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What to do in Madison this weekend: Wisconsin Film Festival, Sam Jay and more Isthmus Picks

Jul 17, 2023

by Isthmus Staff

April 13, 2023

5:03 AM

courtesy Wisconsin Film Festival

A still from "The Last Picture Show."

Wisconsin Film Festival, April 13-20, UW campus and Hilldale: This true sign of spring in Madison is back with a range of films celebrating all things cinematic, from a showing of Peter Bogdanovich's classic The Last Picture Show (April 20, sold out) to indie projects like the Canadian film I Like Movies (also April 20). Wisconsin's Own is well represented, too, with 43 films with ties to the state. See the full schedule at; and to buy advance tickets, but showing up at the venue almost always results in a seat, too.

Timothy Egan, Thursday, April 13, Central Library, 7 p.m.: If you've ever read a book by Timothy Egan, you know he combines thorough research with clear passionate storytelling. His latest, A Fever in the Heartland: The Ku Klux Klan’s Plot to Take Over America, and the Woman Who Stopped Them, is just out from Viking. Egan concentrates on Midwestern KKK leader D.C. Stephenson of Indiana. The “woman” of the subtitle is Madge Oberholtzer — kidnapped and raped by Stephenson, she was able to report him to police before succumbing to her injuries. Egan's appearance is a Wisconsin Book Festival event.

Rob Wallace

Mike Vallely (left) and Greg Ginn of Black Flag.

Black Flag, Thursday, April 13, The Annex, 7 p.m.: Yep, you read that right: Black Flag is on the road in 2023, and the tour has just announced a stop in Madison. The band, formed in 1976 in California and led since by guitarist-songwriter Greg Ginn, helped bring the do-it-yourself concept back to the rock world by booking their own tours and forming the SST label to release music. The band is marking the 40th anniversary of the My War album with a full performance, plus a second set of other material. Along with Ginn, the band features vocalist Mike Vallely (a member since 2014) and a rhythm section of Harley Duggan and Charles Wiley (both from Seattle band Darkhorse Rising). Tickets at

Hunter Peress

Sam Jay

Sam Jay, April 13-15, Comedy on State: Sam Jay's sharply observational style has remained a through line during a gradual rise to the top, whether it's a stand-up gig, writing for Saturday Night Live, hosting two seasons of the variety show PAUSE with Sam Jay for HBO, or being a member of a stellar ensemble cast in the Netflix film You People. With Ryan Donahue and Elliot GB. Shows at 7:30 p.m., April 13; and 7:30 and 10 p.m., April 14-15. Tickets at

Dear Theo: The Letters of Vincent Van Gogh, Thursday, April 13, Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7:30 p.m.: Today Vincent Van Gogh is almost as well known for his struggles with his mental health as he is for his groundbreaking painting techniques. He wrote many letters to his brother, Theo, who tried to get his art the audience it deserved. This dramatic reading of a selection of those letters highlights the inner artist. The reading is by Melvin Hinton, narrated by Maggie Schenk, with music by Diana Wheeler, and images from Van Gogh.

Chelcie Lynn, Thursday, April 13, Barrymore Theatre, 7:30 p.m.: Chelcie Lynn's career took off in 2014 when her persona “Trailer Trash Tammy” went viral on social media. Since then, Lynn has expanded her credentials to include actress and touring comedian. Her first stand-up tour, “The Tammy Tour: One Trailer Park at a Time,” sold out, and she has appeared in television, film and comedy specials. Now on her “2 Fingers and a 12 Pack” tour, the comedian continues to create content across platforms, often using the alter-ego that launched her to internet fame in the first place. Tickets at

Ross Zentner

Clare Arena Haden, Madison Uphoff and James DeVita, from left, in "Artemisia," Forward Theater, 2023.

Artemisia, April 13-30, Overture Center-Playhouse: The play, commissioned by Forward Theater from much-sought-after American playwright Lauren Gunderson, takes every opportunity to explore themes that Gunderson has visited and revisited in her work, including sexism and violence against women. Artemisia emerges from the facts of the life of Artemisia Gentileschi, a celebrated woman painter from the 17th century whose story has largely been lost. This premiere is part of World Premiere Wisconsin. Shows at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, plus 2 p.m., April 22 and 29. Tickets at

Flight of Lights, through April 16, Dane County Regional Airport, 7:30-11:30 p.m.: This newish spring tradition hatched during the first spring of the pandemic, when looking at things from inside your car was, indeed, a thing. This is a massive light display on the International Lane approach to the airport; be sure you keep one eye on the road if you're the driver because you don't want to hit anyone making the trek from long-term parking. Exhibits include a potentially moribund tribute to a certain “Number 12” — we'll never forget you, Erin. Note, lighted hours are 7:30-11:30 p.m., so if you're picking someone up at the airport at midnight, you're out of luck. Just saying. More info at

UW Science Expeditions, April 14-16, UW Campus: Science-related facilities and museums on campus host this annual weekend of open houses, hands-on exploration stations, and more. Presentations include a special Friday edition of the Wednesday Nite at the Lab lecture series, “Fire, Shipwreck and Cheese: Wisconsin's Lost Coastal Communities,” by archeologist Amy Rosebrough (7 p.m., April 14, Wisconsin Historical Society; APRIL 14 UPDATE: This talk has been canceled); and if you missed out on tickets to the annual “Wonders of Physics” demonstration, seats are first come, first served at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. on April 15, in Chamberlin Hall, Room 2103. (Chamberlin also hosts Physics Fair exploration stations from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. on April 15.) Find a schedule and information on virtual options at

Scott Feiner

Chris Soth, Robyn Norton, Eric Lynne, Anna Everywhere Hahm (top row, from left), Bernie Hein, Anthony Cary, Kyla Vaughan and Arko Bakshiin (bottom, from left) in "It's All Overboard," Broom Street Theater, 2023.

It's All Overboard, April 14-May 6, Broom Street Theater: The plays just keep on coming. Broom Street Theater's entry into the World Premiere Wisconsin fun is It's All Overboard, a farcical comedy about a cruise ship and a politically mismatched duo of a recent widower and a divorcee who need to join forces to stop an evil plot. It's written by Lisa Sipos, author of Menace to Society: A Mormon in Milwaukee, a previous Broom Street offering. Shows at 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday. Advance tickets available on Eventbrite; tickets at the door are pay-what-you-can.

Rent, April 14-23, Central Heights Middle School, Sun Prairie: Sun Prairie Civic Theatre presents the Tony Award-winning musical set in New York’s Lower East Side. Rent follows a group of artists and musicians living amid HIV and AIDS. After hitting Broadway in 1996, Rent ran for more than 12 years, and is one of the longest running shows in Broadway history. Although the prospects for those living with these diseases have improved in the decades since, the musical’s messages still ring true. Performances at 7:30 p.m., April 14-15 and 21-22; and 2 p.m., April 23. Tickets at

Eric Roberts

Field Guide

Field Guide, Friday, April 14, High Noon Saloon, 8 p.m.: Canadian indie-folk artist Dylan McDonald, aka Field Guide, recorded his recently released album, Field Guide (Tape Redux), on a Tascam 388 tape machine at his home studio in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Subtle, moody, haunting and spare, the album features reinterpreted songs from Field Guide’s self-titled 2022 album and wrapped up “a beautiful era of solo touring,” according to McDonald. Now, he’s hitting the road with a band and bringing Field Guide’s dreamy, textured sound to Madison. Nashville-based singer-songwriter Cece Coakley, taking influences from Brandi Carlile and Phoebe Bridgers, opens. Tickets at

When You're Falling, April 14-16, Madison Youth Arts Center: Dance Fabulous owner and teacher Lyn Pilch has created the choreography for many productions at the Bartell Theatre, including favorites like the pop musical Bare and Rock of Ages. When You're Falling is a new show choreographed and conceived by Pilch, featuring modern dance, music by local artists, and monologues. One weekend only: 8 p.m., April 14; 2 and 8 p.m., April 15; and 2 p.m., April 16. Tickets at Eventbrite.

courtesy Loshak PR

Drew Lynch

Drew Lynch, Friday, April 14, Orpheum Theater, 8 p.m.: Comedian and actor Drew Lynch rose to fame following his golden-buzzer-earning performance on Season 10 of America’s Got Talent. Since then, the stand-up comedian has appeared as a series regular on IFC’s Maron and amassed more than two million subscribers on his YouTube channel, where he recently released his newest comedy special, And These Are Jokes. Tickets at Ticketmaster.

Great Wisconsin Birdathon, April 15-June 15, anywhere: Ready, set, bird! The Natural Resources Foundation of Wisconsin invites Wisconsin bird fanatics to participate in its annual fundraiser, The Great Wisconsin Birdathon. It's a very choose-your-own-adventure style activity for bird watchers of any level, solo or in a team, to pick a time and spot as many bird species as possible, with fundraising or donations by participants encouraged. The money raised goes to the Natural Resources Foundation’s Bird Protection Fund. Find more info and register at

Wisconsin Landscapes, April 8, 15 and 22, UW Arboretum, 1 p.m.: This workshop series will examine the relationship among water, plants, insects and animals. Following a guided walk, make a connection between nature and art by creating visual art based on what you've seen. It's led by two Kohler Fellows at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, Anna Gregory (science) and Praveen Maripelly (art). The April 22 session is kid-friendly; it's free, but registration is required by the night before each session, on Eventbrite.

Swarm-to-Table, Saturday, April 15, The Crossing, 1127 University Ave., 2-5 p.m.: Remember when these kids used to eat only plain macaroni and chicken fingers? Now the UW Undergraduate Entomology Society, Slow Food UW and MIGHTi (Mission to Improve Global Health Through Innovation) are hosting an insect-based tasting menu. While the goal is to teach attendees about insect agriculture, we admit our curiosity is piqued by the day's other activities, especially prizes for “best arthropod-inspired attire” and the arthropod-inspired open mic, giving rise to the question, What do you hear when the audience doesn't like your act at the arthropod-inspired open mic? A: Crickets! Tickets at Eventbrite.

Colin Crowley

Nicholas Gulig

Wisconsin poet laureate inaugural reading, Saturday, April 15, Arts + Literature Laboratory, 7 p.m.: April is National Poetry Month, and Wisconsin has a new poet laureate. Nicholas Gulig will give his inaugural reading in the role at ALL. The Eau Claire native is currently a professor at UW-Whitewater and lives in Fort Atkinson. Gulig's poetry is passionate yet reasoned; as engaged with language as it is with nature and the political. Gulig will appear with poet Natalie Eilbert.

The Mavericks, Saturday, April 15, The Orpheum Theatre, 8 p.m.: Formed more than 30 years ago, Grammy-nominated group The Mavericks diverged from its usual combination of rock and country on their newest album, en Español. The album, recorded entirely in Spanish, incorporates salsa, ska, norteño and mariachi music into the band’s sound. With McKinley James. Tickets at Ticketmaster.

Jim Barnard

Sean Michael Dargan Trio

Sean Michael Dargan album release, Saturday, April 15, Harmony Bar, 9 p.m.: Sean Michael Dargan remains one of Madison’s most versatile musicians, with a resume that includes The Mersey Brothers, Madison Mystery Tour, The Kissers and several solo albums. His sixth record is titled A Little Bit Distracted…, and it’s loaded with a whole lot of power-pop goodness like the bouncy “Never Be Too Near," the unexpectedly heavy riffer “Give Me Away, All Day, For Free” and a horned-up remake of “Open Hands” (from SMD's 1994 debut Dance on the Windows). This album release show will feature local players Joe Lampe on bass and Bill Guetschow on drums, with a cameo by Aaron Scholz on B3. Opening will be Wendy Bugatti, another artist Madison is lucky to have.

Jonathon Millionaire + Educational Davis, Saturday, April 15, Mickey's Tavern, 10 p.m.: Dubbed the “Tax Evasion Fraudtacular,” this bill wins for most entertaining marketing hook of the month. It helps that it's also a good lineup, featuring a pair of intriguing Madison projects that reflect past sounds in new ways. The off-kilter approach of Educational Davis is what you wish most new wave bands in the '80s sounded like (but didn't). Jonathon Millionaire deconstructed nostalgia by using grunge era sonics on the January EP Team Building Exercise (watch for a full-length this summer). They are joined by Running Man, a group drawn from several Rock Island, Illinois, bands and fronted by longtime Dead Kennedys singer Skip Greer; their self-titled debut tape is a set of invigorating straight-ahead garage rock.

Madison's Best Bloody, Sunday, April 16, Garver Feed Mill, 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m.: It is a wee bit edgy to hold a Bloody Mary contest fundraiser to support the work of the Great Lakes Hemophilia Foundation, but it is a memorable way to attract attention to the cause — combatting a debilitating blood disorder. Bartenders including representatives from Fox Heritage Tavern, The Old Fashioned, The Muskellounge and more will whip up their best Bloody Marys. Tickets include a variety of perks including beer chasers, appetizers and the right to vote for the best drink; VIP option includes early entry at 10:30 a.m. Hopefully you snagged one early, as tickets are sold out at Eventbrite.

courtesy Midiri Brothers

Paul and Joe Midiri.

Midiri Brothers Jazz Sextet, Sunday, April 16, East Side Club, 1 p.m.: The Midiri Brothers Jazz Sextet is really led by siblings — Joe (on clarinet and sax) and Paul (on vibraphone and trombone). The ensemble is known around the country for its vintage swing and exciting concerts; they are the only band to play back-to-back years for Madison Jazz Society's long-running Capital City Jazz Fest. Note that opportunities to catch an MJS concert are growing limited; after the 2022-2023 concert season, the organization will shift its focus to its education initiatives rather than concerts. Tickets at the door (as always, it's free for ages 18 & under).

Mark Weiss

King's X

King’s X, Sunday, April 16, High Noon Saloon, 7 p.m.: The rock band that musicians, critics and fans all agree has been commercially (and criminally) overlooked for its entire 38-year career released Three Sides of One last year. It was the 13th King’s X album but its first since 2008. Now the trio with a heavy sound that swirls metal, prog, funk, soul and gospel — and whose lineup has never changed — is embarking on a limited spring tour that includes a stop in Madison. King’s X last played the Capital City in 2016 and pulled in fans from surrounding states, so this show could sell fast. For years, the band has closed its gigs with “Goldilox,” a beautiful ballad from 1988 that turns into a life-affirming audience singalong you won’t forget. With Sound & Shape, 7 Seasons Deep. Tickets at

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

Editor's note: This post has been updated to reflect the canceled Science Expeditions talk.

by Isthmus Staff

April 13, 2023

5:03 AM

Wisconsin Film Festival, Timothy Egan,Black Flag, Sam Jay, Dear Theo: The Letters of Vincent Van GoghChelcie Lynn, Artemisia, Flight of LightsUW Science Expeditions, APRIL 14 UPDATE: This talk has been canceledIt's All Overboard, Rent, Field Guide, When You're Falling, Drew Lynch, Great Wisconsin Birdathon, Wisconsin Landscapes, Swarm-to-Table, Wisconsin poet laureate inaugural reading, The Mavericks, Sean Michael Dargan album release, Jonathon Millionaire + Educational Davis, Madison's Best Bloody, Midiri Brothers Jazz Sextet, King’s X,