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Articles by Tyler Esselman

I'm a Lifelong Learner, Baby

I’m a cheesy guy. I’m a sappy, nostalgic, hopelessly romantic dude and what I’m about to say is cheesy but true: I love learning. So, as my formal education comes to a close (at least for the foreseeable future because I don’t currently see myself going back to get a grad degree), I’ve started to think about what I’m going to do next to continue my education in theatre and just as a person in the world. The options are endless.

From an acting/theatre perspective, I’m fairly certain the next training on my agenda is take improv classes. I’ve been doing improve since I was the president of my high school’s improv ​comedy troupe (What what, Improvability!). This past quarter we had an improv class with Noah Gregoropolous​ from iO​. This was definitely one of my favorite classes at DePaul. It was less focused in comedy than it was in using the training we have for written text and applying it to improvisation. The only real rule was that we wanted to always be truthful. The excise this provided was great because it encourages you to always mean what you say on stage no matter what which can be harder than you think if you’re not relaxed and focused in the moment. This practice was super inspiring to me, especially at this stage of my training. As such, I’m definitely planning on taking classes at iO ASAP. I feel like it will be just the kind of practice I need to keep my enthusiasm for acting alive.

My to-do list of post grad hobbies outside of theatre is crazy long. I want brew my own beer, work wood, play music, write poetry and short stories, cook delicious food, work on an organic farm in Norway, backpack everywhere, learn a million languages, build houses, and plant a killer garden. The way I see it, to be a quality actor you have to be a real human being. You have to appreciate things outside of the theatre that inform you in your theatre work. And at this point I just want to hit the ground running. I’m young and I want to squeeze every bit of opportunity out of my day. I want to learn something new constantly. And I will do it. The work never stops.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
You just have to sing along! YOU HAVE TO.


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Structure vs. Chaos

I’m a guy that thrives on structure. It’s my default when I don’t know what to do in a situation. As such, I have been trying to embrace more chaos in my life simply because it puts me out of my comfort zone and helps me go to places in my acting work and in my personal life that I rarely expect. That being said, as I graduate and lose the structure of going to class every day and knowing where I will be at the beginning and end of each season, I have to build at least a little more structure for my daily, post-grad life so that I can stay sane.

As an actor starting my professional career here in Chicago, I’ll have to supplement my income with a day job or two. I have managed to secure one at the Chicago Athletic Club already. This job is great for many reasons including the fact that I can work early mornings so I can go on auditions during the day, I get a free gym membership, and it’s easy to trade shifts with coworkers. My hope is that I can also secure another job in the evenings serving at a restaurant. This way I would at least have the experience serving that I could use at any restaurant and get to interact with people. At some point, my hope is to get a job working at a brewery here in town. Beer is another of my major passions outside of theatre and being able to help brew beer for my day job would be absolutely ideal. The key that I have gathered about how to make it for the long haul as an actor is that you cultivate a life outside of the craft. If I can brew beer, write my own material, exercise, spend time with my friends, and make time to get out into nature regularly, I think I will be in the perfect headspace to do my best acting work.

The structure that I’m trying to create for myself will ideally be flexible enough that I can follow my impulses when new opportunities present themselves for me. Is there a chance to work in Milwaukee or another city that attracts me? Well then I hope to be able to go for that with no qualms. I’m getting more and more excited for the life I can live after graduation with each day that passes.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

I’ve never been terribly into Toro Y Moi but this track may have shifted that. This is great springtime music. 





Spring in Chicago Can't Be Beat

For a very long time, winter was my favorite season. I loved the gray skies and the skeletal vegetation and dependability of the cold. What was I thinking?? All of those things I loved about winter before are pretty much always replaced by January with dreams of clear skies, light breezes, and trees and flowers bursting with life. Spring is a chance for new beginnings and the spring in Chicago is a unique, beautiful animal.

If you’ve read any of my other blog posts or bio, you’ve probably gained an inkling as to my deep love for baseball. And to me, spring and baseball are inextricably connected. When the weather gets warm, I immediately start dreaming of bats cracking, the organ churning at Wrigley, and even just listening to a game on the radio on the porch back home in St. Louis. This year, thanks to the generosity of a good friend of mine who is a Cubs season ticket holder, I was able to attend Opening Night at Wrigley ​to see the Cardinals and Cubs play the very first baseball game of the regular season. It was a tremendous night. My boys played well and soundly defeated the Cubs. I can’t think of a better way to start my spring than with an evening at Wrigley.

Spring has an amazing effect on how Chicagoans interact in the city. During winter, everyone curls up into themselves. They zip their collars up to the tippy top and put their shoulders down into the wind to be able to make it down the street. But when the flowers bloom, many Chicagoans do too. The clear air and even smallest modicum of warmth causes people to actually look at each other on the street, smile and spread a bit of good cheer. It’s also liberating to know that you can actually walk places rather than having to figure out the best covered form of transportation. The possibilities exponentially increase when spring comes in Chicago.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
I’ve been busting my way through the first season of True Detective ​and this bit of music caught my attention. T Bone Burnett​ coordinated the music for the show and he’s one I can always count on to match music perfectly to a film or television show.


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The Three Things I Wish I Would Have Known Before Coming to DePaul

Entering college, it’s important to remember that everyone is starting fresh. No two people will have exactly the same experience. That’s the beauty of it.  My best overarching and admittedly cheesy advice is to thine own self be true. You want to be the most genuine, real version of yourself. It’s the only that college will really be a time during which you can figure out your own personal philosophy and how that will feed your future. So with that in mind, here come my three things I wish I would have known before coming to DePaul.

The first one is pretty technical. When moving in to the residence hall, you probably don’t need as much stuff as you think you do. I understand the idea that you want to have anything you might need at your disposal, but those rooms can get real crowded real quick. To my mind, you want to have your living essentials like clothes and all that jazz, and some comfort stuff like mementos from home, and then build from there. You don’t want to have an overstuffed room because then you’ll just feel claustrophobic and it won’t feel like a home away from home. Focus on making it feel homey over time rather than expecting it to happen right away.

Second, it’s important to have alone time. There is a typhoon of socializing when you first get to school. Endless recitations of your hometown, major, and what you did over the summer. At least for me, it was overwhelming. It can feel like you need to make best friends with people right away or you’ll be behind the eight ball. It’s just not the case. Your friend group will present itself over time as long as you are participating in the experience to some extent. But you need to have some alone time to decompress and actually process the whole transition to pseudo-independent life. I recommend taking a walk to the lake a couple times a week. It doesn’t take too long from campus and it’s a great time to think and then appreciate that beautiful lake we have here.

Finally, choose one person from back home and correspond with them in letters. This is definitely something I wish I had done. Letter writing takes practice and concentration and is very different from sending emails. It makes you a better writer, teaches you how to organize your thoughts, and is so satisfying when you seal that envelope. This will also create a tether to home for you. It’s very easy to get wrapped up in college life but, if this is something that you desire, having a specific point of contact and communication back home will be incredibly valuable.

Maybe these seem obvious but, in my experience, sometimes the most obvious things that can make us happy are the first to fall by the wayside. Be good and true to yourself and college will be a really transformative, enriching time.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

Hozier's really been blowing up lately and this is my favorite cut of his that I've heard. Enjoy!

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Chicago's Special Kind of Toughness

The other day the warmth came out, if only for a moment. It was glorious. I didn’t even have to wear a hat. Of course things cooled down again as the day went on but it got me to thinking about how exactly we Chicago residents survive each soul-sucking winter.

I think it takes a special kind of person to be able to live in Chicago. You have to be tough. First you have to be physically tough. You have to have the stamina to make it through the long, dark nights from November to March. And you have to be able to trudge down your street to the train even when the wind and snow are trying their hardest to bend you backwards. This winter, I’ve discovered just how important staying active during the cold months is. If you can do a lot of strength training at this time, then it won’t feel like you’re at so much of a disadvantage in the battle against the cold. You must be like a Viking or a 20s-era boxer. Bruised, weathered and built to last.

You also have to be mentally tough. You have to choose to be happy and positive because if you don’t then it’s a long spiral down the rabbit hole of seasonal depression. It’s important to take time to quiet your mind and center yourself. I’ve been trying to incorporate at least fifteen minutes every day of just being still. I don’t take in any information and I don’t move. I just sit still and swim in my thoughts. Any form of meditation can work so long as you are in the moment and honest with yourself. You’ll be amazed at how drastically it can affect your mood when it feels like the sun will never come back ever.

Carl Sandburg wrote a famous poem about Chicago​ and I think it paints a truly evocative portrait of our city. We’re fighters and we don’t take no for an answer. That is what makes this town beautiful and why we manage to survive winter after punishing winter. Stay warm, friends.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
The Bad Plus is a great contemporary jazz outfit that I have been grooving hard to lately. This one never fails to give me feelies. Enjoy!




The Finest Improv You'll Ever See

For those of you high schoolers who will be visiting DePaul​ on your respective spring breaks this year, I have one recommendation for something to do. It is, in my mind, so quintessentially Chicago that you simply must not miss the opportunity to experience it.

I have talked about TJ and Dave before but for those of you have not heard me sing their praises to this point, Tj Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi are two improvisers here in town who are the artistic directors of iO’s Mission Theatre in their new space on Kinhsbury. In addition to moderating the shows that play at The Mission, they have their own 90 minute show that they do every Wednesday night at 10:30pm eponymously titled TJ & Dave. They come on the stage, introduce each other, drop their trademark line of “Trust us, this is all made up”, the lights go down, the lights come up, and they tear into 90 minutes of improve right off the tops of their heads. They don’t take suggestions, they just look at each other and the scene grows from whatever behavior is happening in that moment. It is quite honestly the best theatre I have ever seen. These two men are such incredible quality actors that them just existing together creates some of the funniest, poignant, and thought-provoking theatre being done anywhere. Most people are familiar with the sketch-based improve that Chicago is known for thanks to Second City and iO, but this longform work is also a hallmark of the Chicago improve scene. The space is very intimate and the audience is always rapt because they know just how special the material unfolding before them can be. It’s only $10 but make sure you buy your tickets ahead of time because this show sells out every single week. If you’re interested, here’s a trailer for a documentary​ recently done about the guys that can whet your appetite. 

Improv and storefront theatre are what make Chicago’s theatre scene the beautiful cacophony that it is and nothing encapsulates that spirit more than TJ & Dave.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

This song is love, people. “I’d rather be working for a paycheck, than waiting to win the lottery”






Getting All the Nuts and Bolts

This quarter, my class has a tandem of two weekly classes at the Acting Studio Chicago​. The Acting Studio is a center for classes focused in acting technique and also the business side of the entertainment industry in Chicago. The classes we are taking are an acting for the camera class and also an audition technique class. They present an interesting one-two punch every week introducing every week to what it might really be like to work as an actor in Chicago.

In acting for the camera, we go through scenarios every week that resemble an actual on-camera audition that we would go on. We read commercial copy and learn how to most effectively use our training to make this sometimes dry text unique to us and boil down what will help us get callbacks on these auditions. It’s a subtle technique and looking at yourself on the screen once we’ve filmed the segments is very weird at first. I’m getting more used to it with each class but it can make you pretty self-conscious. It really just comes down to practice, I think. Doing this kind of material is something very few people in my class have ever done but we’re getting better. In addition to reading copy, we’ve gone through scenarios for auditions with no written text and worked in pairs. We are certainly getting an advantage because so many other actors our age not coming out of a program such as ours don’t have this opportunity to learn the industry and the technique before jumping in to an audition.

Speaking of auditioning, our audition class on Fridays is an extension of the audition class we had last quarter. We are learning what it takes to get in the door with agents and do our best work when we get in the room for those auditions. I guess the biggest thing that I’m taking from all of it is that there is no right way to do it, really. The most important thing to me is that I don’t feel like I’m compromising any part of myself to get work that I think I “should” get or “have” to get. I want to and will do it my way and I am confident that, because of that, I will do the work that I want to do.  Rock on, amirite?

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:
Say what you will about Beck, but the dude can really write a jam. 





Showcase Is Just around the Corner

This past week, I attended the first planning meeting for one of the most exciting and daunting events of senior year for us acting majors: Graduate Showcase. Our Showcase is where we travel to New York City and LA to do a performance of scenes and monologues for industry professionals like agents, casting directors, and managers. Oh, we also do one here in Chicago, by the way. In addition to doing the Showcase itself in those cities, we also attend alumni networking events that can put us in contact with alums of TTS (The Theatre School) that might be able to help us get settled in those cities should we decide to move there. And the crazy part? We do all three performances within the span of two weeks! Nuts, right? So, this first planning meeting was mostly to talk logistics. We covered things like budgeting, getting headshots printed, transportation, and lodging. It’s all very overwhelming and absolutely exhilarating.

Many of my classmates have pretty much already decided if they want to move away from Chicago right after Showcase and graduation or not, but I’m in a very flexible spot. I always thought that I would want to leave Chicago for LA right away but after these past four years, my thoughts on it have definitely shifted. I want to do different kinds of work than I did before and that could lead me anywhere.
I have no idea where I will be six months from now but I’m leaning towards probably staying in Chicago for the time being and maybe even going overseas for a while. I’d love to see what the UK might have for a young theatre maker such as myself, especially if I had some collaborators who also wanted to head over there. It’s always been a dream of mine to live overseas for at least a while and soon might be the best time to do it.

Ultimately, I will have to see what the next several months hold for me and what opportunities Showcase might present, and then go from there. It’s very exciting to have all of these options ahead of me. I’m just going to have to go with my gut.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

This week is "Towers" by Bon Iver. My favorite song off their self-titled second album. I could listen to it any time, any day.



So Much to Do, so Little Time

Winter is no longer coming, people. It’s here. Wow. It hit hard. It seems fitting that today, the first day of classes for my final winter quarter, would also be the first sub-zero day of the year. But, I must say, my spirits are high. I have a really good feeling about this quarter and what it could be. As such, I have been working on my pre-graduation to-do list. Pretty soon, I’ll be off in the big bad world and I intend to do some personally enriching stuff and some uniquely DePaul stuff before I get out of Dodge.

One, I plan to read all of Shakespeare’s canon, sonnets included, out loud by the end of winter quarter. My Bard craze is well-documented in this blog’s archive and I figure now is the time to really go whole-hog on devouring this rich text. I have my favorites, obviously, but I am excited to see what will strike me from the less-celebrated work in the canon. My dear friend and I hope to do at least two plays a week together. It’ll be a great thing to do when going out of doors is simply unconscionable.

Two, I plan on attending a Blue Demon basketball game. This is something I am ashamed to say I have neglected to do thus far in my time here at the university. Granted, it would have been difficult to fit it in before now, what with my schedule as packed to the gills as it has been these last three years. But, there’s still time! I want to make sure that I take in our school’s marquee sport at least once before I’m no longer a student. Whether it’s the women’s team or the men’s, I’ll do it!

And three, I want to perform at an open mic somewhere. Stepping up at an event like that has always seemed like a very prototypically college thing to do and it’s certainly something that interests me. I’m not entirely sure what I will perform. It might be poetry or an Irish drinking song something of that ilk. It will feel good to do a little bit of performance outside of The Theatre School and share my work with a different section of the DePaul community.

This list will keep growing and I’ll be sure to share if I add any particularly interesting bits. Stay warm, blogosphere!

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

I’m on another Andrew Bird kick lately and here’s a track of his that struck me the moment I heard it.




Caffeinated Chicago

One of those college stereotypes that I never thought I would fall victim to was the college student as the coffee addict. My parents are both dedicated coffee drinkers and it never really caught on for me before or during high school. But after a year of college, at the beginning of my sophomore year, I started drinking coffee before my 8:00am LSP-120 class and have since been hooked. I don’t drink it every day but it’s at least once every other day, and I must say that I love it. Part of what I love about it is the ritual of either making it myself or going to a café and grabbing a cup. The warmth and spark it gives me on an early morning are invigorating and sometimes indispensable. And thank goodness I decided to fall in love with coffee in a city that is so rich with coffee opportunities.

Trying different types of coffee and exploring Chicago’s cornucopia of sterling cafes has been marvelous. If you’re coming to our fair city and are looking for a decent cup of Joe in a good atmosphere, here are a few of my suggestions.

Your first stop should be Bow Truss Coffee Roasters. These guys are down-to-business coffee folk. I have been to their Lakeview location. The utilitarian space is geared towards showcasing the process of bringing coffee to your cup. They have some seating available but no Wi-Fi. So bring a book/magazine/newspaper and enjoy the fantastic cup of coffee they will brew for you. Their coffee has also been featured at Brownstone’s at DePaul’s student center!

Next, shuffle up Broadway to Intelligentsia. A very similar atmosphere to Bow Truss but with Wi-Fi and a bit more traffic. I would say that Intelligentsia is likely the most popular coffee in Chicago outside of your more commercial options. They do a very good job of rotating their selection so the more you visit, the more things you will be able to try. Plus, the painfully trendy employees are always kind and helpful, even for the less experienced coffee consumers.

Now for something a little quirkier! If you find yourself in the vicinity of Wicker Park, make a stop by The Wormhole. This place is for those of you truly nerdy coffee connoisseurs. It is decked out from head to toe in sci-fi paraphernalia, retro video games, and even a real-life DeLorean. This is a favorite of my roommates’ and mine. They also do a great job of bringing in brews from all over the world so that your palate can marvel in the diversity of coffee available to us. Truly wonderful times in which we live!


So make sure you bring your mug with you if you’re coming to visit Chicago during this sure-to-be brutal winter. You’ll have no shortage of fantastic coffee options right at your fingertips.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

It’s been too long since I shot a Radiohead B-side out into the blogosphere. Take this! A true classic, in my opinion.



Fall!

​As I have extolled before, fall is the best. It’s my favorite season. I love sweaters and hot coffee and pie and Thanksgiving and my birthday and all that good stuff. It’s just awesome. And fall in Chicago is the best time to be here.

If you tell anyone you’re going to Chicago, they will obviously warn you about the winter. And with good cause. It is brutal, after all. You need to have the proper coat and boots to even have a chance at surviving. But summer is brutal too! It gets truly hot and humid and just disgusting. And, honestly, the thing is that we don’t really have a spring here. In my past couple years, it’s pretty much gone straight from winter to summer with maybe a couple days of spring in between. That’s why you gotta go with fall. It’s the best period of sustained beautiful weather this city has to offer. So grab it while you can.

But that’s not all! There’s still tons of rad stuff to do in the city before the cold sets in. There’s the Chicago International Film Festival which is always a favorite of mine when I can make it. They show an extremely diverse range of films from small international indie films to the upcoming Oscar contenders before they get a wide release. Definitely worth checking out. Plus, Chicago gets into the fall spirit as well as any city. There are tons of beer tasting and seasonal food festivals like Veggie Fest that just happened on Navy Pier. Another great event that just took place was Open House Chicago. This is the weekend when the Chicago Architecture Foundation opens the doors to many of the city’s unique and rarely seen buildings, such as the Fine Arts Building and Alliance Francaise, for the public to tour for free. 
So I hope you will pull on your favorite cable-knit sweater and spend some time with us here in Chicago this fall. I’m going to be soaking up every bit of it that I can.


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

Another hot Rufus Wainwright track coming at you this week. Only word I can use to describe this one? Epic. Those horns!

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Hot Doug's: Twilight of a Chicago Landmark

I love cooked meat. That's just my truth. I love animals, and I am all for their humane treatment, but if we are going to eat them, then we need to do it in the right way. But ultimately, I just love eating cooked meats of all kinds. To that end, if you are a meat eater in Chicago, you must be familiar with the hot dog and sausage scene. I've talked about some of the better spots for these succulent treats in previous posts but there is one place that I have been wanting to try and have not had the opportunity to do so yet. And what's more, my time in which to do so is limited.

Hot Doug's is a Chicago institution. Located at the corner of Roscoe and California, it is a hot dog stand that serves us so much more than your average hot dog fare. Sausages consisting of meats as varied as rattlesnake, escargots, and crayfish grace the menu. Staring at you and daring you to question their veracity. The stand has been featured on numerous television programs, such as Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, for their maverick attitude about what hot dogs and sausage should be. Several years ago, when the city of Chicago banned the sale of foie gras, the fatty liver of geese whose production often brings to light questions of animal cruelty, the owners of Hot Doug's did not let little things like laws get in the way of them serving exactly the kind of food they wanted to serve. They went ahead and kept selling their foie gras sausage and even nicknamed it after the alderman who had the law pushed through. These guys don't mess around. Of course, you will be able to find a very well done traditional Chicago dog there but that should just be a warm up. There are so many more sausage horizons to gallop toward at this hot dog stand. Why would you want to miss that? 

But time is of the essence! Doug Sohn, the restaurant's owner, recently announced that Doug's will be closing its doors permanently in October. Sohn said that it's time to go do something else. I get and respect that for sure. Sometimes you just have to shake things up and good for him for knowing that he had to do just that despite the protests I'm sure he's experienced. Therefore, a visit to Hot Doug's should have just shot up your summer to-do list just like it did mine.

Tyler's Hot Track of the Week:

This week's hot track is off of the debut solo album from Damon Albarn of blur and Gorillaz fame. I think anything Albarn touches turns to gold and this album is no exception. Check it out.



A Taste of Chicago's Music Festival Season

​Continuing the theme of fun things to do in the city this summer, let’s talk about music festivals. These days, summer music festivals are becoming more and more popular each year. You can find them all over the country in a variety of different locations and flavors and our fine city and its surrounding area are home to several. 

If you are at all familiar with the festival circuit, then you almost certainly know about Lollapalooza. It is Chicago’s highest profile festival and it takes place right in Grant Park next to the lake. There you will find a wide range of acts that usually include some of the biggest commercial acts of the given year and also an under-card of solid, up-and-coming bands that you definitely want to know about. This year the bill includes acts from Eminem and Arctic Monkeys, to local rap sensation Chance the Rapper, to a guy you may have heard me mention before, Glen Hansard. It takes place over three days in August so it is not for the faint of heart. It works best if you either have a plan of what you want to see and stick to it or you really just wing it and go where the winds take you. Who knows? You might see a great show by a righteous band that nobody knows about right now but is the next big thing. If you want tickets, you’ll have to look at the second hand market at this point as they are all sold out. Craigslist and ebay will always have deals, especially as the time draws closer and people want to offload their passes. I went three years ago and two years ago and had an absolutely great time so I highly recommend it as a Chicago summer experience if you are interested. 

Pitchfork Music Festival is another Chicago festival I have attended. This one tends to host slightly less mainstream acts but still ones that are usually household names. Taking place in Union Park, the bill this year features Beck, Neutral Milk Hotel, Kendrick Lamar, and St. Vincent. The atmosphere is very different at Pitchfork than at Lolla. I would say it’s a bit more relaxed and a bit more attention goes to those oddball acts. And that’s just kind of the nature of it, being Chicago’s alternative music festival. Tickets for Pitchfork will be easier to come by and I would say I had just as good of a time at Pitchfork three years ago as I did at Lolla. 

In addition to the big boys, Chicago hosts a variety of other smaller festivals that are no less outstanding in quality. I personally hope to make it to the Chicago Jazz Festival this year. You can check out Timeout Chicago’s breakdown of the area’s festivals here and see which one(s) get you most excited. Summer is the time to sit on grass and soak up some quality music and here in Chicago, you have no shortage of opportunities to do just that. 


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week: 

As I have mentioned before, many of my favorite memories of listening to music come from my days mowing lawns in my neighborhood in high school. I used to listen to a LOT of Weezer while doing that. And seeing as how it is the twenty-year anniversary of their debut album being released, I figured I’d share my favorite track from that very album. We will always have Weezer to help us revel in our teenage angst. And, to me, that is a beautiful thing. 

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Summer's Nearly Here. Whatever Shall You Do?

​Being on the quarter system has its blessings and its curses, people. Be warned. It’s great because you get to start school after Labor Day, you can fit in tons of classes, and get that sweet six-week break in the winter. Although, it should be noted that classes start so late in the fall because spring quarter doesn’t end until the middle of June. Nope, that’s not a typo. As such, the middle of May can be a tough time when you start to see all of your friends at other schools posting on their social media outlets of choice about their classes ending and basking in the revelry of a new summer while you have four weeks left of school. It’s rough but doable.

Anyway, that’s part of it. But! Think about all the stuff you will eventually be able to do here in Chicago when summer does come! SO much good stuff. As I learn about cool attractions and events, I’ll put them up here so that you’ll know about them if you decide to come visit Chicago and DePaul during those sweet summer months. This is one that I’ve known about for a while but haven’t had the pleasure of partaking of yet: every summer, the City of Chicago puts on a film series on Tuesday nights in Millennium Park. Patrons can sit in the seating at the Jay Pritzker Pavilion or bring blankets and other picnic accouterments and watch from the field behind the pavilion. This summer, they have some great films such as "O Brother Where Art Thou?" and "Field of Dreams" on the docket as well as many others. This is a great way to get out of the house and get together with the Chicago community. There are also concerts in the same pavilion throughout the summer. Last year, Glen Hansard, who was featured on last week’s Hot Track of the Week, played and I was despondent upon learning I missed it. 

The city puts on some really great, free events throughout the summer and you should definitely peruse their website to see if any strike your fancy. So much to do and only 10 weeks of summer in which to do it so start your lists now! 


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week: 

I believe I have posted some Sufjan before and here’s some more. This one hit me right in the gut on my walk home the other night. This guy’s just an absolutely incredible musician all around. 

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The Moth: The Perfect Forum to Share Your Story

​Who wants a cool thing to do in Chicago? Anyone? Ok, here you go! 

Do you like stories? Listening to or telling them, either way, you’ll love The Moth. The Moth is a series of events that happens nationwide that is dedicated to celebrating the art of storytelling and intent on bringing people together to listen and share those stories. I went to The Moth a few months ago with a couple friends at the Haymarket Pub and Brewery in the West Loop. It was a StorySlam which meant several people went up throughout the evening to tell a five-minute story and were judged by randomly selected judges in the crowd. The person whose story got the highest score at the end of the night was the winner and qualified to go onto the Grand Slam where they would share their story with the winners of other Slams that had happened over the course of the year. Not every story was great but it was still great to see people going up there and taking a genuine risk. Each definitely shared a little bit about themselves in a very vulnerable way. And, as I’ve come to find out more and more over the course of my time at The Theatre School, art is all about vulnerability in one form or another. Anyway, it was a great event. The crowd was very supportive and attentive and I left the event on cloud nine, super inspired to share a story at a future event. I haven’t yet been back but I hope to go very soon. If this sounds like something that would interest you, their next Chicago event is on April 29th at Martyrs’ on Lincoln. Admission is $16 for the limited pre-sale tickets and $8 for the even more limited amount of tickets at the door. Oh, also, at this particular venue it will be only 21 and over. Sorry if that counts you out. But keep an eye out for future events if you can’t make this one. Here’s their website for more information about their mission and the events that they conduct all the time. 


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week: 

So, on a whim because I had a tech rehearsal cancelled this past Thursday, I was able to see The National on the second night of their three night stand at the Chicago Theatre with two of my good buddies. I have been obsessed with them lately and this concert only deepened that madness. It was an absolutely beautiful show. Honestly, it felt like it was their first time playing for a crowd. For one of the world’s biggest rick bands right now, to be able to give off that vibe is no mean feat. Cheers! 

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Springtime = Baseball Time

​Welcome back! Spring quarter is upon us. It’s finally getting warm with just a smidge of regularity and, I’ll tell you, that’s more than a smidge OK with me. Inevitably, this blog would take a turn toward my real passion in life. That, of course, is St. Louis Cardinals baseball. As a diehard Cardinals fan, you might imagine, I’ve encountered animosity from Chicago sports fans but, on the contrary, I have never experienced anything of the like. Honestly, this probably has to do with the wide gulf separating the recent success of our respective teams but it’s still very comforting to know that I can live on the North Side here and support any team I darn well please. 

If you haven’t experienced baseball in Chicago yet, it’s a must. You have two storied franchises inhabiting our fine city and each offers very unique baseball watching experiences. Start with the Cubs and Wrigley Field. It’s one of the oldest teams in baseball and I have no qualms in saying that Wrigley Field is my favorite stadium that I’ve visited so far (in the non-Busch Stadium category, of course). It’s a remnant of simpler times in baseball and always boasts a stellar atmosphere no matter how well or poorly the Cubbies are doing. And, pro tip, it won’t be long before the Cubs are good again, in my opinion. Theo Epstein, the man who broke the Boston Red Sox title drought, is more than likely going to be able to get the Cubs the best possible chance of breaking the Curse of the Billy Goat within the next ten years. (That curse, FYI, is the one that has prevented the Cubs from winning the World Series since 1908.) 

Then you have the White Sox down at US Cellular Field on the South Side. The Sox have a more recent World Series title from 2005 but are also not sitting well within the American League Central. But they made some interesting moves in the off-season and the baseball season is LONG so it’s too early to count them out for sure. As for their home field, it isn’t quite as charming as Wrigley but still makes for a unique experience. I’ve been to a handful of games at both stadiums and they’re hard to truly compare because they’re so different. And, obviously, I want everyone to go to baseball games all the time so I believe you should make time to attend games at both. 

If you’re looking to find great deals on tickets, look no further than seatgeek.com. This site organizes all the internet postings for tickets and ranks them by which are the best and worst deals. You can find great stuff here, especially as the given game gets closer and people need to get rid of tickets. I’ll be attending as many games as possible this spring and summer and checking back in here with my thoughts and predictions. Hope to see you at a game! 


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week: 

The Hot Track could only be Lake Street Dive this week. They’re a fantastic band out of Boston that my sister and I have been listening to for the past couple months. We had the pleasure of being able to see them this past week in St. Louis and they were marvelous. This is the best new band of the year, people. 

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Shakespeare as It Was Meant to Be Played Right Here in Chicago

Last night, I experienced an amazingly cool piece of theatre that was unlike anything I had ever seen. I attended the Backroom Shakespeare Project’s production of Julius Caesar. It was one of those moments that fill you with artistic vigor and makes you want to go out and grab the world by the horns.

The mission of the Backroom Shakespeare Project is to put Shakespeare’s plays into a context where they feel at home. As such, they perform the plays in the back of a bar without lights or sets. They encourage people to come and go as they need to and keep their phones on. And text if they need to! Waitresses move through the action bringing beer and burgers to the hungry groundlings and the actors adjust for them rather than the other way around. What’s more, the company rehearses in a style more similar to that of Shakespeare’s actors than is the standard today. There is no director, one rehearsal to figure out fights, entrances, and exits, and someone remains on book during the performance in case one of the actors forgets a line. But, worry not, they serve the text with as much gravitas as it deserves and the ultimate effect is a performance that sucks the audience in and includes them in the world of Shakespeare as much as he would have wanted. What really struck me was the community of people there. They were from all age groups and seemed to be of varied interests and professions. But they came for the unifying experience of theatre and the performers told the tragic story of Caesar and Brutus with absolute class. I felt at times like I was at The Globe in London because of the energy and humor and honesty that were constant throughout the play. That’s what theatre is all about: honesty, community, excitement, and acceptance. There was no judgment, only welcoming energy and that made it a truly memorable experience.

Their next production will be As You Like It on the 5th of May. I’m not quite sure where it will be held but check out their website to find out more about how you can experience this wonderful theatrical event. You will not regret it!


Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

I’ve been feeling a little down lately with this persisting cold weather. I’m just SO ready for spring and the warmth and reinvigoration that come with it. But here’s one of the songs I like to drink deeply from when I’m feeling blue or just pining for the sunshine.



Some Ideas for a Solid Visit to DePaul and Chicago

Ah, finally. The weather has decided to relent ever so slightly and give us Chicago residents highs in the balmy 40s. You know what that means? All you prospective DePaulians out there should come visit us! Yes, that’s right. Here comes my guide on how to best visit our fine institution and enjoy a little taste of the city as well. I’ll preface this by saying that a majority of my guide will be food-based. Hope that’s OK with all of you.

Any who, first thing you should do is schedule your visit. If you’re a junior or senior in high school, you most likely have a couple excused absences with which to visit colleges? Use at least one of them on us! If you can, make a weekend of it! Come up here on a Saturday and schedule your visit for the Monday thereafter. That way you can spend a good chunk feeling out the city and seeing the sights. If I were doing it all over again, I’d arrive on Saturday in the early afternoon and catch a show at the Steppenwolf that evening. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, they always have a production worth seeing. But before the show, I’d grab dinner at Pequod’s at Clybourn and Webster. My absolute favorite pizza in the city and a great place to watch a Blackhawks game if the stars align and there’s one on that night. On Sunday, I would go check out the Bean in Millennium Park. Totally cliché and touristy but entirely necessary. You then have an entire day to choose your own adventure. You could go to the Skydeck at the Willis Tower, go to the museums or the Art Institute, catch an artsy flick at the Gene Siskel Film Center, or shop on Michigan Avenue. The city is your oyster. If I were you, I’d hop over to Wicker Park at some point and browse through the shops over there. In particular, you should spend a good long while in Myopic Books, one of the best bookstores I’ve ever encountered anywhere. That evening, dinner could be at Topo Gigio in Old Town if Italian is striking your fancy or Longman & Eagle in Logan Square if you’re looking for something a little more adventurous. They have a unique take on classic American dishes and a wonderful atmosphere that will show you a side of the city you probably wouldn’t see if you stuck to the beaten path. Pay us a visit the next day and grab a classic Chicago dog at Chicago’s Dog House on Fullerton and no one could deny that you will have had a pretty stellar introduction to our fair city.

Visiting colleges is a very exciting time for someone in the latter stages of high school and can make for some great travel memories. Just remember to try to take in a bit of whatever town or city the school you are visiting inhabits while you’re there. It could be your home away from home for the next four years.

Tyler’s Hot Track of the Week:

Spring always gets me in the mood for a road trip and here’s the song that will be the first one pouring out of my speakers when I inevitably hit the road sometime this spring or summer. Come on Spring, just get here! I know you can do it!