Zeitgeist happens: we didn’t exactly plan it this way, but nearly all the profiles and features in this special Fall Theater and Dance Issue reflect on boundaries, identity, and marginalization—issues that feel ever more relevant as the Trump administration’s efforts to restrict and roll back the very concept of citizenship seemingly grow every day.

What’s also present in these stories is the possibility of transformation, which is, after all, the entire point of the performing arts in the first place. There’s Sono Osato, the Chicago-raised Japanese American dancer who rose to prominence playing an “all-American girl” on Broadway during World War II, even after her father was incarcerated by the U.S. government. Osato’s story stands in dialogue with Max Thomsen’s photos of Hubbard Street dancer Connie Shiau, who expresses her hope that “dance can become a bigger communicative vessel in this society to unite people.”

Hannah Ii-Epstein explores the drug culture that marked her youth in Hawaii while reclaiming the language of Hawaiian pidgin English in Pakalolo Sweet. Loy Webb, a native Chicagoan who transformed from theater critic at New City to making a sensational debut with her first play, The Light, to writing for television, comes home with His Shadow at Berwyn’s 16th Street Theater, in which a younger brother and aspiring football player tries to find his own path through the darkness.

Family is often a powerful motif in drama and dance, and choreographer Ayesha Jaco has been building a piece through a residency with the Rebuild Foundation, Black Samurai, that honors the memory of her late father, Gregory, and his martial arts school that influenced a generation of young people on the south side. Arnel Sancianco, a set designer whose profile is rising, helps us find the emotional resonance in the onstage worlds he creates.

Chicago may still be the city of Second City in the minds of many, but it’s also the hub of “live lit”—that blend of literary essay, personal memoir, and performance made semifamous (at least locally) through shows such as Write Club, Essay Fiesta, and the Stoop. Write Club creator (and coiner of the phrase “live lit”) Ian Belknap takes the pulse of live lit a decade or so into its initial burst of activity, and concludes that it’s the imperative “to pay our collective heed” to each other’s stories that still drives the scene.

It’s what drives our arts and culture coverage every week, too, from reviews to features. Sometimes, it’s important to imagine what it’s like to step into somebody else’s shoes and honor the behind-the-scenes labor. If you’ve ever wondered how the Joffrey manages to keep up with all those slippers (and who actually takes care of that task), we’ve got an infographic explaining that and more. The Joffrey is moving its production of The Nutcracker to a new venue next year. But though spaces and players change, the shows go on.   v