Make a Scene: Theatre in Chicago
6 November 2018
For those who appreciate access to a thriving theater scene, Chicago has much to offer in unique spaces, and not just within the downtown theatre district. On any given night, residents of 1000M can enjoy an intimate performance at one of several storefront theaters across the city or witness the fantastic productions offered just steps away from 1000M.
As part of a citywide initiative, Mayor Rahm Emanuel declared 2019 the “Year of Chicago Theater.” You can expect more public programs, performances and exhibitions around the downtown area and throughout Chicago in the coming year, but for now it’s a spectacular time to take in a night at the theatre.
Broadway in Chicago
Chicago has a wide variety of shows to choose from, and there’s as much diversity in genre as there is in venue. According to the League of Chicago Theatres, there are over 200 companies, performing in theatres that range from the traditional neighborhood storefront to historic buildings. Choosing the right show may take some planning, but if you’re a fan of Broadway, the downtown theatre district is where you’ll want to be.
Chicago hosts some of the best touring productions, thanks to Broadway in Chicago. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s epic rap musical Hamilton began its Chicago run at the CIBC Theatre in 2016 and continues through 2018 with the possibility of an extension.(It just might match the 3½ year run that Wicked ran for at the Oriental Theatre, which now hosts shows such as Hello Dolly and The Book of Mormon.)
Contemporary and Ensemble
Another downtown venue that might not be on your radar is the Goodman Theatre, currently under the artistic direction of Robert Falls, whose adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale opens in May 2019. This legendary theater boasts its commitment to three principles – quality, diversity, and community. You’ll also find it popular during the winter season for its annual production of A Christmas Carol.
For those looking for a well-tenured ensemble performance, then the homegrown Steppenwolf Theater Company in Lincoln Park is just the place for you. Many of their productions have gone on to national and international runs. Some of its well-known ensemble members include John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, and co-founder Gary Sinise.
Off the Beaten Path
Patrons looking for more niche theatrical genres will enjoy exploring Chicago’s neighborhood theatres. The Firebrand Theatre Company, whose mainstage calendar takes place at Wicker Park’s The Den Theater, has been making headlines recently with their production of Tony Kushner’s Caroline, or Change. The company vows to empower women by employing both behind the scenes and on stage.
And if you’re looking to broaden your horizons to international theater, then just blocks away from The Den is the The Chopin Theater which invites productions and artists from Eastern Europe on a regular basis. With two theaters, a cafe, and art gallery the space has become more of a cultural center. What sets Chicago apart from other theatre scenes, and The Chopin is a good example, is that most of the reputable theatre companies and ensembles started from the ground-up and continue to evolve.
For a complete list of shows in Chicago, an interactive map of all the venues across the city, and access to discounted tickets visit the Theatre in Chicago website. Scratching the surface will certainly take a while, but finding your favorite theatre should happen instantaneously.