Ben Muller, Piccolo Theatre ensemble member, can’t mask his enthusiasm for:

Inside Out Art Studio The front room of Inside Out Art Studio (at Damen and Montrose) is set up like any other storefront, but it’s cluttered with the sort of bric-a-brac you’d expect to find in an artist’s studio or scientist’s laboratory. It has a living, active energy that I don’t typically encounter with artists’ shops. I took one of the classes taught by master mask-maker Jeff Semmerling, and I must say, as an actor I’ve always seen visual arts like painting and sculpture as something akin to magic performed by mysterious wizardlike beings. Now Jeff is definitely something of a wizard (rocking a decidedly magical ‘stache) but his enthusiasm for the work is infectious, and his insights into mask’s primal nature utterly fascinated me. Under his tutelage, mask is a surprisingly accessible, intuitive art form, and I recommend his classes to all who want to create, but are intimidated by visual arts.

Martha Bayne, founder of Soup & Bread, went out of her way for:

Heroines I read a sprawlingly sharp and exuberant interview between Gina Frangello and Kate Zambreno at the Rumpus and immediately went out to track down Zambreno’s new book, Heroines. Furiously researched, Heroines is Zambreno’s insistent attempt to move the “lost wives” of modernism—Jane Bowles, Viv Eliot, Zelda Fitzgerald— from the margins of their husbands’ reputations to their rightful place at the center of their own life stories. Why, Zambreno demands, is womens’ ambition so often pathologized, female creativity dismissed as hysteria? It’s a question as potent now as in Paris in the 20s (“Today Sally Bowles would totally audition for America’s Next Top Model and be cast as the alterna-crazy,” Zambreno quips), and Heroines reads with an almost physical urgency, as though written in a hot, hot heat, as Zambreno tangles and untangles historic and fictional literary ladies (Emma Bovary, Nicole Diver), all while chronicling her own creative frustration as she trails her husband from one backwater academic post to the next, trying to dig herself out of her own alienated funk. It’s totally smart, provocative, and oddly sexy.

Julia Borcherts, writer, teacher, editor, and lit series organizer, got her holiday kicks at:

We Three Lizas This gender-bending show from About Face Theatre Company is the holiday musical comedy of my dreams. The script by Scott Bradley—who stars as one of the Lizas—is hilarious but also more sophisticated than you might expect. The music by Alan Schmuckler—who leads the onstage jazz combo—is perfect for the edgy, sexy, fun story line, in which all hell breaks loose when a bitter design-house owner attempts to conjure up a Christmas wish and three versions of Liza Minnelli arrive instead.

A charming cast, splendid choreography, camp-tastic costumes, and top-notch opening cabaret acts to set the mood—can it get any better? Yes, it can. The adjacent lounge offers $5 specialty cocktails including a rum and peach bitters-based Mistletoe Kiss, served with a cinnamon stick.

The show runs through 12/23 at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s Merle Reskin Garage Theatre.