CTW-Featured

Chicago Theatre Week brings attention to city’s theater scene with low price tickets

By Katina Beniaris

The fourth annual celebration of Chicago’s rich theater scene returns with over 100 theaters offering discounted tickets for 11 days in February.

Created by the League of Chicago Theatres, Chicago Theatre Week runs from Feb. 11 to 21 with tickets priced at $30 or less. This year, the weeklong promotion includes special events such as showcases, staged readings and theater tours.

“Cultural tourism is a critical component to achieving Mayor Emanuel’s goal of increasing annual visitation to 55 million by 2020,” said Melissa Cherry, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Cultural Tourism for Choose Chicago, a partner for Chicago Theatre Week, in a press release. “Chicago Theatre Week remains instrumental in bringing visibility to Chicago’s acclaimed theatre scene.”

Many of the city’s high-profile theater companies are in the spotlight during this week with productions like Broadway In Chicago’s “Cabaret” and Goodman Theatre’s “Another Word for Beauty.” But many smaller Chicago companies are showcasing new productions during the 11-day event as well.

Windy City Playhouse, “The Explorers Club”

The Explorers Club
Professor Walling, The Explorer Club’s resident zoologist (played by Matt Brownin) talks with Professor Cope, its herpetologist (played by Zack Shornick), in Nell Benjamin’s The Explorers Club. (Michael Brosilow)

Windy City Playhouse offers a new take on theater entertainment with spacious seats and themed drinks for their new comedy show.

“[‘The Explorers Club’] covers a really big physical comedy,” said Amy Rubenstein, the theater’s artistic director. “It starts off seeming like a very traditional British play, but within five minutes, it starts to unravel and get out of control… like a rollercoaster.”

This is the first year the Irving Park theater has participated in Chicago Theatre Week. “The Explorers Club” tickets are $15 or $30 compared with the company’s normal prices of $25 and $45.

“[Chicago Theatre Week helps] bring people out to do something different,” Rubenstein said. “The art community knows who we are, but we’re trying to reach out to outside communities.”

Continues through April 17, Windy City Playhouse, 3014 W. Irving Park Rd, windycityplayhouse.com

Chicago Dramatists, “Beautiful Autistic”

Beautiful Autistic
Wendi Weber plays the role of Susan and Nicholas Harazin portrays Jimmy in “Beautiful Autistic” at Chicago Dramatists. (Liam Fitzgerald)

As part of its work with emerging and established playwrights, Chicago Dramatists presents the “Beautiful Autistic” by Scott Woldman. The production focuses on a 24-year-old autistic man who has trouble making friends.

“It’s a very funny play, but I think it really highlights the difficulties someone with autism can have… in terms of making that social connection, acting appropriately and understanding social cues,” said Woldman, a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists.

Ticket prices for “Beautiful Autistic,” normally $30, are $20 during Chicago Theatre Week. Woldman recently received the Edgerton Foundation Play Award for this play. The foundation supports over 250 world premiere productions across the United States.

Mali Anderson, Chicago Dramatists’ director of marketing and communications, said, “Chicago Theatre Week has so much theater beyond the name [productions]. While we all celebrate the successes that have become household names in theater, there is so much more happening. People have access to so many more available venues to see fabulous professional productions.”

Continues through March 13, Chicago Dramatists, 1105 W. Chicago Ave, chicagodramatists.org

The Theatre School at DePaul University, “God’s Ear”

God's Ear
DePaul University students perform in “God’s Ear” written by Jenny Schwartz. (Michael Brosilow)

DePaul University students tell a family story dealing with personal tragedy, a tale that includes visits from the Tooth Fairy and G.I. Joe, in this dramedy by Jenny Schwartz.

According to director Andrew Peters, a DePaul MFA directing student, “It’s really a different kind of play than what is talked [about] amongst students. It’s a play where form, language and structure come first.”

The Theatre Week prices for “God’s Ear” are $10 (discounted from $15). Peters is excited to see DePaul’s theater school participating in a program that includes some of Chicago’s great theaters.

“We are building the professional landscape of Chicago, so it reminds us that [student theater] is not just a category of theater happening by itself,” Peters said. “It’s really part of a larger community.”

Continues through Feb. 21, DePaul’s Fullerton Stage, 2350 N. Racine Ave, theatre.depaul.edu

Refuge Theatre Project, “High Fidelity”

High Fidelity
Inside Refuge Records, Max DeTogne plays Rob, who recalls his top five breakups. (Laura Leigh Smith)

Based on the novel and movie of the same name, “High Fidelity” might sound especially familiar to Chicagoans since it takes place in Wicker Park. This musical adaptation centers on record store owner Rob, who recounts his top five breakups (including one in progress).

“With all of our shows, we incorporate the audience with experience so it doesn’t feel like the audience is sitting and feeling like a story is being told. They’re part of it,” said co-founder and Managing Director Morgan Egan. “For [‘High Fidelity’], we created Refuge Records out of a rented space.”

This storefront theater strives to make musical theater more appealing and accessible by offering low price tickets and a BYOB policy. Originally at $22, “High Fidelity” tickets are $14 for Chicago Theatre Week.

“Chicago Theatre Week is a really wonderful part of Chicago culture for patrons,” Egan said. “But also for theaters because it gives such a boost… Theater is hard. It’s not a big profit market, so something like Chicago Theatre Week is really encouraging.”

Continues through Feb. 28, Refuge Records, 666 W. Hubbard, refugetheatreproject.com

Use promo code “THWEEK” to buy tickets online for any of these productions. Ticket information and other details about Chicago Theatre Week are available at chicagotheatreweek.com.

Photo at top: Windy City Playhouse’s “The Explorers Club” cast pose as their characters in the play written by Nell Benjamin. (Michael Brosilow)