Founded in 1990, Chopin Theatre has grown into one of America’s most active arts centers, producing, co-producing or presenting over 500 theater, music, film, literary and social events each year. Our mission is to promote enlightened civic discourse through a diverse range of artistic offerings. A privately-held institution, it operates without public funding.
Chopin Theatre has produced over 110 of its own productions, mostly Eastern European, and has hosted performers from every state in the U.S. and from over 40 countries. Our many guests have included Pulitzer winners Gwendolyn Brooks, Yusef Komunyakaa, Phillip Levine, Charles Simic and Studs Terkel; MacArthur Genius receiptents David Cromer, Stuart Dybek, Aleksander Hemon and Ken Vandermark; authors Haki Madhubuti, Sara Paretsky, Art Shay, Zadie Smith, Bronislaw Wildstein and Howard Zinn; poets Nikki Giovanni, Luis Rodriguez, Mark Smith, Michael Warr and Adam Zagaewski; actors John Cusak and Jeremy Piven; musicians Edward Auer, Peter Brotzman, Chuck D., Kurt Elling, Von Freeman, Fareed Haque, Adam Makowicz and Dominic Miller; and visual artists Andrzej Dudzinski, Tony Fitzpatrick, Piotr Krajewski, Ed Paschke and Franciszek Starowiejski.
Chopin Theatre's I-Fest , an international festival of solo performances, brought to Chicago artists from 10 countries -- Austria, England, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine.
Originally constructed in 1918 by M.F. Strunch Architects as a 987 seat Nickelodeon, today it houses a Main Stage (200), Cabaret Studio (50-100) with its Pregnant Buffalo Lounge (renamed courtesy of Robbie Telfer) the Nelson Algren Café, East Wing Art Gallery and the office/residence of owners Zygmunt and Lela Dyrkacz, their sons and pets.
AWARDS AND HONORS
Commander's Cross of the Order of Merit 2012 – President of Poland, Bronislaw Komorowski. Presented to Chopin Theatre for promotion of Polish Culture
4 Best of Year Theater Awards 2010 - Chicago Sun Times, TimeOut Chicago and NewCity
For The Wedding (Tuta Theater, remouning Feb 2011), 1001 (Collaboration Theater, returning May 2011 with Sketchbook) and K. as well as Pirates of Penzance (The Hypocrites).
Chopin Theatre chosen as Chicago Venues that Matter the Most - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune 2/19/10. (Some of the other honorees include Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago Shakespeare Theater, Civic Opera House, Harris Theatre, Pritzker Pavillion Millenium Park, Steppenwolf Theatre, etc).
6 Best of Year Theater Awards 2008 - Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times and TimeOut Chicago
For Miss Julie and Our Town (the Hypocrites) and Uncle Vanya (Tuta Theatre).
Our Town was 1 of 2 plays going on to Broadway in 2008.
Three Consecutive Best of the Year Theater Awards: '03, '04, '05 - Chicago Tribune
For Chopin Theatre’s production of Teatr Cogitatur (Katowice, Poland) in American debuts
Diploma “Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Poland Abroad" 2006 – Minister Foreign Affairs, Anna Fotyga. Presented to Chopin Theatre for promotion of Polish Culture
2006 Director of the Year Brandon Bruce - Orgie Theater Award
Chopin Theatre’s Production Slawomir Mrozek’s Tango.
2005 People Making a Difference in Theatre - Performink
Zygmunt Dyrkacz/Chopin Theatre for presenting the best of experimental European theater including I-Fest (www.i-fest.com) & Teatr Cogitatur
2005 Producer of the Year Zygmunt Dyrkacz - Orgie Theater Award
Chopin Theatre’s Production “La Luna” and “Aztec Hotel” by Teatr Cogitatur
1 of 4 Most Successful For Profit Arts Groups – Donors Forum
(Donors Forum is an 1400+ member association of leading philanthropists including MacArthur Foundation, Driehaus Foundation and Ford Foundation. Other 2008 honorees: Broadway in Chicago, Blue Man Group and Corbett v Dempsey Gallery).
02/10/12 - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune's "At Victory Gardens and The Hypocrites, Two Different Ways To Take Charge" "..Back at Chopin Theatre -- now one of my favorite artistic spaces in the entire city -- the experience was familiar in all of the right ways. You can't go wrong at the Chopin right now.."
02/19/10 - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune's "Chicago Venues that Matter the Most" "Great theaters need great karma. And even though the basement theater in this double-fisted Wicker Park venue is beset by pillars, it somehow brings out the best in directors. This is where David Cromer's "Our Town" began along with many other fine shows. Upstairs, there's a big, flexible space that encourages creativity. With kindly, theater-loving owners and great Polish beer at the bar; the Chopin is a composer of merit".
9/29/09 – Kris Vire, The Guardian “…In addition to playing host to Chicago's best itinerant companies, the Chopin's husband-and-wife proprietors Zygmunt Dyrkacz and Lela Headd go to great lengths to bring eastern European artists…”
7 ½ Cinema film series
24 Hour Plays Festival
After Milosz Poetry Festival
Around the Coyote Arts Festival
Beck Institute Family Arts Festival
Chicago Cinema Forum film series
Chicago Comedy Festival
Chicago Humanities Festival
Chicago International Documentary Film Festival
Chopin Salon & Brunches
09/28/09 - Don Hall, noted theater blogger - “…Once again, the Chopin Theatre re-establishes itself as one of the truly authentic Off Loop theater venues of note.."
12/9/08 – Kris Vire, TimeOut Chicago - “… I spend an inordinate chunk of my life at Chopin’s basement, which housed four of my favorite productions this year..I’d love to see more companies work there..but there are only so many slots in a year..”
11/9/08 - Charles Isherwood, New York Times . ..“enchantingly funky Chopin Theatre in the Wicker Park neighborhood..”
10/31/08 - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times ..“Chopin Theatre’s international vision grows. The Chopin Theatre has made a huge effort in recent years to import some of the more interesting, imaginative and controversial theater productions on the European scene."
7/31/08 – Editors, TimeOut Chicago - “Chopin Theatre , one of the last old-school entertainment venues in Wicker Park, this theater houses some of Chicago’s best storefront companies”
9/26/07 – C. Piatt & K. Vire, TimeOut Chicago. "Chopin owners Zygmunt Dyrkacz and Lela Headd have played host to some of the most thrilling theater the city’s had to offer during the last 17 years: ..not to mention the European troupes the husband-and-wife team has imported and produced on its own dime”
9/12/07, Andrew Patner, WFMT Radio - “Chopin Theatre is a really indispensable place for theatrical and other artistic gatherings”
9/7/07 – Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune - “But there I was last Saturday night, in the bustling lobby of the Chopin Theatre in Wicker Park -- a community asset of the first order -- trying to weasel my way into a sold-out Rossellini screening "
12/29/05 - Kerry Reid, Performink . "Chicago Shakespeare gets a lot of well deserved praise for bringing in high-profile European troupes. But those who wish to see the best of experimental European theater..know that Wicker Park’s Chopin is the place to go..”
10/27/05 - Christopher Piatt, TimeOut . “No one does more to bring European theater to the City than Chopin Theatre..”
8/11/05 – “Critic’s Choice”, Justin Hayford – Chicago Reader - “ Opportunities to see world-class experimental theater in Chicago are few and far between. But for three years running Chopin Theatre director Zygmunt Dyrkacz has brought Poland’s astonishing image-based Teatr Cogitatur”.
8/11/05 – “Mystery Achievement” by Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader. - “For the past 15 years Zygmunt Dyrkacz has been presenting international experimental theater at the scrappy Chopin Theatre”
8/10/05 - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times. “Question : Where will you find both the trendiest European audiences and the most European-style theater in Chicago? Answer: At the Chopin Theatre”.
11/11/04 - Jeremy Grant, The Financial Times - “The Chopin Theatre, which has just completed a run of a play by the Romanian –born French playwright Matei Visniec, was founded 14 years ago by Polish émigré Zygmunt Dyrkacz. It has been these smaller entrepreneurial, risk-taking venues that have provided fertile ground for Playing French”.
3/27/04 - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune. “..and you’re at the Chopin Theatre to begin with – one of the cooler, brick-walled, atmospherically attractive performance spaces in Chicago.”
12/20/02 – Anthony Moseley, Performink - “If we’d stayed at Chopin Theatre, we would’ve gotten our regulars. Going downtown is an inconvenience for them, not part of their comfort zone”
12/22/00 – Ben Winters, Performink - “ Different companies peel in and out of spaces like the Chopin each remaking it how they see fit, tearing down the world and building it up again..”
5/21/99 - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune - “the impassioned and intelligent Dyrkacz is far from your typical theater owner. Dyrkacz not only rescued the Chopin (built in 1918) from demolition but now oversees some 500 performances per year. Not only is this a very viable space creatively, but the Chopin also is among the city's most affordable little theaters to rent”
1/12/95 – Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times - ”During the past few years, Zygmunt Dyrkacz, who runs the Chopin Theatre at 1543 W. Division, has been single-handedly trying to showcase the world of contemporary Polish theater, appealing to the large Polish-American community here, as well as to the many local theater artists who can learn from the Poles' inventive techniques”..
FESTIVAL & ART PROGRAMS
Chicago Underground Film Festival
City of Fools Clown Festival
DKF Kornelia Film Club
Filipino Film Festival
FMP/German Jazz Festival
Gay/Lesbian Film Festival
German Poets Festival
Guild Complex Literary series
Gwendolyn Brooks Annual Poetry Festival
I-Fest, Festival of European Solo Theater
Juwenalia Polish Students Festival
Ladyfest Midwest Chicago Festival
National Poetry Slam
National Poetry Video Festival
Int'l readings - UIC,Univ of Chicago and Northwestern Univ
Onion City Film Festival
Paderewski In The Park Piano Festival
Playing French Festival
Puppetropolis Chicago Festival
Sister Cities Festival
Sketchbook One-Act Theater Festival
Solopalooza Sketch Comedy Festival
Sound of Silent Film Festival
Split Pillow Productions film series
Spotkania cultural and political discussion series
Storyweek Festival of Writers with Columbia College
Transmissions Experimental Sound & Video Festival
Women in the Directors Chair Film Festival
World Music Festival
Young Chicago Authors literary series
Zaduszki Jazzowe Jazz series