September has long been the month of exuberant beginnings in the performing arts world, as subscription series for the theater, ballet, symphony, and opera were set in motion, and announcements of future events reached far into the winter and spring. But with the pandemic still untamed, that is not how it will be for the foreseeable future. The joy of live performance, though, looms large in the imaginations of wishful thinkers who are daring to hope for a return to some version of normalcy by mid-2021.
Exploring Stoppard's 'Leopoldstadt' at Court:
In the meantime, artists and leaders of arts organizations continue to explore the potential of the virtual, harnessing all available resources to keep their audiences engaged and challenged.
Here are a few suggestions for chasing away the empty calendar Covid-19 blues, all with "a Jewish twist."
Tom Stoppard, the Czech-born British playwright, is renowned for such brainy, linguistically clever works as
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead
(a riff on
The Real Thing
(a meditation on adultery),
(in which an English country house is the backdrop for ideas about everything from history and mathematics to landscape gardening and lust), and
The Coast of Utopia
(a trilogy dealing with the philosophical roots of the Russian Revolution).
His latest play,
, which opened in London shortly before the pandemic forced its early closure, follows the fates of the members of two intermarried Viennese Jewish families and all the convulsive events they were caught up in between 1899 and 1955.
For years, Stoppard, now 83, delighted in referring to himself as "a bounced Czech"--a winningly witty capsule version of his background that, as it turned out, was a great deal more complicated than that clever bit of wordplay suggested. Born in 1937, in what is now the Czech Republic, Stoppard's family fled to Singapore just before the Nazi onslaught. After the death of his father, he and his mother and brother moved on to British India before finally settling with his new stepfather in England in 1945. But it wasn't until the 1990s that Stoppard learned that all his grandparents were Jewish, and that they all had been murdered in the Holocaust.
Illinois Holocaust Museum now live and virtual:
Employing all the health and safety measures needed during the COVID era, and then some, the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center in Skokie opened its doors to the public on July 15, and has had an enthusiastic response in terms of visitor traffic. (Admission is free on Wednesdays through 2020.)
Two special exhibits now on view have been extended, including
They Shall Be Counted: The Theresienstadt Ghetto Art of Erich Lichtblau-Leskly
(running through June 27, 2021), and the exceptionally popular
Notorious RGB: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg
(through Jan. 3, 2021).
They Shall Be Counted
is a collection of original paintings and drawings by Erich Lichtblau-Leskly who, while imprisoned in the Terezin concentration camp,--depicted the daily life of its residents with all its complications and ironies. And, as intriguingly explained in notes from the museum: "In the spring of 1945, Lichtblau-Leskly cut most of his sketches into pieces. His wife, Elsa Lichtblau, hid the fragments under the floorboards of the barracks, and the artist was able to retrieve them after liberation. While living in Israel in the 1950s and '60s, he reworked the fragments into larger watercolor illustrations and both original sketches and full-size watercolor artworks are on display in this exhibit."
For those who would prefer to stay at home, the museum offers a variety of virtual viewing possibilities of these exhibits as well. For details, visit
Modern designer stages Elmhurst Art Museum exhibit:
The West Suburban-based Elmhurst Art Museum reopened June 30. And on exhibit in several rooms of its historic McCormick House--the 1952 structure designed by famed modernist architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe that is part of the museum's campus--is "A Space Problem: Organized by David Salkin," running through Nov. 15.
Trained as an architect, Chicago-based David Salkin now focuses on the art and design of custom rugs and wall coverings. Drawing on the work of five other contemporary designers, he has curated and decorated a series of rooms that is described as "an exhibit outfitted with paintings, ceramics, photo collages, and other design objects [including Salkin's rugs] that is a combination of new and vintage works."
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.