Illinois Public Media News
Dick Van Dyke won't be able to make it back to Danville High School to see the auditorium dedicated to him this weekend. But the 85-year-old comedian will make an appearance of sorts.
Danville High choral director Martha Lindvahl told The (Champaign) News-Gazette that Van Dyke will watch dedication ceremonies and performances Friday and Saturday via Skype. She says Van Dyke was invited and wanted to attend but is having back problems.
Van Dyke has recently been promoting his book, "My Lucky Life, In and Out of Show Business.''
Danville has only about 32,000 residents but Van Dyke is among a handful of famous entertainers from the town on the Indiana border. Others include Gene Hackman, Donald O'Connor and jazz pianist and singer Bobby Short.
The word 'overlooked' is no longer part of the title in Urbana native Roger Ebert's annual film festival.
But the director of the 13th annual event at the Virginia Theater in Champaign says it's still a large part of the mission. Nate Kohn says attendees may be surprised with some of the names attached to the screening, including the Friday night movie, a love story that will be accompanied by Director Norman Jewison.
"Very few people are familiar with the film 'Only You', and yet it stars Robert Downey Jr. and Marisa Tomei, pretty prominent names," said Kohn. "I think that's a good example. Most people cite 'In the Heat of the Night' as (Jewison's) best-known film."
Jewison has been nominated for five Academy Awards, winning an honorary Oscar in 1999. Other guests appearing with their work including actress Tilda Swinton, and directors Richard Linklater and Tim Blake Nelson.
Kohn says usually, Friday afternoon is reserved for annual viewing of a silent film accompanied by the Alloy Orchestra. But he says Fritz Lang's vision of the future from 1927, with missing footage, will be among the festival's biggest highlights Wednesday evening.
"Because 'Metropolis' was just recently restored to its full length, some missing footage was found in Argentina..." said Kohn. "We thought it was signifcant enough to move it to the opening night film."
'Metropolis' is among those listed in Ebert's 1998 'Great Movies' essay. Meanwhile, free panel discussions will be held at the University of Illinois' Illini Union beginning at 9 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday morning.
Kohn admits the traffic presents a challenge with the Illinois Marathon going on at the same time Saturday. But he says coordinators worked with Champaign police so transportation could flow as smoothly as possible.
A World War II veteran who became famous as the Empire Carpet Man has died at age 89.
Empire Today spokeswoman Marlo Michalek says Elmer Lynn Hauldren died Tuesday at his Evanston home. A cause of death wasn't given but Michalek said he had been sick.
Hauldren was the voice of Empire carpet on television advertising in the 1970s. The ads later aired around the country in cities like New York, Washington and San Francisco. He was the company spokesperson until he died.
The company says it chose Hauldren as its on-air talent after auditioning several others for the role. Hauldren helped launch the carpet company's "588-2300" jingle.
Hauldren was the father of 6, grandfather of 18 and great-grandfather of 10. He also was a singer in a barbershop quartet.
Researchers in Chicago are beginning a study Tuesday that they hope will extend the life of urban trees.
All those trees you see lining shady Chicago sidestreets actually have it pretty rough. Their average lifespan is less than ten years. That's compared to fifty or sixty years for their suburban cousins.
Bryant Scharenbroch is a soil scientist with the Morton Arboretum. He said all those city roads and buildings make soil too dense.
"When you compact the soil to make it suitable for infrastructure, you're also making it kind of a hostile environment for trees," he said."
So scientists are testing out biochar, a sort of super-heated charcoal made from plant matter. Ancient Amazonians were using biochar on their crops centuries ago, but its affects on trees haven't been widely studied, said researcher Kelby Fite, with Bartlet Tree Experts.
Biochar adds nutrients into the soil, like compost, but lasts a lot longer.
"So compost may degrade in a matter of a handful of years, whereas biochar could be stable for hundreds, or even thousands of years," Fite said.
The researchers will monitor sample trees in the Bucktown neighborhood for the next couple years.
Filmmaker Deren Abram reflects on his years working on films with the late Bob Clark, director of "A Christmas Story" and "Porky's." Abram's documentary "ClarkWorld" includes remembrances from stars like Jon Voight and Kim Cattrall, who credits Clark with launching her career. Abram spoke with Illinois Public Media's Jeff Bossert.
The Art Theatre in Champaign will roll out a new series this month with an emphasis on the performing arts.
The theater is teaming up with the digital film company, Emerging Pictures, to feature operas, ballets, and Shakespearean plays in High Definition and surround sound. The first selection in the series is this weekend's presentation of Shakespeare's Love's Labour's Lost, recorded from London's Globe Theatre. Sanford Hess, the operator at the Art Theatre, said he hopes the showings will offer audience members a close representation of what it is like to see a live performance.
"You get close-ups of the performers that you would never get when you're sitting in the theatre," he said. "At the same time you still get that kind of communal experience of watching it with many other people who are also opera lovers or who love to see ballet."
Hess said he plans to invite speakers to give a presentation before each showing to provide some background about the stories and help explain the staging of each production.
"With the Shakespeare (plays), I think it's not so much the story that you need, but sometimes it's fascinating to know the historical context that some of the plays take place in," he explained. "I know Richard III has been staged in sort of World War II time frame. So, they're trying to make a point and have somebody give some context before you start; it's great."
Ticket prices for operas will be set at $20 for adults, and $18 for children, students, and senior citizens. All Shakespearean plays and ballets will be priced at $15 for adults and $13.50 for children, students, and senior citizens. Audience members can get discounted rates by purchasing a three-show package. The 2011 Winter/Spring season starts next month with a free showing of Verdi's Aidia on January 1st and 2nd.
Hess said the Art Theatre also plans to start showing digitized classic films early next year with works by British director Alfred Hitchcock, Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, and filmmakers from the French New Wave movement.
Archeophone Records will be part of the Grammy Awards for the 5th straight year.
'There Breathes a Hope', the newest release from the Champaign-based label that re-issues some of the earliest known recordings, includes 43 songs performed by the Fisk Jubilee Quartet. The recordings and the accompanying 100-page booklet tell the story of John Wesley Work II, who started taking the Fisk Jubilee Singers, from Nashville-based Fisk University, on the road in the late 1890's in an effort to preserve African-American spirituals and their place in history. The ensemble became the Fisk University Jubilee Quartet in the next century. The re-issue of these songs is nominated for Best Album Notes.
Author Doug Seroff wrote the notes. "I suppose what Work had to do was convince the student body that this music was genuine African-American folk music..," said Seroff. ".. and it had all the potential and all the inherit cultural value that people's music has." The CD also includes portions of a 1983 interview Seroff conducted with Rev. Jerome Wright, one of the last surviving members of the Fisk Jubliee Singers to have performed under John Work II.
Archeophone co-owners Richard Martin and Meagan Hennessey have one Grammy win - that was in 2007 - when another collection of black recordings - Lost Sounds, took the award for best historical album. Previous nominations include "Debate '08: Taft and Bryan Campaign on the Edison Phonograph" and "Actionable Offenses: Indecent Phonograph Recordings From the 1890's." The 53rd annual Grammy Awards will be presented on February 13th.
Champaign's Virginia Theater is now without a marquee.
The sign that is been part of the theater since the 1940's came down Tuesday. The city's park district opted in June to replace it with one resembling the 1921 original.
Champaign Park District spokeswoman Laura Auteberry said it is likely the theater will re-open without the new marquee in place. The Virginia closed six months ago, so crews could redo the lobby, which included plaster and electrical work, and renovated concessions. Private donations paid for the project.
Preservationists have called the marquee the Virginia's most defining feature. Auteberry said the controversy that initially arose over replacing that sign prompted the park district to make it a separate project.
"We actually pulled it out of the original planning process for the renovation so that the (Park District) Board had an opportunity to further study what we were looking at doing, and the replacement options for the marquee" Auteberry said. "So the whole process just got started a little later than we had originally anticipated."
Auteberry said the Park District board will sign off on a design for a new marquee at its meeting next month. She said the board plans to hold a re-opening event, a kind of open house, sometime in January. The Park District contends a new marquee would show off more of the Virginia's architectural significance.
Preservation planner Alice Novak said the sign change could impact the theater's position on the National Register of Historic Places. She said she expects Illinois' Historic Preservation Agency will consider such a recommendation.
"It could possibly change the standing," Novak said. "I have no doubt that somebody will present materials to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to see about de-listing the building from the National Register."
Novak added that could hurt publicity for the old theater. She sits on the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council.
(Photo courtesy of Champaign Park District)
Champaign's Virginia Theatre is nearing the end of renovations to its lobby and exterior, and will open again to audiences.
However, the nearly 90-year-old facility will be closing again in the next couple of years for handicapped accessible seating, plaster work inside the theater, and electric work. The $500,000 grant was part of the Illinois Jobs Now capital program.
Champaign Park District spokeswoman Laura Auteberry said an exact closure date will be within two years of when the grant is initiated. So it could be as soon as next summer, but she said the key is to avoid conflicting with Roger Ebert's Annual Film Festival in April. The work is expected to take at least six months.
The Park District got half of what it requested for the state grant, so Auteberry said the ADA compliance and other work will have to be pared down.
"So we're going to take a look at what we submitted, which initially included replacement of the current seating and replacement of all the plaster work inside the entire house," Auteberry said. "But it also included some acoustical infrastucture improvements upgrades, and electrical and lighting work on stage."
The next performance this year is the annual Chorale concert on New Year's Eve. Auteberry says the public will notice changes right away, including new carpeting, exterior and interior doors, and plaster work.
The Park District staff is also working with a sign company to take down the old theater marquee, and design for the new one to be put up in the next few weeks. The current work on the Virginia was paid for with a bequest from the estate of the late Michael Carragher, and other private funds.
(Photo courtesy of the Champaign Park District)
Twenty five years ago this week, the Champaign area was all about Farm Aid. The 12-hour event in Champaign, Illinois featured more than 40 acts, including organizers Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young. It drew in more than $9 million dollars to help the nation's struggling farmers. But beyond raising money, Illinois Public Media's Sean Powers reports that the concert helped shed light on the challenges facing farmers in the 1980s.
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