With world-renowned theaters like Steppenwolf, Lookingglass, and the Goodman, you might forget that theater in Chicago boasts more than 250 other options all over the city. Storefront theater is quintessentially Chicago; small theaters are set up in storefronts, and sometimes move locations throughout the city. These theaters tend to attract bold, risk-embracing, and mostly young talent. So when you’re looking for entertainment in the city, check out some of these stellar storefront theaters for some of the best live plays, comedy, improv, and musicals in Chicago.
About Face Theatre
When it comes to LGBT-themed theater in Chicago, no one does it better than About Face. This group regularly performs out of Theater Wit and raises the bar when it comes to putting a face on gender and sexuality issues. With plays like Le Switch, about living in a post-marriage-equality America, AFT always keeps things entertaining, albeit not necessarily light.
A Red Orchid Theatre
Old Town has always been a hotbed of creativity, free thinking, and entertainment in the city, so it’s no surprise that A Red Orchid Theatre set up shop right in the middle of Wells Street. While possibly a step up from the typical storefront theater company, A Red Orchid still offers intimate and engaging theater in Chicago. Red Orchid alum Michael Shannon, an Oscar nominee who has gone on to star in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire and will play General Zod in the upcoming Batman v. Superman, still comes home to appear in shows like the recently wrapped Pilgrim’s Progress. A Red Orchid performs new productions from around the world and classic plays including Tennessee Williams’ The Mutilated.
Set in the heart of Wicker Park, Chopin Theatre has consistently put on thought-provoking and sometimes oddball theater in Chicago for 25 years in a building that dates back to 1918 as an original theater. In addition to productions like The Nutcracker, The Last Defender, and Death & Harry Houdini, Chopin also works to bring performance troupes from Eastern Europe. It also plays host to the I-Fest, which invites solo performers from around the world to hit the stage.
Even though Filament was founded in 2007, it made its permanent home in Portage Park’s Six Corners business district in 2014, truly becoming part of that Northwest Side neighborhood. It puts on an array of shows, often originals or adaptations of favorite stories for adults and children, including the upcoming Pinocchio: A Folk Musical and the interactive Sherlock Holmes & The Mystery of Portage Park.
The Annoyance Theatre
When you’re looking for hysterically irreverent and uncensored live entertainment in the city, just climb the stairs (or ride the elevator) above Belmont Avenue near Clark Street in Boystown to The Annoyance. The 25-year-old theater group creates original sketch comedy, musicals, improv, and more. In fact, it has created more than 250 shows during its history. The group puts on multiple shows at the same time on the main stage and small theater, so check their schedule to see what’s coming up.