Chicago theaters embrace intimacy choreographers, another City Council race decided and more in your Chicago news roundup

Today’s update is about an eight-minute read that will brief you on the day’s biggest stories.

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Sheryl Williams, a professional intimacy coach, poses for a portrait at the Court Theatre in Hyde Park.

Victor Hilitski/For the Sun-Times

Good afternoon. Here’s the latest news you need to know in Chicago. It’s about an eight-minute read that will brief you on today’s biggest stories.

— Matt Moore (@MattKenMoore)

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This afternoon will be sunny with a high near 83 degrees. Tonight will be mostly clear with a low near 60. Tomorrow will be mostly sunny with a high near 80.

Top story

On-stage intimacy — theater companies in Chicago are turning to performing arts industry pros for direction

Sheryl Williams works in Chicago as an intimacy professional, part of an industry that’s trying to eradicate unwanted contact like that in the theater world, while also working side by side with directors — much like a fight choreographer does.

Her local clients have included Court Theatre and Porchlight Music Theatre.

The intimacy industry is booming. Credit the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements. Locally, allegations of mistreatment of actors at the now-closed Profiles Theatre, for example, highlighted the need to better protect performers, stage professionals here say. Shuttered theaters during the pandemic also offered companies the opportunity to rethink how they take care of artists when presenting simulated love and sex scenes to an audience.

This fall, Columbia College Chicago will begin a yearlong, graduate-level program in stage and screen intimacy, leading to a certificate — the first of its kind, it says, offered at an accredited American college or university. On April 15, Facets, the Lincoln Park non-profit cinema center, is hosting a panel discussion about intimacy stage and screen work in Chicago.

“This role is so new, and because it’s so new, there are not a lot of standards set for this role. It’s still a bit of the wild, wild west at times,” says Jessica Steinrock, one of the panelists for the Facets event and the CEO of the Chicago-based Intimacy Directors and Coordinators, which offers training in the field both online and in person.

Intimacy professionals also have had to fight back against well-publicized criticism that they are an unnecessary interference.

Acclaimed actor Sean Bean (“Game of Thrones,” “The Lord of the Rings”) is not a fan of utilizing these experts during a film shoot, for example. Last year, he told The Times of London: “I think the natural way lovers behave would be ruined by someone bringing it right down to a technical exercise.”

But in the Chicago theater world, at least, intimacy choreographers appear to have been enthusiastically embraced.

Megan Carney, artistic director of About Face Theater in Wicker Park, calls the use of intimacy choreographers “one of the most valuable and important shifts in some of our work at About Face.”

Our Stefano Esposito has more on this new industry and Chicago’s role in it.

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Queens United staking a claim in male-dominated world of competitive chess

For years, two students at Walter Payton College Prep on the North Side were some of the only competitive female chess players in Chicago Public Schools. Now, they’re on a mission to get more girls playing the game.

Senior Maggie Tsyganova and her former classmate Lizzy Brahin started the nonprofit Queens United Chess in 2019. They work with about 35 female instructors or “ambassadors” to offer free chess lessons and host regular “Girl Power Club” meetings for students. Brahin, now a sophomore at Harvard University, and other leaders participate virtually, which allows the group to expand its reach across the U.S.

Tsyganova said they want female players to feel a sense of community — especially at tournaments, where boys tend to outnumber girls. Only about 14% of competitive chess players in America are women, according to the U.S. Chess Federation.

“That’s a big reason why girls don’t continue chess in high school,” she said. “So we try to find girls that are still excited about chess. …. They’re the ones who help teach these introductory chess lessons.”


Walter Payton College Prep senior Maggie Tsyganova gives chess tips as third grader Anaya Thakkar listens during an after-school program at Ogden International School organized by Queens United Chess, a nonprofit co-founded by Tsyganova.

Marc Monaghan/WBEZ

Four years after getting started, the group has reached more than 550 students. It has partnered with Chicago Public Schools and the Renaissance Knights Chess Foundation to bring the game to 10 schools across the city. The group on March 19 hosted a virtual tournament for Women’s History Month and launched a podcast on Spotify to spotlight women in chess.

The group is split into two classrooms — one with first- and second-graders, and another with third- and fourth-graders. Female instructors, many of them students from Payton, lead group sessions in the afternoons, helping kids navigate the board and offering suggestions on how to play.

“The energy they have with chess is really exciting,” said Payton junior Julia Kim, a chess instructor and marketing officer with Queens United. “I think they really enjoy just playing each other for fun.”

WBEZ’s Nereida Moreno has more on Queens United.

From the press box

Your daily question☕

What advice do you have for new cyclists hitting the streets and taking advantage of the good weather?

Reply to this email with your answer — and your first and last name — and we might feature it in the next Afternoon Edition.

Yesterday we asked you: If you were making a Chicago version of the TV show “Cheers,” which local bar would you choose for your setting?

“The Green Door Tavern! Still has that local watering hole vibe even if it looks like it’s about to fall over.” — Alex Weir

“Resi’s Bierstube on Irving Park Road. It has regulars, occasionally fierce discussions and a wide range of beers, man!” — Craig Barner

“Rogers Park Social great neighborhood place, welcoming, etc.” — John Jones

“The Bob Inn, or R Public House. Jackhammer if it’s on HBO Max.” — Danielle Rue

“Glasscott’s. The beer and atmosphere are great — with the bonus being the Athenium Room is attached for food.” — Dennis Jensen

“Fireside. Always feel welcome and like family. Great staff, food and drink.” — Rosie Kriho

“Dublin’s at 1050 State. Same regulars mixed in with other patrons AND long-time well-known bartenders. Also frequented by local and national ‘celebrity guests.’” — Aric Swaney

“Which bar would I choose? I think it would be Sidetrack. In addition to its 35+ years as an oasis for the LGBTQ+ community, it is also a center of political organizing and fundraising, its’ owners are some of the nicest, most down-to-earth people you could ever hope to meet, and the only thing that could make a place better than Cheers is a bar where on any given day someone might show up dressed as Kate Smith or 100 men might all SING like Ethel Merman. That would be television worth watching.” — Aidan G.

“Spilt Milk, just because it’s cinematic. Rocking Horse would have been spacious enough to shoot in front of a live studio audience.” — Julien Christopher Smasal

“Cardozo’s Pub. The first time you walk in it feels like you’ve been there before. Drinks are cheap and the energy is very Chicago, especially descending into a subterranean bar on a snowy Chicago day. Importantly, it’s one of the last casual Loop watering holes remaining.” — Kyle Terry

“Skylark on Halsted! A neighborhood bar, that was never in a neighborhood to begin with. Straight up on the border of everything.” — George Perez

Thanks for reading the Chicago Sun-Times Afternoon Edition. Got a story you think we missed? Email us here.

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