In cheering news for Chicago’s struggling theater scene, American Blues Theater opens Tuesday at 5627 N. Lincoln Ave. He will cut the ribbon on his new $7 million home at .
As befitting a theater company that has long prided itself on its blue-collar identity, American Blues and theater architect John Morris and Associates transformed the store, which was both a Walgreens and a Dollar General, into an impressive two-theater complex. Elegant main stage with 137 seats. This is where the company’s “It’s a Wonderful Life: Living in Chicago!” is scheduled to officially open on December 10. It will be the new home of the retro seasonal attraction called. Next door is a 50-person black box studio that ABT plans to build. showcases his new work. There is also a small car park for customers.
On Sunday, members of the company were seen putting the finishing touches on the building, which has some similarities with the old building. 2002 Raven Theater Renovation of the former Edgewater supermarket on Ashland Boulevard.
ABT’s new home features a grand lobby, cocktail bar, dressing room, wardrobe space and stage storage in the basement. It will also house an office for the company’s full-time staff of four.
Located on a stretch of Lincoln Avenue known for its low-cost motels, the previously nondescript building was purchased and converted into a theater with the help of $2.5 million in funding from the City of Chicago using TIF funds. The remainder of the cost came from private donations and the company’s own funds, according to artistic director Gwendolyn Whiteside. The capital campaign is ongoing, but the theater will not have a mortgage or debt at the end of the year, Whiteside said.
“We bought a building we could afford rather than a building that was inspiring,” Whiteside said.
American Blues Theater’s new home is in the 40th Ward, where Ald. Andre Vasquez has long said he wanted to create a Lincoln Avenue North Arts district with his Lincoln Avenue North Streetscape project; This area northwest of Western Boulevard has long lacked the vibrancy of the Lincoln Square business district to its south and east. Vasquez now has an operational basis for his plans.
The new theater was postponed due to the pandemic; The idea for TIF support emerged during Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration. Mayor Brandon Johnson’s administration also supports a project that is finally coming to fruition, Whiteside said.
Despite Founded in 1985ABT has not had a permanent home since its longtime location at 1909 W. Byron St., which it abandoned following an internal intervention. left in 2009 led to the creation of a separate American Theater Company; very successful but it was later closed. The location on Byron Street is now an event space, bar and music venue for Martyrs.
But American Blues, which has a loyal following, has a new sign in a freshly painted building and new territory to ply its trade of presenting heartfelt productions of American drama with a working-class twist.
“We’ve been saving for this moment for as long as I’ve been artistic director,” Whiteside said.
Chris Jones is a Tribune critic.