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Packing Recommended The Short List (Theater)

6/19-7/12: available any time through ticketed remote streaming

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About Face Theatre presents a recorded streaming version of Scott Bradley's semi-autobiographical solo play, directed by Chay Yew. A "genderqueer vagabond" from Iowa embarks on a three-decade odyssey across multiple identities and locations, where his journey intersects with the AIDS pandemic, addiction, and the fight for marriage equality. Reader critic Dan Jakes called the show "an important document of queer life only a decade or two in the past but a world away culturally."

Home/Land Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Vimeo

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Albany Park Theater Project offers a streaming version of their critically lauded 2012 production about undocumented immigrants, written and performed by the teen ensemble and directed by APTP producing artistic director David Feiner.

Sexy Baby Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime on YouTube

Buy TicketsFree

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Hell in a Handbag offers up a free YouTube stream of their 2012 musical, a satire of child beauty queen pageants created by artistic director David Cerda and Scott Lamberty that former Reader critic Zac Thompson called "biting" and "hysterical." The show was chosen by the members of the company as one of their favorites and is presented free as a gift to the community during the COVID-19 shutdown, though donations to Hell in a Handbag are of course welcome.

The Infinite Wrench Goes Viral Recommended The Short List (Theater)

Available in streaming format through Patreon anytime.

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The Neo-Futurists take their signature show, featuring 30 plays in 60 minutes, online during the COVID-19 crisis. The Neos offer five membership levels ranging from $3 ("Elbow Bump"), which comes with a link to a website where you can set your own timer for 60 minutes and watch all 30 plays, to $100 ("An Extended, Almost Uncomfortable Hug"), which brings a full array of perks including a customized play on a subject of your choosing. The menu includes older archival plays as well as new ones that are being created in quarantine by the ensemble.

There Is a Happiness That Morning Is Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available any time through YouTube

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Houston's Catastrophic Theatre has had a long relationship with Chicago playwright and Theater Oobleck cofounder Mickle Maher. During the COVID-19 shutdown, they are sharing some past productions of his work through their YouTube channel. They kicked off with The Hunchback Variations, and now add their 2013 production of this play, originally staged by Oobleck in Chicago in 2011. Two William Blake scholars and longtime lovers, Ellen and Bernard, deliver lectures on the poet's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience and struggle with the demand by their dean that they apologize for having public sex on the quad.

Medusa Undone Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through company website or YouTube channel

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Otherworld Theatre offers a free streaming version of last spring's production of a play by Bella Poynton, directed by Tiffany Keane Schaefer, that retells the story of the legendary gorgon as a critique of rape culture, with Medusa caught in a love triangle between Athena and Poseidon. Reader critic Josh Flanders wrote "The god-human relationship here is a metaphor for celebrity idolatry and the lack of consequence so many with power have maintained, as well as the dangers of living for others versus ourselves."

Still/Here Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available online anytime through Vimeo

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Free Street offers a free streaming version of this 2019 show (subtitled Manifestos for Joy and Survival), in which survivors of an apocalyptic event in Chicago provide memories of the struggles that defined their lives before the catastrophe, including fighting gentrification and racism. The narrative is drawn from interviews conducted with over 400 Chicago community members.

Feast Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime on Vimeo

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As a gift to the community during the COVID-19 pandemic, Albany Park Theater Project offers a free streaming Vimeo version of this show, first created in 2010 and revived in 2015 at the Goodman about immigrant communities, food, and the politics surrounding those topics. Feast was created by the APTP youth ensemble and directed by artistic director David Feiner.

The Happiest Place on Earth Recommended The Short List (Theater)

Available streaming anytime through website

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Sideshow Theatre Company offers a streaming version of writer-performer Philip Dawkins's 2016 Jeff Award-winning autobiographical solo show, directed by Jonathan L. Green, about his family's history with tragedy while living in the shadow of Disneyland. The show is available on a pay-what-you-wish basis through Sideshow's website during the COVID-19 crisis.

Johnny Johnson Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Mondays-Sundays

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Chicago Folks Operetta continues its "Operetta Delivered" series of free streaming archived performances with Kurt Weill and Paul Green's 1936 anti-war piece, presented by the company in its Chicago premiere in 2017. Reader critic Albert Williams wrote "Though not a success in its time, Johnny Johnson is a work of landmark historical significance. And despite some flaws, this production packs a real emotional impact with its quirky yet lyrical music, expressionistic visual design, and timeless theme of a common man caught up in the madness of war."

Parched Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Vimeo

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Free Street Theater offers a free streaming version of their 2019 show about the politics of water, pollution, and corporate theft of resources. Reader critic KT Hawbaker wrote of that production "Devised over the course of ten months by Free Street's youth ensemble, students aged 14-19, Parched is driven by vignettes drawn from interviews with researchers, activists, and community members. In that respect, it's a combo of journalism and performance, resulting in passionate storytelling that feels informed and brave."

My Body's Image, Delayed Free

Through 7/24: new videos released every Friday at 7 PM through the Theatre Y website.

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Theatre Y celebrates its 15th anniversary and its ongoing collaboration with Hungarian-Romanian playwright and poet András Visky through this anthology of videos created in quarantine by company members, inspired by Visky's work and integrating mirrors as part of the visual vernacular. Artistic director Melissa Lorraine, Visky, and members of the ensemble will also participate in virtual conversations about the work.

The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 4—LOCKDOWN!

6/25-8/15: available any time online with purchase

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Quarantine can't keep Hell in a Handbag from continuing their long-running franchise parody of The Golden Girls. In this recorded online edition, written by artistic director David Cerda and directed by Spenser Davis, the "girls" are quarantined together for 30 days after Blanche is exposed to Legionnaires' disease.

ComedySportz Free

Mondays-Saturdays

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ComedySportz offers an array of games-based improvisation shows during the COVID-19 shutdown. On Fridays and Saturdays, 7:30 and 9:30 PM, Virtual ComedySportz features their classic format of two teams of improvisers, plus a ref. The audience can join with suggestions and vote for the winning team via Zoom. Every other Wednesday at 7 PM, beginning on April 8, the company performs Virtual Vino Veritas, pairing Susan Haarman and two storytellers, plus wine, to share some stories over Zoom. And for families with kids, ReCeSz runs noon-12:30 PM Mon-Fri, with ComedySportz training center instructors leading youngsters through games and a dance party to break up the daily routine. July 20-August 7, the company offers a virtual summer comedy camp for youth, focused on improv games, scene and character work, and stand-up comedy. The camp fee is $100. All other content is free, but donations accepted.

Masque of the Red Coronavirus Free 18+

Available on the company website anytime.

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Black Button Eyes Productions presents an interlocking series of videos performed by various artists that mash up Edgar Allan Poe's classic horror tale, "The Masque of the Red Death," in which a prince and his entourage try to cheat a pandemic by taking sanctuary in a pleasure palace, with contemporary articles about how the wealthy and the extremely wealthy are taking refuge in luxury during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a note on the website, company artistic director Ed Rutherford observes "way too many lines of The Prince are quoted verbatim from a public figure."

Throwing Shade Podcast Free

Mondays-Sundays

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Eclectic Full Contact Theatre presents this hardboiled satire of 1930s crime drama, in which "The Shade" finds himself in need of assistance from "The Vamp." New episodes are unveiled every Wednesday.

Freak Show Cabaret Free

Available anytime via YouTube and Facebook

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Experimental musician and performer Sophia Lucia, who studied performing arts at University of Illinois-Chicago, offers a livestreamed version of her one-woman alternative variety-cabaret show, recorded in quarantine from her home in Paris. It's available via YouTube and her Facebook page, and the music is also available through Bandcamp.

Shakes@Home Free

Available anytime through the website

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In response to the COVID-19 shutdown, Chicago Shakespeare provides an online anthology of learning activities, readings, archived discussions of past shows, and more. These include a new podcast, Asides, which analyzes some of the most famous direct audience addresses in the Shakespearean canon; actor-chef John Tufts's "Cook Like Shakespeare" series; and favorite moments in past productions.

Keeping Curious Free

Available anytime online through company website or Facebook page

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Lookingglass Theatre offers several free online programs during the COVID-19 shutdown. The Infinite Room Podcast brings together artists and activists to discuss the importance of storytelling in creating community. Episodes include discussions of public housing policies with ensemble member J. Nicole Brooks, author and director of Her Honor Jane Byrne, which had to cancel most of its run due to the shutdown, and ensemble members David Catlin and Mary Zimmerman discussing how to put epic adventures onstage. On Tuesdays at noon CDT, Lookingglass artists offer "Lookingglass Live," a free 15-minute workshop on topics such as yoga and comedy. Finally, Through the Lookingglass showcases company artists at home performing various songs, stories, and poems.

2666 Free

Available anytime through the Goodman Theatre website.

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The Goodman Theatre presents a streaming version of their epic 2016 adaptation of Roberto Bolaño's novel, adapted and directed by Robert Falls and Seth Bockley. The five-part, five-and-a-half-hour show captures the Chilean writer's story of crime in Santa Teresa, his fictional stand-in for Mexico's Ciudad Juárez, where hundreds of women have been murdered since the 1990s. As described by former Reader critic Zac Thompson, the intersecting worlds of the play include "four European academics, a literature professor and his teenage daughter, a New York reporter covering a boxing match, the police detectives investigating the murders, and an elderly German novelist—not to mention a cavalcade of secondary artists, thugs, do-gooders, lost souls, obsessives, and creeps."

The Hunchback Variations Free

Available via YouTube any time

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Mickle Maher, a cofounder of Chicago's highly influential Theater Oobleck, created two versions of his heartbreakingly hilarious story involving Beethoven and Quasimodo at an academic conference, discussing their fruitless collaborative attempt to capture an impossible sound cue in Anton Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard: "A distant sound, as if from the sky: the sound of a breaking string—dying away, sad." First done as a straight play in 2001, Maher and composer Mark Messing reconfigured it as a chamber opera in 2012. This streaming YouTube version is of a production of the nonmusical original at Houston's Catastrophic Theatre, which has produced several of Maher's plays over the years.

The Second City Free

See website for full information

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The Second City offers free improv and sketch content online during the COVID-19 shutdown, with Improv House Party, in which "co-quarantined pairs convene digitally to improvise their hearts out in this wild west of comedy streaming live from everyone's bunker." Check in with the Second City Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram accounts, or the Second City website. New episodes are available Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday at 7 PM CDT. The other free shows include The Really Awesome Improv Show, styled similarly to Whose Line Is It Anyway?", every Thursday at 1 PM CDT and The Last Show Left on Earth, a half-hour sketch and variety show coproduced by the Second City and Topic, which will be releasing new episodes weekly featuring comedy and music artists such as Jack McBrayer, Jeff Tweedy of Wilco, and Fred Willard. The Second City also offers online classes for varying rates during the shutdown.

Laugh Factory Free

Available anytime through YouTube

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Laugh Factory, which has outlets in Chicago as well as Hollywood and Long Beach, CA, offers free content through their YouTube channel.

Take Me to the World: A Sondheim 90th Birthday Celebration Free

Available any time on YouTube

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In honor of Stephen Sondheim's 90th birthday and the 50th anniversary of the Broadway opening of Company, Raúl Esparza, who won a Tony as Bobby in the 2006 revival of the latter, produced this all-star virtual concert of Sondheim's work. The lineup includes performances and tributes from Patti LuPone, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Nathan Lane, Bernardette Peters, Kelli Peters, and many others. Mary-Mitchell Campbell served as music director and Paul Wontorek as director. Available free, but donations accepted for ASTEP (Artists Striving to End Poverty), a nonprofit founded by Campbell and Juilliard students to help youth in underserved communities receive access to arts training.

Otherworld Theatre

Available online anytime

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Dedicated to sci-fi and fantasy, Otherworld offers a menu of online options—some free, some available through donations—on YouTube and Patreon, from free weekly installments of Improvised Dungeons & Dragons (created with Out on a Whim) to Stupid Shakespeare's take on Pericles, PickleRickicles, which had to end its run early due to the COVID-19 shutdown. They're also offering a reading series via podcast and their monthly open mike, Theatre of Ted, as a Facebook Live event on Saturdays.

Out of Touch Free

Available streaming via website anytime

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Annoyance created this original sketch show, available free in a streaming format, via a team of nine performers and crew living in quarantine together for 10 days at the theater. The March 28 performance is now available anytime through the theater's website.

Chicago Offstage! Live at Home Free

Sun 4/19, 6 PM; available through YouTube anytime after

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Season of Concern, Chicago's fund for members of the theater community facing illness, injury, or other circumstances that keep them from working, presents this livestreaming concert featuring prominent vets of the musical theater world in Chicago and beyond. The talent roster includes Tony winner Jessie Mueller, E. Faye Butler, Michael Mahler, Bethany Thomas, and Honey West, among many others. Ana Belaval of WGN-TV hosts and interviews the stars between performance segments. Christopher Pazdernik, the casting and company manager of Porchlight Music Theatre, serves as creative producer for this concert in quarantine. Free through the Season of Concern YouTube channel, but donations accepted.

Joffrey Ballet Free

Available through the company website or YouTube channel anytime

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During the COVID-19 shutdown, the Joffrey highlights a different production from its history every week with production footage and behind-the-scenes interviews with artists involved in the show. Every Thursday at 2 PM, the Joffrey also features "On Cue," a weekly check in (via Instagram) with a Joffrey company artist about "how they’re staying fit, what they’re doing to stay sane and even share some of their favorite quarantine recipes."

Play(s) at Home : A Green Theatre Festival Free

Available any time through YouTube

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Connective Theatre Company presents the second installment in its series of original short plays on the COVID-19 crisis. In this collection, writers from around the globe submitted pieces examining the role the pandemic plays in environmental issues. The selected titles were then rehearsed and shot remotely from the artists' homes.

Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble Free

Available anytime on YouTube

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Chicago Danztheatre Ensemble offers short videos from various works, including excerpts of What We Carried, which was originally scheduled for May. The collaboration with Jean Parisi focused on stories of those seeking asylum in the U.S. The videos also include excerpts from i bet you think this dance is about you, choreographed by Sara Maslanka.