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The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 4—LOCKDOWN! Recommended The Short List (Theater)

6/25-8/15: available any time online with purchase

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Quarantine can't keep Hell in a Handbag from continuing their long-running franchise parody of The Golden Girls. In this recorded online edition, written by artistic director David Cerda and directed by Spenser Davis, the "girls" are quarantined together for 30 days after Blanche is exposed to Legionnaires' disease.

Plays for the People Recommended The Short List (Theater)

7/8-11/8: see website for complete schedule

Buy Tickets$22 approximately (£19.62)

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Black Lives, Black Words International Project produces an online season of seven plays celebrating African American and African experience. The pieces will be performed live over Zoom for a period of five days, with audiences limited to 50 people per performance. The second day of each run will also feature a Q&A chaired by BLBW cofounders Reginald Edmund and Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway. The schedule is as follows:

7/8-7/12: Ride Share by Reginald Edmund, directed by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway. A young African American Uber driver rides with a dark specter as he discovers the unsavory aspects of humanity. 

8/13-8/16: Proof of Love by Chisa Hutchinson, directed by Kyle Haden. A well-off Black woman learns some things about both herself and her husband when a car accident leaves the latter comatose. 

8/20-8/23: What To Do When You Don't See Yourself in the Story, by Anya Pearson, a piece that reckons with the lack of respect given Black women and celebrating and recognizing their work. 

8/24-8/30: Cell Surface by Dominic Taylor, directed by Jerrell Henderson, described as "a play about making a play in Zoom about two amazing African-American scientists, Dr. E.E. Just and Dr. Roger Young." 

9/16-9/20: The Immortal Goats by Idris Goodwin, directed by Tiffany Nicole Greene. After the removal of statues honoring colonizers, a committee has to determine who should be recognized in their place—within the running time of the play. 

10/12-10/17: Call for the Wailing Women by Katrina D. Richard, directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. A modern-day Afrocentric retelling of Euripides's The Suppliants, about a group of grieving women in wartime desperate to bury their dead. 

11/2-11/8: The Emancipation of Yankee Oluwale by Wole Oguntokun, based on the story of David Oluwale, a British Nigerian whose body was found in the River Aire in Leeds in 1969, leading to an investigation of how the homeless and mentally ill man had been tormented by the police.

Manual Cinema 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

7/27-8/23: available anytime; see website for more information

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Manual Cinema offers a monthlong free online festival of four of their past productions, featuring their blend of shadow puppetry, overhead projections, music, and movement. Each week, a new offering will become available at noon on Monday until the following Monday, when it will be replaced with a new selection. The schedule is as follows: 7/27-8/3: Lula del Ray, a coming-of-age story about a young girl obsessed with country music; 8/3-8/10: The End of TV, about the quest for meaning amid the barrage of advertising images in a 1990s Rust Belt town; 8/10-8/17: No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, based on the life and work of the celebrated Black Chicago poet; 8/17-8/23: Frankenstein, the company's adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic. On 8/22, 8 PM, the company also presents a "tele-FUN-draiser" with company members and associated artists. The online content for the festival is free, but donations are welcome.

Home/Land Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Vimeo

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Albany Park Theater Project offers a streaming version of their critically lauded 2012 production about undocumented immigrants, written and performed by the teen ensemble and directed by APTP producing artistic director David Feiner.

Sexy Baby Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime on YouTube

Buy TicketsFree

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Hell in a Handbag offers up a free YouTube stream of their 2012 musical, a satire of child beauty queen pageants created by artistic director David Cerda and Scott Lamberty that former Reader critic Zac Thompson called "biting" and "hysterical." The show was chosen by the members of the company as one of their favorites and is presented free as a gift to the community during the COVID-19 shutdown, though donations to Hell in a Handbag are of course welcome.

The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral Recommended The Short List (Theater)

Available in streaming format through Patreon anytime.

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The Neo-Futurists take their signature show, featuring 30 plays in 60 minutes, online during the COVID-19 crisis. The Neos offer five membership levels ranging from $3 ("Elbow Bump"), which comes with a link to a website where you can set your own timer for 60 minutes and watch all 30 plays, to $100 ("An Extended, Almost Uncomfortable Hug"), which brings a full array of perks including a customized play on a subject of your choosing. The menu includes older archival plays as well as new ones that are being created in quarantine by the ensemble.

Still/Here Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available online anytime through Vimeo

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Free Street offers a free streaming version of this 2019 show (subtitled Manifestos for Joy and Survival), in which survivors of an apocalyptic event in Chicago provide memories of the struggles that defined their lives before the catastrophe, including fighting gentrification and racism. The narrative is drawn from interviews conducted with over 400 Chicago community members.

Medusa Undone Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through company website or YouTube channel

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Otherworld Theatre offers a free streaming version of last spring's production of a play by Bella Poynton, directed by Tiffany Keane Schaefer, that retells the story of the legendary gorgon as a critique of rape culture, with Medusa caught in a love triangle between Athena and Poseidon. Reader critic Josh Flanders wrote "The god-human relationship here is a metaphor for celebrity idolatry and the lack of consequence so many with power have maintained, as well as the dangers of living for others versus ourselves."

Feast Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime on Vimeo

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As a gift to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Albany Park Theater Project offers a free streaming Vimeo version of this show, first created in 2010 and revived in 2015 at the Goodman about immigrant communities, food, and the politics surrounding those topics. Feast was created by the APTP youth ensemble and directed by artistic director David Feiner.

The Happiest Place on Earth Recommended The Short List (Theater)

Available streaming anytime through website

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Sideshow Theatre Company offers a streaming version of writer-performer Philip Dawkins's 2016 Jeff Award-winning autobiographical solo show, directed by Jonathan L. Green, about his family's history with tragedy while living in the shadow of Disneyland. The show is available on a pay-what-you-wish basis through Sideshow's website during the COVID-19 crisis.

Parched Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Vimeo

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Free Street Theater offers a free streaming version of their 2019 show about the politics of water, pollution, and corporate theft of resources. Reader critic KT Hawbaker wrote of that production "Devised over the course of ten months by Free Street's youth ensemble, students aged 14-19, Parched is driven by vignettes drawn from interviews with researchers, activists, and community members. In that respect, it's a combo of journalism and performance, resulting in passionate storytelling that feels informed and brave."

There Is a Happiness That Morning Is Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available any time through YouTube

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Houston's Catastrophic Theatre has had a long relationship with Chicago playwright and Theater Oobleck cofounder Mickle Maher. During the COVID-19 shutdown, they are sharing some past productions of his work through their YouTube channel. They kicked off with The Hunchback Variations, and now add their 2013 production of this play, originally staged by Oobleck in Chicago in 2011. Two William Blake scholars and longtime lovers, Ellen and Bernard, deliver lectures on the poet's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience and struggle with the demand by their dean that they apologize for having public sex on the quad.

Mother Goose Lost! Free

7/11-8/12: Sat-Sun 1 PM through Facebook Live

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Eclectic Full Contact Theatre unveils its first virtual theater production. In this family-friendly offering, Mother Goose has retired and the evil Solomon Grundy decides to rewrite her rhymes. Her friends Nancy and Frank, along with Detective Joe Saturday, join forces to save her before the goose is cooked.

Masque of the Red Coronavirus Free 18+

Available on the company website anytime.

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Black Button Eyes Productions presents an interlocking series of videos performed by various artists that mash up Edgar Allan Poe's classic horror tale, "The Masque of the Red Death," in which a prince and his entourage try to cheat a pandemic by taking sanctuary in a pleasure palace, with contemporary articles about how the wealthy and the extremely wealthy are taking refuge in luxury during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a note on the website, company artistic director Ed Rutherford observes "way too many lines of The Prince are quoted verbatim from a public figure."

Throwing Shade Podcast Free

Mondays-Sundays

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Eclectic Full Contact Theatre presents this hardboiled satire of 1930s crime drama, in which "The Shade" finds himself in need of assistance from "The Vamp." New episodes are unveiled every Wednesday.

Freak Show Cabaret Free

Available anytime via YouTube and Facebook

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Experimental musician and performer Sophia Lucia, who studied performing arts at University of Illinois-Chicago, offers a livestreamed version of her one-woman alternative variety-cabaret show, recorded in quarantine from her home in Paris. It's available via YouTube and her Facebook page, and the music is also available through Bandcamp.

Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration Free

Available any time on YouTube

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In honor of Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Broadway opening of Company, Raúl Esparza, who won a Tony as Bobby in the 2006 revival of the latter, produced this all-star virtual concert of Sondheim's work. The lineup includes performances and tributes from Patti LuPone, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nathan Lane, Bernadette Peters, Kelli Peters, and many others. Mary-Mitchell Campbell served as music director and Paul Wontorek as director. Available free, but donations accepted for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), a nonprofit founded by Campbell and Juilliard students to help youth in underserved communities receive access to arts training.

2666 Free

Available anytime through the Goodman Theatre website.

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The Goodman Theatre presents a streaming version of their epic 2016 adaptation of Roberto Bolaño's novel, adapted and directed by Robert Falls and Seth Bockley. The five-part, five-and-a-half-hour show captures the Chilean writer's story of crime in Santa Teresa, his fictional stand-in for Mexico's Ciudad Juárez, where hundreds of women have been murdered since the 1990s. As described by former Reader critic Zac Thompson, the intersecting worlds of the play include "four European academics, a literature professor and his teenage daughter, a New York reporter covering a boxing match, the police detectives investigating the murders, and an elderly German novelist—not to mention a cavalcade of secondary artists, thugs, do-gooders, lost souls, obsessives, and creeps."

The Hunchback Variations Free

Available via YouTube any time

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Mickle Maher, a cofounder of Chicago's highly influential Theater Oobleck, created two versions of his heartbreakingly hilarious story involving Beethoven and Quasimodo at an academic conference, discussing their fruitless collaborative attempt to capture an impossible sound cue in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard: "A distant sound, as if from the sky: the sound of a breaking string—dying away, sad." First done as a straight play in 2001, Maher and composer Mark Messing reconfigured it as a chamber opera in 2012. This streaming YouTube version is of a production of the nonmusical original at Houston's Catastrophic Theatre, which has produced several of Maher's plays over the years.

The Second City Free

See website for full information

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The Second City offers free improv and sketch content online during the COVID-19 shutdown, with Improv House Party, in which "co-quarantined pairs convene digitally to improvise their hearts out in this wild west of comedy streaming live from everyone's bunker." Check in with the Second City Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts, or the Second City website. New episodes are available Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 7 PM CDT. The other free shows include The Really Awesome Improv Show, styled similarly to Whose Line Is It Anyway?", every Thursday at 1 PM CDT and The Last Show Left on Earth, a half-hour sketch and variety show coproduced by the Second City and Topic, which will be releasing new episodes weekly featuring comedy and music artists such as Jack McBrayer, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and Fred Willard. The Second City also offers online classes for varying rates during the shutdown.

Laugh Factory Free

Available anytime through YouTube

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Laugh Factory, which has outlets in Chicago as well as Hollywood and Long Beach, CA, offers free content through their YouTube channel.

Chicago Offstage! Live at Home Free

Sun 4/19, 6 PM; available through YouTube anytime after

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Season of Concern, Chicago's fund for members of the theater community facing illness, injury, or other circumstances that keep them from working, presents this livestreaming concert featuring prominent vets of the musical theater world in Chicago and beyond. The talent roster includes Tony winner Jessie Mueller, E. Faye Butler, Michael Mahler, Bethany Thomas, and Honey West, among many others. Ana Belaval of WGN-TV hosts and interviews the stars between performance segments. Christopher Pazdernik, the casting and company manager of Porchlight Music Theatre, serves as creative producer for this concert in quarantine. Free through the Season of Concern YouTube channel, but donations accepted.

Joffrey Ballet Free

Available through the company website or YouTube channel anytime

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During the COVID-19 shutdown, the Joffrey highlights a different production from its history every week with production footage and behind-the-scenes interviews with artists involved in the show. Every Thursday at 2 PM, the Joffrey also features "On Cue," a weekly check in (via Instagram) with a Joffrey company artist about "how they’re staying fit, what they’re doing to stay sane and even share some of their favorite quarantine recipes."

Play(s) at Home : A Green Theatre Festival Free

Available any time through YouTube

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Connective Theatre Company presents the second installment in its series of original short plays on the COVID-19 crisis. In this collection, writers from around the globe submitted pieces examining the role the pandemic plays in environmental issues. The selected titles were then rehearsed and shot remotely from the artists' homes.

Otherworld Theatre

Available online anytime

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Dedicated to sci-fi and fantasy, Otherworld offers a menu of online options—some free, some available through donations—on YouTube and Patreon, from free weekly installments of Improvised Dungeons & Dragons (created with Out on a Whim) to Stupid Shakespeare's take on Pericles, PickleRickicles, which had to end its run early due to the COVID-19 shutdown. They're also offering a reading series via podcast and their monthly open mike, Theatre of Ted, as a Facebook Live event on Saturdays.

Out of Touch Free

Available streaming via website anytime

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Annoyance created this original sketch show, available free in a streaming format, via a team of nine performers and crew living in quarantine together for 10 days at the theater. The March 28 performance is now available anytime through the theater's website.

The Approximately Five-Minute Shelter in Place Show Free

Available anytime through website

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Small Fish Radio Theatre and Thespinarium, which specializes in short radio plays, presents an ongoing series of radio pieces created in quarantine during the COVID-19 shutdown.

Swans for Relief Free

Available anytime through YouTube

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Misty Copeland and 31 other ballerinas from dance companies around the world perform The Dying Swan at home in this video, devised as a fund-raiser for COVID-19 relief efforts in the dance community.

African Folktales and Stories Free

Uploads Sun 6/28, 7 PM: available anytime afterward on company website and YouTube channel

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Elmhurst's GreenMan Theatre Troupe takes its storytelling series online by revisiting a series of traditional African tales first performed last year and reworked for a digital presentation by director Carolyn Thomas-Davidoff. The company also offers storytelling classes, beginning in August.

Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Free

Available anytime on YouTube

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Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble offers short videos from various works, including excerpts of What We Carried, which was originally scheduled for May. The collaboration with Jean Parisi focused on stories of those seeking asylum in the U.S. The videos also include excerpts from i bet you think this dance is about you, choreographed by Sara Maslanka.