Chicago is consistently named one of the top cities in the U.S. for theater, and it’s no wonder: There are over 250 theaters in the city across multiple neighborhoods. Even in Lincoln Park, outside the downtown Theater District, you’ll find many amazing local theaters, from award-winning independent theaters to comedy clubs. And, you’ll find a few gems when it comes to local, independent movie theaters, too. Here’s Crème de la Crème of Lincoln Park‘s list of awesome theaters in the neighborhood.
The Greenhouse Theater Center
The Greenhouse Theater is a professional, non-profit theater that hosts shows from many local theater companies. You can catch comedy shows, musical tributes, and children’s and family programming. The Young People’s Theater of Chicago is even a resident company at this theater, and this company offers high-quality educational and engaging shows for the whole family and opportunities for local kids to perform in shows themselves.
If you’ve been a long-time resident of the Lincoln Park area, you may have visited the Greenhouse Theater Center before its recent renovation in 2019. Now, the theater has a new 44-seat theater and better-than-ever soundproofing for an even better show.
In addition to multiple performance spaces and studios, the Greenhouse Theater Center also houses the city’s only theater bookstore upstairs above the theater. The Trellis Bookstore features printed plays from notable playwrights like Edward Albee as well as books on theater history, design, and theory. And all of these books cost $10 or less, so you can build up your own home library or gift a book to the little theater lover or future theater artist in your life without breaking the bank.
The Greenhouse Theater is located at 2257 N. Lincoln Ave.
The Second City Theatre
If you’re a fan of “Saturday Night Live,” “Parks and Recreation,” “The Office,” or even “The Late Show,” then you’ll love catching a show at Second City Theatre. This venue specializes in sketch comedy and improv and was the comedy-performance home of many well-known comedy actors, like Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Alan Arkin, and Joan Rivers. When you see a sketch show, stand-up comedy, or improv session at Second City, you know there’s a chance you’re seeing a star or two being born on stage.
Aside from their fantastically funny shows, Second City is also known for providing the best improv and sketch comedy training in the biz. Consider signing up for adult improv classes to test your comedy chops and workshop the silly characters you’re been using for years during playtime with the kids, or get feedback on the stand-up bits you’ve been thinking of on your work commute.
And adults aren’t the only ones who can take classes there — you can also sign your kids up for improv courses, programs on writing, acting, and filmmaking, as well as comedy camps. All of these programs allow kids of all ages to develop creativity, self-confidence, communication skills, and professional skills they can apply in the industry.
Find the Second City Theatre at 230 W. North Ave.
Steppenwolf Theater is another history-making venue where many well-known and award-winning actors and writers practiced their craft early in their careers. Some names that came through Steppenwolf include Gary Sinise, one of the company’s founders, John Malkovich, Laurie Metcalf, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, Carrie Coon, and Tracy Letts. Ever since its first show in 1974, this theater company has produced hundreds of fantastic plays featuring some of the best acting in the live theater business.
In addition to professional shows, you can also come see unique performances. Watch the public readings of brand new plays written by up-and-coming playwrights in the theater’s SCOUT program, where these writers get feedback and workshopping from ensemble members and resident writers. Or, get tickets for you and your pre-teen or teen to see a Steppenwolf for Young Adults show. And if your kids want to perform, write, or otherwise be part of the theater world when they grow up, sign them up for classes and workshops at The Loft.
Visit Steppenwolf Theater at 1650 N. Halstead St.
Need a good laugh? Then grab some tickets to a stand-up show at Zanies. This comedy club features some of the best up-and-coming comics in the biz. You can find a great show any day of the week, or enjoy special comedy shows like Wednesdays After Work and the Sunday Social. Some special, parents-only shows even end with an after party at a nearby bar to keep the party going. Book the babysitter and have a fun night out with your partner or friends.
You can find Zanies at 1548 N. Wells St.
If you’re more into film, then you have to catch a show at Facets, a local independent movie theater that shows a collection of new and old indie films, documentaries, and international cinema. You can get a ticket to one of their film screenings at the theater, attend one of their “movies on the lawn” series, or watch films with their Virtual Cinema service.
In addition to showing diverse independent cinema, Facets also promotes film and media education through hands-on filmmaking workshops, in-school programs, as well as film camps and “field trips,” which are offered virtually and in person. You can sign your child or teen up for these camps or field trips so they can learn how to tell stories on the screen, explore diverse perspectives, and gain media literacy skills.
You can find Facets at 1517 W. Fullerton Ave.Those are just some of the amazing theaters in Lincoln Park that you have to visit. At these and many other theaters in Chicago, you can take your children to see a family-friendly play or musical, have a few laughs at a comedy show, or sign up for educational and artistic programs to bring out your inner thespian or inspire the creative side in your kids. Did we miss any of your favorite area theaters? Let Crème de la Crème of Lincoln Park know, and we’ll be sure to add it to our list.