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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.

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.

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.

Apsáalooke Women and Warriors Opening Recommended All Ages

3/14-8/13
Field Museum 1400 S. Lake Shore Dr., Chicago Museum Campus

Buy Tickets$40


The Apsáalooke people of the Northern Plains were beaders, artists, mothers, two-spirited people, and warriors. This exhibition features contemporary beadwork and fashion of the Apsáalooke as well as 100-year-old war shields. The exhibition is presented in both English and Spanish, with select sections also in Apsáalooke. 312-922-9410

Cameron Spratley 630 Opening Reception Recommended Free

Saturday 6/13, Noon-11pm
M. LeBlanc 3514 WEST FULLERTON AVENUE, Chicago Logan Square


Cameron Spratley's exhibition 730 will depict ten new works focused on personal narratives that reflect being young and Black in America. The title, "730" is a rap term that references the current times we are living in and the mechanism of racism. M. Blanc will be following guidelines and only allow ten people into the gallery at a time during the opening night. On view until 8/15.

A Quarantine Daydream Recommended Free

Wednesday 6/24
Elephant Room Gallery 704 S. Wabash Ave., Chicago South Loop


"A Quarantine Daydream," presents the work of Joe Nelson, (also known as Cujo Dah) which opens Wednesday with works ranging from Afro-futuristic to dreamscapes. Elephant Room Gallery is taking appointments and the full exhibition will be online at 5pm on 6/24. On view until 8/22. 312-361-0281

"Energy Revolution:" Creating Our Carbon-Free Future Recommended All Ages

4/15-11/1
Chicago Architecture Center 111 E. Wacker Dr., Chicago Loop


Located in the Usher Lambe Rotating Gallery in the Architecture Center is "Energy Revolution," the first major exhibition since the centers opening in 2018. The exhibition looks at how urgency and actions can free Chicago from fossil fuels. The opening of the exhibition is 4/15. Update: To help slow the spread of COVID-19, the center is closed until 3/31. 312-922-3432

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.

Johnny Johnson Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Mondays-Sundays

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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."

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.

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 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.

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."

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.

. . . 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."

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."

The Line Free Closing (Theater and Galleries) The Short List (Theater)

7/8-8/4: premieres in livestream Wed 7/8, 6:30 PM CDT and available on demand via YouTube through 8/4

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The Public Theater offers the livestreamed world premiere of this docudrama by Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, directed by Blank. In the style of their earlier work, such as 2000's The Exonerated, about people wrongfully convicted of murder and other crimes, The Line draws on firsthand interviews with medical first responders in the COVID-19 pandemic in New York. The cast includes Santino Fontana (David), Arjun Gupta (Vikram), John Ortiz (Oscar), Alison Pill (Jennifer), Nicholas Pinnock (Dwight), Jamey Sheridan (Ed), and Lorraine Toussaint (Sharon), with original music by Aimee Mann.

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.

ALAS

Opens 7/31, then in an open run available for streaming anytime with purchase

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Trap Door Theatre presents this streaming production, based on a fragment of the play Cabaret of Words by Matei Visniec, translated by Daniela Șilindean and directed by Michael Mejia. A group of citizens in a utopia realize that their "perfect world" requires sacrifice to be sustained, and must grapple with their own privilege and complicity. Visniec, whose work has frequently been seen at Trap Door, gives a surreal spin to questions of our own modern-day complacency. An international cast of 16 brings this virtual play to life, with choreography by Dane Strange and Ashleigh Abbot and sound design by Mejia. Tickets go on sale July 15, with the streaming production available beginning July 31 in an open run. It can be viewed anytime after purchase.

Of Dice and Men

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+.

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.

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.

Still/Here Free

Available anytime through Vimeo


Free Street Theater offers a free streaming version of this 2019 full-length production that encompasses "Manifestos for Joy and Survival" in a city facing rapid changes and displacement of communities.

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.