Ami Vitale
Credit: © Ami Vitale

Whether beginning the new year with in-person programs this January, honoring Black History Month in February or marking National Women’s Month in March, Chicago offers a host of shows made by possible by female talents.

The Auditorium Theatre’s National Geographic Live series begins with “Wild Hope” (March 13) featuring Ami Vitale. Through pictures and anecdotes, the National Geographic photographer and filmmaker will relay her tales of Kenya’s first indigenous-owned and run elephant sanctuary and the reintroduction of northern white rhinos and giant pandas in the wild. “We look forward to kicking off the series with the incredible Ami Vitale who will share her compelling wildlife stories while showcasing her inspiring work,” confirms Auditorium Theatre CEO Rich Regan.

Chicago Sinfonietta presents its annual Martin Luther King Jr. Tribute concert “Joie de Vivre” at Wentz Concert Hall (Jan. 16) and Symphony Center (Jan. 17). Under the baton of conductor Mei-Ann Chen, the event includes the Chicago premieres of Jessie Montgomery’s Soul Force and The Great Migration: A Symphony in Celebration of August Wilson by Emmy-nominated Artist-in-Residence Kathryn Bostic as well as three Florence Price works sung by baritone Will Liverman.

Black History Month
Steppenwolf Theatre Company debuts its new in-the-round Ensemble Theater with the world premiere of “1919” (Feb. 2 – March 6) based on Eve L. Ewing’s poems about the 1919 Chicago Race riots. “We are honored to bring this important work to the stage as part of our Steppenwolf for Young Adults series,” note Artistic Directors Glenn Davis and Audrey Francis. Eds. Note: Steppenwolf has postponed this debut until the fall of 2022.

“It feels surreal to know that this little book and the stories I tried to capture will find a new home on the stage, thanks to the incredible work of such an impressive and interdisciplinary group of artists,” adds Ewing, who is an urban sociologist as well as a writer. “I can’t wait for Chicagoans to have the opportunity to reflect on the events of the Red Summer in this new way, and as an educator I’m especially inspired and humbled to know that so many young people will have the chance to experience the production.”

Porchlight Music Theatre celebrates the music of Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, and others in the Tony Award-nominated play “Blues in the Night” (Feb. 9 – March 13) at The Ruth Page Center for the Arts, while Music of the Baroque hosts the Midwest premiere of “The Chevalier” (Feb. 20).

Presented with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Association and the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts and Concert Theater Works, “The Chevalier” details the life of 18th-century Black composer Joseph Bologne, a virtuoso violinist who was Marie Antoinette’s music teacher. Dame Jane Glover will conduct the Music of the Baroque Orchestra as it performs works by Bologne, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Christoph Willibald Glück.

National Women’s Month
Music of the Baroque will also stage “Classical Heroines” at Skokie’s North Shore Center for the Performing Arts (March 20) and Chicago’s Harris Theater in Millennium Park (March 21). Soprano Amanda Forsythe is set to sing Cleopatra’s aria Da tempeste from Handel’s “Giulio Cesare,” Dido’s lament from Purcell’s “Dido and Aeneas” and more.

“Kayla Drescher: Magic in Heels” (now through March 30) can be experienced at Chicago Magic Lounge. In a field dominated by men, Artist-in-Residence Kayla breaks the mold with her interactive magic show.

Talia Langman plays Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in
the world premiere of “When There are Nine” (Feb. 14 – March 13) at the Broadway Pride Arts Center. In dreamlike fashion, Sally Deering’s play depicts the late icon’s wit, sacrifices, and contributions.

“I was drawn to direct this piece because it’s so clear that real life RBG felt she had more work to do before leaving the court, and we really see her character wrestle with that in the show,” says the production’s director Sam Hess. “That urgency and ambition for more progress, paired with her physical fragility, lends itself to a heartbreaking fever dream and a totally new perspective on RBG.”

Ms. Arvia is a Rebellious columnist and movie critic; entertainment ghostwriter; award-winning artist; and grant-winning filmmaker.