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Sexy Baby Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available any time 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 any time.

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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.

Masque of the Red Coronavirus Free 18+

Launches Tue 3/31 at 9 AM, then free 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."

Play(s) at Home Free

Available via YouTube any time


Connective Theatre Company's response to the COVID-19 shutdown, this festival of short plays solicited works from artists tackling various aspects of the pandemic. The company selected eight pieces and rehearsed and performed them via Zoom within 72 hours. The program is broken into three acts around the themes of "Navigating Solitude and Quarantine," "Anxiety, Fear, and Hysteria in the age of COVID-19," and "Navigating Relationships in Quarantine." There are interludes between each act with artistic director Chase Hauser and licensed clinical social worker Erich Heintzen discussing the issues raised by the plays.

2666 Free

Available any time 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. On Wednesday, April 1 at 6 PM, Maher will participate in an online Q&A along with director and actor Greg Dean, actor Jeff Miller and more, moderated by University of Houston theater professor Dr. Rob Shimko.

Dance Center of Columbia College Free

Available anytime through the Dance Center website

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In response to the COVID-19 shutdown, the Dance Center of Columbia College has made a number of full-length archival videos from past performances available free online. The selections include Kimberly Bartosik/daela's Chicago debut from January, I Hunger for You; Hedwig Dances Bauhaus-inspired Futura from 2018; Lucky Plush's 2016 piece Trip the Light Fantastic: The Making of SuperStrip and many others.

Napoli Free

Available online anytime

Buy TicketsFree

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As a gift to the world during the COVID-19 shutdown, the Royal Danish Ballet offers a full-length recorded version of this 1842 ballet by Danish choreographer August Bournonville. The story follows a young Italian girl who falls in love with a fisherman, and is generally considered one of the most life-affirming ballets in the classical canon.

Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Free

Available any time 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.

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.

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre Free

Mon 3/30, 6 PM CST; then Thu 6 PM CST

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During the COVID-19 shutdown, Alvin Ailey launches a new streaming service with recordings of full-length works, original short films from the dance community, virtual dance classes, and more. On Monday, March 30, the company presents its signature work Revelations, which explores Ailey's own childhood and African American experience through the lens of spirituality, using gospel, blues, and other African American musical traditions. The screening includes commentary from current artistic director Robert Battle and company dancers. It will be preceded at 2 PM CST by a virtual choreography workshop conducted by Hope Boykin, inspired by the movement in Revelations. The series will continue on Thursdays at 6 PM CST during the shutdown. On April 2, they will be streaming Yannick Lebrun's Saa Magni, a duet about the mourning process, and Bradley Shelver's Where There Are Tongues, set to music by French a cappella group Lo Còr De La Plana and contemplating the power of the collective. On April 9, they present Judith Jamison's Divining, the first major success by the former artistic director, set to the music of Kimati Dinizulu and Monti Ellison and bringing to life a variety of African dance idioms.

Friday Night Fuzz Box

Fridays, 9 p.m.


Every Friday night, the Fuzz Box DJs live stream a five-hour set of party music including soul, post-punk, psych, noise-rock, and more.

The Terrible Tragedy of Peter Pan Free

Sat 4/4, 7:30 PM, streaming via YouTube; available with commentary track anytime afterward

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House Theatre of Chicago offers a free streaming presentation of their 2002 production—the second show they produced—adapted by Phillip Klapperich from J.M. Barrie's original story and directed by Nathan Allen, about a boy who won't grow up and his adventures in Neverland. Designed as a watch party for Saturday, April 4, the company plans to offer live commentary along with the production during the initial presentation on YouTube, and that commentary will then be available along with the video for viewing anytime afterward as well.

Improvised Dungeons & Dragons Free

7 PM Sunday

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Otherworld Theatre and Out on a Whim will present new (but previously recorded) episodes every Sunday during the COVID-19 shutdown of this all-improvised show in which the classic role-playing game comes to life.

Magic Mondays Free

Mondays

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Magician and House Theatre of Chicago ensemble member Dennis Watkins, whose long-running The Magic Parlour is on hiatus during the shutdown, brings "up-close" magic into your home in two ways. For Magic Mondays (beginning April 6), Watkins will post a video to his show's Facebook and Instagram accounts, letting viewers learn a trick or two of the trade, as well as some background on the stories and history behind magic. On Thursday, April 2, 6 PM, you can join Watkins on Facebook for Magic Parlour Happy Hour, a free digital version of what is normally a VIP aftershow experience, involving sleight of hand, mind reading, and a virtual Q&A where you can learn more about his life in magic and his family's legacy in the art.

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 9 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.

. . . And I Am Not Afraid Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Prop Thtr website

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Prop Thtr presents a free streaming version of this production from fall of 2019, presented then under the title I Am Going to Die Alone and I Am Not Afraid. Devised by the ensemble and directed by Anna Gelman, with music by Alec Phan, the play uses the Holocaust and its legacy as a lens for exploring bravery and tenacity in the face of violence and oppression. Reader critic Dmitry Samarov wrote "In a time when so many societal forces are hell-bent on dividing us along tribal lines, this powerful piece of theater shows how sharing the tribulations of one people must give all people pause."

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.

ComedySportz Free

Mondays-Saturdays

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ComedySportz offers an array of games-based improvisation shows during the COVID-19 shutdown. On Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 and 9:30 PM, Virtual ComedySportz features their classic format of two teams of improvisers, plus a ref. The audience can join with suggestions and vote for the winning team via Zoom. Every other Wednesday at 7 PM, beginning on April 8, the company performs Virtual Vino Veritas, pairing Susan Haarman and two storytellers, plus wine, to share some stories over Zoom. And for families with kids, ReCeSz runs noon-12:30 PM Mon-Fri, with ComedySportz training center instructors leading youngsters through games and a dance party to break up the daily routine. Through April 10 and then April 20-24, the company offers a virtual spring break "camp" for students 8-18, called "Camp Kah-Mah-Dee" and focused on improv games, scene and character work, and stand-up comedy. The camp fee is $100. All other content is free, but donations accepted.

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.

The Habit of Art and The Croft

Available streaming anytime through 6/2

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The Original Theatre Company, based in Bury St. Edmunds in the U.K., offers a double bill: Alan Bennett's The Habit of Art, which imagines a meeting between poet W.H. Auden and composer Benjamin Britten, and The Croft by Ali Milles, a thriller about two women on a romantic holiday in the Scottish Highlands who find themselves drawn into a tangled world of their own histories and that of the region.

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.

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.

Feast Recommended Free

Available any time on Vimeo

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As a gift to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Albany Park Theatre 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.

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.

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.

My Body's Image, Delayed Free

Through 7/24: new videos released every Friday at 7 PM through the Theatre Y website.

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Theatre Y celebrates its 15th anniversary and its ongoing collaboration with Hungarian-Romanian playwright and poet András Visky through this anthology of videos created in quarantine by company members, inspired by Visky's work and integrating mirrors as part of the visual vernacular. Artistic director Melissa Lorraine, Visky, and members of the ensemble will also participate in virtual conversations about the work.

Cole's Virtual Open Mic Recommended Free 21+ The Short List (Theater)

Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.


Cole's Bar's longtime comedy open mike night is continuing on Zoom. Performer sign-up information and Zoom meeting information updated each Wednesday at the Cole's website.

Parched Recommended Free

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."

Shakes@Home Free

Available anytime through the website

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In response to the COVID-19 shutdown, Chicago Shakespeare provides an online anthology of learning activities, readings, archived discussions of past shows, and more. These include a new podcast, Asides, which analyzes some of the most famous direct audience addresses in the Shakespearean canon; actor-chef John Tufts's "Cook Like Shakespeare" series; and favorite moments in past productions.