Ian Belknap
Ian Belknap Credit: Joe Mazza

Steppenwolf Theatre is going back to its own late-night roots for a new series, Late Night at Garage Rep. Following each of Garage Rep’s Thursday-night performances from March 6 to April 17, Late Night will feature performances from up-and-coming Chicago artists. No two weeks will be the same; the lineup promises music, poetry, and some strong words for James Franco.

The series opens with Salonathon’s Say My Name (3/6), featuring DJ Swaguerrilla and an assortment of underground and genre-defying artists curated by Jane Beachy. The following week, in Duo: 1 Is 1; 2 Is Math (3/14), an autobiographical “play with music,” Steppenwolf sweethearts Suzanne Petri and Roger Anderson appear on a familiar stage to tell funny anecdotes about their relationship.

The ‘Go Live: A New School Variety Show (3/20), presented by Young Chicago Authors, is up next. Kevin Coval, whose poetry and spoken word have been heavily influenced by hip-hop and Judaism, hosts. In Wiggerlover (White Boy + Black Dad = Grey Areas) (3/27), James Anthony Zoccoli explains what it’s like to be half Italian and half Polish and want badly to be black, and what happens when your mother marries an African-American man.

Write Club founder Ian Belknap has a lot of opinions about James Franco, and Steppenwolf is giving him an outlet in which to voice those opinions in a revival of last fall’s Bring Me the Head of James Franco, That I May Prepare a Savory Goulash in the Narrow and Misshapen Pot of His Skull (4/3).

The Gift Theater brings its popular improv group Natural Gas (4/10) to Garage Rep for an entire show based around a single audience suggestion. “Their show contained more than the usual moments of spontaneous delight—and occasional splashes of pure inspiration,” wrote Reader contributor Jack Helbig, who spent an evening with the group over the summer.

Follow the Reader (4/17) closes out the series, as Chicago Dance Crash creates an entire show from that week’s issue of your favorite alt-weekly. The group will nab a copy on Wednesday and, in just 24 hours, transform our words into dance pieces. We’ll be sure to make that issue really bizarre.