Arts and Culture: Shall we dance?

I devote the final post in the Arts and Culture series to what is probably the oldest art of all: dance. There are not many opportunities these days to see true, artful dancing, but a university town has more than most. The DeBartolo Performing Arts Center is a great place to see ballet and other forms of dance either on stage or on film. This season’s highlights include visits to the stage by UZIMA!, Jessica Lang Dance, and the Grand Rapids Ballet.

Here are some other places to check out in South Bend and in Chicago.

Southold Dance Theater

Southold is home to a pre-professional ballet company drawn from the Michiana area. Much of their work is comprised by education, but they do put on two performances each season in the Morris Performing Arts Center. The first is a performance of what is probably the most well-known ballet of all time: The Nutcracker, a staple of the holiday season, to be performed three times on December 9-10. Tickets start at $20. In May, the company will also be putting on Don Quixote.

Joffrey Ballet

The Joffrey Ballet is a world-class professional dance company that is based in Chicago. If you are willing to make the trek to the city, you can see some of the best performers in the United States during one of their four performances every season. Naturally, they will be performing The Nutcracker throughout the month of December, but they also have other worthwhile performances in the spring. $15 student rush tickets are available in limited numbers on the day of each performance; otherwise, tickets start at around $35 apiece.

Of course, the Joffrey isn’t the only ballet company in Chicago. Other venues to see ballet (and many other types of performances) include the Harris Theatre, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts, and Hubbard Street Dance.

Arts and Culture: Art Museums

Art is as old as human culture. Making, or craft, is one of the characteristic human activities, and art is its highest form. It gives visible and tangible form to what is true about the world and the human condition. Art means something. It invites us into contemplation, into an encounter with what we may find praiseworthy and moving, entertaining and pleasing, or perhaps threatening and discomfiting. An encounter with a great work of art leaves no attentive viewer unchanged. In our time, a museum is often the primary setting in which this encounter takes place, though this was not always so. However that may be, here are three places in the vicinity of Notre Dame where you can take a few hours to enjoy this aspect of human craft and culture.

Snite Museum of Art

The Snite is Notre Dame’s own on-campus museum of fine art. Open every day of the week, the museum offers free admission to all comers. The collection is impressive, its particular strengths including a collection of Rembrandt etchings, 19th-century European artwork, Mesoamerican and Native American art, and traditional objects from modern African groups. This is only the beginning of the collection, however, which also comprises numerous sculptures, decorative artifacts, photographs, and pieces of modern art. The Snite also welcomes families and offers fun museum guide packs for children ages 4 and up. This is a great way to spend one of the (many) cloudy days to come this winter. Check the museum website for current exhibits and upcoming events.

South Bend Museum of Art

The SBMA is located in downtown South Bend, inside the Century Center on MLK Blvd. Admission is free, though a donation of a few dollars is recommended. The museum has a number of pieces from local, regional, and nationally-recognized artists, mainly from the 19th-century onward. The Museum also runs numerous classes and workshops for adults and for children of all ages, including painting, drawing, ceramics, and fiber arts, as well as drop-in drawing sessions and open studios. For graduate students interested in taking classes as a group, these are a great candidate for utilizing a Grad Life GO Grant!

Art Institute of Chicago

If you are taking a trip to Chicago, the city’s Art Institute is well worth visiting. With a massive collection of artwork and artifacts of all sorts and provenances, the Art Institute can easily fill up a visit of several hours—or several days! Children ages 13 and under get in for free and students are eligible for discounted tickets. If you are planning on visiting multiple museums in the city over the course of a few days, you might also consider purchasing a Chicago CityPASS, by far the most cost-effective way to see the main sights in Chicago. See my post over the summer on visiting Chicago for more details.

Arts and Culture: Theatre

Plays are a powerful mode of story-telling. Nowadays, our usual experience of narrative is through the medium of a screen, whether streaming a television show or enjoying a movie. Plays engage us in ways that are similar to film, but also in ways that are significantly different. No two performances of a play are the same. The varying emotions, energy, and character of actor and audience lend every performance a dynamism, particularity, and tangibility that often elude film. Don’t settle for reading Shakespeare in English class! You must see a play of his performed to understand his appeal and his brilliance.

Drama is also a traditional activity. Plays abounded in the Renaissance and the Middle Ages, perpetuating a tradition that goes back to the semi-religious performances of the Greeks and, beyond that, to the oral recitation of poetic narratives and to the communal performance of religious ceremonies. To participate in drama, as an actor or an audience member, is to participate in something very old and very human, something impossible for the screen (or even a book!) to capture or replace. Here are a few places to see some plays, both in South Bend and in Chicago:

DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

Of course a Notre Dame student’s go-to place for theatrical drama is the DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. At the end of every summer, the DPAC hosts the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival. This year’s Festival included a community company’s performance of various scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, the performance by the Notre Dame Touring Company of Twelfth Night in locations around Michiana, and the centerpiece performance of Much Ado About Nothing by the 2017 Professional Company. Each year, DPAC also hosts Actors from the London Stage, a program that brings professional British actors to perform Shakespeare on stages across the United States.

This year’s Shakespeare Festival may be over, but there is plenty more drama in store at the DPAC. ND Theatre puts on several productions each year by the Department of Film, Television, and Theatre and the Browning Cinema broadcasts National Theatre Live performances from the National Theatre in London. Check out the DPAC website for the latest schedule. Make sure that you sign in with your student account to access discounted student tickets!

Morris Performing Arts Center

Located in the heart of downtown South Bend, the Morris serves as a venue for all manner of theatrical and musical events, including several touring productions of major Broadway shows. This year’s season includes Motown, A Chorus Line, and The Phantom of the Opera. Tickets can be somewhat pricey, especially since the Morris does not currently offer discounted student tickets. Still, shows like these are prime candidates for utilizing Grad Life’s GO Grants program, which can help to defray the costs of social outings for groups of Notre Dame graduate students and post-docs.

South Bend Civic Theatre

The other main local option for drama is the South Bend Civic Theatre, a community theatre company that puts on a number of plays each year and runs educational programs for children and adults. You can attend shows, participate in classes, or even audition for your own role in an upcoming play! Regular tickets are $20-22 each, but student rush tickets are available for $10 on the day of each performance. Attending or participating is a great way of getting involved in the South Bend community.

Chicago Shakespeare Theater

Finally, if you are willing to make the drive, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre offers $20 tickets to all patrons under the age of 35. They regularly put on professionally-produced works by Shakespeare and other playwrights in three different venues on Navy Pier in downtown Chicago.

Of course, there are many more opportunities to get in on the drama in Chicago! Check out the performances taking place through The Chicago Theatre, The Lookingglass Theatre, The Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Broadway In Chicago, and many more.

Arts and Culture: Great Music in Chicago

One of the best things about being within reach of Chicago is having ready access to the highest level of classical musical talent in the nation. Back in 2008, the Chicago Symphony Orchestra was deemed the best in the nation, and today it remains one of the premier American orchestras. In addition, the Chicago Lyric Opera regularly puts on some of the best productions in the country, including the talents of internationally-acclaimed singers from around the world. Tickets for the Symphony are regularly priced in excess of $100 and tickets to the Lyric can cost as much as $300 or more. Fortunately for you, both venues offer student tickets at a spectacular price.

Chicago Symphony Orchestra

220 S. Michigan Ave.
Chicago, IL 60604
(312) 294-3000
Website

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra sells students tickets for select shows at $15 apiece, and offers the option of purchasing multiple tickets for a show. In addition, if you purchase tickets as a student for any concert on the day of the concert, you will pay 50% of their normal price. Season subscriptions are also available to students for 50% off or more. In order to prove that you are a student, you can either pre-register your ID with the Symphony Center online or bring your ID to pick up your tickets from the box office on the day of the show. Not a bad deal for some of the greatest music in history, performed by some of the best musicians in the nation. Individual tickets and subscriptions are on sale now.

Lyric Opera of Chicago

20 N. Wacker Dr.
Chicago, IL 60606
(312) 827-5600
Website

The Lyric Opera offers student tickets for $20 each to certain performances as well as a student subscription to three or more operas through their NEXT and NEXT Now programs. If you want tickets to an individual performance, you must subscribe (for free) to NEXT and, when tickets come available, you will receive a notification, at which point you can purchase your tickets. NEXT Now is the subscription option, and has some distinct advantages. You can still buy tickets for $20 apiece, but you must purchase them in advance for at least three performances. The advantage is that you can buy tickets for any performance and you don’t have to wait until dates come available. In either case, if you are fortunate, your tickets may be on the main floor of the opera house, where your neighbors will have paid five to fifteen times what you did! Individual student tickets and subscriptions are already on sale. If you have non-student friends, the Lyric also offers a membership program for young professionals (ages 21-45) that makes $35 tickets available to them. The opportunity to see vocal performers this talented for a price this low is not to be passed up lightly.

Summer in South Bend: The Big City

The perks of living in South Bend are many, and one is our proximity to the city of Chicago. One of the biggest cities in the United States, Chicago has something for everyone: museums, theaters, city parks, restaurants, and all manner of opportunity for adventure. If you are looking for food, music, or a just a stroll around the bustling downtown, the city is only a couple of hours away.

Getting to Chicago

The first step is to get to the city, a task not as easy as it may seem. The time it takes to travel to downtown Chicago by car from South Bend can vary from a low of 1 hour and 45 minutes to a high of 3 hours, depending on the time of day and the amount of traffic you encounter. If possible, you will want to avoid entering or leaving the city during the morning and afternoon rush hours, though you could hit traffic at just about any time of day. There are two major routes to Chicago from South Bend: the I-90/I-80 toll road and the I-94 interstate. Taking the toll road may save you some time, though probably not very much, and it will cost you a few dollars. Usually, taking the toll road is a better option for those who need to travel through the city to another destination.

If you are driving to the city, you’ll also need to locate a place to park. Be prepared to pay at least a few dollars though, since free parking is non-existent in downtown and other tourist-heavy areas. While there are numerous parking lots and garages near to many of the main attractions, some can be quite expensive. The best way to find an affordable and conveniently located parking spot is to use an app or website ahead of time (SpotHero and Parkwhiz are two popular options), so that you know where you are going and what you’ll be paying to park.

If you would rather avoid the headache of negotiating potentially heavy traffic and finding a spot to park, you can also take public transit from South Bend to Chicago. The most cost-effective and convenient option is the South Shore Line, an electric commuter train that runs from the South Bend airport all the way to Millennium Park in downtown Chicago. The trip takes between one and two hours, and a one-way ticket will cost you $13.50 (less if you plan to get off before Millennium Park). At many stations in the city, you will be able to make an easy transfer to a bus or to the metro. Given that the cost of parking downtown for a whole day can easily exceed $20, taking the train is not a bad option. By transferring to the metro from the Van Buren or Millennium Park stations, you can also get to either of Chicago’s major airports. (If you are just looking for transportation to the airport, you might also consider the Airport Super Saver bus service, which runs at all hours from South Bend to both of Chicago’s major airports)

Once you have made it into the big city, getting around is not difficult. You can always drive in the city, though traffic and Chicago drivers can make things a little crazy. On the other hand, downtown Chicago is very walkable, and for locations in other neighborhoods, you can also take a bus or the metro. Check out current schedules, routes, and fares on the Chicago Transit Authority’s website. Various bike rental services are also available, including Divvy, the city’s official bike rental system. They have numerous docking stations throughout the city where you can rent a bike for 30 minutes at a time with your credit card, or you can buy a day pass online before you go.

Things to Do

There is no end of things to do in Chicago, and any claim to an exhaustive list would be spurious. Below are a few suggestions for major attractions, but if you look around, you will be able to find just about anything you could want to do.

Museums and Zoos

Museum of Science and Industry

Field Museum

Adler Planetarium

Children’s Museum (free admission Thursday evenings, first Sundays)

Chicago History Museum

Shedd Aquarium

Lincoln Park Zoo (free admission)

Since tickets to these museums and to the Shedd’s Aquarium can be expensive, and since only the Field Museum offers student tickets, the most cost-efficient way to see multiple museums is to purchase a CityPASS (about $100 for adults), which gives you admission to five attractions in the city over the course of nine days, often with add-ons included. The pass includes admission to Shedd’s Aquarium, the Field Museum, the Chicago Skydeck, and your choice of either the Planetarium or the Art Institute and either 360 Chicago or the Museum of Science and Industry.

Arts and Culture

The Art Institute of Chicago (small discount for students)

The Newberry Research Library

Lyric Opera of Chicago ($20 student tickets, discounts for ages 21-45, rush tickets)

Chicago Symphony Orchestra ($15 student tickets)

Chicago Shakespeare Theater ($20 tickets for students and young professionals)

The Chicago Theatre

Food

Chicago, like every big city, has great food. Although the city is best known for deep-dish pizza (with Lou Malnati’s, Giordano’s, Pequod’s, and others all contending for the title of best) and hot dogs, you can find any other type of food imaginable if you are willing to look for it. For example, you might check out Cafe Ba-ba-reeba! for tapas or visit one of several Glazed & Infused locations for specialty donuts. If you are into coffeehouses, try Big Shoulders or The Wormhole. Pubs, cocktail lounges, and bars abound, as do restaurants serving Mexican, Korean, BBQ, Mexican-Korean BBQ, and foods that don’t belong to any category at all.  With dozens of “best of” lists available from far more knowledgeable sources, providing yet another list here would be a futile exercise at best.

Other things to do

Check out one of the numerous independent bookstores in the city, go to a Cubs or White Sox game, walk along the lake-shore, visit some of the city’s many neighborhoods, take an architecture tour, do a Big City Scavenger Hunt, or check out one of the city’s many bars and pubs, where you can hear the blues, watch some improv, or get a tropical tiki cocktail. In short, you’re not going to run out of things to do while visiting the big city of Chicago.