History Lesson

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Anyone ever tell you history is dull, tedious and irrelevant? Not us. And for some particularly fascinating and relevant insights into black history, ditch the textbooks and head to these stage shows, which explore everything from the politics in midcentury professional sports to the struggle for identity in 20th century America and the racial tensions that can still exist today.

‘Race’

In this no-holds-barred drama by Pulitzer Prize-winner David Mamet—which debuted on Broadway in 2009—hidden prejudices rise and a crime mystery unfolds when a diverse team of lawyers are hired to defend a wealthy Caucasian man, who allegedly raped an African-American woman.
Go: Through Feb. 19 at Goodman Theatre, 170 N. Dearborn St.
Tickets: $20-$68; 312-337-0665; lookingglasstheatre.org

Chicago Human Rhythm Project Winter Tap Jamboree

Celebrate the art of tap and folkloric dance at this annual concert, featuring performances by Chicago Human Rhythm Project resident ensemble BAM!, the Afro-Haitian Tamboula Ethnic Dance Company, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Mr. Taps and others. While you’re there, tour current featured exhibitions including “Spread the Word! The Evolution of Gospel,” which highlights the contributions of Mahalia Jackson, Albertina Walker and Thomas Dorsey.
Go: Through Feb. 19 at the DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Place.
Tickets: $15-$25; 773-281-1825; chicagotap.org

‘Mr. Rickey Calls a Meeting’

In this new play set in 1947, which Chicago Tribune theater critic Chris Jones calls “terrific…a deftly cast and exceptionally lively and engaging production,” Brooklyn Dodgers manager Branch Rickey meets with African-American player Jackie Robinson, tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and Broadway star, singer and activist Paul Robeson to determine how to best break the news of Robinson’s hire—breaking long-standing baseball color lines—to the world.
Go: Through Feb. 19 at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan Ave.
Tickets: $20-$89; 312-443-3800; goodmantheatre.org

‘Invisible Man’

In 1953, Ralph Ellison—who taught at University of Chicago in 1961—won the National Book Award for his novel of the same title about an African-American man's search for his identity through activism, politics and social situations. Now, Oscar-nominated writer Oren Jacoby adapts the novel, local artist Joshua Horvath incorporates a jazz and blues soundscape and Classical Theatre of Harlem artistic director Christopher McElroen directs the production.
Go: Through Feb. 19 at Court Theatre, 5535 S. Ellis Ave.
Tickets: $45-$65; 773-753-4472; courttheatre.org

‘The Jackie Wilson Story’

Black Ensemble Theater—itself a chapter in Chicago’s history with 36 years of original musicals which celebrate the contributions of African-American artists from Billie Holliday to Teddy Pendergrass to Stax Records—celebrates the recent opening of its new permanent home with a remount of its 2000 hit musical about the rise and fall of the legendary soul singer.
Go: Through March 18 at Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center, 4450 N. Clark St.
Tickets: $55-$65; 773-769-4451; ticketmaster.com

Julia Borcherts is a RedEye special contributor.

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