The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago celebrated its 15th anniversary of its performance program, the MCA Stage, at the "Remixed/Reimagined" 2011 Performance Benefit this week. Co-chairs Sara Albrecht and Jay Franke slammed it out of the ballpark with this highly imaginative, mixed media event benefitting MCA programming. The evening commenced on the front plaza with cocktails and hors d’oeuvres, courtesy of some of Chicago’s most notable food trucks: The Southern Mac& Cheese Truck, 5411 Empanadas and the Hummingbird Kitchen. As guests enjoyed their bits and sips amidst stage road cases for seating, impromptu performers treated them to surprise entertainment. Red Moon Theater delivered a mini-opera while the JASC Tsukasa Taiko group drummed their little hearts out from the museum steps. To conclude the cocktail hour, punk circus marching band Mucca Pazza filtered through the crowd ushering everyone into the theater. Perceptions shifted as the audience became the actors and vice versa when the sit-down dinner was prepared onstage and the entertainment, which was the phenomenal Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, performed from the seats. Décor giants Heffernan Morgan and Event Creative created a magical dining experience in shades of hot pink and purple while Wolfgang Puck created (and donated) culinary magic with his unique menu that included tapas, fried green tomatoes, Japanese barbecued shrimp, biscuits with pork belly, buttermilk fried chicken and roasted beef tenderloin. MCA Pritzker Director Madeleine Grynsztejn gave welcoming remarks and co-chair Jay Franke had this to say about the evening: “This evening was a real celebration honoring not only the MCA Stage but its director Peter Taub, who is one of our Chicago treasures. His disciplined and keen approach to programming is what keeps the Stage series so relevant and vital. As a member of the MCA Performance Committee, it was an honor to serve as a co-chair for "Remixed/Reimagined." Seriously, where else in Chicago can you paint the floors hot pink and serve dinner on an orange table? I adore this institution and their continued quest to indulge in the unexpected. Plus, putting together this event was much like an artistic process, complete with the same passion and love that goes into making great art.” Following the exuberant performance by the Chicago Gay Men’s Chorus, guests were ushered into the freight elevator where chilled tequila and limoncello shots awaited. Members from DanceWorks Chicago greeted guests on the main floor where dessert, more drinks and dancing ensued. DJ Electric Method was placed high above the front doors – an unexpected location for a change and it was terrific. Everything was placed the opposite of where you would imagine it to be. Get it?? "Remixed/Reimagined??!!" Insanely clever! Co-chair Sara Albrecht had this to say about the event: “The evening was the first time we have had a celebration focused on the performance department of the MCA, which is one of only three museum institutions that have a dedicated performance program and stage. Over the past 15 years we have had performers range from Philip Glass, Laurie Anderson, Bill T. Jones, Lucinda Childs and so many others. We incorporated art and performance into the evening in order to try to create a cohesive performance and art vision instead of treating the two as separate organizations under the same roof. We were sold out without the help of any corporate sponsors and raised over $300,000 for the evening with almost 300 attendees. I think our main goal was to break down some of the barriers and make the MCA a diverse welcoming place where you never know what could happen.” It was a night filled with surprises but I shouldn’t have been surprised knowing the creativity of Sara, Jay and the MCA! Congrats to all on a very, very memorable evening! To view all images from this exciting evening, please click here!
The N’DIGO Foundation hosted its 16th annual Gala with a special Tribute to Men on Father’s Day featuring legendary singer/songwriter/producer and all around cute guy, Kenneth “Babyface” Edmonds who performed at the Symphony Center along with his brother, Kevon. I had never seen Babyface perform but I am telling you now, I will be first in line for tickets when he returns. He gave one of the most energetic performances I’ve seen in a long time. And when he performed with his brother, the ladies were dancin’ in the aisles! The honorees for this evening included Dr. Robert Michael Franklin (Morehouse College prez), Reverend Charles Jenkins (pastor of Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church who was introduced by legendary Pastor Clay Evans), Les Coney (Mesirow Financial exec), ABC’s Charles Thomas (who emcee Art Norman introduced as the first African American political reporter at ABC News), Runako Jahi (Artistic Director of ETA Theater who mentored Jennifer Hudson in her acting career) and Dr. Conrad Worrill (Northeastern University Professor). N’DIGO Magazine publisher Hermene Hartman along with her Foundation have awarded over 200 scholarships since its inception and this evening’s 2011 Scholarship Recipients included Andrea Caldwell, Daniel Covington, Jacqueline Gibson, Joseph Laseter, Agustin Castrejon, Mercedes Suall, Reginald Torian III, Desiree Tellis and Adetunji Wilson. Congrats to all on a wonderfully, inspiring evening! Find out more about this organization on the N’DIGO Foundation website. (To view ALL event pics by Caitlin Saville Collins, please click here.)
Fabulous, 40 and for a good cause! This describes the first event that was held at the hotly anticipated Melman venue, Studio Paris, this week. Kathleen Henson, founder and CEO of River North PR agency Henson Consulting, celebrated her 40th birthday in grand style with 200 high-profile friends and colleagues at this indoor-outdoor lounge located directly above Paris Club, which is expected to open to the public this week. A highlight of the evening, was a performance by her favorite ‘80s band, 16 Candles. Handsome hubby Mike started the evening off with a loving tribute to his wife, who is the mother of five children all under the age of 11!! All of the ladies in the crowd required hankies it was so sweet. Also seen on the scene were "Windy City Live" hosts Valerie Warner and Ryan Chiaverini, Roe Conn and Richard Roeper, Kathy Hart, Tim Smithe, Kelli Zink, Lindsay Avner, Marcus Riley, Shea Vaughn, Jen Schefft Waterman, Marion Brooks, Jesus Salguiero, Paris Club owners RJ, Jerrod and Molly Melman as well as Lettuce Entertain You founder Richard Melman and wife Martha among many others. In lieu of gifts, Kathleen asked friends to support her campaign to buy two clean water wells in Africa. To date, she has raised more than $8,000 toward the cause. If you would like to donate, please click here. Now THAT'S a reason to celebrate! Happy birthday dear Kathleen!!! (To view ALL event pics by Mila Samokhina, please click here.)
More than 600 guests joined DIFFA/Chicago (Design Industries Foundation Fighting AIDS/Chicago) recently during the “Believe Rock N Gala,” marking the 23rd year that designers, architects and design industry leaders gathered to help fund and advance the fight against AIDS. The all night fete featured epic food, fearless music and rock stars galore highlighted with a special performance by Evan Dando and The Lemonheads and DJ Jesse De La Pena during the Gala’s first-ever Rock On! after-party. Stephanie Castagnier, known from the hit NBC series “The Apprentice,” poignantly described her life as an orphan of AIDS and how she overcame its stigma to become a successful entrepreneur. Co-chairs for the event included Rick Gilman, Lynn Fordon, Richard Cassis and Georgeanna Farr. DIFFA/Chicago Chairman Jennifer McGregor said, “Tonight we celebrate and honor those who are taking us to a future without AIDS. The supporters, the researchers, the fundraisers, the grant writers and grantees—you are our rock stars! It isn’t IF we find a cure, it is WHEN we find a cure…and we are close.” Honorees included Dr. Niki Alami and Dr. Michael Angarone. Jennifer Cusack was also awarded the “Unsung Hero” award for her continuous support of the organization. Congrats to DIFFA/Chicago for making a difference in our communities for over 27 years! (Photos by Randy Michael Korwin.)
Brenda Sexton has done it again! Her Chicago Link Productions premiered an incredible documentary called “Phunny Business” about the history of Chicago’s first ever black comedy club, “All Jokes Aside.” Located in Chicago’s South Loop, this club flourished during the ‘90s giving early exposure and early paychecks to legendary comedians like Jamie Foxx, Mo’Nique, Dave Chappelle, Bernie Mac, Chris Rock, D.L. Hughley, Cedric The Entertainer, Craig Robinson, JB Smoove and many more. The audience laughed non-stop but there was also a very poignant element to the story as well. The film’s writer/director, John Davies, was in the audience as well as founder of “All Jokes Aside” and a producer on this film, Raymond Lambert. Producer Reid Brody was in the audience as well. I hope local theaters are listening because this film needs a venue! Please put it on your wish list with your favorite theater owners! The after-party at Hotel 71 also rocked – awesome food, beautiful views and darling GM Steve Shern. To view ALL event pics, click here!
Thundermania has returned to Chicago! If you haven’t seen “Thunder From Down Under,” a sexy all-Australian-male revue, then grab your friends and head over to the LaSalle Power Company for some X-citing fun! These guys have been named by AOL and the Las Vegas Review-Journal as the “Best Male Revue” and I believe it! The show has non-stop energy, dynamic dance routines, gymnastics, sexy costumes, awesome Aussie humor, state-of-the-art lighting and audience participation! Yes, I said the ladies can join in the onstage fun! The room was packed with screaming fans as the Awesome Aussies put on a sizzling performance. The 75-minute show will be in town through October 29th on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s a fun lovin’ show but definitely for adults only: Not X-rated but X-citing for sure!
Whew, there’s a lot of stuff goin’ on, huh? I hope you’re finally enjoying this beautiful weather and I hope to see you around town at one of these fun parties soon! In the meantime, that’s the lowdown on this week’s highlights!
P.S. Congrats to Chicago Street Style’s Amy Creyer on her one-year anniversary! Here she is shown with cute friends, artist Jun Iseyama, Prada’s JoMarie Bellendir, Amy and artist Megan Weinerman. :) Happy anniversary Amy!