Now that spring is finally here and the permafrost has thawed, we can once more venture out to fascinating cultural offerings without worrying about our cars being plowed in or covered with a foot of snow at the end of the night. After the winter we had, we might need a glass of wine to get through it all, or maybe four, which is fitting given that this month is Passover. Here's our "Seder" of arts and culture events for April:
Retired University of Illinois Professor of English Michael Shapiro and award winning novelist and poet Professor Elizabeth Klein Shapiro discuss American-Jewish poets and their work in this two part discussion on American Jewish Poetry. The talk will address the struggles for balance of faith, identity, Israel, gender, politics, and anti-Semitism through the medium of poetry. Tuesdays, April 1 and 8, 7:30pm at Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation, Dodge, Evanston
David Broza (in his third Chicago appearance this year), Keren Ann, Sean Altman are confirmed to participate in City Winery's Downtown Seder. This pre-Passover performance serves up seconds from the flagship New York location as well as what are sure to be additions of local favorites and other performers yet to be announced. In addition to performances, the ticket price includes the mandatory four cups of wine plus a Seder-like meal with vegetarian and kosher options, plus almost all the Manischewitz matzoh you can manage. $70 -$180. April 8th at 7:30pm, City Winery, 1200 W. Randolph, Chicago.
Under the Same Sun is an interesting new film from Palestinian director Sameh Zoabi made jointly in the US, the Palestinian Authority, and Israel. It is presented as part of the Chicago Palestine Film Festival at the Gene Siskel FIlm Center. Set in the imaginable future, the film portrays two businessmen, one Israeli and the other Palestinian, who come together to revolutionize the energy needs of the middle east- and the world - through a solar-energy joint venture. Their efforts to relieve the suffering bridges cultural, linguistic and political divides, but forces in their respective societies work to sabotage their collaboration. When the pair take to social media to promote themselves, they unexpectedly foment a snowballing, grassroots push for peace among the people of both nations. It sounds like fantasy, and sadly it exactly that. Still, it is marvelous to dream that peace could be so easy and it stirs hope to know that others still dream this way, and that the message is important enough to include in this festival. It is worth noting that Hebrew and even Yiddish are present in several of the Palestinian films presented this month, including Omar, Mars at Sunrise and Corner Stores. Sunday, April 20, 5:00 pm & Thursday, April 24, 8:15 pm Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N. State Street, Chicago.
A very different demonstration of bridging more local divides is the annual "Sounds of Faith" concert on April 6, bringing together the music of the three Abrahamic faiths. The interfaith event with feature Hazzan Alberto Mizrahi, Schola Antiqua of Chicago, The Islamic Foundation Children's Choir, Beth Shalom B'nai Zaken Ethiopian Hebrew Choir, the thrilling Dexter Walker, and the Zion Movement gospel Choir. Father Apostolos of St. Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church and Cantor Aviva Katzman. "Sound is what binds us together. Sound unites people to a higher being and to one another," says Dr. Shakeela Hassan, founder of Harran Productions Foundation and creator of the "Sounds of Faith" concept. "All who hear it will be mesmerized by the sound, music, story, and voices that emanate from this world class ensemble." $20. Sunday, April 6, from
3-5 p.m. at Anshe Emet Synagogue, 3751 N. Broadway, Chicago.
It's been 50 years since the Broadway team of Sheldon Harnick and Jerry Bock debuted their most popular and enduring work, Fiddler on the Roof. The 1964 musical theatre setting of the stories of Yiddish writer Sholom Aleichem's Tevye the Milkman and his Daughters was a love letter to the team's immigrant generation parents and the romanticized Jewish life of Eastern Europe. It became a universally beloved piece for its portrayal of the timeless struggle that in every culture to balance tradition and change in family and community life. Once of the longest running Broadway productions ever, it was followed by film adaptations and thousands of productions in dozens of languages all around the world. A triptych of programs at Spertus celebrates and investigates the musical five decades after its debut.
Author and Columbia University teacher Dr. Alisa Solomon will lead a discussion of the musical's tremendous cultural impact and longevity as well as sign her book, Wonder of Wonders: A Cultural History of Fiddler on the Roof. $10-18. Sunday, April 6 at 5:30 pm. The 1971 MGM movie production of the musical starring Chaim Topol will be shown on the big screen and in full sound. Should be fun to sing along. Free. Sunday, April 6 at 5:30 pm. A rare screening of the 1939 Yiddish language film Tevye, on which the Fiddler on the Roof was largely based, will be screened with English subtitles. A post-screening discussion will be led by arts critic Andrew Patner. $10 - $18. Monday, April 7, 2014 6:30 pm. All three events take place at Spertus Institute, 610 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago.
Speaking of Fiddler, Theo Bikel will make a Chicago appearance at Congregation Am Shalom's program "Yesterday | Today | Tomorrow." Bikel is truly a cultural treasure for his depth and breadth of knowledge of Jewish and especially Yiddish music. He will be joined onstage by contemporary liturgical songwriter, empresario, and performer Craig Taubman and singer/songwriter and YouTube sensation Michelle Citrin. 6:30pm Saturday, April 26th at Am Shalom, 840 Vernon, Glencoe.
Adam Davis is the Cantorial Soloist at Congregation Sukkat Shalom in Wilmette as well as founder and executive director of KFAR Jewish Arts Center,a leading presenter and advocate of contemporary Jewish arts, music, and culture programs in and around Chicago. For more information on these events or to make suggestions or offer feedback, e-mail Adam at email@example.com or call (773) 362-4760.