Spring flowers: coming soon to a State Street median near you. Credit: Max Bender/Unsplash

The spring equinox (the moment when the sun is exactly above the equator and day and night are of equal length) for this year starts at 10:33 AM on Sunday 3/20, and brings our chance to check out Chicagohenge (if you go to the Loop, you might see the sun framed by our skyscrapers). And before and after this moment on Sunday morning, there’s plenty of events and activities happening to put a spring in your step. Here’s a few that we think you should check out.

FRI 3/18

Oscar season is afoot, and no one has stronger feelings about nominations than cinema buffs like Charles Coleman, film program director at boundary-pushing nonprofit organization Facets (1517 W. Fullerton). That’s why he’s curated “If We Picked the Oscars,” which exalts one nominee and three snubs. While two of his picks have already screened (The Power of the Dog and C’mon C’mon), you can catch Passing tonight until Sun 3/20. Adapted from Chicago-born author Nella Larsen’s 1929 book of the same name, Passing is about two Black childhood friends–one of whom passes for white–that reconnect in adulthood after one marries an accomplished Black doctor and the other marries a racist white businessman unaware of her background. Their worlds are marked by racism, identity, and sexual frustration, which builds towards a shocking conclusion. The series continues Fri 3/25-Sun 3/27 with The Green Knight, a sensuously cinematic adaptation of an epic poem about an Arthurian quest with heavy moralist themes. Tickets for each film are $9 for members and $12 for the general public. Passing screens tonight at 7 PM and 9 PM; go to Facets’s website for additional screening times. (MC)

About Face Theatre, like most other Chicago companies, switched to digital production during the pandemic shutdown, while still honoring their mission to highlight LGBTQ+ voices. They’re back to live performances with Sam Mueller’s play Laced, about a trio of employees at a queer club grappling with the aftermath of a tragedy and trying to figure out how to take care of themselves and each other. Reader staff writer Adam M. Rhodes talked to Mueller and the cast this week about how the play (written by Mueller in the months between the 2016 Pulse murders in Orlando and the presidential election) feels even more relevant now. (As actor Mariah Copeland puts it, “The play is a lot about how we keep each other safe, how do we look out for one another? And right now this is something we are talking about a lot of time but haven’t taken stock of with our immediate relationships.”) Tonight’s preview starts at 7:30 PM. The show runs through Sat 4/16 at the Den Theatre (1331 N. Milwaukee); tickets range from $5-$35 at aboutfacetheatre.com. (KR)

Composer Kyong Mee Choi based her new three-act opera, Pale Courage, on the true story of her grand-aunt “who chose starvation as a way to fight for her dreams.” The piece, featuring a libretto by Bianca Lee, follows a young woman struggling between traditional Confucian values and emerging Western ideologies as she seeks an education. It’s presented tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 PM in a semi-staged production at the Merle Reskin Theatre (60 E. Balbo), featuring student singers from Roosevelt University’s College of Performing Arts, where Choi is a professor. Admission is free, and no reservations are needed; however, audience members must present proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test from no more than 72 hours prior, and masks must be worn. There will also be a Zoom discussion Mon 3/21 at 7:30 PM, with the composer and members of the cast. Links for the Zoom registration and more information available here. (KR)

SAT 3/19

Today is the final day to see photographer Rose Blouin’s exhibition “To Washington Park, With Love: Summer 1987” at the University of Chicago’s Arts Incubator (301 E. Garfield). This show is a collection of images taken by the South Side native during the summer of ‘87 that explore how people interact with—or become part of—their environment. To mark the exhibit’s closing, the Arts Incubator is holding a free artist’s talk at 3:30 PM, facilitated by Dr. Carol L. Adams, a former DuSable Museum president and the CEO and founder of Urban Prescriptives, Inc. You can register for the conversation here. The gallery is also open to the general public today from 3-7 PM. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination or proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of your entry is required to get in. (MC)

At 3:30 PM, the Leather Archives & Museum (6418 N. Greenview) is hosting “Drawing Tending Tying: An Art and Rope Experiment.” This performance event features leatherfemme and community organizer Sharon Pink, who will self-tie with rope while Chicago-born artist (and currently associate professor of visual arts at Canada’s University of the Fraser Valley) Shel Stefan creates a series of gesture study life drawings. This performance invites viewers to consider the rituals of kink and intimate creation possible between lovers beyond the narrowly-defined scope of “sex.” Witness this either in person at the museum or online via Zoom by purchasing a ticket to the museum ($8 for general admission, $5 for students, seniors, and military personnel). Those who experience the show in person are invited to stay later as the artists will also participate in a talk and figure drawing session from 5:30-7:30 PM. Sadly, this portion is not available to online participants. You must be 18 or older to attend. (MC)

This is the last weekend to catch MOMENTA’s Elements: The Nature of Dance, featuring four members of the company’s senior ensemble in new work inspired by the four elements of nature, choreographed by Tatiana Castañeda, Mei-Kuang Chen, Sam Crouch, Connor Cornelius, Reader contributor Irene Hsiao, Shalaka Kulkarni, Gina Sigismondi, and Julia Wollrab. MOMENTA’s mission since 2003 has been to integrate dancers with and without disabilities in an exploration of both repertory and contemporary dance works. Elements takes place at Oak Park’s Doris Humphrey Memorial Theatre (605 Lake), tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 PM; tickets are $20 ($15 for students/seniors/people with disabilities, $10 floor mat seating for those ten and under) at momentadances.org. (KR)

SUN 3/20

Snap out of it! The 1987 classic comedy/romance Moonstruck screens this morning as part of a loving Music Box Theatre tribute series to the singer, actress, and dancing sensation that is Cherilyn Sarkisian (who you probably know as Cher). While Cher won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of late 80s accountant and widow Loretta, the entire movie is peppered with delicious dialogue written by playwright John Patrick Shanley, who reportedly hated working in Hollywood, but also won the Oscar for Best Screenplay (Written Directly for the Screen). Go figure. Judge for yourself (and cover up that damn love bite on your neck) at 11:30 AM today at the theatre (3733 N. Southport). Tickets are $9 and available in advance here.

At 1 PM, Alliance Française Chicago is hosting an online discussion about Mauvais Sang, a stylish French heist film from 1986. As Alliance Française explains: “In a murky, future vision of France, a deadly virus has emerged—one transmitted by sex without love—and hope for survival lies in the hands of a team of criminals aiming to steal a healing serum locked in a government vault. The plot that unfolds around this bizarre conceit features mind-reading, motorcycles, and David Bowie music. We promise you haven’t seen a crime drama like this before.” You can go to the Alliance Française’s website before today’s event for links to view the film, then join the group this afternoon for a discussion led by Matthew Jackson. Tickets are free for members and $10 for non-members. (MC)

Definition Theatre, founded by Julian Parker and Tyrone Phillips ten years ago and currently in the midst of plans to open a performing arts center in Woodlawn, was supposed to open James Ijames’s White at Steppenwolf in April of 2020 as part of the bigger company’s LookOut series. The show is back on track now and directed by Congo Square artistic director Ericka Ratcliff. Ijames’s social comedy involves Gus, a white painter who enlists the aid of Vanessa, a Black actress, to create a fictitious radical artist, Balkonae Townsend, to serve as the face of his work. Ijames, a Philadelphia-based writer, is an ensemble member with Definition; they previously produced his play Moon Man Walk in 2018. Today’s performance is scheduled for 3 PM; White runs on various dates through Sun 4/10 at Steppenwolf (1650 N. Halsted); tickets are $20-$40 at steppenwolf.org. (KR)

MON 3/21

Monday Night Foodball continues at the Kedzie Inn (4100 N. Kedzie) tonight from 6-8 PM. While it’s a return visit from one of last week’s chefs, Flavor Supreme’s Joey Pham, tonight’s menu travels the similarities between Italian, Vietnamese, and American cuisines (and was conceived by Pham along with chef Lorraine Nguyen. Tonight’s four course meal is available by preorder only (order here) and while walk-in customers won’t be able to get the main meal, there will be a limited number of banh mi for sale at the bar. Reader senior writer Mike Sula has more information and a schedule of upcoming Foodballs listed here. (SCJ)

It’s Mambo Mayhem time again, as the organization El Caobo Internacional brings dance lessons and DJs down to the Promontory every third Monday of each month. The night always kicks off at 7:15 PM with a dance lesson (this week provided by instructors from the Ballroom and Latin Dance Association at the University of Chicago), and then the rest of the evening is devoted to an open dance floor and DJs playing mambo, salsa, bachata, cha-cha-chá, and more. The evening is free to attend, and open to those 18 and up. (SCJ)

You don’t want to miss art-metal rockers Lightning Bolt at Thalia Hall (1807 S. Allport) tonight; they’ll be performing their cantankerous brand of rock ’n’ roll in the round. Opening for them is Problems, a house music act by Chicagoan Darren Keen who also performs as 1manbandgod. The show starts at 8:30 PM, and tickets are $20. This event is open to those 17 and older with proof of COVID-19 vaccination. (MC)

TUE 3/22 

Bookstore Exile in Bookville (at the Fine Arts Building, 410 S. Michigan Ave.) hosts a hybrid version of their ongoing Authors on Tap series tonight, as writer Maud Casey visits to celebrate the release of her new novel, City of Incurable Women (Bellevue Literary Press). Casey will be in conversation with writer and Chicagoan Maryse Meijer, and both authors will have signed books available for purchase at the store. The talk starts at 7 PM, and while it’s free to attend in person, attendees must provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination as well as wear a face covering while in the Fine Arts Building. A concurrent livestream of the event will broadcast; register here for more information. (SCJ)

It’s the last call for The SuperAfroWavyDrippyExtraBrilliantDope Show at Second City e.t.c. (230 W. North), a celebration of work created by BIPOC alums such as Sam Richardson, Keegan-Michael Key, Amber Ruffin, and Tim Meadows, performed by a cast of next-generation comedy talents. Final performances are tonight and tomorrow at 8 PM. Tickets are $29 at secondcity.com; proof of vax required. (KR)

WED 3/23

Today is the first chance to see “Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION,” an online-only art exhibition and activation kit that invites viewers to consider a world without mass incarceration. Illinois Humanities, our state’s affiliate organization of the National Endowment for the Humanities, commissioned 14 artists, writers, and organizers, including Pulitzer Prize-winning author Mitchell S. Jackson, former Reader staffer Maya Dukmasova, and artists Amber Ginsburg, Aaron Hughes, and Tara Betts. The exhibition includes contributed works in a variety of mediums that explore the dehumanizing effects of the so-called justice system and community-based alternatives to it. The activation kit includes over a dozen prompts designed to encourage reflection on relationships to the carceral state and community healing while translating new perspectives into action. The entire project is free to view and participate in by going to the website, envisioningjustice.org, and Illinois Humanities will host an official opening reception on Wed 4/6. (MC)

Internet phenom, art ingénue, and all-around rock ’n’ roller Poppy is performing at Park West (322 W. Armitage) tonight. Her music gives a candy-coating to muddy bass lines and nu-metal guitar licks—all enhanced by a visually stunning stage show with frenetic video game sensibilities. Joining her is Mz. Neon, a genre-defying performer that sounds like if Lil’ Kim were to meet Wendy O. Williams at a disco. Tickets start at $35, and lights go down at 7 PM. All ages are welcome. (MC)

Chicagoan Carolina Chauffe creates “bedroom folk” under the name Hemlock, and fellow musician and Reader contributor Tasha Viets-VanLear got to speak to Chauffe for the Reader this week about music and craft. You can take in a solo set by Hemlock tonight at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia), as she opens for Options and Allegra Krieger. The show starts at 9:30 PM and tickets are available here for those 21 and up.  


THU 3/24

Reader senior writer Leor Galil wrote this week about Otherpeace, the new “loose group” endeavor for Chicago musician Matt Clark. Tonight kicks off a monthly residency at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia) for the project, and Clark will be joined by his bandmate in Pinebender Stephen “the Kid” Howard. Keener Family and Official Claire will open the evening, which starts at 9:30 PM. The show is open to those 21 and up, and tickets are available here. (SCJ)

There’s an opportunity tonight to see the future of metal, which is rooted in eastern Africa according to Reader contributor Noah Berlatsky. The Ugandan-via-Kenya duo Duma visit the Empty Bottle tonight (1035 N. Western), anchoring a bill that includes longtime Chicago noise-rock stalwarts Ono as well as the Ohio art punk of Fruit Looops. This noisy and satisfying evening kicks off at 8:30 PM, and the venue is open to those 21 and over who are also fully vaccinated for COVID-19. Tickets are available here. (SCJ)