Chicago theater

If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that my wife and I are very fond of those little Amtrak trips to the Windy City. Chicago was a place for me to grind it out for my trade for 5 years, but now is a fabulous adult amusement park, complete with rides (what do you think the El is?). I’ve not gone all encyclopedic on the great things you can find here, except maybe for that compendium of jazz clubs (1). Today, I’ve come up with something similar, if not nearly as lengthy. Our recent Christmas trip was so much fun, we decided we needed to come back for St.Patrick’s day and actually be there when they make the Chicago River flow green. We’re trying to get our single friend from the Rockies to join us, and she mentioned how she’d like to see a Shakepeare play. Theaters are all around us in the loop, but we’ve never stepped into any of them in all our times there. We were taken by an ad for “Drunk Shakespeare” on our last trip (2). Taking place a block north of where we were staying in the loop, the plot is that one of a group of actors downs several shots before trying to read some lines, and the rest adapt. Sounded like fun, but they had an archaic COVID policy: proof of vaxx required! Nuts to that, so we enjoyed the extra sleep, hard to come by when you’re whirling through Chi-town!

So in order to provide our friend, and us, a logical compendium of the choices available should we decide to step out to the theater, I came up with this list. To note is that so many of the really great theaters are right in the loop. These were several thousand seat ornate palaces built in the Roaring Twenties and have been restored to their glory. There’s also history in places outside the loop, like the Biograph (now Victory Gardens Theater) in Lincoln Park where John Dillinger was gunned down and the Merle Raskin Theater of DePaul U where the famous Goodman School started in the mid 20s. Note that not all these theaters feature plays. The old Chicago Theater in the loop features mainly musical acts and some places are just very comfortable movie houses with great bars.

Because of our run-up with COVID regulations last December, I’ve sought out policies for each of these theaters. It looks like nearly all have gotten with the program, although many would still like you to wear those silly masks. (The column seems not to survive the transfer). Two venues had a seemingly strict policy, the Lion Theater roaring yes indeed and the First Folio Theater in Oak Brook, stating proof of vaxx is required, then goes onto say it no longer checks! Don’t ask, don’t tell! Still wise to keep a mask in your pocket. If it’s an UnMask (3), you’ll be able to breathe through it.

So here are your many many choices. I’ve left out the few far flung venues in the ‘burbs. You may end up sitting among huge crowds in the baroque palaces of the loop all the way down to a few new close friends in the 45 seat converted garage of the Trap Door Theater out west in Bucktown/Wicker Park or the 2nd floor of a church City Lit occupies in Edgewater. But you sure don’t want to pay full price for those tix! Not here in the city of the Deal! After all, whose hotel spire lords it over the skyline, name proudly emblazoned at the base? It ain’t the Sears Tower (which is what the locals still call it. Willis?). As you practice your own art, you can get half price tickets on line through Theater in Chicago (4). An outfit called HotTix has two storefront operations in the Loop from which they deal, and they also work online (5).


address (* in the Loop)

web site

COVID policy  (as of 1/10/23)
Annoyance Theater & Bar (comedy)851 W. Belmont Ave

Apollo Theater Chicago
2550 N. Lincoln
vaxx (not updated since 5/22/22)
Auditorium Theater*50 E. Ida B. Wells Dr
masks rec’d
BoHo Theater at the Edge Theater
5451 N. Broadway
masks req’d
Briar Street Theater3133 N. Halstead

Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place
175 E. Chestnut
masks rec’d
Cabaret ZaZou (Cambria Hotel)
*32 W.Randolph

Cadillac Palace Theater (Palace Theater-1926)
*151 W. Randolph St
masks rec’d
Chicago Dramatists
798 N. Aberdeen

Chicago Shakespeare Theater800 E. Grand Ave (Navy Pier)
masks rec’d
Chicago Theater (1921)
*175 N. State St
depends on event
CIBC Theater (Majestic -1906)
*18 W. Monroe
masks rec’d
City Lit Theater1020 W. Bryn Mawr Ave

Davis Theater (Pershing -1918)
4614 N. Lincoln Ave.

The Edge Theater5451 N. Broadway

The Edge Off Broadway1133 W. Catalpa

First Folio Theater4614 N. Lincoln
vaxx, but won’t check masks req’d
Free Street Theater1717 31st St, Oak Brook
(guideline link won’t open)
Greenhouse Theater Center
1419 W. Blackhawk St

Harris Theater for Music and Dance
2257 N. Lincoln
masks rec’d
iO Theater*205 E. Randolph

The Jarvis Square Theater
1501 N.Kingsbury St

The Lion Theater 1439 W. Jarvis
vaxx req’d
James M. Nederlander Theater (Oriental – 1926)
*182 N. Wabash
masks rec’d
Mercury Theater Chicago
*24 W. Randolph

Music Box Theater (1929 – movies)
3745 N. Southport

Raven Theater
6157 N. Clark

Reginald Vaughan Theater (Invictus)
3733 N. Southport
vaxx req’d
Steppenwolf Theater
1106 W. Thronadale

The Theater School at DePaul University (Merle Reskin Theater) (Goodman School – 1925)
1650 N. Halstead

Theo Ubique Cabaret Theater
60 E. Balbo Ave

The Virginia Wadsworth Wirtz Center (Northwestern)
721 Howard St, Evanston

Theater Wit1229 W. Belmont
masks req’d
TimeLine Theater Company
615 W. Wellington
masks req’d
Trap Door Theater1665 W. Cortland

Victory Gardens Theater (Biograph – 1911, where they gunned down John Dillinger)
2433 N. Lincoln Avenue


1. Ike B.  Chi Jazz.  WordPress 5/23/21.

2. The Drunk Shakespeare Society.

3. The UnMask breathe with us.

4. Theater in Chicago.  Half Price Ticket Deals.

5. HotTix.

Published by rike52

I retired from the Rheumatology division of Michigan Medicine end of June '19 after 36 years there. Upon hitting Ann Arbor for the second time (I went to school here) it took me almost 8 months to meet Kathy, 17 months to buy her a house (on Harbal, where we still live), and 37 months to marry her. Kids never came, but we've been blessed with a crowd of colleagues, friends, neighbors and family that continues to grow. Lots of them are going to show up in this log eventually. Stay tuned.

4 thoughts on “Chicago theater

  1. Eijck…

    Couldn’t get past “grind” It out on line 2 or 3 of Your latest Harbal


    Chicago pleasure boat More likely (you sick genius)…..or Wuz the work too hard?


    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Hyde Park’s gray gothic granite often felt like a prison. The work was hard, maybe in part ’cause I made it that way on myself. I stumbled into a few pieces of pleasure now and then, to be sure. Oddly, these days I feel warmly nostalgic about the place, and visit the campus whenever I’m in Chicago. That 5th year came after my fellowship, learning ‘scopy under Bill Arnold. Lived in tony Lincoln Park, but my sweetie (still not Mrs. yet) was in Ann Arbor.


  2. Maybe I will. Back during my mid-life crisis I thought of ditching medicine to become a travel writer. If you’re trying to make money off it, all those hotel, flight, and food expenses are deductible!


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