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 films include up-close takes on the people determined to save certain species and landscapes. Find the list of films to be screened here.
Read(y) to Wear, Thursday, May 12, Majestic Theatre, 7 p.m.: 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.
Chai Anxiety, May 12 and 15, Brink Lounge, 7 p.m.: Pile of Cats Theatre Company proudly asserts its status as a fringe company, performing in unconventional spots, with a back-to-basics attitude. The scenes compiled as Chai Anxiety probe our high-stress times, in a variety of situations that have a tendency to turn to the comic. The show is intended for adult audiences, but, organizers say, there’s no violence and it’s LGBTQ-friendly. Performances also take place at 7 p.m., May 21-22, at Crucible, All shows will be presented night club style with table seating. RSVP: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dear Evan Hansen, through May 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 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 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).
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.
Syttende Mai, May 13-15, Stoughton: Syttende Mai, or “May 17” in Norwegian, marks that country’s Constitution Day. In Stoughton, it is THE festival. This year, there’s a new play from the Stoughton Village Players (Velkommen til Earth, 7 and 8:30 p.m., May 13-14, and 2:30, 4 and 7 p.m., May 15, SVP Theater). But, as in other years, there will be Norwegian dancing and traditional costumes, the Edvard Grieg Chorus (11:30 a.m., May 14, Stoughton Opera House) and the Sons of Norway-Mandt Lodge bake sale with lefse and donuts, rømmegrøt, riskrem and cookbooks (all three days; Saturday features meatballs, varme pølse and cucumber salad). And the big parade (1:30 p.m., May 15) is a must-see. See stoughtonfestivals.com for the complete schedule.
Spring Break-A-Way 3on3 Basketball Tournament, Fridays, through May 27, Warner Park Community Recreation Center, 5 p.m.: Teens can compete in this tournament series on Friday nights, with divisions for boys and girls, grades 6-8 and 9-12. Either come with a team of three or plan to join a team at the event; registration is free and takes place the night of the event, which also includes a meal, skills clinics, music and prizes. Note: Masks required. Find out more here.
Disney’s Freaky Friday the Musical, Through May 22, Madison Youth Arts Center: When teenager Ellie and mom Katherine swap bodies, they have only 24 hours to switch back in this mystery-comedy musical. Though the two never see eye to eye, they must set aside their differences before they’re stuck in each other’s bodies forever. This incarnation of the classic Disney film and novel by Mary Rodgers is presented by Children’s Theater of Madison at the new Madison Youth Arts Center Starlight Theater. The musical will run through May 22, with showings at 7 p.m. on Fridays, 2:30 and 7 p.m. on Saturdays, and 1 and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Read Gwendolyn Rice’s review here.
Janis Ian, Friday, May 13, Stoughton Opera House, 7:30 p.m.: As a teenager Janis Ian made a splash with the single “Society’s Child” and a Grammy-nominated debut album. Despite worthy follow-ups further chart action did not materialize, and the industry labeled Ian a one-hit wonder…until the mid-1970s and her Top 5 hit (and Grammy-winner) “At Seventeen.” Since then Ian has remained a preeminent voice as a singer-songwriter, and is currently embarking on her last tour of the U.S.; hopefully you have a ticket, as this show was listed as sold out as of this week.
Laconia, May 13-21, Broom Street Theater, 8 p.m.: Will a play created around papier-mâché masks (by Broom Street Theater staffer Christa Dahman) work? It’s time to find out as BST presents Laconia, of which director Doug Reed writes “I can’t describe it, but I love it.” Along with Dahman and Reed, the writing crew includes Colman, Maria Dahman, Brent Holmes and Taylor Kokinos. See what they have come up with at 8 p.m., May 13-14 and 20-21. Tickets here.
Mark Hembree Band, Friday, May 13, The Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: String bassist Mark Hembree isn’t only a Wisconsin bluegrass legend, he’s a bona fide member of the genre’s royalty. He’s a former member of Bill Monroe’s Bluegrass Boys, played with the upstart bluegrass ensemble The Monroe Doctrine, and is one of the founding members of The Nashville Bluegrass Band. He’s back in Wisconsin now, keeping busy with this project as well as The Best Westerns.
Native Plant Sale, Saturday, May 14, UW Arboretum Visitor Center, 10 a.m.-2 p.m.: The unofficial start date for planting in these parts is the Native Plant Sale at the Arb. With climate change, using native plants in your yard is more important than ever. Help a pollinator, save time not mowing and support this natural resource in our own backyards.
Art Walk Middleton, Saturday, May 14, along Terrace Avenue, Middleton, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.: Photography, paintings, pottery and fiber art by Dane County artists will be displayed for purchase on Terrace Avenue (near Capital Brewery) at the return of this annual event. Artists will also give demonstrations throughout the day, and there will be live music and activities for kids.
CWW Awards reception/reading, Saturday, May 14, Arts + Literature Laboratory, 3 p.m.: The Council for Wisconsin Writers Awards for work published in 2021 will introduce you to Wisconsin writers you don’t yet know and celebrate those you might already be familiar with. Awards are for full-length books, short fiction, poetry, non-fiction, children’s literature and there’s another for young writers. A reception at 3 p.m. is followed by the awards presentation at 4 p.m.; first-place winners will read from their work.
7ucky Vita album release, Saturday, May 14, Cargo Coffee-East, 6:30 p.m.: Madison pop artist 7ucky Vita will celebrate the release of a new self-titled album with an early evening show at Cargo. The songs released ahead of the album examine relationships gone wrong, with Vita’s musical blend of catchy and glossy in full effect. (An aside: Vita is currently recovering from hand surgery, but plans to play the concert; you can find a GoFundMe page here to assist.) With Dank Widow.
Häxan + live soundtrack, Saturday, May 14, Cafe Coda, 7 p.m.: A mix of documentary and fiction, Häxan examines the lore of witchcraft from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. The film attracted a lot of attention from censors around the world for depictions of sacrilege, nudity and other no-nos when released in Sweden in 1922; it’s more commonly known in the U.S. via a 1960s revision narrated by William Burroughs titled Witchcraft Through the Ages. In honor of the film’s 100th anniversary, Joe Clark and Chad McCullough have composed new music to accompany the film, making its debut at this screening. Clark conducts and McCullough plays trumpet, joined by Alvin Cobb Jr. (drums), Jon Irabagon (sax), and Dave Miller (guitar). Tickets here.
Lunar Moth, Saturday, May 14, BarleyPop Live, 8 p.m.: Four Midwestern bands will grace the BarleyPop Live stage for a night of rock n’ roll. Madison garage rock trio Lunar Moth released their first full-length album, Honestly, Maybe in 2021. Diet Lite of Milwaukee, another rock trio, most recently released Stuck Again, an eclectic single. Rounding out the night are Chicago alt-rockers Division Point and Madison heavy metal experts Flying Fuzz.
Pine Travelers, Saturday, May 14, High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.: Isthmus once described Pine Travelers as “firing up an Allman Brothers Band-meets-My Morning Jacket sound.” We should throw in a kettle of Phish, too, since the group is known to jam profusely when in the mood. Dancing shoes required. With Stormy Chromer and Ween tribute band Warm Wet Rag.
André Darlington, May 15, Maduro, 2-4 p.m.: Cocktail expert and former Isthmus contributor André Darlington is in town to celebrate the publication of his latest book, Booze & Vinyl 2, a sequel (as you may have guessed) to the super fun Booze & Vinyl, which matches classic cocktails with classic vinyl LPs. The release party for 2021’s travelogue Booze Cruise, also at Maduro, was a chill good time; expect this one to match it, with cocktails from the book, tunes from DJ Senan Nash, and a book signing by André.
Neil Gaiman, Sunday, May 15, Orpheum Theater 8 p.m.: A masterful fantasist, Neil Gaiman has written books for all ages and in varying fields (he debuted with a Duran Duran bio). For pop culture impact, it’s hard to find bigger mile markers in his bibliography than American Gods (which prominently features The House on the Rock, and recently spawned a Starz TV series) and Sandman (the first comic book to win a World Fantasy Award). Gaiman visits Madison for a Wisconsin Book Festival talk; remaining tickets were very limited ahead of the event, at madisonorpheum.com.
Front Line Assembly, Sunday, May 15, Crucible, 8 p.m.: Crucible continues to bring world-class acts to Madison. The Canadian electro-industrial band Front Line Assembly makes what the venue says is its first-ever stop in the capital city. These guys took influences from Skinny Puppy, Ministry, Kraftwerk and others to pioneer a genre that Nine Inch Nails propelled to the mainstream, and their musical versatility attracts fans of metal, industrial and techno music. Bonus: Front Line Assembly has their own version of “Rock Me Amadeus.” Rein, the electronic project of Swedish artist Joanna Reinikainen, will open the show.
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.