Theater Festivals, a Storytelling Show, and Other Stage Events to See in Chicago This Summer

The Music Man/Photo courtesy of Goodman Theatre

Topics of hallucinogenic mushrooms, interspecies romance, drag queens, and aliens take the spotlight at some of Chicago’s most anticipated theater productions this summer.

A scene from “Ms. Blakk for President.” / Photo courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre Company/Facebook

Ms. Blakk for President
Joan Jett Blakk is a living legend, and this is her story. Meet America’s first drag queen presidential candidate and celebrate a show that brings queerness into the light and asks who we allow to be at the table. This production is a game changer and a must-see!
Details: Through July 14 at Steppenwolf Theatre

Something Clean
What would you do if your child was arrested for sexual assault? How would this affect your identity? Your worldview? To what degree would you take responsibility as a parent? Something Clean, by Selina Fillinger, commissioned by Sideshow Theatre, forces us all to ask ourselves these questions via the experience of Charlotte, a respected community member and mother.
Details: Through July 21 at Sideshow Theatre

STILL/HERE: Manifestos for Joy and Survival
In a city like Chicago, which is constantly changing, how do marginalized communities resist, stay present, and cultivate joy and justice? Catch this ensemble-devised play by Free Street Theater in one of four park-based locations. As always, the shows are free or pay-what-you-can! I have the honor of being the assistant director/stage manager for this heart-filled, family-friendly production.
Details: July 25 at South Shore Cultural Center; July 27 at Humboldt Park; August 1 at Cornell Square; August 1 at Walsh Park

Bury Me
Five months into an unexpected pregnancy, a couple visits the soon-to-be-father’s hometown of Pacific, Missouri. When he gets into a fender-bender and his sister shares a pro-choice essay that she wrote, the expectant couple and their family will have to grapple with their beliefs and choices. Don’t miss this complex and vulnerable new play from Brynne Frauenhoffer.
Details: Through July 28 at Dandelion Theatre

Strange Heart Beating
I am dramaturging this world premiere by Kristin Idaszak, and I cannot wait to see how it all comes together! We are currently in rehearsals, and I’m blown away by the talent of the playwright, director, and actors. The play centers around two friends, Lena and Teeny. Lena is a single mother whose daughter goes missing. It’s Teeny’s job to find Lena’s daughter and solve the mystery of what happened. As Teeny searches for answers, she learns way more about the town and her best friend than she wanted. Even though this play is set in Minnesota, it’s a must-see for all Chicagoans who dare to have their world reflected back at them with care and real honesty.
Details: Through July 28 at Cloudgate Theatre

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein
Lookingglass brings a little Halloween to our summer with its rendition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. I am always here for this tale about humanity and monstrosity; giving and taking life; and the perils of seeking and finding connection, purpose, and identity. Don’t miss it!
Details: Through August at Lookingglass Theatre Company

A scene from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein / Photo by Liz Lauren/Courtesy of Lookingglass Theatre Company/Facebook

Ignition Festival of New Plays
Do you think you can handle six new plays in one summer weekend? Give it a go! Ignition Fest is one of my favorite events of the year! It’s free, ridiculously fun, and a great event for writers and theater-goers looking for something new.
Details: August 2-4 at Victory Gardens Theater

The Music Man
A con man arrives in River City, Iowa, bearing promises of a marching band in an attempt to make an easy dollar. The town librarian, however, isn’t buying it. Will Harold Hill pull off his scam and win over the skeptic? This musical featuring 72 trombones and a moral reversal is the story of unlikely summer love you’ve been waiting for.
Details: Through August 18 at Goodman Theatre

Talk Stories: An Asian American/Asian Diaspora Storytelling Show
Ada Cheng is a master storyteller back again with an evening of honest, vulnerable stories by Asian Americans. The space she creates is sacred, hilarious, and guaranteed to leave you thinking. Support this wonderful artist and this powerful series!
Details: August 21 at the Chinese American Museum of Chicago

Bechdel Fest 7: Momentum
Bechdel Fest is a series of new plays by emerging and established playwrights all dedicated to one thing: talking about something OTHER than MEN. This is the seventh iteration of this partnership between Broken Nose Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre. This series is guaranteed to have something in it for those of us ready for theater beyond the white male gaze.
Details: August 25-28 at Steppenwolf Theatre