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The Mix: ‘Penelope,’ ‘Nature Cat’ and more things to do in and around Chicago July 26-Aug. 1

More fun comes from Aerial Dance Chicago and Cabinet of Curiosity

“Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond”
WTTW

Make big plans for the week ahead in Chicago. There’s so much to see and do — and taste! Here are some highlights for July 26-Aug. 1:

Fun with nature

Children (ages 2-10) can team up with the popular PBS animated series “Nature Cat” for an immersive dive into the natural world in “Nature Cat: Backyard and Beyond.” The exhibit features different learning areas — the backyard, the marsh, the cave and the forest — where the curious house cat and his pals explore the outdoors. From July 30 to Jan. 26, Kohl Children’s Museum, 2100 Patriot, Glenview. Admission: $12, $13. Visit kcmgc.org.

Summer spectacle

The Floral Goddess of “Reflections on Fire.”
Evan Barr

The collective known as Cabinet of Curiosity partners with the dancers at Blu Rhythm Chicago for its latest creation, a spectacle called “Reflections on Fire: Extinguishing Old Ideas.” The family-friendly event (for ages 6 and up) combines the two groups’ imagination and skills for a new experiment in ritual, interactivity, reflection and hope. Expect masks, dance, song and handmade devices. Artistic director Frank Maugeri co-directs with Tanji Harper. At 7, 8 and 9 p.m. July 26-28 at Exelon Observatory, 1801 N. Ridgeway. Admission is free. Visit cocechicago.com.

Making joyful noise in the park

Rev. Sekou
DCASE

Here’s a double bill with a mission to make some joyful noise. Rev. Sekou is an activist, theologian, author, filmmaker and musician. His music is a unique blend of North Mississippi hill country, Arkansas Delta blues, Memphis soul and Pentecostal steel guitar. The Mardi Gras Indian band Cha Wa honed its sound in the clubs and festivals of New Orleans. The result is an explosive melding of two of the city’s great traditions — Mardi Gras Indians and street-level funk music. At 6:30 p.m. July 29, Millennium Park, Randolph and Michigan. Admission is free. Visit millenniumpark.org.

Explore aviation history

P-40 Warhawk
Collings Foundation

The Collings Foundation’s Wings of Freedom Tour offers the rare opportunity to explore up-close a lineup of rare aircraft and learn about World War II aviation history. The tour features the B-17 Flying Fortress “Nine O Nine,” B-24 Liberator “Witchcraft,” B-25 Mitchell “Tondelayo” bombers and P-51 Mustang “Toulouse Nuts” and P-40 Warhawk “Jaws” fighters. Visitors can explore the aircraft inside and out from 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. July 26-28 at Chicago Executive Airport, 1090 S. Milwaukee. Tickets: $15, $5 (12 and under). Visit collingsfoundation.org.

Mythological queen

Renee Fleming
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

The Chicago premiere of a new drama with music, “Penelope,” tells the story of Odysseus’ return from the Trojan wars with a focus on his passionate, astute wife. The late Andre Previn composed the work for Renee Fleming, the last in a long line of collaborations between soprano and composer. Playwright Tom Stoppard wrote the libretto. Fleming sings, the Emerson String Quartet and pianist Simone Dinnerstein perform the music and actress Jennifer Ehle provides the narration. The Emersons also perform Samuel Barber’s String Quartet. At 4 p.m. July 28, Ravinia, 200 Ravinia Park Rd., Highland Park. Pavilion seats are sold out; lawn seats are $10. Visit ravinia.org.

High-flying dance

“Higher Ground”
Eddie Eng

The inventive and very physical company Aerial Dance Chicago has a unique style that melds aerial arts and modern dance. For its summer program, the company presents “Higher Ground,” a new work by Chloe Jensen, Karen Fisher Doyle and Tracy Von Kaenel. Inspired by Buddhist philosophy, the piece asks the question: How do we live with strength and courage in a world that changes with every step? Several other new pieces are also performed. At 8 p.m. July 26 and 7 p.m. July 27, Ruth Page Center for the Arts, 1016 N. Dearborn. Tickets: $40. Visit aerialdancechicago.org.

More festival fun

  • Find more than 40 bands including Screaming Females, Leikeli47, Superchunk, Murder By Death and Reggae Gold at Wicker Park Fest, July 26-28, on Milwaukee between Ashland and North. Visit wickerparkfest.com.
  • Food and liquor tastings, music (Lucky Boys Confusion, The Way Down Wanderers and more) and a kids’ carnival are highlights of Taste of Lincoln Avenue, July 27-28, on Lincoln between Fullerton and Wrightwood. Visit chicagoevents.com.
  • More than 110 juried artists showcase their work at the Glencoe Festival of Art, July 27-28, Green Bay and Park, Glencoe. Visit amdurproductions.com.

Mary Houlihan is a local freelance writer.