Chicago Humanities Festival names Fallfest headliners

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Journalists and novelists, television personalities and magicians, choreographers and scientists. They all will be part of the Chicago Humanities Festival lineup of more than 100 events scheduled for its 27th annual Fallfest, to be focused on the theme of “Speed.”

The Festival, which will run Oct. 29 – Nov. 12 at multiple venues from Hyde Park to Evanston, as well as in downtown Chicago, has, according to artistic director Jonathan Elmer, been designed to “take stock of how rapidly, and sometimes how slowly, changes in our society take place. Whether they are discussing social change (like the sudden social acceptance of gay rights), or technological acceleration (like the prospect of driverless cars on our roads later this month), our presenters will deepen and complicate how each of us thinks about transformational change.”

A new addition to the programming this year will be an Evening in Bronzeville featuring several presenters, including Isabel Wilkerson, author of “The Warmth of Other Suns,” a National Book Critic Circle Award winner.

In a prepared statement, Alison Cuddy, associate artistic director of the festival noted: “As we mark the centennial of the Great Migration, there’s no better place to be than Bronzeville, the epicenter of that historic journey and one our city’s most vibrant artistic communities. Chicago was utterly transformed by this mass movement north from the Mississippi Delta and further south, and it’s a perfect moment to consider the way it continues to shape the social and cultural life of our city.”

Author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson (Photo: Sun-Times files)

Author and journalist Isabel Wilkerson (Photo: Sun-Times files)

The full line-up for “Fallfest/16: Speed” is available at Tickets go on sale to CHF members on Sept. 20 and to the general public on Sept. 27. Tickets to the Speed kick-off events featuring Gloria Steinem and Thomas Friedman are sold out. Tickets (which range from $5 – $50) can be purchased online or by calling the box office at (312) 494-9505.

Among the highlights of the Fallfest/16 are appearances by:

+ Maureen Dowd (Oct. 29 at Evanston’s Cahn Auditorium), the Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist and best-selling author who will discuss the current state of the 2016 presidential election and her new book, “The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics” with David Axelrod.

+ Senator Barbara Boxer (Oct. 29 at Cahn Auditorium), who has represented the state of California as its junior United States Senator since 1993, and who, as she prepares to retire, will reflect on her long career in public service.

+ Jonathan Lethem (Oct. 29 at Cahn Auditorium), the acclaimed author of nine novels including “Dissident Gardens” and “The Fortress of Solitude,” who also is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction, will discuss his new novel, “The Gambler’s Anatomy.”

+ Nancy Jo Sales (Oct. 29 at Cahn Auditorium), the award-winning journalist and author of “The Bling Ring,” will discuss the rapid rise of social media and the potential threats it poses to young girls growing up today.

+ Gary Younge (Oct. 30), an award-winning columnist at The Guardian, will discuss his new book, “Another Day in the Death of America,” which examines the lives of 10 children across America struck down by gun violence in a single day.

+ Victor Goines Quartet with Mary Stallings (Oct. 30), the jazz clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer, currently the director of jazz studies at Northwestern University, will headline a concert featuring his quartet and vocalist Mary Stallings.

+ Mary Roach (Oct. 31 at the Francis W. Parker School), the New York Times best-selling author and acclaimed science writer, known for her works “Bonk,” “Stiff,” and “Gulp,” will discuss her latest book, “Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War,” which explores the reality of human beings in armed conflict.

+ Dan Savage (Oct. 31 at Francis W. Parker School), the writer, activist, and TV personality, best known for his sex and relationships column, Savage Love, will lend his perspective on the rapid revolution in gay rights—from the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011 to marriage equality in 2015.

+ The Adventures of Fat Rice (Nov. 1 at the National Hellenic Museum), with Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, the partners behind Fat Rice, The Bakery at Fat Rice, and The Ladies’ Room, in a debut of their first cookbook, “The Adventures of Fat Rice.”

+ Philip Glass (Nov. 2 at Symphony Center), one of the most influential artists and composers of our time, will receive the 2016 Chicago Tribune Literary Award. Glass, who has broken new ground in his operas, chamber works, film scores, and symphonies, will discuss his creative range, from “Strung Out” and “Einstein on the Beach,” to “Voyages” and “Hydrogen Jukebox.” His appearance also will include a musical selection.

Composer Philip Glass. (Photo: Sun-Times files)

Composer Philip Glass. (Photo: Sun-Times files)

+ Grant Faulkner (Nov. 4 at the Francis W. Parker School), the executive director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and a co-founder of 100 Word Story, will lead a hands-on exploration in the method of fast, uninhibited writing.

+ Penn Jillette (Nov. 4 at the Francis W. Parker School), the outspoken, bitingly clever magician/actor/writer will join Alison Cuddy to discuss his determination to transform himself—body and mind.

+ Margot Lee Shetterly (Nov. 4 at Northwestern University Law School), the author of “Hidden Figures,” and a producer of the film adaptation set to star Taraji Henson, will discuss the stories and lives of the black women scientists and mathematicians who fueled America’s victory in the space race.

+ Christopher Wheeldon and Ashley Wheater: Ballet in Conversation (Nov. 5 at the Fourth Presbyterian Church of Chicago/Buchanan Chapel at the Gratz Center), will feature Tony Award-winning choreographer Wheeldon (one of the most prolific and sought after talents in contemporary ballet, who has created works for leading international ballet companies, the closing ceremonies for the London Olympics, and the Broadway sensation, “An American in Paris”), and Ashley Wheater, artistic director of Chicago’s Joffrey Ballet, talking about the creative process, the art of ballet today, and Wheeldon’s much anticipated world premiere version of “The Nutcracker,” commissioned by the Joffrey Ballet. (Full disclosure: This critic will serve as moderator.)

Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. (Photo: Angela Sperling)

Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon. (Photo: Angela Sperling)

+ Jon Meacham (Nov. 5 at Thorne Auditorium, Northwestern University Law School), the former editor of Newsweek will discuss the life and presidency of George H.W. Bush, the subject of his latest book for which he drew upon his unprecedented access to the 41st President. He will discuss his recent re-appraisal of Bush’s time in office and examine the changing tenor of American politics.

+ Lena Waithe (Nov. 6 at the Rubloff Auditorium, Art Institute of Chicago), the South Side native and Columbia College graduate who plays Denise on Netflix’s hit series, “Master of None,” will discuss her path to television writing and producing, as well as her experience as the co-creator and showrunner for Showtime’s forthcoming drama series, “The Chi.”

+ “We Can Be Heroes” (Nov. 7 at the Francis W. Parker School), a concert riffing on the deaths of two larger-than-life musicians  who died recently – David Bowie and Prince. Devised by Chicago theater veterans Rob Lindley and Doug Peck, the evening will feature the talents of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound frontman Jayson Brooks, The Voice alumnus Mark Hood, Jeff Award-winning musical theater artist Bethany Thomas, and Neo-Futurist ensemble member Malic White.

+ Bill McKibben |(Nov. 9 at the Francis W. Parker School), the environmentalist and writer – one of the most important activists in the movement surrounding climate change, who, as a former New Yorker staff writer and author of “The End of Nature,” wrote one of the very first rallying cries about the dangers of humanity’s role in global climate change – will discuss the alarmingly rapid rise in global temperatures.

+ Melissa Harris-Perry (Nov. 10 at Northwestern University Law School ), the academic and public intellectual who hosted an eponymous talk show on MSNBC weekend mornings from 2012 to 2016, will host a live version of her new talk show, “MHP LIVE,” with an episode focusing on gun violence.

+ An Evening in Bronzeville (Nov. 11), with Isabel Wilkerson at the Harold Washington Cultural Center; poet and author Ross Gay, at the Blanc Gallery; and Robbie Montgomery at Peach’s Restaurant (a former back-up singer for the likes of Ike and Tina Turner, The Supremes, and James Brown, the owner of Sweetie Pie’s restaurant, and the subject of the reality show, “Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s” discussing her life in show business, as well as her contributions to soul food and soul music); Chicago House Music at Gallery Guichard, with three Chicago House Music legends in a conversation, listening session, and a dance party, with confirmed presenters including The Warehouse founder Robert Williams, Czarina Mirani of 5 Magazine, and DJ Green Velvet (aka Cajmere).

+ Trevor Noah (Nov. 12 at the Music Box Theatre), discussing his unlikely journey as the child of an interracial couple in apartheid-era South Africa, to his career in stand-up comedy and his current role as host of “The Daily Show.”

Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show.” (Photo: Sun-Times files)

Trevor Noah, host of “The Daily Show.” (Photo: Sun-Times files)

+ Jane Smiley (Nov. 12 at First United Methodist Church), whose work ranges from skewering academics in “Moo,” to reimaging King Lear amid Iowa’s rolling hills in her Pulitzer-Prize winner, “A Thousand Acres,” will be given the Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction.

+ Jessica Valenti, Lindy West, and Samantha Irby (Nov. 12 at First United Methodist Church), will join for a panel to discuss the state of contemporary feminism in American society after a historic election. Jessica Valenti and Lindy West are columnists for The Guardian and Samantha Irby is an essayist and blogger.

+ John Edgar Wideman (Nov. 12 at First United Methodist Church), a MacArthur Fellow, two-time PEN/Faulkner winner, and author of the forthcoming” Writing to Save a Life,” will close out Fallfest/16 with a discussion of the life of Louis Till, Emmett Till’s father, who was executed by the U.S. Army in 1945.

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