Events with The Short List (Theater) | Chicago Reader

Events with The Short List (Theater)

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Blue Man Group Recommended The Short List (Theater) Canceled

Open run: Wed-Fri 8 PM, Sat 2, 5, and 8 PM, Sun 4 PM
Briar Street Theatre 3133 N. Halsted St., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$49-$104


UPDATE Sunday, March 15: this event has suspended performances for the time being. Refunds available at point of purchase.


The long-running show (22 years and counting in Chicago) featuring performers in blue latex paint, drumming, video, comedy, and other assorted mayhem continues. 800-258-3626

The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes, Vol. 4—LOCKDOWN! Recommended The Short List (Theater)

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.

Do You Feel Anger? Recommended The Short List (Theater) Canceled

1/23-3/15: Thu-Fri 7:30 PM, Sat 3 and 7:30 PM, Sun 3 PM
A Red Orchid Theatre 1531 N. Wells St., Chicago Old Town

Buy TicketsPreviews 1/23-2/1, $15-$25; regular run 2/2-3/15, $30 Thu, $35 Fri and Sat matinee, $40 Sat eve and Sun matinee


UPDATE Friday, March 13: this event has been canceled. Refunds available at point of purchase.


Sofia has been hired as an "empathy coach" at a debt collection agency, and finds that creating emotional connections in an environment of complicity is more difficult than she imagined. Jess McLeod directs Mara Nelson-Greenberg's absurdist comedy. 312-943-8722

Judy and Liza—Once in a Lifetime: The London Palladium Concert—A Tribute Recommended The Short List (Theater) Canceled

7/24-8/9: Fri-Sat 7:30 PM, Sun 2 PM
Greenhouse Theater Center 2257 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago Lincoln Park

Buy Tickets$25


Note: this event has been canceled. Contact box office regarding refunds.

Greenhouse Theater and Nancy Hays Entertainment remount this musical tribute to Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli, which closed early in March due to the COVID-19 stay-at-home order. Hays and Alexa Castelvecchi play Judy Garland and Liza Minnelli in a tribute to their 1964 concert at the London Palladium. Reader critic Albert Williams reviewed the earlier production, noting "Accompanied by a trio led by pianist Robert Ollis, Hays and Castelvecchi don't try to imitate Garland and Minnelli; instead, through song and storytelling, they share their own perspectives on the stars' enduring influence on them as artists in their own right."

The Greenhouse has established policies in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, including limited seating, required use of masks by patrons, and elimination of intermission. For questions regarding these and other policies, contact the box office. 773-404-7336

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.

Plays for the People Recommended The Short List (Theater)

7/8-11/8: see website for complete schedule

Buy Tickets$22 approximately (£19.62)

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Black Lives, Black Words International Project produces an online season of seven plays celebrating African American and African experience. The pieces will be performed live over Zoom for a period of five days, with audiences limited to 50 people per performance. The second day of each run will also feature a Q&A chaired by BLBW cofounders Reginald Edmund and Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway. The schedule is as follows:

7/8-7/12: Ride Share by Reginald Edmund, directed by Simeilia Hodge-Dallaway. A young African American Uber driver rides with a dark specter as he discovers the unsavory aspects of humanity. 

8/13-8/16: Proof of Love by Chisa Hutchinson, directed by Kyle Haden. A well-off Black woman learns some things about both herself and her husband when a car accident leaves the latter comatose. 

8/20-8/23: What To Do When You Don't See Yourself in the Story, by Anya Pearson, a piece that reckons with the lack of respect given Black women and celebrating and recognizing their work. 

8/24-8/30: Cell Surface by Dominic Taylor, directed by Jerrell Henderson, described as "a play about making a play in Zoom about two amazing African-American scientists, Dr. E.E. Just and Dr. Roger Young." 

9/16-9/20: The Immortal Goats by Idris Goodwin, directed by Tiffany Nicole Greene. After the removal of statues honoring colonizers, a committee has to determine who should be recognized in their place—within the running time of the play. 

10/12-10/17: Call for the Wailing Women by Katrina D. Richard, directed by Valerie Curtis-Newton. A modern-day Afrocentric retelling of Euripides's The Suppliants, about a group of grieving women in wartime desperate to bury their dead. 

11/2-11/8: The Emancipation of Yankee Oluwale by Wole Oguntokun, based on the story of David Oluwale, a British Nigerian whose body was found in the River Aire in Leeds in 1969, leading to an investigation of how the homeless and mentally ill man had been tormented by the police.

Manual Cinema 10th Anniversary Retrospectacular Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

7/27-8/23: available anytime; see website for more information

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Manual Cinema offers a monthlong free online festival of four of their past productions, featuring their blend of shadow puppetry, overhead projections, music, and movement. Each week, a new offering will become available at noon on Monday until the following Monday, when it will be replaced with a new selection. The schedule is as follows: 7/27-8/3: Lula del Ray, a coming-of-age story about a young girl obsessed with country music; 8/3-8/10: The End of TV, about the quest for meaning amid the barrage of advertising images in a 1990s Rust Belt town; 8/10-8/17: No Blue Memories: The Life of Gwendolyn Brooks, based on the life and work of the celebrated Black Chicago poet; 8/17-8/23: Frankenstein, the company's adaptation of the Mary Shelley classic. On 8/22, 8 PM, the company also presents a "tele-FUN-draiser" with company members and associated artists. The online content for the festival is free, but donations are welcome.

The Magic Parlour Recommended Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

Through 7/1: Fri 7:30 and 9:30 PM, Sat 4:30, 7:30, and 9:30 PM
Palmer House Hilton 17 E. Monroe St., Chicago Loop


This magic show is exactly what it should be: funny, lively, intimate, and utterly baffling. House Theatre of Chicago member Dennis Watkins blends quick-witted improv and physical comedy with freewheeling patter as he performs classic illusions. Though his sleight of hand is impossibly subtle, it was the mind-reading tricks that seemed to have drawn several inquisitive skeptics back for another look on the night I attended. A curio-shop intimacy encourages audience participation, and Watkins, with his Eagle Scout looks, clearly takes a mischievous pleasure in the unexpected. Just let your cell phone go off during the show and see what kind of fun he has. Drinks (wine, beer, and soda) are included in the cost of admission. —Keith Griffith 312-726-7500

Wet Cash Recommended Member Picks Free Agenda The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Fri 8 PM
Dark Tower Comics 4835 N. Western, Chicago Lincoln Square


Stand-up with a very big twist. Each week, performers at this showcase can do anything they want. One time, they ran a show where everybody on the bill and in the audience was named Derek. Plus, all donations benefit the fishbowl they toss their money in—hence the title. Expect, well, everything. 773-654-1490

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.

. . . And I Am Not Afraid Recommended Free The Short List (Theater)

Available anytime through Prop Thtr website

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Prop Thtr presents a free streaming version of this production from fall of 2019, presented then under the title I Am Going to Die Alone and I Am Not Afraid. Devised by the ensemble and directed by Anna Gelman, with music by Alec Phan, the play uses the Holocaust and its legacy as a lens for exploring bravery and tenacity in the face of violence and oppression. Reader critic Dmitry Samarov wrote "In a time when so many societal forces are hell-bent on dividing us along tribal lines, this powerful piece of theater shows how sharing the tribulations of one people must give all people pause."

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."

The Harold Recommended Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Wed-Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10:30 PM, Sat 10:30 PM, Sun 8 PM, Mon 10:30 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Improv teams use an audience suggestion to create interweaving story lines that result in a connected long-form narrative.

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 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.

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.

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."

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.

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.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company Recommended Member Picks Agenda The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri-Sat 8 and 11 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


Seven strapping men in swashbuckler shirts improvise a two-act Shakespearean play based on a title suggested by the audience. At the show I saw, "The Taming of the Jew" inspired the Bard's usual themes (religion, family, betrayal) and plot devices (murders, disguises, fortunes gained/lost) as well as an uncomfortably funny circumcision. Director-performer Blaine Swen, a veteran of long-form Shakespearean improv who swears they don't conspire during the intermission, has assembled a vigorous ensemble of actors and proven improvisers. Their experience doing Shakespeare flowers in the language: they relish iambic dialogue, execute perfectly timed asides, occasionally utter rhyming couplets (some hilariously forced: "Let us be quick-sa, and get to the bar mitzvah!"), and drop parodic phrases ("scurvenous knave," "midfortnight report") and well-placed anachronisms (the bar mitzvah had a DJ). Even the ending echoed the real plays: story lines resolved tidily—and uproariously. —Ryan Hubbard

ComedySportz Theatre Recommended Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Thu 8 PM, Fri 8 and 10 PM, Sat 6, 8, and 10 PM
ComedySportz Theatre 929 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago Lakeview

Buy from Ticketmaster$19


Part of a national chain of comedy clubs, this company is known for quick improv games (think Whose Line Is It Anyway?), but it also stages long-form improv. LCD screens and sophisticated lighting and sound systems amplify the sports-style improv of the company's eponymous production, ComedySportz. There's a snobbery in the Chicago improv community that looks up at the "art" of the long form, with its emphasis on story and characters, and down on the "entertainment" of the short, with its emphasis on games and punch lines. ComedySportz falls emphatically in the entertainment camp; its bottom line is laughter, and it gets plenty of it. The show is structured as a competition between two teams performing multiple games that require audience participation. A referee ensures that the players--a rotating roster from a company of about 50--work clean or they finish the game with a brown bag over their heads. The formula is practically foolproof: players may flash their quick wits in winning responses, but they're even funnier when they fail. In one game a team had to devise a pick-up line, each member contributing a word. Moving rapidly from player to player, the line developed: "Tonight-I'll-tango-with-your-face." Probably wouldn't work at a bar, but at ComedySportz it killed. --Ryan Hubbard 773-549-8080 or 312-559-1212

Mother Goose Lost! Free

7/11-8/12: Sat-Sun 1 PM through Facebook Live

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Eclectic Full Contact Theatre unveils its first virtual theater production. In this family-friendly offering, Mother Goose has retired and the evil Solomon Grundy decides to rewrite her rhymes. Her friends Nancy and Frank, along with Detective Joe Saturday, join forces to save her before the goose is cooked.

The Blackout Diaries Recommended Agenda The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Sat 10 PM
Lincoln Lodge 956 W. Newport, Chicago North Center


The gregarious Sean Flannery tells stories about adventures he's had inebriated out of his mind. He's joined each week by other comedians and the occasional layman—each with a drunken tale to tell. 773-251-1539

Manic Mondays Recommended Free Agenda The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Mon 9 PM
Frances Cocktail Lounge 307 E. 75th, Chicago Other South


Lauded stand-ups Taneshia “Just Nesh” Rice and Marlon Mitchell trade off the hosting for this weekly comedy showcase and open mike. 224-858-8304

The Armando Diaz Theatrical Experience & Hootennany Recommended Member Picks The Short List (Theater)

Open run: Mon 8 PM
iO Theater 1501 N. Kingsbury, Chicago Lincoln Park


An old standby, this weekly show transforms performer monologues (delivered by a different guest each time) into inspiration for a night of masterful long-form improv. The best-of-the-best iO talent typically make up the cast, so the show hops from literal moments from the story to abstract, playful scenes with aplomb.

Of Dice and Men Recommended

Opens Fri 7/31, 7 PM CDT; free through 8/14, then on a paid basis

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Otherworld Theatre offers a show designed for digital performance, written by Cameron McNary and directed by James Martineau. The story follows a Dungeons and Dragons master, James Francis, who finds his life turned topsy-turvy when one of his friends enlists in the military and his romantic relationship going nowhere. The show is free via Otherworld's YouTube channel from July 31 to August 14, and then afterward on a paid basis through their Patreon. Recommended for ages 14+.

ALAS Recommended

Opens 7/31, then in an open run available for streaming anytime with purchase

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Trap Door Theatre presents this streaming production, based on a fragment of the play Cabaret of Words by Matei Visniec, translated by Daniela Șilindean and directed by Michael Mejia. A group of citizens in a utopia realize that their "perfect world" requires sacrifice to be sustained, and must grapple with their own privilege and complicity. Visniec, whose work has frequently been seen at Trap Door, gives a surreal spin to questions of our own modern-day complacency. An international cast of 16 brings this virtual play to life, with choreography by Dane Strange and Ashleigh Abbot and sound design by Mejia. Tickets go on sale July 15, with the streaming production available beginning July 31 in an open run. It can be viewed anytime after purchase.

Cole's Virtual Open Mic Recommended Free 21+ The Short List (Theater)

Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.


Cole's Bar's longtime comedy open mike night is continuing on Zoom. Performer sign-up information and Zoom meeting information updated each Wednesday at the Cole's website.

Cole's Comedy Open Mike Recommended Member Picks Free 21+ Agenda The Short List (Theater)

Wednesdays, 9:30 p.m.
Cole’s 2338 N. Milwaukee, Chicago Logan Square


UPDATE: as of Wednesday, March 11, 2020 at 11:00 PM, this event has been canceled until further notice. A virtual open mike has been scheduled in its place.


Hosted by Carly Kane and Alex Kumin, this scrappy showcase boasts about 50 comics a week. 773-276-5802