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Chicago Humanities Festival speakers and performers
Photograph: Courtesy Chicago Humanities Festival

Check out the Chicago Humanities Festival’s fall events lineup

Catch talks from Kal Penn, Alan Cumming, Teju Cole and more luminaries this season.

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Written by
Emma Krupp
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Need a dose of culture in your life? After slowly re-introducing in-person events to its roster over the summer, the Chicago Humanities Festival—which, like so many other cultural institutions in the city, pivoted to a completely virtual format during the pandemic—is returning this fall with a robust selection of in-person and online talks, live performances and more programming to round off 2021. The year-round festival frequently attracts big names in politics, journalism and the arts, and this season is no exception, with a focus on Chicago-based speakers and performers.

"As we gather together again, we are focused on celebrating and elevating the creativity that makes our city so great," Alison Cuddy, CHF’s Marilynn Thoma Artistic Director, said in a news release. "By spotlighting some of the tremendous community and culture in Chicago, as well as inviting in artists, actors, and scholars from around the globe, we hope that many people will rejoice in the return of CHF’s signature programming—from compelling conversations to truly unique performance experiences."

The longer-than-usual fall season kicks off on September 21 with a virtual conversation with Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth. From there, you can attend talks with people like New Yorker writer Evan Osnos (September 25); Broadway actress Sutton Foster (October 23); actor and newly-minted memoir author Kal Penn (November 6); writer Teju Cole (November 13) and actor Alan Cumming (November 21).

Other highlights include lectures on topics like water rights in the upper Great Lakes and Bronzeville's Wall of Respect and the Black Arts Movement, a conversation with Minding the Gap director Bing Liu (Oct 10) and a chat with brothers and directors Ron and Clint Howard (Oct 13). You'll also find a smattering of music performances, such as a talk/concert combo featuring local jazz musician Makaya McCraven (October 2), along with documentary screenings and live podcast recordings. 

Tickets for the fall season (many of which are free, by the way!) are on sale now—keep in mind that you'll need a mask plus proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test to attend in-person events. You can check out the full lineup, which will run through December, on the Chicago Humanities Festival's website.

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