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Looking for a little break from the spooky season? While it’s nearly impossible to completely avoid the ghouls and goblins over the next seven days, here’s some events and activities that promise a limited amount of monsters. As always, beware of the emotional vampires – some of them show up year-round! 

FRI 10/29

If you’re looking for a fall harvest of new theatrical works, Avalanche Theatre has you covered with their Avalanche New Play Summit 2021, running tonight through 11/6 at the Den Theatre (1331 N. Milwaukee). The three plays receiving staged readings include: WasteHouse by Marjorie Muller, in which a washed-up Hollywood celeb has to return to her family for support; Artemis Books and the Well-Meaning Man by Paul Michael Thomson, in which the owner of a femme-centric feminist bookstore in Tucson, AZ, has to figure out how to work with a straight white cisgender male employee; and Radial Gradient by Jasmine Sharma, which takes place at a liberal university wrestling with the aftermath of a hate crime. Showtimes are Fri-Sat 7 PM, and tickets ($15 for a single show, $30 for festival pass) are available online.

For those that like their new works-in-progress with a musical bent, head on up to Evanston and Northwestern University for The Battlefields of Clara Barton, a workshop production of a new folk/rock musical, presented in partnership with the American Music Theatre Project, based on the Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross. Suzan Zeder and Jenn Hartmann Luck’s show runs tonight and tomorrow night at 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM at the Wirtz Center for the Performing Arts (20 Arts Circle Dr.)  Tickets ($15) and more information is available here.

Olympia hardcore band Gag brings their unique brand of floorpunching tongue-in-cheek hardcore to DIY spot Archer Ballroom (3012 S. Archer). Opening for them are local rockers Snuffed, St. Louis synth lord The Mall, and northwest Indiana punk favorites Liquids. The noise starts at 8 PM, and this all-ages show costs $12 at the door.

If you vibe hard to the Los Espookys soundtrack, you need to be at Cumbia y Los Goths at Subterranean (2011 W. North). Organized by artist, party planner, and full-time tropigoth Flores Negras, the lineup features La Rosa Noir, Tizoc, Pure Remedy, and DJ La Jenetsa. The dance floor starts filling at 10 PM. Tickets are $10, and the event is 21+.

SAT 10/30

Director Penny Allen’s film Property is on view today at the Block Museum of Art (40 Arts Circle, Evanston) at 1 PM. This 1978 documentary “revels in the joy and chaos of community organizing when a group of neighbors and friends facing eviction attempt to collectively purchase a block of homes but find themselves wading deeply into the bureaucracies of credit scores and co-signers.” Sounds like it could have been filmed in 2021. The screening is free and open to the public.

Calling all proto Kate Bushes! Bring your best moves to Waking the Witch, a fundraiser for the abortion escort service Clinical Vest Project. DJs Mife and Miso will soundtrack an evening that channels the glittering free spirits of pop icons such as ABBA and Stevie Nicks. At midnight, there will be a Kate Bush interpretive dance contest with “fancy” prizes and surprises. Costumes are strongly encouraged. Free emergency contraceptives will be on hand as well as abortion access information. Things kick off at 9 PM at the Empty Bottle (1035 N. Western), and it’s $5 to join the fun. This party is 21+.

SUN 10/31

The Chicago Vegan Test Kitchen is teaming up with Bubbly Dynamics to present Vegan Paradise, a vegan farmers market featuring wares from local farmers, plant-based chefs, cruelty-free crafters, and conscious body care. The market runs from 11 AM – 3 PM at the Plant (1400 W. 46th). This event is free. See Eventbrite for information on vendors, pre-orders, and COVID safety precautions.

Whether you’re regrouping for a night out or trying to deny the holiday, local experimental music series Jefferson Park EXP offers an interesting departure from Halloween festivities. At 2 PM, they present the third installment of a wild docuseries about “Her Royal Highness Chieftainess Tente, the mushroom that the crocodile ate” featuring Noisebringers, an improvisational concert trio. Programming will also include experimental musician and multimedia artist Nicolas Tourney’s work documenting the day-to-day life of Dutch writer and teacher Tjitske Jansen. It’s all free to watch on Twitch.

MON 11/1

Looking to unload your jack-o-lantern? From today until Thu 11/4, Medieval Times (2001 N. Roselle, Schaumburg) is collecting pumpkins to use in their knights’ combat training. They’ll slay your rotting pumpkins in anticipation of Sat 11/6, aka National Pumpkin Destruction Day, a holiday seemingly only acknowledged by Medieval Times. The facility is offering 25-percent-off coupons for all donated pumpkins (coupons valid through the end of December), and they plan to give away tickets to Boys & Girls Clubs of Chicago groups in honor of the first 100 pumpkins received.

Halloween may be over, but you can still channel the madcap spirit of the season with Links Hall’s long-running performance extravaganza, Poonie’s Cabaret. The show returns tonight with a lineup featuring “hot clowns, bawdy songs, striptease, smutty poetry, bellydancing” and more. It all starts at 7 PM and tickets ($15) can be purchased in advance through Eventbrite.

TUE 11/2

The Lit & Luz Festival, which features robust programming at the intersections of Latinx identity and art, is happening this year with a variety of in-person programming at various Chicago spaces as well as virtual events, including screenings, writer workshops, readings, music, and more. There’s an emphasis on contemporary art and literature from Mexico, including tonight’s screening and conversation with Mexican filmmaker and artist Daniel Monroy Cuevas, who studied audio and visual art in Guadalajara as well as at the Vancouver Film School in Canada. Cuevas will be on hand to answer questions, and the evening begins at 6 PM at UNAM Chicago (350 W. Erie). This event is free, but registration at Eventbrite is encouraged. Lit & Luz Festival events happen each day from Monday 11/1 until Saturday 11/6, and a full schedule is available online.

WED 11/3

Chicago Shakespeare presents the Chicago premiere of Remember This: The Lesson of Jan Karski in the Yard theater at Navy Pier. Based on the story of a Polish diplomat who tried to warn the Allies about the Holocaust, the one-man show stars David Strathairn (Oscar-nominated for his turn as Edward R. Murrow in 2005’s Good Night, and Good Luck), who has been involved with the piece since its inception seven years ago. Reader contributor Josh Flanders interviewed Strathairn about Karski’s legacy and the show in this week’s issue. It runs through Sun 11/14; tickets ($43-$75) online at

THU 11/4

In Land of Broken Dreams, renowned artist Carrie Mae Weems combines original works with found objects to imagine new possibilities for the Black Panthers’ Chicago history. Through this, she probes the potential and limited understandings of revolutionaries, political parties, and the Black imagination. It’s on view at the University of Chicago’s Logan Center Gallery (915 E. 60th) through Tue 12/21. This exhibition is free to visit but requires scheduling a visit during gallery hours: Thursdays and Fridays from 1 to 8 PM and weekends from noon to 6 PM. 

Join homicide investigator, criminal behaviorist, and cold case researcher Sarah Cailean for Windy, Wicked, and Wild, an evening of true crime tales that explores “the sinister history of criminal Chicago.” Cailean appears tonight at 7 PM at Haymarket Pub and Brewery (737 W. Randolph) and again Friday at 8 PM at Beat Kitchen (2100 W. Belmont). Each evening is $25 and open to those 21 and up.

An earlier version of this post included a Lit & Luz Festival event that has since been canceled; the Chicago Reader regrets the error.