The woe that is winter is winding down and with spring nearly in sight, it’s time to hightail it out of hibernation and check out what the cultural scene has to offer. From theaters and concert halls to movie screens, there’s more than enough happening around town to wake you up—and these six events are sure to get you going.
LAYLA AND MAJNUN
Choreographer Mark Morris brings love tale Layla and Majnun to the Harris Theater (Photo by Susana Millman)
Choreographer Mark Morris is no stranger to opera, having taken on everything from Salome to Nixon in China. Now, in a collaboration with Silk Road Ensemble, his troupe tackles this early 20th-century piece by Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hajibeyli. Drawn from a classic folk tale of unconsummated love, it is performed against an abstract backdrop by artist Howard Hodgkin, with singers Alim Qasimov and Fargana Qasimova giving voice to the lovers, and four pairs of dancers portraying the sad couple in motions that mix Western modern dance with Eastern motifs.
Chicago's brightest wax poetic at Louder Than a Bomb (Photo by RJ Eldridge/courtesy LTAB)
This renowned youth poetry festival—founded by the empowering literary organization Young Chicago Authors—rocks the Auditorium Theatre as teams of talented teens from across the city raise their voices in a final competition, judged by a panel that includes LTAB alum Langston Kerman, seen on HBO’s Insecure. “You will hear the hopes and horrors of young people from a vast swath of the city, speaking in their own words, about what it means to be a young person in this moment and time,” says event cofounder and YCA Artistic Director Kevin Coval. “It’s an electric evening.”
Orfeh and Eric Anderson star in Pretty Woman at the Oriental Theatre (Rehearsal photo courtesy of Pretty Woman: The Musical)
It’s got to be tough to create a suspicion-free Cinderella story in the age of #MeToo. Pretty Woman: The Musical, a pre-Broadway world premiere version of the 1990 film that propelled emerging star Julia Roberts to the stratosphere of cinematic fame, may be made for the moment. Released at a time when the collective consciousness wasn’t yet woke, this unconventional love story scored because the lady of the title is an in-charge hooker who falls for her rich client—on her own terms.
The Cinema Travellers was a highlight of DOC10 film fest in 2017 (Photo by Amit Madheshiya/courtesy of DOC10)
Presented by Chicago Media Project, this documentary film fest is a real feast for those whose taste for reality could never be satisfied by pampered housewives and ego-stroked bachelors. “In a world where ‘news’ is delivered in 140 characters or less and the truth behind social media is rarely questioned, the more deeply nuanced exploration of stories, issues and individuals within a feature-length doc is a wonderful antidote,” says Paula Froehle, co-founder and CEO of Chicago Media Project. Last year’s roster ran from The Islands and the Whales (a look at how environmental changes impact life on the Faroe Islands) to Obit, which tracked the travails of the obituary writers of The New York Times. This year’s lineup includes Oscar winner Morgan Neville’s Fred Rogers picture, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?.
All-access pass $250, April 5-8, Davis Theater, 4614 N. Lincoln Ave., 773.769.3999, DOC10.org
The Hypocrites theater company hopes to replicate the triumph of All Our Tragic (Photo by Evan Hanover/courtesy of Hypocrites theater company)
Sean Graney doesn’t do things by half, having recently served up the 12-hour production All Our Tragic, showcasing all 32 surviving Greek tragedies. Now, the founder of the wildly inventive Hypocrites theater company goes big again, with a four-hour adaptation combining the 11 surviving plays of Aristophanes, appropriately christened The Aristophanesathon. “We try to have a relatable approach to the material,” says Graney. “We see these plays as wonderful theatrical pieces that can elucidate our contemporary issues while entertaining.”
$60, April 6-May 27, Chopin Theatre, 1543 W. Division St., 773.525.5991, the-hypocrites.com
ALVIN AILEY AMERICAN DANCE THEATER
Alvin Ailey debuts two new works in March at the Auditorium Theatre (Photo by Pierre Wachholder/courtesy of Alvin Ailey)
Chicagoans have always had a soft spot for Alvin Ailey. No wonder. With its rich repertoire and performers of deep artistry and virtuosity, the company demonstrates again and again the soul-stirring power of dance. Of special interest this season are two Chicago premieres: Jamar Roberts’ Coltrane-accompanied Members Don’t Get Weary (a choreographic Ailey debut for the longtime company dancer) and Victoria, a tribute to the triumph of good set to Michael Gordon’s Rewriting Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, by Spanish choreographer Gustavo Ramírez Sansano.