A scene from 'Porgy and Bess'
BESS WEEK EVER Charles Newell’s new staging of Porgy and Bess opens this week
at Court Theatre.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 05.18.11 through Tue 05.24.11:


theatre Porgy and Bess
George Gershwin’s magnum opus is generally staged as an elaborate opera, with an ensemble of close to 100 and an equally populous orchestra, but Charles Newell pares his production down to musical-theatre size, with a cast of 15 and a band of six. Whether the magnificent score will retain its richness is one of the big theatrical questions of the season.
GO: Previews through 5/21; $35–$45. Run continues through 7/3; $45–$65. Court Theatre, 5535 S Ellis. courttheatre.org


museums Out in Chicago
Mary, Mary, quite contrary: The Civil War surgeon Mary Walker didn’t give two hoots when she became the object of ridicule for refusing to don ladylike attire. Learn about her and other protoproud locals in the Chicago History Museum’s look at the city’s LGBT past.
GO: Exhibition opens 5/21 with a party from 10 to 4. Museum open Mon–Sat 9:30–4:30, Sun noon–5. Free (kids under 13) to $14; free Mon. Chicago History Museum, 1601 N Clark. chicagohistory.org


beer Chicago Craft Beer Week
Herbal, organic, floral—and that’s just the setting. Chicago’s second annual ode to artisanal suds launches with a bash under glass at the Garfield Park Conservatory featuring more than 25 breweries; check chicagomag.com on Friday for photos of the kickoff.
GO: Beer Under Glass: 5/19 from 5:30 to 8:30. $40–$50. Garfield Park Conservatory, 300 N Central Park. garfieldconservatory.org. Chicago Craft Beer Week runs 5/19–27; full schedule: chibeerweek.com

ALSO THIS WEEK: New Belgium Brewery bikes into town on 5/22 for its annual Urban Assault Ride: half road race, half scavenger hunt, all kinds of crazy—yes, with beer.


theatre The Gospel According to James
Stop reading. Do a Google image search for “Lawrence Beitler,” then spend a moment in silence for Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith, the two African American men in the photo. Bietler’s graphic 1930 image inspired Charles Smith’s dramatization of the events leading up to a lynching, with the two-time Tony nominee André DeShields starring as a survivor.
GO: 5/18–6/12. $20–$50. Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N Lincoln. victorygardens.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: In a city where maestros come and go, Paul Freeman has spent nearly a quarter of a century helming Chicago Sinfonietta, the nation’s most diverse orchestra. Be there 5/22 or 5/23 to yell “Bravo!” when he hands off the baton.


dance Aspen Santa Fe Ballet
This company—equally adept en pointe, in socks, and with bare feet—looks a bit like the merger of Chicago’s own Joffrey Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance. See for yourself in three local premieres: Jirí Kylián’s Stamping Ground, a primal yet meticulous game of leapfrog; Jorma Elo’s fast and furious Red Sweet; and Nicolo Fonte’s thriller Where We Left Off.
GO: 5/24 at 7:30. $32–$72. Harris Theater, 205 E Randolph. harristheaterchicago.org

ALSO THIS WEEK: Speaking of Hubbard Street, the company kicks off a multiyear collaboration with the San Francisco choreographer Alonzo King—a Joyce Award–winning pairing. And Chicago audiences can catch a rare glimpse of a troupe in transition 5/18–22 at the Auditorium Theatre as Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater’s longtime artistic director, Judith Jamison, prepares to hand over the reins to the contemporary dance innovator Robert Battle.


Radio show host Mike McNamara
Mike McNamara

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals—a.k.a. people we like: the actor, executive director of First Tuesdays with the Midwest Independent Film Festival, host of the Fearless Radio show Talk Back with Mac, and native Chicagoan, Mike McNamara.

“Once we get into May, I consider it summer, so my goal for the weekend revolves around trying to get outside as much as possible. I’ll definitely be playing some 16-inch softball. I’m on a couple teams, so we’ll either be practicing or playing.

“One thing I think is pretty cool that people might not know about is Chill and Grill, in Lincoln Park, near the zoo. It’s a bunch of cooking events with celebrity chefs. Ted Allen will be there, Art Smith, Stephanie Izard. Great food, sunshine, baboons: It’s the perfect combination. Me? I can’t cook at all myself. That’s why I really enjoy watching other people cook. I’m addicted to Top Chef, Food Network Star, Throwdown with Bobby Flay—all that stuff. All the food I could never make and probably will never eat. I just enjoy sitting in my living room and shoveling deep-dish pizza down my throat while I watch real chefs in action.

“Then, as the sun goes down, I’ll head over to Timeline Theatre to hop onstage for The Front Page. It’s my first show at Timeline, and it’s an exciting challenge just to try and keep up with those guys.”


galleries Western Exhibitions
Rachel Niffenegger (Chicago’s best new artist of 2010) and Paul Nudd are two young locals who share a penchant for gross-out humor, as well as the ability to craft beauty from the grotesque. Also on view: Band of Bikers, a small yet moving collection of early 1970s Polaroids, depicting a gang of gay motorcyclists, that were discovered in the basement of an NYC apartment building.
GO: Opening reception 5/20 from 5 to 8. Show continues through 7/2. Western Exhibitions, 119 N Peoria. westernexhibitions.com

concerts Bonnie “Prince” Billy, Eleventh Dream Day
Downtown Sound—the city’s free summertime indie-rock series and the best thing to do on a Monday night, hands down—kicks off with one of Chicago Guide’s own longtime faves, Bonnie “Prince” Billy (aka Will Oldham), playing with his recent collaborator of choice, the Cairo Gang (aka Emmett Kelly). To sweeten the deal, the Chicago mainstay Eleventh Dream Day opens.
GO: 5/23 at 6:30. Pritzker Pavilion, Millennium Park, Michigan and Washington. millenniumpark.org

film The Scorpion King
Not the 2002 flick starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Still reading? Good. This rare treat is meant for you: A screening of the National Geographic film The Scorpion King, which looks at some of the earliest Egyptian customs and ceremonies, established long before so much as one pyramid stone was set in place, is followed by a Q&A with two of the featured scholars: Günter Dreyer, the director of excavations for the German Archaeological Institute at the excavation site Abydos, and Renée Friedman, codirector of the British Museum’s expedition to Hierakonpolis. And just to reiterate: It’s free.
GO: 5/21 at 1:30; reception follows at 4. Registration required. Oriental Institute, U of C, 1155 E 58th. oi.uchicago.edu

galleries Hyde Park Art Center
Developed by the local arts collective Cream Co., General Economy Exquisite Exchange is based on the barter system: Visitors can trade their gently used gardening materials for GEEE’s cache of shrubs, perennials, annuals, and herbs. Go Friday for a potluck barbecue or stop by Saturday for an afternoon garden party and seed swap.
GO: Potluck: 5/20 from 3 to 7. Garden party: 5/21 from 10 to 2. GEEE continues through 10/1. Hyde Park Art Center, 5020 S Cornell. hydeparkart.org


Photograph: (PORGY AND BESS) Michael Brosilow