Somebody here at the Reader suggested that we run a contest to come up with a new nickname for Chicago. Windy City, Second City, City of the Big Shoulders—they all have a place in our hearts and history, but they don’t resonate like they used to. We need a phrase to reflect our current reality.

I’d like to submit the first entry. Based on what I’ve seen as we put together this year’s Fall Arts issue, I’d say Chicago should be known as the City of Way Too Much.

That’s not to be confused with the City of Excess, which would imply waste. There are just more exhibits, concerts, plays, revues (sketch and burlesque), movies, comedy sets, dance performances, book release parties, lectures, panels, festivals, fairs, and circuses going on during what we’re calling the autumn season—i.e., the 77 days between this issue’s date and November 30—than any person, family, or National Guard unit can hope to absorb.

The metropolis will be throwing her perennial big events: the Chicago Humanities and World Music festivals, SOFA Chicago, and so on. Dozens and dozens of theaters will be opening their seasons. We can expect some brief visits from the exquisite: the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, for instance, in its final Chicago stand before it disbands in December. And away off at the far end, the Nutcrackers ominously bide their time. The sheer volume of it all is not just daunting but a little traumatizing.

To simplify things, Reader writers have picked a selection of people and events that they think are particularly worthy of your attention. Our Ones to Watch and Best Bets aren’t many, but as Tracy said of Hepburn, they’re cherce. If you’d prefer a less ruthlessly curated sense of what’s available this fall, take a look at our online listings. I’m going to wait a few weeks before I check them again, though. I’ve seen what’s in there, and it’s way, way too much.


One to Watch: Director Max Truax

Our top five theater picks


One to Watch: Comedian Adam Burke

Our top three comedy picks


One to Watch: Choreographer Adam Rose

Our three top dance picks

Visual Art

One to Watch: Recyclist John Preus

Our top six visual arts picks


One to Watch: Cabbie Dmitry Samarov

four top literary picks


One to Watch: Documentarian Debra Tolchinsky

Our ten (ten!) top music picks


One to Watch: Garage rockers Outer Minds

Best Bets and more