Nathan Allen leaves House Theatre of Chicago after nearly 20 years as leader

Nathan Allen, the founding artistic director of the House Theatre of Chicago and its principal public face and creative force for the last almost 20 years, is leaving his post.

“I am not going to stop making art,” Allen said, noting that money factored into his decision. “But I have two school-age kids and my wife is working a lot of overtime.”

As with many other theater companies, the pandemic has had an acute impact on House, a company founded by a group of college friends in 2000 and known for its innovative original theater, its interest in popular culture and its longstanding determination to attract millennials and Gen-Xers who do not typically attend theater. Allen, known for his exuberant curtain speeches (“let’s make some noise”) and his warm-centered personality, was a big part of that appeal, as was his work.

Unlike most non-profit theaters, House made an impressive 70% of its roughly $2.2 million annual budget at its own box office, and that box office has been closed since March.

“Our way has always been to sell a hell of a lot of tickets,” Allen, 42, said. “And our way doesn’t work anymore. We’ve settled into a sustainable position where we can hold on for a whole year. But what the House deserves is someone to really rebuild a company. I know what that is, but it’s not me. That was a commitment I had in my 20s, but I don’t have it now. I feel like I already helped build it, and I honestly would be too angry to have to do it all again.”

House has been forced to furlough or lay off most of its staffers in recent weeks. Its two remaining current employees, Allen and managing director Erik Schroeder, have been reduced to part time.

Allen was responsible for some huge creative and financial successes, including the writing and directing of “Death and Harry Houdini,” which toured nationally; the co-authorship and direction of “The Sparrow,” a wrenching piece about an unusual young girl in a small Illinois town; the direction of “Verboten,” a recent hit musical featuring punk music by Jason Narducy; and, perhaps most notably of all, the direction of “The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan,” the dazzlingly creative and emotionally intense piece that first made House a young Chicago theater to watch.

“Nate has built a community of artists,” Schroeder said. “For so many people in Chicago, House was their first theater experience. His focus was always on the audience. He helped bring some super-fun and very unusual stories to the stage. And a large part of the legacy that Nate leaves is an audience of 30- and 40-somethings who now will be theatergoers for rest of their lives.”

Schroeder also said that House intends to carry on into the future and look for a successor. Allen says he is committed to helping the company make that transition. He also said that he had “seen the sea change socially” and concluded

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Documentary shows Obama years through photographer’s lens

Pete Souza served as the official White House photographer for a pair of two-term presidents, one a Republican hero, Ronald Reagan, and a Democratic hero: Barack Obama.

The son of Portuguese emigres, a nurse and a boat mechanic, Souza earned his master’s degree at Kansas State University and got his start in photojournalism at newspapers in Chanute and Hutchinson.

His lavish account of the Obama years, “Obama: An Intimate Portrait,” became a best-seller, and Souza followed it up with “Shade: A Tale of Two Presidents.” The new documentary “The Way I See It” grew out of those two books, and Souza’s subsequent tours and speaking engagements on the subject of the approximately 2 million photos he took during the Obama years.

The movie, which played at theaters in some cities, airs at 9 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16, on MSNBC.

Once Donald Trump took office, Souza says in the documentary, he couldn’t ignore the man’s disrespect for the office, for the rule of law, for so many people around the world. He says he couldn’t remain neutral about anything political anymore. “This is not a partisan thing to me,” he says in director Dawn Porter’s portrait of the onetime fly on the wall turned visual activist. “It’s about the dignity of the office of the presidency.”

The results pack a serious emotional wallop if you miss the Obama era. And, probably, nothing of the sort if you don’t.

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One of Pete Souza’s most famous photos shows Jacob Philadelphia, 5, the son of a White House staff member, touching President Barack Obama’s hair to see if it feels like his. PETE SOUZA White House

With a lot of input from Souza, Porter’s film tells the stories behind the photos. Many have become famous, profoundly moving emblems of one politician’s humanity, such as the 2009 image “Hair Like Mine.” You probably know it: It captures the moment when 5-year-old Jacob Philadelphia touched the head of the president to see if Obama’s hair felt like his own.

Souza enjoyed an unprecedented degree of access to the inner workings, private meetings and unguarded moments of the Obama administration. His job under Reagan and, later, Obama, meant a constant if low-key push for more of that access. Trump shut all that down, confining White House photographers to a few canned photos.

“The Way I See It” introduces us to Souza’s family; his life, now in Madison, Wisconsin (he’s seen buying kale at the weekend farmers market by the capitol building, which is the most Madison thing imaginable); and generous excerpts from various public talks and presentations in the U.S. and abroad. Tour footage-dependent documentaries such as this one carry a built-in limitation; we get a sense of how the subject and the work operate in a friendly public sphere, but it’s sometimes at the expense of more difficult or ambiguous alleyways.

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Pete Souza, shown at the White House in 2013, was the official photographer for Presidents Ronald Regan and Barack Obama. Charles Dharapak, File AP Photo
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President John Tyler’s grandson, Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr., dies 175 years after his grandfather left the White House

For many Americans, going two generations back takes them to World War II.



a group of people sitting at a table using a laptop: Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. signs his name on the inside of a desk drawer with other descendants of past presidents who gathered in Washington in August 2018.


© Bill O’Leary/The Washington Post/Getty Images
Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr. signs his name on the inside of a desk drawer with other descendants of past presidents who gathered in Washington in August 2018.

For Lyon Gardiner Tyler Jr., who died September 26, two generations stretched to a century earlier, when steam locomotives ruled the land and his grandfather was 10th president of the United States.

Tyler, 95, was the grandson of John Tyler, who served as president from 1841 to 1845.

He died from complications of Alzheimer’s disease. A younger brother is among his survivors.

That someone in the 21st century could have a grandfather who knew Thomas Jefferson can be attributed to late-in-life paternity, second wives and longevity in his family: Three generations of Tyler men spanned an incredible 230 years.

While Tyler, a World War II veteran, lawyer and history professor at the Virginia Military Institute and The Citadel, was proud of his ancestor and spoke about him, it was not what defined his life.

His daughter, Susan Selina Pope Tyler, said Thursday that her father was a humble and compassionate man of faith who mentored others.

“He was kind and loving to everyone, even the marginalized,” Susan Tyler wrote in remarks planned for a memorial service next week, which she shared with CNN.

“I’ve had many share with me how my father affected their lives, through his advice or his practical help.”

Tyler lived in Franklin, Tennessee, at the time of his passing. He grew up in Virginia. His younger brother, Harrison Ruffin Tyler, 91, is now the last surviving grandson of the president.

John Tyler was elected vice president in 1840, but he was thrust into the role of commander-in-chief when President William Henry Harrison died just one month into office. His detractors consequently called him “His Accidency.”

While most historians don’t place him high in the pantheon of presidents, Tyler’s family said he should be remembered for his honesty and integrity — even if it cost him politically.

President Tyler, who served one term, fathered 15 children. His first wife, Letitia, had eight children before dying in 1842, and second wife Julia had seven. John Tyler was 63 when son Lyon Gardiner Tyler Sr. was born.

Lyon Sr., who went on to become president of William & Mary, was 71 when Lyon Jr. was born to his second wife.

The younger Lyon was a lawyer before turning to an academic career.

While John Tyler was a slave owner, his great-granddaughter Susan Tyler said her father and late mother, Lucy Jane Pope Tyler, championed civil rights.

Lyon Tyler Jr. himself had a bit of humor about being related to a US president.

“I heard too much about presidents growing up,” he wrote in one speech he delivered. He related that when he was three or four, a woman asked, “Are you going to be President when you grow up?” He answered, ‘I’ll

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Legendary Charlie Trotter’s sous chef Reggie Watkins, ‘backbone’ of kitchen for 25 years, dies at 64

For 25 years, Reginald Watkins was the backbone of one of the most famous kitchens in the world, the acclaimed Charlie Trotter’s in Lincoln Park. While a stunning roster of chefs passed through the restaurant throughout the years, Watkins remained a constant, working as the primary sous chef — and kitchen confidante for owner Charlie Trotter — until he left the restaurant in 2011, a year before it closed for good.



Charlie Trotter, Margalita Chakhnashvili posing for the camera: Chef Reginald Watkins, right, holds a sign honoring his former boss Charlie Trotter, center, during a ceremony naming a portion of Armitage Avenue as Honorary Charlie Trotter Way in August 2012.


© Chris Walker, Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Chef Reginald Watkins, right, holds a sign honoring his former boss Charlie Trotter, center, during a ceremony naming a portion of Armitage Avenue as Honorary Charlie Trotter Way in August 2012.

On Monday night, Watkins died at age 64, of unknown causes during a visit to the emergency room in his home city of Chicago, after having spent the last several years working and living in Louisiana.

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Following news of his death, many former co-workers from Trotter’s and beyond shared heartfelt memories and regards on social media about “Chef Reggie,” a man they remembered as being tough but gentle — and a necessary guide to help young chefs survive what was a notoriously demanding kitchen environment.

“He was a legend in his own right,” said his daughter, Lerita Watkins.

“He was a real icon at that restaurant,” echoed chef David LeFevre, who worked two stints at Trotter’s kitchen between 1995 and 2004.

The Los Angleles-based LeFevre was among a long list of former co-workers who shared tributes to Watkins earlier this week, along with Grant Achatz, Bill Kim, Giuseppe Tentori, Sari Zernich-Worsham and plenty more.

“My dad was in love with cooking, working, being amongst his peers who also shared his love with being a chef,” Lerita Watkins said. “He kept in touch with so many of those people that he trained. He did.”

Born and raised near 35th Street and King Drive, Reggie Watkins was raised by his mother and grandmother and lived in the city for almost his entire life. In 1987, he responded to a newspaper classified ad seeking kitchen help, which led to his meeting Charlie Trotter, who was looking to open a restaurant. The ad had published for the first time on that date, Trotter’s son Dylan said, and Watkins was the first person to respond.

“When he first met my dad, he was just going to lie and be like, ‘Oh, yeah, I’ve cooked before,’” Dylan Trotter said Watkins recently shared with him. “But then when he saw my dad and saw his face, he was like, ‘I knew I couldn’t lie to this guy. I had to tell him the truth.’ They just had the connection right off the bat.”

The rest is actual history. Watkins was famously hired as the first-ever employee at Trotter’s, running the kitchen from its first day until his last day in 2011. He and Charlie Trotter grew to be close friends, almost like brothers: “We always envisioned those two getting old together,” LeFevre said. (The restaurant closed in

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Ruth Bancroft Garden Honors Curator’s 40 Years Of Service

WALNUT CREEK, CA — Forty years into his dream job, Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery curator Brian Kemble is never entirely alone in his head as he goes about planting, hybridizing, photographing, documenting and building databases. He is still channeling, on a daily basis, the lovely, cactus-crazed lady who inspired, then hired him, back in 1980.

Kemble, 75, is the designated keeper of the flame lit by the late Ruth Bancroft, who over the course of decades turned her 3.5-acre plot of land in Walnut Creek into a world-renowned showcase for the variety, hardiness and beauty of ornamental, drought-tolerant plants.

A couple of weeks ago, Kemble’s colleagues at the garden surprised him by drilling a plaque in his honor into a large boulder on the premises. He can’t tell you what it says, exactly, because he hasn’t actually read it yet. But he was both thrilled and, yet again, a bit flummoxed by the reminder.

“It made me feel very glad that my efforts in the garden were appreciated,” he said. “And it also brought back to me the great burden that I feel, having had Ruth turn over the planting of the garden to me and my responsibility for making sure that her vision is adhered to, and the garden is in a good direction for the future.”

Gretchen Bartzen, executive director of the garden, notes that it became a nonprofit open to the public in 1992 as the first project of The Garden Conservancy, a national organization to preserve private gardens for public use that was inspired by Bancroft herself, who died in 2017 at the age of 109.

Photo courtesy of Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery, via Bay City News

Bartzen cites two factors that render the garden unique: “It was, as far as we know, one of the very first examples of an entirely drought-tolerant garden in the United States,” she said. “And also, her garden design was unusual at the time. She was one of the first people to ‘paint’ with plants – in other words, creating layers of textures – and she tried to imitate nature as much as possible.”

Painting with plants – really?

Kemble, now the resident “artist,” can take up that theme and run with it.

“That has to do with Ruth’s composing when she planted,” he insisted. “She would first put in the largest element, the big plants, the focal points. And then she would flesh in between them with patches of plants, and she could see it work like a mosaic, having a pool of orange over here and a pool of blue over there.

“One of the wonderful things about succulents,” he continued, “is the plants themselves often have multiple colors, not just when they’re in bloom, but the rosette that is orange or pink or blue, or what have you. And so they’re rending themselves, painting with plants.”

Kemble, a San Francisco resident, was both honoree and a presenter at Ruth Bancroft Garden’s annual fundraising

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Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nusery Honors Curator’s 40 Years Of Service

Forty years into his dream job, Ruth Bancroft Garden & Nursery curator Brian Kemble is never entirely alone in his head as he goes about planting, hybridizing, photographing, documenting and building databases. He is still channeling, on a daily basis, the lovely, cactus-crazed lady who inspired, then hired him, back in 1980.

Kemble, 75, is the designated keeper of the flame lit by the late Ruth Bancroft, who over the course of decades turned her 3.5-acre plot of land in Walnut Creek into a world-renowned showcase for the variety, hardiness and beauty of ornamental, drought-tolerant plants.

A couple of weeks ago, Kemble’s colleagues at the garden surprised him by drilling a plaque in his honor into a large boulder on the premises. He can’t tell you what it says, exactly, because he hasn’t actually read it yet. But he was both thrilled and, yet again, a bit flummoxed by the reminder.

“It made me feel very glad that my efforts in the garden were appreciated,” he said. “And it also brought back to me the great burden that I feel, having had Ruth turn over the planting of the garden to me and my responsibility for making sure that her vision is adhered to, and the garden is in a good direction for the future.”

Gretchen Bartzen, executive director of the garden, notes that it became a nonprofit open to the public in 1992 as the first project of The Garden Conservancy, a national organization to preserve private gardens for public use that was inspired by Bancroft herself, who died in 2017 at the age of 109.

Bartzen cites two factors that render the garden unique: “It was, as far as we know, one of the very first examples of an entirely drought-tolerant garden in the United States,” she said. “And also, her garden design was unusual at the time. She was one of the first people to ‘paint’ with plants – in other words, creating layers of textures – and she tried to imitate nature as much as possible.”


Painting with plants – really?

Kemble, now the resident “artist,” can take up that theme and run with it.

“That has to do with Ruth’s composing when she planted,” he insisted. “She would first put in the largest element, the big plants, the focal points. And then she would flesh in between them with patches of plants, and she could see it work like a mosaic, having a pool of orange over here and a pool of blue over there.

“One of the wonderful things about succulents,” he continued, “is the plants themselves often have multiple colors, not just when they’re in bloom, but the rosette that is orange or pink or blue, or what have you. And so they’re rending themselves, painting with plants.”

Kemble, a San Francisco resident, was both honoree and a presenter at Ruth Bancroft Garden’s annual fundraising gala, held virtually on Sept. 19. An art lover and an accomplished photographer whose camera skills developed in

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Tim Griffin to Depart The Kitchen After Nine Years as Director

Tim Griffin is leaving The Kitchen after nearly a decade as the director and chief curator of the experimental New York art space. During his tenure, Griffin continued and expanded the storied institution’s focus on interdisciplinarity and oversaw a program featuring Chantal Akerman, ANOHNI, Charles Atlas, Gretchen Bender, Abraham Cruzvillegas, Ralph Lemon, Aki Sasamoto, and Tyshawn Sorey, among others. His term also led to new initiatives including the hybrid talks series “The Kitchen L.A.B.” and electronic music series “Synth Nights.” Griffin—who began helming the nonprofit in 2011 after a seven-year run as the editor-in-chief of Artforum, where he is currently a contributing editor—will shift into an advisory role at The Kitchen by year’s end; he has accepted a visiting professorship in the art history and English departments at Ohio State University in Columbus, where his wife, Johanna Burton, directs The Wexner Center for the Arts.  

“I can’t imagine a more inspiring or humbling experience among artists than what The Kitchen, and its dedicated staff and board, has offered me over the years,” said Griffin. “Few places have such a history, decade after decade, of presenting the unexpected. Even fewer have people so deeply committed every day to supporting artists’ innovative work, and who, time and again, manage to pull it off whatever the challenges.”

In addition to organizing exhibitions and performances, Griffin has spent the last two years fundraising in anticipation of The Kitchen’s fiftieth anniversary in 2021 and the renovation of its building at West Nineteenth Street in Chelsea. The organization has raised $11 million ahead of its special benefit show, “Ice and Fire,” curated by Kitchen board members Wade Guyton and Jacqueline Humphries and opening tomorrow, October 1. In the last few months, the venue has also adapted to pandemic-induced lockdown, introducing The Kitchen Broadcast and revising its residencies to include a TV studio model. A search for a new director is being conducted by Isaacson Miller.

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UK property prices rise at fast rate in 4 years in September

Estate agents property for sale boards on display outside a residential property in north London. Photo: Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA
Estate agents property for sale boards on display outside a residential property in north London. Photo: Dinendra Haria / SOPA Images/Sipa USA

UK house prices are surging at their fastest rate in four years, as pent up demand post-lockdown and a temporary Stamp Duty cut fuel a buying boom.

Nationwide’s closely-watched House Price Index found prices jumped by 5% on an annual basis in September, the biggest increase since September 2016.

Prices grew by 0.9% between August and September. Both the annual growth figure and the month-on-month growth were ahead of City forecasts.

The average UK house price now stands at £226,129 ($288,167), Nationwide said.

Watch: Why house prices are rising despite COVID-19 and a recession in the UK

“The rebound reflects a number of factors,” said Robert Gardner, Nationwide’s Chief Economist.

“Pent-up demand is coming through, with decisions taken to move before lockdown now progressing. The stamp duty holiday is adding to momentum by bringing purchases forward. Behavioural shifts may also be boosting activity as people reassess their housing needs and preferences as a result of life in lockdown.”

Gardner said the pandemic was encouraging people to move. Lockdowns and working from home have spurred many people to look for new properties with more space and a garden, with less concern about commuting distance.

READ MORE: UK mortgage approvals hit highest level since 2007

25% of people surveyed by Nationwide in London said they were moving as a result of the lockdown, while another 15% of residents in the capital were thinking about moving.

All regions of the UK saw house prices grow between July and September. The highest growth was in the South West of England, where annual price growth was 5.5%.

Nationwide’s price data comes a day after the Bank of England said mortgage approvals hit a 13-year high in August, underlining the strength of the property boom.

Experts believe the property market could loose steam in the coming months as the government’s economic support measures unwind.

“Most forecasters expect labour market conditions to weaken significantly in the quarters ahead as tighter restrictions dampen economic activity and the furlough scheme winds down,” said Gardener.

“While the recently announced jobs support scheme will provide some assistance, it is not as comprehensive as the furlough scheme it replaces.”

Samuel Tombs, chief UK economist at Pantheon Macroeconomics, said: “We continue to expect the official measure of prices to peak in October, and then to reverse all of its gains since March over the following 12 months.”

Estate agents Hamptons expects house prices to fall across much of the UK next year.

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In the Garden: Time to get garlic cloves in the ground for next year’s harvest

There are two foods that really make life worth living: chocolate and garlic. While I can’t grow my own chocolate, I certainly can cultivate garlic. It is really easy to grow, and the resulting crop enhances the flavors of so many savory dishes.

Fall is the time to plant garlic. You also can plant in the spring, but the resulting bulbs will be much smaller.

If you are a first-time grower, you’ll need to purchase “seed garlic” at your local garden center or from an online source. Seed garlic is another name for garlic bulbs, which are certified to be disease-free and are comprised of several individual cloves. Since each clove will grow into a large bulb containing many more cloves, you’ll get a great return on your initial investment. In subsequent years, use cloves from your previous harvest rather than having to buy more.

There are two types of garlic: hardneck and softneck. Elephant garlic is a member of the onion family but not a true garlic. Hardnecks have a stiff central stalk and produce four to 12 cloves within a bulb; the cloves tend to have a more intense flavor. Softnecks have a softer stem, produce more cloves within larger bulbs and generally have a milder flavor. If you want to braid your harvest together, grow softnecks. The huge cloves of elephant garlic have a mild taste.

My favorite hardneck varieties are German Porcelain, German Red, Music and Spanish Roja.

Inchelium Red is a very reliable softneck variety for this region.

Loosen the soil of the planting bed to a depth of about 4 inches and mix in a bit of bone meal, which is an organic soil amendment high in phosphorus. Gently split apart the garlic bulbs into individual cloves.

Push each clove down into soil – making sure the pointed end faces upward – until there are 2 inches of soil above the top of the clove. Space hardneck and softneck cloves 6 inches apart and elephant garlic cloves 12 inches apart. Be sure to label your plantings so you remember what they are at harvest time next summer.

Once the entire bed has been planted, cover it with a thick layer of mulch: grass clippings from an untreated lawn, shredded leaves or straw all work well. This insulates the soil in order to prevent frost-heaving during the winter.

The sprouts will begin to emerge in early spring. If you used grass clippings for mulch, move them out of the way as they can mat together and impede plant growth. Other mulches can remain in place. Water regularly and weed as necessary so they won’t compete with the garlic.

In early summer, hardneck garlic plants form “scapes,” those curlicue stems that will develop a flower if left in place. It’s important to remove them so the plants continue developing the bulbs instead of using energy to bloom. The scapes have a mild garlic flavor and make a delicious addition to many dishes.

Harvest garlic plants when

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Basin Burger House closes after 8 years


Basin Burger House has closed its doors after eight years, as evidenced by the for-sale sign out front. The popular burger and brunch spot on Colorado Avenue was a gathering place for trivia nights and young professionals. The Green Chili Burger was featured in Texas Monthly’s “The 50 Greatest Burgers in Texas” in 2016.

The partners took an empty 1930s-era house, remodeled and expanded it to include a kitchen and patio, according to previous article in the Reporter-Telegram. The interior was decorated with photos of native Midlanders, including oilman H.L. Brown and former first lady Laura Bush.


A temporary closing notice was posted March 24 on the restaurant’s Facebook page.


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