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Chicago Performs: September 15 and 16, 2022

Join the MCA for two days of groundbreaking performances by Chicago artists. 

From an underground utopian dance party, to a cyberpunk rock opera, to a seven-hour Electric Slide marathon, join the MCA on September 15 and 16, 2022, for the debut of Chicago Performs an annual celebration of performance highlighting the wealth of innovative work being made by Chicagoans today. 

This two-day festival invites attendees to gather for three new performances by local artists live at the museum. Your ticket includes museum admission and access to related programs. Between performances, festival-goers can attend an engaging public conversation with the artists, stroll through the galleries (including Nick Cave: Forothermore), grab a drink and other refreshments at the MCA’s Marisol Restaurant & Bar, and then celebrate with the artists in a happy hour and concluding dance party. 

With performances that span across genres and mediums, Chicago Performs supports artists who are entering a new phase of their practice—whether stepping onto a larger stage for the first time, exploring new directions, or expanding the scale of their projects—and offers the public an unprecedented chance to witness the city’s groundbreaking performance artists in action 

Chicago Performs is organized by Tara Aisha Willis, Curator, with Laura Paige Kyber, Curatorial Assistant.   


Two-day and single day passes to Chicago Performs have all sold out, however tickets to individual performances are still available.


Thursday, September 15

2–3 pm | Performance: Erin Kilmurray, the Function (matinee performance) | Edlis Neeson Theater  

A feminist, utopian dance party first developed in Chicago’s underground performance scene, Erin Kilmurray’s the Function explores agency, authorship, grief, and pleasure. Get tickets.

4–6 pm | Opening Day Cocktail Hour | Marisol Restaurant & Bar

Join artists and curators for a drink at the Marisol Restaurant & Bar counter.

6–7 pm | Talk: Joy as a Question: Chicago Performs artists in conversation with Tempestt Hazel | MCA Commons | SOLD OUT

The artists of Chicago Performs discuss their creative processes, the themes in their work, and what it’s like to make their lives as artists in the city of Chicago.

7:30­­–8:30 pm | Performance: Erin Kilmurray, the Function (evening performance) | Edlis Neeson Theater | SOLD OUT

A feminist, utopian dance party first developed in Chicago’s underground performance scene, Erin Kilmurray’s the Function explores agency, authorship, grief, and pleasure. Captioning, ASL, and AD are provided for the evening performance.

Friday, September 16

10 am­­–5 pm | Performance: Bimbola Akinbola, You Gotta Know It: a durational moving meditation on (Black) collectivity, labor, and joy | MCA Commons

Join Bimbola Akinbola as she leads a seven-hour Electric Slide marathon in this meditation on Black collectivity and the work and joy of being in community. Get tickets.

7:30–8:30 pm | Performance: Derek Lee McPhatter, Water Riot in Beta | Edlis Neeson Theater

A cyber rock opera following water rights activists as they seek hope despite ecological crisis and resurgent fascism, Derek Lee McPhatter’s epic work draws on Black voices in punk and electronic music. Get tickets. Captioning and ASL are provided for this performance.

8:30–11 pm | Chicago Performs After Party | MCA Commons

Join for a celebration and dance party featuring DJ Sadie Woods + Friends.

About the Artists

Bimbola Akinbola

Bimbola Akinbola. Photo: Jansen Bridge.

Bimbola Akinbola is an interdisciplinary artist and scholar based in Chicago. Working at the intersection of theory, performance, and visual art, her scholarly and artistic work is concerned with the complicated and nagging nature of belonging, queerness, and the concept of family. Incorporating a variety of practices ranging from drawing and painting to rubbing her make-up stained skin across surfaces, her work explores mark-making and performance as modes of organization, remembrance, and repair. Bimbola has a BA in American Studies and Studio Art from Macalester College and a PhD in American Studies from the University of Maryland, College Park. She is an Assistant Professor of Performance Studies at Northwestern University.

Erin Kilmurray

Erin Kilmurray. Photo: Jansen Bridge.

is a genre-straddling artist drawing on space-making practices found in nightlife culture, theater, and dance. Her work challenges the traditional relationships between performer and spectator through electric, often political performance that enlivens body and environment. Her work has been presented by The Dance Center of Columbia College, Links Hall, Thalia Hall, Pivot Arts Festival, DanceBox in Kobe Japan, and has held residency through High Concept Labs, University of Chicago Performance Lab, Ragdale Foundation, among others. Kilmurray has received support through 3arts and Chicago Dancemakers Forum’s 2018 Greenhouse Program. She is the founder and director of The Fly Honey Show, which has run annually for over ten years.

Derek Lee McPhatter

Derek Lee McPhatter. Photo: Jansen Bridge.

Derek Lee McPhatter is a Chicago-based theater-maker committed to new work that engages diverse communities, emphasizing narratives at the intersection of race, class, gender, sexuality, and technology. McPhatter is a founding playwright with the Fire This Time Festival, and was featured in Harlem9’s 48 Hours in Harlem Festival—two Obie award–winning platforms that champion Black playwrights and theater-makers in New York City. McPhatter served as librettist, book writer and lyricist for five new music-theater works with the Lyric Opera of Chicago. He is a 2021 Creative Capital Awardee. McPhatter is the MCA’s inaugural Chicago Performance Commission grantee through its New Works Initiative Program. 


Chicago Performs is supported by The New Works Initiative which puts the creative process at the heart of the MCA’s relationship with Chicago by supporting the development of new performances and creative projects. 

Lead support for the New Works Initiative is provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman. 

Lead support for the 2021–22 season of MCA Performance and Public Programs is also provided by Elizabeth A. Liebman. 

Major support is provided by the Alphawood Foundation and by Julie and Larry Bernstein. 

Generous support is provided by Lois and Steve Eisen and The Eisen Family Foundation; Ginger Farley and Bob Shapiro, Martha Struthers Farley and Donald C. Farley, Jr. Family Foundation, N.A., Trustee; Susan Manning and Doug Doetsch; Carol Prins and John Hart/The Jessica Fund; and Anonymous. 

Additional generous support is provided by Ms. Shawn M. Donnelley and Dr. Christopher M. Kelly, Cynthia Hunt and Philip Rudolph, Ashlee Jacob, Anne L. Kaplan, Sharon and Lee Oberlander, D. Elizabeth Price and Lou Yecies, and Enact, the MCA’s Performance & Public Programs affinity group. 

The MCA is a proud member of the Museums in the Park and receives major support from the Chicago Park District. 

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