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The covers of Mike Phillips’ basement book stock feature screaming skulls, robot skeletons, murderous snakes, space cavemen, and mad scientists. They are gaudy, loud and scary but, at the same time, polished, absorbing and beautiful. And they are all for sale, through Phillips’ home-grown, H…

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Though the weather was chilly and wet, Mother’s Day this past weekend was brightened by the solidarity on display between mothers and sons at a Washington Park march. The Mother and Son March, which took place on the north lawn of the DuSable Museum of African American History, called for ac…

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It can be fun and even necessary, from time to time, to wander through life like an alien which has little understanding of what it is seeing and which is just now learning what the things of the world are. It freshens life and eliminates jadedness, an important thing for a critic to do, esp…

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Lots of plays address athletes' struggles and stresses, but Anna Ziegler's “The Last Match” does an unusually balanced job of presenting the ambition and anxiety, promise and pitfalls, triumphs and trials.

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Richard Wagner’s Ring operas are big propositions: they feature large casts, big choruses, huge orchestras, spectacular settings, and take about 17 hours in total to perform. This makes full Ring cycles costly propositions.

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Times haven't been this good for audio plays since before the advent of television. Less complicated and costly to create than Zoom or filmed works, they range from comedies and dramas to musicals and mysteries. Many have short runs but some are podcasts posted long-term. Here are a handful …

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COVID-19 has become part of the story of our lives and now also of our entertainment. Chicago Opera Theater has mounted a production of “La Hija de Rappaccini” (“Rappaccini’s Daughter”), the 1991 opera by Mexican composer Daniel Catán. American author Nathaniel Hawthorne is the grandfather o…

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There ought to be a word like “ennui” which, though it travels the world over, retains its linguistic specificity (in its case, a specifically French flavor of dissipation) but instead refers to the feeling of being overwhelmed at the vastness and hidden violence of American systems.

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When a child was born in Renaissance Italy, the family would often commission a "desco da parto" — a wooden birth tray, usually painted with narratives from literature or ancient history — to mark the occasion. (Lorenzo de’ Medici, the Florentine banker and art patron, kept the one given to …

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Millions of eyes this past weekend were trained on St. George’s Chapel in Windsor, England, the place where Prince Philip, consort to the Queen of over 70 years, had his funeral. I tuned in for the music, which even under strict pandemic regulations — resulting in a choir made of only four v…

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The title character in Tim Crouch's “I, Cinna (the poet)” has a severe case of writer's block. Even as he invites us to compose a poem along with him, the man torn apart by the mob in Shakespeare's “Julius Caesar” after being mistaken for a namesake conspirator questions the purpose of the p…

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Lyric Opera of Chicago released its latest free video on Sunday afternoon, a splendid collection of excerpts from Verdi’s “Attila” featuring four soloists, members of the Lyric Opera Chorus, and two pianists.

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Johann Sebastian Bach’s Goldberg Variations represents one of the great masterworks in all of classical music. It was written for harpsichord, but is often performed and recorded on piano. Mahan Esfahani, an Iranian-American harpsichordist, recently played the Goldberg Variations in a perfor…

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Like most 20-year-old college students, Khavon Thomas spends his time trying to balance school and life. Except in his case, “life” includes a budding career as a working photographer, in which he’s already had the chance to shoot the likes of Chance the Rapper and Juice Wrld, as well as wor…

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History is littered with posthumous success stories. Vincent van Gogh became a commercial and critical success only after his death. Most of Chaucer’s “The Canterbury Tales” were published after his death, so he too did not live to see the enduring success of his pathbreaking work.

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Lyric Opera of Chicago has released a free video celebrating the Ryan Center, the program at Lyric that offers intense training for singers at the beginning of their operatic careers and now also includes training for collaborative pianists as well. 

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Before the pandemic, Theatre in the Dark was starting to make a name for itself with a novel concept. The company's first show, the noir mystery-thriller “Three Stories Up,” was performed completely in the dark. Literally “noir,” it featured two actors playing multiple characters and live Fo…

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Chicago Opera Theater has now streamed the second new opera written as part of its Vanguard Emerging Opera Composer Residency, a commissioning and mentoring program for composers. The first opera was “The Transformation of Jane Doe” by composer Stacy Garrop and librettist Jerre Dye, a haunti…

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In his program letter for Northlight Theatre's presentation of Marin Theatre Company and Round House Theatre's digital world premiere of “The Catastrophist,” artistic director B.J. Jones says he once asked playwright Lauren Gunderson, “How do artists respond to this astonishing pause in our …

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The timing couldn't have been better for the release of “Duchess! Duchess! Duchess!” as part of the Steppenwolf NOW Virtual Stage if the theater had planned it. Coming just a few days after Oprah Winfrey's interview with Meghan Markle and Prince Harry on CBS, Vivian J.O. Barnes' 35-minute pl…

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A decade ago, Regina Harris Baiocchi formed 6 Degrees Composers, a collective of women composers who would regularly collaborate to present concerts of their own music. The composers themselves were often among the performers, but nestled in among them were also many of Chicago’s most vibran…

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Back in the before times, when I first learned that Court Theatre was planning a site-specific production of “An Iliad” at the Oriental Institute to celebrate both that institution's centennial and artistic director Charles Newell's 25th anniversary at the theater, I was thrilled.

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"Ground Floor," the Hyde Park Art Center's latest biennial exhibition of work from master of fine arts graduates at five Chicagoland schools in 2019 and 2020, is on through April 3, finally allowing last year's artists to show off their work.

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Haymarket Opera continues its tenth season with an all-Handel lineup. October’s “Acis and Galatea” showed that they could offer up serious opera and create a compelling production while imposing physical distancing on cast members. Lightning has struck twice, as Haymarket’s “Apollo e Dafne” …

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Chicago Opera Theater’s latest offering shows that the company continues to pioneer new ways to offer opera productions when in-person audiences are not permitted. Composer Kamala Sankaram’s “Taking Up Serpents” is a fascinating short opera centered on a small family: father, mother, and dau…

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Maurice Ravel’s “Boléro” is one of the world’s most recognizable pieces of classical music. It received big boosts into popular culture when it was featured in the 1979 film “10,” starring Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, and Bo Derek, and when Torvill and Dean won the 1984 Olympic gold medal in…

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While Hyde Parkers continue to struggle with regular postal service failures, Lyric Opera of Chicago got its message through loud and clear on Sunday. They offered a free streaming 75-minute concert performed by current members of the Ryan Opera Center and hosted by  Lyric’s music director d…

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We are approaching the one-year mark since the coronavirus pandemic stopped live performances with large audiences in their tracks. Organizations developed new ways of providing concerts or concert-like performances, the most notable development being online streaming. But that was only a pa…

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Definition Theatre is poised for an important role in the community. The company is showcasing Amplify, its new play commissioning program, with a series of filmed scenes Feb. 24 and 25, and is also preparing to break ground on its brand-new home in Woodlawn.

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The latest offering by University of Chicago Presents, which was available over the weekend, was a charming and intriguing look at Haydn’s String Quartet in G minor, Op. 20 No. 3. This is one of the so-called “Sun” Quartets, not because the work was seen by the composer as sunny or evoking a…

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When I heard that Interrobang Theatre Project was continuing its eleventh season with a reprise of Canadian actor and playwright Daniel MacIvor's punningly titled “Here Lies Henry,” which had been shut down in March 2020 by COVID-19, I was delighted. I hadn't seen the live show, itself a rev…

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Artemisia Theatre recently launched an ambitious virtual season that includes two Zoom world premieres by Lauren Ferebee, this year's resident playwright, and eight audio plays on the theater's We Women podcast. Video discussions will follow the two productions streaming on YouTube, while bi…

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One of the unexpected advantages of the COVID-19 pandemic is that concerts you might never have attended have suddenly become available to you in new ways. Many events around the country and around the world have been made available for free via various streaming methods. One of the biggest …

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As a college student arriving from New York City, Joel Smirnoff came to Hyde Park seeking “a refuge from a musically saturated childhood.” Feeling a need to broaden his horizons, the violin prodigy chose history as a major.