Posts tagged ‘Chicago’

Here’s to a great beach vacation in….Chicago

Summer’s coming to an end and you’re torn. You want a weekend at the beach, but you could also use a little culture, a bit of big city shenanigans.

Why not have it all in the beach town of… Chicago. The third largest city in America has more than 26 miles of free, public beaches (more, in fact, than Bermuda), all with gorgeous views of Chicago’s stellar skyline. Let me just say that Oprah did NOT abandon Chicago because of its summers.

Photo: ©Choose Chicago

But even better than all the beach volleyball, the laidback vibe, the bikes, the piers and the soul-warming sand is that you can walk or ride a bike (look for the powder blue fleet of 700 DIVVY bikes that can be rented for a mere $7 a day) to Michelin-starred restaurants, two world-class conservatories, fabulous museums and shopping that plays in the major leagues with New York, London and Paris.

I’m more of a blue jeans kind of gal so I chose a first night on the town at Second City, the iconic comedy club that spawned everyone from John Belushi and Gilda Radner to Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert. From North Avenue Beach where you can even get WiFi while perfecting your tan lines, it’s a short three-quarter-mile stroll. Can someone say, “piece of cake?” You probably rack up that many steps just walking back and forth from your beach towel to the lake.

I’ve been to Second City several times and it never disappoints. Unlike Saturday Night Live that over the years has recruited more than a quarter of its staff from this Chicago institution and tends to be uneven, Second City is consistently, pee-your-pants funny.

Started in 1959, this comedy improv troupe that holds no cow sacred combines improvised and scripted scenes with new material generated through audience suggestion during the unscripted second act.

On night two of my beach vacation to Chicago, I caught the Tony-award winning Book of Mormon, not an easy feat since it has rolled over Chicago like a deviant tidal wave.

From 12th Street Beach, the beautiful sandy beach where Chicago’s second World’s Fair was staged, it’s a short two-mile bike ride to the Bank of America Theatre where the Trey Parker/Matt Stone send-up of organized religion has been selling out night after night.

The Chicago production that some claim outdoes even the original (Trey Parker did direct when it debuted there last December) runs through October.

So why decide? In Chicago, you can beach and big city in one great weekend.

David Schwimmer’s hit, “Trust” began at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre

You’re going to be hearing a lot about a little movie called Trust. It opened last Friday and it’s powerful, about how a seemingly innocent online encounter can unravel and nearly destroy a middle-class American family. The movie, being universally praised, was written by David Schwimmer. Yes, the very same actor who played goofy, neurotic, but lovable Ross Geller on Friends. It’s Schwimmer and co-writer Andy Bellin’s stab at raising awareness about the internet’s heart-wrenching potential as a hunting ground for sexual predators.

Before Trust was made into the indie film starring Catherine Keener and Clive Owen, it was staged at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theatre, the cutting-edge theater Schwimmer co-founded with seven fellow thespians in the fall of 1988 soon after graduating from Northwestern University.

Even though the former Friends star is about to have a baby with new wife, Zoe Buckman, and spends most of his time in New York so she can be closer to her British roots, he’s still a staunch supporter of his adopted hometown of Chicago. He owns a home (or rather a loft) there and shows up regularly to star in, direct and help mount Lookingglass Theatre’s highly-physical renditions of classic literature and myth. For years, while Schwimmer was busy in California portraying Ross, Lookingglass, albeit regularly staging world-premiere original works, was a gypsy, moving from stage to stage. But by 2003, thanks in part to Schwimmer’s unwavering support, it moved into permanent digs, a stone castle-like structure on the north end of Chicago’s Magnificent Mile.

And, yep, Schwimmer was there for the grand opening, directing the first production, an adaption of fellow Chicagoan Studs Terkel’s Race.

According to his fellow Lookingglass co-founders, Schwimmer is not only dedicated to theater, but he’s unfailingly interested in social issues and using his influence to “make a difference.” Trust, for example, grew out of his years volunteering at a Rape Treatment Center in Santa Monica. He once wrote a film about Jewish resistance fighters in the Warsaw Ghetto and has publicly stated that someday he’d like to teach.

As for Chicago, Schwimmer is equally devoted. While going to Northwestern, he worked at Ed Debevic’s, the cheesy faux-50’s diner where he playing a roller-skating character named Romeo. He recently lent his support to Chicago’s John Hancock Observatory. With 360-degree views and, on a clear day, the ability to see 80 miles and four states, this observatory on the 94th floor of the Hancock Building offers a free self-guided audio tour of Chicago narrated by you know who. Although Schwimmer points out all the important landmarks, everything from Millennium Park’s Cloud Gate, a three-story bean-shaped sculpture that reflects and distorts the city’s skyline, to the competing observatory, the former Sears Tower, he also offers a few personal details: he’s a Cubs fan and he once lived at 11th and Halsted.

All I know, is Schwimmer’s familiar voice made the tour extremely fun. As I gazed out across Chicago, listening to each tour stop with my headphones, I almost felt like Rachel Green, being wooed by the man of my dreams.