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. With approximately 1,800 unique events over its 25 year history, its mission is the promotion of enlightened civic discourse through a diverse range of artistic offerings. Chopin Theatre is privately held and operates without public funding.
Chopin Theatre has produced over 110 of its own productions, mostly Eastern European, and has hosted performers from each American state and from over 40 countries. Its many guests have included Pulitzer winners Gwendolyn Brooks, Yusef Komunyakaa and Studs Terkel; authors Stuart Dybek, Aleksandar Hemon, Haki Madhubuti, Sara Paretsky, Art Shay, Zadie Smith, Bronislaw Wildstein and Howard Zinn; poets Nikki Giovanni, Luis Rodriguez, Mark Smith, Michael Warr and Adam Zagajewski; actors John Cusack and Jeremy Piven; acclaimed musicians Edward Auer, Peter Brotzman, Chuck D., Kurt Elling, Von Freeman, Fareed Haque, Adam Makowicz, Rob Mazurek, Dominic Miller and Paul Wertico.
Chopin Theatre has also organized over 60 interviews or “Spotkania” with leading Polish and Polish American cultural and political figures including Wesley Adamczyk, Grazyna Auguscik, Urszula Dudziak, Andrzej Dudzinski, Stuart Dybek, Jan Englert, Slawomir Fabicki, Feliks Falk, Natasza Goerke, Ryszard Horowitz, Kazimierz Kalkowski, Tymoteusz Karpowicz, Tadeusz Konwicki, Krzysztof Krauze, Ireneusz Krosny, Ryszard Krynicki, Frank Kujawinski, Leszek Madzik, Bronislaw Maj, Michal Pawel Markowski, P. Marcinkiewicz, Andrzej Nowak, Marek Nowakowski, Jan Peszek, Maciej Płażyński, Piotr Sommer, Franciszek Starowiejski, Andrzej Stasiuk, Grzegorz Stec, Jozef Szajna, Joanna Trzeciak, Beata Tyszkiewicz, Bronislaw Wildstein, Bronislaw Wroclawski and Adam Zagajewski.
Chopin Theatre is also the producer of I-Fest, an international festival of solo performances which has brought to Chicago 17 international artists from 10 countries—Austria, England, Finland, France, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, Russia, Slovenia, Switzerland and Ukraine.
The building of the Chopin Theatre was designed in 1918 by M.F. Strunch Architects as a 987 seat theater at 1541-1543 W. Division. According to the Theatre Historical Society of America, the theatre's name has changed several times over the years from Chopin Theatre to Harding Theatre, back to Chopin Theatre and then to the Pix Theatre from 1940-1948. During the next 40 years it went through a number of alternate uses: Security Federal Savings and Loan; thrift shop, discotheque, etc. In 1990 the vacant building was purchased by the Dyrkacz family and gradually restored. Today it houses a Main Stage (226), Cabaret Studio (50-100) with its Pregnant Buffalo Lounge, the Nelson Algren Café, East Wing Art Gallery and the office/residence of owners Zygmunt and Lela Dyrkacz.
AWARDS AND HONORS
Chicago Venue that Matters the Most - Editors of Chicago Tribune, 2010
Chopin Theatre selected along with others such as Art Institute of Chicago, Civic Opera House/Lyric Opera, Orchestra Hall and
Pritzker Pavilion/Millennium Park.
6 Best of the Year Theater Awards 2008 - Chicago Tribune, Chicago Sun Times and TimeOut Chicago (Miss Julie and Our Town by The Hypocrites and Uncle Vanya by Tuta Theatre. Our Town became 1 of 2 plays going on to Broadway in 2008.
Three Consecutive Best of the Year Theater Awards: 2003, 2004 and 2005 - Chicago Tribune For Chopin Theatre’s production of Teatr Cogitatur (Katowice, Poland) U.S debuts
Diploma “Outstanding Achievement in Promoting Poland Abroad” – Minister Foreign Affairs, Anna Fotyga to Chopin Theatre for promotion of Polish Culture
2006 Director of the Year Brandon Bruce - Orgie Theater Award for Chopin Theatre’s Production Slawomir Mrozek’s Tango.
2005 People Making a Difference in Theatre - Performink
For presenting the best of experimental European theater including I-Fest and 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 honorees: Broadway in Chicago, Blue Man Group and Corbett v Dempsey Gallery).
"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" - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
“Question : Where will you find both the trendiest European audiences and the most European-style theater in Chicago? Answer: At the Chopin Theatre” - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times
“…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…” - Kris Vire, The Guardian
“enchantingly funky Chopin Theatre in the Wicker Park neighborhood..” - Charles Isherwood, New York 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." - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun Times
“Chopin Theatre is a really indispensable place for theatrical and other artistic gatherings” - Andrew Patner, WFMT Radio
“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 " - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“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” - Jeremy Grant, The Financial Times
"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..” - Kerry Reid, Performink Chicago
“No one does more to bring European theater to the City than Chopin Theatre..” - Christopher Piatt, TimeOut Chicago
Critic's Choice - “ Opportunities to see world-class experimental theater are few and far between. But for three years running Chopin Theatre director Zygmunt Dyrkacz has brought Poland’s astonishing image-based Teatr Cogitatur” - Justin Hayford,Chicago Reader
“ 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..” - Ben Winters, Performink Chicago
“For the past 15 years Zygmunt Dyrkacz has been presenting international experimental theater at the scrappy Chopin Theatre” - “Mystery Achievement” - Justin Hayford, Chicago Reader
“..and you’re at the Chopin Theatre to begin with – one of the cooler, brick-walled, atmospherically attractive performance spaces in Chicago.” - Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune
“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” - Anthony Moseley in Performink Chicago
“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” - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune
”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” - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Tribue
24 Hour Plays Festival
Around the Coyote Arts Festival
Beck Institute Family Arts Festival
Chicago Comedy Festival
Chicago Humanities Festival
Chicago International Documentary Film Festival
City of Fools Clown Festival
FMP/German Jazz Festival
Gay/Lesbian Film Festival
German Poets Festival
Guild Complex literary series
I-Fest, Festival of European Solo Theater
Juwenalia Polish Students Festival
Ladyfest Midwest Chicago Festival
National Poetry Slam
National Poetry Video Festival
Northwestern, University of Chicago and University Illinois at Chicago
Onion City Film Festival
Paderewski In The Park Piano Festival
Playing French Festival /
Puppetropolis Chicago Festival
Sketchbook One-Act Theatre Festival
Solopalooza Sketch Comedy Festival
Sound of Silent Film Festival
Storyweek Festival of Writers with Columbia College
Sister Cities Festival
Transmission Experimental Sound and Video Festival
Tribute to Mrozek and Herbert Festival
Women In the Directors Chair Festival
World Music Festival
Young Chicago Authors literary series