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Winter theater and dance in Chicago provides a home away from home

On nights when the temperature falls into single digits and icy sidewalks (clear that stuff, people!) make the public way treacherous, it’s easy to find reasons to stay home. 

But the months ahead also offer intriguing theatrical ways to think about what “home” in Chicago means. Sometimes, as with Steppenwolf’s LookOut series, it’s about a larger institution opening its doors to emerging theatermakers and their audiences. It also means returning to your roots. Congo Square Theatre celebrates 20 years of presenting work from the African diaspora with Day of Absence—a salute to the early days of the Negro Ensemble Company, a company that inspired Congo Square’s founders. 

Windy City Playhouse built a home in the middle of their venue for the long-running Southern Gothic, and they’re fully committed to the immersive-theater aesthetic now. Kids and adults alike can create their own worlds with Filament Theatre’s innovative Forts! Build Your Own Adventure.

Sometimes the “make-believe” home comes with a ton of historic baggage, as when Jane Byrne moved into the Cabrini-Green housing projects for three weeks in 1981—an incident captured by playwright J. Nicole Brooks in Her Honor Jane Byrne.

A cozy pub makes a great place for a tale or two, and live lit performer-host Gina DeLuca turns the Duke of Perth (and other venues) into stages for vets and newbies to share their stories. Comedian Todd Barry calls Thalia Hall home for a night in February and talks about life on the road. And one of the Chicago area’s most beloved buildings, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Unity Temple, is transformed by music and dance in February’s Light in Winter program.

And if you need more incentive to get off the couch, the League of Chicago Theatres and Choose Chicago team up for the 8th annual Chicago Theatre Week, February 13-23 (yes, that’s more than a week!), with discounted tickets to over 100 performances.  v

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