Theater listings | 2012 Student Guide
See Time Out Chicago’s weekly magazine or go to timeoutchicago.com/theater for up-to-date Theater listings and events.
✽ Recommended or notable
✽ American Theater Company 1909 W Byron Ave (773-409-4125, atcweb.org). Despite a rift with ATC’s longtime ensemble members, who departed en masse to reform as American Blues Theater, many of the artistic choices made by PJ Paparelli since coming aboard in 2007 have been exhilarating, including the Chicago premiere of Stephen Karam’s Speech and Debate; a race-switching co-production with Congo Square Theatre Company of Topdog/Underdog and True West; and the world premiere of Kristoffer Diaz’s hip-hop yarn Welcome to Arroyo’s. This season Hair co-author James Rado is helping Paparelli assemble a revised version of his “American tribal love-rock musical” based on the original Off Broadway script.
Angel Island 735 W Sheridan Rd (773-871-0442, maryarrchie.com). This endearingly shabby second-floor space above a Lakeview liquor store is the longtime home of the scrappy Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company, which also offers it up for occasional rentals by younger companies. Each August for more than two decades, Angel Island has hosted the three-day fringe-binge fest known as Abbie Hoffman Died for Our Sins.
✽ Black Ensemble Theater Cultural Center 4450 N Clark St (773-769-4451, blackensembletheater.org). The impresario of BET, writer-director-performer Jackie Taylor, traffics in the almost-destructive-but-ultimately-redemptive lives of black legends of blues, jazz and rock & roll. Her biographical revue-tributes are by no means literary masterpieces, but the roof-raising performances of songs from the likes of Etta James, Jackie Wilson and Marvin Gaye make up the difference. After years in a space at the nearby Uptown Hull-House, Taylor cut the ribbon on this new $20 million facility in late 2011.
Chicago Dramatists 1105 W Chicago Ave (312-633-0630, chicagodramatists.org). Committed to grooming and producing new works, Chicago Dramatists features more classroom options than just about any other theater company in town, with educational opportunities for everyone from beginning writers to working dramatists in search of workshopping chances. The company also produces two to three world premieres per season.
Chicago Shakespeare Theater 800 E Grand Ave (312-595-5600, chicagoshakes.com). In less than 20 years, this unpretentious Bardic troupe moved from the back of a Lincoln Park pub to a mouthwatering, multimillion-dollar facility with a spectacular Lake Michigan view. (The main stage was modeled on Stratford-upon-Avon’s Swan Theatre.) And in 2008, Chicago Shakes became the fourth Chicago institution to pick up the Tony Award for regional theater excellence. The main attraction here is Shakespeare, of course, but with detours into classics of every stripe, including the occasional musical (such as this fall’s revival of Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George). Some of the company’s best trimmings include the dynamic international programming presented under the World’s Stage banner.
Collaboraction 1575 N Milwaukee Ave (312-226-9633, collaboraction.org). This 15-year-old company is known for its multimedia aesthetic and its annual Sketchbook collection of bite-sized new works by prominent playwrights. Collaboraction currently presents its programming in a pair of third-floor spaces in the Flat Iron Arts Building.
✽ Court Theatre 5535 S Ellis Ave (773-753-4472, courttheatre.org). For 50 years in heady Hyde Park, on the University of Chicago’s campus, the Court has stood its ground, mounting classics from Sophocles to Stoppard. It’s a healthy diet, though in the last few years, groovy deconstructions of vintage musicals and heightened interest in African-American writers have thickened the mix. This season’s highlights include August Wilson’s Jitney, the musical James Joyce’s The Dead and back-to-back productions of Molière’s The Misanthrope and Tartuffe.
The Gift Theatre 4802 N Milwaukee Ave (773-283-7071, thegifttheatre.org). A shining example of Chicago’s ensemble theater tradition, the Gift proudly serves Jefferson Park from its 50-seat storefront. This fall the company premieres Dirty, a new play by Andrew Hinderaker about philanthropy and pornography.
Goodman Theatre 170 N Dearborn St (312-443-3800, goodmantheatre.org). A standard-bearer among the nation’s regional theaters and the downtown grand pooh-bah of Chicago’s professional scene, the Goodman is helmed by Tony-winning director Robert Falls. Falls’s hallmark productions of American classics (Death of a Salesman, The Iceman Cometh) are indicative of the Goodman’s mainly deluxe-but-traditional fare. This season’s highlights include a David Cromer–helmed revival of Tennessee Williams’s Sweet Bird of Youth and Mary Zimmerman’s new adaptation of The Jungle Book. There’s also a doozy of A Christmas Carol every winter.
Lifeline Theatre 6912 N Glenwood Ave (773-761-4477, lifelinetheatre.com). A Rogers Park institution, Lifeline has occupied this 99-seat theater (a converted ComEd substation) since 1985. The company exclusively produces original—and sometimes staggeringly inventive—literary adaptations, with a three-play mainstage season and a three-play KidSeries.
Lookingglass Theatre 821 N Michigan Ave (312-337-0665, lookingglasstheatre.org). The most recognizable face in the theater’s lobby might belong to old Friend David Schwimmer, but expect nothing of the sitcom variety inside the theater of this spectacle troupe. Taking its name from the hallucinatory world of Lewis Carroll, the playful 20-year-old company put itself on the map by mounting cirque-influenced, highly physical renditions of classic literature and myths. In 2011, Lookingglass became the fifth Chicago institution to receive the Tony Award for regional theater, following in the footsteps of the Goodman, Steppenwolf, Victory Gardens and Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
✽ Neo-Futurarium 5153 N Ashland Ave (773-275-5255, neofuturists.org). Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind, Chicago’s longest-running piece of theater (two decades and counting), features an innovative ensemble of writer-performers, the Neo-Futurists, attempting to perform 30 mini plays in 60 minutes. The resulting late-night hour is equal parts block party and populist performance art. To ensure seats, show up no later than 10:45pm (or hit the early-evening Sunday show). Beyond TMLMTBGB, the Neos produce a season of original prime-time shows that take the Too Much Light aesthetic to feature length. The Neo-Futurarium also plays host to That’s Weird, Grandma, the giddy, family-friendly weekly performance jam of goofball edutainers Barrel of Monkeys.
Next Theatre Company Noyes Cultural Arts Center, 927 Noyes St, Evanston (847-475-1875, nexttheatre.org). Favoring the likes of Caryl Churchill and Suzan Lori-Parks, this artistically progressive and technically accomplished company is worth the trip to Evanston for anyone seeking a nonpassive theater experience. This season includes Charles Mee’s wacky Iphigenia 2.0, an adaptation of the Jonathan Safran Foer novel Everything Is Illuminated and, in a collaboration with Northwestern’s Theatre and Interpretation Center, the death-row docudrama The Exonerated.
Profiles Theatre 4139 N Broadway (773-549-1815, profilestheatre.org). After two decades producing gritty, sweaty dramas in the cramped storefront at 4147 N Broadway (becoming the favored home of playwright Neil LaBute in the process), Profiles acquired the slightly larger former National Pastime Theater two doors south. The company now operates out of both spaces, referring to the new digs as the Main Stage and the smaller venue as the Alley Stage.
Prop Thtr 3502–4 N Elston Ave (773-539-7838, propthtr.org). Founded in 1981 by Scott Vehill and Stefan Brün, Prop Thtr is devoted to new work and is the Chicago outpost of the National New Play Network. Its two-theater venue in industrial Avondale is also home base for the Factory Theater, Brain Surgeon Theater, Tellin’ Tales Theatre and, many times in recent years, Curious Theatre Branch’s Rhinoceros Theater Festival.
Raven Theatre 6157 N Clark St (773-338-2177, raventheatre.com). Established in 1983, this non-Equity company is primarily known for its productions of mid- to late-20th-century chestnuts. Since 2002, Raven’s made its home in this two-theater Edgewater space, a converted former grocery store; the complex’s second space is regularly rented to itinerant troupes.
A Red Orchid Theatre 1531 N Wells St (312-943-8722, aredorchidtheatre.org). This oddly shaped shoebox located down a gangway behind a fast-food place serves as home to the bold, scrappy Old Town troupe known for intense, often dark, diamond-hard works by resident playwrights Brett Neveu and Craig Wright and others of similar sensibility. The teens and tweens of recent offshoot A Red Orchid Youth Ensemble have brought fresh energy to the company.
✽ Red Tape Theatre 621 W Belmont Ave (redtapetheatre.org). The ambitious young Red Tape occupies a gymnasium space in St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where it offers immersive stagings of works by such unconventional playwrights as Timberlake Wertenbaker, Will Eno and Young Jean Lee.
Redtwist Theatre 1044 W Bryn Mawr Ave (773-728-7529, redtwist.org). Founded by actor-director Michael Colucci in 1994 as the Actors Workshop Theatre, the company produced sporadically and itinerantly until moving into its current space on Bryn Mawr Avenue in 2003, where it produced full seasons of 20th-century standards by the likes of Arthur Miller and Edward Albee. In 2008, the company rebranded as the more distinctive Redtwist Theatre, and it’s added edgier writers such as Martin McDonagh and Tracy Letts into its mix.
the side project 1439 W Jarvis Ave (773-973-2150, thesideproject.net). This tiny Rogers Park venue seats fewer than 30 people, yet you’ll consistently see some of the most interesting under-the-radar projects, including a host of small-but-daring new works. And a number of young storefront troupes, including Tympanic Theatre Company and the Ruckus, can be seen experimenting here or across the street in the even-smaller second space, the side studio. What’s more, a full roster of rotating programming in certain parts of the year makes this among the only theaters in the city to feature shows seven nights a week.
Silk Road Rising Chicago Temple Building, 77 W Washington St (312-857-1234, srtp.org). This relatively young company, known for its mission of championing work by playwrights of Asian, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean descent, has a handsomely appointed home in the basement of the historic Chicago Temple Building.
] Steep Theatre 1115 W Berwyn Ave (866-811-4111, steeptheatre.com). This nine-year-old company moved a couple of years ago from its former Lakeview shoebox to a slightly larger shoebox in Edgewater (capacity rose from 40 to 60). The new space is well-appointed, though, and provides the troupe much greater flexibility in staging the meaty, intense panoramas it favors.
] Steppenwolf Garage 1624 N Halsted St (312-335-1650, steppenwolf.org). The stalwart ensemble’s funkier Garage space, just down the street from the mothership, hosts the First Look series of works-in-progress in the late summer; from February to April, the Garage Rep features works by innovative Steppenwolf-curated young companies. In 2011 the theater entered a partnership with Northwestern University to host Next Up, an annual June showcase of productions by the school’s graduating M.F.A. directors and designers working with professional actors.
✽ Steppenwolf Theatre Company 1650 N Halsted St (312-335-1650, steppenwolf.org). The juggernaut that’s home to maybe the world’s most famous acting ensemble (paging Gary Sinise, John Mahoney, Laurie Metcalf, Martha Plimpton, William Petersen…) is probably what most people outside Chicago think of when they hear “Chicago theater.” From famous basement origins has risen a major institution where two performance venues house a lineup of new and classic plays. This fall, ensemble member Anna D. Shapiro revisits Stephen Adly Guirgis’s The Motherfucker with the Hat, which she directed in its Broadway production, while Steppenwolf’s recent, stunning revival of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? makes its own Broadway bow.
✽ Strawdog Theatre Company 3829 N Broadway (773-528-9696, strawdog.org). The Strawdog gang resides comfortably over an East Lakeview restaurant. Known for large-cast plays that show off the company’s sizable acting ensemble, the troupe tends to put twists on traditional fare, from Shakespeare to Chekhov. A recently renovated bar space, Hugen Hall, serves as a venue for late-night music and other postshow shenanigans.
✽ Theater Wit 1229 W Belmont Ave (773-975-8150, theaterwit.org). Having completed a gut rehab of Bailiwick Repertory’s former home next door to Stage 773, Theater Wit opened its doors in 2010 as a well-appointed three-theater facility. In addition to its own shows, the company’s playing host to itinerant companies both on a rental basis and in two-year residencies; the first long-term tenants are Stage Left Theatre and Bohemian Theatre Ensemble.
TimeLine Theatre Company 615 W Wellington Ave (773-281-8463, timelinetheatre.com). One of the storefront scene’s Little Theaters That Could, this modest company (cozily housed in a Lakeview church) regularly snags outstanding acting and design talent. The company mission, to present stories inspired by history, is simple but evocative; recent high-profile successes have included the Chicago premieres of Alan Bennett’s The History Boys, Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention and the world premiere of longtime Chicago Reader staffer John Conroy’s My Kind of Town, based on his dogged reporting on Chicago’s police-torture scandal.
✽ Victory Gardens Biograph Theater 2433 N Lincoln Ave (773-871-3000, victorygardens.org). Having moved in recent years to one of the city’s most coveted venues, the sumptuously renovated Biograph Theater, this company is Chicago’s highest-profile generator of new plays. Victory Gardens has recently undergone a regime change, with new artistic director Chay Yew bringing with him a sweeping sense of rejuvenation. This season features works by rising young playwrights like Philip Dawkins and Marcus Gardley paired with such next-generation directing talents as Seth Bockley and Joanie Schultz.
✽ About Face Theatre (773-784-8565, aboutfacetheatre.com). Revitalized in the last few years under new artistic director Bonnie Metzgar, About Face is the city’s premier producer of theater about the LGBTQ experience, both adult fare and the teen-created works of About Face Youth Theatre.
✽ Bailiwick Chicago (773-969-6201, bailiwickchicago.com). Born from the ashes of Bailiwick Repertory Theatre, which shut down in 2009 after 27 years, Bailiwick Chicago emerged under new management with confident productions of surprising fare, such as Edinburgh Fringe hit Departure Lounge and an outstanding Chicago premiere of the rock musical Passing Strange. With the Chicago premiere of hipster-historical Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson on tap, Bailiwick 2.0 seems poised to continue its hot streak.
Congo Square Theatre Company (773-296-0830, congosquaretheatre.org). Founded in 1999 with a focus on theater related to African-American heritage and the African diaspora, Congo Square became a favorite of the late playwright August Wilson. It’s seemed on shaky financial ground at times in the last few years, but a loyal following is determined to keep the company running.
Dog & Pony Theatre Company (773-360-7933, dogandponychicago.org). Seven-year-old D&P has shown a commitment to original voices, both in productions of works by such linguistic alchemists as Jenny Schwartz and Sheila Callaghan and in ensemble-generated works such as As Told by the Vivian Girls and The Twins Would Like to Say.
Griffin Theatre (773-769-2228, griffintheatre.com). This 22-year-old stalwart of the non-Equity scene produces an eclectic mix of gritty drama, musicals and family-friendly shows (some of which it tours around the nation). Griffin’s been itinerant since losing its former Andersonville space some years back, but that looks to end soon: After much red tape, the theater inked a deal to redevelop a former police station on the corner of Foster and Damen Avenues, which it hopes to open in May 2013. In the meantime, Griffin kicks off its season this fall with the bluegrass musical The Burnt Part Boys, staged by Jonathan Berry at Theater Wit.
Hell in a Handbag Productions (312-409-4357, handbagproductions.org). This drag-adelic camp company is famed for its patented “parodages” (a hybrid of parody and homage) of pop-culture oddities such as Carrie and The Poseidon Adventure.
House Theatre of Chicago (773-251-2195, thehousetheatre.com). Making their mark by rakishly riffing on all things pop culture (from The Wizard of Oz to samurai films to John Ford), the young ruffians of the House Theatre have been one of the biggest stories of the past decade. Their plays—pastiches of vaudeville, circus antics and fairy-tale storytelling—have made them a favorite among both young theatergoers and traditional theatergoers who like feeling young. The company’s 11th season starts with The Iron Stag King, the first play in a new fantasy trilogy by in-house playwrights Chris Mathews and Nathan Allen.
✽ The Hypocrites (773-989-7352, the-hypocrites.com). This name-brand storefront company that made its rep by producing punk versions of Ionesco now makes a regular practice of deconstructing classics; recent seasons have included fresh riffs on Miss Julie, Our Town and Oedipus. This fall, artistic director emeritus Sean Graney adapts Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher for a cast of three women.
✽ The Inconvenience (theinconvenience.org). Formerly the proprietors of a semiunderground loft performance space, the members of this interdisciplinary arts collective founded by DePaul students raised its profile in a big way this year with Ike Holter’s Hit the Wall, a fresh and raw piece about the Stonewall riots that became the breakout hit of Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep. The group also programs rock shows, dance pieces and art exhibits—sometimes all in the same evening.
The New Colony (thenewcolony.org). Though still quite young, this company founded by vets of the city’s sketch and improv scenes has already demonstrated a savvy ability to attract young audiences less likely to attend traditional theater with an inclusive party vibe and original pop-culture-tinged material such as FRAT and 5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche.
Porchlight Music Theatre (773-325-9884, porchlighttheatre.com). Traditional musicals are hard to find in Chicago’s city limits; they’re mostly relegated to the huge Equity houses in the ’burbs. Yet Porchlight’s steady stream of scaled-back but earnest chestnuts has found the company a loyal following on the North Side. This year’s slate includes a holiday-time adaptation of The Gifts of the Magi and a jazzy take on Rodgers and Hart’s Pal Joey.
✽ Sideshow Theatre Company (773-809-4782, sideshowtheatre.org). With productions like the Winter’s Tale riff Everything Freezes and the robo-tastic Heddatron, this four-year-old group wasted no time staking out a spot on our ones-to-watch list. Sideshow also produces the over-the-top bouts of CLLAW, the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers.
Strange Tree Group (strangetree.org). The happy hooligans of Strange Tree concentrate on original works by resident playwright Emily Schwartz, who pens dry, macabre comedies with concepts as ornate as their titles. From Mr. Spacky…The Man Who Was Continuously Followed by Wolves to The Mysterious Elephant, or the Terrible Tragedy of the Unlikely Addington Twins* (*Who Kill Him), Schwartz’s plays suggest the drawings of Edward Gorey or Charles Addams come to life, often set to a live, bluegrass-tinged soundtrack.
WildClaw Theatre (wildclawtheatre.com). Established in 2008, this company has quickly gained a loyal following for its devotion to horror and fantasy, whether in adaptations of such genre masters as H.P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen or with new works, such as Chicago playwright Scott T. Barsotti’s zombie drama The Revenants. This fall WildClaw stages an adaptation of Clive Barker’s short story The Life of Death at the DCA’s Storefront Theater (see Other venues).
Apollo Theater 2540 N Lincoln Ave (773-935-6100, apollochicago.com). This 450-seat commercial house in Lincoln Park tends to house long runs; since 2008, it’s hosted the rock icons of Million Dollar Quartet. The bare-bones studio space downstairs is a popular spot for smaller productions and late-night sketch and improv shows.
Athenaeum Theatre 2936 N Southport Ave (773-935-6860, athenaeumtheatre.com). This antiquated, cathedral-like building was once an annex to a neighboring mammoth church. Now it has several studio theaters and a large proscenium mainstage that play landlord to companies of all shapes and sizes, including dance and performance art. Several former staffers of the now-defunct Theatre Building recently reteamed to take over management here, giving the venue a renewed energy.
Bank of America Theatre 18 W Monroe St (312-902-1400, broadwayinchicago.com). The coziest of Broadway in Chicago’s downtown houses, the former Shubert Theatre (and, more recently, the former LaSalle Bank Theatre) has been spectacularly renovated. Although it mainly features national tours of shows that have already played New York, it occasionally hosts pre-Broadway tryout engagements such as Spamalot and Twyla Tharp and Billy Joel’s Movin’ Out. Beginning in December, it’ll be home to what’s likely to be a long run for The Book of Mormon, the smash hit penned by South Park pranksters Trey Parker and Matt Stone.
Briar Street Theatre 3133 N Halsted St (773-348-4000, blueman.com). This theater might look unimposing from the outside, but inside you’ll find it seats hundreds. It has to, as most nights it’s packed with crowds that thrill to the colorful techno antics of Blue Man Group, which has occupied the space for years (and shows no signs of vacating soon).
✽ Chopin Theatre 1543 W Division St (773-278-1500, chopintheatre.com). The host of some of the city’s most dynamic and creative storefront troupes, Wicker Park’s Chopin is a resolutely funky venue that consistently draws young audiences. In addition to a rotating door for visiting European companies, many of them Polish, the Chopin is a regular host to innovative companies such as the Hypocrites and the House Theatre of Chicago.
Gorilla Tango Theatre Chicago 1919 N Milwaukee Ave (773-598-4549, gorillatango.com). This bare-bones Bucktown space offers a coproduction model that appeals to sketch comedy, improv and burlesque producers and nascent theater troupes by making brief runs financially viable. The venue keeps things hopping, booking shows in as many slots as it can (Saturdays often see six different shows in the space, from family-friendly afternoon fare to rowdier late-night comedy). Of late, Gorilla Tango is notable (depending on your definition) for its resident Geek Girl Burlesque shows that mine pop culture franchises: Boobs and Goombas: A Super Mario Bros. Burlesque; Tolkien-inspired Fellowship of the Boobs; and the Star Wars–themed A Nude Hope.
Greenhouse Theater Center 2257 N Lincoln Ave (773-404-7336, greenhousetheater.org). Once home to the Tony-winning Victory Gardens company, and the legendary Organic Theater Company and Body Politic before it, this facility now serves as a rental house with four theaters of varying sizes. Among the many dependable companies that call it home: Eclipse Theatre (which devotes each of its seasons to a single American playwright), Theatre Seven of Chicago (a young ensemble devoted to Chicago premieres and new works), Remy Bumppo (a dapper and intelligent company that produces high-minded literary classics) and MPAACT (a company of new and nontraditional African-American works).
✽ Links Hall 3435 N Sheffield Ave (773-281-0824, linkshall.org). This haven for the research, development and presentation of new performance work has occupied the same building since its founding as an artists’ cooperative in 1978, before Wrigleyville evolved into a postgrad playground. Public performance programming began in 1980, fostering an environment for artists to experiment in dance, music and performance art.
No Exit Cafe 6970 N Glenwood Ave (773-743-3355, heartlandcafe.com). No Exit, part of the Heartland Cafe’s Glenwood Avenue empire, plays host to Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre, the Jeff Award–laden company known for staging innovative productions of big musicals in a space smaller than most dorm rooms.
Stage 773 1225 W Belmont Ave (773-327-5252, stage773.com). Formerly known as Theatre Building Chicago, this three-theater rental house has been the incubator to countless storefront companies since the late 1970s. Newly renovated and under the new management of Lukaba Productions, its former annual tenant as producers of January’s Sketchfest, the venue continues to play host, with an increasing menu of sketch comedy and cabaret alongside the traditional plays.
Storefront Theater, Gallery 37 Center for the Arts 66 E Randolph St (312-742-8497, dcatheater.org). The city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events runs this well-appointed space, putting a Loop-sized spotlight on work by Chicago’s best small theaters.
Viaduct Theater 3111 N Western Ave (773-296-6024, viaducttheater.com). This two-space venue plays host to many of the city’s up-and-coming young theater companies; the House Theatre spent its formative years here, and recent tenants have included the New Colony, SiNNERMAN Ensemble and Jackalope Theatre. The Viaduct also books a number of dance events and rock shows.