Sunday, January 25, 2009

Actually, I Do Mourn the Wicked

Wicked closed in Chicago today after 1,500 shows. 1,500 shows! In a city that is not exactly known for theatre, although they say that the theatre district is "emerging." We do have some beautiful theatres here, including the Oriental Theatre, where Wicked has lived since July 13, 2005.

I first saw it in summer 2006 with my mom--her traditional birthday present to me. Every summer since 2005, we've seen a show together. In '05, it was Lion King, Wicked in '06, The Color Purple in '07, and Jersey Boys just a few months ago. We've also seen Les Misérables in Chicago within the past 6 or 7 years, and I saw Phantom of the Opera in '04 or '05. So it's not like we see every show that comes to Chicago, but I've seen quite a few, and although Les Mis remains my favourite musical, I think that Wicked is my favourite production.

I had the lucky opportunity to see Wicked twice this month, since my friend Alana came to Chicago for it. She's a big fan. We won the ticket lottery before the show on her first night in town and got to see the show from limited view seats in the front row for just $25 each. For an incredible night of music and theatre, what a deal! I was so impressed with Annaleigh Ashford, who was Chicago's final Glinda, and probably its best. She's hilarious, adorable, and has an incredible range--the most essential qualities for Glinda. Although Kristin Chenoweth, who originated the role, is a sentimental favourite of mine, I think Ashford is a close second. Dee Roscioli carried the role of Elphaba for Chicago for some time through to the closing, and she has such a beautiful voice.

As with all musicals, there's an element of cheesiness and predictability, but I really credit the writers for taking a rather cumbersome and overly political book with a cool concept and turning it into a blockbuster show.

And "For Good" never fails to make me cry.

Good news, though. Wicked is still touring (now on two national tours, plus productions in New York, London, Amsterdam, Tokyo, and probably somewhere else I've forgotten), so be sure to catch it if it stops near you. Even though I've seen it three times now, I'd jump at the chance to see it again.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Church in the City

I stayed at my parents' house this weekend because the heat in my apartment could not keep up with the windchills downtown, and also so I could use my car on Saturday. Parking in the Chicago Loop is so expensive that my car has to live in the suburbs this year. It's not as frustrating as I thought it would be, and I've really embraced public transportation, but that's a story for another day.

The point of that intro is that on Sunday morning, I was getting ready to go to church with my parents, and an idea struck me. I asked my mom if she was completely committed to going to the church that we've attended since I was 3 that morning, and it turned out that she had the same idea as me. We finished getting ready, packed my bags into her car, and drove into the city to go to the service at the church I've attended a couple of times in the past month.

I'm so glad that we did. I hadn't made it to Park Community Church in the River North neighbourhood of Chicago since before Christmas, so I had no idea that the service would be the final week of a three-week series on racial reconciliation. In the times that I've attended Park before, I've absorbed that they are committed to playing an active role in their interesting community.

For those not familiar with Park, their main campus is now located in a renovated warehouse that's directly across from what used to be the Cabrini Green housing project, which was mostly torn down a few years ago. The neighbourhood is now quite diverse, with some low-income housing remaining, but there are also high-rise condominiums and townhouses.

So this year, timing their series with Martin Luther King Day and the inauguration of American's first African-American president, Park put together a series that implored its members to chip away at the prejudices that lie deep within the hearts of Americans. The message was real and raw, featuring testimonies from people who have seen prejudice at work in the church, and video clips from the fight for Civil Rights in the '60s set to clips from King's most famous speech.

The pastor mentioned all kinds of prejudice—not just racial prejudice, which is something that people do not always address. He talked about having prejudice against people who are poor, people with different sexualities, people from social backgrounds, etc. Another pastor took over the second half a message and actually read portions of one of Dr. King's sermons, offering explanations and tie-ins to today's Chicago.

Overall, I was just so impressed that this church was tackling a real issue that many other churches ignore. The second pastor even pointed out that the 11 o'clock hour on Sunday mornings is the most openly segregated hour that remains in America, with most church congregations being almost completely comprised of one race or another. He asked us to look around to verify—yes, Park Community Church was targeting racial reconciliation in a series of messages, but not because it was a battle that they had already won. Over 90% of the people in the auditorium yesterday were white, which is not at all representative of the neighbourhood or the city in general.

Perhaps it is mainly because of the church's location that the pastoral staff decided to bring this issue to light, but my mom and I were talking as we left about how that was never a message that we would have heard at our suburban church. I'm so glad to find a church in the city that appears to exist above the stereotypes that pervade so many evangelical churches. I think I'd like to attend regularly and take advantage of the opportunities to get involved in the community.

Friday, January 16, 2009


I'm not a habitual resolver in honour of the New Year, but I made pact with myself this year on January 1st. I am writer, and in 2009, I will spend at least half an hour each day writing, at least five days per week.

Enter wrist injury.

I'm not sure what I did to it, but several days into the new year, I started experiencing moderate pain in my left wrist. Writing took a back seat for a few days, and I was angry that I was already breaking my resolution.

Enter ACE wrist wrap.

It's not flashy and it was fairly cheap, but it's allowed me to get back to a normal typing schedule. Adam has admonished me (twice) typing with flat wrists, so I'm trying to remember to keep my wrists elevated, at least some of the time. It's difficult with a laptop, though.

Speaking of Adam, he's actually partially responsible for the creation of this blog, with his "all writers should have a blog" mantra. He's a friend of mine in the MFA program.

This is where, if my blog was a movie bursting with clichés, the camera would pan back abruptly and me, as narrator would say, "Whoa, whoa, whoa, I'm getting ahead of myself. I should start at the beginning." Then the shot would fade into a shot of quiet, snowy street, and I'd talk about my childhood.

Now that you're picturing that, I'll just jump on it, but I won't cover childhood. Maybe another time.

I'm a native Chicago suburbanite who has recently returned to the City of Big Shoulders after a 2-1/2-year stint in Central Michigan. While in Michigan, I earned a B.A. in English from the tiny but picturesque Olivet College, and I thought daily about all the reasons why I love Chicago. I moved back to the area in summer 2008, and in fall 2008, I moved downtown and began working on an M.F.A. in creative writing at Roosevelt University. I'm primarily a nonfiction writer, so keeping up with this blog should come naturally for me.

I'm also a musician, though somewhat lapsed. I began my undergraduate studies as a french horn player and music education major, but decided that a life behind the baton ultimately was not for me. I love music, though, especially taking advantage of the great music in a city whose orchestra boasts the best brass section in the world. In my opinion, of course.

Photography has probably eclipsed music on my list of loved art forms, although I am still learning. I shoot figure skating, mainly, and while I readily admit the shortcomings in the rest of my photography, I am very proud of how my skating photography has progressed since August 2007! If you're interested in reading my photoblog, it's here, although I recently forgot to update it for a few months in the midst of computer troubles. I'm getting back on track with it, though.

Since I am a perpetual student, I think of my life in terms of semesters, so I have high hopes for this semester. I plan to take two workshops, so I will spend a lot of time writing and one of the courses will be my first exclusively nonfiction workshop. I'm also looking for a new job--I'm currently slaving away in retail, but I'm hoping to find a position as some type of editor or editorial assistant in Chicago. Feel free to let me know if you have a lead!