By the time playwright Dominique Morisseau was named a MacArthur “genius” in 2018, she had already found plenty of fans in Chicago, with productions of her piercing dramas Sunset Baby and Detroit ’67 at TimeLine and Northlight. The title of this 2017 work refers to the so-called school-to-prison pipeline — the idea that discriminatory disciplining in schools helps funnel disadvantaged youth into the criminal justice system. The play tracks a black public-school teacher’s fears for her own teenage son.
Details:Lincoln Park. Victory Gardens Theater. $15–$60. victorygardens.org
Chicago Winter Ale Fest
Every winter, Chicagoans steel their hearts and bellies against tundra-like conditions and march outdoors in pursuit of great brews. This annual gathering of people who love to talk about drinking as much as they love to drink features more than 150 craft beers and bites from local and regional breweries such as Lagunitas, Dovetail, and Great Lakes.
Details:Pilsen. Lacuna Lofts. 11 a.m. $49–$59. chicagoalefest.com
The local rapper isn’t one to wade around in shallow subject matter — his most recent album, Pieces of a Man, nods to Gil Scott-Heron and Gwendolyn Brooks and grapples elegantly with sex, spirituality, and other equally enigmatic subjects. This homecoming show closes out the North American leg of his current tour before he jets off to Europe.
Details:Pilsen. Thalia Hall. 9 p.m. $22–$40. eventbrite.com
Trinity Irish Dance Company
Chicago’s quintessential ensemble of Irish dancers plays to the home crowd for the first time in more than a decade. There’ll be plenty of their classic jigs and reels, including well-loved pieces like Johnny (1991) and Curran Event (2000). In recent years, artistic director Mark Howard has been ditching the curly wigs and embroidered dresses in favor of more progressive themes like female empowerment.
Details:Loop. Auditorium Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $29–$78. auditoriumtheatre.org
Richard Strauss’s short-by-operatic-standards, no-intermission tour de force comes packaged here in the provocative director David McVicar’s attention-getting production, redeployed for duty as a star vehicle for Nina Stemme, a Metropolitan Opera favorite making her Chicago debut. The demanding role — Elektra almost never leaves the stage — sees the Greek heroine urging on her mother’s murder, part of the cycle of vengeful killings spilling out from the Trojan War.
Details:Loop. Lyric Opera House. $37–$279. lyricopera.org
Maia Cruz Palileo: All the While I Thought You Had Received This
During the summer of 2017, this Brooklyn artist dug through the Newberry Library’s vast collection and found a strange trove of 19th-century photographs of indigenous people of the Philippines taken by the American zoologist Dean C. Worcester. The photos channeled the harmful intentions of colonialism, so Palileo, who is Filipina, decided to revise those images into colorful, intimate canvases as a way to imagine a new, positive history of her culture. This is her first solo exhibit in Chicago.
Details:West Town. Monique Meloche Gallery. Free. moniquemeloche.com
This three-artist exhibition considers photography specifically as a riveting medium for capturing personal histories and memory. Look no further than the work of Karolis Usonis, who eyes homoerotic undertones in his father’s archive of military pictures.
Details:Loop. Chicago Cultural Center. Free. cityofchicago.org
In this latest installment of the Authors on the Lake Q&A series, the star chef discusses his debut cookbook from April of last year, Korean BBQ: Master Your Grill in Seven Sauces, which aims to demystify Asian cooking, drawing upon the chef’s Korean American upbringing and his years manning the kitchens of local favorites Urbanbelly and BellyQ (RIP). The event will include light food and drinks.
Details:Lincoln Park. Theater on the Lake. 7 p.m. $30–$40. eventbrite.com
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
The 10 plays of August Wilson’s Century Cycle, which depict slices of African American life in Pittsburgh during the 20th century decade by decade, have long had Chicago homes at the Goodman and Court Theatres. Writers Theatre enters the mix with the 1920s entry, the sole one to take place in this city, where blues singer Ma Rainey and her band squabble through a tense recording session. Director Ron OJ Parson is a seasoned interpreter of Wilson’s work, having staged seven of the plays at Court; many of his usual cast members, including A.C. Smith, Alfred Wilson, and Felicia P. Fields, are following him from Hyde Park to Glencoe.
Details:Glencoe. Writers Theatre. $35–$80. writerstheatre.org
The Total Bent
The inventive musical memoir Passing Strange portrayed the coming-of-age and coming-to-art of the one-named writer and composer Stew. He and his fellow composer on that show, Heidi Rodewald, have teamed up again for this fictional, complex, and concert-style work about the clash between an old-school gospel preacher and his gay songwriter son during the civil rights movement. Lili-Anne Brown, who directed the bracing Bailiwick Chicago production of Passing Strange, helms this local premiere, a coproduction of Haven and About Face.
Details:Wicker Park. Den Theatre. $15–$38. thedentheatre.com
Annual midwinter meltdowns should always be soundtracked by doomy, dramatic cold wave (think postpunk played on synthesizers) — the kind of thing that makes you feel dead inside, in a good way. That’s where this Northampton, Massachusetts, duo comes in: Its gothic bangers feel like hexes you can dance to.
Details:Ukrainian Village. Empty Bottle. 9 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
The singer and actress has reinvented herself dozens of times over six decades without ever relinquishing her spot as one of the coolest people alive. And for this performance, she’s accompanied by Nile Rodgers, whose influence on 20th-century pop, rock, and dance music is so extensive it’s impossible to totally measure, and his disco supergroup Chic, which recently released its first album in 26 years.
Details:Near West Side. United Center. 8 p.m. $89–$500. ticketmaster.com
Nobody really knows what to make of this post-post-postironic pop star and conceptual YouTuber whose winking, absurdist songs and videos are beamed in from the uncanniest of valleys. The act’s either a brilliant satire of digital culture or an elaborate illuminati mind-control experiment. Either way, the music’s improbably catchy — think high-gloss synthetic sounds or Grimes’s arty
Details:Near North Side. House of Blues. 6:30 p.m. $20. livenation.com
For those who can’t swing an excursion to the Caribbean, there’s the option of traveling to nearby Glencoe for this annual event, where visitors can trade dark skies and gray slush for bright surroundings and thousands of lush, colorful specimens specially planted in a separate room in the Botanic Garden. If the thought of returning home is too depressing, don’t worry: You can buy one of the magnificent flowers to take with you.
Details:Glencoe. Chicago Botanic Garden. $8–$12. chicagobotanic.org
Lunar New Year
Every year, Chinatown offers a celebration of ancient traditions with a procession that features marching bands from local high schools, lion dances, and elaborate floats. The pig is a symbol of wealth in Chinese culture, so here’s to hoping that the Year of the Pig brings good fortune.
Details:Chinatown. Wentworth from 24th to Cermak. 1 p.m. Free. ccc-foundation.org
Ryan Tacata: A Minor Repair
The weird and wonderful In>Time performance festival happens only every three years at 12 venues across the city. In 2019’s edition, various artists will pay tribute to storied and now-defunct Chicago performance collective Goat Island. Make sure to check out Bay Area-based up-and-comer Tacata, a onetime Chicagoan who’ll be riffing off of Goat Island’s When Will the September Roses Bloom? Last Night Was Only a Comedy, from 2004, using items from the group’s archive as source material.
Details:Bridgeport. Zhou B Art Center. 6 p.m. Free. in-time-performance.org
Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra
While the Chicago Symphony Orchestra tours Asia, Symphony Center booked a worthy substitute: the Amsterdam-based Royal Concertgebouw, the orchestra named the best in the world by a blue-ribbon Gramophone panel 10 years ago. Here, the Dutch treat the audience to Brahms’s Symphony No. 4 and Richard Strauss’s tone poem Ein Heldenleben, a canonical work dedicated to the orchestra.
Details:Loop. Symphony Center. 7 p.m. $37–$182. cso.org
Dear Evan Hansen
The winner of the 2017 Tony for best musical follows a high schooler with crippling social anxiety who gets caught in a snowballing series of lies after a classmate commits suicide. The touring production christens the newly renamed Nederlander Theatre (née Oriental).
Details:Loop. Nederlander Theatre. $148–$650. broadwayinchicago.com
Adding to its growing arsenal of full-length story ballets, the Joffrey presents Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece as a brand-new, expansive production with choreography by Russian Yuri Possokhov, an original score by Ilya Demutsky, and a rock-star design team in Tom Pye and David Finn.
Details:Loop. Auditorium Theatre. $35–$170. joffrey.org
Ananya Dance Theatre
This Twin Cities–based company makes its Dance Center debut with Shyamali, a work by contemporary bharatanatyam pioneer Ananya Chatterjea. The dance, whose title is a Bengali word for how grass springs back up when trampled on, is about resilience among communities that rise to fight injustice.
Details:South Loop. Dance Center, Columbia College Chicago. $30. dance.colum.edu
Rachmaninoff & Tchaikovsky
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra shakes off the jet lag from its recent tour of Asia with the thundering Piano Concerto No. 3 of Rachmaninoff. The virtuoso Macedonian pianist Simon Trpceski solos. The program’s second half is more contemplative, with Tchaikovsky’s seldom-played Symphony No. 1, nicknamed “Winter Dreams.”
Details:Loop. Symphony Center. $40–$227. cso.org
I Wanna Fucking Tear You Apart
Writer Morgan Gould is the force behind this comic look at what happens when platonic friendships get a little too intense. Sam and Leo, a self-described “fat girl and gay guy,” have been roommates and BFFs since college. The pair’s cocoon of codependence is disrupted when Leo makes a new friend at work.
Details:Edgewater. Rivendell Theatre. $28–$38. rivendelltheatre.org
Pitchfork’s summer festival has become one of the most anticipated local events of the year, so it’s a big deal that the music website has created a winter offshoot, held in the Art Institute, an improbably cool place to stage such a showcase. Among the highlights, some of which are already sold out: titanic saxophonist Kamasi Washington, avant-pop pioneer Laurie Anderson, and local instrumental rock group Tortoise. Where a ticket to the July fest allows you to see all the acts, many of Midwinter’s prime bookings require additional fees on top of the general admission.
Details:Loop. Art Institute of Chicago. $50–$530. midwinter.pitchfork.com
The Man Who Was Thursday
Policeman-slash-poet Gabriel Syme goes undercover in a council of anarchists in G.K. Chesterton’s 1908 espionage farce set in a phantasmagoric London. What kind of anarchists organize a council? Good question. Playwright Bilal Dardai and director Jess Hutchinson, who first mounted the twisty stage adaptation of the novel in 2009 for the now-defunct New Leaf Theatre, reteam for this remount, making it a must-see #TBT.
Details:Rogers Park. Lifeline Theatre. $20–$40. lifelinetheatre.com
Dimensions of Citizenship
Architects are tasked with greater challenges today than in the 20th century, from limiting a building’s climate impact to designing spaces that encourage more human interaction. The latter became the theme for this exhibition, which opened in Venice, Italy, last year and makes its U.S. debut at a new gallery in Lincoln Park. The show brings together mostly installations by star firms like Studio Gang and Diller Scofidio + Renfro to consider architecture in our globalized, increasingly digital society.
Details:Lincoln Park. Wrightwood 659. Free. wrightwood659.org
Cupid’s Undie Run
Nothing distills Valentine’s Day to its essence quite like people cavorting in their underwear. This fun run consists of roughly 15 minutes of actual running in between stints of drinking and dancing. Proceeds benefit medical research on neurofibromatosis, a rare genetic disease affecting the nervous system. Stripping down shows solidarity with those with NF, who are unable to conceal their tumors.
Details:Wrigleyville. Sluggers. Noon. $35–$50. cupids.org
The Scarlet Ibis
Few art forms have a stodgier reputation than opera. But Chicago Opera Theater positions itself to be anything but, with its young leadership and its productions of works new to the city, including this moving story of brothers in North Carolina during World War I, which the New York–based opera incubator Beth Morrison Projects premiered in 2015.
Details:Loop. Studebaker Theater. $45–$145. chicagooperatheater.org
Mike Pence Sex Dream
A recently married gay couple wrestle with the aftermath of the 2016 presidential election in different ways: Ben finds himself driven to distraction by national politics, while Gary is disturbed by the erotic dreams he keeps having about the decidedly un-gay-friendly new VP. First Floor Theater artistic director Hutch Pimentel stages this dark comedy by New York playwright Dan Giles.
Details:Wicker Park. Den Theatre. $20–$25. firstfloortheater.com
Drink a toast to the doomed love of Violetta and Alfredo in this remount of one of the most beloved operas of all time. Lyric casts, similarly, one of the its most beloved sopranos, Albina Shagimuratova (I Puritani in 2018), as Verdi’s tragic courtesan, and Giorgio Berrugi, a Verdi-Puccini tenor, makes his house debut as Alfredo.
Details:Loop. Lyric Opera House. $39–$299. lyricopera.org
Algorithms Are the Utensils We Use to Devour Each Other
Think of all the high-tech gadgets you once prized, then, years later, threw out. Michael Dinges’s artwork conveys the ephemerality of contemporary technology, primarily through his engravings — dazzling patterns grafted onto dead laptops. Stare long enough and a hidden slogan might pop out of a black-and-white design, like the statement made in the exhibit’s technophobic title. Is it a searing critique of internet-addicted culture, or just the latest trend in salvage art?
Details:West Town. Living Room Gallery. Free. livingroomrealty.com/events/
The Whole World a Bauhaus
A century ago, the German art and design movement called Bauhaus heralded a modern style: slick lines and colorful geometry celebrating new industrial materials like fiberglass. What started as a small German school became a global phenomenon as proponents fled Hitler’s rise and landed in Chicago, cementing the aesthetic’s legacy among America’s elite. This exhibit celebrates the centennial with works by its major artists, including Josef Albers, Wassily Kandinsky, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, and Laszlo Moholy-Nagy.
Details:Elmhurst. Elmhurst Art Museum. $10–$12. elmhurstartmuseum.org
Presidents’ Day at the Chicago History Museum
Citizens of all ages will appreciate this commemoration of the executive office, which features arts and crafts, a performance by the Chicago Brass Band, and a photo op with Abe and Mary Todd Lincoln (played by impersonators Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller of With Lincoln Productions).
Details:Lincoln Park. Chicago History Museum. 10 a.m. Free. chicagohistory.org
An Inspector Calls
An avowed socialist, British playwright J.B. Priestley wrapped biting social critique in an Agatha Christie–style whodunit in this 1945 drama, in which a mysterious detective implicates each member of an upper-class family in the death of an impoverished young woman. This production is a touring version from Britain’s National Theatre, where director Stephen Daldry staged it with an impressionistic aesthetic.
Details:Navy Pier. Chicago Shakespeare Theater. $35–$88. chicagoshakes.com
The weekly Frequency Series at Constellation increases its, um, frequency for a five-day festival of adventurous and experimental sound art. The party kicks off with champions of indeterminacy Aperiodic at an off-site concert at the Renaissance Society. The Saturday and Sunday slots see stalwarts of the new-music scene International Contemporary Ensemble and Ensemble Dal Niente, the latter premiering two major pieces.
Details:Various locations. Free–$15. constellation-chicago.com
Steven Isserlis and Robert Levin
Beethoven completism exists: You see pianists undertaking all the sonatas over a career, or orchestras doing all nine symphonies in a season or two. Cellist Isserlis and pianist Levin run a lesser-traveled Beethovenian gamut across two concerts, playing all five cello sonatas, three sets of variations, and one arrangement, which constitute all the composer’s works for cello and piano.
Details:Woodlawn. Logan Center for the Arts, University of Chicago. $10–$38 per concert. chicagopresents.uchicago.edu
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s music director, Riccardo Muti, leads the orchestra in his second requiem of the season (after Verdi in the fall) to commemorate the centenary of the World War I armistice. Also on the program is the war-inspired Symphony No. 9 by Schuman — that’s William Schuman (with one n), not Robert Schumann.
Details:Loop. Symphony Center. $46–$298. cso.org
Beirut, Helado Negro
Since its debut in 2006, Beirut’s orchestral indie rock has conveyed a feeling of wide-eyed worldliness: Balkan folk, trips to Oaxaca, postcards from Italy, visits to Coney Island. But opener Helado Negro might be the highlight here. The long-running project of Ecuadorian American artist Roberto Carlos Lange deals in dreamy, politically charged synth-pop (Dev Hynes’s Blood Orange is probably the closest comparison) that’s often sung in Spanish.
Details:Uptown. Riviera Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $42. ticketfly.com
This D.C.-area group produced a series of druggy, riff-heavy, and disjunctive avant-garage-rock records for Virgin and local indie label Drag City during the ’90s. Neil Hagerty and Jennifer Herrema make a stripped-down version of bluesy rock music, smeared and twisted to approximate hearing classic rock through a beat-up car radio. The recently reunited Hagerty and Herrema pass through town to promote White Stuff, their eagerly anticipated new album.
Details:Lincoln Park. Lincoln Hall. 8 p.m. $30. lh-st.com
Same Planet Performance Project
A quirky mixed-rep program includes revivals of Netta Yerushalmy’s The Force Backwards and Four, a little gem by Links Hall cofounder Bob Eisen that premiered last October. In a new duet called Moonface, artistic director Joanna Read explores a paradox of relationships: How can codependency and individuality truly coexist?
Details:Albany Park. Dovetail Studios. $15–$23. same-planet.org
Clementine Creevy has been making fearless, funny DIY punk since she was 15. (If only all our high school art projects could’ve been so fully realized.) Her L.A.-based band Cherry Glazerr has grown up alongside her, from scuzzy songs about grilled cheese sandwiches to faux-naive eye rolls at the patriarchy. Expect songs from the new album Stuffed & Ready, out February 1.
Details:West Loop. Bottom Lounge. 8 p.m. $15. ticketweb.com
Twenty-four-year-old DaniLeigh’s résumé will make you question what exactly you’ve been doing with your life: The way-too-cool Miami native raps, sings, dances, and directs videos. (She got a big break directing and starring in Prince’s “Breakfast Can Wait” video. Yes, that Prince.) Her debut album, The Plan, released late last year, is great, somewhere between vibey trap and Aaliyah-inspired R&B.
Details:Roscoe Village. Beat Kitchen. 8 p.m. $13–$55. ticketweb.com
STEM education meets Chicago pride in the best possible way at the Chicago Architecture Center’s annual crash course in engineering. This year’s theme focuses on the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, and kids can re-create the opulence of the White City by pressure-testing Ferris wheels or presiding over their reconstructed designs of the Midway Plaisance in Jackson Park.
Details:Loop. Chicago Architecture Center. 10 a.m. Free–$6. architecture.org
Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera
These days, this New York–based photographer may be best known as Lena Dunham’s mother, but back in the ’80s she spearheaded a group of conceptual artists (Cindy Sherman among them) known as the Pictures Generation, which tackled the overtly masculine norms of advertising and cinema. Now 69, Simmons gets a major career retrospective focusing on her dollhouse scenes, where she arranges miniatures to tell difficult stories about marriage and sexuality.
Details:Streeterville. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $15. mcachicago.org
Uzo Emenike, who goes by a phonetic stage name, has written hits for Beyonce, BTS, and Dua Lipa, and now the underrated British singer-songwriter is overdue for his own turn in the spotlight. A true student of pop music history, he draws inspiration from ’90s R&B retrofuturism, Max Martin bubblegum, and UK garage. He’s also responsible for the best B-52s-referencing remix of Vanessa Carlton’s “A Thousand Miles” you’ll ever hear in your life. Google it.
Details:Lincoln Park. Lincoln Hall. 7:30 p.m. $17–$19. lh-st.com
In Progress: Jeanette Andrews
This local self-proclaimed “magician and artist” specializes in creating “sensory illusions” that go so far as to mess with your sense of smell. For the MCA’s intimate In Progress series, Andrews, whose full-scale performances often sell out, pulls back the curtain to reveal her research on scent and biology and even asks the audience for feedback as she conjures new illusions.
Details:Streeterville. Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. 6 p.m. $15. mcachicago.org
Robin Deacon: Vinyl Equations
Perhaps the biggest draw at the In>Time festival is British-born Deacon, the current chair of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago’s performance department, who juxtaposes unlikely combinations of LPs (such as Isaac Hayes alongside Richard Nixon) and intermixes them with spoken word and dance.
Details:Lake View. Links Hall. $12–$15. eventbrite.com
This avant-garde composer and singer-songwriter’s live shows are exercises in meticulously controlled chaos. Her immersive chamber pop metabolizes a heady spread of influences — medieval chants, California folk songs, Greek tragedies, celebrity gossip — in a way that’s nowhere near as daunting as all that might seem on paper. She’s described her latest record, 2018’s superb Aviary, as the sound of “the cacophony of the mind in a melting world.”
Details:Pilsen. Thalia Hall. 8:30 p.m. $20. eventbrite.com
English National Ballet
Choreographer Akram Khan created his version of the iconic classical ballet Giselle by incorporating kathak, a dance form originating in northern India. The stunning production, Khan’s first full-length, opened to rave reviews when it debuted in Manchester in 2016. Chicago gets the North American premiere in the company’s first trip to the States in 30 years.
Details:Loop. Harris Theater. $35–$125. harristheaterchicago.org
The young French writer Florian Zeller’s play uses disorienting theatrical devices to convey the perspective of a man succumbing to dementia. Frank Langella won a Tony in the title role in the 2016 Broadway production; the reliable David Darlow and Remy Bumppo Theatre Company take up the challenge for the Chicago premiere.
Details:Lake View. Theater Wit. $38–$63. remybumppo.org
Fulfilled Fantasies: Contemporary Chicago Drag Works
Drag queens and kings dabble in gender illusion, a magical kind of performance art drenched in glitter, sequins, humor, and humanity. More than 30 images capture the essence of Chicago’s drag scene, which has produced such treasures as Kim Chi, a RuPaul’s Drag Race alum, and the Vixen, one of the most notable black performers in recent years. A few costumed mannequins help the images leap off the walls.
Details:South Loop. Hokin Project Gallery, Columbia College. Free. fulfilledfantasies.me