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Des Plaines Culture

The cultural avenues of Des Plaines continue to enrich the lives of artists and art enthusiasts every day.

The Performing Arts Center (PAC) at Oakton Community College (OCC) is buzzing with year-round productions and events. At least five theatrical productions, accompanied by numerous musical performances and reader’s theatre shows, are presented each season in the modern PAC.

The Center is comprised of two technologically advanced theatres, including the 285-seat Mainstage and the intimate Studio One, a black box space with seating for up to 100 guests. An assortment of productions is provided each season, ranging from classical works to contemporary presentations for children and adults alike. In addition to being used on a daily basis by OCC students, faculty and staff, the stage regularly welcomes the award-winning Oakton Jazz Ensemble, Six Piano Ensemble, as well as the Emerald City Theatre Company, Child’s Play Touring Theatre and speakers from the Chicago Writers Series.

OCC’s Koehnline Museum of Art is not only an exceptional resource for the college’s students and employee base, but also for the residents of Des Plaines and beyond. Through educational programs and compelling exhibitions, museum patrons are invited to explore various forms of modern and contemporary art on local, regional, national and international levels. The permanent collection, on display at both the Des Plaines campus and the Ray Hartstein Campus in Skokie, highlights commissioned and donated pieces of art created by many Chicago and Illinois-based artists.

More than just a state-of-the-art fitness center and community center, the Des Plaines Park District’s Prairie Lakes Community Center is also home to a modern theatre. The Prairie Lakes Theater houses a 298-seat facility equipped with stadium-style seating, professional lighting and sound equipment, and a full orchestra pit, among other features.

Both the Footlighters and the Christian Youth Theatre Group present two shows each year at the theatre, while the Big Noise Theatre Company produces a three-show season. Big Noise, a division of the Winnetka Theatre since 2002, has become a significant element of the culture in Des Plaines ever since its move from the Winnetka Community House. The company’s season includes two musicals and one play.

The Park District-sponsored Community Concert Band invites audiences to enjoy four concerts each year at the Prairie Lakes Theatre, along with numerous other venues in the area. The band is part of the Park District’s Live at the Lake Series and performs the free Band Favorites concert in Lake Park each August. The 50-member band played its first concert in the summer of 1983 and has since been a part of many notable community events.

The Prairie Lakes Theater also plays host to various community happenings and organizations. The Senior Center Talent Show and Maine West High School’s After Prom event have utilized the theater space for more than 15 years. In addition, the annual Suburban Park and Recreation Association (SPRA) Showcase, along with presentations by Sol Azteca, the Barefoot Hawaiian and the Artistry in Motion Dance Company are held here regularly as well.

Formed by a small group of music-minded people, the Northwest Symphony Orchestra (NSO) has been providing the region with high-quality concert programming and community outreach services for nearly six decades. The more than 70-member orchestra is led by Maestro Paul Vermel. The NSO provides an exciting subscription series featuring four concerts from November through May. Audiences regularly pack into the Maine West High School Auditorium to enjoy the beautiful sounds of the NSO.

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