Ward 49: “the messenger”

Filmmaker: Ensemble Member Phil Smith

Wards aren’t buildings. Or streets. Or lines on maps. Wards are people. Characters even, like the subject of Lookingglass Ensemble Member Phil Smith’s short film. Follow his keen eye as he enters Le Piano (a Rogers Park Institution) to soak up the unparalleled jazz percussion chops of Ernie Adams (an institution himself.) Ernie’s hard-earned wisdom? People are here for the music…he’s just the messenger.

About the Artists


“I lived in Rogers Park (which makes up the majority of the 49th ward) for 18 years. Some know the neighborhood as a passthrough – traffic and trains bustling to somewhere else north and south, and so too from regions west to the beach and Lake Michigan. But in-between and on the edges, this community is a long-time, loved home for so many. It is a place full of character, unique in its wide embrace of a multiplicity of cultures (50 languages are spoken here) and ways of living.

I met 49th ward resident Ernie Adams through volunteer work.  He is hard working, talented, giving, and kind.  He is my imagining of ‘a Chicagoan’ in the best way, and I wanted to do what I could to share what I so value about him.  He is an artist, he is a professor, he is a lover of people and nature. He hustles multiple jobs for a living, he wakes up early and stays up late, and he is a MAD DRUMMER.  His music is certainly featured in this story, but the message of his person is really the star.”

Phil Smith

Ward 49

Chicago’s 49th ward includes parts of Rogers Park, West Ridge, and Dolands Addition.

Organizations in Ward 49 to Explore and Support

  • A Just Harvest, dedicated to fighting poverty and hunger in the Rogers Park and greater Chicago community by providing nutritious meals daily while cultivating community and economic development and organizing across racial, cultural and socioeconomic lines in order to create a more just society.
  • Circles and Ciphers, a hip-hop infused restorative justice organization led by and for young people impacted by violence, dedicated to collectively healing and working to bring about the abolition of the prison-industrial complex.
  • Howard Area Community Center, dedicated to assisting low-income individuals and families in the greater Rogers Park and adjacent communities to stabilize their lives and to develop the social skills necessary to become effective community members, by providing emergency intervention, family stabilization, and promote developmental growth.”
  • Rogers Park Community Development, one of Chicago’s premier housing agencies, dedicated to providing quality counseling, education, and resources in order to foster community development and create and preserve affordable and diverse housing opportunities in Chicago through education, training, advocacy and development.

Restaurants to Check Out in Ward 49

  • Le Piano, a listening room designed around a magnificent grand piano where intimate performances are featured every evening by Chicago’s finest pianists, and offering a late kitchen menu, including delectable table service hors d’oeuvres, small plates, and one bite desserts.
  • R Public House, a rustic-chic bar offering elevated pub grub, including wood-fired pizzas, plus TVs & weekend brunch.
  • Smack Dab Chicago, a casual, modern cafe offering signature gourmet breakfast sandwiches, small-batch donuts & coffee.”
  • Tostini, offering authentic Turkish food in an unassuming environment.

Film Credits

Created and Directed by: Phil Smith
Featuring: Ernie Adams
Produced by: Phil Smith, Sarah Burnham, and Nikolaj Sorensen
Cinematography by: John Ford and Phil Smith
Additional Photography by: Phil Smith
Location Sound and Mixing by: Gene Nemirovsky
Sound Design by: Phil Smith
Original Music by: Ernie Adams
Additional Music Credits: Dylla (Stay Golden) and Andrew Langdon (Waiting)
Edited by: Phil Smith
Opening Animation by: Matthew C. Yee

Special Thanks to: Kareem Bandealy and J. Nicole Brooks, Chad Willett and Le Piano, John Ford and Scott Silberstein at HMS Media, Louise Lamson, Grace Gershenfeld, Lisa Bailey and Joanna Sevim.

Originally produced by Lookingglass Theatre Company in Chicago, IL in September 2021

Thank You to Our Sponsor