The Pulitzer-winning composer David Lang, known for his particular brand of minimalism, also has a maximalist side, at least with regard to ensemble size. His 2014 work Crowd Out calls for 1,000 singers. Here, volunteers from all 50 of the city’s wards, recruited by conductor Donald Nally and flutist Tim Munro, will mass near the Bean to perform the humanity-affirming 40-minute work.
Details:Millennium Park. 3 p.m. Free. crowdoutchicago.org
To mark two decades of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s new-music series, MusicNow, the current composers in residence, Samuel Adams and Elizabeth Ogonek, programmed a full concert of music by their residential predecessors. A piece from John Corigliano’s The Red Violin Caprices and Augusta Read Thomas’s violin concerto Carillon Sky accentuate the evening.
Details:Harris Theater. 7 p.m. $15–$28. cso.org/musicnow
Pints for Pets
Drink your fill from the taps of one of Chicago’s finest breweries—for a good cause, of course. Ticket sales for this Revolution bar night go directly to the Anti-Cruelty Society. Guests can also expect some sweet prizes: Last year, the ACS raffled off four tickets to Hamilton.
Details:Revolution Brewpub. 6 p.m. $40. anticruelty.org
Sun Kil Moon
On his new double album, Common as Light and Love Are Red Valleys of Blood, Mark Kozelek, who performs as Sun Kil Moon, delves deeper into the terrain of antifolk, even dabbling in hip-hop and spoken word (folksier genres than people give them credit for). It’s a surprisingly political record for a man whose songs skew confessional (see his death-obsessed 2014 album, Benji). Kozelek is known for a sparse sound, and onstage his songs are downright chilling.
Details:Old Town School of Folk Music. 8 p.m. $25–$27. oldtownschool.org
After six years away from the spotlight and the loss of drummer Josh Tillman (who now sells out venues as Father John Misty), this Seattle quintet returned in June with Crack-Up, a stunning third LP. The album earned the same plaudits as Fleet Foxes’ first two records, but it also found them experimenting—with orchestral sounds, complex song structures, and genre-defying medleys. Hear the modern-day psych-rockers (in all their four-part harmonies) in the regal Chicago Theatre.
Details:Chicago Theatre. Sold out; see resellers.
This L.A. singer gets lumped in with R&B acts for his airy voice, but his gorgeous new album, Aromanticism, defies categorization. On it, Sumney colors minimalist neo-soul with an array of vocal styles, from a soaring falsetto to a pit-deep croon. His popularity is reminiscent of a time when R&B singers were more free to take risks in the mainstream, producing a brand of experimental music that has since been relegated to the underground.
Details:Old Town School of Folk Music. 8 p.m. $21–$23. oldtownschool.org
Michael Allen Harris takes audiences inside a maximum security prison, where a sequestered wing houses gay, bisexual, and transgender inmates. Tension mounts when a new prisoner, sentenced to life for murdering a gay man, asks to be transferred to that same GBT block. The New Colony’s 2016 workshop of this show was as unsettling as it was compelling. With the kinks worked out, expect nothing short of genius.
Details:New Colony at Den Theatre. $15–$20. thenewcolony.org
The Skin of Our Teeth
Thornton Wilder’s dramatic allegory is packed with biblical references and allusions to Greek mythology. The plot follows a suburban family (bearing considerable resemblance to Adam, Eve, Cain, and Abel) who face an ice age, a flood, and a devastating world war. Krissy Vanderwarker directs the human comedy of epic proportions.
Details:Remy Bumppo Theatre at Greenhouse Theater Center. $36–$52. remybumppo.org
Near North Side
Lookingglass remounts Charles Dickens’s industrial-age gem. Complete with colorful storytelling circus stunts, the plot follows plucky orphan Sissy Jupe through hard times in 19th-century London. Aerialists and acrobats make the adventure all the more delightful.
Details:Lookingglass. $40–$70. lookingglasstheatre.org
Cerqua Rivera Dance Theatre
Collaboration is key for this contemporary company, founded by Joe Cerqua and Wilfredo Rivera, which regularly presents dance alongside live music and visual art. The fall series features work by four dance-and-music duos: Sherry Zunker and Cerqua, Dan Hesler and Taylor Mitchell, Cerque and Rivera, and Rivera and Clarice Assad.
Details:Links Hall. $24–$38. linkshall.org
The Invisible Hand
An investment banker finds his future in doubt when he’s kidnapped by a man deemed a terrorist by the United States. This drama from Pulitzer winner Ayad Akhtar (Disgraced) wields the plot of a geopolitical thriller and dialogue as sharp as it is scathing.
Details:Steep Theatre. $10–$38. steeptheatre.com
This millennial violinist, a Taiwanese Australian, tours so extensively that he rarely goes a month without arcing through three continents. The Chicago area should count itself lucky that Chen perches here again after a critically lauded Ravinia set in July. This time he plays a recital of violin-rep staples from the likes of Beethoven, Saint-Saëns, and Ysaÿe.
Details:Edman Chapel at Wheaton College. 7:30 p.m. $10–$45. wheaton.edu/artistseries
The traditional Spanish company presents a modern take on flamenco as part of the arts series Made in Chicago. A highlight: Angel Rojas’s Defalla, Fuera de la Caja, inspired by Leonide Massine’s 1919 The Three-Cornered Hat, which was penned for the itinerant French Ballets Russes and performed at the Auditorium in the 1930s.
Details:Auditorium Theatre. 7:30 p.m. $29–$68. auditoriumtheatre.org
This veteran of Funny or Die, Drunk History, and Chelsea Lately has made a career of spotlighting the absurd challenges of adult life—and her own failures rising to them. Here, she performs on the heels of a new Netflix special, Just Keep Livin’?, a follow-up to 2015’s bonkers-popular I’m Gonna Die Alone (and I Feel Fine).
Details:Thalia Hall. 9 p.m. $22–$25. thaliahallchicago.com
During her year as a Chicago Dancemakers grantee, Pranita Nayar dismantled her training in Indian dance to build a movement vocabulary for modern times. The result is Unwinding, a show featuring dancers from Nayar’s company, Mandala Arts.
Details:Studebaker Theater. 7 p.m. $20–$25. mandalaarts.org
Taste Talks Chicago
This traveling national food fest stops in four cities: Brooklyn, L.A., Miami, and Chicago, with each iteration boasting talks, tastings, and parties hosted by local marquee chefs. This year’s Chicago roster includes Abe Conlon (Fat Rice), Mindy Segal (Mindy’s HotChocolate), Diana Dávila (Mi Tocaya Antojería), and Top Chef alum Sarah Grueneberg (Monteverde).
Details:Various venues. $49–$299. tastetalks.com
Duke Ellington’s Greatest Hits
Music Theater Works taps into Ellington’s finest tunes, from “It Don’t Mean a Thing (if It Ain’t Got That Swing)” to “Don’t Get Around Much Anymore.” He played an estimated 20,000 gigs in his lifetime—so there’s plenty of material in this full-orchestra musical.
Details:Nichols Concert Hall. $17–$64. musictheaterworks.com
Near North Side
in Porchlight Music Theatre’s history. It’s also Chicago’s first 100 percent locally cast version of the musical (famously scored by Elton John). The story of a gifted young dancer growing up in an English mining town is as tear-jerking as ever.
Details:Porchlight Music Theatre at Ruth Page Center for the Arts. $33–$60. porchlightmusictheatre.org
Chicago Home Movie Day
With the advent of home video technology in the 1970s, many American households became DIY film studios, producing odd but charming home movies that few outside the family would ever see. The Chicago Film Archives and Chicago Film Society aim to change that with this annual fest where Chicagoans are invited to present their own home movies—snapshots of bygone days on 16-millimeter, eight-millimeter, and Super 8 film—for like-minded filmmakers.
Details:Chicago History Museum. 11 a.m. Free. chicagofilmarchives.org
Circuit Des Yeux
Best known for her work with the Velvet Underground, singer and model Nico has spent most of her career undervalued. Her solo debut, Chelsea Girl, which turns 50 this fall, is an oft-overlooked artifact of 1960s New York. Named for an Andy Warhol movie in which Nico starred, it features songs penned by the likes of Bob Dylan and Jackson Browne. Here, local noise-folk performer Circuit des Yeux (see “Haley Fohr Embraces the Dissonant on New Circuit Des Yeux Album” for more on her) brings those songs to life in all their orchestral grandeur—in an eerie setting.
Details:Bohemian National Cemetery. 7 p.m. $20. emptybottle.com
Natya Dance Theatre
Chicago’s premier Indian dance company teams with the Nrithyanjali School of Dance for the local premiere of Nadi. The work, by Chennai-based choreographer Leela Samson, draws inspiration from humans’ connection to water—specifically rivers—and uses ancient Indian poems and songs adapted for the modern stage.
Details:Pfeiffer Hall at North Central College. 4 p.m. $20–$25. natya.com
Visceral Dance Chicago
Chicago’s contemporary powerhouse opens its fifth season with a premiere by Danielle Agami (formerly of the Israeli company Batsheva), plus audience favorites from the fourth season: Minor Threat by Mark Godden, Ruff Celts by Marguerite Donlon, and Synapse by Nick Pupillo, Visceral’s artistic director. See “Danielle Agami Brings Raw, Animalistic Style to Visceral Dance” for more.
Details:Harris Theater. 7:30 p.m. $25–$70. harristheaterchicago.org
Verdi’s tragedy Rigoletto, absent from Lyric’s stage for a scant four years, features a cast of local favorites in a tale of vendettas and intrigues. Quinn Kelsey, recently in Lucia di Lammermoor, plays the titular sad court jester. Matthew Polenzani is the devilish duke who sings the famous aria “La Donna è Mobile.” Rosa Feola, a pet soprano of Riccardo Muti, makes her Lyric debut as Gilda after several Symphony Center forays.
Details:Civic Opera House. $20–$319. lyricopera.org
Prepare to see the dark count in a whole new light. Using Bram Stoker’s gothic novel as a launching pad, the Hypocrites devise their own take on the toothy terror and his predilection for virgin blood. With any luck at all, they have the makings of a splendid Halloween horror on their hands.
Details:Hypocrites at Mercury Theater. $30–$55. the-hypocrites.com
On his studio debut this year, At What Cost, the D.C. emcee (real name D’Anthony Carlos) probes a range of highs and lows, from a hedonistic night in the club to drug-induced early-morning insomnia. Though Carlos uses bright, bouncy beats by the likes of Haitian DJ Kaytranada, his lyrics tell the the bleak, sobering story of his own complex life.
Details:Metro. 7 p.m. $21. etix.com
Tarsila do Amaral
Largely unknown outside Latin America, Brazilian painter Tarsila (1886–1937) revolutionized modern art in her home country. Here, the Art Institute mounts the first-ever show of her work in North America. Inventing Modern Art in Brazil consists of 120 historical documents and canvases steeped in soft colors and quirky forms from nature.
Details:Art Institute of Chicago. $14–$25. artic.edu
Bill Murray and Jan Vogler
Far from wonky Wes Anderson and farther still from the goofy Caddyshack, Murray waxes serious on this tour of his songs-and-readings album, New Worlds, performing with classical cellist Jan Vogler.
Details:Symphony Center. 7:30 p.m. $35–$135. cso.org
Calling all pinball wizards: This local fest offers a chance not only to play on dozens of rare machines but also to chat up some of America’s most dedicated collectors. You can even leave with a new addition to your game room.
Details:Westin Chicago North Shore. $30–$240. pinballexpo.net
It’s back to the barricades as Inspector Javert tries to bring down Everyman Jean Valjean in the enduring 1980 musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic. New on this go-round? A set inspired by the paintings of Hugo himself.
Details:Broadway in Chicago at Cadillac Palace. $35–$257. broadwayinchicago.com
Reggie Wilson/Fist and Heel Performance Group
The Dance Center favorites return for Citizen, Wilson’s 2016 production combining blues and folk music to embody the history of the African diaspora and its impact on African Americans’ identities.
Details:Dance Center of Columbia College. $23–$30. colum.edu/dance-center
To celebrate the 450th anniversary of the birth of Claudio Monteverdi, the father of opera, the baroque baron Sir John Eliot Gardiner presents all three of Monteverdi’s operas—L’Orfeo, Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria, and L’incoronazione di Poppea—in three days. His ensemble? The period-instrument orchestra English Baroque Soloists and the born-for-this Monteverdi Choir.
Details:Harris Theater. $35–$203. harristheaterchicago.org
Chicago International Film Festival
Near North Side
Every fall, this fest offers a peek at the coming year’s Oscar contenders and arthouse Cinderellas. For proof, look no further than last year’s lineup, which featured advance screenings of La La Land and Moonlight before either saw wide release (and sparked the Oscar bumble of the century).
Details:AMC River East 21. $12–$260. chicagofilmfestival.com
Best known as producers of Jill Soloway’s Transparent, Zackary Drucker and Rhys Ernst are also famous visual artists, whose intimate self-portraits document their onetime relationship as a transgender man and woman. Their striking images are a part of this group show dedicated to artists who use photography to disrupt the status quo in visual personal identity.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Photography. Free. mocp.org
A Swell in the Ground
The title of this world premiere by Janine Nabers is lifted from Emily Dickinson’s widely known probe of mortality, poem 497 (“Because I could not stop for Death”). The time-tripping play follows four college friends over the course of 17 years, and the nonlinear structure leaves the audience piecing together the group’s troubled history. Without spoiling the ending, the “swell” turns out to be a grave.
Details:Gift Theatre. $30–$40. thegifttheatre.org
MCA Talk: Vince Staples
Near North Side
The media appearances by this emcee from Long Beach, California, are as much a part of his public persona as his observational raps. Take a recent Daily Show appearance during which he confessed, days after telling journalists his new album, Big Fish Theory, was a work of Afrofuturism, “I like saying stuff about black people to white people.” It was a bite-size portion of Staples’s enigmatic politics; expect a full helping at this conversation with Pitchfork editor Matthew Schnipper.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. 6 p.m. $10–$20. mcachicago.org
The Scorpions’ Sting
Opera, a genre short on happy endings, tends not to cater to the kiddie crowd. With this one-act production in English, Lyric Unlimited, an initiative of the Lyric Opera, aims to change that. The story of archaeology students who must decipher hieroglyphics to save their professor is geared toward audience members as young as 7.
Details:Studebaker Theater. $10–$20. lyricopera.org
The Devil’s Disciple
Near North Side
Meet Dick Dudgeon, the wicked Revolutionary War hero you’ve never heard of. In George Bernard Shaw’s biting slice of historical fiction, Dudgeon ascends to hero status when he impersonates a rebel sympathizer. In Shaw’s world, the fate of the American colonies hangs with that of Dudgeon—and an inextricable case of mistaken identity.
Details:ShawChicago Theater Company at Ruth Page Center for the Performing Arts. $20–$35. shawchicago.org
Near North Side
Sue, the Field Museum’s famous T. rex, is just a few feet taller than the MCA’s Felix, a 26-foot skeletal sculpture of a house cat poised to pounce at the museum’s entrance. The piece is the brainchild of Italian artist Maurizio Cattelan, and it’s having its first moments in the sun since 2006—part of the MCA’s 50th anniversary exhibition.
Details:Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. $8–$15 suggested admission. mcachicago.org
Anthropologists use a new geological term, the Anthropocene, to designate the current age, in which humans have altered every corner of Earth’s landscape. Artist Doug Fogelson examines these alterations in O.L.A.F.T., in collaboration with the Open Land Art & Fact Team, a research practice through which he collects both natural and human-made artifacts that threaten Illinois’s flora and fauna.
Details:Hyde Park Art Center. Free. hydeparkart.org
Chicago Humanities Festival: Fallfest
Ahead of his book on the Obama era, We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy, Ta-Nehisi Coates sits down with Krista Tippett, whose radio show, On Being, explores the ethical question of how to live. The October 16 interview kicks off the Chicago Humanities Festival’s fall lineup. Also on the bill: Marilynne Robinson and Al Gore.
Details:Various venues. $32–$38. chicagohumanities.org
To say it’s been a journey for this pop star to release her latest album would be an understatement. But when Rainbow finally came out in August after Kesha’s years-long legal battle with producer Dr. Luke, it did so at No. 1. Unsurprisingly, the LP skews more inspirational than her past work—a victory lap for a singer mistreated time and again by the pop-music industrial complex. Expect a stark, empowering live set.
Details:Aragon Ballroom. 7 p.m. $87–$348. ticketmaster.com
Vermeer and Arianna String Quartets
Dame Myra Hess began a concert series as a wartime balm in 1940s London. The Cultural Center’s Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts series—free lunchtime performances on Wednesdays—celebrates 40 peaceful years in Chicago with a pair of string quartets. Although the Vermeer Quartet officially disbanded shortly after playing the series’ 30th anniversary, the band reunites for this occasion.
Details:Chicago Cultural Center. Noon. Free. imfchicago.org
Adolphe Adam’s beloved score gets reimagined in Lola de Ávila’s Giselle, a Joffrey premiere serving as the company’s official season opener. De Ávila’s version heightens the subtle differences between the romantic Giselle and other visionary 19th-century ballets. (The title character is considered a ballerina’s most challenging theatrical role.)
Details:Auditorium Theatre. $34–$159. joffrey.org
High Concept Labs
Twice a year, this arts incubator throws a bash to show off the work of its seasonal artists in residence. This round is heavy on music, including vocalist Jessica Aszodi, new-music ensemble Zafa Collective, Chicago Balinese Gamelan, and site-specific sound artist Anthony Janas.
Details:Hairpin Arts Center. 7 p.m. $20–$60. highconceptlabs.org
Daniel Johnston and Jeff Tweedy
Johnston, 56, a cult-beloved outsider artist whose struggles with schizophrenia have kept him largely off the road throughout his career, embarks on a final set of tour dates, appearing with a different opener in each city. Here, that’s Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy, and fans of the indie legends ought not to miss the once-in-a-lifetime billing.
Details:Vic Theatre. 7:30 p.m. Sold out; see resellers.
Since 1993, this offshoot of Paul Taylor’s legendary dance company has toured its founder’s works, bringing his quintessentially modern pieces to the masses.
Details:Northeastern Illinois University. 7:30 p.m. $10–$25. neiu.edu
Elevate Chicago Dance
The Dance Center presents a spectrum of local companies in two distinct programs. Ranging from performance art to dance theater, this set is as close to a complete snapshot of Chicago’s dance scene as you can get.
Details:Dance Center of Columbia College. $30. colum.edu/dance-center
In Rohina Malik’s tale of forbidden love, Iraqi American Abdul Samee is so dedicated to the West that he tells his coworkers he’s Italian and insists they call him Sam. Complications ensue when he falls for an Iraqi refugee deeply committed to her ethnic and cultural roots.
Details:Goodman Theatre. $10–$40. goodmantheatre.org
In the Next Room, or The Vibrator Play
Sarah Ruhl’s Pulitzer Prize finalist is as smart as it is sexy. In the story of an 1880s doctor who invents an electronic device for treating “female hysteria,” Ruhl delivers a wildly entertaining take on sexual healing, female empowerment, and the joy of sex—with and without a partner.
Details:TimeLine Theatre at Stage 773. $25–$54. timelinetheatre.com
Spooky Pooch Parade
Dogs are typically forbidden in the Chicago Botanic Garden, but for two hours every October the institution makes an exception. Dozens of costumed canines embark on a Halloween parade, their doggy disguises eligible for prizes.
Details:Chicago Botanic Garden. 11 a.m. $15–$25. chicagobotanic.org
Garrison Keillor: Just Passing Through
While this Minnesotan may have left Lake Wobegon for the last time (he stepped down as host of the long-running NPR show A Prairie Home Companion last year), Keillor continues to find outlets for his homespun humor and old-timey charm. On this national tour, expect reflective stories, wry anecdotes, live music, and poetry delivered in Keillor’s legendary one-of-a-kind timbre.
Details:North Shore Center for the Performing Arts. 8 p.m. $64–$90. northshorecenter.org
Think Medea, transported from ancient Greece to late-19th-century New Orleans. The character of Marie Christine, loosely based on real-life voodoo priestess Marie Laveau, tells her story from a prison cell. Lili-Anne Brown directs the musical inspired by two fascinating women.
Details:Boho Theatre at Theater Wit. $33–$35. bohotheatre.com
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
The CSO muscles into its subscription schedule with a vigorous 20th-century program and two star guest artists, James Gaffigan and James Ehnes. Gaffigan leads Bernstein’s On the Waterfront suite and Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances around Ehnes’s take on Samuel Barber’s violin concerto.
Details:Symphony Center. $34–$220. cso.org
Courtney Barnett and Kurt Vile
At first glance, the Australian Barnett and the Philadelphian Vile make for a curious pairing. The former is a raucous descendent of ’90s alt-rock; the latter a laid-back surf-rocker born on the wrong coast. What the two do share is a charming slacker ethos and a knack for captivating an audience—more than enough to incentivize a resale ticket.
Details:Oct. 26: Rockefeller Chapel; Oct. 27: Thalia Hall; Oct. 28: Empty Bottle. Sold out; see resellers.
Night of 1,000 Jack-o’-Lanterns
Nothing says “Happy Halloween” like an expertly carved jack-o’-lantern. This garden stroll cranks up that sentiment by a thousand in displaying precisely that many pumpkins, some weighing more than 100 pounds.
Details:Chicago Botanic Garden. 6:30 p.m. $10–$16. chicagobotanic.org
Welcome to Jesus
Janine Nabers’s drama is part southern gothic, part football. A brutal murder sparks the drama in a town where high school sports and the Christian church are equally beloved. Artistic director Will Davis helms the production.
Details:American Theater Company. $20–$38. atcweb.org
The quadrennial Van Cliburn International Piano Competition sweetens the pot for its medalists by booking extensive tours for them. Here, the 28-year-old South Korean Yekwon Sunwoo, who holds 2017’s gold medal, performs Schubert, Grainger, Rachmaninoff, and Ravel.
Details:Galvin Recital Hall at Northwestern University. 7:30 p.m. $10–$30. artscircle.northwestern.edu
Giordano Dance Chicago
To kick off its 55th season, Chicago’s premier jazz dance company presents new works by favorite choreographers Ray Mercer and Brock Clawson. Mercer’s flashy style is anchored by music from South African composer Sbongiseni “Bongi” Duma; Clawson’s third major work for Giordano is billed as an “athletic pas de deux.”
Details:Harris Theater. $15–$75. harristheaterchicago.org
Nomi Dance Company
Founder and artistic director Laura Kariotis opens Nomi’s season with a double bill. Chicago Repertory Ballet’s Wade Schaaf will premiere a work that ties his company with Nomi, alongside three other premieres by dancers from the host company.
Details:Athenaeum Theatre. 8 p.m. $12–$37. nomilamaddance.com
Near North Side
The Mexican photographer is known for superimposing maps, books, and canvases on her self-portraits. No mere gimmick, this allows Parcero to tell stories of global colonialism on her own skin. Here, she displays pieces dealing with climate change and nature.
Details:Schneider Gallery. Free. schneidergallerychicago.com
Music weaves through this drama by Tarell Alvin McCraney (of Moonlight fame), set in an elite black prep school where someone hisses a gay slur during a choir concert. Raven Theatre’s artistic director, Michael Menendian—retiring this season after 35 years—directs.
Details:Raven Theatre. $15–$43. raventheatre.com
Day of the Dead: Tilica y Flaca es la Calaca
The United States’ largest Day of the Dead exhibition calls Chicago’s National Museum of Mexican Art its home, and it runs the entire fall season with spectacular ofrendas—altars made by artists honoring their ancestors through paintings, masks, dolls, sugar sculptures, and cut-paper displays.
Details:National Museum of Mexican Art. Free. nationalmuseumofmexicanart.org