Performing Arts Events | Chicago Reader

Performing Arts Events

Loading...
  • Detail View
  • List View
  • Grid View
84 results

Blue Man Group Recommended The Short List (Theater) Canceled

Open run: Wed-Fri 8 PM, Sat 2, 5, and 8 PM, Sun 4 PM
Briar Street Theatre 3133 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$49-$104


UPDATE Sunday, March 15: this event has suspended performances for the time being. Refunds available at point of purchase.


The long-running show (22 years and counting in Chicago) featuring performers in blue latex paint, drumming, video, comedy, and other assorted mayhem continues. 800-258-3626

Packing Recommended The Short List (Theater)

6/19-7/12: available any time through ticketed remote streaming

,

About Face Theatre presents a recorded streaming version of Scott Bradley's semi-autobiographical solo play, directed by Chay Yew. A "genderqueer vagabond" from Iowa embarks on a three-decade odyssey across multiple identities and locations, where his journey intersects with the AIDS pandemic, addiction, and the fight for marriage equality. Reader critic Dan Jakes called the show "an important document of queer life only a decade or two in the past but a world away culturally."

Do You Feel Anger? Recommended The Short List (Theater) Canceled

1/23-3/15: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3 and 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM
A Red Orchid Theatre 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy TicketsPreviews 1/23-2/1, $15-$25; regular run 2/2-3/15, $30 Thu, $35 Fri and Sat matinee, $40 Sat eve and Sun matinee


UPDATE Friday, March 13: this event has been canceled. Refunds available at point of purchase.


Sofia has been hired as an "empathy coach" at a debt collection agency, and finds that creating emotional connections in an environment of complicity is more difficult than she imagined. Jess McLeod directs Mara Nelson-Greenberg's absurdist comedy. 312-943-8722

Home/Land Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Vimeo

,

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.

The Blackout Diaries Recommended Agenda The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Sat 10 PM
Lincoln Lodge 956 W. Newport, Chicago North Center


The gregarious Sean Flannery tells stories about adventures he's had inebriated out of his mind. He's joined each week by other comedians and the occasional layman—each with a drunken tale to tell. 773-251-1539

The Harold Recommended Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10:30 PM, Sat 10:30 PM, Sun 8 PM, Mon 10:30 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Improv teams use an audience suggestion to create interweaving story lines that result in a connected long-form narrative.

Medusa Undone Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through company website or YouTube channel

,

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

,

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.

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

Available any time through YouTube

,

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.

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

Available streaming anytime through website

,

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.

Still/Here Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available online anytime through Vimeo

,

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.

Johnny Johnson Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Mondays-Sundays

,

Chicago Folks Operetta continues its "Operetta Delivered" series of free streaming archived performances with Kurt Weill and Paul Green's 1936 anti-war piece, presented by the company in its Chicago premiere in 2017. Reader critic Albert Williams wrote "Though not a success in its time, Johnny Johnson is a work of landmark historical significance. And despite some flaws, this production packs a real emotional impact with its quirky yet lyrical music, expressionistic visual design, and timeless theme of a common man caught up in the madness of war."

Sexy Baby Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime on YouTube

Buy TicketsFree

,

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.

,

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.

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

Available anytime through Prop Thtr website

,

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."

Parched Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Vimeo

,

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."

The Improvised Shakespeare Company Recommended Member Picks Agenda The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Seven strapping men in swashbuckler shirts improvise a two-act Shakespearean play based on a title suggested by the audience. At the show I saw, "The Taming of the Jew" inspired the Bard's usual themes (religion, family, betrayal) and plot devices (murders, disguises, fortunes gained/lost) as well as an uncomfortably funny circumcision. Director-performer Blaine Swen, a veteran of long-form Shakespearean improv who swears they don't conspire during the intermission, has assembled a vigorous ensemble of actors and proven improvisers. Their experience doing Shakespeare flowers in the language: they relish iambic dialogue, execute perfectly timed asides, occasionally utter rhyming couplets (some hilariously forced: "Let us be quick-sa, and get to the bar mitzvah!"), and drop parodic phrases ("scurvenous knave," "midfortnight report") and well-placed anachronisms (the bar mitzvah had a DJ). Even the ending echoed the real plays: story lines resolved tidily—and uproariously. —Ryan Hubbard

ComedySportz Theatre Recommended Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10 PM, Sat 6, 8, and 10 PM
ComedySportz Theatre 929 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$19


Part of a national chain of comedy clubs, this company is known for quick improv games (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?), but it also stages long-form improv. LCD screens and sophisticated lighting and sound systems amplify the sports-style improv of the company's eponymous production, ComedySportz. There's a snobbery in the Chicago improv community that looks up at the "art" of the long form, with its emphasis on story and characters, and down on the "entertainment" of the short, with its emphasis on games and punch lines. ComedySportz falls emphatically in the entertainment camp; its bottom line is laughter, and it gets plenty of it. The show is structured as a competition between two teams performing multiple games that require audience participation. A referee ensures that the players--a rotating roster from a company of about 50--work clean or they finish the game with a brown bag over their heads. The formula is practically foolproof: players may flash their quick wits in winning responses, but they're even funnier when they fail. In one game a team had to devise a pick-up line, each member contributing a word. Moving rapidly from player to player, the line developed: "Tonight-I'll-tango-with-your-face." Probably wouldn't work at a bar, but at ComedySportz it killed. --Ryan Hubbard 773-549-8080 or 312-559-1212

Decadance/Chicago

Thu 3/12, 7:30 PM; Sat 3/14, 8 PM; Sun 3/15, 3 PM
Harris Theater 205 E. Randolph St., Chicago Loop

Buy Tickets$25-$110


UPDATE Friday, March 13: this event has been canceled. Refunds available at point of purchase.


Hubbard Street Dance Chicago's spring series features a revival of Israeli choreographer (and former artistic director of Batsheva Dance Company) Ohad Naharin's Decadance/Chicago, curated especially for the company and featuring excerpts from several Naharin pieces. The choreographer has recreated the series every ten years; this time the pieces excerpted include Minus 16, KYR, Mabul, Anaphase, Zachacha, Naharin’s Virus, Three, George and Zalman, Max, Seder, and Sadeh21. 312-334-7777

My Body's Image, Delayed Free

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

,

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.

Intimate Apparel Canceled

3/12-4/19: Wed 1 and 7:30 PM, Thu 7:30 PM, Fri 8 PM, Sat 2:30 and 8 PM, Sun 2:30 PM; also Tue 3/17 and 4/17, 7:30 PM; Sun 3/15 and 3/29, 7 PM; Wed 4/8, 7:30 PM only; Sat 3/14, 8 PM only; no performance Sun 4/12
Northlight Theatre North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie Skokie

Buy TicketsPreviews 3/12-3/19, $30-$61; regular run 3/20-4/19, $30-$89, $15 students all performances (pending availability)


UPDATE Friday, March 13: this event has been postponed until further notice. Contact the box office for information about exchanges or refunds.

Esther, a Black seamstress in 1905 Manhattan falls in love through an epistolary relationship with a Caribbean man working on the Panama Canal, but their marriage turns out differently than she hoped for. Lynn Nottage's 2003 drama, directed for Northlight by Tasia A. Jones, provides a portrait of the way Esther's life intersects with other women, including a wealthy socialite, her landlady, and a prostitute who also plays ragtime in a brothel. Mildred Marie Langford stars as Esther. There will be an open captioning performance on Sat 4/11, 2:30 PM. 847-673-6300

The Cake

1/30-3/1: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; ASL performance Thu 2/20, 8 PM
Buffalo Theatre Ensemble McAninch Arts Center, College of DuPage, 425 Fawell Blvd., Glen Ellyn Other Suburbs West

Buy Tickets$42


Bekah Brunstetter, a writer for the NBC series This is Us and the daughter of former Republican North Carolina state senator Peter Brunstetter, wrote this drama, set in Winston-Salem, in the aftermath of the Masterpiece Cakeshop Supreme Court case, involving bakers who objected to making cakes for same-sex couples. First seen locally at Rivendell Theatre Ensemble in 2018, Buffalo Theatre Ensemble's production is directed by Steve Scott and stars Connie Canaday Howard as Della, the owner of a bakery whose personal beliefs are tested when her goddaughter asks her to make a cake for her wedding to another woman. 630-942-4000

The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 4—LOCKDOWN!

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

,

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.

In the Next Room (or The Vibrator Play) Canceled

3/6-4/5: Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM; also Mon 3/9, 8 PM (opening night) and Wed 3/25, 8 PM; no show Sun 3/8
Edge Theater Off-Broadway 1133 W. Catalpa, Chicago Edgewater

Buy TicketsPreviews 3/6-3/7, $10; regular run 3/9-4/5, $20, $15 seniors over 65 and students any age; all Thu performances $10 industry


UPDATE Tuesday, March 17: this production has been canceled. Check with box office for refunds.


Sarah Ruhl's 2009 play, set in 1880s New York, examines "female hysteria" through a doctor who has invented a machine purported to cure it, and his wife's fascination with what is going on in the examination room. Morgan Manasa directs for Idle Muse Theatre Company. 773-340-9438

The Wild Party Variety Hour Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

Open run: every last Saturday of the month, 11 PM
HQ 1914 N. Milwaukee Ave., Chicago Wicker Park/Bucktown


Burlesque, vaudeville, shtick, and other types of performance, hosted by Silent Theatre. 312-533-8023

ComedySportz Free

Mondays-Saturdays

, ,

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. July 20-August 7, the company offers a virtual summer comedy camp for youth, 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.

Otherworld Theatre

Available online anytime

,

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

, ,

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.

Laugh Factory Free

Available anytime through YouTube

,

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