Inspirational photos for the film 'A True History of the Johnstown Flood' on a board
WHO’S THE BOSS? Contributors to 50 Aldermen/50 Artists include Eric Lebofsky (that’s his take on John Rice) and Jennifer Greenburg, who photographed Ed Burke. 


Our top five picks for things to do this week: The free stuff gets top billing, which means you have no excuse to stay home.

galleries 50 Aldermen/50 Artists
So simple it’s genius: 50 portraits of all 50 Chicago aldermen by 50 different artists. The project comes from the minds of locals Jeremy Scheuch and Lauri Apple, who—in addition to asking all participating artists to sit down with their aldermanic subjects for getting-to-know-you chats—have invited the entire city council to the portraits’ unveiling. There’s no roll call planned (though good bets include Vi Daley and George Cardenas, who stopped by the project’s kick-off party back in February), but let’s just say we’ll be counting heads, machine-style.
GO: Opening Mar 19: 7-11. Show continues through Apr 2. Johalla Projects, 1561 N Milwaukee.

theatre American Theater: Writing for Change
Miss this talk, and you can go ahead and hand in your I-love-Chicago-theatre card. Together onstage, a panel of the best and brightest emerging playwrights shoot the bull about what makes theatre viable—vital, even—in Chicago and beyond. The cast: Young Jean Lee, the genre-busting Korean American provocateur whose neovaudevillian romp The Shipment (onstage at the MCA Mar 26-28) tackles the subject of being black in America; Kristoffer Diaz, whose play The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity earned a lovefest of critical reviews last year and opens off-Broadway next month; Tanya Saracho, who tackled the no-small-feat of staging Sandra Cisneros’s modern-day classic, The House on Mango Street; and Tarell Alvin McCraney, the newly named Joyce Award winner whose Brother/Sister Plays are currently tearing up Steppenwolf.
GO: Mar 23 at 6. Reservations recommended: 312-397-4010. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago.



concerts Shellac
Can’t stomach another Irish cover band? Take a cue from indie-rock diehards and catch a group that, like St. Patrick’s Day, only comes around once a year—or less. Though based in Chicago, the minimalist trio Shellac—formed in the early 1990s by Steve Albini, the legendary recording engineer whose fingerprints show up on albums by the likes of Nirvana, The Stooges, and the Pixies—tends to stick to a slim schedule of local gigs. The group is joined here by the Dutch ensemble The Ex, like-minded purveyors of knotty guitars and ominous grooves.
GO: Mar 20 at 10. $15. Advance tickets sold out; limited seats available at the door at 9. Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln.


concerts Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra
As Lincoln Center’s jazz honcho, Wynton Marsalis’s notoriously rigid standards for “pure” expressions of the genre may be loosening up a bit; he did book the longtime agitator and iconoclast Ornette Coleman this season, after all. But when Marsalis hits the road wearing his JLCO bandleader/trumpeter hat, the old mandate of swing, swing, and more swing still applies. Not that we’re complaining: Friday’s bill includes chestnuts by Count Basie and Mary Lou Williams.
GO: Mar 19 at 8. $45-$169; limited seats remain. Symphony Center, 220 S Michigan.

ALSO THIS WEEK: A double header at the Old Town School offers a chance to sample the past and future of Latin jazz, as the Chicago-based, Nicaraguan-born pianist Darwin Noguera sets the stage for the Cuban trumpeter and Dizzy Gillespie associate Arturo Sandoval.


theatre Uncle Vanya
Lev Dodin—a native of Siberia, that archetypical land of unhappy exile—is uniquely qualified to direct Chekhov’s classic tragicomedy. Don’t let the supertitles intimidate you: St. Petersburg’s Maly Drama Theatre delivers a rhapsody of angst both exquisitely Russian and undeniably universal. While the themes are global, the play’s run is finite—as in five days, and few seats remain—so call now.
GO: Mar 17-21. $65-$75. Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Navy Pier, 800 E Grand. 312-595-5600

ALSO THIS WEEK: A Life, starring not just John Mahoney but a whole A List of local actors, opens, as does the Chicago premiere ofBilly Elliot, starring four twirling Billys and a score by Elton John.


dance Thodos Dance Chicago
If you missed its city premiere last fall, make up for lost time when Thodos reprises its outstanding ode to the American choreographer Bob Fosse this week in the burbs. The bill features three pelvic-thrusting trios staged by the Fosse mentee—and Broadway legend in her own right—Ann Reinking. Our pick of the bunch? Mexican Breakfast, a dance so wildly catchy it won over the likes of Beyoncé, whose smash video “Single Ladies” is part Fosse homage, part appropriation.
GO: Mar 19 at 8. $28-$38. McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 Fawell, Glen Ellyn.


museums Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913-1917
Everything old is new again. While the MCA just opened a show of greatest hits acquisitioned between the 1970s and the 1990s, the Next Big Thing at the Art Institute, Matisse: Radical Invention, makes good use of a masterpiece long part of its own collection. Art historians call Matisse’s Bathers by a River a quintessential example of one of the artist’s most formative periods, when he was in the throes of developing his own brand of modernism. Modernism, as you might have noticed, is a buzzword around the Art Institute. This week alone includes talks by Stephanie D’Alessandro, curator of the Matisse exhibition, and Alfred Pacquement, director of the Pompidou’s Musée National d’Art Moderne.
GO: Matisse: Mar 20–Jun 20. See website for extended hours. Free (kids under 14)-$18. Pacquement: Mar 25 at 6; free. D’Alessandro: Mar 26 at noon; free with admission. 111 S Michigan.

Illustration: Eric Lebofsky (Rice), Photograph: Jennifer GreenburG (Burke, detail)