Published June 03, 2014
Some of the best theater experiences in the country can be found at institutions that have sterling reputations and deep roots in their communities. You may not know about these great theaters, but you should.
Groups traveling in Chicago, Indianapolis, Boston, Oregon and California can enjoy high-quality shows at theaters that employ professional cast members and directors. Some of those theaters are dedicated to performing classic productions, and others debut cutting-edge modern works or serve as out-of-town tryout venues for big shows eventually headed for Broadway.
During your next group tour, plan a night out at one of these great theaters you should know.
Indiana Repertory Theatre
Though the Indiana Repertory Theatre (IRT) company dates back to 1972, the spaces it inhabits make it feel like an enduring part of the community. After moving from the Athenaeum, IRT renovated the once-3,000-seat 1927 Indiana Theatre from a cinema to a four-floor theatrical space with two stages, one on top of the other.
“When I talk to tour operators and they don’t know yet what the season is going to be, I always say they should at least schedule a tour of the building,” said Catherine Cardwell, group sales associate at IRT. “It’s one of the older buildings in the city, and depending on what’s going on, you can tour the set or the costume shop and see how things are made.”
Although some regional theaters turn out a steady stream of premieres and new productions, IRT specializes in the classics. Kicking off the season is “Two Gentlemen of Verona,” in honor of Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary, with “The Giver,” “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and Tony Award-winner “On Golden Pond” following in 2015.
Group sales for the 2014-2015 season will open for early-bird bookings at the end of August.
One of Chicago’s oldest theaters and formerly housed in the Art Institute of Chicago, the Goodman Theatre was created nearly 100 years ago in honor of local playwright Kenneth Sawyer Goodman and went on to become one of the most renowned theater schools and companies in the country, recognized by a special Tony Award for outstanding regional theaters.
For its 2014-2015 season, the Goodman will host two plays fresh off Broadway, August Wilson’s “Two Trains Running” and Christopher Durang’s Tony Award-winning Chekov spoof “Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.”
Groups and subscribers alike book well in advance for the Goodman’s lauded “A Christmas Carol,” which has run for more than 30 years.
“We usually start to seat groups midsummer, except for ‘A Christmas Carol,’ which goes on sale in March,” said Kim Furganson, the theater’s group sales manager. “Groups can always make tentative reservations for other shows, and we’ll seat them when they open.”
For groups of about 50 or more, Furganson offers several special services, such as semiprivate reception areas and a lounge with private bar, though she advises booking those at least a couple of months in advance, as they fill up quickly.