A South Asian woman in a dark top and light trousers kneels, lunging forward toward the right side of the photo, drenched in a blue light.
Ashwaty Chennat performs April 17 as part of the Mandala Arts Choreographer Showcase at Chicago History Museum. Credit: Courtesy Mandala South Asian Performing Arts

While the BA.2 variant of COVID-19 looms as a possible impediment to attending live performances (even as some of us now qualify for a second booster), shows are booming. We’ve got a baker’s dozen of events to consider if you feel up to getting out and about in the next couple of months. We also suggest checking ahead with the box office for vax and mask requirements; even though the city lifted its mask and vax mandates for indoor events over a month ago, many productions still require one or both for attendance.

OPERA (Deanna Isaacs)

Korngold Festival
Viennese prodigy Erich Korngold composed a popular ballet score in 1908, when he was 11 years old, and a hit opera when he was 19. In 1934, at the peak of his career as one of Europe’s most successful composers, he was recruited to write the score for Max Reinhardt’s Hollywood movie version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, launching a dual career and changing the way movie music would sound from then on. In 1938, while he was in Hollywood working on the score for The Adventures of Robin Hood (winner of that year’s Academy Award for best music), Hitler annexed Austria and it became impossible for him, as for many other Jewish artists, to return and survive there. Although he continued composing, his classical career would never fully recover. He died in Los Angeles in 1957.

Through April 10, the University of Chicago, in partnership with Folks Operetta, is hosting a Korngold festival, “Korngold Rediscovered,” with multiple concerts and other public events including the premier American performance of his last opera, Die Kathrin (Thu 4/7 and Sat 4/9, 7:30 PM); symposia (Wed 4/6, 7:30 PM, Thu 4/7 and Fri 4/8, 9:30 AM); and a screening of The Adventures of Robin Hood (Fri 4/8, 7:00 PM). All events at the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th. Prices vary; see korngoldfestival.org for the full schedule and tickets. 

DANCE (Irene Hsiao)

Mandala Arts Choreographer Showcase
Witness new contemporary works that combine Bharatanatyam and Kathak with other movement forms, text, and technology, choreographed by Mandala South Asian Performing Arts associate artistic director Ashwaty Chennat and resident artist Shalaka Kulkarni. Through works such as Kulkarni’s Nyra’s Dreams, which uses dance, humor, and interactive technology to tell the story of a postmodern Indian goddess in the year 2085, the company incubates and honors the ongoing evolution of South Asian and South Asian American dance. The showcase also features music by tabla player and Mandala teaching artist Krissy Bergmark. Sun 4/17, 3 PM, Chicago History Museum, 1601 N. Clark, mandalaarts.org, $25. 

Chicago Inclusive Dance Festival
After a year online, the Chicago Inclusive Dance Festival returns in person at the Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities. Cosponsored by 3Arts, ReinventAbility, MOMENTA, Kinetic Light, Bodies Of Work, and Access Living, the two-day festival for people with and without disabilities features workshops, performances, film screenings, and more to get every body moving and celebrate the creativity, diversity, and possibility in every body in dance. This year’s festival focuses on incorporating access into the creative process, especially through audio description. Sat-Sun April 23-24, 12:30-4:30 PM, Mayor’s Office for People with Disabilities, 2102 W. Ogden. Free, but registration required

Links Hall CoMISSION Festival of New Works
Over two weekends, Links Hall features new works-in-progress by 2021-22 CoMISSION residency and fellowship artists KJ Light & Eternal Resolve, Mario LaMothe, Helen Lee, Cat Mahari, Jaerin Son, and Nejla Yatkin, including a special Juneteeth performance by KJ Light & Eternal Resolve and Mahari. Personal and cultural histories permeate these contemporary works: considering losses in the recent past, Lee says, “I am trying to make friends with my anxiety and grief, seeking ways to heal and find meaning and joy, and thinking about unintended gifts.” Says Mahari about her multimodal performance Blk Ark: the Impossible Manifestation, “With every step, we ask, ‘What will it take to get free?’ and ‘Can we see a new world from here?’” Thu-Sun 6/16-6/19 and 6/23-6/26, Links Hall, 3111 N. Western, linkshall.org, tickets starting at $20. 

THEATER (Kerry Reid)

Emma’s Child
Kristine Thatcher’s drama about a Rogers Park couple whose plan to adopt a baby leads to rifts in their relationship was a huge hit for Victory Gardens under Terry McCabe’s direction in 1996, and went on to several other productions around the country. The play was also the first ever commissioned by the prestigious Oregon Shakespeare Festival. McCabe now revisits the story at City Lit Theater, where he is artistic director and Thatcher (who now lives in Michigan) is resident playwright. The cast for this revival includes Kat Evans as Jean Farrell, the prospective adoptive mother, and James Sparling as husband Henry. 4/15-5/29, City Lit Theater, 1020 W. Bryn Mawr, $12-$34 at citylit.org.

Last Hermanos
Two brothers reunite and go on the run to escape an America “where being Latinx is a life sentence” in Exal Iraheta’s dystopic drama, directed for A Red Orchid Theatre by Ismael Lara Jr. Sequestered in a Texas state park, the brothers’ competing desires for revolution and normalcy come into sharper focus with the arrival of a “sympathetic deserter.” Iraheta, a Chicago-based Salvi-American playwright, got an audio-drama production of his play with A Red Orchid last year. Eddie Martinez, Roberto Jay, and Chris Sheard star.  4/21-6/12, A Red Orchid Theatre, 1531 N. Wells, aredorchidtheatre.org, $15-$40.

On the Greenbelt
Strawdog Theatre continues its season of live performances—and its commitment to free tickets for all—with ensemble member Karissa Murrell Myers’s serio-comic family drama, directed by Jonathan Berry, about a young woman haunted by something she saw in the Idaho hospital the night her mother died. Myers, a Hapa Filipino writer, is from Boise originally; Strawdog produced her digital play How Do We Navigate Space? last year. 4/22-5/28, Links Hall, 3111 N. Western, strawdog.org, free (reservations accepted); captions and audio descriptions available starting 4/28, online streaming at 7 PM every Sunday starting 5/1.

The Secretaries: A Parable
Rising Chicago-based playwright Omer Abbas Salem receives a world premiere of his play, originally developed through the Goodman Theatre’s Future Labs series last year, with First Floor Theater. Four women in 1944 Berlin vie to be the Führer’s personal secretary as he heads into the bunker with Eva Braun. As the Third Reich crumbles, a series of secrets, lies, and rationalizations reveals the lengths we’ll go to when we mistake self-interest for civic duty. Laura Alcalá Baker directs. 5/5-6/11, Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, firstfloortheater.com, $10-$35.

Two Trains Running
Director Ron OJ Parson returns to both Court Theatre and August Wilson with a revival of Wilson’s 1960s-set drama, in which a local diner at the center of life in Pittsburgh’s historically Black Hill District faces the threat of demolition as a result of “urban renewal,” and the employees and regulars wrestle with the struggle for civil rights and justice. 5/13-6/12, Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis, courttheatre.org, $28.50-$84.

After the Blast
Zoe Kazan’s sci-fi drama (which starred William Jackson Harper of The Good Place in its 2017 off-Broadway premiere at Lincoln Center) gets its first local production courtesy of Broken Nose Theatre, under the direction of JD Caudill. Generations after a global disaster has sent what’s left of humanity to live underground, a young couple struggles to have a child, despite the wife’s ongoing depression, which may preclude them from gaining the governmental approval they need. The arrival of a robot, Arthur, changes their lives irrevocably. 5/13-6/11, Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee, brokennosetheatre, pay what you can.

cullud wattah
Erika Dickerson-Despenza’s drama examines environmental racism through the story of the Flint, Michigan, water crisis. Two sisters—one a General Motors employee fighting the specter of layoffs as well as the poison attacking her family, the other an activist in the battle for justice for those poisoned by the lead pipes—find that their own secrets might also capsize their family and their town. Lili-Anne Brown directs the regional premiere at Victory Gardens. 6/11-7/17, Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln, victorygardens.org, $33-$68.


The Chicago Circus and Performing Arts Festival
As Reader contributor Kimzyn Campbell noted in their essay on the return of circus (and Cirque du Soleil) for the spring arts preview last week, one of the bright spots for the field locally is the inaugural presentation of the Chicago Circus and Performing Arts Festival, presented under the auspices of Yes Ma’am Circus. The festival features physical theater, family-friendly shows, sketch comedy, burlesque, and more from ten different troupes. 4/21-4/24, Den Theatre, 1331 N. Milwaukee; see ccpaf.org for full schedule and prices.

The Revival Hour
In her end-of-year overview of Chicago’s comedy scene, Reader contributor Wanjiku Kairu noted Hyde Park comedy theater The Revival’s mission “to cultivate diverse talent.” On Saturdays in May, The Revival Hour features an array of improv performers creating on-the-spot scenes in the tradition of the Compass Players (the forerunners of Second City, many of whom were University of Chicago students when they began performing in a storefront on 55th next door to the current Revival location). Sat 5/7-5/28, 7:30 PM, The Revival, 1160 E. 55th, the-revival.com, $10-$15.