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Maureen Dowd, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Isabel Wilkerson, Trevor Noah and More Slated for Chicago Humanities Festival’s FALLFEST/16: SPEED

This article appeared in Broadway World on September 6, 2016. You may access the original article here.


The Chicago Humanities Festival is moving full speed ahead towards the 27th annual Fallfest, releasing its full line-up of events. Fallfest/16: Speed will feature more than 100 events by prominent artists, authors, historians, scientists, and cultural commentators including Dan Savage,Maureen Dowd, Trevor Noah, and Jonathan Lethem.

“This fall our festival will take stock of how rapidly, and sometimes how slowly, changes in our society take place,” says Thoma Artistic Director Jonathan Elmer. “Whether they are discussing social change, like the sudden social acceptance of gay rights, or technological acceleration, like the prospect of driverless cars on our roads later this month, our presenters will deepen and complicate how each of us thinks about transformational change.”

New this year is an Evening in Bronzeville featuring several presenters including The Warmth of Other Suns author Isabel Wilkerson.

“As we mark the centennial of the Great Migration, there’s no better place to be than Bronzeville, the epicenter of that historic journey and one our city’s most vibrant artistic communities,” says Associate Artistic Director Alison Cuddy. “Chicago was utterly transformed by this mass movement north from the Mississippi Delta and further south, and it’s a perfect moment to consider the way it continues to shape the social and cultural life of our city.”

It has been a year of change at the Chicago Humanities Festival. Early this year, CHF inaugurated its first Springfest (on the theme of Style). CHF continues to offer Chicago cultural explorers thought provoking and entertaining events throughout the year. “For more than 25 years, the Chicago Humanities Festival has been curating important conversations in the city,” says Phillip Bahar, Executive Director of the Chicago Humanities Festival. “Our programs have been held in intimate classrooms, ornate public libraries, vast auditoriums, and sacred spaces,” he says, “the places where the social life of ideas flourish and thrive. With a new Springfest, Fallfest, and year-round opportunities for Chicagoans to connect with today’s greatest thinkers, we’re just getting started.”

For the complete line-up of Fallfest/16: Speed presenters, visit
Notable Fallfest/16: Speed presenters include:

Morris and Dolores Kohl Kaplan Northwestern Day | Saturday, October 29

Maureen Dowd | Cahn Auditorium
Pulitzer-Prize winning New York Times columnist and best-selling author Maureen Dowd will discuss the current state of the 2016 presidential election and her new book The Year of Voting Dangerously: The Derangement of American Politics with David Axelrod.

Senator Barbara Boxer | Cahn Auditorium | Joanne H. Alter Women in Government Lecture
A lioness of the Senate, Barbara Boxer has represented the state of California as its junior United States Senator since 1993. As she prepares to retire, join Boxer in reflecting on her long career in public service.

Jonathan Lethem | Cahn Auditorium
The acclaimed author of nine novels including Dissident Gardens and The Fortress of Solitude,Jonathan Lethem is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship and the National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. This fall, he’ll discuss his new novel, The Gambler’s Anatomy.

Nancy Jo Sales | Cahn Auditorium
Award-winning journalist and author of The Bling Ring, Nancy Jo Sales comes to CHF this fall to discuss the rapid rise of social media and the potential threats it poses to young girls growing up today.

Hyde Park Day | Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts | Sunday, October 30

Gary Younge
Younge, an award-winning columnist at The Guardian, will discuss his much anticipated new book, Another Day in the Death of America, examining the lives of 10 children across America struck down by gun violence in a single day. “Drawn from suburbs and cities of every demographic, these sensitively researched portraits of virtually unknown victims and their grieving families expose the structural ties of race, class, and a lack of gun control,” says poet Claudia Rankine.

Victor Goines Quartet with Mary Stallings | Helen B. and Ira E. Graham Family Concert
A clarinetist, saxophonist, and composer, Victor Goines is one of the most accomplished jazz musicians in the world today. Currently the director of jazz studies at Northwestern University, he has been a member of Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra as well as the Wynton Marsalis Septet for more than 20 years. His quartet, joined by acclaimed vocalist Mary Stallings, headlines the Helen B. and Ira E. Graham Family Concert.

Week of October 31

Mary Roach | Monday, Oct. 31 | Francis W. Parker School | Elaine and Roger Haydock Series
New York Times best-selling author and acclaimed science writer, Mary Roach is known for her works Bonk, Stiff, and Gulp. She’ll discuss her latest, Grunt: The Curious Science of Humans at War, which explores the reality of human beings in armed conflict.

Dan Savage | Monday, Oct. 31 | Francis W. Parker School
The writer, activist, and TV personality, best known for his sex and relationships column, Savage Love, will lend his perspective to CHF to discuss the rapid revolution in gay rights-from the end of “don’t ask, don’t tell” in 2011 to marriage equality in 2015.

The Adventures of Fat Rice | Tuesday, Nov. 1 | National Hellenic Museum | Tyson Foods Series on Home Cooking
The partners behind Fat Rice, The Bakery at Fat Rice, and The Ladies’ Room, Abraham Conlon and Adrienne Lo, will debut their first cookbook: The Adventures of Fat Rice.

Philip Glass | Wednesday, Nov. 2 | Symphony Center | Chicago Tribune Literary Award
Philip Glass is one of the most influential artists and composers of our time. Throughout his career, he has broken new ground, penning operas, chamber works, film scores, and symphonies. He’ll discuss his creative range, from Strung Out and Einstein on the Beach to Voyages and Hydrogen Jukebox, as he accepts the 2016 Chicago Tribune Literary Award. Glass’s appearance will also include a musical selection.

Grant Faulkner | Friday, November 4 | Francis W. Parker School
The Executive Director of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) and a co-founder of 100 Word Story, Grant Faulkner comes to CHF in the midst of NaNoWriMo to lead a hands-on exploration in the method of fast, uninhibited writing.

Penn Jillette | Friday, November 4 | Francis W. Parker School
Outspoken, frank, and bitingly clever, Penn Jillette joins Associate Artistic Director Alison Cuddy to discuss his determination to transform himself-body and mind.

Margot Lee Shetterly | Saturday, November 4 | Northwestern University Law School
Shetterly, the author of Hidden Figures and a producer of the film adaptation set to star Taraji Henson, comes to CHF to discuss the stories and lives of the black women scientists and mathematicians who fueled America’s victory in the space race.

Jon Meacham | Saturday, Nov. 5 | Northwestern University Law School
The former editor of Newsweek will discuss the life and presidency of George H.W. Bush, the subject of his latest work. Meacham drew upon unprecedented access to the 41st President and will discuss his recent re-appraisal of Bush’s time in office and an examination of the changing tenor of American politics.

Week of November 6

Lena Waithe | Sunday, Nov. 6 | Art Institute of Chicago
A South Side native, Columbia College graduate, and “Denise” on Netflix’s hit series Master of None, Lena Waithe will discuss her path to television writing and producing, as well as her experience as the co-creator and showrunner for Showtime’s forthcoming drama series The Chi.

We Can Be Heroes | Monday, Nov. 7 | Francis W. Parker School | William and Greta Wiley Flory Concert
With the world still reeling from the deaths of two larger-than-life musicians, David Bowie and Prince, noted Chicago theater veterans Rob Lindley and Doug Peck have dedicated the annual William and Greta Wiley Flory Concert to the recently departed artists. This year’s Flory concert, “We Can Be Heroes,” will feature the talents of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound frontman Jayson Brooks, The Voice alumnus Mark Hood, Jeff Award-winning musical theater artist Bethany Thomas, and Neo-Futurist ensemble member Malic White.

Bill McKibben | Wednesday, Nov. 9 | Francis W. Parker
An environmentalist and writer, Bill McKibben is one of the most important activists in the movement surrounding climate change. As a former New Yorker staff writer and the author of The End of Nature, McKibben wrote one of the very first rallying cries about the dangers of humanity’s role in global climate change. McKibben comes to CHF to discuss the alarmingly rapid rise in global temperatures.

Melissa Harris-Perry | Tuesday, Nov. 10 | Northwestern University Law School | Illinois Humanities
A beloved academic and public intellectual, Melissa Harris-Perry hosted an eponymous talk show on MSNBC weekend mornings between 2012-2016. Harris-Perry will host a live version of her new talk show, “MHP LIVE,” with an episode focusing on gun violence, as part of a capstone of Illinois Humanities’ inaugural People-Powered Publishing Conference on November 10.

Friday, November 11: An Evening in Bronzeville

Isabel Wilkerson | Harold Washington Cultural Center | Southwest Airlines Program
The author of The Warmth of Other Suns, Isabel Wilkerson is the first black woman in the history of American journalism to win a Pulitzer-Prize, the first African-American to win for individual reporting in the history of American journalism, and the former Chicago Bureau Chief of The New York Times. In the midst of the centennial of the Great Migration, Wilkerson will discuss its lasting impacts.

Ross Gay | Blanc Gallery
Ross Gay is a poet and the author of three books including Against Which and Bringing the Shovel Down. Gay will discuss and read from his latest collection, Catalog of Unabashed Gratitude, winner of the 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award and the 2016 Kingsley Tufts Poetry Award.

Robbie Montgomery | Peach’s Restaurant | Tyson Foods Series on Home Cooking
A former back-up singer for a number of musical acts including Ike and Tina Turner, The Supremes, and JAmes Brown, Robbie Montgomery is the owner of Sweetie Pie’s restaurant, and the subject of the reality show, Welcome to Sweetie Pie’s. She’ll discuss her life in show business as well as her contributions to soul food and soul music.

Chicago House Music | Gallery Guichard
CHF will host three Chicago House Music legends at Gallery Guichard for a conversation, listening session, and, of course, a dance party. Confirmed presenters include The Warehousefounder RoBert Williams, Czarina Mirani of 5 Magazine, and DJ Green Velvet (aka Cajmere).

Saturday, November 12: Closing Day

Trevor Noah | Music Box Theatre | Elaine and Roger Haydock Series
The host of The Daily Show with Trevor Noah will discuss his unlikely journey as the child of an interracial couple in apartheid-era South Africa to his career in stand-up comedy and now The Daily Show.

Jane Smiley | First United Methodist Church | Chicago Tribune Heartland Prize for Fiction
From skewering academics in Moo to reimaging King Lear amid Iowa’s rolling hills in her Pulitzer-Prize winning A Thousand Acres, Jane Smiley’s oeuvre is one of the most compelling in American literature. Smiley will accept the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Prize for Fiction.

Jessica Valenti, Lindy West, and Samantha Irby | First United Methodist Church
CHF convenes a panel to discuss the state of contemporary feminism in American society after a historic election. The Guardian columnists Jessica Valenti and Lindy West will be joined by essayist and blogger Samantha Irby. Valenti is the author of Sex Object and West is the author of Shrill, both are memoirs.

John Edgar Wideman | First United Methodist
A MacArthur Fellow, two-time PEN/Faulkner winner, and author of the forthcoming Writing to Save a Life, John Edgar Wideman will close out Fallfest/16: Speed with a discussion of the life of Louis Till, Emmett Till’s father, who was executed by the US Army in 1945.


Friday, Sept. 23, 2016 – Laurie and James Bay present Lin-Manuel Miranda

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016 – Ellen Stone Belic Presents: Gloria Steinem Speed kick-off program

Monday, Oct. 17, 2016 – The 27th Anniversary Gala Benefit honoring John W. McCarter, Jr. and Ariel Investments, featuring a public program with Thomas Friedman for the Richard J. Franke Lecture in Economics

Saturday, Oct. 29, 2016 – Morris and Dolores Kohl Kaplan Northwestern University Day

Sunday, Oct. 30, 2016 – 10th annual Hyde Park Day on the University of Chicago campus

Monday, Nov. 1, 2016 – Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016 – 2016 FallFest events throughout Chicago
Tickets to the 2016 Chicago Humanities Festival’s go on sale to CHF members on Tuesday, September 20. Tickets go on sale to the general public on Tuesday, September 27. Tickets are available online at and by calling CHF”s box office at (312) 494-9504. To become a CHF member and support CHF in its mission to celebrate the social life of ideas, visit

For more than 25 years, the Chicago Humanities Festival has celebrated the questions that shape and define us as individuals, communities, and cultures. For the curious at heart, CHF’s vibrant year-round programming and robust Fall Festival offer the opportunity to engage with some of the world’s most brilliant minds. Collaborating with leading arts, cultural, and educational organizations, it presents scholars, artists and architects, thinkers, theologians, and policy makers that change how we see the world, where we’re from, and where we’re going. Under the leadership of Executive Director Phillip Bahar, Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director Jonathan Elmer, and Associate Artistic Director Alison Cuddy, CHF is one of Chicago’s most vital presenting organizations. Visit for more information.

Our society seems to have one setting-faster. At Fallfest/16: Speed, October 29-November 12, we’ll examine the speed of daily life, today, tomorrow and in decades past; and we’ll discuss the politicians that urge us to hurry up and the artists that force us to slow down. As always, we’ll celebrate and question ideas within the context of civic life, connecting artists, authors, journalists, scholars, policy makers and other great thinkers with passionate and adventurous audiences. For more information and to view the full schedule (available September 6),