The Harris Theater at Millennium Park

harris theater
Photo Credit

There are several destination theaters in Chicago. These are venues where the physical space itself provides substantial incentive when choosing whether or not to attend a particular event. We’re talking place like the Chicago Theater, Symphony Center, Pritzker Pavilion, Charter One Pavilion on Northerly Island, just to name a few. Great sound, great seating, great architecture, great overall floorplan — these are things which can greatly enhance (or detract from in the opposite case) a theatergoer’s experience. Situated directly behind the Pritzker Pavilion, the Harris Theater is one of the gems in the Millennium Park crown and, as of 2003, one of the great venues in Chicago for viewing dance and music events.

Architecturally, the Harris is nothing like the collection of flowing steel bands which makes up the Gehry designed Pritzker Pavilion, but the smaller theater provides a cozy and practical companion piece to its more muscular partner. With its rectangular wall of windows looking in upon an enormous but minimalist abstract art construction, the Harris entryway suggests an aesthetic mission of clean simplicity. The initial introduction is nevertheless deceptive, as much of the theater lies below Randolph Drive and once past the modest but sleek, modern lobby and lower hallways the attendee is ushered into an expansive and elegant seating area overlooking a large stage. Making good use of the latest design styles and techniques, the theater itself is a contemporary marvel: the seats are comfortable, every line of sight in the theater is a good one, and the sound system and overall sound design is top notch.

The clean simplicity of the building’s aesthetics carryover to the organization’s artistic mission as well. The Harris Theater is a nonprofit endeavor which partners with several different troupes and companies throughout the area in an effort to promote and grow local dance and music culture. The Harris theater provides guidance, space, and equipment to many resident companies including the Chicago Jazz Ensemble, Chicago Children’s Choir, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Puerto Rican Arts Alliance, Music of the Baroque, Old Town School of Folk Music, Luna Negra Dance Theater, Ballet Chicago, and Fulcrum Point New Music Project.

Ticket prices are reasonable for downtown (sometimes as low as $10 a pop for even the best seats) and there is a continuous rotation of interesting and exciting performances held several times a week.

Upcoming events include: The Musical of World Charles Mingus, The Vienna Symphony Orchestra, The Quatro Festival, and Harold and the Purple Crayon: A Dance Adventure. With its great location, packed calendar of music and dance events, and ambitious promotion of artistic culture, the Harris Theater provides a perfect indoor complement to the spectacular outdoor pavilion in back.

John Paris

About John Paris

Born in Cincinnati, raised in California, John has lived in a lot of great cities -- Montréal, San Francisco, Boston -- but now calls Chicago home sweet home, and has done so longer than anywhere else. Leaving the hills behind, he has found comfort in the flatness of one of the largest grids in the world. Neighborhoods divided into quadrants, divided into city blocks, divided into equal rectangular plots would seem to be a recipe for a grim, constricted civic culture. Not so, says John -- we Chicagoans are blessed by our situation. As inhabitants within the template of boulevards, and streets, and avenues, we dance on a perfect dance floor. The swirling, tumbling activity of circular pegs amused by square slots is the real creative genius of this fair city. Onward circular pegs!

Leave a comment

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *