Join us for the next Festival: January 15-26, 2025

by Neil Steinberg, Chicago SunTimes

Well look at this! A shiny New Year — 2017 apparently, though that’s almost hard to believe. The numerals look strange. Were it suddenly 2077 or 20A6 it would hardly seem stranger.

And that’s before we factor in the news.

Still, a new year, whatever we call it, with much to look forward to. Much to mark on your new calendars — I just unwrapped my Brownline 2017 Daily Planner, well aware that using a physical journal in this era of iPhones is like carrying a walking stick. “They sell the things,” I say, huffily, meaning: “It isn’t just me, yet.”

A year of exciting occurrences, starting with Friday, Jan. 20. Yes, a lot of garment-rending, but I’ll be honest: I’m anticipating the 20th with undiluted enthusiasm and not a trace of ambivalence, as a chance to experience something truly wonderful and inspiring.

I’m referring, of course, to the Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival, whose opening night is Jan. 20 at the Biograph Theater. It includes Chicago’s Michael Montenegro’s “Kick the Klown Presents a Konkatention of Kafka,” which might be redundant after Donald Trump’s inauguration address earlier in the day.

Let’s not think about that yet, first we need a collective Limbo Party of Lowering Expectations. Right now I’m trying to convince myself that the Ku Klux Klan won’t be marching in the inaugural parade, though at this point, you can’t pretend it would be shocking. Nothing can be shocking; itself a shock.


What other, non-Trumpian events can we look forward to in 2017? No Olympics, thank you God. Feb. 22, my Sun-Times Goes to the Lyric contest will take 100 lucky readers to see “Carmen” at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. If you’re wondering how you could have missed the announcement, you haven’t — this is the first notice. Contest rules and details to come in the weeks ahead.

Oh, I am speaking at the Park Ridge Public Library on Jan. 19 about my new book.

Super Bowl LI — talk about numerals looking odd — is Feb. 5. Lady Gaga is the halftime act, sealing her transit from edgy art star to future Vegas fixture.

The future is murky, but anniversaries are certain. A noteworthy date falls April 6: the centennial of the United States entering World War I, led by Woodrow Wilson who had been re-elected in 1916 on the slogan “He kept us out of war.” A reminder when campaign promises start being shrugged off; Trump didn’t invent it.

The heavens are reliable even if our institutions aren’t. Aug. 21 a total solar eclipse will occur in a band across the United States just south of here. The sun will only be eclipsed about 90 percent in the Chicago area, but for those who haven’t yet had their fill of once bright and illuminating fixtures of our lives being plunged into gloom and darkness can drive down to Carbondale to get the full effect.

Aug. 31 is the 20th anniversary of Princess Diana’s death, a cultural milestone that changed the way the public viewed the deaths of celebrities, leading to walls of candles and teddy bears. We saw this at the end of 2016, as a cluster of star deaths had people keening and ululating online (a process I have dubbed “The Full Diana”). My tendency is to look askance at such displays — save it for somebody you love — but then, there is probably transference going on. We can’t bring ourselves to mourn the death of our country as a beacon of hope to the world, then we can go all teary over Carrie Fisher and her mom, Debbie Reynolds.

Other people ballyhoo coming movies, and I’ve glanced at the list, and you can miss them all — I’ll certainly will. Well, except one. I’m reluctant to mention this, lest people start lining up now. But Star Wars Episode VIII is set to open Dec. 15, 2017. It’ll be garbage, like the others — some idiocy about blowing up a Death Star, no doubt — but it’ll have Daisy Ridley, and she’s a babe, so that’s cold comfort, which is about the best we can expect in 2017, the year it is now, apparently.