Forward Theater’s second show of the season, RED, is a two-man play centering on abstract expressionist painter Mark Rothko and his younger assistant. It takes place between the years of 1958 and 1960 in New York, as Rothko is commissioned to paint a series of murals for the Four Seasons Restaurant on Park Avenue—the biggest commission in the history of modern art! Through February 2, forwardtheater.com

In her paintings, Pamela Callahan uses curving shapes and bold color to represent the ways inner and outer landscapes converge. Her compositions are inspired by the hills surrounding her southwestern Wisconsin studio. Meanwhile, Rhea Vedro works from a fascination with humankind’s relationship with metal—how the material is applied to objects of beauty, war, ceremony and industry—and reveals her discoveries in painted steel sculptures. The James Watrous Gallery presents How a Bird is Watched by Water and Orgum, the artists’ side-by-side solo exhibitions. Through March 2,wisconsinacademy.org

A companion show to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art’s Real/Surreal exhibition opening January 24, The Mystery Beneath examines surrealism and magical realism in Wisconsin from 1940 to 1975, via the works of Aaron Bohrod, James Watrous, John Wilde, Santos Zingale and others.Through April 13, mmoca.org

Encore! Studio for the Performing Arts?offers a glimpse of what happens backstage at a theater in The Green Room. The play delves into everything from last-minute script changes to tensions between actors and technicians to all other kinds of drama! Through February 8, encorestudio.org

What’s real and what isn’t? What’s happening around you and what’s going on only in your head? The distinctions—and perhaps more interestingly the overlaps—between the two provide the basis ofReal/Surreal, a new exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art that explores the interconnections between the real and the imagined in early modern American art. The exhibition, on loan from the Whitney Museum of American Art, features paintings, drawings and prints by such artists as Edward Hopper, Man Ray and Charles Sheeler. January 24–April 27, mmoca.org

As hostages Jim and Jennifer sit blindfolded, awaiting their fate, they invent a life beyond the prison walls. As their tragic fate approaches, their fantasy intensifies and becomes more vivid. Music Theatre of Madison is only the fourth to stage the haunting, unconventional rock musical Hostage Song.January 29–February 1, mtmadison.com

Madison Ballet offers the first installment of its Spring Repertory. The concert melds new and established works to showcase ballet in its purest, most contemporary state—a hallmark of the company and its artistic director, W. Earle Smith—at the intimate Bartell Theatre. (Don’t miss part two in March!) January 31–February 1, madisonballet.org

In Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo, Strollers Theatre presents a look at war in Iraq from a unique perspective. A tiger talks about how other animals fled the zoo, only to be shot by soldiers invading the country. His is a story of loyalty, greed and friendship. January 31–February 22,strollerstheatre.org

The Oakwood Chamber Players? present a concert of composers—Sveinbjörn Sveinbjörnsson, Carl Nielsen and Jean Sibelius—influenced by the contrast of light and dark in Nordic. February 1–2,oakwoodchamberplayers.com?

Door County jewelry designer Angela Lensch weaves precious metals with gemstones and pearls, creating wearable art. Her work is showcased this month at Hatch Art House. February 1–28,hatcharthouse.com

Comedian Brian Regan returns to Overture Center to offer his hilarious takes on everyday situations—from the joy of snowcones after a childhood baseball game to the horror of a doctor recommending he give up dairy products. February 7, overturecenter.com

Madison Opera?takes on Gaetano Donizetti’s comedy about a girl whose parents—the entire 21st regiment—aren’t happy when falls in love. The Daughter of the Regiment is sung in French with projected English translation. February 7 and 9, madisonopera.org

Changing Hands: Art Without Reservation, 3: Contemporary Native Art from the Northeast and Southeast is the final, third installment of a decade-long exploration of art created by artists of indigenous origin in the United States and Canada. The show, presented at the Chazen Museum of Art, highlights Native American, First Nations, Métis and Inuit artists and designers working in both traditional and new media, both addressing and often confronting aspects of their cultural legacies. February 7–April 27,chazen.wisc.edu

Pop-folk singer-songwriter Mason Jennings hops over from Minneapolis to the Majestic Theatre to share songs of love and growing into adulthood in his new, aptly named album, Minnesota. February 8, majesticmadison.com

Led by renowned bass player Richard Davis, the Black Music Ensemble at UW–Madison is made up of a small group of vocalists and instrumentalists who study the repertoire of African American composers, many of them jazz artists, and perform twice a semester. The ensemble’s first concert of the year takes place at Morphy Hall. February 13, music.wisc.edu

Gaelic Storm brings Celtic sounds to the Barrymore Theatre. The touring group, which got its start in Santa Monica, fuses traditional Irish music with tinges of contemporary rock and styles from around the world. February 14, barrymorelive.com

The Madison Symphony Orchestra ?and maestro John DeMain share the stage with guest trumpeter Tine Thing Heselth, who joins for a program featuring Jean Sibelius’s Finlandia, Joseph Haydn’s Concerto for Trumpet, John Adams’s Doctor Atomic Symphony, Alexander Arutiunian’s Concerto for Trumpet and Orchestra and Richard Strauss’ Suite from Der Rosenkavalier. February 14–16, madisonsymphony.org?

In Puppet Master, Kanopy Dance follows Mohawk Man as he journeys through an altered reality under the spell of the Puppet Master. Heavy metal cello rock provides a pounding backdrop for angst-filled dancers in Dr. Who-style costumes. February 14–16, kanopydance.org

It’s a modern love story: A couple meets online, but when they decide to meet in real life, they find they can’t speak to one another. Broom Street Theater presents Chat ;), a play about the many things that dictate how we fall in love. February 14–March 8, bstonline.org

The Capitol Theatre, puppetry and black light help bring the characters of Eric Carle’s books to life inThe Very Hungry Caterpillar. February 15, overturecenter.com?

Children’s Theater of Madison debuts The Giver, the stage adaptation of the award-winning book about Jonas, a boy who lives in a perfect world and meets an ancient man who may alter his life—and possibly millions of others’—forever. February 15–23?, ctmtheater.org

Sound Ensemble Wisconsin?times a special concert to the sunset and follows the performance with champagne and chocolate. Sound Stories: Of Love and Night features Ludwig van Beethoven’s Schottische Lieder (1, 2, 13), Ralph Vaughan Williams’s Nocturne & Scherzo for String Quintet, Claude Debussy’s Nuit D’Etoiles, Ernest Bloch’s Nocturnes for Piano Trio?and Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklarte Nacht for String Sextet. February 16, sewmusic.org

From its inception, Complexions Contemporary Ballet has pushed boundaries. The New York group, now celebrating its nineteenth season, is renowned not only for its athleticism and technical skill but also for the diversity of its dancers. February 19,overturecenter.com

The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra’s latest Masterworks concert of “intense classical passion” highlights guest cellist Joshua Roman as well as Vittorio Giannini’s Concerto Grosso, Joseph Haydn’s Concerto No. 2 in D major and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Symphony No.41 ‘Jupiter.’ February 21, wcoconcerts.org

The Miró String Quartet, the faculty string-quartet-in-residence at the University of Texas in Austin, makes a stop at UW–Madison to perform Joseph Haydn’s “The Lark,” Philip Glass’s Quartet No. 5 and Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” at Mills Hall. February 21, uniontheater.wisc.edu