Since its inception in 1995 as a response to the lack of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and allied (LGBTQA) voices within the American theatrical canon, About Face Theatre has entertained and challenged audiences with innovative plays designed to advance the national dialogue on gender and sexual identity. In 2010, About Face was one of 10 theaters to receive a National Theatre Company Grant from the American Theatre Wing, founder of the Tony Awards, for its innovation, vitality, and artistic commitment. The staff also uses theater as an innovative tool to address inequalities in social settings through its two-part outreach program. The education outreach program brings the real-life stories of LGBTQA youth to public schools as part of About Face's overall mission to create safer, more supportive spaces for queer youth and their allies, whereas the corporate outreach program helps businesses create inclusive work environments and address workplace insensitivity and intolerance.
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It all started with a Halloween show. Mick Napier and a few of his friends dreamt up a cheekily winking sendup of the slasher genre in 1987, and by the time the lights dimmed on the blood- and pudding-splattered stage, they had received a standing ovation. Inspired by the production's success, the group decided to establish an ensemble that embraced the uncensored and subversive—and The Annoyance Theatre was born.
The company has staged more than 100 original plays and musicals since its founding, including The Real Live Brady Bunch, the long-running Coed Prison Sluts, and an annual re-mount of that first fortuitous show, now appropriately known as Splatter Theater. The Annoyance celebrates the impromptu art of improvisation as well, hosting frequent long-form sets that highlight audience interaction and completely blank scripts. This anything-goes approach to material both rehearsed and off-the-cuff has won the theater plenty of fans: the company trains aspiring comedians in both Chicago and New York, and recently opened a sparkling new venue thanks to community donations.
A mystifying and playful new force in the rapidly rising dubstep scene, Skism spins London-bred beats that boast the admiration of such notable tunesmiths as Pendulum, Chase & Status, and Rusko. Bolstered by a head-nodding cadre of dub-dishers, the event promises concert-goers a foot-blurring evening of cavernous bass and thumping rhythms, sure to have them fox-trotting until 3:30 a.m. or until a napping Bruce Springsteen stumbles down the stairs in his bathrobe. Tucked in a slab-free sector of the meatpacking district, The Mid straddles the line between swanky nightclub and ear-bending beat factory, its neon bulbs and light-lobbing disco balls hanging majestically above three full-service bars, a pulsating sound system, and dual-floor bathrooms ideal for post-concert bouts of hide and go-seek.
The instructors at ACM School of Music pass the torch of musical aptitude with piano lessons and music-theory classes that kindle classical-music appreciation in a new generation. With a focus on teaching students to write their own compositions, experienced musicians explain the rudiments of the form, from a piece's first quarter note to its adolescent experimentation with mixed-meter phrases to its emergence as a full-grown adult arrangement. The school's resident ensemble, Palomar, breathes life into contemporary compositions with an annual concert series. As a nonprofit driven by the goal to expand the cohort of composers and audience members, ACM also facilitates educational initiatives in local schools and offers programming to Boys & Girls Clubs.
Founded in 1997 by inventive Chicago artist Sean Graney, The Hypocrites curates unorthodox theatrical endeavors with inimitable panache and an underlying emotional vulnerability. Praised by the Chicago Sun-Times for its propensity to “never do things the expected way,” The Hypocrites have applied its unconventional approach to classic texts such as The Threepenny Opera, Frankenstein, and Kafka's The Trial. Throughout the years, these productions have earned the company a trophy case of Joseph Jefferson citations, as well as an After Dark Award and a letter of recommendation from Shakespeare’s great-great-great-great grandfather.
Got a case of Mary Poppins malaise? This $5 Groupon is a spoonful of sugar for the medicine: tickets to Girls vs. Boys ($10 value). The play, a musical by the creative team behind The House Theatre of Chicago's sold-out show The Sparrow, is an extremely loud, fast-paced show about a brother and sister who find themselves thrust into a perilous, modern-day Lord of the Flies. High-stakes relationships turn into all-out war of the sexes. The director says it's like a rock concert, so the best way to experience the sound and fury is with a spot in the pit. This Groupon gets you in standing room and on the ground floor of the action (guaranteed swears, awesome music, violent themes, and partial nudity).