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The Reader's fall arts preview 2012 

Welcome back to a season of serious theater, dance, music, and visual arts.

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Best Bets: Theater | Comedy | Dance | Visual Art | Lit | Film | Music

Ones to Watch: Theater | Comedy | Dance | Visual Art | Lit | Film | Music

Fall Arts Calendar: An event for each of the season's 80 days

Fall doesn't just come back—it brings the whole notion of "back" back. We go back to work and, unless you're talking about the CPS, back to school. Farmers hope to get back what they put into the dirt. City people wipe off the beach sand and get back into slacks and sweaters. The 4 PM dark comes back and so, eventually, does the cold. All summer long I've been taking the same nearly empty train to work; just this week it started running full, with all the riders I used to see every day. I don't know where they were, but like swallows taking the CTA to Capistrano, they've come back.

The arts come back, too. Sure, there were music festivals, summer movies, and loads of shoestring performances to see when the weather was warm, but now things are about to get serious again—a motion comparable to the annual transition from frozen drinks back to amber liquids that taste of charred wood. Theater, dance, and the visual arts, in particular, adhere to the seasons; in fall they come back round to the beginning of their year.

It seems appropriate, then, that a good portion of what we're recommending in this fall arts issue is exciting precisely because it'll be coming back to us after a long season away. Fully half of our theater Best Bets fall into that category. Mary Zimmerman and Lookingglass Theatre will restage their landmark 1998 production of Metamorphoses. Profiles Theatre is reviving the cult classic Hellcab. The National Theatre of Scotland is coming to give us another taste of its stunning war play Black Watch.

In literature there's the hallowed Chicago Humanities Festival. In music, Umbrella Fest. Even comedy has a sort of return: Mike Birbiglia is coming back to the Victory Gardens Theater after having canceled out of his Just for Laughs dates in June.

Still, what's new is easily as formidable. The entire list of film Best Bets, for instance. And, in art, Expo Chicago, a risky attempt to bring Chicago into art-fair parity with places like Basel and New York. Hubbard Street Dance Chicago is presenting its first-ever evening-length dance.

So peruse our Best Bets, take in our profiles of people to watch, and check out our calendar offering something to do for every day from now to December 1. Welcome back.

Tony Adler

Fall highlights: Theater

chicago fall arts theater

» One to watch: Eric Hoff stages The Skriker at Red Tape Theatre

» Ten best bets for fall theater: Trainspotting, 44 plays for 44 presidents, and more

Fall highlights: Comedy

chicago fall arts comedy

» One to watch: comedian Brian Babylon works both sides of Chicago's color line

» Three best bets for fall comedy: Pete Holmes, Mike Birbilgia, and Kyle Kinane

Fall highlights: Visual Art

chicago fall arts visual art

» One to watch: Lucky Pierre's 100 artistic acts of torture

» Six best bets for fall visual arts: Expo Chicago, Inside Studio Gang Architects, and more

Fall highlights: Lit

chicago fall arts books lit

» One to watch: Seminary Co-op Bookstore has outlived the superstore assault

» Five best bets for fall books: Ray Bradbury, Chris Ware, Fran Lebowitz, and more

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