Showing posts with label 58. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 58. Show all posts

May 19, 2011

Local Community Theatre: past & present

Local Drama 
& Comedy
This post is related to another post called
Theaters Past & Present
Some Background
The Hull House Settlement Theatre group, founded by Jane Addams and Ellen Gates Starr, was the first to perform several plays by Galsworthy, Ibsen, and Shaw in Chicago. Maurice Browne, director and co-founder of the Chicago Little Theatre with Ellen Van Volkenburg, responding to often having been called the founder of the Little Theatre Movement, instead credited Hull House director Laura Dainty Pelham with being the "true founder of the 'American Little Theatre Movement. - Wikipedia  
The Great Depression years of the 1930's had a great impact to the theatre movement in general 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 local homegrown theatre in Chicago. Ensembles began performing in unorthodox settings, either in back rooms, and vacant storefronts. – Encyclopedia of Chicago
One for those beginner ensembles was located in Lake View.
The Jane Addam 
 3212 N Broadway
currently the renovated building 
that houses the Lake View Athelic Club
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 working 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 Grim Little Box
of a Theatre  
 1965 article Chicago Tribune
Awarding Winning Plays
Performed by 1967
Three Plays Slated
in 1968
The Finale 
in 2002
The St. Nicholas 
'New Works'
2851 N Halsted Street
Part of the Off-Loop Theatre Movement
Another theatre group known at the time was the St. Nicholas New Works ensemble tried to move into the 
old Ivanhoe Theater space in 1980
St. Nicholas Calls it Quits
in 1981
once located on Jane Addams Center 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 nomination 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
A New Theater 
for the LBTQ+ Friendly Crowd
in 2010
Hoover-Leppen Theatre
located within
 Center on Halsted
3656 N Halsted Street
The center aims to be a focal point for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community of Chicago, serving its diverse social, recreational, cultural and social service needs. The plush, 170-seat Hoover-Leppen Theatre serves as the resident space for two non-equity companies, sketch ensemble GayCo and Hubris Productions.
photo - Windy City Times
Different Perspective on a Classic 
in 2022
Lake View's
Theater District
as of 2016

Who Are We?

The Belmont Theater District acts as an advocate to create, promote and strengthen the diverse artistic offerings of the Lakeview and Lakeview East neighborhoods to its residents and visitors. We’re a collaboration between the Lakeview and Lakeview East Chambers of Commerce in partnership with local theaters and businesses, with additional support from SSAs #8, #17, and #27. – Belmont Theater District

The following mentions such as the Athenaeum Theater, Music Box, Laugh Factory (former Lake Shore Theater), Mercury Theater, and Theater Wit are in my post called Theaters Present due to their pre-existing presence in Lake View since the first quarter of the 20th century.

The current list of theaters as of 2019

Annoyance Theater & Bar began in Lake View at 3153 N Broadway
moved to Uptown only to return to Lake View according to LakeView Historical contributor York Chan
SSP originally began at their parish church on Wellington Avenue. The parish was desolved and the property is the now the home of Advocate Illinois Masonic Hospital. SSP currently calls 
St. Bonaventure Church home.
Theatres in more Detail:
Chemically Imbalanced Comedy
1422 W Irving Park Road

956 W Newport Avenue
A Brief List of
of former theatres groups
in Lake View
From these early days of experimentation and dingy boxed-in theater spaces created a climate for a variety of theatre venues & themes, and theatre exploration in Lake View. Basically, find a cheap space somewhere and then start creating. The Pandemic of 2020 along with a shelter-in-place degree by governmental agencies was a death knell for many small theatre companies mentioned below.
Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company
735 W Sheridan Road

Late last month, Mary-Arrchie Theatre Company, a reliable supplier of Off-Loop ferocity across 29 years and more than 100 productions, announced that its just-commenced 30th season will be its last. According to the theater’s longtime artistic director Richard Cotovsky, there are two reasons for this: One having to do with the lease, the other with energy. Cotovsky says the company has lost both. This summer, he learned that Mary-Arrchie’s performance space, a somewhat rickety second-floor walkup on Sheridan Road just north of Boystown, had been sold to new owners with plans to redevelop the whole corner. “The new landlord came up the stairs and gave us a paper saying he was the new landlord,” Cotovsky says. “I have yet to have a real conversation with the guy, but I’m sure we’re in the plans for adios.” New condos are likely in the cards. Chicago Magazine 2015

3809 N Broadway Avenue

It is with a mixture of sadness and deepest gratitude that we, the Staff, Company Members, and Board of Directors announce that Oracle will cease operations by the end of December 2016 after 11 years of making theatre in Chicago – 6 of which were spent pursuing our mission of Public Access Theatre™. The last year and a half has also brought significant internal changes. Chief among these was the need to find a new home after losing our longtime space of 11 years at 3809 N. Broadway due to condominium development. We took a calculated risk to move our operation to a larger space in Northcenter. Brad Jayhan-Little (Executive Director) and Ben Fuchsen (Executive Producer) have been leading the company for most of its history; the summer brought large personal life changes for both of them. The confluence of these changes made them realize that it is time for each of them to move on to other endeavors. For these reasons, the Board of Directors decided to dissolve Oracle and grant its assets to other important nonprofit institutions dedicated to making art accessible to all. - Public Access Theatre

last Lake View location 
was at Theater Wit building
2936 N Southport Avenue 
with its production history
once located in Lake View at
3717 N Ravenswood Avenue
currently located
5301 N Damen Avenue
once located in Lake View at
3829 N Broadway Avenue
Moved to Rogers Park in 2016

was located within the 
former Wellington United Church of Christ building
615 W Wellington Avenue
will move to the Community of Uptown
5033 N Broadway
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
2018 Google Map view
‘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.
2936 N Southport Avenue
*desolved in 2019*

CHICAGO - After 24 years, the Emerald City Theatre will close its doors at the end of January. Emerald City, located at 2936 North Southport Avenue, made the announcement Friday. Operators said barring a last-minute major contribution, they will have to close because of increased program costs and decreased revenue. Karen and Alyn Cardarelli founded Emerald City in a storefront in 1996. It has since grown to Chicago’s largest theater for young audiences, serving more than 60,000 people a year through its shows, classes and camps. It is the largest theater arts education program in Chicago. Those who have seen and loved their performances are sad to hear the news. The company has created over 100 productions in downtown Chicago, Lakeview and Lincoln Park. One Fund, the theater’s community engagement program, promotes increased literacy by providing more than 100,000 free plays and companion books to students at low-resourced Chicago Public Schools. The company has also produced shows on major stages such as Victory Gardens and the Apollo theaters. Emerald City released a statement saying: “We are grateful for our extraordinary audiences, artists, educators, and community, who generosity have allowed ECT to carry out its mission for over two decades. Together, we have collaborated with thousands of children and their grown-ups across Chicago to develop skills to creatively face the world.” – WGN9

Prior to their current location at 
Ruth Page Center for the Arts in 2017
the esemble performed at Stage 773 and before that at the same location called Theatre Building Chicago. From 1997-2000 Porchlight used the Athenaeum Theater and before that The O Bar & Cafe at 3343 N Clark Street and Organic Theater Greenhouse/Lab Theater at 3319 N Clark Street
once located at
 621 W Belmont Avenue
St. Peter's Episcopal Church
currently located at
4546 N Western Avenue
once located at
929 W Belmont Avenue
former Aunt Sather building location
currently at
230 W North Avenue
3914 N Clark Street
*apparently located at Stage 773??*
3824 N Broadway
(the original Chateau Hotel)
 once located in the former Chateau Hotel building
now currently in the Community of Edgewater
 Briar Street 
once a stable for horses
and then a garage for cars
photos - Trip Advisor 
What is the Briar Street Theatre today began as a carriage house in 1901. Then, the spaces were used for stables for the Marshall Field’s department store delivery service. Of course, the building outgrew its purpose and became unused. In 1970, Topel and Associated owner Walt Topel purchased the building from a moving company to use for his film production. Topel redesigned the space into a sound stage and from 1977 to 1985, used it for his post-production company, Cinetronics. When the company relocated downtown, it was reopened as a theater and quickly became part of Chicago’s arts culture. Today, the venue is still owned by the Topel Family. Inside, the original second floor still hangs by visible large turnbuckles. The 625-seat theater offers impressive sightlines and acoustics with a proscenium stage. There isn’t a bad seat in the house (or Horse, as some joke), as the layout was designed to have a perfect view from every angle. Today, it hosts the long-running Blue Man Group performance. - Chicago Traveler

 photos - Trip Advisor 
From 1977 to 1985, this building also housed Walt Topel's post-production company, Cinetronics, Ltd. In 1985, the theater was reopened and became a part of the culture that is Chicago. The Blue Man Group are three bald men dressed black clothing and the remaining showing skin is painted blue. During the performance, they incorporate the audience in their performance with music, art, science, and vaudeville in a way that has not been experienced in any other form. - Wikipedia
Before BlueMan Group 
 images - Ebay
Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps
zoomed below
zoomed below
The Seating Arrangement

ticket sampler - Ebay
from their Facebook page
 photos - Trip Advisor 
Sensory Therapy 
for Kids
small theatres under one roof
once a community post office
photo edit - Open House Chicago
text images below - Wit Theater

As a production company, Theater Wit’s is the premier smart art theater in Chicago, producing humorous, challenging, and intelligent plays that speak with a vibrant and contemporary theatrical voice. As an institution, Theater Wit seeks to be the hub of the Chicago neighborhood theater scene. In our three spaces, we bring together Chicago’s best storefront theater companies. Here you will find a smorgasbord of excellent productions, see the work of a parade of talented artists, and mingle with audiences from all over Chicago.  text - Enjoy Illinois 

How does it work?

This part is theater-geeky… The theater is a communal experience; in which we are as affected by the micro-musculature responses of those who surround us as much as by the performances. It is not a solitary communion, but a community effort that reaches toward collective understanding. We’ve all attended the theatre when the audience has been “live” —particularly engaged and responsive. Those evenings are more rewarding, because the group feedback amplifies the action of the play. The beauty of audience design is that it doesn’t require anything except honest response from its participants. The more the people around us are invested, the greater our response. It is a core biological response to group dynamics that dates back a hundred thousand years. By placing disparate communities into the room who wouldn’t normally be seeing the play (and certainly wouldn’t be seeing the play together), we can consciously craft the response dynamics in the room so that everyone’s experience is informed and transformed by one another. 

the lobby below
Ticket Windows below
and once called
Gone but not 
totally Forgotten
3540 N Southport Avenue 
According to thier old website, Defiant Theatre defied fear. We strived to subvert the social, moral, and aesthetic expectations of mainstream artistic expression. We dared to impassion our audiences and ourselves using any means necessary, limited only by our boundless imagination. TimeOut Chicago stated 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).

CHICAGO -- Over the last decade the underground performance space at Voltaire, a restaurant and coffeehouse in the Lakeview neighborhood, has been one of the Chicago theatre community's most prolific playgrounds. Charging a pittance, Cabaret Voltaire has allowed countless small theaters to test their wings. Many of its ventures have been mediocre, but Voltaire launched such successes as Lepers, by Neil LaBute (screenwriter of In the Company of Men), the now-national hit Schoolhouse Rock Live! and Barto Productions' legendary 1991 revival of Dylan Thomas' Under Milkwood. Sadly, on May 15, this fertile playground will close its doors. The owners of the theatre are currently on a hunt for a new space, somewhere in Chicago, but haven't come up with anything yet.. Cabaret Voltaire is named after the infamous club in 1916 Zurich, where the founders of the Dada movement -- Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, Jean Arp, Richard Huelsenbeck -- created performances intent on infuriating their audiences to the point of violence. - by Lawrence Bommer and Sean McGrath via Playbill

Victory Gardens
3730 N Clark Street
Steppenwolf Theatre 
at Jane Addams Center
3212 N Broadway

Belmont Theater District Blog

The Belmont Theater District has such a variety of theaters and comedy clubs and yes, even a magic show that we thought they all deserved their own spotlight blog so you can learn more about your favorite theaters and hopefully discover new faves, too. So we’re rounding up what we’ve written so far, and as more theater profiles are published on the blog, they will be added to this list.

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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!