John DeDakis, Monday, May 9, Leopold’s Books Bar Caffe, 7 p.m.: Both journalists and politicos from Washington, D.C., seem to be able to mount thriving side careers as mystery writers. Is it something about D.C. politics? (Not a serious question. Of course it is!) John DeDakis, a former White House correspondent and former senior copy editor for CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer, has penned five mystery-suspense novels. He’ll be at Leopold’s Books Bar Caffe for Cocktails with the Author, a reading, discussion and book-signing for his latest novel, Fake, about a White House correspondent in the era of #MeToo and “fake news.” The talk is at 7 p.m. and DeDakis will be signing books before and after.
Stand Up and Sing for Kids, Tuesday, May 10, Capital Brewery, Middleton, 6:30 p.m.: Who will be singing at this annual fundraiser for the Canopy Center? It could be you on stage at this karaoke-style concert. There will also be food carts and a silent auction supporting Canopy Center’s advocacy and support for children and families dealing with adversity in Dane County. Watch for event updates on Facebook.
Kayla Bauer, through June 17, Chazen Museum of Art: The Panczenko Prize goes yearly to an outstanding master of fine arts degree recipient from UW-Madison, and these artists never fail to wow. Being given their own gallery in the Chazen this early in their careers is a rare opportunity. This year Kayla Bauer has created I Left My Heart…, a love letter to San Francisco that is a photo essay of her own photographic prints, coupled with the impulses of a collector — there’s a curio cabinet of city souvenirs and a wall filled with San Francisco-themed plates.
Dear Evan Hansen, May 10-15, Overture Hall: When bullied and outcast high school senior Evan Hansen gets the opportunity to finally fit in, he takes it — fabricating a friendship, lying to a family, and faking involvement in a school-wide tragedy. The Tony-Award winning musical Dear Evan Hansen premiered in 2015 and on Broadway in 2016, and was met with rave reviews and major success. Shows at 7:30 p.m., May 10-12; 8 p.m, May 13; 2 and 8 p.m., May 14; and 1 and 6:30 p.m., May 15. Tickets here.
THE HUNT, April 29-May 22, throughout Dane County: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Dane County hosts this scavenger hunt which doubles as a fundraiser for the organization’s programs. Teams use an app to post photos of locations both around the county and found at home, earning points to compete for prizes. Registration continues after the April 29 start date, so it’s never too late to do some catch-up HUNTing. Find all the details here.
Strand of Oaks, Tuesday, May 10, High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.: Strand of Oaks is the project of Timothy Showalter, a native of Goshen, Indiana, now based in Austin, Texas. Onstage he comes across like a man of mystery, a wandering soul who works out the fuss in his life right before the audience’s eyes. And his life seems to have provided a lot of material over the years (a cheating wife; a burned down house). His seventh and latest record, In Heaven, ups the ante with lush production behind his intriguing folk tunes. With Pat Finnerty.
Birding is for Everyone, Tuesday, May 10, Pinney Library, 7 p.m.: Birding, perhaps unfairly stereotyped as a nerd pursuit, has been out front in getting a better cross-section of the populace involved in its pleasures. Dexter Patterson, co-founder of the BIPOC Birding Club of Wisconsin, will be speaking on better birding — that is, how to actually see a bird and not a blur (and there are tricks). All would-be birders are welcome, but space is limited; register at madisonaudubon.org.
Azar Nafisi, Tuesday, May 10, Crowdcast, 7 p.m.: Iranian author and professor Azar Nafisi examines the impact of reading in her new book, Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times. Nafisi, who also wrote 2003’s award-winning New York Times bestseller Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, approached her latest work by asking questions about the role of literature in an era rife with political strife. The book is structured as a series of letters to Nafisi’s father, who taught her as a child that literature can provide solace in times of trauma. All attendees will receive a copy of Read Dangerously at this free Wisconsin Book Festival talk. Note: This event has changed from in-person to a Crowdcast livestream; RSVP here.
Rachel Werner, Wednesday, May 11, Crowdcast, 10:30 a.m.: A place like Madison didn’t used to worry much about floods, but after the tragic flooding of August 2018 we learned that someone could be swept away and drowned in a flash flood in a suburban west side neighborhood. Climate change is recreating our world. Author and director of Little Book Project WI Rachel Werner will discuss her new children’s book, Floods, with Savannah Brooks, including how to stay safe. Copies of Floods will be distributed for free to the first 100 virtual attendees of this Wisconsin Book Festival talk; register here for the Crowdcast link.
Wild & Scenic Film Festival, Thursday, May 12, Barrymore Theatre, 7 p.m.: An event devoted to considerations of nature and environmental activism, the Wild & Scenic Film Festival is all about coupling filmmaking with action. The selection of films should range from up-close takes on certain species and landscapes, to documentaries about the people determined to save them. Find the list of films to be screened here.
Read(y) to Wear, Thursday, May 12, 7 p.m., Majestic Theatre: We at Isthmus happen to love everything about the rock/paper/scissors concept, and especially as it applies to this fashion show — a form of entertainment that shows up seldom in Madison. This fundraiser benefits the Madison Reading Project, a literacy group. Teams will compete by designing (and modeling) paper fashionwear with this year’s theme in mind. Winners will be decided by celebrity judges — not by the contestants playing rock/paper/scissors. Tickets here.
Kathy Mattea + Suzy Bogguss, Thursday, May 12, Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 p.m.: A winner of Grammy and Country Music Association awards, Kathy Mattea is a modern country music pioneer who has not only attracted Nashville’s best pickers to her projects but also collaborated with superstars such as Dolly Parton and Jackson Browne. Her latest album, Pretty Bird, was produced by Tim O’Brien. The collection shows her range based on the covers alone, including songs by Joan Osborne and The Wood Brothers. This is a power bill with Suzy Bogguss, also a Grammy and CMA winner. In 2014, Bogguss put out an album of Merle Haggard songs because, as she said, “I’ve been watching boys cover his music for so long. Why couldn’t a girl do this?” Mattea and Bogguss performing together will be over the top.
J.E. Sunde, Thursday, May 12, The Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: J.E. Sunde has been making bizarrely beautiful pop music since his days with his brother Jason and Eau Claire-based The Daredevil Christopher Wright. He may catch the uninitiated off guard; a voice that can easily slip into a far-fetched falsetto that can’t possibly be coming out of a guy this large. When combined with his guitars, tricky lyrics, and offbeat insights, it’s magic. With Bright Arcana.
The Importance of Being Earnest, through May 14, Bartell Theatre: If you’re surprised at the continuing popularity of this farce, its author probably wouldn’t be. Oscar Wilde was ahead of his time when it came to gender roles and wise in the ways of hypocrisy. Both are ongoing concerns, even if the basic construction of The Importance of Being Earnest, a comedy about mistaken identities, could have come from Shakespeare’s workbook centuries earlier. Strollers Theatre is using “gender fluid” casting to make the story even more contemporary. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays (except for a change to 2 p.m. on May 14).
We hope it’s handy for you to find Picks grouped together in a single post. The individual Picks can still be found in the usual places online: collected here, and sprinkled throughout all the events.
Note: Many venues and businesses may continue to maintain individual requirements for masking, as well as proof of COVID-19 vaccination and/or a negative test for entry. Before heading out for any in-person event, confirm it is still taking place and check for any attendance guidelines on the relevant business websites or social media accounts.