Review "Our Future Metropolis": Did Chicago follow the Plan?

Our Future Metropolis
Lookingglass Theatre
Chicago, Illinois
July 21, 2009

Having experienced traffic coming to a complete halt on the Kennedy, Red Line and the lakefront bike path, I’ve often asked myself “whose brilliant idea was this?” Tuesday night, I got some insight to that question. “One man show” describes Our Future Metropolis as a production and the content. Raymond Fox portrayed Daniel Burnham (1846-1912) presenting his “Plan of Chicago” in a lecture hall format. Accompanied by “lantern slides” illustrating the vision, Burnham encourages his audience to rally to make Chicago the next Paris. The Lookingglass Theatre building, aka 1871 fire survivor, was the perfect backdrop to transport the audience back in time to 1909.

Since reading “Devil in the White City” is the foundation for my limited Chicago history knowledge, what worked best for me was the addition of a panel discussion following the show. Community experts in city planning and Burnham’s “Plan of Chicago” joined director John Musial and Raymond Fox on stage for a Q&A. To add to the nostalgia, Daniel Burnham V was also present to field questions from the audience. Although 2016 Olympic discussions were alive with cynicism, I was most intrigued to learn there are plans to extend the lakefront parks in the near future. And even more fascinating to me, that there is a Chicago 2040 Plan being developed. I don’t know what I’m doing in 2010 or even this weekend. It amazes me that a group of people are currently making decisions that will affect my life in 30+ years. My mom will be so pleased that there is indeed A PLAN.

If anything, the evening left me with more questions than answers: was the lagoon plan partially completed? Did the rebel rouser Montgomery Ward really preserve the lakefront? Is Daniel Burnham V single? Will I be able to see 2016 Olympic tennis matches from my condo? Does Chicago 2040 provide discounted senior packages?

My Chicago native sidekick, Bill shared that his evening’s ah-ha moment was learning that the “Plan of Chicago” was connected to social order with a strong motivation for a better society.

Before heading downtown, we stopped for a bite at my neighborhood fave, Bilger’s. With new ownership pending at Bilger’s, I’m trying to get in as many meals as possible before its Lakeview departure. I also heard tonight’s cuisine was the result of a visiting chef but my meal wasn’t anything I hadn’t had before. Still, I do love when the owners pour a nice glass of petite syrah and sit down to discuss the latest gossip.

Where better to toast the “Plan of Chicago” than from the 95th floor of the Hancock? Sure, it’s pricey. And it’s packed with tourists from foreign lands, most notably Aurora. Plus, the décor and lighting is tired and unflattering. And when asked for input on the great turkey club -guacamole debate, the server, mistaking us for suburbanites, responded with “the turkey is a sandwich and the other is a dip.” All that to the side, the view is magnificent! THE plan, A plan, SOME plan is working because looking out the windows to see the old/new Sears/Willis Tower and the lighted brilliant majesty of Chicago, I fell in love all over again with my adopted hometown. Well done, Mr. Burnham (Mr. Bennett, Mr. Ward, etc), well done!

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