May 19, 2011

Local Community Theatre

Local Drama & Comedy
The Chicagoan
Some Background
"In 1912, two theatre groups were formed, the Toy Theatre in Boston and the Little Theatre in Chicago, these events often cited as the official start of the 'Little Theatre Movement' in the United States. 
Continuing to react against commercialism, amateur companies began to write and produce their own works as well as new plays from Europe that had been ignored by the syndicates. A wide variety of experimental groups, clubs, and settlement houses like Hull House-Lake View undertook to reform the theater, bringing more inwardly directed plays to a wider public audience. 
New forms of drama, some influenced by or parodying the new science of psychoanalysis, began to be presented in smaller venues, many converted from other uses into makeshift theatres. The new groups began to experiment with new forms of storytelling, acting styles, and dialogue. This experimentation, influenced by European models, ranged from an ultra-detailed naturalism to, by the early 1920's, a wildly provocative expressionism, part of a new (kind of) stagecraft." - 'Little Theater Movement'. 
The Great Depression years of the 1930's had a great impact to the theatre movement creating venues in order to express the social/cultural issues of the day. In time 'The Little Theater Movement' would begin to express itself either in drama or in comedy real folks doing real things.
The 1960's and 1970's there was an explosion of homegrown theatre in Chicago. Young ensembles began performing in unorthodox settings, back rooms, and vacant storefronts. 
– Encyclopedia of Chicago
a scene of a production 
from the Oracle* Theatre ensemble
Grand-Daddy of Local Theatre
The Hull House - Lake View
Once such place was in a building operated by Hull House located at 3212 North Broadway Avenue now the home of 
Lake View Athletics Club. While Hull House - Lake View served as  a social net for the poor and the new populations of the area in its day this creative organization provide 'homegrown theater' to flourish in another area of the city. The main building on south Halsted Street harvested the establishment of Steppenwolf, Bailiwick, and About Face.
Hull House - Lake View  (par.84) 1963-2002
currently the Lake View Athletic Club
In Lake View, one of those theaters on the north-side was the Oracle*. While the Oracle theatre group at a few locations on the north-side it will be remember at Hull House - Lake View as this 1976 article below indicates.
The tiny boxed-in and dingy theater at Hull House 
- Lake View was known for its social commentary with creative scripts as this 1965 and 1967 
Chicago Tribune article indicates below
1967 article - a First in the Country
 page 2
St. Nicholas Theater
Another theatre group known at the time was the St. Nicholas New Works ensemble that moved into the 
old Ivanhoe Theater space in 1980
This ensemble was once located 2851 N. Halsted Street
Neo-Futurist:
a show with a pizza
page 2
The Neo's, founded in 1988 in a storefront on Clark Street and Belmont Aveune, was apparently the first late-night theatre production in Chicago. This ensemble was created to explore "experimental theater and performance art & Italian futurism, surrealism". 
Note: My thanks to York M. Chan, contributor to Lake View Historical for this additional information on Neo's.
The 'Little Theatres' of Lake View
From these early days of experimentation and dingy boxed-in theater spaces created a climate for a variety of theatre themes and exploration in Lake View. Basically, find a space somewhere and then start creating.
735 W Sheridan Road
gone from Lake View in 2016
3809 N. Broadway Avenue


Stage Left Theatre
located in the Theater Wit 
 1226 W. Belmont Avenue
Shattered Globe Theatre
also located at Theater Wit
1226 W. Belmont Avenue
Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
3717 N. Ravenswood Avenue
3717 N. Ravenswood Avenue
3829 N Broadway Avenue
Moved to Rogers Park in 2016
Wellington United Church of Christ
615 W. Wellington Avenue
(moving out of the neighborhood soon)
while recording history in the making of them
photo - Armando L. Sanchez via Chicago Tribune
2936 N. Southport Avenue
Hedwig Dance Company
4410 N. Ravenswood Avenue
While this organization is located on the other side of the (Ravenswood) tracks (North Central neighborhood) this dance ensemble performs periodically at the
 Anthenaeum Theater 
2936 N. Southport Avenue
735 W. Sheridan Road
3175 N. Broadway Avenue
located in one of oldest theaters in Lake View
 1225 W. Belmont Avenue
1225 W. Belmont Avenue

Red TapeTheatre 
 621 W. Belmont Avenue
 
once located in Lake View
3110 N. Sheffield Avenue
929 W. Belmont Avenue
4830 N. Broadway-Uptown
 and soon to be located at
851 W. Belmont Avenue
According to LakeView Historical contributor York Chan, this theatre group has traveled full circle; for this group was initially located in Lake View @ the 3153 N Broadway. 
That location housed 130-150 patrons according to 1990 Chicago Tribune article.
3209 N. Halsted Street
Originally performed at Saint Sebastian Church
 on Wellington Avenue and currently at 
St. Bonaventure Church
1625 W. Diversey Parkway

The Public House Theatre
3914 N. Clark Street
Hoover-Leppen Theatre
@ The Center on Halsted
3656 N. Halsted Street
Chemically Imbalanced Comedy
1422 W. Irving Park Road

Under the Gun Theater
956 W. Newport Avenue

Sponsored by the Lake View East Chamber of Commerce 2013
Lake View has a theater district to help market their countless venues within its' borders highlighted above. 
Look out Uptown! - It's the Belmont Theater District!!
The Community Theatre Past
The community theatre groups once located in Lake View that I did not mention above. Here are some of them:

once located on Hull House-Lake View that is currently the location of the Lake View Athletic Club
a promotional photo at the Belmont El platform 1982
Here's a shot of the northbound end of the Belmont platform in 1982, in a publicity shot for the Steppenwolf Theatre Company. In this photo are Oscar nominees Gary Sinise, John Malkovich and Joan Allen, multiple Emmy winners John Mahoney and Laurie Metcalf, Emmy and Tony Award nominee Terry Kinney, and Tony Award winner Rondi Reed. This was just before everyone started to get famous. Malkovich got his first Oscar nom in 1984 or thereabouts, and got two others around 1986-87. The woman standing in the photo near him is Glenne Headley, to whom he was married at the time. - a testimonial from Chuck Winans
 Theater Oobleck
 3824 N. Broadway in 1990 – old Chateau Hotel building
now currently in the neighborhood of Edgewater 
Defiant Theatre
3540 North Southport Avenue 
"Few defunct theaters are looked back on by storefront aficionados with the fondness earned by Defiant, which wrapped in 2004 after 13 years of punchy, poppy, ambitiously physical productions of Shakespeare (a 2003 Titus Andronicus, starring Larry Yando, was a gory scorcher), provocative contemporary playwrights like Caryl Churchill and Sarah Kane, and their own creations, such as the satiric Action Movie: The Play franchise (yes, franchise)." 
Cafe Voltaire
For much of the '90s, the basement of Cafe Voltaire, a vegetarian restaurant on Clark Street in Lakeview, served as an ad hoc performance space where you could see plays, poetry readings, sketch comedy and more on the cheap, with line cooks schlepping produce upstairs all the while. Collaboraction and the Hypocrites performed their earliest shows here. - TimeOut Chicago review
The Chicago Tribune mentioned that "evokes the spirit of its namesake, Cabaret Voltaire, the Zurich cafe where Dadaism was launched.".
Bailiwick Repertory Arts Center
Founded 1982
currently located at 2433 N. Lincoln Avenue
It's other locations:
(Cabaret) Metro Building @ in 1984
Jane Addams Center @ 1985-1990
Theatre Building Chicago @ 1991 - 1994
Also the former home of Chicago Filmmakers
According to Forgotten Chicago the old Bailiwick Theater that was once located at 1229 W Belmont Avenue 
once served as a post office. 
Post Notes: 
View my other posts on the topic of entertainment in my other blog posts called Theaters Present and Theaters Past

Important Note:
These posts are exclusively used for educational purposes. I do not wish to gain monetary profit from this blog nor should anyone else without permission for the original source - thanks!


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