About the Town in February



By Philip Vidal



One of more than 100 performances in the Chicago area for Chicago Theatre Week, “The Book of Will” kicks off the Saint Sebastian Players’ 41st season, February 17-March 12. Photo courtesy of Saint Sebastian Players.


This year marks the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s “First Folio,” the first collection of William Shakespeare’s plays.  The Saint Sebastian Players’ 41st season continues with “The Book of Will,” a comedy/drama that reveals the true story of two of Shakespeare’s colleagues who, shortly after Shakespeare’s death, compiled and published his plays — by Lauren Gunderson at St. Bonaventure, February 17-March 12.  Like London in Shakespeare’s day, Chicago has a vibrant theater scene.  “The Book of Will” is just one of the more than 100 performances in the Chicago area that comprises  Chicago Theatre Week (in its 11th year), February 16-26.  Chicago Theatre Week offers value-priced tickets not only to dramas, comedies, and musicals, but also to music and dance performances.  Many of the performances that I mention below are part of Chicago Theatre Week.


Chicago is rightly world-renowned for its improv.   Chicago’s improv theater and school, iO theater, mixes improv and Shakespeare in “Improvised Shakespeare ChicagoSM” on Fridays and Saturdays at iO Theater through March 31.  And there’s Drunk Shakespeare at the Lion Theatre, open run.


Celebrating Brontë! Chicago Shakespeare Theater presents Wise Children’s “Wuthering Heights” at the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, through February 19. Photo courtesy of Chicago Shakespeare Theater.


Chicago Shakespeare Theater marks the anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare’s plays with “Folio 400: Shakespeare Un/Bound,” and performs Shakespeare’s “The Comedy of Errors” next month, March 9-April 16.  February, however, is focused on one of the Brontë sisters rather than the bard of Avon, when Chicago Shakespeare Theater brings a Wise Children’s theater company’s new take on Emily Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights” to the Yard at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, through February 19.  There is more Brontë in Chicago:  Frances O’Connor’s new biopic “Emily” (2022) received terrific reviews when it premiered at the Toronto Film Festival.  It will be released in theaters this month.  And Lookingglass Theatre in the Water Tower Water Works presents the world premiere of Sarah Gmitter’s “Villette,” which is adapted from the novel by Charlotte Brontë of the same title, February 8-April 23.


Goodman Theatre’s production of Lydia R. Diamon’s “Toni Stone” continues until February 26. Photo courtesy of the Goodman Theatre.


Chicago’s theaters celebrate Black History Month.  The Goodman Theatre’s production of Lydia R. Diamon’s “Toni Stone,” the true story about the first woman to play professional baseball continues through February 26. TimeLine Theatre Company presents the world premiere of LaDarrion Williams’ “Boulevard of Bold Dreams” February 9-March 19, set on the evening of February 29, 1940, when Hattie McDaniel became the first African-American to win an Oscar.  Lyric Opera of Chicago presents the world premiere of “The Factotum” at the Harris Theater, February 3-12.  “The Factotum” mixes funk, gospel, R&B, rap and soul with a little barbershop-style music.  This ‘soul opera’ is set in a barbershop on Chicago’s South Side.


See the journey of musical powerhouse Earth, Wind & Fire in Black Ensemble Theater’s “Reasons: A Tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire,” February 25-April 16. Photo by Black Ensemble Theater.


The band Earth, Wind & Fire was founded in Chicago by Maurice White in 1969.  Sadly, the band’s drummer, Fred White, died last month.   You can celebrate Fred’s legacy and the band by attending a performance of Black Ensemble Theater’s “Reasons: A Tribute to Earth, Wind & Fire” at their theater in Uptown, February 25-April 16.  In remembrance of White’s passing, I put my well-worn 1975 record of Earth Wind & Fire’s “That’s The Way of the World” on the turntable.  The song is as meaningful today as it was in 1975.


NBC 5 Chicago and Collaboraction present “Trial in the Delta: The Murder of Emmett Till” at the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center, February 9-19.  The murder of the Chicago teen in Mississippi in 1955 gave focus to the civil rights movement.


Early in the 20th Century, many African-Americans used the guidebook “The Negro Motorist Green Book” to help them identify towns, services and businesses that were safe and welcoming for African-Americans when they travelled.  You can learn more about this guidebook, and experiences of African-Americans, at the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s exhibition entitled “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” which continues through April 23.


Lee Bey hosts a tour of Chicago’s South Side in WTTW’s Building/Blocks: Architecture of Chicago’s South Side. Photo courtesy of WTTW.


WTTW reprises several programs for Black History Month, including “Chicago Stories: The Birth of Gospel,” “DuSable to Obama: Chicago’s Black Metropolis,” and “Ida B. Wells: A Chicago Stories Special,” and airs two new programs.  Filmed last April, “Live from the Harris Theater: Adrian Dunn’s Emancipation” showcases the first time an all-Black orchestra performed at the Harris.  Lee Bey, architecture photographer and author of “Southern Exposure: The Overlooked Architecture of Chicago’s South Side” (Northwestern University Press), leads us on a tour of the area in “Building/Blocks: Architecture of Chicago’s South Side.”   The program is based upon the Know Your Chicago tour produced in conjunction with Kurtis Productions.  I attended my first Know Your Chicago symposium, as well as a behind-the-scenes tour of O’Hare International Airport, last year.  Both were informative and well presented – altogether terrific.


Learn more about Chicago’s oldest African American congregation on February 26 at the “Quinn Chapel AME Church: History and Preservation” in-person event. Photo by Glessner House.


Organized in 1847, Quinn Chapel AME Church is Chicago’s oldest African American congregation.  Learn more about this congregation and its historic home on the Near South Side at an in-person event entitled “Quinn Chapel AME Church: History and Preservation” on February 26.  Reservations are requested for this free event co-sponsored by Glessner House, Friends of Historic Second Church, Second Presbyterian Church, and Quinn Chapel AME Church.


Founded in 1848 in Chicago, Morton Salt is celebrating it 175th anniversary.  The Morton Salt factory visible from the Kennedy Expressway has been a Chicago landmark for many years.   Last year it was transformed into an outdoor music venue, The Salt Shed.   On February 17 it opens its doors to indoor concerts.


Join Visceral Dance in their 10th anniversary season by attending their Winter Engagement February 17-19 and February 23-26 at the Visceral Dance Center. Photo by Visceral Dance.


Celebrating its 60th anniversary season, Giordano Dance Chicago performs on February 11 at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie.  Chicago Tap Theatre at 20: Tempo, Rhythm and Time” is the troupe’s 20th anniversary show at the Den Theatre, February 18-19.  Their anniversary gala follows Sunday’s show.  It’s Visceral Dance’s 10th anniversary season.  Their Winter Engagement is February 17-19 and February 23-26 at the Visceral Dance Center.


Be a part of Edra Soto’s largest exhibition to date by attending “The Myth of Closure /El Mito del Cierre” at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn before it closes March 5. Photo courtesy of Cleve Carney Museum of Art.


Chicago-based artist Edra Soto is having a moment with two back-to-back exhibitions:

The Myth of Closure /El Mito del Cierre” continues through March 5 at the Cleve Carney Museum of Art in Glen Ellyn, and her largest exhibition to date, “Edra Soto: Destination/Destino: A Decade of Graft”  at the Hyde Park Art Center, is presented April 23 to August 6.


Focusing exclusively on the work of the Spanish surrealist artist Salvador Dalí from the 1930s, “Salvador Dalí: The Image Disappears,” curated by Caitlin Haskell, runs February 18-June 12 at The Art Institute of Chicago.  Later, when Dalí visited Chicago in the 1940s, he is said to have drawn on the table cloth when he dined and drank at the Ambassador East Hotel’s famed Pump Room restaurant.  During the early 1940s Dalí painted portraits of two women who married into two prominent Chicago families.  My colleague and publisher of Classic Chicago Magazine, Megan McKinney, wrote about the Dalí portraits of Adah Wilson McCormick and Claire Dux Swift in her brilliant Classic Chicago Dynasty series about the Deerings/McCormicks  and the Swifts.  Focusing on Dalí’a life in the 1970s, the movie “Dalíland” (2022) starring Ben Kingsley was shown at the Toronto Film Festival and Zurich Film Festival in September 2022.


Returning to where I began, Shakespeare often wrote about love and the heart.  “Hear my soul speak. Of the very instant that I saw you did my heart fly at your service” is from “The Tempest” – words to inspire a Valentine’s Day celebration on February 14.



Dates, times, locations and availability are subject to change.  Please stay healthy and safe and keep up with the latest COVID-19 information, protocols, mandates and guidelines.