Theater on Campus

Feeling a little dramatic this o-week? Put your emotions to good use by getting involved in campus’ theater scene.


Natalia Rodriguez

(right to left) Gabriel Rourke, Emil Sohlberg and Matilda Kupfer in “The Hardy Boys & The Mystery Of Where Babies Come From” by Christopher Durang, directed by Afriti Bankwalla

Theater at UChicago is arguably the most accessible art form. With dozens of performances each quarter, there’s something for everyone—tragedy, comedy, history, pastoral, pastoral-comical, historical-pastoral, tragical-historical, tragical-comical-historical-pastoral, scene individable, or poem unlimited.

Students from different walks of campus life take part in theater productions each year. The largest contingent participates in University Theater (UT), which produces more than 35 shows a year, reaching an annual audience of more than 10,000 attendees. With access to the 11-story Logan Center and the knowledge of theater professionals and academics, UT offers participants an extensive set of resources. UT’s 24-Hour Play Festival—held the first weekend of each quarter—invites all students to create an entire play from scratch, from playwriting to set design to performance, in just one day.

If you’re looking for a bit more rehearsal time, the Weekend of Workshops, usually held during fifth week, gives directors the chance to explore their craft and put on short pieces.

New and curious students should sign up for the UT listhost and check the UT Website for specific audition information. If you prefer to stay out of the spotlight, positions for production, stage, house management, lighting, set design, costume design, and sound design are always available.

Students with Shakespearean inclinations may want to check out The Dean’s Men. As the University’s resident Shakespeare troupe, it stages one of the Bard’s 39 plays every quarter. The Dean’s Men also holds play readings and film screenings.

Because Hyde Park is the birthplace of improvisational comedy, it’s only fitting that the University boasts not one but two excellent improv groups. Formed by Second City founder Bernie Sahlins (A.B. ’43) in 1986, you can get a sneak peek of Off-Off Campus at their O-Week show in Mandel Hall. Their five-week revue, which runs each quarter from fourth to eighth week, showcases the troupe’s hilarious skits and improv comedy. Occam’s Razor, an improv troupe known for their more laid-back style, is open to both undergraduate and graduate students. The group puts on three free shows each quarter in the FXK Theater or at The Revival, located on 55th Street. Previous acts have included On-the-Spot PowerPoints, impersonations, and reenactments of scenes based only on visual cues.  Auditions for both Off-Off and Occam’s Razor are held early fall quarter.

Seeking a more unconventional creative outlet? Never fear—unconventional is UChicago’s middle name. Those looking to combine their love for history and theater may be interested in the Classical Entertainment Society, which produces works based on Classical sources, or UChicago Commedia, which specializes in the commedia dell’arte theater style of the Italian Renaissance.

Ever dream of running away and joining the circus? Also housed under UT, the student-run Le Vorris & Vox Circus welcomes all those affiliated with the University the chance to learn a plethora of circus skills, ranging from aerial silks and trapeze to group acrobatics and juggling. They offer specific workshops as well as weekly open gyms, and often put on a show at the end of each quarter.

If you don’t have time to leave Hyde Park but still want to get your fix of professional theater, Court Theatre puts on high-quality shows on Ellis Avenue, next door to North Campus. Once called “the most consistently excellent theater company in America” by The Wall Street Journal, Court will open this season with August Wilson’s King Hedley II. While tickets may appear pricier than campus productions, students are eligible for discounts, including free rush tickets to certain Wednesday and Thursday night performances.  

Fresh thespian blood, experienced or not, is what keeps the theater groups alive and improving each year.