Smile Politely

Five ways to heart your local arts scene this month: February 2020

With Groundhog’s Day and the Big Game behind us now, the bombardment of V-Day messaging looms ahead. And regardless of where you land on the anti or pro side of the biggest sales day for chocolate and roses, I’m here to tell you that the real way to fill your heart this month is with the sweet deliciousness of our local arts scene offerings. This editor’s heart and calendar are literally bursting with all the goodness in store. To be honest, I struggled over whether to extend this must-see list beyond my usual five offerings. Instead, I’ve taken some liberties with format and approach, including several “choose your own adventure” options along the way. 

This month, reclaim your heart for what it is intended for: deeply experiencing the human condition. Lest you think that what follows is all heart and flowers, allow me to remind you that hearts can be filled with fear, range, and despair just as often as they can be filled with love. As you consider which of these events to commit to, be brave and keep an open mind as well as an open heart. 

Now more than ever, there is much to fall in love with in our local arts scene. With choices ranging from bitter to sweet, grab a friend, or maybe even a date, and commit yourself to a relationship with something larger than yourself: the transformative power of art.

Go to the theatre and embrace the rollercoaster ride that is the human condition 

Image: Black and white photo of car interior and steering wheel, with the play’s title and a warning that the play contains descriptions of sexual abuse, incest, and its aftermath. Image from Parkland Theatre’s Facebook event page

How I Learned to Drive will require a lot out of its audience, but it will surely inspire courage, open-mindedness, compassion, and empathy. And if our world needs anything now its more of these precious commodities. A heart-breaking story of sexual abuse and incest, this production exemplifies theatre as catharsis and transformation. Ultimately a tale of survival, How I Learned to Drive reminds us that the only way out of pain and trauma is through it.  

How I Learned to Drive
Parkland College Theatre Second Stage
2400 W Bradley Avenue, Champaign
February 6th through 16th
Get showtimes and ticket information here

Image: Painting of girls playing soccer on a grass field, with ball in foreground and legs and sneakers in motion. Image from Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Facebook event page

A weekly soccer practice sets the stage for a deep dive into the rollercoaster that is contemporary female adolescence. What does it mean to win when the playing field is far from level? What does it mean to fight for yourself and for your team? Illinois Theatre has been on fire this season and I’m so excited what promises to be a fierce portrayal of girl power. 

The Wolves
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 S Goodwin Ave., Urbana
February 13th through 23rd
Get showtimes and ticket information here

You may also want to consider the deliciously satisfying production of Cabaret at Krannert Center. Word on the street is that this is a must-see.  And how could it not be, with the combined forces of Latrelle Bright, Julie Gunn, and Eliot Emadian at the helm. But if you like your theatre meta with an extra helping of wit consider I Hate Hamlet, directed by our own KT Burke. 


Witness visual art that explores the meaning of personal and collective relationships

Image: Multicolored, patterned mix media collage. “Monument for Feisty Women of My Distant Land,” by Hale Ekinci, 2017, mixed media. Image from Giertz Gallery Facebook event page

Nine artists, including Parkland faculty member and 40 North ACE Award winner Peg Shaw, employ historical research, mapping, found imagery, landscape, and other methods and tools to explore the process of making meaning from interactions and individual ideation. With a range of approaches and styles this exhibition may just inspire artists to consider new techniques and all of us to reconsider our own stories and how we tell them. 

Complex Territory
Giertz Gallery at Parkland College
2400 W Bradley Avenue, Champaign
February 10th through March 24th
Opening reception on February 13th at 5:30
Get gallery hours here


Love your local makers

Image: Light pink background with illustration of red heart-shaped lollipop on the left and a red flower on the right. In the center are the words “Misfit market” in brown serif type. Photo from Misfit Market Facebook event page

In case you haven’t noticed, the marker movement has made a solid home here in Chambana. With the opening of the permanent local of the Nifty Nook, and seasonal pop-ups from the exquisitely edgy Misfit Market, there is no excuse not to gift your love or yourself something fabulous that was handmade right here in CU. Misfit Market’s V-Day pop-up features food, wine, dance instruction from Urbana Dance Company, and, of course, shopping!  Until then, check out additional maker events in the upcoming Weekender. 

Misfit Valentine’s Night Market
Broadway Food Hall
401 N Broadway, Urbana
February 14th, 5 to 9 p.m. 

Meet a literary genius who helped redefine contemporary theatre

Image: Black and white headshot photo of writer, perfomer, activist Anna Deavere Smith. Photo from Krannert Center for the Performing Arts Facebook event page

I can barely contain my excitement about this one. Anna Deveare Smith received the MacArthur Foundation’s Genius Fellowship for “creating a new form of theatre—a blend of theatrical art, social commentary, journalism, and intimate reverie.” Her presentation offers a unique blend of theatrical elements as she “presents living portraits of both legendary and everyday people who illustrate and illuminate her topics.” Smart, timely, and deeply felt, this experience promises to be unforgettable. Plus, Smith will be back the next day for a free culture talk with Julia Wolff. Ticket required. Get more information here

Anna Deveare Smith
Krannert Center for the Performing Arts
500 S Goodwin Avenue, Urbana
February 18th, 7:30 p.m.

Live your fairy tale fantasy while supporting your local arts community

Let’s face it, 40 North is the literal heart of our local arts scene. So if you’re going to commit your love (and your money) this month, consider attending Untitled. This annual fundraiser switches up its theme each year and 2020 is the year of the fairytale. So don your best costume and be the hero in your own story and ours by celebrating and supporting the magic that our arts community makes. 

Untitled: A Fairytale Fundraiser
Orpheum Theatre
February 28th, 7:30 to 11:30 p.m.
Get more information or purchase tickets here

Top image: Photo of a dark night sky with a burned out marquee sign spelling out Cabaret. Photo from Krannert Center for Performing Arts Facebook event page

Arts Editor

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