Navy Pier to host free, two-day festival to celebrate resurgence of art and entertainment industryMadeline Kenneyon September 14, 2021 at 6:28 pm

Navy Pier is celebrating the return of live performances next weekend with a free, two-day outdoor festival.

“Chicago LIVE Again!” will include a jam-packed lineup featuring performances from Broadway in Chicago, Chicago Children’s Choir, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, Chicago Symphony Orchestra, The Joffrey Ballet, Black Ensemble Theatre among many others.

“Never before have so many of Chicago’s greatest institutions shared the stage,” Navy Pier President and CEO Marilynn Gardner said Tuesday at a news conference at the Lake Stage in Polk Bros Park.

The show, billed as a “first-of-its-kind” event, will run Sept. 24-25 on the Lake and East End stages of the Pier. Organizers believe it’ll be a watershed moment for the performing arts industry after a difficult 18 months.

In March 2020, theaters darkened; opera houses and symphonies fell silent; and many performers found themselves without work amid the pandemic.

While theaters, dance companies and choirs found creative ways to entertain online during the city’s shutdowns, performers have been itching to get back in front of a live in-person audience.

After a long 1 1/2 years, that desire is finally coming to fruition, with many entertainment venues gearing up for a busy fall.

“This is a day most of us thought may never happen,” said Barbara Gaines, artistic director of Chicago Shakespeare Theater. “And so everyone today is so emotional, so happy and so incredibly grateful.”

The Blue Man Group made a surprise appearance Tuesday, shooting ribbons all over the Lake Stage and into the crowd.Mark Capapas/Sun-Times

Judy Hanson, senior director of Chicago Children’s Choir, emphasized the importance of embracing the arts, especially after a truly challenging year.

“Our communities need the arts more than ever,” she said. “It’s that which brings us all together, it’s that which allows us to understand ourselves, each other and the world and really connect.”

The organization’s top youth ensemble, which consists of close to 100 singers, will perform on one of the two days. Hanson said the kids are dying to perform in front of a live audience.

“We were out at Maggie Daley Park the other day for a rehearsal and you could tell they were just getting fired up again,” she said. “It’s going to be magnificent for them, I know it’s going to be something they’ll talk about for the rest of their lives.”

Performances will run from 5 to 9 p.m. Sept. 24 and noon to 9:30 p.m. Sept. 25. The event will be capped off with a special fireworks show.

Guests will be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative test within the previous 48 hours to attend. Alternatively, free rapid testing will be available on-site.

There are no seats at the Lake and East End stages; spectators are welcome to bring their own lawn chairs or blankets.

While this will be one of the first big events for local artists, many entertainment venues will be debuting new performances and shows in the next month or two.

Irene Ricardo, vice president of Broadway in Chicago, offered a word of advice to anyone interested in supporting theater: “Buy a ticket, get vaxxed and mask up and enjoy the show.”

“There are theater seats waiting for each and every one of you all over the city of Chicago, and they will provide memories that last a lifetime,” she said.

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