The most wonderful thing about Chicago theatre is are the Off-Loop storefront theatres.
For those of you who are not from to Chicago, let me explain. Downtown Chicago is serviced by the Chicago Transit Authority and it commuter trains trains locally known as "the El" which runs on an elevated track in the heart of the city. Loop theatres technically include the Goodman Theatre and all of the venues that will show the Broadway tours. However, the other larger theatres located downtown are often included: Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, Watertower, and Steppenwolf. Basically, Off-Loop theatres will refer to any of the smaller theatres on the north side. Most of these theatres are non-equity stages that seat less than 100 (often less than 50) patrons and have an operating budget of less than $100,000.
The value of these companies is that you can produce anything that you want. Here experimenting and artistic expression reigns as king. The attempt is often more rewarded and more acclaimed than the finished product. The process is the most important thing for those working, so if you are looking to really take the time to hone your craft, this is the place for you.
With companies operating with the minimal budgets and small and finicky audiences are uses to productions that fail. Unlike Broadway, their shows are never open ended. Usually there is another company already booked into the theatre after the eight week run closes. Unlike the larger Chicago houses, these small theatres usually do not have subscribers that they have to please.
This is the incubator for the rest of Chicago theatre. If you are an actor and want to get onto Broadway and make money - go to New York. If you are an actor who wants to work all the time but not for money - go to Chicago. As long as you are willing to have some other means of supporting yourself financially, this is the place for you.
With a little determination and a little elbow grease, an actor will soon be working regularly in the 200+ theatres that reside on Chicago's north side. This, however, does not always translate into moving up and working at the Equity theatres. Sometimes a person needs to take what they have learned in Chicago and find other regions where they will be successful. But they leave ready and well rooted knowing what they want to do as an artist.
Happy Birthday: Agatha Christie (1890-1976)