Union Square "Sister" Bank Will Be New Theatre in Chicago; Porchlight Will Call It Home

News   Union Square "Sister" Bank Will Be New Theatre in Chicago; Porchlight Will Call It Home
Chicago theatre producer Walter Stearns announced on May 15 plans to open The Lincoln Park Theater, a not-for-profit operation at 1425 W. Fullerton Ave. in Chicago, in the fall of 2009, converting the Fullerton State Bank Building into an arts complex.

After a multi-million dollar renovation that will create a 299-seat proscenium theatre and gallery space, Porchlight Music Theatre (of which Stearns is artistic director) will be the first company in residence at the new cultural center.

Chicago architect John Morris, whose previous projects include the design of Steppenwolf Theatre and Lookingglass Theatre, is designing the space. The Lincoln Park Theater has hired Stearns as executive director.

"It is a dream come true for Chicago artists," Stearns said in a statement. "The Lincoln Park Theater answers the prayers of many local artists who need a theatrical home to call their own."

The original architect of the 1923 Fullerton State Bank Building created an identical bank in Union Square, in New York City. This "sister building" (identical in construction in every way) was redeveloped into The Daryl Roth Theatre, home of the long-running performance piece, De La Guarda.

The Chicago theatre's new auditorium will include a main floor and a balcony. "The space, configured as a traditional proscenium arrangement, includes an orchestra pit, a fly loft to move scenery, and an oversized stage footprint," according to the announcement. The intimate setting will have patrons only ten rows from the stage.

"The beautiful exterior of the building will guide our design of the interior space," architect Morris stated. "The finishes will distinguish The Lincoln Park Theater as a first-class venue for an intimate theatre experience."

The Classical Revival-style building features two-story-tall window arcades, clad in terra-cotta and highly ornamented with griffins and garlands. The façade was recently designated as landmark architecture by the city of Chicago. Over the years the building has housed offices and an antique shop, and developers once considered it for conversion into residential units.

The Lincoln Park Theater is a non-profit entity. "It is financed by a group of individual donors who recognize the value of creating permanent, sustainable performance centers within their local communities," according to a statement. The redevelopment of the space will cost an estimated $4 million dollars. In addition to the award-winning Porchlight Music Theatre, the new space will be a home to Chicago artists. Several theatre companies are in conversation about becoming anchor tenants of The Lincoln Park Theater.

"Tenants are selected on the basis of their achievements, governance, fiscal stability as well as complimentary aesthetic," according to organizers. "Eventually, audiences will be invited to subscribe to a variety of work offered by the different companies housed at The Lincoln Park Theater. The resident companies will be announced at a later date."

Porchlight Music Theatre is Chicago's major music theatre troupe, producing award-winning interpretations of classic musicals and cutting-edge new works on intimate stages. An Equity theatre since 2004, the company has already received a total of 24 Joseph Jefferson Award nominations resulting in ten Jeff Awards.

"Our company has reached a moment in its history where growth is imperative. This move, into a facility with state of the art acoustics and technical design, will enable us to grow the company in a way that was not possible without a contemporary, sophisticated setting," stated Stearns.

For more information on The Lincoln Park Theater, call (773) 250-7525 or visit www.LincolnParkTheater.org.

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