The arts live on, despite the corona pandemic

Hedy Weiss introduces art that can be enjoyed from home during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The city of Jerusalem inspired a collection of monoprints by artist Beth Herman Adler. This print, First Station, is set in the city’s Train Track Park.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a devastating impact on the arts and artists, temporarily erasing the unique give-and-take with the audience that is the essence of live performance. For the moment, the stage (as well as museums and galleries) has ceded to the virtual world, but it is inevitable that with time-and considerable pain and loss-that crucial relationship will be restored. Meanwhile, here are a few suggestions for fending off the tedium of life under quarantine.



The monoprints of Beth Herman Adler


Brooklyn-born, Evanston-based artist Beth Herman Adler confesses that a trip to Israel was not at the very top of her destination list. But it was the first choice of her husband, Tony Adler, the longtime theater critic and editor at The Reader , who was about to celebrate his 65th birthday and had long wanted to visit the country. 

So, last spring, the couple flew to Israel for a visit that included stops in Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Masada, Haifa, Safed, and Eilat (on the way to Petra, in Jordan). And as it turned out, the trip proved to be what graphic designer and printmaker Adler describes as "a revelatory experience, a source of great inspiration, and an experience that gave me a new connection to Judaism."

A graduate of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago-which marked a detour from her parents' advice to study law, and where she first became intrigued with silkscreening-Adler went on to jobs as a graphic designer at the Field Museum and as curator of graphics for the Lincoln Park Zoo, where she created signage, posters, and banners. She then worked as a freelance designer for the Chicago Historical Society, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, and Shedd Aquarium. Along the way she married, raised two sons, and launched her own design business.

In recent years she has increasingly focused on creating work that has found its way into many gallery shows, and both private and corporate collections. She also makes journals-handmade specialty books.

"By day, Tony and I visited museums and took photos, and at night I worked on a journal," said Adler. "One Shabbat evening Tony and I walked five miles along the old train tracks in Jerusalem-through the city and into the hills, passing through many different neighborhoods. My time in Israel really informed my future work."

The best way to experience Adler's work these days is to visit her website-an online gallery at hermanadler.com-where you can see her series, "Inspired By Modernism," as well as her stunning "Jerusalem" monoprints on handmade paper that capture the spirit of the Old City and the Western Wall ("where birds nest in spaces between the rocks and fly out at sundown"), the Bauhaus-influenced section of Tel Aviv, and more.

As Adler explained: "What I loved most was how layered everything is in Israel, and how in the city of David, you can see the roots of Jews, Muslims, and Christians. That layering felt very right in my prints."

David Cale's eye for photography

Actor/playwright/songwriter David Cale was born and raised in the English town of Luton. But he has made his home in New York since 1979, and has long considered Chicago one of his primary artistic homes, most notably by way of his long association with the Goodman Theatre. It is at the Goodman that he has performed many of his one-man shows including, in 2018, his haunting, music-infused autobiographical work, We're Only Alive for a Short Amount of Time , in which he talked about his deeply dysfunctional family life, his passion for birds, and more.

Those who follow Cale on Facebook also know that he is a remarkable photographer who not only posts his own photos-exquisite pictures of birds, flowers, and idyllic Manhattan landscapes taken on his iPhone-but is a terrific photo archivist/curator of sorts. Not only does he post the work of such classic masters as Brassai, Henri Cartier Bresson, Art Shay, and Martha Swope, but he showcases the pictures of such contemporary finds as Bence Mate, a dazzling young Hungarian wildlife photographer; British-born Jo Coyne; France's Diane Doniol-Valroze; and other photographers whose work can be found on Twitter at #WomensArt. You also can take a shortcut and go directly to Cale's Facebook page at facebook.com/david.cale.98.

One man's meditation on Disneyland

I reviewed the Jeff Award-winning Sideshow Theatre production of The Happiest Place on Earth - writer/actor Philip Dawkins' one-man show-in 2016, when it was produced at the Greenhouse Theatre Center. And I still vividly remember its irresistibly quirky charm.

I described the show as "the story of three generations of Dawkins' matriarchal-centered, Albuquerque-based family, and a caustic but touching anthropological study of Disneyland, that 'magical kingdom' that opened in California in 1955, and has been supplying very different illusions to parents and children ever since." I also noted that "Dawkins cagily conjures a fascinating portrait of himself, and of America, with all its unsettling mix of dark denial and sweet nostalgia."

Now, Sideshow is offering a "pay-as-you-wish" online streaming run of the show that will continue through Spring. To register, visit sideshowtheatre.org/stream. 

'Unorthodox,' a breakaway miniseries on Netflix

Unorthodox , the four-part German-American miniseries now on Netflix, is loosely based on Deborah Feldman's 2012 autobiographical book, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots . And true to its title, it breaks with tradition in many ways, including the fact that it is spoken primarily in Yiddish (with English subtitles).

The series spins around 19-year-old Esty, born and raised in Williamsburg, Brooklyn as part of the strictly religious Satmar sect of Hasidic Jews. One year into her arranged marriage to Yanky, she feels suffocated by the narrow possibilities for women in her insular community, and she runs away to Berlin in search of freedom in this story that is at once touching and insightful.

Hedy Weiss, a longtime Chicago arts critic, was the Theater and Dance Critic for the  Chicago Sun-Times  from 1984 to 2018, and currently writes for  WTTW-TV's  website and contributes to the  Chicago Tonight  program.



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