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Night Out in the Parks Returns to Parks Citywide for the 9th Season.
Night Out in the Parks Returns to Parks Citywide for the 9th Season.
Photo: Chicago Park District

New this year is an early childhood series and roaming spectacles from June to October

The Chicago Park District Superintendent and CEO Michael P. Kelly, along with local arts organizations, performers and community members, announce the ninth summer season of Night Out in the Parks. The 2021 Night Out in the Parks series will bring more than 450 world-class events to diverse audiences in parks in each of Chicago’s 77 community areas over the season.  Through theater, music, movies, dance, site-specific performance, nature programs, and community festivals, the series supports Chicago-based artists, facilitates community-based partnerships and programs, cultivates civic engagement, and ensures equity in access to the arts for all Chicagoans.

After a season of celebrating Chicago’s arts and cultural landscape primarily at home through virtual performances, Night Out performances are returning to parks citywide to rediscover the outdoor cultural activities that make summer in Chicago memorable.

The relaunch of the 9th season of Night Out in the Parks this summer will feature more than 100 of Chicago’s partners, artists and neighborhood arts organizations that will enliven city parks and communities through a thoughtfully curated family-friendly park event series. 

"For almost a decade, Night Out in the Parks has not only been an iconic summer tradition, but an important entryway for all of our residents to get involved in and enjoy the arts," said Chicago Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot. "This summer lineup will feature arts, music, theatre, dance and more live performances throughout all of our 77 neighborhoods—ensuring that our residents will be able to have some fun right in their own communities. I encourage everyone to attend at least one of these events this summer and fully experience the talent and beauty of our arts and culture scene." 

“Music, theater, dance and movies in our parks will make rediscovering the outdoors and reconnecting with the arts and cultural landscape of Chicago an exciting and enriching experience for everyone this summer and fall,” said Chicago Park District General Superintendent & CEO, Michael P. Kelly. “We invite everyone to leave behind their streaming devices and make it a free Night Out in the Parks.”

From hip-hop to folkloric dance, new arts partners like M.A.D.D. Rhythms and Open Architecture Chicago’s Poetic Platforms will join returning favorites, Midnight Circus, Deeply Rooted Dance Theater, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks, and the Chicago Philharmonic Society, on stages in parks citywide.

Since its launch in 2013 and with the continued support from the City of Chicago and our sister agencies, especially the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), Night Out in the Parks has become a signature park program. Neighborhood audiences will be treated to 100 outdoor movies, and hundreds of concerts, performances and festivals that reflect and celebrate Chicago’s rich tapestry of culture, with a particular focus on the city’s music community. These events are presented as part of the City of Chicago’s Year of Chicago Music.

In support of Chicago’s diverse and legendary music industry, Mayor Lori E. Lightfoot and the Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events have designated 2021 as the “Year of Chicago Music.” This citywide focus on music is one of the first of its kind in the U.S. Learn more at chicago.gov/music.

Night Out in the Parks received 175 proposals for the 2021 season. The 2021 call for proposals challenged partners to think creatively about how to use their performance space to provide entertainment, while practicing social distancing and following current health and safety guidelines. 

All events will take place outdoors and feature smaller ensembles, shorter performances, and multiple function events. The performance areas and the audiences will be distanced, and some events will be enjoyed as roaming performances, like Soundwalks or “patch and play” performances.  

As per the City of Chicago's guidelines for park use, all park users should continue to wear face coverings and practice social distancing when in a crowd – like when enjoying a Night Out in the Parks or Movies in the Parks event. Patrons who are exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19 are asked to stay home and join us for an event when symptoms subside. 

This year’s overarching themes:

•    Keep It Moving: The theme “Keep It Moving” applies to the audience’s way of experiencing the performance or event. This may be processional or spectacle based performance, episodic installations, and/or work that audiences may encounter at their own pace, safely and socially distanced.
•    Nature (Art in Nature):  Some performances will be hosted in our green spaces and pay homage to the natural areas, flora, fauna, scientific practice, and artistic inspiration our parks host every day. 
•    Community Healing: Many events and performances this season are exploring the theme of community healing through art.
•    Queering the Parks: The “Queering the Parks” initiative is a joyful and affirming celebration of the LGBTQIA+ community in Chicago. We are uplifting the fierce culture and artistry of queer Chicago through a series of playful activations in our parks.

The full list of programming is on the Night Out mobile application My Chi Parks™, available to download on Apple and Android devices, makes planning exciting and affordable summer outings an ease. Users can browse through events by date, location and interest to discover what interesting activities are happening in a park near you. More information is available at www.nightoutintheparks.com or call 312.742.PLAY.

In 2020, the Chicago Park District presented a new way to spend a Night Out—at Home. “Your Night Out at Home” featured more than 80 virtual works from Night Out artists from across Chicago, providing a chance to stay connected to the incredible breadth of talent our city offers. The on-demand performances are available to view at https://bit.ly/NightOut-AtHome

This year’s offerings include events and performances by new and returning partners, including:

Open Architecture Chicago (OACChicago): Poetic Platforms
June 26, July 31 & September 25

Poetic Platforms fosters cross-cultural connection and collective healing through pop-ups in underutilized spaces and parks. OACChicago encourages participants to become “everyday designers,” co-creators of more inclusive and equitable public spaces by exploring community-led culture-making through the arts, culture performance, interactive installations, and wellness activities. 

Dance in the Parks
June 29-July 16

Dance in the Parks' concerts are created and performed by professional Chicago dance artists. 2021. This is the 13th season of dancing in the parks! Guest youth partners based in the performance neighborhoods will join the troupe. 

M.A.D.D. Rhythms: A Journey of the Dance through Music
July 9 & August 13 

As popular music has grown and changed, so has the art of tap dance. M.A.D.D. Rhythms is proud to present this new collaborative work, conceived and directed by our Assistant Director Star Dixon. This show premiered in the second half of our annual Chicago Tap Summit concert. Explore the different forms that tap dance has taken all the way from its roots in Africa, up to today’s contemporary styles. Each piece takes on a different era of music, celebrating the ways that the deep traditions and culture of tap dance have survived all this time.  

Movies in the Parks
July 6– September 14

Movies in the Parks returns for a 21st season full of blockbuster outdoor entertainment on warm summer evenings. This year’s more than 100 screenings will fill more local parks with everything from classics from the Golden Age of Hollywood to retro childhood favorites and the hottest family-friendly favorites from recent years. Movies in the Parks is supported by Xfinity. All movies begin at dusk, weather permitting. Call 312.742.1134 for daily listings and weather-related cancelations.

Gustavo Cortiñas & Desafío Candente
July 18 & August 18

Inspired by Eduardo Galeano’s “The Open Veins of Latin America,” in his third discographic release, Desafío Candente, Gustavo Cortiñas brings together more than 30 collaborators, from over 10 different countries, on a 14 song journey through the rhythms, music and landscapes of the American continent, as well as its history of Colonialism, Imperialism and Neo-liberalism.

Side by Side with the Chicago Philharmonic Society
July 24

Join us this summer for Side by Side with the Chicago Philharmonic! Bring your instrument and play alongside professional musicians from the Chicago Philharmonic in Chicago's beautiful parks. Participation and concert attendance are free. Students and musicians of any age welcome to apply! To learn more, visit chicagophilharmonic.org.

Aloft Circus “Brave Space”
August 3-6

Inspired by the idea of creating community in trying times, Brave Space starts as a puddle of fabric on the ground, and grows to encompass a world of wonders that includes awe-inspiring feats of acrobatics, balance and strength. Each act is intertwined and dependent on the support and trust of the community around us. Healing and nurturing, Brave Space is a circus show like none other. 

Goodman Theatre and Sones de México Presents 
“Zulema: A refugee's musical journey from Chiapas to Chicago"

August 5-21

On a spectacular musical journey of many thousands of miles—from her Chiapas home in Mexico to Chicago—young Zulema zig-zags through the culturally diverse landscapes of her homeland and our fair city along the way. Exhilarating regional music and dance from the Grammy-nominated Sones de México Ensemble, in this collaboration with the Tony Award-winning Goodman Theatre, make a joyous event for the whole family. The music is produced by Sones de México Ensemble. The performance is written by Dolores Díaz and directed by Henry Godínez. 

Jarochicanos: Fandanguito en el Parque
August 17-19 

"Fandanguito en el Parque" brings the traditional celebration of 400-year-old son jarocho music from Veracruz, Mexico to Chicago's parks. Jarochicanos, a local son jarocho collective, will conduct a dance workshop where participants can learn basic "zapateado" steps in order to participate in a small version of a traditional "fandango" to follow, accompanied by live music from Jarochicanos. 

Shakespeare in the Parks

August 24- September 4

In August, Chicago Shakespeare Theater celebrates the 10th anniversary of Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks with a return to outdoor, in-person performances. Through a creative collaboration with community partners, the reimagined summer tour will bring a new take on a Shakespeare play to Chicago parks including Ogden, West Pullman, Kelvyn, Columbus, Piotrowski, and Ping Tom. Neighborhood artists, musicians, and dancers will take center stage alongside actors to create a multidisciplinary, multilingual, and wholly unique artistic event celebrating resiliency and connection. Inspired by the city’s Together We Heal and INVEST South/West initiatives, Chicago Shakespeare in the Parks will launch the Theater’s new, year-round program that responds to and engages with the evolving needs of neighborhoods and community partners. 

Chicago Onscreen 
August 31 – September 14

The Chicago Onscreen Local Film Showcase is back with a fresh batch of locally-made and Chicago-focused films in nine parks across the city, August 31 – September 14. This year’s 16 official selections include shorts and feature-length films, documentaries, narratives and animated films. This showcase puts the incredible talents of Chicago’s filmmakers on display in free, outdoor screenings and in a virtual film festival, making hometown films accessible to park audiences throughout the city. Chicago Onscreen is supported by Xfinity. 

Midnight Circus (Open Air Circus in the Parks)
September 11-October 9

Midnight Circus in the Parks looks to expand on our safe, spectacular, joy filled "Open Air" Tour from 2020. Midnight Circus in the Parks is excited to once again bring a world class, accessible, exciting Circus to parks and communities in every corner of Chicago. The 2021 show will feature a diverse mix of acrobats, actors, dancers, musicians and multi-disciplinary performers telling a story of hope, healing, inspiration and inclusion in high-flying and heart wrenching fashion.

Events especially-made for the early childhood audiences:

Toddlers, Tunes and Turtles
July 13- August 19

Now in its 16th year, Toddlers, Tunes and Turtles invites our youngest explorers to visit the parks and explore! This outdoor nature program encourages families to enjoy the park together. Re-envisioned for safety and social distancing in 2021, this program will feature loose parts for nature play, early childhood activities and more.

Kerfuffle: Goose and Gert
July 16-26

Gert just wants some peace and quiet. Goose just wants a friend. Created for very young children, Kerfuffle’s “Goose and Gert” is a funny romp in the park that explores friendship, opposites, and noise! Featuring live music, it is best enjoyed by children ages 2-6 years old with their families. 

Enchanted Tightrope
August 17-31

Do you believe in fairies?  They believe in you! Enchanted Tightrope is a family friendly romp through Chicago’s parks with real, live fairies. Maintain safe social distance and watch with wonder as magical creatures gracefully traverse the taught silver strand, high up in the air.