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ONE-OF-A-KIND CHICAGO THEATERS

CATCH A PLAY AT ONE OF THE CITY'S UNIQUE THEATRICAL VENUES.

Seeing a play in one of Chicago’s renowned theaters is a must for the perfect night out and the perfect city experience. Our unique theatrical venues–from the Lookingglass Theatre housed in a functioning pumping station to the Theatre on the Lake with breathtaking views of Lake Michigan–make it especially magical.

For the very best theater experience, plan your visit around Chicago Theatre Week, from February 8-18. Each year, Chicago celebrates its critically acclaimed theater scene with a 10-day festival, offering discounted tickets to more than 120 shows. Discover talented theater companies in neighborhoods across the city, presenting everything from joyful musicals to children's theater and avant-garde drama.

Here, then, are five of our favorite one-of-a-kind Chicago theaters.

THE YARD AT CHICAGO SHAKESPEARE

Theater view of The Yard at Chicago Shakespeare

This exciting new year-round theater venue made its debut at Navy Pier in 2017. The unique crescent-shaped theater design is made up of nine mobile audience towers (comparable in size to a city bus turned on its end) that can be configured into various shapes and sizes, accommodating 150-850 people. This gives producers the ability to constantly reimagine the space, taking on the appearance of anything from an intimate cabaret to a dramatic thrust stage with runway aisles. The Yard joins Chicago Shakespeare Theater’s other two venues: the 500-seat Courtyard Theater and the 200-seat Upstairs at Chicago Shakespeare.

THEATER ON THE LAKE

The Lakefront Restaurant at Theater on the Lake

The newly revamped Theater on the Lake opened its doors in Lincoln Park in October 2017. The building dates back to 1920, and was designed by Prairie School architect Dwight H. Perkins, who also designed Lincoln Park Zoo’s Café Brauer and the nearby North Pond restaurant. The now year-round Theater on the Lake includes a 330-seat main theater (productions will begin in summer 2018). Grab a bite at the Theater on the Lake’s new farm-centric Lakefront Restaurant, which features the seasonal Skyline Patio with panoramic Lake Michigan and skyline views.

LOOKINGGLASS THEATRE COMPANY

Lookingglass Theatre Company

Lookingglass Theatre Company pushes the boundaries of theater, incorporating dance and circus arts into its performances. Actor David Schwimmer, who played Ross on the hit TV show Friends, is a co-founder, ensemble member and director. But perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Lookingglass is the historic Magnificent Mile building it occupies: Water Tower Water Works. This Gothic revival limestone pumping station was one of the few buildings to survive the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. Lookingglass Theatre Company shares space with a still-functioning water utility that pumps 250,000 gallons of water every day. (Tip: you can actually sneak a peek at the pumps, which are framed by glass walls.)

VICTORY GARDENS BIOGRAPH THEATER

©Victory Gardens Theater

After an $11.8 million renovation, Victory Gardens Theater moved into Chicago’s historic Biograph Theater in spring 2006. What makes the Biograph famous? It was the site where legendary bank robber John Dillinger was gunned down by FBI agents in 1934 after seeing the gangster movie Manhattan Melodrama, starring Clark Gable. The demise of Public Enemy #1 was such an important event in U.S. history that the Biograph Theater was named to the National Register of Historic Places. Although Victory Gardens has maintained the Biograph’s signature marquee, the interior now boasts two state-of-the-art theaters where contemporary American plays and musicals are presented.

BROADWAY IN CHICAGO

Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University ©Broadway in Chicago

Broadway in Chicago’s historic theaters have colorful, storied pasts. Historic Theatre Tours, held every Saturday at 11am, rotate visits to three of its finest: the Cadillac Palace Theatre, Oriental Theatre, and CIBC Theatre. The Cadillac Palace Theatre, designed by the famed Rapp Brothers architects, originally opened as a 1920s vaudeville showcase. Its exquisite interiors were influenced by the palaces of Versailles and Fontainebleau, boasting huge ornate mirrors and white marble. Inspired by visions of the Far East, Chicago’s Oriental Theatre (also designed by the Rapp Brothers) boasts fantasy features like multicolor buddhas and throne-like chairs supported by elephants. The CIBC Theatre opened on New Year’s Day in 1906 as the Majestic Theatre. It was the tallest building in Chicago at the time, and the first venue in the city to cost more than $1 million.

The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University is another Broadway in Chicago landmark. Unveiled by renowned architects Dankmar Adler and Louis Sullivan in 1889, Adler’s acoustic design is considered a masterpiece of sound, while Sullivan’s signature ornamentation (including 24-karat, gold-leaf ceiling arches) adds graceful elegance. Join one of the Auditorium’s Historic Theatre Tours for a behind-the-scenes glimpse of this architectural marvel.

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