A line of Black dancers of all genders. The male-presenting dancers are shirtless and wear dark trousers. The female-presenting dancers are in cream-colored slip dances.
École des Sables performs Pina Bausch's The Rite of Spring at the Harris Theater in October. Credit: Maarten Vanden Abeele

It’s impossible to summarize everything that’s happening onstage this season. (It’s also hard to tell you exactly what COVID-19 precautions are required at venues now; we suggest checking ahead and being prepared to show proof of vax, and wearing a mask as a courtesy to other patrons.) But here are ten offerings that promise to keep things interesting for the next couple of months. 

THEATER (Kerry Reid)

Destinos Chicago International Latino Theater Festival

The Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) dedicates this year’s fifth annual Destinos festival to the memory of cofounder and executive director Myrna Salazar, who died in August. The citywide celebration, timed to coincide with Hispanic Heritage Month (9/15-10/15), offers a chance to sample work by homegrown Latinx companies, including Marquette Park’s Teatro Tariakuri, whose artistic director, Karla Galván, stars in the comic solo by Tomás Urtusástegui, Bruna la Bruja Bruta (9/17-10/16); Teatro Vista with the world premiere of Paloma Nozicka’s psychological thriller, Enough to Let the Light In (at Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theater, 9/21-10/23); and UrbanTheater Company‘s Evolution of a Sonero (9/29-10/23), a solo by Flaco Navaja. 

On the international side, Destinos seems to be paying homage to the leadership of women such as Salazar. Mexico’s Teatro Línea de Sombra offers Pequeños territorios en Reconstrucción, created by the ensemble and based on the stories of Colombian women— displaced by the conflict in their country—who built their own community (presented in association with the Goodman, 9/21-9/25), while Puerto Rico’s women-led Teatro Público brings in Carola Garcia’s Blanco Temblor, about an astrophysicist struggling with being bipolar (the Den Theatre, 9/29-10/2). The festival officially runs through 10/16, but several productions continue performances into November; see clata.org for complete schedule and ticketing information.

What to Send Up When It Goes Down

Congo Square Theatre Company first presented Aleshea Harris’s hybrid theatrical event last spring, in a production that Reader critic Jack Helbig described as “part healing ritual, part sensitivity session, part exuberant dance theater freak-out, and part explosive agitprop political satire.” Now it returns at Lookingglass Theatre. In keeping with the healing component of the show, there will be “Celebration of Healing Initiative” workshops on Saturdays between performances; on 10/5 at 5 PM, there’s a “Healing Our Bodies” session focused on yoga and meditation. 9/29-10/16, Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan, lookingglasstheatre.org, $35

Frankenstreisand

Fans of South Park may recall the episode where the “Mecha-Streisand” terrorized the town—until she was defeated by the Cure’s Robert Smith in the guise of a giant moth monster. Just in time for Halloween, Hell in a Handbag taps into that same spirit of musical monster hybrid hijinks with the world premiere of Tyler Anthony Smith’s comedy, which also echoes Jonathan Tolins’s Buyer & Cellar, based on La Streisand’s private underground pretend shopping mall. Here, the mall is a laboratory where the diva (played by Smith) has been trying to clone her beloved dog. She decides to take her experiments public in a comeback concert with the help of her assistant, “the Hunchback,” and celebrity cameos from Barry Gibb, Judy Garland, and others. Stephanie Shaw directs. 9/29-10/31, Redline VR, 4702 N. Ravenswood, handbagproductions.org, $21-$40

Tiger Style!

Playwright Mike Lew’s last outing in Chicago was Teenage Dick, which reset the story of Richard III in a contemporary high school. Theater Wit had one public performance right before the 2020 pandemic shutdown, which they recorded and offered as a streaming option. Now Lew has a shot at having a production do a full run locally with Tiger Style!, his comedy about formerly high-achieving Chinese American kids turning to their parents to figure out why their adult lives haven’t panned out as they had hoped. Brian Balcom, who directed Teenage Dick, returns to stage Lew’s latest in its local premiere at Writers. 9/29-10/30, Writers Theatre, 325 Tudor Ct., Glencoe, writerstheatre.org, $35-$90

The Twenty-Sided Tavern

Broadway in Chicago՚s fall lineup is heavy on familiar family favorites—Anastasia (9/20-9/25, the CIBC Theatre), Wicked (9/28-12/4, the Nederlander), The Lion King (11/17-1/14, Cadillac Palace). But the Broadway Playhouse offers something more offbeat this season with this hit from the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Inspired by tabletop roleplay games like Dungeons and Dragons, the highly interactive performance relies on audience participation (via phone) to determine which characters will appear, what paths they’ll take, and other crucial narrative decisions. The creators (the concept is by David Andrew Greener Laws, Sarah Davis Reynolds, and David Carpenter, written by Laws, and game designed by Reynolds) promise that previous knowledge of D&D or similar games isn’t required, “as the structure of the game will be communicated within the show.” 10/27-1/15, Broadway Playhouse, 175 E. Chestnut, broadwayinchicago.com, $40-$65

DANCE (Irene Hsiao)

SummerDance Celebration
Say goodbye to summer with an eight-hour extravaganza of dance at the SummerDance Celebration, a combination of lessons, live music, and performances on National Dance Day. The day opens with a demonstration and audience participatory round dance by Black Hawk Performance Company on the Great Lawn. The event continues all over the park, with lessons in Bollywood, swing, Peruvian folk dance, and samba; surprise pop-up performances by Chicago dancers and dance companies; a teen village with food, games, and footworking; and a featured exhibition by Ayodele Drum and Dance. Performances on the Pritzker Pavilion stage finish out a day devoted to bringing the range and rhythms of Chicago community and dance together. 9/17, noon-8 PM, Millennium Park, free; see website for more information and updates.

Vicinity Diptych

Two new intimate installation performance works, Julia Rae Antonick’s Tend and Jonathan Meyer’s As Though Your Body Were Right, are presented at close range and in the vicinity of each other in the Nature Play Center at Indian Boundary Park and Make Do, both in the West Ridge neighborhood. Audience members must apply to attend, and each performance will be shown to just a handful of people at once. With themes of “bodiliness” and allogrooming (caregiving through physical contact), attendees should come prepared to experience the undressed body, to touch, and to be touched. Through 10/15: Tend appointments available Thu and Sat 1-6 PM, Indian Boundary Park, 2500 W. Lunt; As Though Your Body Were Right appointments available Thu-Sun 7-8:30 PM, Make Do, 2210 W. Morse, khecari.org, free to $360

The Rite of Spring and common ground[s]

One of the performances lost to the lockdown of 2020 was an appearance by Tanztheater Wuppertal in Pina Bausch’s 1989 work Palermo Palermo, and one of the dance films circulated through that early period of the pandemic was Dancing at Dusk, a rehearsal of Bausch’s 1975 masterpiece The Rite of Spring, danced by a company of 38 dancers assembled from 14 African countries, and shot outdoors on a beach in Toubab Dialaw, Senegal. Now the Rite, danced by these dancers, at last comes to life in live performance. This long-anticipated work appears alongside a premiere collaboration by Germaine Acogny, the “mother of contemporary African dance” and founder of the École des Sables in Senegal, and Malou Airaudo, founding member and soloist of Pina Bausch’s company. Thu-Fri 10/27-10/28, 7:30 PM, 205 E. Randolph, Harris Theater, harristheaterchicago.org, $35-$140

OPERA (Deanna Isaacs)

L’incoronazione di Poppea

Any Haymarket Opera Company production is a time-traveling experience. In the case of their fall offering, L’incoronazione di Poppea, audiences will be transported to a 17th-century Venetian rendition of a story set in Rome in the first century A.D. Mezzo soprano Lindsay Metzger has been cast as the emperor Nerone (aka Nero, best known for fiddling while the city burned); soprano Kimberly McCord is Nerone’s wife, Ottavia; and soprano Erica Schuller is his ambitious mistress, Poppea. The philosopher Seneca will be on hand (bass-baritone David Govertsen), as will Poppea’s distraught former lover, Ottone (countertenor Michael Skarke), and a few bickering gods. Claudio Monteverdi’s heavenly score will be played by a chamber ensemble of period instruments, with music director Craig Trompeter on the harpsichord. 9/22-9/25: Thu-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM, Jarvis Opera Hall, Holtschneider Performance Center at DePaul University, 800 W. Belden, 773-325-5200, haymarketopera.org, $47-$92

The Brightness of Light

She’s 27, he’s 51. She’s a fledgling painter; he’s an unhappily married art-world luminary: the stage is set, passion flames, pen hits paper. The three-decade relationship of two legends, photographer and curator Alfred Stieglitz and his eventual second wife, painter Georgia O’Keeffe, as chronicled in thousands of their letters to each other (archived at Yale University), is the basis for The Brightness of Light, a 2019 song cycle by composer Kevin Puts. Soprano (and Lyric Opera Special Projects Advisor) Renée Fleming and baritone Rod Gilfry will bring this work to life on the Lyric Opera stage for a single performance this fall. Apparently inspired by the book My Faraway One—a selection of the Stieglitz/O’Keeffe letters written between 1915 and 1933 (edited by Sarah Greenough, published in 2011 by Yale University Press)—the cycle follows their fervent affair, eventual marriage, and equally fervent separations and strife, backed by images from their lives and work. In what sounds like an anticlimax, the second half of the concert will consist of musical theater favorites. Sat 10/8 7:30 PM, Lyric Opera, 20 N. Wacker, 312-827-5600, lyricopera.org, $35-$180

2022 Fall Theater & Arts Preview

A fall edition

A note from the Reader’s culture editor who focuses on film, media, food, and drink on our Fall Theater & Arts Preview issue.