A hand holds a lit sparkler, twinkling pink and gold lights are in the background
Credit: Wout Vanacker/Unsplash

We’re in the middle of Hanukkah now and the post-Thanksgiving holiday melee of holiday shopping pop-ups and light festivals is underway, but there’s still a few non-holiday-themed activities out there. Here’s a few things to do in the next seven days that will help you embrace the season (or just plain enjoy December in Chicago).

Fri 12/3

The annual Destinos festival of Latino theater ended in October, but the Chicago Latino Theatre Alliance (CLATA) is still popping with Destinos al Aire, A Holiday Extravaganza!, a pop-up market with live entertainment. From 4-7 PM tonight at the Humboldt Park boathouse (1301 N. Humboldt Dr.), you can browse through stalls featuring crafts and artisanal wares, enjoy Latino street food and drinks, and take in performances from comedians Gwen La Roka and Mike Oquendo, the Venzuelan Cepillao Band, the all-women Puerto Rican ensemble Las BomPlenaras¸ and physical theater from LaVuelta with UrbanTheater Company. Next Friday, the market moves over to Harrison Park (1824 S. Wood) in Pilsen, with performances from Mariachi Sirenas (Chicago’s first all-femme mariachi group), Teatro Tariakuri, and Teatro Vista. Information at the CLATA website

From 4-7 PM at Kusanya Cafe (825 W. 69th), catch the opening of Sanctuary from Forgotten Blocks. In this show, photographer Isiah Veney (who sometimes goes by “ThoughtPoet” or “ThoughtPoetsOpinion”) celebrates the joy and vibrancy of Englewood without eschewing neighborhood challenges such as food deserts, lack of city-allocated resources, or the overuse of police surveillance programs. The exhibition is on view through Tue 2/1/22, and proceeds from photo sales will go to HER Chicago and GoodKids MadCity.

If you miss That ’70s Show, if you’re the kind of person who still has an R. Crumb “Keep on Truckin’” poster on your wall, or if you’re just a fan of music circa the Carter administration, then Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre has you covered with 8-Track. Created by Rick Seeber (who also conceived the 1960s girl-group musical, Beehive), the show, which opens in previews tonight, features songs from artists of the era like the Doobie Brothers, Barry Manilow, Labelle, the Carpenters, and more. Jamal Howard directs and choreographs. It runs through Sun 1/23 at Theo Ubique’s home base (721 W. Howard in Evanston). Tickets run $35 for previews (which includes tonight’s 7:30 PM show) and $42-$54 during the regular run beginning Mon 12/13. You can also add on a three-course prix fixe dinner option, catered by Theo Ubique’s neighbors at Good to Go Jamaican Cuisine, for $29. Tickets available online at theo-u.com.

In place of their long-running tradition of staging The Santaland Diaries, Theater Wit (1229 W. Belmont) instead offers up the Chicago premiere of Matthew Lombardo’s Who’s Holiday!, in which a fortyish Cindy Lou Who, played by Veronica Garza, reminisces from her trailer about the night the green and mean one tried to steal Christmas in Whoville. She also leads the audience in some songs. Reader critic Dmitry Samarov writes, “I don’t celebrate the holiday and hate musicals, but I loved this show,” so if it can have that effect on a holiday-show Grinch, imagine how Seuss-and-sugarplum fans may enjoy it. Tonight’s show is at 7 PM, and the production runs through Sun 12/26. Tickets are $18-$35; see the website for complete schedule and details.

The final Trqpiteca party of the year is happening tonight at the Hideout (1354 W. Wabansia). Starting at 9 PM, DJs Cqqchifruit, La Spacer, and Jared Brown will make your bodies sweat out the most toxic parts of 2021 at one of the best recurring queer dance nights in the city. $12, 21+.

A recap of a 2019 Trqpiteca event at Smart Bar.

Sat 12/4

It’s the first day of the Big Chill, a holiday pop-up showcasing local artisans. From 10 AM-5 PM today and tomorrow, 10 local makers will be slainging everything from hot sauces to fragrances to clothing in the McKinley Park neighborhood. Located at 3344 S. Wood, this event promises ample street parking—but is just as accessible by transit! Go here for a complete list of vendors.

The Joffrey moves its version of The Nutcracker (set around the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition) to their new home at the Lyric this year beginning at 2 PM today; it runs through Sun 12/26 and tickets are $35-$199. But there are other versions of the story to explore, too. At 2 and 7 PM today, A&A Ballet brings back the Art Deco Nutcracker, choreographed by Alexei Kremnev, former artistic director of the Joffrey Academy of Dance, to the Athenaeum Theatre (2936 N. Southport). As the title suggests, this version features costuming, sets, and a storyline set in 1920s America, promising the sophistication of art deco. Tickets are $28-$48.

Or if you’d prefer a different kind of terpsichorean treat than the seasonal favorite, Synapse Arts offers a free site-specific dance and music performance at the Uptown Public Library (929 W. Buena), beginning at 11 AM. Synapse dancers Rachel Damon, Kait Dessoffy, and Chartamia “Shay” Turner with musician Tom Benko “activate” the library lobby and public spaces. You can watch the whole thing, or just drop by for a few minutes. A limited number of chairs will be available.

Underground DJ Miley Serious gets her revenge on Chicago tonight in her final stateside headliner show before returning to France. In her last Windy City appearance, the style icon and music extraordinaire’s party was raided before she got to perform! Thankfully, she’s playing an above ground venue tonight—though ticket holders will have to wait until Saturday to receive the address. Show kicks off at 10 PM and includes sets by Kona FM, Makeen, and Him Hun. $15, 21+.

Sun 12/5

Today’s the final day for the Red Rover reading series takeover of the NFO XPO section of the exhibition “Successful Failures” (see Thursday’s entry for more details). Red Rover has programmed a variety of readers from poets to playwrights offering words and art in daily time slots since Tuesday, and today’s readers (starting at 10 AM) include the LRNA Digital Media Collective and Ayako Kato. A full calendar of readers and details about the event are available at tinyurl.com/redroverseries (and in the image below).

Bunch of fools? More like Brunch of Foos at Lo Rez Brewery and Taproom (2101 S. Carpenter). At this pop-up brunch, DJs Flores Negras and Cozmiika will soundtrack a one-of-a-kind feast provided by SouthAveCatering with micheladas from Melis Miches and non-alcoholic drinks from Coast Dry Bar. After dining, cruise their unique mix of local vendors appealing to tropical and gothic tastes. The event happens from noon-5 PM and is open to those 21+.

Paintings, textiles, ceramics, and more! If you’re looking for a north side art market, hit up the Chicago Winter Art Fair at Sleeping Village (​​3734 W. Belmont). From 1-5 PM, over 20 local artisans will be selling their wares in a hip atmosphere with killer music. This event is free, but you must be 21+ to attend.

The Goodman Theatre isn’t just about A Christmas Carol this month. While that chestnut continues roasting on the Albert stage, the company’s New Stages Festival warms up the Owen space with new plays in various stages of development. Two shows get workshop productions running in rotating rep: Nightwatch by Max Yu (directed by former Victory Gardens artistic director Chay Yew), in which a college dropout in San Francisco returns to Chinatown and begins finding out secrets about his late father and the family’s history with the Chinese Communist Cultural Revolution. Tonight at 7:30 PM, you can see Martin Yousif Zebari’s Layalina (directed by Sivan Battat), about an Iraqi immigrant woman’s life between 2003, when she left Baghdad, and 2020 in Chicago. The whole festival, which also includes staged readings by several other writers, runs through 12/19; schedule and ticketing information is at goodman theatre.org.

Mon 12/6

The Civic Orchestra of Chicago celebrates J.S. Bach with its Bach Marathon—a series of concerts all around the city culminating in tonight’s finale concert at Fourth Presbyterian Church (7 PM at 126 E. Chestnut). For tonight’s program, the orchestra takes on the scintillating Brandenburg Concertos Nos. 1-6. Tickets are recommended for this free event, and available at the CSO website

For something a little different, but no less scintillating, the harpist Mary Lattimore is in town tonight and tomorrow night, bringing her “cascading, trilling strings” (as Reader contributor Steve Krakow wrote in 2019) to the stage at Constellation. The shows start at 8:30 PM, and experimental musician Ana Roxanne will play an opening set each night. Constellation is an 18+ venue, and tickets are still available for tonight and Tuesday.

Tue 12/7

First Tuesdays of the month are always Ladies Night Out Drag Night at the Promontory (5311 S. Lake Park West). Uncle Joe’s and La Familia Tacos will serve food while eight performers serve looks to beats by DJ Kid Riot. Hosted by Don Armstead. $15 at the door, $10 tickets available in advance, 21+.

A chilly day is a great time to warm up on the ice. Until spring, there are six city parks that promise to be the preferred spot for funny first dates and embarrassing family moments: Mt. Greenwood, ​​Maggie Daley, McKinley, Midway Plaisance, Warren, and Wentworth. Skating is free ($7 skate rental), but timed reservations are required to control risk of COVID-19. Most open skate times start at noon daily, but for hours at each park, a complete list of special programming, and to reserve a spot, visit the Chicago Park District website.

Wed 12/8

Nothing honors hump day like seeing Paul Verhoeven’s sexy new nun movie Benedetta, which conveniently is playing at the Music Box this afternoon and evening. The film is loosely based on the life of Benedetta Carlini, a 17th century nun and mystic who was persecuted for having a lesbian relationship. While the AP called it “nunsense” and likened the movie to “Showgirls in a convent” (way to threaten us with a good time!), freelance Reader film critic Cody Corrall described it as “a biting examination of Catholicism with a sly sense of humor.” Will you agree? Check the Music Box’s website for ticket prices and show listings.

The “crushing blend of industrial, doom metal, and shoegaze” (as our Gossip Wolf writers described them) that is the Chicago band Anatomy of Habit visits the Empty Bottle tonight for a record release show. They’ll play first at 8:30 PM, followed by Child Bite and noise rockers Human Impact. Tickets are $15 at the door or $12 in advance, and the show is 21+. 

Thu 12/9

Calling all BIPOC queer alterna-goths! Black Sheep, an all-Black alternative drag show, is happening tonight at Berlin (954 W. Belmont). Bambi Banks-Couleé hosts a night soundtracked by DJ Bonita Appleblunt with performances by XO Carrington, Siichele, Blackberri, and Luc Ami. Only the dance floor should get those temperatures rising, so be sure to bring a vax card! The venue opens at 9 PM, with the show starting at 11 PM, and Berlin is open to those 21+. 

Lumpen magazine has been chronicling Chicago’s underground for 30 years, which is an amazing run for any print publication. But Lumpen isn’t the only anniversary holder in the community of the future. Public Media Institute, the nonprofit art and culture organization that acts as a parent to a variety of programs turns 20 this year, Lumpen Radio (WLPN-LP 105.5 FM) celebrates five years of 24-hour broadcasting, and even the Bridgeport building that bursts at the seams with all these projects—the Co-Prosperity Sphere—has been open for 15 years thus far. You can explore all this work and more at Successful Failures, tonight’s fundraiser, live auction, and party celebrating it all at the Chicago Cultural Center. The party shares the same name as an exhibition on view until February at the center’s Michigan Avenue galleries, and you’ll be able to get a peek while enjoying food from Won Kim and other chefs involved in the Community Kitchen enterprise, along with Marz Brewery suds, DJs, and more. Tickets for the 6 PM buffet and toast start at $130, with a DJ party and auction only (8 PM and beyond) ticket available for $30.

And if you can’t make the party but you’re looking for some offbeat holiday shopping downtown, grab a cocoa and duck into the Buddy Shop on the first floor at the Chicago Cultural Center (78 E. Washington). While the store’s curated selection makes it easy to mistake for a museum gift store, Buddy is actually an artist-run space sponsored by the Public Media Institute and DCASE. It’s a great place to find works from artists across the city, including ones showcased in Buddy’s show, Ornaments for All. Thirty artists made ornaments or other hanging art objects in editions of five or more that sell for up to $50. On view through Fri 12/31, and the shop is open Tue-Sat, 11 AM-5 PM and Sun 11 AM-4 PM.

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