Off and on stage, Chicago theatres are full of drama and beautyparticularly when you go away from the main road. The tales of these off-Loop locations are as intriguing as the stories that they share on the stage as well as a place that is known for its connection with the notorious gangster who was a part of the theatre that is housed in the church.
Explore the fascinating story of these six Chicago theaters.
The Biograph Theater Biograph Theater
Then: The Biograph Theater was an iconic Chicago movie theater situated in The Lincoln Park neighborhood in 1914. It’s most famous for being the location in which John Dillinger, one of the most famous criminals who robbing banks in American history was killed and shot. The year was 1934 . Dillinger was known at the time in the era of Public Enemy No. 1 was watching an action film on the Biograph. The FBI had been notified of his place of residence and waited outside following the screening. The shootout started, and ended with Dillinger being declared dead on the 22nd of July 1934 , at about 10:40 p.m. It was the Biograph Theater remained a popular theater for Chicagoans throughout the Depression and the two World Wars before closing in the 1970s.
Today: In 2004, the winner of the award-winning Victory Gardens Theater purchased and invested $11 million to transform the venue into a stage for live shows. Today, the theatre has 2 stages and a renovated mainstage, as well as an intimate studio, in which Victory Gardens showcases its innovative new work. The theatre is also listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was named as a Chicago Landmark in 2001. 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue, Lincoln Park
Then It was the Athenaeumopened at the end of 1911 as a an integral part of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church in Lakeview. The region was still developing by farmers from the past and was a magnet for German, Polish, and Irish immigrants. The Athenaeum was planned as an area playhouse, as well as an opera house with the gymnasium, bowling game and an assembly hall and several rooms for meetings.
Today: Today, the Athenaeum is the longest continuously operating off-Loop theatre in Chicago. It houses the stunning main-stage theater that hosts anything from musical performances to stand-up comedy , live podcast recordings, and three studio theatres. The theater hosts performances for various local arts groups such as Eclipse Theatre Company, Congo Square Theatre, Promethean Theatre Ensemble, Emerald City Theatre, Interrobang Theatre Project, and many more. 2936 N. Southport Ave., Lakeview
When it was: The early 1900s in Chicago’s West Side had a flourishing Polish community. A lot of immigrants settled near what was known as “the Polish Triangle”, which was bordered with Division, Milwaukee, and Ashland. It’s also where you’ll locate The Chopin Theatre the nickelodeon which began in 1918 and where you could go to see films for as little as 5 cents. Over time the building changed ownership (and names) numerous times, and included periods as a theater or a savings and loans office as well as a bistro.
Today: Zygmunt Dyrkacz, an Polish immigrants, was inspired by the rich history of the neighborhood and restored Chopin Theatre in 1990. Chopin Theatre in the year 1990. The theater, which was slowly restored to its former glory it has staged more than 120 original productions. It focuses in Eastern or Central European work, in an effort to remain in the tradition of the region. The three stages at the venue hold more than 500 performances every year, from jazz to theater to classical music, which have attracted more that one million visitors. 1543 W. Division St., Wicker Park
The Second City
It was in 1959 the group of comedians calling their group “The Second Cityopened the doors of their tiny cabaret theater, introducing the new form of comedy known as Improv. The place, which was then dubbed Piper’s Alley, was a hip, hipster hangout with diverse restaurants and shops up and down the street.
The facade of the building is derived from the demolition of the Schiller Theatre it is a landmark 17-story structure that was constructed in 1892 to house the German operetta company. The most striking features of the exterior is the four German faces that are carved into stone: opera composer Giacomo Meyerbeer, German novelist Fritz Reuter, philosopher Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and the singular Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Today: The Second City transformed the field and became one of the largest comedy giants around the globe. They’re still proud owner of their original venue at Wells Street — with some improvements. The building is now home to seven theatres (where you can watch the occasional improv and show sketches each evening of the week) and the Training Center and administrative offices and the 1959 kitchen and Bar. 1616 N. Wells St., Old Town