The Mix: Japanese Film Festival, National Tap Dance Day and more things to do May 20-26

There’s plenty to see and do online and in-person around Chicago in the week ahead.

SHARE The Mix: Japanese Film Festival, National Tap Dance Day and more things to do May 20-26

“Bolt” will screen at the Japanese Film Festival.

©L’espace Vision, Dream Kid, Kaizo Production

Films from Japan

The inaugural Japanese Film Festival, presented by the Chicago Japan Film Collective and advertised as the first of its kind in the Midwest, features nine contemporary Japanese films: “Our festival is designed to bring the American Midwest into conversation with Japanese culture,” says co-founder Sakamoto Yuki. Among the films are Hayashi Kaizo’s “Bolt,” a drama about the earthquake that resulted in the Fukushima nuclear disaster; “All About Chiaki Mayumura (provisional),” a drama about a musical celebrity who is much more than meets the eye; “Videophobia,” a cyber thriller; “Alone Again in Fukushima,” a documentary about a man who stayed behind after the disaster and evacuation to care for abandoned animals, and “The House of Seasons,” a family drama about a teen who overcomes mental health issues. The festival runs May 25-31. Tickets: $10 for one film; $15 access to all the films. Visit

A writer’s life


Ray Bradbury

AP file

The American Writers Museum has reopened with a new exhibit, “Ray Bradbury: Inextinguishable,” a retrospective that explores the writings and influence of the legendary science-fiction author. Included in the exhibit are books, letters, Bradbury’s desk and typewriter and many more items borrowed from the Center for Ray Bradbury Studies at Indiana University. Bradbury grew up in suburban Waukegan, and his Midwest childhood remained central to his life. Armed with a vivid imagination, he played in the ravine near his home, frequented the local cinema, roamed through visiting carnivals and hung out at the library. “These were the things at the center of my life,” he told the Sun-Times in 2006. “It was the beginning of everything.” The exhibit continues through May 2022. Admission: $14 ($4 off through May 31). Visit

Finding connections


“Half of Us”

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago

Hubbard Street Dance Chicago completes its virtual season with Robyn Mineko Williams’ “Half of Us.” The filmed piece is a 16-minute meditation on human connection and the many ways we experience it. Original music is by OHMME, an eclectic Chicago experimental rock duo comprised of Sima Cunningham and Macie Stewart. The film streams free at 7:30 p.m. May 20, 22 and 2 p.m. May 23. Visit

Forever young


Bettye LaVette

Mark Seliger

Celebrate Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday (May 24) with “May Your Song Always Be Sung,” a livestreamed event at 7 p.m. May 20 that also is a benefit for The Human Needs Food Pantry in Montclair, New Jersey. The lineup features live performances of Dylan’s music by Bettye LaVette, Richard Thompson, Nils Lofgren, Robyn Hitchcock, Lucy Kaplansky, Amy Helm, Bill Frisell, Low Cut Connie and many more. Free, donations encouraged. Visit ... Also Steve Dawson and Michael Miles join forces for “Bob Dylan’s 80th Birthday Tribute Concert” streaming at 8 p.m. May 23 via The Hideout. Tickets: $5-$20. Visit

Tap it out


Chicago Tap Theatre


Chicago Tap Theatre and M.A.D.D. Rhythms join together to celebrate National Tap Dance Day on May 22. The daylong online event (10 a.m.-6 p.m.) includes intermediate and advanced tap classes, a lecture on the history of tap and a performance by Chicago Tap All-Stars featuring Billy Siegenfeld, Chicago Tap Theatre, Jenai Cutcher, Jimmy Payne Jr., Kendra Jorstad, Marty and Jessica Bronson, M.A.D.D. Rhythms, Matt Crowle, Nico Rubio, Patti Vickerman, Rich Ashworth, Stephen Spanopoulos and Tre Dumas. Tickets: $15, $25 for performance; $55, $95 for classes. Visit

Indoor/outdoor performances


Tuli Bera (left) and Kinnari Vola of Ishti Collective.

Michelle Reid

The adventurous Pivot Arts Festival returns with live events May 21-June 6 in the Edgewater neighborhood. Titled “Reimagining Utopia,” the ninth annual event features performances at both indoor and outdoor spaces. Twelve artists and companies were selected to create small works of theater, dance or music as well as video installations responding to the global health crisis and the Black Lives Matter movement. Among the performers are SoIAR*, Propelled Animals, Ishti Collective, Christin Eve Cato, Danielle Ross, the Puppet Wonder Wagon, KAIA String Quartet and Laksha Dantran. Tickets: $5-$30. For a complete schedule of performances, visit

Virtual stage


Lauren Kennedy and Norbert Leo Butz in “The Last Five Years” in 2001.

Northlight Theatre

Northlight Theatre presents a 20th anniversary reunion celebration of “The Last Five Years,” Jason Robert Brown’s musical that debuted at the theater in 2001. The original creative team — Brown, director Daisy Prince and cast members Norbert Leo Butz and Lauren Kennedy — reunites to talk about the landmark musical with artistic director BJ Jones. Streams free at 6:30 p.m. May 23. Visit … “We Are Out There,” a digital prologue to the new musical “It Came from Outer Space,” which will debut next year at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, streams free May 24-June 20. Visit … Black Ensemble Theater streams its eighth annual fundraiser, Jackie Taylor’s “Soul of a Powerful Woman (Her to Save the World)” at 6 p.m. May 23. Free, donations encouraged. Visit

Mary Houlihan is a Chicago freelance writer.

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