November 2018 events calendar for Chicago

Pack your month with the best activities, concerts, free things to do and festivals
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
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Fall in Chicago is in full swing, Christmas music is starting to invade coffee store playlists and Thanksgiving is just around the corner. Yes, November is finally here, and there's so much to do in Chicago this month. In addition to sipping Glühwein at Christkindlmarket, you can check out a festival devoted to barrel-aged beers, see the Lincoln Park Zoo illuminated in string lights, catch Michelle Obama at United Center and so much more. Once you've sorted out your Thanksgiving travel arrangements, start plotting out the month with our guide to the best things to do in Chicago this November.

RECOMMENDED: Events calendar for Chicago in 2018

 

Featured events in November 2018

Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Things to do, Late openings

ZooLights

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL, Lincoln Park
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When the weather gets cold and most of the animals head indoors, Lincoln Park Zoo tranforms into a a field of twinkling bulbs. ZooLights decorates the beloved zoo with themed displays, perfect for a seasonal Instagram. Throughout the month, you'll also find ice-sculpture carvers and carolers joining the fun, as well as hot beverages available for purchase. This year, ZooLights adds several ticketed events, including a Holiday Market (Nov 27), an adults-only night (Nov 29), a live performance of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec 9) and a Zoo Year's Eve celebration (Dec 31). 

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Christkindlmarket

icon-location-pin Daley Plaza, Loop
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You haven't experienced the holidays in Chicago until you've stepped inside this giant open-air market inspired by a similar seasonal tradition in Nuremberg, Germany. You'll be able to do some shopping at booths set up throughout Daley Plaza, where you'll find handcrafted German items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins and glass ornaments. It's also worth stopping by Christkindlmarket to grab a sausage and some potato pancakes, or to sip a steaming mug of Glühwein, a traditional hot spiced wine.

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Wein & Lager Bier Halle at 513 S. Halstead
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago History Museum
Museums, History

“Brewing Up Chicago: How Beer Transformed a City”

icon-location-pin The Field Museum | Chicago, IL, Museum Campus
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The Chicago Brewseum presents its first exhibition at the Field Museum, exploring the long history of beer in Chicago. Visitors will learn about the German-American immigrants who built some of the city's first breweries, introducing lager to the masses. You can also sit in a replica of the Sauganash Tavern (Chicago's first saloon) and check out a collection of beer-related artifacts, including an original Pabst blue ribbon and a 19th-century brewmaster’s kettle. Unfortunately, guests can't drink inside the exhibit, but the Field's Museum's bar will be happy to serve you a contemporary brew.

Christmas Around The World and Holidays of Lights at The Museum of Science and Industry
Photograph: J.B. Spector
Things to do, Exhibitions

“Christmas Around the World”

icon-location-pin Museum of Science and Industry | Chicago, IL, Hyde Park
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Every year, the Museum of Science and Industry puts up its 45-foot-tall Grand Tree and surrounds the towering pine with more than 50 trees that represent Chicago's various communities and their respective holiday celebrations. Visitors can admire the 30,000 lights that cover the trees and stick around for the "snow" that falls from the rotunda every 30 minutes. During the weekend, live performances of holiday music fill the room, lending some additional seasonal cheer to your day at the museum.

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Onlookers gathered in Millennium Park for the 102nd Chicago Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, November 24, 2015.
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do, Performances

City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

icon-location-pin Multiple venues
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Miguel Cervantes, star of the Chicago production of Hamilton, hosts the 105th annual Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, which takes place beneath a towering spruce in Millennium Park's Wrigley Square. Expect music, an appearance from the mayor and more than a little pomp and circumstance before the switch is flipped, marking the beginning of the holiday season in Chicago. The Christmas tree will stick around until January 6.

MillenniumSkating.venue.jpg
Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

icon-location-pin McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink, Downtown
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Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Admission to the rink is free, and you can rent skates for $13–$15. The most popular time to hit the rink is in the evening, so show up earlier if you don't feel like waiting in line for your chance to slide around. Take advantage of free skating lessons on Fridays at 11am and Saturdays and Sunday at 9am. If it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 10, weather permitting.

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A parade and fireworks entertained crowds at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, November 21, 2015.
Photograph: Stacey Rupolo
Things to do, Festivals

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

icon-location-pin Multiple venues
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Chicago's most well-known shopping district kicks off the holiday season by lighting up the trees that line Michigan Avenue. The fun begins on Friday, November 16, when Pioneer Court hosts family-friendly activities (including a visit from Santa Claus). On Saturday, November 17, stores on the Magnificent Mile will offer special experiences and offers throughout the day, before Michigan Avenue hosts a two-hour tree-lighting parade, which sets off from Oak Street. Head to the Chicago River by 6:55pm to catch the spectacular fireworks display that closes out the evening.

Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon
Courtesy Maggie Daley Park
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

icon-location-pin Maggie Daley Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park
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The Maggie Daley Park ice ribbon looks like a Mario Kart track, but you won't have to worry about dodging banana peels while you glide around the quarter-mile circuit. As you skate around the park's climbing wall and admire skyline views, you'll be able to stop for a cup of hot chocolate. The ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and will host a Skate with Santa on Saturday, December 15 from 10am to noon. 

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Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do

Chicago Toy & Game Fair

icon-location-pin Navy Pier, Festival Hall,
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Chicago is the birthplace of the Lite Brite, Radio Flyer Wagons, Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots, Lincoln Logs and Beanie Babies, so it's not surprising that the city has its own toy and game fair. The two-day event welcomes kids and their parents to test some of the latest toys while taking in events like a yo-yo championship and a giant bubble show.

Illumination
Photograph: Courtesy Morton Arboretum
Things to do, Festivals

Illumination: Tree Lights at Morton Arboretum

icon-location-pin Morton Arboretum, Suburbs
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When the weather gets cold, the trees at Morton Arboretum light up in a sea of color at this popular winter event. Guests at Illumination walk down a one-mile path through the forest, admiring the magical display and seasonal music. New features at this year's edition include tree-like sculpture from artist HYBYCOZO, a tree that changes colors when you hug it and campfires stocked with hot drinks and s'mores.

Concerts in November 2018

Siegfried
Photograph: Courtesy Lyric Opera
Music, Classical and opera

Siegfried

icon-location-pin Civic Opera House | Chicago, IL, Loop
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The Lyric Opera continues its production of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle with a staging of the third installment, Siegfried. The opera follows the titular hero on his journey to collect the fragments of a legendary sword, which he reforges and uses to vanquish a dragon that guards a hoard of gold and treasure. The five-hour production (with two intermissions) also introduces a cursed ring—a MacGuffin that should sound familiar to Lord of the Rings fans.

Tenacious D turned in a set on the final day of Riot Fest, September 13, 2015.
Photograph: Carolina Mariana Rodriguez
Music, Rock and indie

Tenacious D + Wynchester

icon-location-pin Riviera Theatre, Uptown
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Jack Black and Kyle Gass reunite as comedy-rock duo Tenacious D for two of shows in support of the group's new album, Post-Apocalypto, and a six-episode animated YouTube series that was drawn entirely by Black. As its title suggests, the pair's latest music confronts a post-apocalyptic world with tongue-in-cheek acoustic ballads and heavy metal rockers (with drums from Foo Fighters frontman Dave Grohl. Black's exaggerated vocal stylings are an acquired taste, but if tracks like “Tribute” and “Kickapoo” make your chuckle, you'll probably enjoy whatever the D has in store. Acoustic country duo Wynchester open the show.

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Low
Photograph: Shelly Mosman
Music, Rock and indie

Low + IN/VIA

icon-location-pin Rockefeller Memorial Chapel, University of Chicago, Hyde Park
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Putting the band's pristine vocal harmonies and sparse arrangements through a digital blender, Low's latest album Double Negative is a daring permutation of its signature sound. The beautiful song-craft of Alan Sparhawk and Mimi Parker is still recognizable, but producer BJ Burton finds interesting ways to deconstruct it, obscuring melodies with bursts of noise and turning rhythms into a serious of distorted thumps. It's the band's boldest reinvention since its 2007 album, Drums and Guns, and it's just as affecting as anything else in the Duluth, Minnesota act's catalog over the past 25 years. Minneapolis synth artist IN/VIA opens the show.

Photograph: Robert Kusel
Music, Classical and opera

Il trovatore

icon-location-pin Civic Opera House | Chicago, IL, Loop
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Love, jealousy and revenge dominate the twisting plot of Giuseppe Verdi's classic opera, which explores the relationship between aristocrat Count di Luna, the noble lady Leonora and the troubador Manrico. Il trovatore is known for its four strong lead roles, featuring baritone, tenor, mezzo-soprano and soprano singers that showcase the full range of opera compositions.

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Jack White
Photograph: David James Swanson
Music, Rock and indie

Jack White + The Nude Party

icon-location-pin Aragon, Uptown
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If you caught Jack White headlining Lollapalooza or his intimate aftershow at Metro earlier this year, you know that the former White Stripes frontman is in a nostalgic mood as of late. While he acknowledges the funk, hip-hop and jazz experimentation of his recent album Boarding House Reach in concert, White's live show is built around the bluesy riffs of his previous bands, including the White Stripes, the Dead Weather and his recently-revived side-project the Raconteurs. Yes, that includes an end-of-the-evening rendition of “Seven Nation Army.” Don't expect to get any killer Instagram shot during White's appearance at the Aragon—the Third Man Records owner has always expressed a preference for analog technology, so attendees at the show won't be allowed to use their digital gizmos and gadgets. All guests will be issued a Yondr pouch to keep their phone in upon entering the venue—the pouches lock themselves during the concert and can only be unlocked at the end of the show or in a designated Yondr Phone Zone.

Mister Wallace
Photograph: Tarek Hefny
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Mister Wallace + KC Ortiz + Roy Kinsey

icon-location-pin Subterranean, Wicker Park
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Local rapper Mister Wallace and Anthony "aCeb00mbaP" Pabey founded FutureHood as a platform for queer artists of color, removed from the restrictions and barriers imposed by a traditional record label. As part of the Red Bull Music Festival, the FutureHood crew will come together for a Black Friday showcase, turning Subterranean into an intergalactic space station with a killer soundtrack. FutureHood artists like transgender rapper KC Ortiz and librarian emcee Roy Kinsey will be joined by drag performer the Vixen, the DJs behind TRQPiTECA and DJ Rae Chardonnay for an evening that demonstrates the strength of Chicago's homegrown music communities.

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pitchfork 2018, saba
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Saba + Joseph Chilliams + MFN Melo + Frsh Waters

icon-location-pin Concord Music Hall, Logan Square
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For the second year in a row, member of Chicago's hip-hop community come together for John Walt Day, a tribute to the rapper who was murdered as he walked away from a CTA station last February. Walt's cousin Saba headlines the benefit, performing tracks from his recent album, Care For Me, which deftly grapples with the loss of a friend, mentor and collaborator. He'll be joined by members of the Pivot Gang hip-hop collective that Walt co-founded, including local rappers Joseph Chilliams, MFN Melo and FrshWaters. Proceeds from the event will be donated to the John Walt Foundation, a nonprofit that helps provide young artists with mentors.

Makaya McCraven
Photograph: David Marques
Music, Jazz

Makaya McCraven

icon-location-pin South Shore Cultural Center, South Shore
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Drummer and composer Makaya McCraven is the J Dilla of Chicago's jazz scene, but instead of chopping up his record collection into new beats, he uses tapes of improvised performances to craft taut grooves in the studio. McCraven's latest album, Universal Beings, takes his predilection for re-composition to new levels with an international cast of collaborators, who gathered for jam sessions in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and London. At the Red Bull Music Festival, McCraven will gather 10 of the album's players (including Tortoise guitarist Jeff Parker and London saxaphonist Nubya Garcia) for a special performance at the South Shore Cultural Center.

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Pitchfork Music Festival 2017, Jamila Woods
Photograph: Neal O'Bryan
Music, Rap, hip-hop and R&B

Jamila Woods

icon-location-pin Harold Washington Cultural Center, Grand Boulevard
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In the two years since the release of her revelatory debut album HEAVN, Chicago poet and singer-songwriter Jamila Woods has brought her soulful anthems to life on stages throughout the world. For the final night of the Red Bull Music Festival, Wood will turn in her final performance of HEAVN in the city where it was created, joined by an expansive cast of collaborators, including a string section, choir, poets, dancers and visual artists. It could be the last time you'll ever be able to hear some of these songs performed live, but the auspicious occasion should leave you looking forward to whatever Woods has in store.

Billy Corgan
Photograph: Paul Elledge
Music, Rock and indie

Smashing Pumpkins + Grandson + Albert Hammond Jr.

icon-location-pin Aragon, Uptown
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Billy Corgan has been feeling awfully nostalgic as of late, reuniting with original Smashing Pumpkins guitarist James Iha and drummer Jimmy Chamberlin (bassist D'arcy Wretzky was left out, for some reason) on a tour that draws liberally from the band's first five albums. The Shiny and Oh So Bright performances aren't for casual fans of the group—prepare yourself for a three-hour tour of the Pumpkins' catalog, with special attention paid to seminal records Mellon Collie And The Infinite Sadness and Siamese Dream. If you're the kind of person who went out of their way to visit Corgan's Highland Park tea shop, you'll probably enjoy yourself. EDM-inspired alt-rocker Grandson and Strokes guitarist Albert Hammond Jr. open this 101WKQX The Nights We Stole Christmas show.

See more November 2018 concerts

Free things to do in November 2018

ZooLights
Photograph: Todd Rosenberg
Things to do, Late openings

ZooLights

icon-location-pin Lincoln Park Zoo | Chicago, IL, Lincoln Park
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When the weather gets cold and most of the animals head indoors, Lincoln Park Zoo tranforms into a a field of twinkling bulbs. ZooLights decorates the beloved zoo with themed displays, perfect for a festive seasonal Instagram. Throughout the month, you'll also find ice-sculpture carvers and carolers joining the fun, as well as hot beverages available for purchase. This year, ZooLights adds several ticketed events, including a Holiday Market (Nov 27), an adults-only night (Nov 29), a live performance of music from A Charlie Brown Christmas (Dec 9) and a Zoo Year's Eve celebration (Dec 31). 

Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Shopping, Markets and fairs

Christkindlmarket

icon-location-pin Daley Plaza, Loop
icon-calendar

You haven't experienced the holidays in Chicago untill you've stepped inside this giant open-air market inspired by a similar seasonal tradition in Nuremberg, Germany. You'll be able to do some shopping at booths set up throughout Daley Plaza, where you'll find handcrafted German items like nutcrackers, cuckoo clocks, beer steins and glass ornaments. It's also worth stopping by Christkindlmarket to grab a sausage and some potato pancakes, or to sip a steaming mug of Glühwein, a traditional hot spiced wine.

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Onlookers gathered in Millennium Park for the 102nd Chicago Christmas Tree lighting ceremony, November 24, 2015.
Photograph: Jaclyn Rivas
Things to do, Performances

City of Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

icon-location-pin Multiple venues
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Miguel Cervantes, star of the Chicago production of Hamilton, hosts the 105th annual Chicago Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony, which takes place beneath a towering spruce in Millennium Park's Wrigley Square. Expect music, an appearance from the mayor and more than a little pomp and circumstance before the switch is flipped, marking the beginning of the holiday season in Chicago. The Christmas tree will stick around until January 6.

MillenniumSkating.venue.jpg
Photograph: Patrick L. Pyszka
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating in Millennium Park

icon-location-pin McCormick Tribune Plaza & Ice Rink, Downtown
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Skate under the Chicago skyline and within eyeshot of the Chicago Christmas Tree at the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink in Millennium Park. Admission to the rink is free, but if you don't own a pair of skates, you'll have to pay to rent some. The most popular time to hit the rink is in the evening, so show up earlier if you don't feel like waiting in line for your chance to slide around. You can take advantage of free skating lessons on Fridays at 11am and Saturdays and Sunday at 9am. If it seems too warm to skate, call ahead—this rink is open through March 10, weather permitting.

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Maggie Daley Skating Ribbon
Courtesy Maggie Daley Park
Things to do, Ice skating

Ice Skating at Maggie Daley Park

icon-location-pin Maggie Daley Park | Chicago, IL, Millennium Park
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The Maggie Daley Park ice ribbon looks like a Mario Kart track, but you won't have to worry about dodging banana peels while you glide around the quarter-mile circuit. As you skate around the park's climbing wall and admire skyline views, you'll be able to stop for a cup of hot chocolate. The ribbon stays open through March (weather permitting) and will host a Skate with Santa on Saturday, December 15 from 10am to noon. 

A parade and fireworks entertained crowds at the Magnificent Mile Lights Festival, November 21, 2015.
Photograph: Stacey Rupolo
Things to do, Festivals

Magnificent Mile Lights Festival

icon-location-pin Multiple venues
icon-calendar

Chicago's most well-known shopping district kicks off the holiday season by lighting up the trees that line Michigan Avenue. The fun begins on Friday, November 16, when Pioneer Court hosts family-friendly activities (including a visit from Santa Claus). On Saturday, November 17, stores on Magnificent Mile will offer special experiences and offers throughout the day, before Michigan Avenue hosts a two-hour tree-lighting parade, which sets off from Oak Street. Head to the Chicago River by 6:55pm to catch the spectacular fireworks display that closes out the evening.

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Soul Summit
Photograph: Mo Manley
Nightlife, Nightlife

Soul Summit

icon-location-pin East Room, Logan Square
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While it's been ousted from its longtime home at the Double Door, this killer monthly soul music party lives on at East Room with dusty grooves and rare soul that will keep the dance floor packed until 5am. Resident DJs Scott "Sloppy White" Williams, Dave Mata, Duke Grip and Mo Manley invite crate-digging experts to show off their collections of vintage vinyl.

Chicago Thanksgiving Parade 2017
Photograph: Jordan Avery
Things to do, Festivals

Thanksgiving Parade

icon-location-pin State St and Congress Pkwy, Loop
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Why watch inflatable cartoon characters float down the streets of New York City on T.V. when you can see them live and in-person on State Street in the Loop? Chicago's procession begins at Congress Street and heads north to Randolph Street, with marching bands, colorful floats and performers in tow. It ends by 11am, so you'll have plenty of time to get home and finish preparing your Thanksgiving feast.

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Caroling at Cloud Gate
Photograph: Peter J. Schulz
Things to do, Performances

Caroling at Cloud Gate

icon-location-pin Millennium Park, Chase Promenade, Millennium Park
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Show up in front of Cloud Gate (otherwise known at “The Bean”) to belt out holiday classics at this series of winter concerts and sing-alongs. It's free to attend and it's just a short walk to the McCormick Tribune Ice Rink if you want to go for a quick skate after you sing.

Wreathing of the Lions ceremony at the Art Institute of Chicago
Photograph: Max Herman
Things to do, Quirky events

Wreathing of the Lions

icon-location-pin Art Institute of Chicago | Chicago, IL, Grant Park
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On the day after Thanksgiving, the Art Institute's famous lions put on their holiday outfits as crews place wreaths around their necks. At the wreathing ceremony, cast members from the Joffrey Ballet's Nutcracker will lead a celebration on the museum's steps, complete with hot chocolate. After the ceremony, head into the museum to participate in family activities in the Ryan Learning Center.

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Theater shows in November 2018

Theater

Frankenstein

icon-location-pin Court Theatre, Hyde Park
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The internationally renowned Manual Cinema collective uses shadow puppetry, cinematic techniques and live music to stitch together Mary Shelley’s life and her world-famous work of gothic horror.

Photograph: Anna Gelman
Theater

This Bitter Earth

icon-location-pin Theater Wit, Lake View
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Black playwright Jesse clashes with his boyfriend, Neil, a white Black Lives Matter activist, over issues of race, class and their love for one another. Mikael Burke directs the Chicago premiere of playwright Harrison David Rivers’s two-person show.

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Writers Theatre
Photograph: Steve Hall
Theater

Twelfth Night, Or What You Will

icon-location-pin Writers Theatre, Suburbs
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Shakespeare’s classic rom-com centers around Viola, a shipwrecked twin who disguises herself as a dude and ends up in a complicated love triangle. Gender is bent, curmudgeons get their comeuppance and the food of love will surely play on in this production from Writers Theatre Artistic Director Michael Halberstam.

Theater

The Steadfast Tin Soldier

icon-location-pin Lookingglass Theatre, Magnificent Mile
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Ensemble member Mary Zimmerman directs this Christmas pantomime based off of the classic short story by Hans Christian Andersen. The story of the brave little tin soldier is gussied up with live music, acrobatics and spectacle galore.

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Theater

Rightlynd

icon-location-pin Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, Sheffield & DePaul
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Ike Holter’s Chicago saga continues with the story of a lone Alderman’s stand against a powerful real estate corporation aiming to gentrify her neighborhood. Lisa Portes directs the cast led by Monica Orozco.

Theater

Plainclothes

icon-location-pin The Den Theatre, Wicker Park
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During the busy holiday season, security guards at a Magnificent Mile department store face corporate pressure after a shoplifter puts half their team in the hospital. Spenser Davis and Kanomé Jones direct this retail rigmarole.

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Theater

Familiar

icon-location-pin Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lincoln Park
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Playwright Danai Gurira (best known for her roles in Black Panther and The Walking Dead) offers up this funny, fast-paced story of a Zimbabwean-American family preparing for their eldest daughter’s wedding in wintry Minnesota.

Photograph: Sam Grant
Theater

HeLa

icon-location-pin Greenhouse Theater Center, Lincoln Park
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Three stories—one from 1951, another from 1981 and a third from the distant future—intersect in this new play from writer J. Nicole Brooks. The result is a mashup of afrofuturism, astronaut Carl Sagan and the true story of Henrietta Lacks.

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