Summer is officially here, in case the sweat and lightning bugs weren’t enough of a clue. In addition to the shows and artists we have profiled in our summer arts preview issue this week, we’ve got just a few suggestions for other offerings in theater, dance, and opera that look promising — whether you’re looking for a nice air- conditioned theater or a bucolic outdoor setting.
THEATER PICKS (Kerry Reid)
It Came From Outer Space
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than you dreamt of your philosophy.” So Hamlet knew about aliens, is what we take away from that. And therefore, it makes perfect sense that Chicago Shakespeare is premiering this musical by Joe Kinosian and Kellen Blair, based on the 1953 sci-fi movie. The company offered a digital sneak peek, entitled We Are Out There, last year; now you can see it live at Navy Pier (where, let’s face it, aliens would blend perfectly most days). Laura Braza directs a cast that includes Jonathan Butler-Duplessis, Ann Delaney, and Alex Goodrich. Through 6/24, Chicago Shakespeare, 800 E. Grand, chicagoshakes.com$ 50- $ 60.
Pearl’s Rollin ‘with the Blues: A Night with Felicia P. Fields
Fields, one of the bona fide greats in Chicago theater, takes over Writers Theater in this world premiere, which was created in collaboration with director Ron OJ Parson. (The two previously worked together at Writers in August Wilson’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom in 2019.) Fields delivers blues classics by Big Mama Thornton, Son House, Howlin ‘Wolf, and others, backed by a band headed up by Chic Street Man, as she tells the story of how the blues have influenced her life and career. 6 / 23-7 / 24, Writers Theater, 325 Tudor Ct., Glencoe, writerstheatre.org$ 35- $ 90.
Get Out Alive
Haven Chicago presents a new “multidisciplinary afrogoth” musical by Nikki Lynette that deals with abuse, trauma, and the mental health system. Roger Ellis and Lucky Stiff co-direct, and the cast, in addition to Lynette, features DJ P1, Keeley Morris, and Jacinda Ratcliffe. Over ten years ago, Jessica Hopper wrote in the Reader that “it’s unfair that Chicago MC Nikki Lynette is hip-hop’s other Nikki. Not that Nicki Minaj doesn’t deserve her celebrity, but Lynette certainly has what it takes to compete with all the singing-and-dancing rappers who are already getting over quirk, hooks, and charismatic flow , ”Adding,“ The city should be proud to call it its own, but given that Chicago is where hip-hop careers go to die, let’s hope it gets the hell out. ” She’s obviously stayed and survived, and has some stories to tell us about that. Lynette has also made the festival rounds. 7 / 8-8 / 6, Den Theater, 1331 N. Milwaukee, havenchi.orgpay what you can previews 7 / 8-7 / 10, regular run $ 36 ($ 46 reserved table, industry $ 31, students $ 21).
2nd Annual BIPOC Play Fest
Perceptions Theater started life at the beginning of the pandemic with a strong focus on digital content and new work, as well as with a playreading club. They’re ready to go live with the second iteration of this festival, which will also offer a streaming option for those who find that more convenient. The lineup includes Carlo Zenner’s Messabout “a Queer Latinx Chicagoan grappling with the disorienting effects of quarantine” and “the pleasures and pains of casual dating”; The Voice Inside My Head by Louis Johnson; Was It Me? by Andrea J. Fulton, the excerpt from a larger play about Margo, a 49-year-old woman confronting the effects of childhood trauma on the eve of a birthday reunion with old friends; and Kingdom by Nic Bell, the absurdist short work that focuses on “family, duty, free will, and the inevitability of fate.” 7 / 9-7 / 10, Studio 2226 Inc., 2226 E. 71st, perceptionstheatre.org for more information and reservations.
The Devil Wears Prada
Cruella De Vil or Miranda Priestly: who’s the scariest of them all? OK, Miranda didn’t want to make a couture out of canines, but as depressed by Meryl Streep in the 2006 movie, she’s become cemented in popular imagination as the Lady-Boss from Hell. Now a new high-profile musical based on Lauren Weisberger’s book about the cutthroat world of fashion hits the runway in Chicago before heading to Broadway. Sir Elton John wrote the score, with lyrics by Shaina Taub and a book by Kate Wetherhead. Former Steppenwolf artistic director Anna D. Shapiro directs (her first time helming a musical), and show stars Beth Leavel as Miranda and Taylor Iman Jones as her besieged assistant, Andy Sachs. Will a show about abusive bosses feel the same in a post-Scott Rudin landscape? You can be among the first to find out! 7 / 19-8 / 21, James M. Nederlander Theater, 24 W. Randolph, broadwayinchicago.com$ 33- $ 110.
Just in time for midterms, TimeLine pulls back the curtain on the campaign history spin with the world premiere of Will Allan’s play, directed by Nick Bowling. Based on the true story of Leone Baxter and Clem Whitaker, who formed the first political consulting firm in US history, Allan’s comedy offers and maybe-too-late cautionary tale about propaganda (aka “fake news”) through the lens of the married couple who torpedoed author Upton Sinclair’s (The Jungle) likely to become the first Democratic governor of California in 1934. (who was actually a socialist) in the worst possible light. Oh, thank god those days are behind us, huh? The company returns to their longtime Lakeview home for this season — the last before they move into their new spiffy Uptown digs. 8 / 3-9 / 18, TimeLine Theater, 615 W. Wellington, timelinetheatre.com.
DANCE PICKS (Irene Hsiao)
New Dances returns to the stage, continuing the Chicago dancers and choreographers together for a rapid-fire period of creative development. Inaugurated 39 years ago by Chicago Repertory Dance Ensemble, and now in its 21st season under the auspices of Thodos Dance Chicago and DanceWorks Chicago, this year features new works by Kaleigh Dent, Brandon DiCriscio, Trey Johnson, MurdaMommy, Marco Pizano, and Taylor Yocum .
“In viewing the works of the choreographers,” says Melissa Thodos, artistic director of TDC. “It is as if this diverse group of works was growing, seasoning, and gesturing in each of the artists’ minds and beings over these past challenging years.”
“Being able to create dance again in person has been jarring and exciting,” says Pizano, whose work combines pedestrian movement with vogue aesthetics. “It has been mind-blowing to see how far [we] pushed our bodies, ”says MurdaMommy, who trained her cast in Chicago footwork. “New Dances have been a wonderful experience of making new connections in the Chicago dance community, renewing old ones, and getting deeper into my choreographic voice,” says DiCriscio, who describes his work as “a story of intimate worlds destined to collide , indirectly influenced by a drifting external force. ” 6 / 23-6 / 25, Athenaeum Theater, 2936 N. Southport, danceworkschicago.org, thodosdancechicago.org$ 30.
Artist Showcase, Mandala Makers Festival
The Mandala Makers Festival presents a colossal lineup of South Asian dance, music, poetry, comedy, and drag at Indian Boundary Park, near Mandala South Asian Performing Arts’s new home on Devon Avenue. In addition to contemporary works based on classical Bharatanatyam, “the festival also shows less common forms embedded in South Asian arts, such as Sufi dances, Odissi, and forms from the Caribbean diaspora,” says Mandala associate artistic director Ashwaty Chennat, who curated the event.
Self-reflection and the persistence of change are themes of some works featured. “Prakriti II Our dialogue continues about our relationship to the divisiveness we see in this world, ”says Ishti Collective cofounder Kinnari Vora. “It is through movement that we express the ways in which we can cope and move on. We explore ways to pause and heal, reach for grounding strength, listen and open our minds, shed our egos, bring brevity and find joy in little things and seek empathy and kindness. ”
From remounting the 2014 work She CannotSoham Dance Space artistic director Anjal Chande says, “It’s mysterious how the body remembers movements, intentions, associations, while the body also persistently evolves.” June 24-26, Indian Boundary Park, 2500 W. Lunt, mandalaarts.orgfree.
OPERA (Deanna Isaacs)
Ravinia Festival Operas
What could be better than moonlight, a Mozart opera, and the CSO? How about two Mozart operas with a favorite conductor? Ravinia Festival’s offering two performances each of Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito this summer, both in the venerable Martin Theater with sound (or video) to the lawn. Former Ravinia music director James Conlon (longtime music director and principal force at LA Opera) returns to the leafy venue to conduct. The Don Giovanni cast includes baritone Lucas Meachem as the predatory title character, bass-baritone Craig Colclough as his hapless servant Leporello, and soprano Rachel Willis-Sørensen as Donna Anna, one of his many outraged prey. La clemenza di Tito features two of Chicago’s own opera superstars: tenor Matthew Polenzani of the Roman emperor of the title and soprano Janai Brugger of Servilia, the woman he would make his reluctant queen. The orchestra will be on stage with the singers. Metra’s Union Pacific North line is offering free transportation to and from Ravinia concerts this summer for passengers with concert tickets. Don GiovanniThu 8/11 7 PM, and Sat 8/13 1 PM; La clemenza di Tito, Fri 8/12 7 PM and Sun 8/14 1 PM; Martin Theater seats $ 125- $ 140; lawn admission $ 15; ravinia.org. Public gates open two hours prior to performance.