Outsiders, derelicts, and other members of the urban underbelly may never again find a spokesman like Nelson Algren, but the prolific writer’s voice of the streets is as relevant and compelling today as it was in the 1950s. The Lookingglass Theatre remounts John Musial’s interpretation of Algren’s poetry, Nelson Algren: For Keeps and a Single Day, a multimedia performance infusing selections from Chicago: City on the Make and The Last Carousel with live jazz, set against a backdrop of gritty footage. Running concurrently is Art Shay: Chicago Accent, an exhibition of photos shot between 1949 and 1968, chosen by Shay as those most revealing of his friendship with Algren and most representative of their shared interest in documenting the city’s underclass. Both shows run at the Museum of Contemporary Art (220 E. Chicago Ave.; 312-337-0665) through June 29th; talks with Lookingglass’s Heidi Stillman and Algren scholar Bill Savage follow the 3 p.m. matinee Sundays the 15th, 22nd, and 29th. Tickets are $25 to $55.Best Bets for Things to Do This Week:
Pour one out for the late Bo Diddley at the 25th annual Chicago Blues Festival, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday the 6th through Sunday the 8th in Grant Park (Jackson Boulevard and Columbus Drive; chicagobluesfestival.us). There are more than 90 free concerts to choose from, including Buckwheat Zydeco (8:35 p.m. Saturday the 7th) and B.B. King (8:15 p.m. Sunday the 8th), both at the Petrillo Music Shell. Keep the party going with a $15 blues brunch at Buddy Guy’s Legends (754 S. Wabash Ave.; 312-427-1190), 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday the 7th and Sunday the 8th. No advance reservations are available, so get there early.
Some bigwigs stick to the boardroom. Others can’t keep a lid on their creativity. Lucky for us, Poetry Foundation president John Barr and Second City cofounder Bernie Sahlins fall into the latter category. Catch a free staged reading of Barr’s play-in-verse, The Adventures of Ibn Opcit, about a condemned poet shot into space by the Soviet Union, directed by Sahlins at Victory Gardens Greenhouse (2257 N. Lincoln Ave.; 312-932-9950), 7 p.m. Sunday the 8th. A free reception with Barr and Sahlins precedes the show at 6 p.m.
Highlights from the final weekend of the 11th annual Chicago Improv Festival include a performance by the troupe Ditka, featuring MADtv alum Frank Caeti (8 p.m. Friday the 6th), and The 313, whose ranks include MADtv’s Keegan-Michael Key and former Second City mainstage player Nyima Funk (7:30 p.m. Saturday the 7th). All shows run at the Lakeshore Theater (3175 N. Broadway); call 773-935-9810 or visit chicagoimprovfestival.org for the full schedule.
From the unfathomable mind of DEVO band member Mark Mothersbaugh, who taught us to “whip it good,” comes The Postcard Diaries, an exhibition of drawings culled from more than 30 years of Mothersbaugh’s journal-keeping. The show opens 6 p.m. Friday the 6th at David Leonardis Gallery (217 W. Huron St.; 312-863-9045), with Mothersbaugh beamed in via satellite at 7 p.m.
We already know they can dance; now Hubbard Street Dance members tackle the roles of choreographer and director in programs of new works collectively billed as Inside/Out, 8:30 p.m. Friday the 6th, and 6 and 8:30 p.m. Saturday the 7th at The Dance Center of Columbia College (1306 S. Michigan Ave.; 312-850-9744, ext. 166). Tickets are $20 to $35.
It worked for the film Four Rooms: In 4Play, four directors stage four darkly comedic short plays, each with original music and video, under the aegis of New York transplant 13Carat Productions. The show runs 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays through June 29th at Theatre Building Chicago (1225 W. Belmont Ave.; 773-327-5252). Tickets are $20.