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The Cabinet Recommended The Short List (Theater) Online

Through 5/22: available for download 24 hours after purchase


Cabinet of Curiosity unveils its new radio theater program, Phonophobia, with this adaptation of the 2005 play by the late Redmoon Theater of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari by Mickle Maher. The 1920 silent film classic by director Robert Wiene, written by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, is considered a masterpiece of German expressionism, and concerns a malevolent hypnotist who uses a somnambulist to commit murders. The Redmoon version was conceived and directed by Frank Maugeri, Maher, and Mark Messing, with the latter providing sound design and competition. The cast includes Colm O'Reilly, HB Ward, David Stobbe, Diana Slickman, Lindsey Noel Whiting, and Samuel Taylor. Reader critic Kerry Reid called the Redmoon 2010 remount "stunning" and said it was "one nightmare that shouldn't be missed."

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.

Love's Labors Lost Recommended The Short List (Theater) Online

3/15-3/28: available streaming on demand with purchase anytime

Buy Tickets$25


Chicago Shakespeare presents a streaming recording of their 2017 production, directed by Marti Maraden. Shakespeare's comedy follows the entanglements of King Ferdinand of Navarre and his scholarly entourage, whose dedication to quiet contemplation and the life of the mind is upset by the arrival of a French princess and her ladies. Reader critic Tony Adler praised Maraden's "gorgeous, compassionate staging."

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."

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.

Sexy Baby Recommended Free The Short List (Theater) Online

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.

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

Mondays-Sundays

Buy TicketsFree

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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."

Feral Recommended The Short List (Theater) Online

Available anytime with purchase

Buy Tickets$15 for three-day pass


MPAACT's "Podcast Play" series offers audio versions of some of their favorite past productions. In this piece, written and directed by Shepsu Aakhu, a young Black activist's politically motivated graffiti campaign sets him on a collision course with the police, leading to a controversy that engulfs his city and the country. In his review of the 2016 production, Reader critic Zac Thompson wrote, "Aakhu has political points to make, but the considerable power of the play stems from the anger and heartbreak of the characters."

. . . 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."

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.

Black and Blue Recommended The Short List (Theater) Online

Available anytime with purchase

Buy Tickets$15 for three-day pass


MPAACT's "Podcast Play" series offers an audio play by Shepsu Aakhu, directed by Andrea J. Dymond, originally produced by the company in 2018. Two Black Chicago cops deal with the aftermath of the release of the video of Laquan McDonald's shooting as they patrol a patch of South Shore dubbed "Terror Town." Reader critic Justin Hayford wrote of the original production, "the script's intellectual rigor and visceral impact are unmistakable."

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."

Of Dice and Men Recommended Member Picks 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+.

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.

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

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.

Nocturna featuring DJ Scary Lady Sarah Recommended Free All Ages Online

Tuesdays, 8 p.m.


Livestream at DJ Scary Lady Sarah's Twitch channel.

Measure for Measure Online

4/19-5/16: available streaming with purchase anytime

Buy Tickets$25


Chicago Shakespeare Theater's ShakesSTREAM series continues with Henry Godinez's "video-enhanced audio play" take on Shakespeare's problematic comedy. The story of a duke going undercover to investigate moral corruption and crime in his city is set in 1959 Cuba, right before Fidel Castro's rise to power.

I, Banquo The Short List (Theater) Online

Through 5/16: available for streaming with purchase anytime


Chicago Shakespeare presents Tim Crouch's story of "the Scottish play" from the point of view of Macbeth's murdered best friend. Marti Lyons directs, with Dan Waller as Banquo and Patrick Scott McDermott as his son, Fleance. ASL interpretation, audio description, and closed captioning services are available.

Twelfth Night Online

4/19-5/16: available streaming with purchase anytime

Buy Tickets$25


Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents an audio play version of Shakespeare's comedy, directed by Barbara Gaines and with original music by Joriah Kwamé.

Duchess! Duchess! Duchess! Online

3/10-3/31: 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


Steppenwolf continues its all-digital season, Steppenwolf NOW, with this piece by Vivian J.O. Barnes and directed by Weyni Mengesha, artistic director of Toronto's Soulpepper Theatre. "Loosely inspired" by the Meghan Markle story, a younger duchess-to-be (Celeste M. Cooper) meets with the current duchess (Sydney Charles) to talk about the stresses and traps lying in wait for "the luckiest girl in the world." The piece was filmed as a play and is the fourth of six productions in the Steppenwolf NOW series, all of which can be viewed with a subscription.

What Is Left, Burns Online

11/11/20-8/31/21: Available streaming anytime through Steppenwolf NOW subscription

Buy Tickets$75 for entire Steppenwolf NOW subscription series; $50 for essential workers, teachers, and students; all Classic, Black, and Red Card members receive Steppenwolf NOW for free


In response to COVID-19 and the ongoing shutdown, Steppenwolf unveils a new digital subscription series, Steppenwolf NOW, kicking it off with this 20-minute play by James Ijames (Kill Move Paradise). Directed by Whitney White and starring Steppenwolf ensemble members K. Todd Freeman and Jon Michael Hill, the story follows a video reunion between two poets and former lovers after a 15-year estrangement.

Red Folder Online

1/27-8/31: available anytime with 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


Steppenwolf NOW continues the theater's all-digital season with a piece by ensemble member Rajiv Joseph (Guards at the Taj, Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo) about a first grader who stores all his woes inside a red folder, and years later seeks vengeance. The animated piece features Joseph's illustrations (animated by Christopher Huizar), with narration by Carrie Coon and original music by Chris P. Thompson.

New Faces Sing Broadway 1961 Online

4/16-5/16: available online with purchase anytime

Buy Tickets$25-$50


Porchlight Music Theatre presents a virtual revue, recorded live at the Studebaker Theatre in the Fine Arts Building and directed by Brianna Borger, with music direction and arrangements by Tom Vendafreddo. As the title suggests, the show focuses on shows that premiered in the 1961 Broadway season, with host Kelvin Roston Jr. providing the context for the material. Among the hits of that year are How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying, Subways Are for Sleeping, and Stop the World—I Want to Get Off. The cast includes Lexie Bailey, Nicole Barth, Marcus Canada, Chloe Howard, Izzie Jones, Clare Kennedy, Maurice Rex Randle, Abraham Shaw, and Tommy Thurston. 773-777-9884

CSO Sessions episode 18: Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time All Ages Early Warnings (Music) Online

Through May 21

Buy Tickets


Robert Chen, violin; John Sharp, cello; Stephen Williamson, clarinet, Kuang-Hao Huang, piano. Streaming on the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's cso.tv website and app.

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.

Diamond's Dream Free Online

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

Buy TicketsFree


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.

Joffrey Ballet Free Online

Available through the company website or YouTube channel anytime


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."

Never the Milk & Honey Online

Available anytime with purchase

Buy Tickets$15 for three-day pass


MPAACT's "Podcast Plays" series presents an audio play version of Shepsu Aakhu's 2017 drama about a "doomdsday preacher" who wakes up to find that the world hasn't ended, and cedes responsibility to his wife. Carla Stillwell directs. Reader critic Dan Jakes praised Aakhu's "sympathetic, compassionate gaze" in his review of the original production.

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.