Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2018-01-17
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



City Cracks Down on Storefront Theater
by Rick Reed

facebook twitter stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

The intermission of the Artistic Home's wonderful production of The Miss Firecracker Contest (now running in their space at 1420 W. Irving Park) involved something unique. As I stepped out into the company's tiny lobby to stretch my legs, I passed several Chicago police officers, badges displayed, entering the theater. Were these just starstruck cops? Did they think Miss Firecracker was bearing more than clever barbs? I didn't know. As I returned to finish viewing the play so that I could write my review for Windy City Times, I quickly forgot about the rather odd appearance of the Chicago police at intermission.

At least until Dec. 2, when I discovered the police were visiting the theater because of a Chicago Department of Revenue crackdown on venues with the required Public Place of Amusement (PPA) licensing. Not only was the Artistic Home affected, but also impacted were the WNEP Theatre on Halsted (which decided to close its home for good), the Playground Improv Theatre (which makes a serious dent in this art form in Chicago), Profiles Theatre, and the Timeline Theatre (who closed their critically acclaimed and popular production of The Lion in Winter early).

Although the PPA licensing requirement (which requires a license from the city for venues offering live entertainment for an admission fee) has been around for a long time, PPA enforcement is a new, and sudden, development. City Revenue Director Bea Reyna-Hickey said, 'Like any other business, theaters cannot operate unless they have the necessary license. We're charged with enforcing the municipal code for the safety and welfare of the public.' What prompted the city's newfound concern for the 'safety and welfare of the public' remains unclear.

John Mossman, a principal at the Artistic Home, is baffled by the crackdown. 'This is not business as usual,' Mossman said. 'It seems to be a crackdown. It's going to be devastating to small theater. Storefront theaters have made Chicago an inspiring place for small theater.'

The red tape, bureaucracy, and costs involved with licensing and even defending themselves could have devastating consequences for Chicago's vibrant small theater scene, which relies more on pluck, imagination, and love of theater than it does on budget concerns. Many of these venues produce their work barely breaking even, or at a loss, just so they can do what they love and bring quality work to Chicago audiences. Actors and creative teams often work for free in storefront venues.

Mossman, for example, returned to Chicago after a five-year stint in Los Angeles because of his belief that Chicago offered a welcome home for people who wanted to create good theater and could do so, armed with little more than desire. The recent crackdown, for Mossman and his associates at the Artistic Home, has been 'very disheartening and disillusioning.'

The crackdown also makes it look as though many of these small venues have been trying to dodge licensing compliance, when many of them—the Artistic Home included—are well into the process. Mossman said that the Artistic Home has 'spent nearly $5,000 in legal fees on it already this year.'

Chicago has a rich history of fostering the creative development of small theater. One has to wonder if such crackdowns were taking place 25 years ago, when a small company was producing astonishing work in a church basement and later on, at the Jane Addams Center on Broadway, might have fared. Would we have the international theatrical force that's known as Steppenwolf today?

The city of Chicago certainly has a right to demand proper licensing from businesses. And theater companies who charge admission are businesses. The sudden crackdown doesn't feel right, however. And one wonders who wins when this kind of bureaucratic maneuvering forces small theaters to go dark, or try to continue on, surviving on donations in lieu of admission fees (as the Artistic Home is currently doing). Chicago and storefront theater have been synonymous terms for many years. Wouldn't it make more sense for the city to be encouraging this rich tradition—of which the city can justifiably be proud—rather than throwing up road blocks to its development? Filling city coffers with licensing fees and fines might be good for Chicago in the short run, but if red tape curtails the growth of small, independent theater in this town, the loss is immeasurable.

Is there anything you can do to help ensure the future of Chicago storefront theater? Yes. You can contact your alderman or get in touch with Mayor Daley and cc Bea Reyna-Hickey, Director of the City Department of Revenue, and express your opinion about the recent crackdown. Letters can be faxed to: (312) 362-9708. Or you can e-mail letters of support to the Artistic Home at . They'll see that your voice makes it to City Hall.

The League of Chicago Theaters is in talks with the Mayor's office to resolve the issue. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, the League has been asking the city to streamline its licensing procedures for years, so that it's less difficult for small theaters to meet requirements.

If you want to continue the Chicago tradition of supporting the growth of small theater, now is the time to speak up.

facebook twitter stumble upon digg google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


'Insurrection' echoes Nat Turner's life through present day 2018-01-17
Julia Sweeney show through March 18 2018-01-17
Charles Busch at Pride Arts Jan. 21-22 2018-01-17
WINTER THEATER SPECIAL World-premiere plays start bright and early 2018-01-17
WINTER THEATER SPECIAL Winter classics "true and reimagined 2018-01-17
THEATER SPOTLIGHT My Kinda '60s 2018-01-17
Critics' Picks 2018-01-17
THEATER REVIEW Flamingo and Decatur 2018-01-17
WINTER THEATER SPECIAL Queer theater to chill to 2018-01-17
TELEVISION TV special, Sighted Eyes, Feeling Heart, tells Lorraine Hansberry's story 2018-01-17
THEATER REVIEW Insurrection: Holding History 2018-01-17
NUNN ON ONE: COMEDY Emma Willmann talks stand-up, Louis C.K. and more 2018-01-16
Sarah DeLappe's The Wolves to launch Goodman's 2018 Owen Theatre season 2018-01-16
Visit Oak Park Announces First-Ever Oak Park Theater Month 2018-01-15
Victory Gardens Theater announces 2018 Next Generation Fellows 2018-01-15
THEATER REVIEW For the Loyal 2018-01-14
THEATER REVIEW Jitney 2018-01-14
THEATER REVIEW The Light 2018-01-14
Eye of the Storm: The Bayard Rustin Story at eta Creative Arts Foundation 2018-01-10
Salonathon's Beauty Bar finale Feb. 12 2018-01-10
Sarah Paulson to be honored at the Steppenwolf Women in Arts Luncheon Jan. 22 2018-01-10
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Telling gay WWII history 2018-01-10
THEATER REVIEW Blue Over You 2018-01-10
THEATER SPOTLIGHT on Artemis Singers' Rise Up! 2018-01-10
NUNN ON ONE: MUSIC Kaumakaiwa Kanaka'ole: Trans Hawaiian singer on home state, final CD 2018-01-10
Lookingglass names new executive director 2018-01-10
PODCASTS 'Mattachine' podcast creator brings the past back to life 2018-01-10
Comic Emma Willman at Zanies Jan. 20-22 2018-01-10
SHOWBIZ NEWS Sarah Paulson, Amy Winehouse, EastSiders, gay EDM musician 2018-01-09
NUNN ON ONE: POETRY Andrea Gibson: Gender queer poet makes inroads 2018-01-09
Celebrating David Bowie Feb. 23 at Vic Theatre 2018-01-08
THEATER REVIEW It's My Penis (and I'll Cry If I Want To) 2018-01-08
Flying Elephant Productions to present anti-Trump musical 2018-01-04
Final weeks for Lizzie, casting set for 9 TO 5 The Musical 2018-01-04
THEATER REVIEW Late Nite Catechism 2018-01-04
THEATER REVIEW The Magic Parlour 2018-01-04
Cyrano reimagined as part of BoHo Theatre 2018 season 2018-01-04
SCOTTISH PLAY SCOTT Solitary refinement 2018-01-03
Critics' Picks 2018-01-03
THEATER SPOTLIGHT The Kiki: Queer Comedy and Variety 2018-01-03

Copyright © 2018 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.









About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Submit an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group produces Windy City Queercast, & publishes Windy City Times,
The Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community,
Nightspots, Out! Resource Guide, and Identity.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.