Two dancers are seen from above at a slightly distorted angle, with their arms stretching away from their bodies.
Rigo Saura's K@02 is part of Hedwig Dances' November program no ideas but in things at Ruth Page Center for the Arts. Credit: Eileen Ryan

Despite rumors of its demise, live performance is still happening in abundance on Chicago stages this season. Here are just a few suggestions in opera, dance, theater, and comedy to consider in the months ahead. And as always, be sure to check out our updated reviews and features every week for the latest comprehensive coverage.

OPERA (Picks by Deanna Isaacs)

The Flying Dutchman
Director Christopher Alden inspired a furor when his version of Rigoletto ran at Lyric Opera 23 years ago. Tribune critic John von Rhein wrote that it was the Verdi classic “as reimagined by Larry Flynt.” His 1996 production of Richard Wagner’s first big success, The Flying Dutchman, has not yet been seen here, but is opening the Lyric season this month. It promises all the excitement, without the furor. A 19th-century psycho-thriller ghost story with a rich, roiling score, it’s the tale of a man condemned to be at sea forever and the young woman fatally attracted to him. Alden finds parallels with the rise of fascism in 20th-century Europe, and with set and costume designer Allen Moyer, gives it an Expressionist aura. Bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny is the wandering Dutchman; soprano Tamara Wilson is the entranced young woman; Enrique Mazzola conducts the Lyric opera chorus and orchestra. 9/23-10/7 (audio description and touch tour Sun 10/1, 2 PM), Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker;; $41-$319

A set tilted like a ship at sea, with tales and chairs and performers in black suits on the top platform, along with a giant captain's wheel. Below, lit by red lights, we see crew members. A man in a long cloak stands in the foreground left facing a woman in white and another woman on the far right who is in blue with a green boa.
The Flying Dutchman at Lyric Opera Credit: Todd Rosenberg

La liberazione di Ruggiero dall’isola d’Alcina
The musical and theatrical time machine known as the Haymarket Opera Company is bringing The Liberation of Ruggiero from the Island of Alcina—which they say is the first opera written by someone other than a man—to DePaul University’s cozy little Jarvis Opera Hall. First performed in Florence in 1625, it’s the only surviving opera by Renaissance woman Francesca Caccini, who was also a singer, musician, and poet. Our hero, Ruggiero (tenor Scott Bruncheen), is trapped on the island of the wicked sorceress Alcina (mezzo-soprano Sophie Michaux), whose habit is to turn her former lovers into flora and fauna. Will he be saved by the good witch, Melissa (mezzo-soprano Lindsay Metzger)? An eight-person vocal ensemble and a full cohort of period instruments, including theorbos, recorders, and four sackbuts, will be conducted from the harpsichord by Haymarket artistic director Craig Trompeter; Sarah Edgar directs. Fri-Sat 9/29-9/30 7:30 PM and Sun 10/1 3 PM; Holtschneider Performance Center at DePaul, 800 W. Belden,, $50-$95

DANCE (Picks by Irene Hsiao)

Arpino Chicago Centennial Celebration
Now a behemoth of Chicago dance, the Joffrey Ballet was founded by Robert Joffrey and Gerald Arpino in 1956 as a company of six dancers touring with a U-Haul. As the company’s resident choreographer and second artistic director, Arpino created over a third of their repertoire and moved the Joffrey from New York City to Chicago in 1995.

Critics have described Arpino’s choreography as “central to The Joffrey company style,” launching “dancers over the stage like rockets” with “breathless fluidity.” [Arpino] “knew how to draw people into ballet,” said Joffrey artistic director Ashley Wheater, who succeeded Arpino in 2007. “He knew how to capture his audience with his choreography.” Yet Chicago has seen precious little of Arpino’s choreography performed by the company in the intervening years, with the welcome exception of Birthday Variations (1986) and Suite Saint-Saëns (1978), both performed last season and still delightful and dazzling 40-ish years on. 

On the occasion of what would be Arpino’s 100th birthday (he died in 2008), the Arpino Foundation presents a two-program flight of nine of Arpino’s works, danced by the Joffrey Ballet, American Ballet Theatre, San Francisco Ballet, Ballet West, Oklahoma City Ballet, Eugene Ballet, and Complexions Contemporary Ballet at the Auditorium Theatre. 

“The time we’re in now is a time of disease and terrors, corruption and indecision in politics,” said Arpino in 1988. “The artist in dance must return to social statements. The abstract form is necessary, but you can’t intellectualize life, you have to live it.” This centennial program is an opportunity to see if the dances ring as true as the words (for better or for worse) still do. Sat 9/23 7:30 PM  and Sun 9/24 at 1 PM, Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr.,, $45-$250

American Dancing Bodies Symposium: Embodying Our Way Forward
Fifty-four years since it was founded by Chicago modern dance pioneer Shirley Mordine, and 12 years since it added hip-hop and West African dance to its core requirements for dance majors, the Dance Center of Columbia College kicks off its 50th anniversary season on October 19 and 20 with its first American Dancing Bodies Symposium. Featuring a town hall, presentation sessions on the state of the discipline, films and performances by Kierah “Kiki” King and Patricia Nguyen moderated by Jenn Po’Chop Freeman at the Museum of Contemporary Photography, The New Orleans Original BuckShop workshop by Michelle Gibson, and performances by Ayodele Drum & Dance, BraveSoul Movement, Joffrey Ballet, and Mordine & Company Legacy Project, the two-day event offers a holistic perspective on dance by dancers, educators, lovers and friends. 

“The Dance Center’s 50th season celebrates dance as an irrepressible art form and its potential to repair and build connective tissue between individuals and communities,” says artistic director Meredith Sutton. Cocurator Ayo Walker, assistant professor of dance, says that the inaugural American Dancing Bodies Symposium “accepts the charge to move beyond the boundaries of the historical monocultural paradigm and to forge a transformative and boundless way forward for the dance discipline. We welcome all dance enthusiasts, practitioners, educators, students, and scholars to join us.”

The 50th season continues in the fall with the tenth anniversary of the B-Series celebration of hip-hop, featuring house, waacking, jazz, and lindy-hop dancer LaTasha Barnes, who will also present her 2023 Bessie-winning work The Jazz Continuum, and in the spring with works by Chicago artists J’Sun Howard, Ayako Kato, Erin Kilmurray, and SJ Swilley. Thu-Fri 10/19-10/20, the Dance Center of Columbia College, 1306 S. Michigan,, $15-$30

no ideas but in things
Drawing its title from a modernist motto, a line from William Carlos Williams’s long poem Paterson, Hedwig Dances’ no ideas but in things features new work combining dance and objects by Hedwig artistic associate Rigo Saura and Chicago choreographers Noelle Kayser and Jenna Pollack. “Hedwig Dances has invited many guest artists to choreograph for the company, but no ideas but in things marks the first open call,” says Hedwig artistic director Jan Bartoszek. “We were looking for dancemakers who were interested in the process of creating interdisciplinary dances through the interaction between movement and object. Since throughout my career I have developed dances which incorporated visual components and objects as part of my process, I wanted to search for, support, and cultivate choreographers who are interested in working in a similar vein.”

In K@02, Saura uses a costume as a central object in a sequel to his 2020 KAOS, created for Hedwig and live-streamed during the pandemic. “K@02 is a form of personal healing, an abstract process which reflects thoughts and deformed ideas,” says Saura. “K@02 is that hangover which happens after an intense period, a destabilized year, leading to an accumulation of personal experiences. In this case K@02 is my motivation. It comes from being able to show what’s in my head, and to translate through wild K@02 how everything I went through personally and professionally has interfered with defending my personality and identity.”

Large quantities of colorful clothing also serve as a focal point in Kayser’s work. “Pat & Dianna delves into the intricacies of consumerism as a shield against vulnerability, where material possessions become emotional crutches, tools for constructing identity, and stand-ins for genuine human connection,” says Kayser. “The interactive mountain of clothing serves as both a symbol of the environmental toll of textile waste and a metaphor for the clutter that accumulates within our own hearts and minds.”

Pollack’s work incorporates human-sized folding wooden boxes, developed in collaboration with professor of design and mechanical engineering Benjamin Linder at the Olin College of Engineering Sketch Model Summer Studio in 2019 and workshopped with dancers during a five-week residency at Boston Center for the Arts in 2021. “We began by researching anthropomorphism, architectural phenomenology, and material decay,” says Pollack. “As the research and structural prototyping evolved, we thought about the larger context of sustainable design that Ben works in explicitly and that I work in through a systems lens in both dance and economic development. This ongoing collaboration holds a constructing, deconstructing, and reconstructing of physical and emotional states to consider what is in our control? What do we lose through inaction? What happens when that is outrun by the inertia of our previous choices?” Fri-Sat 11/3-11/4, 7:30 PM, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn,, $20-$55

A man in a Yankees cap sits behind the wheel of a car, flashing a peace sign,
Taxilandia—Stage Experience, created by Modesto Flako Jimenez, is presented by New York’s Oye Group as part of this year’s Destinos: Sixth Chicago International Latino Theater Festival Credit: Courtesy Destinos

THEATER (Picks by Kerry Reid)

Destinos: Sixth Chicago International Latino Theater Festival
Last year’s Destinos festival was dedicated to the memory of Chicago Latino Theater Alliance founder Myrna Salazar, who died a few weeks before the opening of what is probably the largest celebration of Latine theater in the United States. (If there’s a bigger one, I haven’t heard of it!) Now under the leadership of Jorge Valdivia, CLATA returns once again in time for National Hispanic American Heritage Month (9/15-10/15, though many participating shows run beyond those dates) with a stunning lineup of work by local, national, and international companies. Choosing highlights is always difficult, but here are three intriguing options:
 La Tía Mariela, a production from Mexico, involves three cousins wrestling with the death of an aunt in a black comedy that combines “magical realism, the richness of oral tradition, embroidery and the dynamism and visual impact of regional music and dance of the Yucatán Peninsula.” (Tue-Wed 10/3-10/4, 7:30 PM, National Museum of Mexican Art, 1852 W. 19th St.)
The American Dream, presented by suburban Subtext Studio Theatre Company and written by New Yorker Juan Ramirez Jr., relates the story of a Guatemalan woman and the “coyote” who smuggles her over the border. It’s directed by Subtext artistic director Omar Fernandez. (10/5-10/29, Madison Street Theater, 1010 Madison St., Oak Park)
Taxilandia—Stage Experience, created by Dominican-born Modesto Flako Jimenez and presented by New York City’s Oye Group, draws on Jimenez’s nine years’ worth of conversations and observations as a cab driver. (10/12-10/15, Thu-Sat 8 PM, Sun 3 PM, Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee)
For a complete schedule of Destinos performances, see

The Magic Parlour
Dennis Watkins needs no introduction to Chicago magic fans, but after many years of performances at the Palmer House, he’s moving his long-running show to a new venue downstairs at Petterino’s. This new venture, presented in partnership with the Goodman, preserves the intimate feeling implied by the show’s title; no more than 60 guests can be accommodated at each performance (20 people willing to ante up a little more can get a special “encore room” show following the main event). Watkins, a third-generation magician and mentalist, was also a founding member of now-defunct House Theatre of Chicago, where his acclaimed show Death and Harry Houdini enjoyed several runs, as well as touring around the U.S. Performances begin 10/5 in an open run; see for complete schedule and tickets.

Dennis Watkins, a white male magician, is shot from below in front of the Goodman Theatre marquee. He is wearing a black suit, white shirt, and black tie, and holds a hand of playing cars fanned out.
Presto chango! Dennis Watkins moves his long-running The Magic Parlour from the Palmer House to downstairs at Petterino’s, in association with the Goodman Theatre Credit: Courtesy Goodman Theatre

Night Watch
Those who know me well know that I’m a huge fan of Barbara Stanwyck, and thus also of Sorry, Wrong Number, the classic 1948 suspense film starring Stanwyck as a bedridden woman terrorized by phone calls. The screenwriter, Lucille Fletcher, also showed off her thriller chops in the 1972 play Night Watch (which was made into a film a year later). Now Raven Theatre kicks off its season with a staging of this story of another woman in peril. Elaine lives in a luxurious townhome. One night, besieged by insomnia and looking out her window, she sees a dead body briefly appear in the window of the squalid building across the way. It disappears before anyone else can see it. Did she actually see it, or is something else afoot? Georgette Verdin directs. 10/5-11/12, Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark,, $45 ($15 students)

Tambo & Bones
Refracted Theatre Company presents the local premiere of Dave Harris’s dark comedy (and rap concert) about two young Black men who are seemingly caught in a minstrel show. The script was one of the top picks for fall by the staff of Andersonville’s Understudy; Mikael Burke directs. 10/5-11/11, Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee,, $25

POTUS, or Behind Every Great Dumbass are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive
Selina Fillinger’s play definitely has already won the unofficial award for best title of the fall, but Steppenwolf’s production (staged by co-artistic director Audrey Francis) also stands out for the killer cast: Celeste M. Cooper, Sandra Marquez, Caroline Neff, Karen Rodriguez, Karen Aldridge, Chloe Baldwin, and Meighan Gerachis. Any one of those names is enough to get me to take notice, but put them all together and I’m practically giddy with anticipation. As the title suggests, they’re playing the women behind the man behind the Resolute desk, and they have to save the idiot from the fallout of a PR disaster. 10/26-12/3, Steppenwolf Theatre, 1650 N. Halsted,, $20-$114

Stephen Sondheim’s beloved musical (book by George Furth) about Bobby, a single man in New York celebrating his 35th birthday and wondering about the state of his coupled friends’ marriages, got a gender-reversed (and multiple Tony Award-winning) Broadway revival a year ago in New York, directed by Marianne Elliott and featuring 30something single woman Bobbie. It lands in a short touring production with Broadway in Chicago, so you can remind yourself of the magic of Sondheim classics like “Being Alive” and “The Ladies Who Lunch,” served with a twist of updated gender politics. 10/31-11/12, Cadillac Palace Theatre, 151 W. Randolph,, $23.50-$156.50

COMEDY (Picks by Kerry Reid)

Ben Wasserman
New York-based Wasserman came to town last year at Lincoln Lodge with his autobiographical show Live After Death, which arose after he and his family suffered a series of cataclysmic personal losses in close proximity. That show was developed in part through performances at a Brooklyn funeral parlor, and now Wasserman’s keeping the environmental theme going with a one-night performance of Live After Death at Rosehill Cemetery. The comedian combines clowning, crowd work, and his own take on a seance in this exploration of the thin line between comedy and tragedy. Wed 10/4 7 PM, Rosehill Cemetery, 5800 N. Ravenswood,, $15

Michelle Wolf
In 2018, Wolf was the keynote comedian for the White House Press Correspondents Dinner—and was roundly excoriated by such journalistic luminaries as Maggie Haberman for the sin of calling noted Trump administration prevaricator Sarah Huckabee Sanders a liar. Based on her recent Netflix short stand-up series It’s Great to Be Here, Wolf hasn’t lost any sleep over making the Beltway access club clutch pearls—in the sets captured in the show, she takes dead aim at white-woman tears and the continuing perfidy of access journalism. She’s making an appearance early next month at the Vic; tickets seem to be going fast. Fri 10/6 7 and 9 PM, the Vic, 3145 N. Sheffield,, $30-$40

Haunted: The Improvised Ghost Hunters 
In this long-form improvised comedy show, the cast creates a new episode every week, in which a group of “hunters” investigate “a haunted person, place, or thing” suggested by the audience. After making the rounds of several comedy theaters in the area, they’re going to be . . . wait for it . . . haunting Judy’s Beat Lounge at the Second City for some pre-Halloween hijinks. (Full disclosure: Amber Nettles, associate publisher of the Reader, is the producer and director for this show.) Fri 9/22-10/27 7 PM, 230 W. North Ave., second floor,, $25