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Theater in Chicago

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Theater in Chicago

Theater in Chicago describes not only theater performed in Chicago, Illinois but also to the movement in Chicago that saw a number of small, meagerly funded companies grow to institutions of national and international significance. Chicago had long been a popular destination for tours sent out from New York managements, as well as an origins of many shows sent to appear worldwide.


  • History 1
  • Today 2
  • Chicago area theater venues and organizations 3
    • Resident theater companies and venues 3.1
    • Itinerant theater companies 3.2
    • Touring and rental venues 3.3
    • Inactive, historic theater companies and venues 3.4
  • References 4
    • Notes 4.1
  • External links 5


Illinois Theatre, Chicago, Illinois, c.1909

Maurice Browne founded the Little Theater in Chicago, crediting Pelham's Hull House influence.[1] This, along with the founding of the Toy Theatre in Boston the same year, is credited with starting the American Little Theatre Movement.[2] The troupes that are commonly regarded as having started the postwar stage renaissance were The Second City, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and The Goodman Theatre.

Steppenwolf Theatre and the Victory Gardens Theater, both of which, along with the Goodman Theatre, Chicago Shakespeare Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre Company, were honored with regional theater Tony Awards, the only city in the country to have five theaters so honored.

The Glengarry Glen Ross at the Goodman. The Goodman Theatre also was where Hurlyburly by David Rabe premiered under the direction of Chicago improvisational theater alum Mike Nichols.

After Mosher moved to New York, the artistic directorship went to Robert Falls, former director of the Wisdom Bridge Theatre. Falls is particularly known for his ongoing collaboration with actor Brian Dennehy, including productions of Death of a Salesman and Long Day's Journey Into Night that went to Broadway and won Tony Awards for both of them.

Briefly, The Goodman Theatre is known as the house of directors; Lookingglass Theatre Company as the home of original image-based productions. Several leading directors associated with these troupes -- Dennis Zacek, Mary Zimmerman and Frank Galati—are alumni of Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois, just north of Chicago. In addition, writers such as Richard Christiansen of the Chicago Daily News and later the Chicago Tribune, Newcity's senior editor Nate Lee and Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times helped encourage Chicagoans to come out and appreciate live theater.[3][4]

Since 1990, Performink has been an industry newspaper for Chicago theater, including show openings and reviews, audition listings, and industry and union news for Chicago actors, directors, dancers, designers, and other theater professionals.

The Drury Lane Theatres were a group of six theaters in the Chicago suburbs founded by Tony DeSantis. He began producing plays in 1949 in a tent adjacent to his Martinique Restaurant to attract customers, then built his first theater in 1958.[5]


Chicago is home to more than 200 small, critically acclaimed theatre companies such as Lifeline Theatre, Remy Bumppo Theatre Company, Redmoon Theater, Trap Door Theatre, and TUTA Theatre. Some have their own performance venues, while many perform in untraditional theatre spaces such as storefronts or bars, or any number of studio or black box theatres around Chicago.

Touring productions also visit the city regularly, mainly playing at the big theaters in the Chicago Theatre District in the Loop.

Following in the tradition of The Second City and Steppenwolf, many of these companies, including Lifeline Theatre, are ensemble-based. An ensemble-based company is formed of a group of artists (actors, directors, designers, playwrights, etc.) who work collaboratively to create each production.

Chicago theater has a long record of introducing new plays and playwrights. Many of the theaters in Chicago have new play workshop programs to cultivate work from current playwrights. Chicago Dramatists, which was begun by a group of ex-students of a playwriting workshop at Victory Gardens Theater, has an ongoing program of developing new writers, most notably Rebecca Gilman.[6]

The Victory Gardens Theater plays host to a dozen resident playwrights and most of the productions there are premieres of their plays, a number of which have gone on to productions elsewhere. Some of these include James Sherman's Beau Jest, Jeffrey Sweet's The Action Against Sol Schumann, Kristine Thatcher's Voice of Good Hope, Charles Smith's Jelly Belly, Steve Carter's Pecong, Claudia Allen's Deed of Trust, and Douglas Post's Earth and Sky.

Stage Left Theatre's Downstage Left program has cultivated nationally known playwrights Mia McCullough, David Rush, Margaret Lewis and David Alan Moore.

Theatre Building Chicago formerly had an ongoing program for the development of new musicals until being taken over by Stage 773 in 2010.

Chicago dell'Arte is local company currently creating and producing new works of Commedia dell'arte. The Company also sponsors and in-house troupe known as Le Corone Rosse.

Polish language productions for Chicago's large Polish speaking population can be seen at the historic Gateway Theatre in Jefferson Park.

Oracle Theatre offers public access theater in Chicago sustained by the donations, where the seats are free and open to anyone.[7]

Chicago is home to both non-union and union theater companies. Union shows adhere to strict contracts for all artists involved (e.g., performers, directors, musicians, playwrights, stage managers, et cetera). Artistic trade unions such as Actors' Equity, commonly known simply as "Equity," and the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society bargain for contracts guaranteeing minimum wages and other rights involved with the rehearsal and production process. Shows may run for a varying number of weeks, depending on ticket sales. Musicals tend to have longer runs than do stage plays. The majority of theaters in Chicago are located on the city's North Side and in the Loop.

Both Actor's Equity and non-Equity productions in the Chicago area receive honors from the Joseph Jefferson (or Jeff) Awards, awarded by a panel of volunteer judges.

Chicago area theater venues and organizations

Resident theater companies and venues

Itinerant theater companies

  • 2nd Story [172]
  • 20% Theatre Company Chicago [173]
  • 500 Clown [174]
  • A Reasonable Facsimile Theatre Co. [175]
  • A-Squared Theater Workshop [176]
  • About Face Theatre [177]
  • Appetite Theatre
  • Babes With Blades [178]
  • Big Noise Theatre Company [179]
  • Black Forest Theater [180]
  • BoHo Theatre
  • Bricklayers Theatre Company [181]
  • Buzz22 Chicago [182]
  • Chicago Children's Theatre [183]
  • Chicago dell'Arte [184]
  • Chicago Kids Company [185]
  • Chicspeare Production Company [186]
  • Child's Play Touring Theatre
  • Collaboraction
  • Congo Square Theater Company [187]
  • Curious Theater Branch [188]
  • Definition Theatre Company [189]
  • Democracy Burlesque [190]
  • Dog & Pony Theatre Company [191]
  • Eclipse Theatre Company [192]
  • Echo Theater Company
  • Emerald City Theatre Company [193]
  • ETA Creative Arts Foundation
  • Factory Theater
  • Fehinty African Theatre Ensemble
  • Filament Theatre Ensemble [194]
  • First Folio Theatre
  • Free Street Theater [195]
  • GayCo Productions [196]
  • Griffin Theatre Co. [197]
  • Halcyon Theatre [198]
  • Hell in a Handbag Productions [199]
  • The House Theatre of Chicago
  • The Hypocrites
  • Imagination Theater [200]
  • InFusion Theatre Company [201]
  • Kapoot Clown Theater
  • Kidworks Touring Theatre [202]
  • LiveWire Chicago Theatre
  • The Mammals Theatre Company [203]
  • The Moving Dock Theatre Company [204]
  • MPAACT (Ma’at Prod Assoc of Afrikan Cntr Th) [205]
  • New Leaf Theatre [206]
  • New Millennium Theatre Company [207]
  • Nothing Special Productions [208]
  • Nothing Without a Company [209]
  • Off-Off Campus
  • Pavement Group [210]
  • People's Theatre of Chicago [211]
  • Performing Arts Limited [212]
  • Pine Box Theatre [213]
  • Plus Sized Productions
  • Polarity Ensemble Theatre [214]
  • Porchlight Music Theatre Chicago [215]
  • Premiere Theatre & Performance [216]
  • Prologue Theatre Company [217]
  • Promethean Theatre Ensemble [218]
  • Provision Theater [219]
  • Quest Theatre Ensemble [220]
  • Rebekah Theatre Project (rtp) [221]
  • Red Tape Theatre [222]
  • Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
  • The Right Brain Project [223]
  • REVOLUTION Theatre Company [224]
  • The Ruckus [225]
  • Saint Sebastian Players
  • Salsation! Theatre Company
  • Seanachai Theatre Company [226]
  • The Shakespeare Project of Chicago
  • Shattered Globe Theatre [227]
  • ShawChicago Theater Company [228]
  • Sideshow Theatre Company [229]
  • Silent Theatre Company [230]
  • Sinnerman Ensemble [231]
  • Spartan Theatre Company [232]
  • StarKid Productions
  • Stockyards Theatre Project [233]
  • Strange Tree Group [234]
  • Strangeloop Theatre [11]
  • Striding Lion InterArts Workshop [235]
  • Supernatural Chicago [236]
  • Teatro Luna [237]
  • Teatro Vista [238]
  • Theater Oobleck
  • Theater Wit [239]
  • Theatre Seven [240]
  • Theatre-Hikes [241]
  • Theo Ubique Theatre Company [242]
  • TUTA Theatre
  • Tympanic Theatre [243]
  • Vitalist Theatre [244]
  • Walkabout Theater Company [245]
  • Waltzing Mechanics [246]
  • Wayward Productions [247]
  • Wicked Good Productions
  • WildClaw Theatre Company [248]
  • Will Act For Food [249]
  • WNEP Theater [250]

Touring and rental venues

Inactive, historic theater companies and venues





  1. ^ Peggy Glowacki and Julia Hendry, Images of America: Hull House, Arcadia Publishing, Chicago, Illinois, 2004 p. 34, ISBN 0-7385-3351-3
  2. ^ Marcia Noe, "The Women of Provincetown, 1915-1922/Composing Ourselves: The Little Theatre Movement and the American Audience" (review) American Drama, Winter 2005
  3. ^ Brian Hieggelke (2009-06-05). "Back through the Lookingglass". NewCity Stage. Retrieved 2010-10-31. ... Newcity’s first senior editor Nate Lee penned a cover story that November, as the production moved from the confines of Chicago Filmmakers to the larger space inhabited by Remains Theatre. In the process of reporting, he insisted I see it and took me along. It was unforgettable, and probably had much to do with our growing and sustained commitment to theater coverage. (Though in fairness, Nate’s passion for Chicago theater, or theatre, as he insisted, from our very first issues set the pace from day one.) 
  4. ^ Nate Lee (2009-11-12). "Romper Room: Back flips, harem girls and the secret of life from the Lookingglass Theatre Company". NewCity Stage. Retrieved 2010-10-31. The critics agree, as they say. If I were to add my own voice to the shouts of praises for Lookingglass Theatre and their current hit play, “Arabian Nights,” I believe I’d use ancient words like “kaleidoscopic phantasmagoria.” 
  5. ^ [260] New York Times, June 9, 2007 - Anthony De Santis, 93, Theater Owner, Dies
  6. ^ Centerstage Media, LLC. "Who's Who Chicago". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  7. ^ Walsh, Katy (27 April 2011). "Review "WOYZECK": Bi-Level Imagery Amazingly Gripping". Retrieved 3 May 2011. 
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^ Wachtler, Mark (September 29, 2014). "Under The Gun Theater Opening in Wrigleyville". Illinois Herald. Retrieved January 14, 2015.
  11. ^
  12. ^
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Centerstage Media, LLC. "WhosWho Chicago: Body Politic : - Chicago City Life in Chicago, Illinois". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  16. ^ Caffeine Theatre To Close
  17. ^ Theatrical days appear numbered for Chicago Center for Performing Arts
  18. ^ "PerformInk Online". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  19. ^ Centerstage Media, LLC. "Chicago: Fourth Wall Productions : - Chicago City Life in Chicago, Illinois". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  20. ^ Infamous Commonwealth Theatre closes
  21. ^ Centerstage Media, LLC. "WhosWho Chicago: Remains Theatre : - Chicago City Life in Chicago, Illinois". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  22. ^ Centerstage Media, LLC. "WhosWho Chicago: Roadworks Productions : - Chicago City Life in Chicago, Illinois". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  23. ^ "Theater Companies". Retrieved 2011-05-30. 
  24. ^ New Constellation in city's entertainment galaxy

External links

  • League of Chicago Theatres
  • Theatre In Chicago
  • Broadway in Chicago
  • Chicago Storefront Theatre Alliance - CSFT
  • Chicago Theatre Homepage
  • Jeff Awards, Awarding Excellence in Chicago Theatre
  • Metromix, the Chicago Tribune's stage page
  • Time Out Chicago Theater News
  • Information Source for Chicago Theaters
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