What to do in Madison this weekend: The Pursuit of Happiness, Madison Night Mares debuts and more Isthmus Picks – Isthmus

Gilda’s Backyard BBQ, Thursday, June 13, Gilda’s Club Madison, Middleton, 5:30-8:30 p.m.: Gilda’s Club offers support for those facing cancer and their families, friends and caregivers — for free. Help support their mission by attending the annual Gilda’s Backyard BBQ, which along with barbecue fare by Blue Plate Catering includes a raffle, auction, and music by Universal Sound. Tickets available online through June 9, or at the door.

Paul Lawrence, Thursday, June 13, Harmony Bar, 6:30 p.m.: Midwestern singer-songwriter Paul Lawrence is in a homecoming phase after writing and performing his music for the last 12 years in Taipei. He says he’s excited to share his new music with English-speaking audiences. It’ll be interesting to listen for any Taiwanese influences that may have seeped into his blues and folk-country after all this time.

La Combi, Thursday, June 13, Monona Terrace Rooftop, 6:30 p.m.: La Combi is a pillar of Madison’s Latin music community, holding down a twice-a-month dance at Robinia Courtyard with their unique mix of salsa, Peruvian. Cuban and other styles. An all-star ensemble, the group includes fleet-fingered guitarist Richard Hildner Armacanqui, bassist Nick Moran, vocalist Betty Guerrero, percussionist Paddy Cassidy, and others. Concessions open at 5:30 p.m., and the evening begins with a Latin dance lesson led by Luis Armacanqui at 6:30 p.m. This Concerts on the Rooftop performance is free, but tickets are required:

Tina: The Tina Turner Musical, through June 16, Overture Hall: Singer, songwriter and actor Tina Turner, who died in 2023, was one of the most electrifying performers of the 20th century. Her story is also one of resilience; it took years for Turner to rebuild her career after divorcing her abusive husband and bandmate Ike Turner, but she became a far bigger star as a solo performer. The touring Broadway production Tina: The Tina Turner Musical features Ari Groover and Zurin Villanueva alternating nights in the lead role. Shows at 7:30 p.m. on June 13-14, 2 and 7:30 p.m. on June 15, and 1 and 6:30 p.m. on June 16; tickets at

POTUS: Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying To Keep Him Alive, May 30-June 15, Bartell Theatre: Strollers Theatre wins the sweepstakes for longest event title this month with its production of Selina Fillinger’s 2022 play POTUS: Or Behind Every Great Dumbass Are Seven Women Trying to Keep Him Alive. Hint: it’s a farce. The all-female cast plays on the old trope of “behind every great man…” by all seven of them intervening to prop up POTUS. While the play received mixed reviews on Broadway, its themes are timely this crazy election year. Read Mel Hammond’s review here. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except 2 p.m. on June 15) and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets at

Madison Jazz Festival, through June 16, various locations: Each June brings an embarrassment of riches for music fans when the Madison Jazz Festival returns, this year from June 7-16. Coordinated in partnership by Arts + Literature Lab and the Wisconsin Union Theater, the schedule features an array of concerts and a couple special events focusing on the late Richard Davis, including a screening of the new documentary String Theory: The Richard Davis Method, with a discussion by director Michael Neelsen and others (7 p.m., June 13, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art). Friday’s concert (7:30 p.m., Arts + Lit Lab) focuses on vocal jazz, with Adekola Adedapo, Donna Woodall and Michelle DuVall. And the action moves to the UW Memorial Union Terrace on the weekend, with headliners the Orrin Evans Quartet (7 p.m. Saturday) and Dee Dee Bridgewater’s We Exist quartet (7 p.m. Sunday). Find the full schedule at

Ring Round the Moon, through Sept. 20, American Players Theatre, Spring Green: This Christopher Fry adaptation of a play by Jean Anouilh holds all the trademark Fry wit, and features unrequited love, hijinks, manipulative romancing and hidden identities. In short, Ring Round the Moon is perfect for summer repertory at APT. The cast features APT favorites La Shawn Banks, Nate Burger and Colleen Madden. The play opens the summer season at APT with performances coming up at 7:30 p.m. on June 13 and 8 p.m. on June 15; tickets at

Summer Breeze, June 14-15, Olbrich Gardens, 4-9 p.m.: The natural beauty gathered at Olbrich Gardens is always a Madison favorite. But the usually calming environment gets a jolt of energy during the annual Summer Breeze event, which offers all sorts of activities for all ages. Visitors can play lawn games like bocce, badminton and croquet; try out some hula hoops; dance to DJ Roger Roger (Friday) and DJ Femme Noir (Saturday); or learn art techniques using natural materials. And, of course, enjoy food and drink. Tickets (available at the door; food/drink extra) help keep the gardens free for everyone. Note, the gardens close at 2 p.m. each day for set up. Find more info at

Harry Whitehorse International Wood Sculpture Festival, June 14-22, San Damiano, Monona: This ambitious festival brings together a slate of wood sculptors from around the world for a week-long residency, to show their work, create new work, and involve the public with demos and other entertainment. Harry Whitehorse, the late Ho-Chunk sculptor from Monona, inspired the festival that will focus on both contemporary and traditional wood sculpting techniques. Opening ceremonies at 5 p.m. on June 14 feature a Ho-Chunk color guard and the Thundercloud Singers and Dancers. The public is invited to watch the artists work 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily from June 15-21 and from 9 a.m.-11:30 a.m. on June 22; each day highlights a different art form. The week also includes a Cash Box Kings concert at 6 p.m. on June 18 as part of the San Damiano Summer Biergarten Concert series. Parking is at Monona Grove High School save for Friday’s opening ceremonies; find a schedule at

Community Art Show, June 14-23, Common Wealth Gallery: Common Wealth Development’s gallery space on the third floor of the Madison Enterprise Center has long been a reliable go-to for local visual artists with an exhibit concept and a need for a place to mount it. Case in point: the Community Art Show, which features work by more than 50 local creators, from professional to beginner, of all ages. The exhibit gets underway with an opening reception from 5-8 p.m. on June 14; open hours are noon-5 p.m. on June 15-16 and 22-23, and 4-7 p.m. on June 20 (or by appointment:

The Pursuit of Happiness, June 14-16, McPike Park: The Sessions at McPike summer concert series kicks off with this three-day blowout of music, comedy and dance, which doubles as a fundraiser for local nonprofits. This year’s headliners: On Friday, veteran rocker Chuck Prophet & Mission Express; Saturday brings two sets by the Ameri’Kana All-Stars, a project created by the band Making Movies to highlight a more inclusive view of Americana music; and on Sunday, the Stooges Brass Band from New Orleans closes an afternoon of street/marching bands. Comedy showcases headlined by Mary Mack close the evening on Friday and Saturday. A bevy of other local and regional favorites are on the schedule, including a fest-opening set by Cribshitter at 5 p.m. Friday; Jane Hobson (who just released the excellent album Attic Days) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday; and Cris Plata & Extra Hot at 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Find the full schedule at

KLJ Movement, June 14-16, Overture Center-Promenade Hall: This young dance company, founded in 2020 by Kyra Johnson, aims to increase representation in dance both with the dancers on the stage and the topics explored through movement. “All that Glitterz” presents “an abstract interpretation of the everyday experiences faced by marginalized communities.” Shows are at 7:30 p.m. on June 14-15 and at 2 p.m. on June 16; tickets at

Zachary Scot Johnson, Friday, June 14, Minocqua Brewing Taproom, 7 p.m.: St. Paul singer/songwriter Zachary Scot Johnson knows his way around a cover — his song-a-day project on his YouTube channel has gone for some 4,000 consecutive days. That’s a lot of covers. Johnson gravitates to a straightforward indie folk approach; he might find unexpected pathos in a song like Taylor Swift’s “Picture to Burn,” or shine a light on a lost J.D. Souther classic like “Jesus in 3/4 Time.” Johnson is playing one of Madison’s newer venues, the Minocqua Brewing Taproom, at the former Growlers to Go-Go at 2927 E. Washington Ave.

Bach Dancing & Dynamite Society, June 14-23, Hamel Music Center: BDDS enters its second weekend of performances on Friday, with “Kay Será, Será,” a program featuring clarinetist Alan Kay and works from composers Max Reger Albumblatt, Johannes Brahms, Theresa Martin, Takashi Yoshimatsu and Joseph Horovitz. In Saturday’s program, “One for the Record,” BDDS will collaborate with the Madison Choral Project and Madison Youth Choirs. Sunday’s program “In Record Time” explores the ways time passes in Carlos Simon’s trio “Be Still and Know,” Copland’s jazzy Sextet and Prokofiev’s Overture on Hebrew Themes. Concerts are at 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday, and tickets are at BDDS finishes its run June 21-23; read Sandy Tabachnick’s season preview here.

Piper Road Spring Band, Friday, June 14, North Street Cabaret, 8 p.m.: Piper Road Spring Band celebrated their 50th anniversary in 2023 with a series of summer concerts and a brand new album. The Gainesville Sessions features strong originals and well-chosen covers (including Mike Nesmith’s “Joanne” and Buffalo Springfield’s “For What It’s Worth) given the inimitable Piper Road treatment. Their 51st summer of shows includes a stop in the cozy confines of the North Street Cabaret, an ideal listening room for the band’s blend of bluegrass, swing and more. Tickets at

Juneteenth, Saturday, June 15, Penn Park, noon-6 p.m.: Madison’s Juneteenth celebration kicks off as usual with a parade to the festival grounds at Penn Park; staging begins at 10 a.m. and the parade departs at 11 a.m. from Fountain of Life Covenant Church. The celebration from noon-6 p.m. will feature kids’ activities, exhibits, vendors, speakers, a basketball tournament, and a robust entertainment lineup featuring headliners the Stooges Brass Band and gospel singer Jamal Roberts. It’s hosted by Kujichagulia Madison Center for Self-Determination; for more information and to register in advance for the parade, visit

The Kernel of Truth, Saturday, June 15, Overture Center-Capitol Theater, 2 & 7 p.m.: What are the stories of those behind bars? The Kernel of Truth, a new production by the Black Men Coalition of Dane County, is set in a county jail and features characters considering the actions that landed them there, the issues of the criminal justice system, and the universal search of us all for hope and redemption. Find tickets at

Dirt Camp, Saturday, June 15, The Vines, Sauk City, 2 p.m.-midnight: Last summer, those enterprising Free Dirt fellows hosted the inaugural Dirt Camp music festival, and a fabulous time was had by all. They’re back at it with another heck of a lineup joining the hosts: Appleton rock ‘n twangers Dusk (currently one of the hottest live bands in the Midwest), Oshkosh punk-garage quintet Shoobie, Milwaukee Americana stars Long Mama, Marquette, Michigan, crunch-rockers Curfews, Madison pop juggernaut Combat Naps, and mystery band Please! Admission includes overnight camping, so bring a picnic and beverages and settle in for the day. Tickets at

Cthulhu: The Musical! Saturday, June 15, Bur Oak, 8 p.m.: Musical comedy may not be the first thing that comes to mind in conjunction with the Cthulhu Mythos. Puppeteers for Fears is here to change that with this touring production written by Josh Gross. Featuring a full rock band, multimedia backgrounds and, of course, puppets, it’s the H.P. Lovecraft tale “The Call of Cthulhu” reimagined. Note: While Cthulhu: the Musical! may be a puppet production, it’s not a kids’ show. Tickets at

5-10-100: Women Artists Forward, through Aug. 4, Overture Center-James Watrous Gallery: The Women Artists Forward Fund was founded by Madison artists Brenda Baker and Bird Ross in 2019 as a way to directly assist artists in Dane County with unrestricted grants. The exhibit “5-10-100: Women Artists Forward,” on display at the Wisconsin Academy’s Watrous Gallery through Aug. 4, features work by the first 10 artists to receive the grants: Jennifer Angus, Adriana Barrios, Mary Bero, Yeonhee Cheong, Angelica Contreras, Lilada Gee, Dakota Mace, Katherine Steichen Rosing, Alice Traore and Babette Wainwright. Regular gallery hours are noon-6 p.m. Thursday-Friday and noon-5 p.m. Saturday-Sunday. Coming up June 16, artists Barrios, Contreras and Steichen Rosing will open up their studios for drop-in tours from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.; for locations, register at

Madison Night Mares debut, June 16-17, Warner Park Duck Pond, 6:05 p.m.: The Duck Pond will seldom be empty this summer as a new women’s fastpitch softball team will alternate with the Madison Mallards this summer. The Night Mares take on the La Crosse Steam for their first two games. On Sunday, the first 1,000 fans will receive a commemorative Night Mares inaugural season softball. Read Mel Hammond’s season preview here, and find tickets at

Find the individual Picks collected here, and as part of the full calendar of events.

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