Jonathan Franzen


The most progressive thing about CHF’s technology-themed lineup, bionic ears and prosthetic arms included? The price tag. Most talks, from MDs and CEOs to Laurie Anderson and Jonathan Franzen (left), top out at $15.


11/2–13 Go back to school for pennies on the dollar: CHF offers a liberal arts brush-up, with most events topping out at $15. Speakers on the theme of technology include a panel on social media and the Arab Spring with The Washington Post’s Peter Slevin (11/5 at 3); the rapper-activist Common (11/5 at 6); the New York Times’ David Carr on digital storytelling (11/9 at 6); the novelists Jonathan Franzen (11/6 at 2), Isabel Wilkerson (11/6 at 2), and Umberto Eco (11/13 at 3); and Adrian Belew, guitarist for the Talking Heads, on the wonders of the electric guitar (11/13 at 5). Details:



Photograph: Greg Martin


Actors from 'Keep a Song in Your Soul: The Black Roots of Vaudeville'


For its first-ever theatrical production, the Old Town School hedged its bets and hired the best: the pianist and MacArthur genius Reginald R. Robinson, Reggio “the Hoofer” McLaughlin, and the  Carolina Chocolate Drops.


11/3–6 Black, not blackface, vaudeville is the basis of the Old Town School of Folk Music’s first-ever theatrical production, created and performed by the Chicago ragtime pianist and composer and MacArthur-certified genius Reginald R Robinson; the hoofer Reggio McLaughlin, who got his start tapping at local el stops; and the Grammy-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops. $41–$45. Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln.



Photograph: Ken Carl


Dancers from Merce Cunningham Dance Company


The late choreographer’s postmodern troupe hits town one last time before disbanding. Make like the elastic dancers and jump through any hoops necessary for tickets.


11/18–19 Last chance to see chance dance: This seminal postmodern institution—founded in 1953 by the ever-inquisitive Cunningham, who died in 2009 at the age of 90—stops in Chicago as part of its final tour before disbanding. Though carefully structured, most of Cunningham’s dances were arbitrarily set to music by his longtime partner, John Cage, with variations and performers determined by the toss of a coin. Among the rare treats: Antic Meet, an absurdist send-up of Martha Graham and her proclivity for camp, and Roaratorio, featuring a Cage score that radically manipulates James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, integrating ambient sounds from scenes in the novel. At 8. $25–$65. Presented with the Dance Center of Columbia College Chicago at Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph.



Photograph: Yi-Chun Wu


A smilies sculpture by Tony Tasset


What’s next, his hairy leg? We’ve already seen Tasset’s eyeball (remember the giant peeper that landed on State Street in 2010?), but we get such a kick out of this local artist we’ll take whatever he gives us, warts and all. At Kavi Gupta.


11/19–1/29 The terms “conceptual art” and “crowd pleasing” don’t appear side by side—except when it comes to Tony Tasset. In 2010, Chicagoans gaped at the local artist’s gargantuan Eye, a three-story-tall veins-and-all re-creation of his own eyeball installed along State Street. This show gives us a chance to see what Tasset has been up to lately; here’s hoping for work just as enticingly weird. 835 W Washington.



Photograph: Tony Tasset, Mood Sculpture, 2011


A photo from 'Crime Unseen'


Speaking of hairy, two institutions probe society’s underbelly: the Museum of Contemporary Photography with an eerie exhibit toeing the line between forensics and high art, and the History Museum with a slate of lectures and tours on murder and mayhem.


11/2–19 A lineup of crime-themed events includes a trio of bus tours into Chicago’s checkered past (11/5, 12, 19 at 1; $45), an after-hours prowl in Bohemian National Cemetery (11/6, 20 at 3:30; $30), a stroll through Leopold and Loeb’s Kenwood (11/19 at 3; $15), and a talk on street gangs past and present by UIC’s John Hagedorn (11/15 at 7; $10). See website for full schedule. Open Mon–Sat 9:30–4:30, Sun noon–5; 11/23: 9:30–2:30. Closed 11/24. Free (kids under 13) to $14. 1601 N Clark.

Through 1/15 Crime Unseen. Can places where ugly things transpire be beautiful? This exhibit blurs the lines between journalism, forensics, and fine art with works by contemporary photographers; plus, a look at 24-hour TV crime coverage. Free. Open Mon–Wed, Fri–Sat 10–5; Thu 10–8. Closed 11/24–27. 600 S Michigan.


Photograph: Richard Barnes, Unabomber Exhibit D, 1999, courtesy of Clark Gallery, Lincoln, Mass.