Featured Event: Virtual festival 'The Map of Now' connects Chicago’s theatre scene

After a year of online programming, the city’s gradual rollout of COVID-19 vaccines and the teasing promise of summer weather, Chicago’s dance community is once again ready to reimagine the ways we connect with each other. Lucky Plush Productions, a local dance-theater company that is no stranger to adapting to dynamic situations with creativity and style, is at the forefront of this innovation. On June 25 and 26, the company will present “The Map of Now,” a virtual festival-style event in collaboration with four venues: the Harris Theater, the Reva and David Logan Center for the Arts, Steppenwolf’s 1700 Theatre’s LookOut Series and Links Hall. The project will be held on an interactive digital mapping platform called Gather.Town.

Gather.Town's innovative technology will allow audience members (who attend as avatars) to choose their own adventures on a digital map of Chicago—moving between the four venues that are mapped to look like the actual physical locations—where they can view the work of artists curated by each performance site. The theaters are providing space for artists to film their work in advance, which will enhance the audience’s feeling that they are seeing the work in the actual venues (except for Steppenwolf, which asked their artists to self-film wherever they liked.)

“’The Map of Now’ promises to explore community connectivity in an all-new way,” says Julia Rhoads, founder and artistic director, Lucky Plush Productions. “When an audience member’s avatar draws close to someone else on the map, there’s a video chat function that pops up and allows them to engage in passing conversations and maybe even catch up with someone they haven’t seen in a long time.” Guests can also watch performances together or sign up for guided tours to watch a curated selection from each venue. Ticket prices are on a sliding scale with further options to support individual artists involved in the festival.

“The Map of Now” will highlight the richness of Chicago’s arts ecology and feature a robust roster of local dancers, musicians, theater artists, drag performers and comedians including Lucky Plush, avery r. young, Sam Trump, Darling Shear, Chloe Johnston, Sojourner Zenobia, Donnetta Jackson and Bril Barrett, among others. A full list of performers is available on Lucky Plush’s website. In the continued spirit of community, the event’s map will also display a number of local Chicago arts/service organizations, landmarks and businesses. Finally, a post-show Zoom dance party Saturday at 8:30 p.m. will close out the weekend in celebration of all-things Chicago dance.

“The Map of Now” is the culmination of a successful year Lucky Plush’s Virtual Dance Lab (VDL), launched in March 2020 with seed support from the University of Chicago to offer online dance classes to the public. VDL has since received over 5,000 class registrations from 16 countries and 40 states. Offerings have ranged from modern, ballet and hip hop to yoga, salsa and West African dance led by 65 teaching artists from the Chicago area and around the world. The program continues to engage participants in weekly classes.


“The Map of Now” runs June 25 and 26 from 6-10 p.m., with start times every half hour. For more information, click the event page below or visit luckyplush.com/map-of-now.