By Hedy Weiss
Theater and Dance Critic
Experienced theatergoers know all the little tricks for catching live theater at less-than-sticker prices. They can subscribe, or head to Hot-Tix, or go for the group rate, or whip out their student or senior citizen IDs, or even volunteer to usher.
Now, with the establishment of the first annual Chicago Theatre Week, running Feb. 12-17 -- a project of the League of Chicago Theatres, in partnership with Choose Chicago -- avid theatergoers also can take advantage of discounted tickets and added incentives for more than 100 shows currently running at theaters throughout the city. The hope is that both locals and tourists will venture out "to see a live show."
Each participating theater will offer $15 or $30 tickets throughout the week. Purchase tickets here.
Talk-backs with artists, and "added value activities" such as drink specials and hotel and restaurant discounts, will be among the extra incentives. See a show at the MCA Stage and you'll get one free museum admission with your ticket. Catch "Million Dollar Quartet" and you'll get a free CD sampler. Attend "Girls Night! The Musical," and you'll come away with a free boa. See the wonderful "American Wee-Pie" at Rivendell and you'll get free cupcakes. Many theatres also will be offering coupons to attend a future show.
Theater Week also is an ideal time to be reminded of just what a major industry the art form is in Chicago. With more than 250 operations, five of which have been honored with Regional Tony Awards, this city's theater community is the leader in the U.S. It also boasts the largest touring Broadway organization in the nation. Its theaters serve 5 million audience members annually, and have a combined budget of more than $250 million.
Here are 10 picks for some of the more intriguing productions offering tickets at Theater Week discounts:
± The Joffrey Ballet (Feb. 13-24 in "American Legends"at the Auditorium Theatre, 50 E. Congress): The program includes Jerome Robbins' jazzy, youthful "Interplay"; Gerald Arpino's "Sea Shadow," a gorgeously sensual duet revived in honor of what would have been the 90th birthday of the company's co-founder; "Nine Sinatra Songs," a highly-charged classic by Twyla Tharp, and "Son of Chamber Symphony" (a new work by Stanton Welch, the Australian-bred artistic director of the Houston Ballet, set to music by American composer John Adams).
± "A Soldier's Play" (Feb. 12-March 30 at Raven Theatre, 6157 N. Clark): Charles Fuller's scorching Pulitzer Prize-winning drama about a black Army captain sent to a segregated W.W. II-era Louisiana Army base to investigate a murder.
± "When the Rain Stops Falling," (now through Feb. 24 at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln): Andrew Bovell's strange, heartbreaking story that captures the way acts of the past prove devastating to ensuing generations.
± "Cadre" (Feb. 15-23 at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre Upstairs, 800 E. Grand on Navy Pier): The captivating South African writer-actor Omphile Molusi presents his deeply personal one-man show inspired by true events in the life of an activist during and after the apartheid era.
± "The City and The City" (Feb. 15-April 7 at Lifeline Theatre, 6912 N. Glenwood): In this world premiere adaptation based on a China Miéville novel, Inspector Tyador Borlú of the Extreme Crime Squad is assigned to a seemingly open-and-shut case: an American student found dead in the gutters of the city of Beszel. But powerful political and corporate factions at the heart of two cities are in play.
± "Bud, Not Buddy" (through Feb. 24 in a Chicago Children's Theater at the Ruth Page Theater Center, 1016 N. Dearborn): This ideal family show follows the journey of a young African-American orphan as he searches for his father in Depression-era Michigan and finds community among a group of jazz musicians.
± "Sweet Charity" (through March 31 at Writers' Theatre, 325 Tudor Ct., Glencoe): The classic musical about the dance hall girl with an upbeat spirit and rotten luck with men gets exhilarating new life thanks to its enchanting star, Tiffany Topol, and Jessica Redish's zesty choreography.
± "Leaves, Trees, Forest" at MPAACT (through March 3, an MPAACT at the Greenhouse Theater Center, 2257 N. Lincoln): Paul Notice's play about a young black post-grad student seeking a life in politics so that he can change the world and gain his father's approval.
± "Lady Day at Emerson's Bar & Grill" (through March 10 in a Porchlight Music Theater production at Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont): Alexis J. Rogers gives a bravura performance as Billie Holiday in this one-woman show that deserves a long commercial run.
± "Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo" (through March 17 at Lookingglass Theatre, 821 N. Michigan): In this dark, blistering play by Rajiv Joseph, set during the war in Iraq, everyone from God, to U.S. Marines, to Iraqis, to zoo animals gets burned.