The history of the City of Chicago and its lively theater scene have been intertwined since the very beginning. I wasn’t around for the staging of Chicago’s first professional play, presented in the dining room at the Sauganash Hotel in 1837, the same year the city was incorporated. Luckily, one of my favorite little treasures in the city helped me discover some of our theatrical history.
The Chicago Gallery is located on the third floor of the Harold Washington Library Center. The gallery’s current exhibit—Actors, Plays & Stages: Early Theater in Chicago—features memorabilia and movies from the first 100 years of Chicago theater.
Here are just a couple of the discoveries I made at the exhibit:
- Chicago’s first theater building, Rice’s Theater, opened in 1847 at Randolph and Dearborn.
- Maude Adams—the highest paid actress of her time—starred in Chicago’s first performance of Peter Pan at McVicker’s Theater in 1907.
Next time you’re at the Harold Washington Library Center, be sure to make it up to the third floor Chicago Gallery. The theater exhibit runs through May 15, 2012.
Harold Washington Library Center
Chicago Gallery, Third Floor
400 S. State Street