1. Civic Opera House

    This imposing Art Deco building is largely devoted to performances by the Lyric Opera. Each year (September through March), the company stages work by everyone from Wagner to Gilbert and Sullivan. Touring classical dance troops and musicals fill the off-season bill.

  2. Symphony Center

    While visiting orchestras, lecturers, and jazz artists feature on its program, this center is first and foremost the home of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. The complex holds a main stage, recital hall, and a bar-restaurant named Rhapsody.

  3. Steppenwolf Theatre Co.

    Founded in 1974 in a church basement, Steppenwolf has gained acclaim based on the fame of its ensemble, which includes actor John Malkovich. Though the company has moved upscale to a specially built theater in Lincoln Park, it is still distinguished by raw emotion and edgy productions.

  4. Goodman Theatre

    One of Chicago’s leading theater companies, the Goodman frequently spins off productions to Broadway in New York and has earned a Tony award, the theater community’s highest, for its efforts. Noted productions include dramas by Eugene O’Neill and August Wilson and an annual version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

  5. Chicago Shakespeare Theater

    This Navy Pier venue presents a dynamic space for Shakespeare’s repertory. The 510-seat courtyard design is inspired by the original layout in traditional playhouses of the Bard’s day. Visiting non-Shakespeare productions take over after the company’s September-to-April season.

  6. Second City

    Since 1959, Chicago’s famed Second City comedy troupe has launched such comic lights as John Belushi, Mike Myers, and Bill Murray. Actors improvize their lines in a series of skits connected by a current events theme on the cabaret-style main stage. Reservations are a must.

  7. Court Theatre

    This theater traces its roots to three Molière productions performed at the University of Chicago in 1955. The Court still mounts many classics, but it varies its seasons with musicals like Guys and Dolls and literary adaptations such as James Joyce’s The Dead.

  8. Old Town School of Folk Music

    Since the 1950s the Old Town School has brought world and homegrown folk music performers to Chicago. Its new home in Lincoln Square opened in 1998 with a concert by Joni Mitchell, though you’re more likely to catch a women’s ensemble from Mali and contemporary folkies such as Patty Larkin.

  9. Lookingglass Theatre

    In 1988, eight Northwestern University students founded Lookingglass, a bold company incorporating dance, circus arts, and live music in its original theatrical productions. Celebrity membership (including Friends actor David Schwimmer) and Broadway bound, award-winning shows have furthered this company’s stardom.

  10. Gene Siskel Film Center

    Tiny by cineplex standards, the Gene Siskel Film Center screens films from the silent era onwards. Cineastes will rave about the cushy rocking chairs, excellent sightlines, and art gallery as well as foreign, independent and experimental films rarely shown elsewhere.

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