Next Theatre, an Equity company that helped give life to the Off-Broadway musical Adding Machine, has been in residence at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center for over 30 years.
The Chicago Tribune previously reported that the company had been unable to pay its rent for several years. Last July, Rob Andalman, chairman of Next Theatre's board of directors, cited the economic downturn as well as Chicago's brutal winter as a factor in the theatre's financial state.
Despite the large sum owed in back rent, city officials allowed the theatre to remain in residence at the Noyes Center through the duration of its 2014-15 season. Officials at Next were hopeful that the theatre would be able to move forward with the season that was scheduled through May 2015. The company's financial straits, however, proved too difficult.
"We are enormously proud of the legacy that Next leaves. The theater has been an important part of the cultural landscape of both Evanston and the Chicago theater communities," Andalman said in a Nov. 10 statement announcing the theatre's closure. "For three and a half decades the theater was a canvas for artists whose purpose was not just to entertain, but to touch audiences’ hearts and minds. Next sought to provoke feelings and conversations on some of the really hard questions – and, more often than not, it succeeded.
"Unfortunately, the theater's audiences have shrunk dramatically in the past few years and it has not been able to build a contribution base to compensate for that," he added. "At this juncture, the Board concluded that it was not responsible to continue operations." The theatre also shared the following message on its website:
"After 34 years of creating art in the Evanston community, Next Theatre Company has closed its doors as of Monday, November 10, 2014.
It was an incredibly difficult decision to make, and we did so keeping the community, our patrons, and our artists at the forefront of our minds.
Next has always been committed to the safety and integrity of the artists and the art they create. After much debate, we came to the conclusion that we could not reliably fulfill that commitment through the remainder of the season.
We have been an incredibly proud member of this community and cannot thank you enough for your patronage. It has been an honor operating as Evanston's premier and only Equity theatre, and hold our memories here incredibly dear."
The theatre's upcoming season was to include JC Lee's Luce, Shakespeare's Richard III, the world premiere of Jake Jeppson's Turtle and Sean Christopher Lewis' Kiladelphia.