One of the things that sets Chicago's theater community apart from those in other cities is that we ARE a community, and the idea of sharing is ingrained even within our largest theater companies. The Goodman Theatre has producing partnerships with such much, much smaller Off-Loop companies as Teatro Vista and Silk Road Theatre Project, and Steppenwolf Theatre Company regularly co-presents smaller Off-Loop companies in its Upstairs Theatre and, especially, its Merle Reskin Garage Theatre. The dominant companies in other cities don't do this sort of thing often, if at all.
Two years ago, Steppenwolf went even farther by creating its Garage Rep program in which it presents three newer and less-known Off-Loop (and even Off-off-Loop) companies in rotating repertory. What's more, Steppenwolf has been inviting companies with non-realistic performing styles that are miles apart from the realism upon which Steppenwolf itself has built its reputation.
The 'wolfies have just announced (July 28) the three troupes they have invited to be part of Garage Rep 2012, next Feb. 3-April 8. The companies and productions are: LiveWire Chicago presenting Current Nobody by Melissa James Gibson, the puppet-and-mask Theatre Zarko offering He Who by company founder Michael Montenegro, and the interdisciplinary artists of The Inconvenience in Hit the Wall by Ike Holter.
Steppenwolf has dedicated the Garage Theatre to "new plays, new artists and new audiences for the American theater." It's a refreshingly mature attitude for the company to recognize that Steppenwolf itself may no longer fulfill that mandate as it once did, although the Mother Company continues to commission and stage new plays and periodically refreshes its ensemble with younger artists.