Skip to main content

Chicago Theater Videotape Collection

Identifier: spe-t00084

Scope and Contents

The Chicago Theater Videotape Collection houses video recordings (primarily VHS videocassettes, but also some DVDs) of live theater productions, interviews, educational programs and other events at theaters across the city.


  • Creation: 1973 - 2005
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1984 - 2000


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

In 1986, the Special Collections and Preservation Division received a federal grant awarded by the Illinois State Library to help build a contemporary Chicago Theater Collection. A portion of these funds were used to document theater in Chicago through videotaped performances, interviews and education programs with a goal to “bring the vitality of theater to life and provide the researcher with the experience of the performance.”

During the 1987-1988 theater season, Special Collections filmed interviews with 10 Chicago playwrights and five live productions:

  • Expectations by Dean Corrin (Victory Gardens)
  • Moonlight Daring Us to Go Insane by Eugene Baldwin (Body Politic)
  • Landscape of the Body by John Guare (Goodman)
  • The Fifth Sun by Nicholas Patricca (Latino Chicago)
  • Nebraska by John Logan (Baliwick Repertory)

Grant funding continued into the 1988-1989 season, and the library filmed an additional nine live theater performances and educational programs. These recordings along with film donations from local theaters, including Stormfield, Magic Circle, City Lit, Goodman and Steppenwolf, helped establish Chicago Public Library and Special Collections, through agreements with Actors’ Equity, the Producers’ Association of Chicago-area Theaters (PACT) and United Scenic Artists as the repository for videotaped theater productions in Chicago until the agreement lapsed in the 1990s. CPL and local theaters have continued to add theater recordings to the collection.


26.25 Linear Feet (in 35 boxes (including 404 VHS videocassettes and 2 DVDs))

Language of Materials



The Chicago Theater Videotape Collection houses video recordings (primarily VHS videocassettes, but also some DVDs) of productions and other events at theaters across the city.


The Chicago Theater Videotape Collection is arranged into four series

  • Series 1: Productions, 1973-2005, undated
  • Series 2: Playwright Interviews, 1987-1988
  • Series 3: Public, Promotional and Educational Programs, 1976-2005
  • Series 4: Grant Applications, 1987-1993, undated

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Access to some audiovisual material may not be possible due to available replay equipment or to state of physical media. Please contact the archives before your visit.

Physical Location

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection is compiled from multiple donors and theaters. Please see individual collection notes for more extensive provenance information.

Related Materials

In 2014, Chicago Public Library partnered with the Chicago Film Archive of Performance (C-FAP), founded by Drew Blau, and agreed to serve as the official repository for recordings made by the organization. C-FAP records live theater performances in Chicago.

  • Chicago Film Archive of Performance (C-FAP)

Researchers are also encouraged to consult finding aids for associated materials throughout the Chicago Theater Collection including:

  • Sarajane Avidon Collection
  • Bailiwick Repertory Archives
  • Virgil Johnson Papers
  • E. Eugene Baldwin Collection
  • Black Ensemble Theater Collection
  • Body Politic Theatre Collection
  • Chicago Medieval Players Collection
  • City Lit Theater Company Records
  • Commons Theatre Collection
  • eta, Creative Arts Foundation
  • Goodman Theatre Archive
  • Patricia (Pat) L. Hart Collection
  • Gary Houston Papers
  • Ellen Jones Collection
  • Loop Players Theater Collection
  • Magic Circle Theatre Collection
  • Michael Merritt Papers
  • National Jewish Theater Records
  • Northlight Theatre Collection
  • Organic Theater Collection
  • Nicholas A. Patricca Papers
  • Pegasus Players Records
  • Michael Philippi Models
  • Robert Shook Papers
  • Steppenwolf Theatre Collection
  • Theatre Building Collection
  • Stormfield Theatre Records
  • Victory Gardens Theater Collection
  • Wisdom Bridge Theatre Collection

Guide to the Chicago Theater Videotape Collection
Original author unknown. Finding aid updated by Sarah Zimmerman, 2017. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2021.
circa 2000
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding guide written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875