7 summer brain drain busters

Summer brain drain: the struggle is real. Thankfully, the arts are here to save the day—yet again. Here are our picks for seven productions that’ll help your kid go right to the head of the class once school is back in session.


Chicago Children’s Theatre

Through May 22 at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts

1016 N. Dearborn St., Chicago

One woman, 14 characters and the trying first year of a community garden; Seed Folks’ hard-working actress gives every persona (each from a different ethnic background) their own voice in this tale of how slowly and surely, a gritty neighborhood in Cleveland, Ohio, built more than just a row of vegetables.

ABCs/123s: Schoolhouse Rock Live!

Emerald City Theatre

Through June 5 at the Apollo Theatre

2540 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago

July 8-Aug. 28 at the Broadway Playhouse

175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago

Say it with us: “Verbs! They’re what’s happenin’!” Whether they’re counting along by 3s with the pitch-perfect (and unbelievably energetic) performers, or learning how a bill gets to Capitol Hill, your kids will be rocking out to a show that’s every bit as relevant (and awesome) as it was back on the Saturday mornings of our youth.


June 10-12 at the Vittum Theater

1012 N. Noble St., Chicago

How much do you really know about past Chicago mayors? Your tiny historians might just be surprised by the musical tale of Tony Cermak, from his days as a young laborer to his reign as the “Immigrant Mayor,” all while watching Chicago sprout up around him in fascinating moments from our city’s past (like during that little old event called the 1893 Columbian Exposition).

ENGLISH LIT: Twelfth Night

July 17-Aug. 16 at multiple Chicago Park District parks

Disguises, unrequited love (triangles!), and more physical humor than a circus—no, we’re not describing a typical high school lunch room. Shakespeare’s most famous comedy gets the Shakespeare in the Parks treatment with this abridged, 75-minute production of one of the most beloved plays of all time. Head to your favorite park, watch a one-of-a-kind theater truck roll up (and roll it out), and pat yourself on the back for being a savvy enough multi-tasker to expose your kids to the classics while picnicking.

CHEMISTRY: Science Night

June 15 at the 1700 Theatre

1700 N. Halsted St., Chicago

As part of Steppenwolf’s LookOut summer series, The Dilettantes bring their experimental, immersive brand of shows to the 1700 Theatre. Science Night is a live game show—with full audience participation—where contestants race to complete middle school science experiments before their opponents. You think they give out the title of Pre-Eminent Tandem Scientist to just anyone? Dust off your beakers and bring your baking soda-happy older inventors to witness—and maybe even perform—scientific greatness under pressure.

CLASSICAL STUDIES: The Iliad, The Odyssey and all of Greek Mythology in 99 mins or Less

July 17 at Wicker Park,

1425 N. Damen Ave., Chicago

July 23 at Horner Park,

2741 N. Montrose Ave., Chicago

July 30-31 at North Park Village Nature Center, 5801 N. Pulaski, Chicago

Weekends, Aug. 6-28 at Morton Arboretum, 4100 Ill. Rte. 53, Lisle

Greek Mythology is rarely as hilarious—or quick—as when a talented cast of five races through pretty much every major Greek player at lightning-speed. Besides, Ancient Greece is always enjoyed best at a pristine park. (Take note, every teacher we’ve ever had.)

CREATIVE WRITING: That’s Weird, Grandma: The Summer Strikes Back

June 13-Aug. 22 at The Neo-Futurist Theater

5153 N. Ashland, Chicago

Kid-written (by Chicago Public School students in underserved communities), grown-up performed (by Barrel of Monkeys company members), and city-wide enjoyed (by audiences in elementary schools as well as the general adoring public). Sketch comedy at its finest, and who knows? Maybe your budding scribe will be inspired enough to hit the pencil and paper on the way home! (One can dream.)

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