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The Short List

It’s Showtime for This American Life; puppets aren’t lame—we swear! A Bobbi Brown secret; why Stacey Ballis is cool; and more for March

Life Time:
After much wailing and gnashing of teeth over Ira Glass’s move to New York, Chicagoans will see This American Life première on Showtime March 22nd. We gave three fans of the radio show a screener of the early episodes. Pros: “Seeing is believing-some stories go better with pictures.” “The Chris Ware cartoon in the third episode is genius.” CONS: “Ira seems disconnected.” “[Half-hour] episodes are too short.” “No continuity, no reason to tune in again.” VERDICT: “It’s good. This means I have to get Showtime.”

global positioning device
Map Quest:
What’s the significance of 30o29’35.2” N, 81o41’24.7” W? They’re GPS coordinates for Jacksonville, Florida, where, at the end of March, Barrington resident Bob Lee will start a 6,500-mile bike ride to raise money for ALS awareness, cancer research, and hospice.  Track Lee’s ride on the real-time GPS-guided map at 3reasons.org.

author stacey ballis
Stacey Ballis
Local author Stacey Ballis, whose novel The Spinster Sisters (Berkley Trade, $14) débuts this month, can add another notch to her belt: “content buddy” for The Rachael Ray Show. The self-proclaimed “worst flower arranger ever” regularly appears on the show to offer no-sweat entertainment tips. Spur-of-the-moment soiree? “Pour coffee beans in a cocktail tumbler and add a candle for an instant candlestick holder,” Ballis says.

Makeup Maven:
Just in time for her big 5-0, Wilmette native Bobbi Brown is releasing Bobbi Brown Living Beauty (Springboard Press, $29.99), which focuses on graceful aging for women over 40. Her secret: moisturize. In a pinch, she says, even olive oil will do. “I was flying first class. I took the unused olive oil from my dinner and rubbed it on my face.”

indie film-maker joe swanberg
Almost Famous:
With-out a studio or a trust fund, indie film-maker Joe Swanberg, 25, has directed and distributed two features. In March, the West Town resident premières his third, Hannah Takes the Stairs, at SXSW in Austin. When asked about the future, Swanberg says he’s not looking to make bigger films; he’d just like to quit his day job. “I’d like to keep making small movies, but have everyone get paid.”


puppet from Chicago puppet company

On a String:
Once the domain of children’s TV and lame horror flicks, puppetry is landing on Chicago stages. In March, two very literary-minded theatres get into the act. Chicago Shakespeare premières Marionette Macbeth, created with Italy’s classical Compagnia Marionettistica Carlo Colla e Figli (March 13th through 25th). Meanwhile, Evanston artist Michael Montenegro and Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe unveil The Puppetmaster of Lodz, in which local actor Larry Neumann Jr. plays an Auschwitz survivor who has only his puppets for company (March 14th through July 8th). Why puppets, not people? “It’s not often you see Macbeth with 200 actors,” says Chicago Shakespeare’s executive director, Criss Henderson. “You have an amazing ability to tell a story in a way that you couldn’t with live actors on the stage.”


Illustration: John Ueland (Ira Glass by Douglas Barnes/Showtime)  Photography: Ballis by Maia Rosenfeld, Swanberg Courtesy of Kris


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