Your drama is waiting: Chicago Theatre Week offers citywide smorgasbord at savory prices
Report: Nearly 100 Chicagoland theaters will join in new promotional event, Feb. 12-17, with discount tickets to go on sale Jan. 9.
By Lawrence B. Johnson
Borrowing from a popular Chicagoland menu, theatrical presenters will display their own gourmet fare in February with the inaugural Chicago Theatre Week – a chance for drama buffs and first-timers to sample from a wide variety of current shows at discount prices.
About 100 downtown and suburban theaters, from high-profile companies like Steppenwolf and Goodman to neighborhood ventures likes Steep and Profiles, are expected to participate in the promotion Feb. 12-17. Presenters will offer discounted tickets at $30 and $15 for available seats during that period. Sales of Chicago Theatre Week tickets begin Jan. 9 at the centralized website ChicagoTheatreWeek.com.
The event, modeled on the established and perennially popular Chicago Restaurant Week, is the joint creation of the League of Chicago Theatres and Choose Chicago, a private non-profit organization contracted by the city to market Chicago as a business and leisure visitor destination.
During the week, participating theaters will offer talk-backs with artists, drink specials and neighborhood restaurant discounts.
“We hope the initiative inspires a renewed and heightened appreciation throughout Chicago and the Midwest for our rich theater industry,” says Deb Clapp, executive director of the League of Chicago Theatres.
“Theatre Week will expand the visibility of theater as a vital industry in Chicago,” says Melissa Cherry, Choose Chicago’s vice president for cultural tourism. “Theater is an important part of what attracts regional visitors. It is a testament to the quantity and quality of the artistry and business acumen throughout the industry in Chicago.”
Among the shows the shows being offered at bargain prices:
- “The Whipping Man” by Matthew Lopez, about a Jewish Southern officer in the Civil War who returns home to find his relationship with his former slaves to be radically changed, at Northlight Theatre.
- “Julius Caesar” by William Shakespeare, a modern setting of this tale of political upheaval and moral ambiguity, at Chicago Shakespeare Theater.
- “Luther” by Ethan Lipton, a dark comedy about a traumatized war veteran who’s offered shelter by well-meaning urbanites, at Steep Theatre.
- “The ________With the Hat” by Stephen Adly Guirgis, about a recovering alcoholic who’s doing pretty well…until he spots another guy’s hat in the apartment he shares with his girlfriend, at Steppenwolf Theatre.
- “The Dream of the Burning Boy” by David West Read, about the devastating impact of a high school student’s sudden death, at Profiles Theatre.
- “Boy Gets Girl” by Rebecca Gilman, about the harrowing experience of a blind date that turns out to be a nightmare, at Raven Theatre.
For the many theaters signed on, the promotion affords a marquee opportunity to showcase not just the breadth and variety, but also what Michael Weber, artistic director of Porchlight Music Theatre, calls the signature of stagecraft in Chicago.
“Chicago theater implies a certain sense of intensity, sensuality and frankness, a Midwestern non-nonsense approach to our art,” says Weber. “When we all come together, you find a range of theater that can stand up to any city in the country.
“That’s what’s so valuable about Theatre Week – you can take in the full experience, what we do at Porchlight as well as the distinctive styles of Steppenwolf, Marriott Lincolnshire, Steep, A Red Orchid, Broadway in Chicago. We’re not pretenders here. Companies like Second City and Lookingglass are setting the bar.”
Weber’s inclusion of the Marriott Theatre in Lincolnshire makes a point seconded by Chad Peterson, marketing director at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe: Chicago theater takes in quite a swath across the metropolitan area.
“Chicago Theatre Week is an incredibly collaborative venture,” says Peterson. “We think of ourselves as a Chicago theater and draw a substantial part of our audience from Chicago. So for audiences the week will be an extraordinary opportunity to experiment.
“For us, it’s a chance to reach out to potential audiences who perhaps don’t attend theaters very often or who’ve never had that experience at all. This partnership with Choose Chicago could be a game-changer. We believe it will get the attention of a lot of people.”
Like Chicago Restaurant Week, which inspired the new stage venture, Chicago Theatre Week is destined to “shock some Chicagoans to see just how great the choices are,” says Eileen LaCario, vice president and Broadway in Chicago and chair of the League of Chicago Theatres. “In many ways, our wonderful theater scene has been one of the region’s best kept secrets. We keep our heads in our work and produce great shows. It’s time to let other people know.”
Photo captions and credits: Home page and top: Assorted plays offered in the inaugural Chicago Theatre Week, from left: “Sweet Charity” at Writers’, “Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo” at Lookingglass, “Blue Man Group” at Briar Street Theatre, “Lady Day at the Emerson’s Bar & Grill,” “Million Dollar Quartet” at Apollo Theatre. Descending: “Boy Gets Girl” at Raven, “The ______With the Hat” at Steppenwolf, “The Whipping Man” at Northlight, “The Dream of the Burning Boy” at Profiles, “Julius Caesar” at Chicago Shakespeare Theater, “Luther” at Steep Theatre.
Tags: Broadway in Chicago, Chad Peterson, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Chicago Theatre Week, Choose Chicago, Eileen LaCario, Goodman Theatre, League of Chicago Theatres, Melissa Cherry, Michael Weber, Northlight Theatre, Profiles Theatre, Raven Theatre, Steep Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre