So you've heard about the Chicago theatre scene, but do you really know the truths about it? Learn about the incredibly rich selection of theatre companies in Chicago outside the downtown district. Do not get put off by theatre prices... how does half price sound to you? And don't forget, theatre comes in all shapes and sizes so try sketch comedy, or productions geared just for kids, or an upbeat musical if all the drama doesn't suit you.

Here are five myths about the Chicago theatre scene — debunked.


Myth #1: All good Chicago theatre is downtown.
Mistake: Limiting your search to theatres within walking distance of your hotel.

Though downtown Chicago is certainly a theatre mecca, some of the best theatre in the city is off the beaten path. Try diversifying your theatergoing experience with theatres in different neighborhoods with their own unique identity: Lakeview, Edgewater, Rogers Park, Lincoln Park and Wicker Park all have vibrant theatre scenes of their own.

Don't forget that two of Chicago's five Tony Award winning regional theatres, Victory Gardens and Steppenwolf, are outside of the downtown area. If you're visiting the suburbs or are up for an adventure, don't pass up theatres like Northlight Theatre in Skokie, Writers Theatre in Glencoe and Paramount Theatre in Aurora. Good theatre is all around. 


Myth #2: Chicago theatre is too expensive.
Mistake: Not doing your research before buying your ticket or not using Hot Tix.

Moderately-priced tickets are one of the biggest advantages to seeing a show in Chicago. In fact, a lot of theatre companies in Chicago pride themselves in offering low-priced tickets. Some companies like Oracle Theatre and Quest Theatre Ensemble charge no admission to see their shows. The Neo Futurists' famous Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind determines admission based on the role of a die.

Another way around full-priced tickets are flex passes and memberships. The Black Card from Steppenwolf starts at $30 per credit and a Membership package with Theater Wit starts at $22 a month for unlimited shows. Even Broadway In Chicago's memberships are affordable at as low as $100 for a season of 5 shows... not bad at all.

Perhaps the biggest hidden gem, though, for discounted tickets is Hot Tix, a half-priced ticketing service operated by the League of Chicago Theatres that has weekly offerings of half-priced tickets of theatre companies large and small. With tickets from $5 to $40 Hot Tix is a great resource to secure theatre tickets for cheap.


Myth #3: The bigger the theatre, the better the show.
Mistake: Judging by size over quality.

There's nothing quite like the experience of seeing a big show on an extravagant stage, but if you want to have the full Chicago theatre experience, the storefront theatres are where it's at. Chicago is famous for powerful stories being told in intimate spaces. Lucky for Chicago theatre goers, the storefront options are endless.

A good place to start for exploring the storefront scene is Theater Wit and Stage 773, two neighboring storefront venues that rent their stages out to companies who do not have their own spaces. Because of their rental nature, there is always something different going on, from world premieres to musicals.

Companies with their own storefront spaces bring an entirely different experience. Neo-Futurists, Rivendell, and A Red Orchid are just a few of the many well-respected storefront theatres. Other audience favorites are The House, The Hypocrites and Steep Theatre.


Myth #4: All local Chicago theatre is dark and intense.
Mistake: Generalizing over 200 theatre companies.

The reputation of gritty, dramatic straight-plays might be true for a handful of Chicago's popular companies, but this generalization neglects the rest of the 200+ theatre companies in the city. Because Chicago theatre is so mission-driven, each company has a unique interpretation of a variety of types of shows: dramas, comedies, dance, cabaret, you name it.

Think Chicago doesn't have a vast selection of musical theatre? Check out MarriottParamountDrury LanePorchlight and BoHo. Looking for a family-friendly show? Adventure Stage, Emerald City, Chicago Children's Theatre and Barrel of Monkeys present shows just for kids while Lifeline and Northbrook have a family series in addition to their regular programming. Don't forget Chicago's world-renowned comedy scene... The Second City, anyone? Outside of theatre, Chicago is also home to the celebrated Joffrey Ballet and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.


Myth #5: There are better ways to spend a night out in Chicago.
Mistake: Not seeing a show in Chicago, period.

Sure, there is a lot to do in Chicago but it is so important not to pass up the performing arts while in the city. Chicago is home to more world premieres and more Regional Theatre Tony Award winners than any other city in the country. Chicago theatre is as diverse as it is accessible and as thoughtful as it is entertaining. Theatre in Chicago makes you laugh, cry, smile and understand the world a little bit more completely. You are doing yourself an injustice by not seeing more of it.  


Visit the Choose Chicago Events Calendar or to see what exciting productions are on stage while you're here, and for the inside scoop on what's happening across the city, get recommendations from our resident culture vultures at the Chicago Like a Local blog.


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