On the cover: Photo by Matthew Schwerin. For more of Schwerin's work, go to mattschwerin.com.

It would have been easy to begin this letter by writing “Chicago is a theater town,” but also stupid because everybody knows that, even people who don’t live here: Steppenwolf, Second City, City Hall, blah blah blah. We respect you, dear readers, and so we’re not going to insult you by filling this special Spring Theater and Dance Issue with stuff you already know about and have probably seen.

Instead, we asked our writers and one photographer to go out and learn more about places and performers that fascinated them. They went behind the scenes at Prop Thtr, the Avondale hub for experimental theater, and Links Hall, which has nurtured the dance community for 40 years. They met Lily Be, who has turned her life into a series of hilarious stories, and Blair Thomas, creator of ingenious puppets and architect of glorious spectacles. They went back in time to 1933 to revisit the dance partnership of Ruth Page and Katherine Dunham, and to 1992 because for some reason playwrights find it a fascinating backdrop for drama. They looked ahead to some of the spring’s most exciting new productions and an open mike for women of color. They went inside theaters to see what they look like when no one is there. And they went to the circus, which in Chicago takes place not under a big top, but in industrial lofts and deconsecrated churches.

All this and reviews of 10 new plays, including the first production of a new company and the last production of an old company! Never think that we don’t love you.

There’s plenty of other drama in this issue, starting with the history of local LGBTQ politics and continuing with some dramatic questions: What does the city treasurer do exactly? Who is C.H.E.W.? Is Us a worthy follow-up to Get Out? Will Chicagoans finally learn to appreciate the Coney Island hot dog? Read on and find out.  v