Ginny Berg, publisher of Chicago Gallery News, just attended:

Hot L Baltimore at Steppenwolf

The music in this show was really excellent—it was from the early and mid 1970s, like Sly and the Family Stone and Richie Havens. In terms of the actors, a few were new; it’s nice when they bring up-and-coming artists into their performances. Allison Torem did a terrific job playing “The Girl”—sort of this overly energetic, enthusiastic character who’s trying to save this old hotel and realizing she doesn’t have a chance. The residents know the end is near, and she’s the glimmer of hope. She’s in between growing up and hasn’t lost her innocence yet, but is about to lose it. I also enjoyed the performance of de’Adre Aziza, who was a good contrast to Torem’s character—she was this woman in skimpy clothes with a wicked sense of humor, who’s been around the block. They played off each other pretty well.

Margi Cole, artistic director and founder of the Dance COLEctive, appreciated:

The work and lifestyle of Zero Dean

For the last year I have been following Zero Dean. He sold everything, survives on his dwindling savings, and has been traveling around the country living out of his car. How is this appealing, you ask? He is doing something I would dream of but would never have the courage to try. He is terminally optimistic, open to new adventures, and taking some amazing photographs along the way. Following him has prompted me to see rather than look as I go about things in my daily life, and for that I am grateful, challenged, inspired, and culturally energized.

Peter Blair, executive director of BoHo Theatre, read:

Life, On the Line: A Chef’s Story of Chasing Greatness, Facing Death, and Redefining the Way We Eat by Grant Achatz and Nick Kokonas

I’m not much of a cook, but I’m a pretty good eater. I also love reading books about food, restaurants, and chefs. Last year we had a truly mind-blowing meal at Alinea, and I recently picked up chef Grant Achatz’s book, written with his business partner Nick Kokonas. I love the story behind the food and the logic behind the remarkable dishes at Alinea. Achatz also writes about waging a battle with mouth cancer just as he and his restaurant were gaining worldwide fame. The book is an engaging read, and not just for foodies.

Elizabeth Levy, program director of Barrel of Monkeys, attended:

The Oprah Winfrey Show at the United Center

As a night of culture and entertainment, it was surreal, like a super A-list fever dream. First we had to clap a lot before anyone came out, and we weren’t allowed to get up for any reason. Then Oprah Winfrey came out, and Tom Hanks started talking. And then Tom Cruise came out. Then a big tree made of TV screens grew out of the ground, because Diane Sawyer asked it to. Then we waved lights and books in the air while Beyoncé sang a song and handed out diplomas. Then Aretha Franklin sang “Amazing Grace,” and everyone cried. I sort of felt like Dorothy at the end of The Wizard of Oz: “And you were there, and you were there . . . “

Silvio Marchetti, director of the Italian Cultural Institute, saw:

Never Forgotten by Claude Andreini at Chicago Photography Center

This photography exhibition focuses on Terezin, not far from Prague. There, the Nazis set up what was meant to be a model concentration camp to deceive the international community into believing the Jews were not being exterminated, but treated extremely well. In this “exemplary” camp the Nazis allowed people to play musical instruments; the culture of humanity expressed in these orchestras was used as a screen to hide the culture of inhumanity in the practice of extermination. I found the exhibition very moving because of the contrast between high culture and beauty and the cover-up and denial embedded in that message of high culture.