Chicago is home to an exciting theatre community, with dozens of shows on any given evening (except Mondays which in the theatre world is traditionally a dark night.) Whether your taste is for serious productions of Shakespeare to modern comic improv (or both!), there is a theatre company that offers precisely the genre you are seeking. The brief guide to follows provides you with a sampling of what Chicago theatre has to offer.

Of course, whenever you think of playwrights, one name springs immediately to mind: Shakespeare. In this city, fans of the bard flock to the world-renowned Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, which is located on Navy Pier. (Admittedly, this tourist attraction provides a strange setting for such a serious playhouse, but that just adds to its scenic charm.) Naturally, most of the performances here are of Shakespearean plays, but don’t be surprised to see other classical offerings with modern twists, as well.

Another respected institution is the Steppenwolf Theatre, located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood. Steppenwolf heavily emphasizes acting excellence, which is probably why their stable of ensemble actors is so incredibly gifted. (You may have heard of one of the actors who founded the theatre: award-winning Hollywood actors, Gary Sinise and John Malkovich.) At the same time, the theatre is dedicated to presenting innovate productions and provocative material all for the purpose of encouraging original schools of thought and open-minded perspectives.

While most people visit the Magnificent Mile for shopping, the Lookingglass Theatre is another draw. Recently relocated, it now has its own new home within the old Water Tower Work Pumping Station, a classic structure on the north end of Michigan Avenue. The theatre is known for its interesting stage productions, which changes from show to show. Plus, this theatre is known for productions geared towards entertaining children, as well as, adults. Former friends star, David Schwimmer, one of the Lookingglass’ original members, comes back each year for their annual major fundraising event.

The north side of the city isn’t the only place to catch a great show. The Court Theatre, located on the University of Chicago campus in Hyde Park, is another standout playhouse. (It is a professional theatre; no student productions here!) The Court is unique in that it focuses on classic theatre, a range that extends from Shakespeare to Tom Stoppard, while also incorporating song. Thus, traditional plays are modified to include the ensemble’s stunning singing voices.

If all of that sounds a little too serious for you, you might be interested in The Second City, which is in Old Town. This comedy improv house is famous for nurturing Saturday Night Live actors like Bill Murray, John Belushi, Chris Farley and Gilda Radner. If you’ve always dreamed of performing comedy, you might be interested in the stellar classes they offer to the general public.

This guide represents only a smattering of theatres in Chicago. For something really different and modern, you might try visiting one of the fringe theatres, which concentrate on innovation. Generally, these tickets are cheaper than some of the more established theatres, so they are great for anyone on a budget.