The cast of 'Keep a Song in Your Soul'
PURE GENIUS The 2004 MacArthur grantee and ragtime guru Reginald R. Robinson
(that’s him at the piano) is just one of the creative forces behind the Old Town
School of Folk’s Keep a Song in Your Soul.


Don’t-miss picks for Wed 11.02.11 through Tue 11.08.11:


theatre Keep a Song in Your Soul
For its first-ever theatrical production, the Old Town School hedged its bets and hired the best: the pianist and MacArthur-certified genius Reginald R. Robinson; the local hero Reggio “the Hoofer” McLaughlin, who got his start tapping at local el stops; and the Grammy-winning string band Carolina Chocolate Drops. The musical follows black vaudeville’s Chitlin’ Circuit of the 1830s–1930s; considering the content, the cast, and Old Town School’s acoustics, we feel our souls stirring already.
GO: 11/3–4 at 8; 11/5 at 3 and 8; 11/6 at 7. $41–$45. Old Town School of Folk Music, 4544 N Lincoln.

ALSO THIS WEEK: And so it begins: Kick off holiday season 2011 with The Nutcrackernot the one with sugarplums in toe shoes but The House Theatre’s irreverent musical with a great song about cookies. Previews start 11/3 at Chopin Theatre.


lit/lectures Chicago Humanities Festival
Go back to school for pennies on the dollar: CHF offers a liberal arts brush-up on the cheap, with most events topping out at $15. Speakers on this year’s theme of technology include the experimental musician and Glen Ellyn native Laurie Anderson (11/2 at 7:30); a panel on social media and the Arab Spring with The Washington Post’s Peter Slevin (11/5 at 3); the rapper-activist-actor Common (11/5 at 6); the writers Jonathan Franzen and Isabel Wilkerson (11/6 at 2); and the Talking Heads’ Adrian Belew on the wonders of the electric guitar (11/13 at 5).
GO: 11/2–13. Full schedule, locations, prices:

ALSO THIS WEEK: Reeling, the world’s second-oldest gay and lesbian film fest, opens its 30th year with Chicagoan Stephen Cone’s The Wise Kids, a coming-of-age flick that won jury prizes for best U.S. dramatic feature and best screenplay at LA’s Outfest earlier this year. Also rolling into town: the Bicycle Film Festival, with movies in Logan Square Auditorium and a BMX barbecue jam in the Logan Square Skatepark. And behind door number 3: Longtime favorite Piece Brewery and local newcomer Finch’s Beer Company join more than 100 craft brewers tapped to pour at the second annual Beer Hoptacular.


new music A Winged Victory for the Sullen
Devotees of the divinely droning ambient duo Stars of the Lid, lend us your ears: SOTL’s Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie makes a pit stop in Chicago this week with his new and equally meditative project, A Winged Victory for the Sullen. ACME, a New York-based string ensemble with Carnegie Hall chops, sits in as backup band, and the ethereal indie-pop solo act Benoît Pioulard opens.
GO: 11/6 at 8. $20. Lincoln Hall, 2424 N Lincoln.

ALSO THIS WEEK: For stargazers and Kubrick fans, Chicago Sinfonietta plays a gig as infinite as space itself on 11/5: Strauss’s Also sprach Zarathustra, a.k.a. the opening theme from 2001: A Space Odyssey, and excerpts from Michael Gandolfi’s The Garden of Cosmic Speculation. Newberry Consort covers the other end of the timeline 11/4–6 with an ode to the 13th-century illuminated manuscript Cantigas de Santa Maria, and Sergey Khachatryan—who, at 26, has nabbed a handful of prestigious violin prizes—plays the U. of C.’s Mandel Hall with his siter, Lusine, 11/4.


dance Lucky Plush Productions
A truism: Always expect the unexpected from Lucky Plush’s Julia Rhoads. In the troupe’s new dance production, The Better Half, Rhoads takes her inspiration from the 1940s film noir classic Gaslight—in which Charles Boyer plots to drive Ingrid Bergman mad—and applies it to a playful and beautifully choreographed treatise on marriage. And then throws in a couple of 500 Clown clowns for good measure.
GO: 11/3, 5–6 at 7:30. $10–$28. Museum of Contemporary Art, 220 E Chicago.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Rasta Thomas started his all-male Bad Boys of Dance to make the ultimate statement about dancers as athletes. We’ll entertain any statement he wants as long as we can watch his troupe of guys soaring and flexing 11/5–6 at the Auditorium Theatre. Meanwhile, River North Dance Chicago unleashes Daniel Ezralow’s Super Straight Is Coming Down, a furiously angular explosion of daily-grind angst, 11/4–5 at Harris Theater.


pop Lucinda Williams
The poster girl for raspy vocals and gravel roads plays Durty Nellie’s in Palatine, of all places. Don’t ask. Just thank your lucky stars that the hike means tickets are still available—and go. It’s your chance to hear a (slightly) kinder, softer, newly-ish married Williams playing songs from her similarly newish Blessed, an album that got the ultimate thumbs up: a “buy it” from both Jim DeRogatis and Greg Kot of Sound Opinions.
GO: 11/8 at 8. $30. Durty Nellies, 180 N Smith, Palatine.

ALSO THIS WEEK: Speaking of signature voices, you can still snag seats for the breathiest of all, Feist, when she plays the Riviera 11/4. Or catch the storied Blind Boys of Alabama, with Nickel Creek’s Sean and Sara Watkins, 11/5 at FitzGerald’s.


Naomi Beckwith, a member of the curatorial team at the Museum of Contemporary Art
Naomi Beckwith

Up next in our series of weekend plans from notable, in-the-know locals—a.k.a. people we like: Naomi Beckwith, a native Chicagoan who left the Studio Museum in Harlem this past May to join the curatorial team at Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art. Catch her leading a discussion with the multimedia artist Siebren Versteeg at the MCA 11/5 as part of the Chicago Humanities Festival.

“On Friday morning, I’m going by a new project—literally New Projects—at IIT. It’s been put together by a friend of mine, Marshall Brown. He teaches architecture and urban planning at IIT and has been doing all this theory around it for years. Now he finally has his own space where he can show projects and [invite] friends and other thinkers who are working through similar concepts.

“And I’ll probably get dinner with some friends. I would love to get to Vivo on Randolph Street, because they have their 20th anniversary menu. Also, my sister is having a baby soon, so I’m going baby shopping for her. I’m hoping to check out this spot called Psycho Baby, which I haven’t been to yet. I’m really hyped to go there—it’s supposed to be for hip moms.

“Sunday evening I’m participating in this salon conversation called America: Now and Here. It’s a project created by the artist Eric Fischl to engage people around the country in conversations about the status of democracy now—and the stake of artists and cultural workers in these conversations. This one is at a private home, but a few of these salons are happening around the city and nationally this weekend.” –As told to Jennifer Swann


folk Jolie Holland
We would pay to see her, but we’ll happily line up to hear this border-crossing country-blues-jazz chanteuse free when she helps celebrate the release of the new issue of Poetry.
GO: 11/3 at 7; doors open at 6. Capacity is limited to the first 125. Poetry Foundation, 61 W Superior.

museums DÍa de Muertos XXV
When the National Museum of Mexican Art unveiled its first Day of the Dead display in 1986, some Chicagoans were so unfamiliar with the holiday they assumed the skeleton-bedecked ofrenda was a Halloween decoration. In the years since, locals have come to anticipate the day with equal parts reverence and glee—thanks, largely, to this Pilsen institution. Events on 11/2 include sugar-skull-making demos and a community party from 4 to 7.
GO: Exhibit continues through 12/11. Open Tue–Sun 10–5. NMMA, 1852 W 19th.

jazz Umbrella Music Festival
This annual ode to improvisational jazz kicks off with European Jazz Meets Chicago, two free nights wherein a host of our city’s finest do the exchange student thing, playing in combos with the likes of the Dutch reedman Ab Baars and the Lithuanian saxophonist Jan Maksimowicz.
GO: 11/2–3 at 6:30. Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E Washington. Umbrella continues through 11/6:

opera Chicago Opera Week
Finally, real life goes the way of the musical, with spontaneous singing breaking out on sidewalks and in parking lots across town. Follow @ChicagoOpera on Twitter for clues as to where Chicago Opera Theater members will pop up next.
GO: Through 11/6. More info:


Photography: (KEEP A SONG IN YOUR SOUL) Courtesy of Old Town School of Folk Music; (BECKWITH) Paul Mpagi Sepuya