. I also appreciated that the solos were not about the soloist, but about what the character is feeling at that time. Some of my favorite songs included Cherubino’s love song, Figaro’s solo as he “rails against womankind” (direct quote from the program!), and the sextets where up to six people are singing at the same time; perfection! I remember in the Mozart movie Amadeus, when he explains to the original soloists how the song will play out and they can’t believe it will work. It does work! It’s incredible to hear. Joyce DiDanto admitted in an interview that she always has to stand in the wings and hear that part because she always notices something different. Coming from her, that’s an incredible compliment to the music.

Although the opera ended up running almost four hours, it certainly didn’t feel that long. It was a fulfilling evening! That’s what I call entertainment! Seeing opera for myself has answered the question I asked at the beginning of this project; “Why is opera still an essential part of our culture?” It is the epitome of why we go to the theater, why we listen to music and why we love movies. Opera brings all those elements together for an evening of ultimate escape and pleasure. Experiencing this cultural treasure has certainly raised the bar for everything else I will experience. I highly anticipate attending other operas in the future.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Lesley and Moira Visit

My sister Lesley and her friend Moira came to visit for the weekend!

On Friday morning I was awakened at 6am to a little voice, "We're lost" Uggg....but luckily the MegaBus was the only drama of the trip; getting here and getting back for them. It was cheaper, but not ideal. But at least they didn't have a car to worry about...

So while I was at work, they slept, had lunch, explored downtown. I recommended they see The Bean and eat and Potbelly's yumm! (Finally went there today, oh so good!) Near the end of my day, they visited me at work. They got to see my workspace, meet one of my supervisors and see Lesley's face staring back at them from the picture of her I keep in my office. Moira thought it was sweet! haha

That evening we went to Fresh Choice for supper and were entertained at the Second City comedy club! We saw the mini show called "Wait! It gets better." They were little skits set up randomly, kind of like SNL, but on a smaller scale. The actors were very talented and funny. I think our favorite skit was called, "You are the Key" where a girl sang a ballad to the boy she had a crush on. It was funny because of all the crazy things she was comparing her love for him to including, "I love you like paralysis loves Chris Reeves!" and other outrageous parallels. The whole show was definitely a giggle fest :)

On Saturday we slept in, watched some Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, got ready and equipped ourselves for the day with Starbucks and scones (classic!). We explored the Gold Coast shopping venues! They are both fashonistas, what else would please them more!?! We were amazed by Barney's style and prices, laughed at all the crazy books and gadgets at Urban Outfitters, tried to figure out how the tube scarf at American Apparel could be a dress and oo-ed and ahh-ed at the Harry Winston Diamonds. The surprise stop of the journey was at the snowboarding shop Burton! Lesley got a new black fleece, of course, which looked awesome on her! We were gawking over all the cool pants, gloves and coats! They had a really cute zip-up sweater, but it was just a tad bit more than I wanted to spend. We also stopped in the Gimongous Forever 21 where we each got a new outfit! I found a cute sundress, Moira got a Tim Burton-esk skirt and Lesley got a little black eyelet dress. At Urban Outfitters I got her another dress and a sweater for her B-day present :) Although the fleece was the same price, so you could argue that I got her that, or at least made it possible for her to get it keehee We rounded up the trip by exploring Water Tower Place. (Love that fountain!)

After wearing the girls out from running from store to store in the awful weather, we got dressed up and went to Tavern on Rush. It's the nicest restaurant in the district and thanks to Mom and Dad giving us a good sum of money, we were able to go. We chose that place because we thought that I could use a coupon that Lesley gave me, but that was not so...the website and the card say it, but the computers aren't hooked up...lame! But the food was totally worth it!

Les and I both had sirloin steak with horseradish mashed potatoes and Moira had a pork chop with an Idaho-sized potato! For dessert we split a mango sorbet IN a mango skin! It was all excellent! We were giggling so much over the food, and particularly the presentation and the soothing sensation of the sorbet, that the waiter himself was quite amused at our enjoyment too! We were impressed with his memory because while we were looking at the menu he gave a grand presentation of the Meat! Each cut they offer was on a huge platter, wrapped in saran wrap so we could see the cut. He pointed out the fat and bone and told us everything it came with; yes, everything! He was tipped well! I think I'm still full from that meal, oh boy!

I was sad to see them leave because we had such a wonderful time. I really enjoyed the time with Lesley and getting to know her fabulous friend Moira. We've been told that we should meet and I'm very glad we have.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

St. Patrick's Day(s)!!!

This has to be the Best St. Patrick's Day celebration I have ever experienced! All the people and buildings were all decked out in GREEN! Including the Sears Tower :) It was also a great excuse to listen to my Celtic music. *melt* 
All the green actually started the Friday before the official day...
Friday during work, out of Bill's window (on the 18th floor) we could see on the bank of the river a Giant McDonald's Shamrock Shake! It was a plastic cup tipped over with the 'shake' substance 'spilling' out of it. They were putting the cherry in the structure when we saw it. Ronald McDonald was there too in all his jolliness as well. There were cameras and people looking at the structure as they passed. I think they were giving out free samples too! 
Saturday morning we went to the River as a group to see them dye the river GREEN! It was an awesome neon green! They make it green with a powder vegetable mix that looks orange-brown. The dyers dumped the powder over the edge of their boats. There was another boat that came in behind them to mix it all up so that the whole section of the river around the Michigan Ave bridge was nice and green :) That was certainly worth the wait in the cold for me! 
Every night following the dying of the river, the bars around us were busy every night! It was sometimes hard to get home through all the people on the sidewalk, but now that they are gone I appreciate the room. haha
On Wednesday for our Arts in the City class, we had a special guest, Patrick Finnegan, who plays Irish flutes and has learned all the traditional songs and how to play them. He helped start the Irish School of Music at the Old Town School of Folk Music. He played some tunes for us and taught us the difference between a jig and a reel. We even learned how to dance a little, we played some of his flutes and learned about the oral history of Irish music and how Chicago has been a big part of that history being saved. Police Chief O'Neil of  Chicago wrote down many of the tunes in the early 1900s. To this day the police force has an Irish band who play at police funerals. He was probably one of my favorite presenters for class. 
Later that night we went to the Old Town School of Folk Music to hear the students. One group of students actually competed in Ireland and came in second place! That means they are one of the best Irish bands in the world! And we got to hear them first hand!
Keeley and I left early from that concert to hear the band she's been promoting for the past few weeks, The Tossers! They were fantastic! We were 'geeking out' because we were able to tell if the songs they played were jogs or reels. They mostly played reels because those are in 4/4. The jogs tended to be slower because they are 3/4 like a waltz. And they even had the same structure of AABBAABB (or something like that) for the pattern of the tunes. They had all the same elements of the traditional band like a violin/fiddle, flutes, and a mandolin (or the Irish version of one that has a longer neck), except The Tossers also had bass and drum set where the traditional bad doesn't have much bass or harmony, but they do have those cool hand drums that you play with two sides of a stick! Love those! Overall, it was really fun to compare and contrast the experience of two seemingly different Irish bands. 

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Weekend with Daniel

Daniel David Donkersloot came to visit me this weekend! It was the perfect weekend for him to come; the sun was out, it wasn't too cold, no snow or rain. But that was just the weather ;) We didn't make any solid plans, which with him is the only time I ever do that, so we explored the city. We found Navy Pier, Millenium Park and many hidden treasures including (but not limited to) piegeons, cool reflections of buildings, funny signs and interesting people and buildings. Navy Pier was my favorite. I didn't realize how much I miss the coast; being next to the water, seeing the boats, even the sea gulls! Never thought I would miss them, but they turned out to be fun to watch. One little guy in particular was landing on the water, but didn't realize it was frozen on top! That was one confused bird.

Later we met up with Rachel and Matt to go see Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. It wasn't as weird as I thought it was going to be, which is why I liked it. I forgot how concrete his messages tend to be. But I did love his interpretations of the characters. Johnny Depp was excellent at being crazy but likeable. Alice was perfectly cast and you rooted for her the entire time. The other character I enjoyed was the Cheshire Cat with his blue stripes and teethy grin :D He was mystical and a comic relief. Overall, I enjoyed the escape into Wonderland.

On Sunday we went to LaSalle Street Church. It was very different for me because it was hard to idetify where they got their traditions. They are a nondominational church which allowed them a lot of freedom, but I would still consider them traditional. The sermon was about the deadly sin of greed. The pastor was able to connect the story of Lot to how our culture percieves money and wealth today. We are supposed to be ambitious, but at what cost to ourselves?

After church we found an awesome sushi place on Michigan Ave called Hot Woks, Cool Sushi. It didn't look all that impressive, but inside was very welcoming! I had an Alaskan variety of sushi with salmon and crab and fish eggs! The chopsticks were big, heavy and thick to make it easier to eat the rolls. They were very decently priced, and my tummy was so happy! I can't describe it any other way because you don't think that five little pieces are going to do you much good, but if you take your time, enjoy your company, sip your jasmine tea, then you will be full in tummy and heart. What a wonderful experience!

Daniel's time went fast, but it was quality because he got to see the city and the people that I love. All except Keeley who was gone at home due to a death in her family. Prayers for her and the family would be wonderful. She just got back tonight, it's so nice having all of us together again.