This multidisciplinary arts festival–“organized by women but open for everyone to attend,” a press release proclaims–is a four-day showcase of theater, performance, dance, music, film and video, and visual art. Ladyfest Midwest runs August 16 through 19 at various venues. Performing-arts offerings–ranging from poetry and dance to puppetry and stage combat–are listed below; consult the music, film, art, and readings and lectures listings for information on those activities. (All schedules are subject to change.)

Festival passes cost $65 if purchased at one of four local outlets–Women & Children First, 5233 N. Clark (773-769-9299); the Reckless Records stores at 1532 N. Milwaukee (773-235-3727) and 3157 N. Broadway (773-404-5080); and 57th Street Books, 1301 E. 57th (773-684-1300)–or at the Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, through Saturday night. Tickets for individual events will be sold at the door an hour before show time (prices are listed below) on a space-available basis; priority seating will be given to pass holders. (Some events are free, as indicated below.) For more information, see the festival Web site:


Ladyfest Midwest Opening Night

The festival kicks off with an all-ages show. In addition to musical entertainment, the evening features performance artist Lara Oppenheimer’s movement piece “Looking at the Mermaid Exhibit,” an excerpt from a longer work, Wet, that’s “inspired by burlesque, mermaid lore, and the power of hoops, hips, and hair.” Also appearing are the Haymarket Hussies, described as “Chicago’s brand of Radical Cheerleader.” Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 5:30 to 10:30 PM. $15.

After Hours Party

This late-night bash features entertainment by the Chicago Drag Kings, a group of women who masquerade as men; they’ll be joined by out-of-town guests. Subterranean Cafe & Cabaret, 2011 W. North, 10:30 PM. $10.


Faustina, Little Angel of the Sea

This family-oriented puppet play by En Fuego (Laura Heit, Rebecca Tennyson, and Kate Sheehy) is based on the story of a Dominican woman who fled to Puerto Rico in a handmade boat, saving her fellow passengers by breast-feeding them when the boat was lost at sea for two weeks. Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2238 N. Oakley, noon. Free.

Congress Day Show

This all-ages variety show includes a display of stage combat by Fight Show as well as an appearance by Milwaukee’s Pirate Cheerleaders. Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, noon to 4 PM. $10.

Mixing Up the Beat

This program of music, spoken word, and dance features He Said She Said, an ensemble-created performance piece by the Striding Lion InterArts Workshop about “the tension that mounts between the sexes when women wish to preserve their own rituals and mythologies.” Also on the bill are guitarist Jennifer Trowbridge, singer Jocelyn Stella-Rose, the band Apartment, and street performer Tampico Salis. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 1 PM. $7.

Ladyfest Spoken Word Organizers Showcase

This program of spoken word features Kay Barrett, Elon Cameron, Mars Gamba-Adisa, Jane Haldiman, J.T. Newman, Keturah Rogers, and Kelly Tsai. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 2 PM. $7.

I Say I Am

Lara Oppenheimer, Kathryn Williamson, and Bridget Irish present site-specific performances to complement a screening of women’s performance videos from the 70s. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division; the video screening begins at 3:30 PM, and the performances run from 5:45 to 7 PM. $7.

Women OutLoud

This spoken-word open mike is hosted by Lucy Anderton, Krystal Ashe, Tara Betts, and Anida Esguerra. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 7:30 PM. $7.

Close Proximity: Performative Voices

This program of performative sound pieces features work by Megan Rodgers and Jonathan Chen, Nicole Garneau, and Sara Kraft and Lara Oppenheimer. Spareroom, 2416 W. North, 8 PM. $7.

Ladyfest Congress Main Event

The lineup for this evening of entertainment includes San Francisco performance artist Kathryn Williamson (whose work seeks to explore “different contexts within and outside of her body based on the idea of endurance and testing boundaries,” according to a press release) and the Pussy Posse (Heather Kroski, Karen Moses, Laura Chiaramonte, and choreographer Jyl Fehrenkamp), who describe themselves as “a quartet of hard-core, postmodernist, neon-haired, evil-fighting fly-grrrls.” Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 9 PM to 2 AM. $15.


The Madison-based all-female spoken-word ensemble includes performance artists, comics, musicians, and the occasional stripper. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 10:30 PM. $7.

Estrogen Funny

Chicago’s all-lesbian stand-up comedy group the Hysterical Women, the Sirens improv troupe, and stand-up soloist Sapna Kumar are featured in this late-night show. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 11 PM. $7.


Public Water Ballet

Elyce Semenec conceived this hot-weather outdoor event, in which the open swim at the Holstein Park swimming pool is punctuated by ten-minute water ballets at ten minutes to the hour. Holstein Park swimming pool, 2200 N. Oakley, 11:50 AM to 3 PM. Free.

Congress Day Show

This all-ages variety show includes a

display of stage combat by Babes With Blades and an appearance by Chicago’s Haymarket Hussies. Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, noon to 4 PM. $10.

Spoken Word Features

The lineup for this afternoon of spoken word includes Stephanie Gentry-Fernandez, Michelle Walker, and many more. Local Grind, 1585 N. Milwaukee, 2 to 5 PM. Free.

A Real Read

The women’s contingent of this “African-American lesbigay performance ensemble” offers a program of spoken word. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 2 PM. $7.

East of the Sun, West of the Moon

Toronto’s Stranger Theatre Collective presents its family-oriented adaptation of the folktale about a girl who marries a bear. The show incorporates puppets, poetry, dance, and music. Senior Citizens Memorial Park, 2238 N. Oakley, 3:30 PM. Free.

Cultural Rhythms

This afternoon of theater, performance, and music features several segments. Talk, performed by Kate Hers, incorporates dance, projected images, and electronic music by Mars Gamba-Adisa as it explores “the continuums between organic and electronic, ‘ethnic’ and American, traditional and modern.” The Chicago-based Latina ensemble Teatro Luna then performs excerpts from Generic Latina (which Reader critic Jennifer Vanasco called “an entertaining and thought-provoking show” in its original run earlier this year) and its forthcoming production Dejame Contarte. Then the Albany Park Theater Project, a community-based youth company, performs its ensemble-created work. Following is What If?; it’s based on a true story about a young woman who comes out as a lesbian to her traditional Catholic mother. The program concludes with Homestories: Lessons on Traveling, a multimedia performance piece about “home, traveling, and the baggage we inherit and accumulate from the spaces we inhabit”; it’s presented by the Thick Routes Collective. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 3:30 PM. $7.

Preferably Solo

This program of one-woman performances includes five selections. Critical Consumption, performed by Amy Fortoul from a script by Vanessa T. Stalling, focuses on “pornographic images of women that shape and define women’s sexuality and desires”; Stalling directs. Amy Gard’s Imaginary Show is a comic exploration of “the darker side of a child’s imagination.” Jane-ing Off, by Jessie Rose Cohen, is a performance monologue about masturbation. Megan Grano plays 11 different personalities in her study of bipolar disorder, What Do You Have to Say for Yourself? And Stephanie Shaw’s Duct, previously seen as part of the Neo-Futurists production “Duo Neurotica,” draws on her experiences as a mother, using the story of Sleeping Beauty as a starting point; Reader critic Justin Hayford called it “a tour de force display of literary acumen and theatrical chops” when he reviewed its original run. Trap Door Theatre, 1655 W. Cortland, 4 PM. $7.

Spoken Word Blockbuster

Patricia Smith, C.C. Carter, Duriel Harris, and Alix Olson headline this evening of poetic performance. Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 6 PM. $7.

Close Proximity: Telling Movement

The Green Highway Theater, Moxy, Prudence Browne, Janice Inskeep, and Leigh Marshall pool their talents for a movement-based performance work about “the more mundane of women’s roles.” Spareroom, 2416 W. North, 8 PM. $7.

Ladyfest Congress Main Event

Chicago stand-up comic Jen Slusser is the opening act in this evening of music. Congress Theater, 2135 N. Milwaukee, 8 PM to 3 AM. $15.

Rare Interdisciplinary Performance Reunion

Former Chicagoans Marianne Kim

and Sara Kraft, both now based in California, return to the Windy City

for a one-night reunion performance with Chicagoans Julia Rhoads and Holly Quinn of Lucky Plush Productions and another ex-Chicagoan, Martha Donovan. The show includes

a structured group improvisation. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 10:30 PM. $7.

Erotic Open Mike

All comers are welcome to participate in this spoken-word show. Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division, 12:45 AM. $7.


Big Smith

The all-female drum ensemble performs. Humboldt Park stables, 3015 W. Division, 3 PM. Free.

Drumming and Performance Extravaganza!

The festival climaxes with a drumming parade led by Jeni Swerdlow and Big Smith. The event includes surprise performances by Marianne Kim, Ania Greiner, members of the Hedwig Dances butoh workshop, Ashley Smith, Cynthia Main, and Brenda Torres-Figueroa, who performs a “durational performance art monologue and visual installation piece that includes a bathtub, chairs, luggage, props, costumes, strawberries, and longing.” The parade concludes with a performance of The Migration Land Opera, a puppet production by Jennifer Verson and Prudence Browne. Begins at Humboldt Park stables, 3015 W. Division, at 3:30 PM and proceeds to the Humboldt Park field house. Free.