Of all the performances coming up at Krannert Center in its next season, which one do you not want to miss?
That's hard to answer. I often am unexpectedly blown away by something there and sometimes disappointed by a production I had anticipated. I love singer Cassandra Wilson's voice as well as Billie Holliday's. So I really want to take in Wilson's Billie Holliday tribute on March 12. I also adore the music of the Middle East and look forward to The Nile Project on March 6. Oh, yeah, and Rosanne Cash on Sept. 13. She was just nominated for three 2014 Americana Music Association Awards, and her father, the Man in Black, is my favorite country music artist.
Besides the Dirden brothers (Brandon and Jason) and Crystal Dickinson, are there other UI theater alumni making it big these days?
The biggest, in my opinion, is the slyly hilarious Nick Offerman, who plays Ron Swanson on the underrated NBC sitcom "Parks and Recreation" and who presented his one-man show last year at Krannert Center. Another is Jon Michael Hill, who plays Detective Marcus Bell in "Elementary" on CBS and drew raves in the play "Superior Donuts" in New York and Chicago.
There also are Jessica Dean Turner — Communications Gunwoman on NBC's "Crisis"; Betsy Brandt as Annie Henry on NBC's "The Michael J. Fox Show"; Shanola Hampton as Veronica on Showtime's "Shameless"; and Jonathan Kite as Oleg the cook on "Two Broke Girls," on CBS.
Are the Sunken Gardens at Allerton Park open yet for the season?
They are, after having been closed for two or three weeks to re-establish the grass.
"We've had two weddings out there last weekend and another two this weekend," said Derek Peterson, associate director of park operations.
The Sunken Gardens feature a large, open grassy area below ground level, surrounded by walls with four gateways. On top of those are "Guardian Fish" statues. Peterson also recommends the nearby Peony Garden; he said 10 of the 68 peony varieties are in bloom, and another five or six will blossom this weekend.
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