Chicago’s Storefront Theatres: They’re Not Steppenwolf…and Damn Proud of That

Steppenwolf’s Visiting Companies Initiative
by Diane Dombrowski, Berkshire on Stage Midwest Correspondent

The Chicago storefront theater scene produces vibrant new works for the American theater and cultivates the next generation of theater artists. Across the city, in church basements, school gymnasiums, warehouses and living rooms, companies are boldly challenging audiences and pushing the theatrical envelope. They use scraps of wood to build mansions and use broken CDs and a flashlight to paint the aurora borealis. They innovate. They are the theatrical equivalent to MacGyver—you should see what they do with a paperclip.

As you can see in the video above, the three shows now on stage in Steppenwolf’s Garage Rep series are very fresh, different and enticing. Garage Rep lets companies extend the length of their runs to ten weeks, allowing word of mouth to grow and stimulate new viewership. Rotating performances relieves the pressure of a standard six-show week, affording artists the time to keep day jobs. Audiences draw new meanings by experiencing a play in relation to others in a series. Most importantly, followers of one company gain exposure to different performing aesthetics and may forge unlikely connections.

Katherine Banks as Agnes in She Kills Monsters with Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary, Morgan Maher, Jessica London-Shields and Sara Sawicki. Photo credit: Michael Brosilow

Katherine Banks as Agnes in She Kills Monsters with Rinska Carrasco-Prestinary, Morgan Maher, Jessica London-Shields and Sara Sawicki. Photo credit: Michael Brosilow

And after it’s all done, these companies will go back to their own spaces in church basements and living rooms where you can visit them in their natural environment All will continue to develop and grow. Some may even – one day – join Steppenwolf and the Goodman as the kind of nationally recognized companies that bring audiences to Chicago from the Berkshires and beyond.

Pick a show and click a link:

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