Rick Stone and Melanie McCullough of the Black Ensemble Theater
LOVE AND HAPPINESS Black Ensemble Theater members—including, from left,
Rick Stone and Melanie McCullough—channel soul greats for a concert of love songs
on 2/14.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 2.8.12 through Tue 2.14.12:


concerts For Lovers Only (AND For People Who Love Themselves)
In the words of the legendary Al Green, the message is love this Valentine’s Day at Black Ensemble Theater. The company’s glossy new digs in Uptown become “The Love Club” for a night, when BE members croon the kind of turn-the-lights-low standards made popular by Otis Redding, Etta James, and other mood setters (not excluding Rev. Green). Champagne and dessert optional. Slow dancing required.
GO: 2/14 at 7:30. $65; $125 per couple. Black Ensemble Theater, 4450 N Clark. blackensemble.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: The former Chicagoan Kurt Elling returns for a program of global love tunes—abetted by the remarkable violinist Regina Carter and the ebullient saxophonist/clarinetist Anat Cohen—at Symphony Center on 2/14 at 8.


dance River North Dance Chicago
The ever-passionate RNDC stages two world premieres at its always-popular Valentine’s concert. This year’s theme? Relationships. A collaboration between RNDC’s artistic director, Frank Chaves, and the pianist and composer Josephine Lee reflects on the brief, intense creative partnerships between dancers and choreographers, while Mauro Astolfi’s Contact-Me is an intricate study of the body’s connection to space.
GO: 2/10–11 at 8, 2/12 at 3. $30–$75. Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: At The Athenaeum Theatre, Chicago Dance Crash produces Duets for My Valentine, an unsentimental evening (2/11) of urban, ballet, and contemporary pairings about hard-driving breakups and makeups—sort of an antiromantic rave. . . . Two local contemporary troupes—Luna Negra Dance Theater and Thodos Dance Chicago—team up for a concert of each group’s greatest hits at North Shore Center for the Performing Arts 2/11–12. . . . Chicago Flamenco Festival staccato-steps back onto stages across the city through 3/13, starting 2/9 with Diego Amador Trio at Instituto Cervantes.


folk University of Chicago Folk Festival
Hyde Park is an unlikely home for the funkiest, folkiest folk fest in town, yet here it is for the 52nd time: a brilliantly culled homage to traditional musical culture, including Billy Boy Arnold’s country blues, bluegrass from the Wildwood Valley Boys, Bua’s Celtic melodies, and James Bryan and Carl Jones’s old-time. The fest includes concerts, workshops, dances, jam sessions, and fine folkie fellowship.
GO: 2/10–12. $10–$55; weekend passes $45–$55. U of C’s Mandel Hall, 1131 E 57th. uofcfolk.org


film We Began By Measuring Distance
Conversations at the Edge—the divergent series that sends folks from SAIC’s film, video, and new media department into the Siskel’s video vault to curate weekly screenings and director talks—sets off its tenth anniversary year with a collection of shorts by women filmmakers from or connected to Palestine. This Thursday’s installment borrows its name from a 19-minute film by artist and University of Illinois at Chicago alumna Basma al-Sharif, who fields questions after the showing.
GO: 2/9 at 6. $4–$11. Gene Siskel Film Center, 164 N State. siskelfilmcenter.org/cate


museums Laura Letinsky
The remains of a meal are never as appealing in real life as they are when photographed by Letinsky, whose light-drenched images make melon rinds, lipstick-stained wineglasses, and even fast-food wrappers oddly enticing. The U. of C. professor gives us more to drool over with a solo show—the latest in the Chicago Works series—at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Cleaning your plate is so overrated.
GO: Through 4/17. $7–$12 suggested admission (free for Illinois residents on Tuesdays). Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago Ave. mcachicago.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: From our present vantage point post-age-of-excess, post-second-wave-feminism, and post-dawn-of-the-AIDS-crisis, MCA’s This Will Have Been: Art, Love & Politics in the 1980s—opening 2/11 and running through 6/3—aims to make sense of both what we lived through and the art interpreting it, with works by the Guerrilla Girls, Jeff Koons, and others.


E. Faye Butler
E. Faye Butler

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals—a.k.a. people we like: E. Faye Butler, one of Chicago’s stars of musical theatre, recently returned from a sabbatical to Washington D.C. where she played Aunt Eller in the Arena Stage production of Oklahoma. This Monday (2/13), Butler takes a break from Black Pearl Sings!, a play punctuated by a cappella at Skokie’s Northlight Theatre, to serenade the crowd at Jay Pritzker Pavilion with a pre-V-Day concert of romantic classics.

This weekend I’m doing shows in Skokie, and before I head that way from Chatham, where I live, I usually grab a Caramel Apple Spice at Starbucks. Then after the shows, because I’m close by, I’ll go to Old Orchard to see what kind of money I can spend—I always stop by Nordstrom to look at shoes. Or I might go to Cheesecake Factory or Maggiano’s for dinner.

I haven’t been home in a while, so it’ll be fun to be back in downtown Chicago for my performance at Pritzker Pavilion. I like people watching. I grew up here, and a lot of childhood memories come back to me when I’m taking the train downtown. I’m looking forward to hanging out in the new Walgreens [on State Street]. It reminds me of the old Woolworths. You can have lunch, get your nails done—you can do anything you want.

My husband is going to be with me before my Valentine’s concert. We’ll exchange gifts and spend the day together getting ready for the show. When I’m working near Millennium Park, I like to go play with the faces on Crown Fountain. It makes me laugh. I also love watching the ice skaters at [McCormick Tribune Ice Rink], but I can’t skate because it’s a liability for performers.

The show’s in the Cabaret with a View series, and I just love seeing the Chicago skyline as a backdrop. Looking at downtown Chicago when night comes—it’s so beautiful to me. I’ve been a lot of places in this world, but I still love seeing the Chicago skyline.

—As told to Lena Singer


workshops FLUXUS DAY
Chicago Cultural Center’s Fluxus Day features a lineup of free-form text-art workshops, interactive performances, poetry readings, music, and exhibitions inspired by the gleefully spontaneous neo-Dada movement. Just go with the flow.
GO: 2/11 from 11 to 5. Chicago Cultural Center. 78 E Washington. chicagoculturalcenter.org

installations Luminous Field
Chicago-based video artists Luftwerk gussy up The Bean with an interactive, digital checkerboard of candy-colored light. The work sets a shimmering, fleeting stage for concerts, site-specific performances, and a host of kid-friendly activities.
GO: 2/10–20. Millennium Park. Michigan and Washington. explorechicago.org/winter


Photography: (Stone, MCCULLOUGH) Danny Nicholas; (BUTLER) COURTESY of E. Faye Butler