Ask 'Mimi' March 2, 2014

1. How are the projection-booth renovations going at the Virginia Theatre? Will they be completed by Ebertfest?

There are actually two projects being done simultaneously, theater director Steven Bentz said. The projection booth has been enlarged and renovated, and a digital projection system is being installed.

"We're trying to get the dirty work finished first before we install the digital system. Some parts have been installed in the building; the remainder of the job will take place in the next few weeks," Bentz said.

Otis Construction is the general contractor on the renovation; Full Aperture Systems, owned by Ebertfest projectionist James Bond, will install the digital projection system. Formerly, Bond would bring his own digital equipment to Ebertfest.

The digital system will join 70mm and 35mm projection systems at the Virginia. All three will be used year-round, Bentz said. And everything "absolutely" will be finished by April 23-27, when the 16th Roger Ebert's Film Festival rolls around.

2. Are there any concerts aimed at students participating in the "Unofficial" St. Patrick's Day celebration at the University of Illinois?

The only one I could find was the two-day Heartland Music Festival at the Canopy Club in Urbana. It's Friday — which is "Unofficial" day, the bane of UI administrators and local police — and Saturday.

"Heartland Music Festival will be the finale to Unofficial 2014," reads the Facebook page on the event. "It will be a safe and controlled environment and the only destination that allows attendees under the age of 21 on campus. As you may have all heard, everything in Champaign is going to be 21+ for the weekend."

One Heartland act will be Disflow, who will perform two sets during the festival.

3. Jeff Dunham performed on Friday at State Farm Center as part of his "Disorderly Conduct Tour." Who is Dunham, anyway?

The 51-year-old, Dallas-born ventriloquist and standup comedian is considered the world's leading ventriloquist, the best since Edgar Bergen. He is credited with reviving the art form and making it hip.

He's known for his dark humor with characters Achmed the Dead Terrorist; Walter; Peanut; Jose Jalapeno on a Stick, Bubba J and others — all "politically incorrect, gratuitously insulting and ill tempered," according to Time magazine.

He began doing ventriloquism at age 8 and later encountered many career setbacks, as documented in Biography Channel's two-hour profile "Jeff Dunham: Birth of a Dummy." Eventually he became the top-grossing touring comedian in the world, and he enjoys more than a quarter-billion hits on YouTube.

Have a question? We'd love to hear from you. Please email it to mmerli@news-gazette.com.

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