Performance in Chicago comprises a vast array of organizations, from the gypsy theater company to the major producing venue. Though each discipline—dance, theater, comedy, opera—has its own unique qualities, most fall into one of these categories
Major Producing Venues: These are places like Harris Theater or the Auditorium, which usually host other companies for performances as well as produce their own events.
Companies: Often but not always nonprofits, these range from large theater or dance companies, like Broadway In Chicago, Goodman or the Joffrey Ballet, all the way to the shoestring storefront theaters. Companies often have their origins as artistic ensembles, of actors, directors, etc. In the past, phrases like “Off-Loop” and “Off-Off-Loop” were derived from their counterparts in New York to attempt to create a taxonomy for Chicago theater, but those terms have fallen out of wide use as the local scene has evolved in its own, uniquely Chicago way. We’ve identified the following categories:
Commercial Producers: Produce theater as a profit-making enterprise, and often own or control their own or multiple spaces.
Major Companies: Own or control their own space and have substantial full-time staffs and annual budgets greater than $5 million.
Mid-Size Companies: Own or control their own space and have small full-time staffs and annual budgets between $1 million and $5 million.
Small Companies: Have a regular producing space, but minimal or no full-time staff and fluctuating annual budgets under $1 million.
Fringe Companies: Have a regular group of collaborators but no full-time staff and minimal annual budgets.
College Theaters: Sometimes student-only productions, sometimes a mix of students and professionals, or students with professional directors.