Credit: Ozzie Stern/Unsplash

Looking for some ways to spice up your winter free time? We’ve got you covered, just read on.

FRI 1/14

It’s certainly been gloomy and gray enough lately to turn your mind to gothic fancies, and A Red Orchid Theatre (1531 N. Wells) feeds that inclination with the Chicago premiere of Jen Silverman’s The Moors. The company returns to live performance (fingers crossed for no Omicron shutdowns!) with Silverman’s dark comedy, which combines Brontë-esque spinsters who are living in the desolate English region of the title with elements from Henry James (an innocent governess), Sherlock Holmes (a mastiff), and Silverman’s own penchant for dissecting jealousy, class, and gender through an absurdist lens. Red Orchid artistic director Kirsten Fitzgerald directs a cast of ensemble regulars, including Karen Aldridge, Dado, Jennifer Engstrom, and Guy Van Swearingen, as well as Christina Gorman and Audrey Billings. Tonight’s show starts at 7:30 PM, and you can check out the theatre’s website for additional dates and showtimes through Sun 2/27. Tickets are $25-$40.

Neoperreo innovator Tomasa Del Real is performing tonight at Subterranean (2011 W. North). Warming up the dance floor for her are DJ Papa J and underground midwestern reggaeton collective Agua de Rosas. (Chicago-based member Karen Valencia (aka Karrennoid) describes her passion for reggaeton and what makes the local scene so special in this week’s issue.) Get ready to get sweaty at 9 PM. Tickets are $20 and this concert is limited to those 21 and over.

Longtime Chicago DJ Shon Dervis hosts his Tight Blends party tonight starting at 9 PM at Ace Hotel (311 N. Morgan). The hotel is closing at the end of January, so this is your last chance to see Dervis spinning his signature blend of funky Latin and African vibes with hip hop, funk, and dance music in the posh but friendly environment at Ace. No cover to attend, and more information can be found at Ace Hotel’s website.

SAT 1/15

Find a sense of renewal with a morning yoga session in the butterfly room at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum (2430 N. Cannon). It may be January outside, but stretching your muscles amidst bouncing bodies and luscious plants is sure to put some spring in your step. The session is $20 and runs from 8:45-9:30 AM. Participants must be 18 years old or older, and proof of COVID-19 vaccination and masks will be required. Tickets are available at the museum’s website, and don’t forget to bring your yoga mat.

A collection of Reader contributor Dmitry Samarov’s collages will be on display at Compound Yellow (244 Lake in Oak Park) from today until Sat 1/29. Samarov works through a private visual lexicon of crates, old letters, forgotten artworks, and other assorted life scraps; using cutting, tearing, pasting, and drawing to rework them into images that are both reflective and frank. To keep the gallery COVID-safe, this exhibition is open by appointment only, and you can contact the gallery through their website to schedule a viewing.

Life’s a drag sometimes, so why not celebrate with some actual drag performance! One option for those 21 and over is classic Chicago nightclub Berlin and their regular Saturday Night Drag Show, hosted by past Reader cover story subject Lucy Stoole. Tonight features performances by Willow Pill (currently appearing on RuPaul’s Drag Race), XO Carrington, Ms. Krissy, Georgia St. Pierre, Veronica Pop, The Male Spice Experience, and music by DJ Nevin and DJ Madeline. After the show, DJ Madeline continues the party by spinning until 5 AM, so wear comfortable but stylish shoes (your arches will thank me years from now fashionistas!). Performances begin at 11 PM and $10 admission plus proof of vaccination is required.  

SUN 1/16

Compass Theatre’s opening of Brendan Pelsue’s Wellesley Girl was delayed for a year (and another week) due to COVID-19, but the company (which made its debut in 2019 with Theresa Rebeck’s sharp dissection of gender politics in the workplace, What We’re Up Against), is back on track at Theater Wit (1229 W. Belmont) with this dystopic comedy about America circa 2465, when the nation is reduced to a handful of walled enclaves in New England and everyone is a member of Congress. An unidentified army at the border means what’s left of the citizenry needs to put aside their petty bickering and fight for the common good. (Yeah, good luck with that.) James Fleming directs, and there are scheduled postshow public discussions on Thu 1/20 with deputy mayor Samir Mayekar and Sun 1/30 with Leila Brammer, director of the Parrhesia Program for Public Discourse at the University of Chicago. Today’s show is at 2 PM, and you can find showtimes, and tickets for future dates (through Sat 2/ 5) at Compass Theatre’s website. Tickets are $40 ($35 students and seniors) at

Today is the last day to check out artist Ida Applebroog’s work MONALISA at the University of Chicago’s Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society (5701 S. Woodlawn). The multi-media artist (who happens to be a School of the Art Institute of Chicago alumna) was an influential figure in the SoCal feminist art scene of the 1970s, but in 1969, she was a lonesome single mom who’d retire to her bathtub for two to three hours most nights drawing pictures of her body. Those were Applebroog’s moments of escape and meditation. What resulted were 160 vagina drawings, which she rediscovered in 2009 and fashioned into MONALISA. Open by appointment only (and you can book a time to visit through the gallery’s website).

Two club experiences tonight celebrate legacies while keeping the music pumping: up north at Metro and Smart Bar, honor the memory of legendary DJ Frankie Knuckles with “For Frankie! A Celebration of his Life,” an all-building dance party featuring a packed lineup of music including DJ Ralphi Rosario and singer Terisa Griffin. Doors open at 9 PM for this 21+ experience, and proceeds from the $20 tickets will be donated to the Frankie Knuckles Foundation. 

On the south side, Hyde Parkers and visitors can pay homage to Dr. Martin Luther King’s legacy and celebrate the movement with help from reggae, soca, and hip-hop with “Freedom: the MLK Celebration,” a night of dance and libations featuring DJ Preme and DJ Tynman. It’s hosted at the Promontory (5311 S. Lake Park Avenue West). Doors open at 10 PM for this 21+ party, and wearing all black is encouraged. You can buy tickets and reserve tables (with bottle service) in advance through Eventbrite

YouTube video
Frankie Knuckles interviewed at the 1986 opening of his club, Power House (courtesy Media Burn ARh

MON 1/17

Head to the Museum of Science and Industry (5700 S. DuSable Lake Shore Drive) to catch opening day for this year’s “Black Creativity Juried Art Exhibition,” the longest-running juried exhibition of African American art, which has been displayed annually at MSI since 1970. This year’s exhibition features 200 works by seasoned, emerging, and student artists, including paintings, drawings, sculpture, photography, and more. Museum hours today are 9:30 AM-5:30 PM, but be sure to check the museum website for timing for future visits, as the exhibition will be on view for a limited time. See MSI’s website for ticketing information, including COVID guidelines.

TUE 1/18

Women and Children First (5233 N. Clark) is temporarily closed for in-store browsing, but curbside pick-up is still available–convenient if you’re inspired by tonight’s online conversation between writers Ada Limón and Jami Attenberg. Attenberg’s new memoir I Came All This Way to Meet You considers larger questions about creating a meaningful life as an artist and developing one’s voice as she follows in the footsteps of her traveling salesman father and takes to a life on the open road. The free presentation airs at 7 PM on Women and Children First’s Crowdcast channel, and you can register for it here.

WED 1/19

See Chicago Dance’s Screendance Club provides an online watch party at 5 PM tonight for short dance films, followed by a discussion that aims to be more inclusive and open than the typical talkback. Tonight’s featured film is Millicent Johnnie’s Where Water is Not Thirsty, which follows a 70-year-old woman “who returns to the magical world of her mind, where she reunites with her mystic self and learns of her true unbridled nature.” Johnnie’s work focuses on storytelling that centers Black and Indigenous communities (she’s a former associate artistic director of Urban Bush Women). The discussion will be moderated by Surinder Martignetti, See Chicago Dance’s community engagement manager; free, but registration required at

What is journalism’s role in police accountability? The Chicago Reader joins with the Newberry Library to host an online discussion tonight at 6 PM between Aislinn Pulley, co-executive director of the Chicago Torture Justice Center; Mark Clements, an activist and police torture survivor; former Reader reporter John Conroy; and Reader co-publisher and co-Editor-in-Chief Karen Hawkins. Drawing on cases and events documented in the Reader archives, they’ll look at how journalism has influenced policing and police-related policies with an eye towards the future. While this event is free, advanced registration is required to join the discussion via Zoom. This event will also be broadcast live to Facebook and YouTube.

Laugh Factory (3175 N. Broadway) vies to bring more chuckles to Chicago than we’re used to during our gray Chicago winters with tonight’s “50 First Jokes” presentation. 50 local comics, hosted by Clark Jones and Ali Drapos, will share their first new jokes of the year. Let’s hope they all land, we need it! Admission is open to those 18+ but a two-drink minimum per person will be expected (non-alcoholic or alcoholic beverages), plus you must provide proof of vaccination to enter. It all starts at 8 PM tonight, and you can pre-order tickets at Eventbrite.

This is the first night for Tomorrow Never Knows, a festival celebrating independent comedy and music that runs until Sun 1/23. Six independent venues (Lincoln Hall, Schubas, Metro, Hideout, Sleeping Village, and Golden Dagger) have teamed up for a robust roster of indie art darlings from Ladylike and Ashley Ray to Sen Morimoto and Fingy. Tonight there are festival performances scheduled at Lincoln Hall, Sleeping Village, Schubas, Golden Dagger, and the Hideout, and for a complete lineup and other ticketing information, check out

THU 1/20

Fancy yourself a budding Vivian Maier? You can take the first step by learning to load film into your camera at Latitude’s Camera Clinic. Latitude, a nonprofit community digital lab hosts this free drop-in event at their facility (1821 W. Hubbard, Suite 207) with the help of the organization’s executive director Colleen Keihm. Keihm will be available from 5-6 PM tonight to offer tips and tricks for beginning photographers. See the organization’s Instagram and website for more information. 

The official trailer for 2022’s Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival.

The puppets are back! The Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival opens at 7 PM tonight at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (220 E. Chicago) with Sea Change by Cabinet of Curiosity, which debuted as an outdoor show this past summer. Reader critic Catey Sullivan praised that earlier version for its ability to evoke “the vastness of the coastal oceans; places where worlds we know nothing of will continue long after we’re gone, just as they did long before we were here.” Created by emerging female playwrights and lyricists Liz Chidester, Kasey Foster, Bethany Thomas, and Lindsey Noel Whiting, with additional text by Seth Bockley and music by Manae Hammond and Charlie Otto, each of the pieces in the CoC anthology uses sea creatures, including mermaids and sharks, to meditate on the costs of patriarchy and climate change. The festival, now in its fourth outing, is moving from biennial to annual this year and features artists both local (the Neo-Futurists, Rough House) and national (Vermont’s legendary Bread & Puppet brings in an epic retelling of Aeschylus’s The Persians by Elka and Peter Schumann, the OGs of large-scale political puppet plays). Festival founder Blair Thomas finds the art of puppetry inherently communal and meditative; as he told the Reader’s Max Maller in November, “What it takes is the time for people to slow down and look at what the performing object has the capacity to tell us. What is the wisdom in the material world?” You can see a wide array of objects and performers at venues around the city through Sun 1/30; see for complete schedule and ticketing information.

Remember the thrill of the first time you were old enough to enjoy the “adult swim” hour at the public pool? The freedom to do laps, while all the sticky loud children had to sit on the sidelines? You can get a new, improved version of that experience by taking advantage of Adults Night, a monthly evening at Altitude Trampoline Park (404 N. Armour) where the trampoline, dodgeball, foam pits, and climbing walls are open exclusively to those 21 and over. Tickets include a free beer after you jump plus coupons for DoorDash and Ritual, and unlimited bouncing around starting at 7:30 PM. Check out more information and purchase advance tickets at Eventbrite


Karen Valencia, aka Karennoid of reggaeton DJ collective Agua de Rosas

DJ collective Agua de Rosas spread the gospel of reggaeton, and though they’re based in Milwaukee, they have an evangelist in Chicago too: Karen Valencia, better known as Karennoid. In November, the trio (Valencia, Julio Cordova, and Gabriela “Chanchita” Riveros) played their first Chicago gig at emerging underground dance haunt Podlasie Club. They opened for…

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In July, as COVID-19 restrictions began to lift and the Chicago performing arts geared themselves up to resurrect, the Rough House Theater Co. headquarters at coartistic directors Claire Saxe and Mike Oleon’s home in Humboldt Park morphed into a puppet rehearsal palace. Rough House’s anthology production House of the Exquisite Corpse wouldn’t be opening at…