May 19, 2011

Local Community Theatre: past & present

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 thingsThe 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
The Jane Addam 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. This building  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 this part of the city. The main building on south Halsted Street harvested the establishments of Steppenwolf, Bailiwick, and About Face.
text- The Cambridge Guide to American Theater 
The tiny boxed-in and dingy theater  
Chicago Tribune 1965 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
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
According to their website: "the TimeLine Theatre Company presents stories inspired by history that connect 
with today's social and political issues.
photo - Armando L. Sanchez via Chicago Tribune
‘The nonprofit theater announced it would be moving from Lake View to Uptown in December [2019], adding to the effort to revitalize Uptown’s entertainment district. TimeLine bought the building at 5033-35 N. Broadway in December. The five-story, 45,120-square-foot former moving and storage facility sits at the corner of Broadway and Argyle. TimeLine plans to be ready by fall 2021. The plan calls for a 250-seat theater, a 150-seat theater, a bar, lobby and staff offices’ according to Block Club of Chicago.
Anthenaeum Theatre
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 at the 3153 N Broadway. 
That location housed 130-150 patrons according to 1990 Chicago Tribune article.
Kokandy Productions
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
photo - Windy City Times
Chemically Imbalanced Comedy
1422 W. Irving Park Road

Newport Theater
956 W. Newport Avenue
'“Chicago is great in the sense that there’s a lot of work for variety, burlesque and drag performers, but I think a lot of times when you work in certain venues you’re trying to deliver what a client wants …,” said Megan Hartmann, the theater’s programming director. “But with this place we wanted it to be like, ‘What do artists want to create? What do artists want to say?'”
Once called ...
Under the Gun Theater
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
 Theatre Oobleck
 3824 N. Broadway in 1990 
 once located in the former Chateau Hotel building
now currently in the community 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)." 
Cabaret Voltaire
For much of the '90's, the basement of Cafe Voltaire, a vegetarian restaurant on Clark Street in Lake View, served as an ad hoc performance space where you could view plays, poetry readings, sketch comedy on the cheap, with line cooks schlepping produce upstairs all the while according to  TimeOut Chicago  The Chicago Tribune mentioned that "evokes the spirit of its namesake, Cabaret Voltaire, the Zurich cafe where Dadaism was launched.".
Bailiwick Repertory Arts Center
photo - Sarah F via Yelp
founded 1982
-currently located at 2433 N Lincoln Avenue-
It's other locations:
(Cabaret) Metro Building in 1984
Jane Addams Center from 1985-1990
Theatre Building Chicago from 1991 - 1994
photo - Chicagoland Music Theatre
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. 

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!!
2936 N Southport Avenue
Eclectic Full Contact Theatre is the only Chicago-based theatre company committed to expanding the relationship between audience and actor
3914 N Clark Street
Otherworld Theatre Company is a theatre dedicated to the performance of science fiction and fantasy plays

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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