Route 66 Theatre Company is a Chicago-based, not-for-proﬁt theatre company that produces Chicago and world premiere plays and musicals that tell American stories with a “Chicago Style” – frank in their execution and bold in their conception. Route 66 creates an inviting theatrical experience, pursuing a genuine dialogue with their audience and includes their voices in the artistic process. They emphasize discussion and creative input from both patrons and Chicago’s most celebrated theatrical talents. They encourage an open and collaborative environment where artists are treated with respect. Route 66 operates under the guidelines of the Actors’ Equity Associaion and believes that providing a good salary with health and pension beneﬁts is vital to creating a solid and welcoming home for their artists.
Route 66 Theatre Company was founded in February of 2008 by Stef Tovar, a Chicago native and Jeff Award-winning actor, returning home after a six-year stay in Los Angeles. The company's inaugural production of John Kolvenbach’s ON AN AVERAGE DAY debuted at the Elephant Theatre Lab in Los Angeles, in collaboration with the L.A. based, V.S. Theatre Company. ON AN AVERAGE DAY was met with critical acclaim and enjoyed a sold-out, ﬁve week run, an L.A. Ovation nomination, and several LADCC nominations. Upon closing, Route 66 Theatre Company brought the entire production along “The Mother Road” for the Chicago premiere in August of 2008 at the then Victory Gardens Greenhouse Theater. ON AN AVERAGE DAY was once again met with acclaim by critics and audiences alike. The show ran for six weeks, was named “Critic’s Choice” in the Chicago Tribune, and received a Jeff Award Nomination for Outstanding Fight Choreography.
It was during the journey through the heartland of America – driving from Los Angeles to Chicago along the ever faithful U.S. Route 66 – that the company began to truly ﬁnd itself and create the foundation of their theatre. Like the brave men and women who traversed Route 66 west, eagerly anticipating what their future held, Route 66 Theatre Company embraced the American spirit of risk, exploration, and fearlessness in their artistic endeavors. They dedicated their company to honoring these ideals in every production they undertook. While keeping a few, strong artistic ties to Los Angeles, the company decided to make their home base where their Founder/Artistic Director and The Mother Road began their journeys: in Chicago.
Concurrent with ON AN AVERAGE DAY, Route 66 produced the world premiere of television personality and Chicago Tribune columnist Jennifer Weigel’s one-person show, I’M SPIRITUAL, DAMMIT!, based on her book STAY TUNED. I’M SPIRITUAL, DAMMIT! became an audience favorite and attracted celebrities such as Richard Roeper, Gene Siskel, and other Chicago television personalities. In 2009, the production was remounted at the Chicago Center for the Performing Arts. Ms. Weigel has since turned I’M SPIRITUAL, DAMMIT! into a follow up book, which detailed the production and Route 66’s involvement.
In June of 2009, Route 66 produced the Chicago premiere of Laura Schellhardt’s THE K OF D: AN URBAN LEGEND at A Red Orchid Theatre. This production coincided with the launch of their educational outreach program in conjunction with Robert C. Sullivan High School. K OF D was nominated for Jeff Awards for Outstanding Solo Performance and Sound Design, winning the 2009 Jeff Award for Sound Design – Midsize Theatre. August of 2009 continued a very busy year for Route 66, ushering in their most ambitious venture since founding the company. Route 66 produced its fourth production in just over a year with the Chicago premiere of HIGH FIDELITY. This 14- person Equity musical was the ﬁrst major production of HIGH FIDELITY outside of the initial Broadway run and garnered national press for its undertaking. Route 66 commandeered the Piper’s Alley theatre space on North and Wells that had been home to TONY ‘N TINA’S WEDDING for over 16 years and transformed every inch of the space into a night club. HIGH FIDELITY starred Artistic Director Stef Tovar with Michael Mahler and other top Chicago musical theatre talent, enjoyed a nine-week run and was named “One of the Top Ten Shows of 2009” by the Chicago Sun-Times and Broadwayworld.com.
In the fall of 2010, Route 66 continued its mission of developing new works and Chicago premieres. Route 66 produced the world premiere of MCMEEKIN FINDS OUT by Scott T. Barsotti upstairs at the Victory Gardens Richard Christiansen Theater, directed by Artistic Associate Damon Kiely. It enjoyed a six-week run and starred Chicago stalwart actors Kate Buddeke and Randy Steinmeyer.
Their greatest artistic and commercial success to date, however, has been the world premiere of A TWIST OF WATER, written by Route 66 Artistic Associate and rising star playwright Caitlin Montanye Parrish. Directed by Associate Artistic Director Erica Weiss and starring Artistic Director Stef Tovar, A TWIST OF WATER was one of the biggest hits of the 2011 Chicago theatre season, earning a rare four star review from the Chicago Tribune, raves from critics and audiences, and national press when Mayor Rahm Emanuel made it his ﬁrst appearance at a performing arts event since his election. A TWIST OF WATER enjoyed a six-week, sold-out run at Theater Wit. It was then transferred to the much larger commercial venue, The Mercury Theatre, where it ran for another two and a half months, making it the longest running show of the 2011 theatre season. TWIST received two Jeff Award nominations in the categories of Projection/ Video Design and the prestigious Best New Work, ultimately winning the 2011 Jeff Award for Projections Design. This runaway hit for Route 66 raised their local and national proﬁle to a level nearly unprecedented for a small, young company, and in the autumn of 2012, they will remount the original production Off-Broadway, at 59E59 Theaters in New York.
In just over four years, Route 66 has mounted seven productions – one in two cities. All Chicago premieres, with three of the seven being world premieres, employing seventeen Equity contracts. Route 66 has received ﬁve Jeff Award nominations and two Jeff Award wins.
Route 66 has vowed to remain true to their humble beginnings. The journey begins by engaging audiences in the play selection process and culminates in a season of Chicago-based premieres. Route 66 accomplishes this feat through their Monthly Reading Series held at Mrs. Murphy & Sons’ Irish Bistro in North Center. Amid the Bistro’s welcoming aura and relaxed atmosphere, a new work meets its ﬁrst audience. Upon conclusion of the reading, Route 66 engages their audience in discussion and actively requests their feedback. This discussion determines whether a play will merit a Route 66 full production. Please join Route 66 Theatre Company on their next “Road Trip” and thank you for supporting live theatre.