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Bisa Butler: Portraits Recommended Agenda

11/16-4/19
Art Institute of Chicago 111 S. Michigan Ave., Chicago Loop

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Note: as of November 18, 2020, the Art Institute is closed to visitors due to the governor's COVID-19 distancing directives for the state of Illinois.

Bisa Butler's portrait quilts capture personal and historical narratives of Black life. This is the first solo museum exhibition of the Howard University alum's work. 312-443-3600

Rastus and Hattie Recommended Free The Short List (Theater) Online

Through 1/31: available streaming anytime with reservation

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Berwyn's 16th Street Theater offers a free encore presentation of this audio play, written by Lisa Langford and directed by Lanise Antoine Shelley. Langford's dark comedy involves two contemporary couples (one white, one Black) whose friendship is threatened when it's revealed that the white couple has Black robot servants—relics of an actual Westinghouse project in the 1930s, which created "“mechanical slaves," one of whom was in fact called "Rastus." Langford adapted her stage play for 16th Street, and her story also weaves in time travel and the theme of epigenetics, or the theory that generational trauma such as slavery leaves a genetic imprint. Illustrations from Roy Thomas add to the listening experience. Reader critic Kerry Reid called the production "a fitting coda to a year marked by heightened attention to racial justice and institutionalized white supremacy."

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.

Wally World Recommended The Short List (Theater) Online

12/16-8/31: available anytime with purchase of Steppenwolf NOW subscription

Buy Tickets$75 for entire Steppenwolf NOW subscription series; discounts available for essential workers, teachers and students; all Classic, Black and Red Card Members receive Steppenwolf NOW for free

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Steppenwolf continues its subscription online series with Isaac Gómez's comedy, codirected by Gómez and Lili-Anne Brown and featuring ensemble members Cliff Chamberlain, Audrey Francis, Sandra Marquez, and Karen Rodriguez. Set in the titular store (which bears more than a passing resemblance to Walmart, where Gómez's mother has worked for many years), the two-act radio play follows a group of beleagured employees on Christmas Eve as they try to deal with the madness of the season without losing their own sense of purpose, worth, and holiday cheer.

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."

Of Dice and Men Recommended The Short List (Theater)

Opens Fri 7/31, 7 PM CDT; free through 8/14, then on a paid basis

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Otherworld Theatre offers a show designed for digital performance, written by Cameron McNary and directed by James Martineau. The story follows a Dungeons and Dragons master, James Francis, who finds his life turned topsy-turvy when one of his friends enlists in the military and his romantic relationship going nowhere. The show is free via Otherworld's YouTube channel from July 31 to August 14, and then afterward on a paid basis through their Patreon. Recommended for ages 14+.

Yippee Ki-Yay Merry Christmas! A Die Hard Musical Parody Recommended Free The Short List (Theater) Online

Mondays-Sundays

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Yippee Productions LLC first presented their annual live musical parody of the 1988 Bruce Willis Christmastime action-adventure flick in 2014 at the now-defunct MCL Chicago comedy theater. Created by Michael Shepherd Jordan, who cowrote the book and score with Alex Garday and Stephanie McCullough, the show returns in an archived streaming presentation from the 2018-19 production at the Den. Tiffani Moore Swalley directed, with filming and editing by Sam Donald Bowers. Reader critic Albert Williams praised the cast of that production for their "improvisational spontaneity and seemingly endless energy."

. . . 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."

Still/Here Recommended Free Agenda The Short List (Theater) Online

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.

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.

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."

Hit 'Em on the Blackside Free Online

Through 3/31: available online anytime

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Congo Square Theatre Company presents an online sketch comedy show, directed by Anthony Irons and created by cast members Tiffany Addison, Ronald L. Conner, Alexis J. Roston, and Kelvin Roston Jr., with Malcom Banks as director of photography. The series, inspired by Irons's 2014 live sketch show, Tales from the Blackside, was developed in biweekly webisodes, broadcast through Congo Square's Instagram and Facebook pages. The entire first show is available free online at the company's website. The second show will begin posting biweekly sketches on Fridays March 19-May 28, with the full second Hit ‘Em on the Blackside show posted online Saturday, May 29.

Saints & Sinners Bingo Online

1/14-2/21: available with purchase via Vimeo Thu-Sat 8 PM CST, Sun 2 PM CST

Buy Tickets$20


A streaming version of this Late Nite Catechism offshoot finds former nun Mrs. Mary Margaret O’Brien (Kathleen Puls Andrade) trying to raise money for the archdiocese with a new bingo game. The premise is that the players try to decide which saints and sinners belong on the Catholic calendar. The show, originally written as a 2016 fundraiser for the Academy of Our Lady of Guam, was filmed last year with a "socially distanced" audience at the Royal George, and a portion of all ticket sales will benefit the retirement fund for the Benedictine Sisters of Chicago.

34th Annual Young Playwrights Festival Online

1/7-1/31: Thu-Sat 7 PM, Sun 4 PM (available streaming for 48 hours after purchase of selected performance)

Buy Tickets$20 adults, $12 students 22 and under


Pegasus Theatre Chicago goes virtual for their yearly celebration of young writers, whose work was developed in partnership with Chicago high schools. This year's lineup includes: A Lady’s Facade by Aisha Ziad of University of Chicago Laboratory School, directed by Reshmi Hazra Rustebakke, in which a fired arts curator still pursues a mystery surrounding the Mona Lisa; Containment by Lane Tech alum Lincoln Gaw, directed by Alex Levy, in which a pair of CDC investigators has to stop the spread of a dread condition known as Ohio; and These Glass Lives by Kenwood Academy grad Jake Florell, directed by Pegasus's executive producing director Ilesa Duncan, in which a young Black man breaks into an older Black man's home seeking sanctuary from the police who are pursuing him.

Emotions Go to Work

Through March 2021: Mon-Fri 9:30 AM-5 PM, Sat-Sun 10 AM-5 PM
International Museum of Surgical Science 1524 N. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago Near North

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Note: as of December 2020, the International Museum of Surgical Science is closed to visitors until further notice to help slow the spread of COVID-19.

Scottish-born artist Zoe Beloff presents an installation at the museum that investigates "how our emotions and feelings have been turned into commodities and instrumentalized by global corporations." 312-642-6502

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.

Until the Flood Free Online

Premieres Sun 11/17, 7 PM CST; available through All ARTS until fall of 2023

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Dael Orlandersmith's solo documentary play follows the aftermath of the 2014 police killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. Originally commissioned by Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Orlandersmith's show (directed by Neel Keller) played at several regionals around the country, including a production at the Goodman in the spring of 2018. This archival recording will stream free for three years through All ARTS app from WNET in New York. Reader critic Dan Jakes wrote of the Goodman presentation, "Derived on dozens of interviews with Ferguson and Saint Louis residents, Orlandersmith has crafted eight composite characters with layered, thorny takes on the anger, fear, privilege, injustice, assumptions, and institutional breakdowns that factor into the cycle of violence committed against people of color by American law enforcement."

Diamond's Dream Free Online

Opens Mon 1/18, 10 AM CST, available streaming on demand anytime

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Chicago Children's Theatre presents the world premiere of a new puppet film by Chicago artists Jerrell L. Henderson and Caitlin McLeod as part of their new "Springboard" play development program. (Henderson also directs, while McLeod is the designer.) Diamond, a preteen Black boy in Chicago, falls asleep on a south-bound Red Line train on his way to visit his dying grandmother. When he wakes up, he finds that he has been joined by the spirit of a young Black girl who died exactly 100 years earlier in the 1918 flu pandemic. The two face "paranormal puppets" representing the forces of ignorance, poverty, and racism. The piece will be available streaming anytime after its January 18 premiere with CCT's YouTube channel. The Storyboard program aims to foster new works for young audiences by commissioning 14 BIPOC artists with Chicago roots.

The Journey Recommended Closing (Theater and Galleries) The Short List (Theater) Online

1/12-1/24: Tue-Sat 6:30 and 8 PM CST, Sun 4:30 and 6:30 PM CST

Buy Tickets$45-$65 "per screen"


Chicago Shakespeare presents Scottish illusionist-mentalist Scott Silven's show in a ticketed streaming presentation as part of their WorldStage series. Each performance is limited to 30 audience members, who go on an interactive "a virtual journey" from their home to Silven's rural Scottish setting. "To experience the show, each ticket holder must have their own iPad, desktop, or laptop computer with stable internet connection, a webcam, microphone, and headphones."

A Home in Chicago: a conversation with Maya Dukmasova and Alden Loury Recommended Free Agenda Online

Wed., Jan. 20, 6 p.m.

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A discussion on the state of accessible and affordable housing in Chicago as well as a release event for Reader senior writer Maya Dukmasova's new book A Home in Chicago: Rent, Ownership, and Neighborhood Struggle since the Collapse of Public Housing.

Dukmasova and WBEZ radio's Alden Loury will welcome Chicago Housing Authority tenant organizer Jackie Paige along with Moises Moreno, executive director of Pilsen Alliance in this online discussion about housing issues in Chicago.

Zoo Motel Recommended Closing (Theater and Galleries) The Short List (Theater) Online

1/14-1/24, Thu-Sun 7 PM CST

Buy Tickets$21


Links Hall presents a piece by director-theatermaker Thadddeus Phillips, livestreamed nightly from a small village outside Bogotá, Colombia. Audiences (limited to 21 nightly) visit the "rooms" in the motel via a specially designed miniature camera, which captures weird and whimsical recreations of objects such as the Mojave phone booth, a miniature Titanic, and a copy of the Voyager golden record.

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

Decomposed Theatre Or the Human Trashcan Online

12/3-2/4: livestream Thu 8 PM CST, available via Vimeo afterward

Buy Tickets$15 per episode, $100 for entire series


Trap Door Theatre's longstanding collaborative relationship with Romanian-French playwright Matei Vişniec continues with this new livestream series of monologues, translated by Jozefina Komporaly and each directed by a different person. The cast includes Chicago-based Trap Door regulars as well as actors from around the world. Each live episode of approximately 25 minutes will be available to view with purchase on Vimeo after the live Zoom performance, and each live performance will be followed by a Q & A.

Rufus Wainwright All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Online

Fri., Jan. 22, 4 p.m., Fri., Feb. 19, 4 p.m., Thu., March 4, 4 p.m., Fri., March 12, 4 p.m., Fri., March 19, 4 p.m. and Fri., March 26, 4 p.m.

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Livestream at Veeps.

Sue Science Saturdays: Prehistoric Party Recommended All Ages Agenda Online

Sat., Jan. 23, 10 a.m.

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The Field Museum presents a family-friendly virtual tour along with interactive activities and behind-the-scenes looks at the museum with museum researchers and Sue the T.rex. One ticket is required per household. Zoom access provided after ticket purchase.

Kickback Recommended Free Closing (Theater and Galleries) The Short List (Theater) Online

Open run: available online anytime


About Face Theatre presents a streaming festival of new works, conceived and directed by associate artistic director Mikael Burke. The pieces all highlight "the intersection of queerness and Blackness in all its beauty and glory," and were created in association with Rebuild Foundation, drawing on Rebuild's collection of African American art and cultural artifacts. The lineup includes: Black Woman on Purpose by Michael Turrentine, in which a weekly Zoom call between three generations of Black women becomes a coming-out occasion: Frankie & Labi Saved Us by Robert Cornelius and Paul Oakley Stovall, about an artist suffering PTSD in the pandemic seeking help from a Black male therapist; an introduction to the upcoming feature-length documentary Do Black Lives Matter? by Ben F. Locke; john 11:35 [fo(r) all de lazurus(is)], by avrey r young, a 3-part "sermon of service addressing the erasure of varied blk bodies (specifically trans-bodies) in the age of #BLKLIVESMATTER"; Pangea by Dionne Addai, a piece utilizing poetry, music, and movement to examine the history and legacy of colonization; See Us as We Are by Vic Wynter, which uses the story Chicago house pioneer Frankie Knuckles to examine resistance to erasure of Black queer narratives; LITANY | PT. IV | EBONY by Jenn Freeman, which celebrates Ebony magazine; OM Mission by ShaZah (Shanta Nurullah and Zahra Baker), which explores Black lesbians from the Harlem Renaissance to present-day Chicago; and What We See by Kirsten Baity, Keyonna Jackson, and Cori Wash, "a series of short pieces exploring and exposing the trials, tribulations, and triumphs of growing up Black and queer in the USA."

Walkie Talkies Free

Podcast tours available for download anytime

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Chicago Children's Theatre unveils the first three in a new series of neighborhood tour podcasts. The first trio takes families through Little Village, South Shore, and the North Park Nature Sanctuary, respectively, with Jasmin Cardenas's Butterflies, Aztec Gods and Puerquitos/Sweet Piggie Bread, Quenna Lené Barrett's Stacey's Walk, and Shawn Pfautsch and Jessica Ridenour's The Green Heron—or—Should I Be Scared?. They're available as free podcasts through the website, which also provides walking maps and other resources.

Here Lies Henry Online

Opens Fri 2/5, 7 PM CST, then available on demand anytime through 2/25

Buy Tickets$15


Interrobang Theatre presents an archived streaming version of this 2020 production, shuttered when the COVID-19 shutdown hit. Scott Sawa stars in Daniel MacIvor's one-man show about Henry, an unreliable narrator who takes us on a trip through his questionable life choices. Elana Elyce directs. Reader critic Max Maller wrote, "Sawa delivers a bravura performance as either the worst inspirational comic of all time; a soul in purgatory who keeps blurting out unsavory disclosures involving past awkwardness and possible murder; a pathological liar; or some fiercely winning jumble of all three."

In Focus lecture series featuring Rebecca Zorach on abolition art Recommended Free Agenda Online

Sun., Feb. 7, 2 p.m.

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Local writer and professor Zorach, the author of Art for People's Sake: Artists and Community in Black Chicago, 1965-1975 (Duke University Press, 2019) gives an online talk for the Evanston Art Center's free lecture series. Zoom access will be sent after registration.