Steel Beam Theatre founder and artistic director Donna Steele plays Lily, a 72-year-old widow who hires a middle-aged dance instructor (Will Nifong) to teach her to fox-trot, waltz and tango in Richard Alfieri's comedy "Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks." Bernie Weiler of Aurora directs the play about two very different people finding common ground.
Opens at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at 111 W. Main St., St. Charles. $23-$28. (630) 587-8521 or steelbeamtheatre.com.
Mary Ann Thebus stars as an elderly socialist whose 21-year-old grandson (Josh Salt) bikes from Minnesota to her New York apartment in Northlight Theatre's Chicago-area premiere of "4000 Miles." Artistic associate Kimberly Senior directs the 2013 Pulitzer Prize finalist examining mortality from two very different perspectives.
Previews begin at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. The show opens Friday, Sept. 20. $25-$75. (847) 673-6300 or northlight.org.
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Snap-Two Productions presents the Chicago premiere of the musical "Signs of Life, A Tale of Terezin" inspired by the true story of Theresienstadt. A Czech concentration camp established during World War II by the Nazis, it was the subject of a propaganda film created to deceive the international community about the camp's purpose by portraying it as an academic and artistic community. Lisa Portes directs the show by composer Joel Derfner, lyricist Len Schiff and writer Peter Ullian.
Previews begin at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 18, at Victory Gardens Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln Ave., Chicago. The show opens Wednesday, Sept. 25. $45-$65. (773) 871-3000 or victorygardens.org or signsoflifethemusical.com.
Other theater events
• The New Colony, The Inconvenience and the University of Chicago Theater and Performance Studies Program collaborate on the new 1970s sitcom style show, "B-Side Studio," written by Inconvenience resident writer Ike Holter and New Colony co-artistic director Evan Lindner. The show debuts at 8 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, and runs Fridays and Saturdays through Oct. 12, at Logan Center for the Arts, 915 E. 60th St., Chicago. Each week's performance consists of a new episode centered on Gary and Felix McNamara, the owners of a failing Chicago recording studio, who have an idea to save the business but first have to get the approval of their landlord's wife. The latest episodes will be available online at thenewcolony.org or theinconvenience.org Mondays following the weekend performances. (773) 702-2787 or ticketsweb.uchicago.edu.
• Previews begin Friday, Sept. 13, for Step Up Productions' performance of "The BenchMark," Richard A. Roberts' drama about a homeless man who calls a Chicago park bench home and finds solace from his predicament in alcohol and literature. Tara Branham directs the show, which opens Tuesday, Sept. 17, at The Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. (773) 935-6875 or stepupproductions.org or athenaeumtheatre.org.
• Playwright Richard James Zieman drew upon his observations working as a River North bouncer for his play "The Last Hand," about Angel, a Chicago gang member who wants to be a rapper, and Clip, a fellow gang member who tries to save his friend. Inglis Hall Productions' Midwest premiere begins previews on Friday, Sept. 13, at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The show, directed by Samuel G. Robertson, opens Thursday, Sept. 19. (773) 935-6860 or athenaeumtheatre.org.
• Christopher Pazdernik directs Jedlicka Performing Arts Center's production of Tennessee Williams' "A Streetcar Named Desire," about a fading southern belle whose arrival at the New Orleans home of her younger sister and brother-in-law sets in motion a tragic series of events. Previews begin Friday, Sept. 13, at 3801 S. Central Ave., Chicago. The show opens Sept. 20. (708) 656-1800 or jpactheatre.com.
• Fifteen-year-old Alice's plans to attend college are upended when she discovers her parents have arranged her marriage to a man old enough to be her grandfather in Perri Gaffney's one-woman show "The Resurrection of Alice," inspired by the experiences of the playwright's friend's mother. Performances begin Friday, Sept. 13, at eta Creative Arts Foundation, 7558 S. South Chicago Ave., Chicago. (773) 752-3955 or etacreativearts.org.
• Pride Films & Plays hosts Women's Work Weekend 2013 from Friday, Sept. 13, through Sunday, Sept. 15, at the Hoover-Leppen Theatre at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted St., Chicago. The mini fest showcases plays written by women and featuring lesbian characters or themes. For a schedule see pridefilmsandplays.com.
• The Midnight Circus continues its Night Out in the Parks in partnership with the Chicago Park District. The Circus performs at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13, 2 and 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and 1 and 4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15, at Hamlin Park, 3035 N. Hoyne Ave., Chicago. Tickets range from $5 to $20. Proceeds go to improve Chicago parks. See circusintheparks.org for tickets.
• Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St., Chicago, presents the Chicago premiere of "Pullman Porter Blues," Cheryl L. West's play with music about three generations of African American Pullman porters in 1930s Chicago. Resident director Chuck Smith helms the production which features Tony Award winner Cleavant Derricks as a union organizer and father Sylvester Sykes, Larry Marshall as patriarch Monroe Sykes and Tosin Morohunfola as aspiring medical school student Cephas Sykes, the youngest of the three men. Previews begin Saturday, Sept. 14. The show opens Sept. 24. (312) 443-3800 or goodmantheatre.org.
• "First Class," Candido Tirado's drama about two brothers, both gang members, who have different ideas about the trajectory of their lives, comes to Chicago's Humboldt Park courtesy of UrbanTheater Company. Juan Castaneda directs UTC's Midwest premiere which begins previews Saturday, Sept. 14, at 2628 W. Division St., Chicago. The show opens Monday, Sept. 16. (312) 239-8783 or urbantheaterchicago.org.
• Hubris Productions hosts an adults-only, back to school inspired cabaret from 9 to 11 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, and 28, at The Call, 1547 W. Bryn Mawr Ave., Chicago. See hubrisproductions.com.
• "Whirled News Tonight," the long-running improv show inspired by current events, celebrates its 10th anniversary on Saturday, Sept. 14, at the IO Theater, 3541 N. Clark St., Chicago. (773) 259-6087 or ioimprov.com.
• Emerald City Theatre's "The Teddy Bears' Picnic," the company's first production for children ages 0-4, inaugurates its new Lakeview home on Sunday, Sept. 15. Performances run on select dates through Jan. 5, 2014, at 2933 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. (773) 529-2690, ext. 810 or emeraldcitytheatre.com.
• Jeff Award winner Millie Hurley stars as Mrs. Watts, an elderly woman who longs to see her childhood home one last time before she dies, in Raven Theatre's revival of Horton Foote's gentle drama, "The Trip to Bountiful." Raven co-artistic director JoAnn Montemurro directs the production which begins previews on Tuesday, Sept. 17, at 6157 N. Clark St., Chicago. The show opens Sept. 23. (773) 338-2177 or raventheatre.com.
• The national tour of the Tim Rice-Andrew Lloyd Webber musical "Evita," about the rise of Argentina's first lady Eva Peron, comes to the Oriental Theatre 24 W. Randolph St., Chicago, for a brief run. Performances begin Wednesday, Sept. 18. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com.
• "Expressing Motherhood," a show about parenthood's funny, touching and inspirational moments told by mothers themselves, runs Thursday, Sept. 21-Saturday, Sept. 21, at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave., Chicago. (773) 327-5252 or stage773.com.
• Bartleby Production presents a new play reading series titled "Good News/Bad News" at 8 p.m. on the second Wednesday of every month at The Public House, 3914 N. Clark St., Chicago. See Facebook/com/enjoy.bartleby.
• The Chicago Commercial Collective announced a two-week extension for its remount of TimeLine Theatre's commission "To Master the Art," in cooperation with Broadway in Chicago. Performances continue through Oct. 20, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place, 175 E. Chestnut St., Chicago. (800) 775-2000 or broadwayinchicago.com. Additionally, BIC announced that the restaurant Sur La Table, 900 N. Michigan Ave., Chicago, will offer French cooking classes and dinner before select performances. The package is $98 and includes a ticket to the performance. See surlatable.com.
• The Actors Gymnasium announced that Virginia Nugent has joined the company as its new executive director. A native of Australia, Nugent was recently the interim managing director and development director for Chicago Dramatists. Her background includes technical and producing as well as general arts management.
• The American Theatre Wing, the organization that bestows the Tony Awards, has announced the 2013 recipients of its National Theatre Company Grants. Among the theater companies receiving the $10,000 grant is 16th Street Theater in Berwyn and Chicago's The Hypocrites. The grants go toward general operating expenses and are awarded to companies that "have demonstrated tremendous courage and creativity and are vital to the cultural and civic fabric of their communities," said American Theatre Wing executive director Heather Hitchens in a prepared statement.
-- Barbara Vitello