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Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Superintendent Michael P. Kelly today announced the Chicago Park District is converting the historic Theater on the Lake building at Fullerton Avenue and Lake Shore Drive from a summer-only programming site to a year-round program and event facility.
“Showcasing spectacular views of Lake Michigan, Theater on the Lake is a community treasure that has entertained Chicago residents and visitors for more than six decades,” said Mayor Emanuel. “Upgrading and renovating this venue will enable the theater to be a cultural and entertainment destination all year long.”
Next month, the Chicago Park District will advertise a request for proposals (RFP) for improvements to the existing structure to include performance and event space, as well as a restaurant. Proposals must detail renovation plans that include lighting and sound systems as well as improved sight lines in a new 400-seat performance space. New dressing rooms as well as a restaurant with an event space, outdoor seating and restrooms will also be part of the project. In addition, the main theater entry will feature an enclosed lobby and box office. The building will be conditioned to operate year round. This expansion is part of the Mayor’s commitment to build and reinvigorate arts programming in neighborhoods in the City, as well as to elevate and expand neighborhood cultural assets as called for in the Chicago Cultural Plan.
"The Chicago Park District is committed to bringing theater and culture into our parks and neighborhoods," said General Superintendent and CEO Kelly. "Renovations to Theater on the Lake will allow us to expand programming beyond the traditional summer season and attract more audiences."
Theater on the Lake is a part of the Chicago Park District’s Night Out in the Parks series. To date this year, more than 200,000 people attended Night Out in the Parks events.
This renovation will coincide with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' shoreline protection project at the Fullerton Avenue Beach, which will make the facility even more convenient and attractive to residents who would like to enjoy activities at Theater on the Lake and other lakefront activities. Among other things, the Chicago Shoreline Storm Damage Reduction Project will replace the existing failed revetment with a steel and concrete revetment designed to manage waves and will convert the existing failed beach cell to new parkland, adding approximately 5.8 acres of park space in an area that is regularly congested with park goers. Construction timelines and funding for the project will be determined following review of received RFPs, but it is anticipated that the construction schedule will begin in the first quarter of 2014 and be completed by the end of 2015. During the construction period, Theater on the Lake performances will be relocated to park sites throughout the City. Shows and schedule will be announced next spring.
The Mayor and Superintendent Kelly also announced the selection of the co-artistic curators for the 2014 season: Reginald Lawrence (stage name Shepsu Aakhu) and Halena Kays.
Reginald Lawrence practices his craft under the name Shepsu Aakhu and is a playwright, scenic designer, photographer, musician and the executive director of MPAACT. As a playwright in residence with MPAACT, he has developed several critically-acclaimed works including Speaking in Tongues: The Chronicles of Babel. He is also a four-time nominee for the Joseph Jefferson citation in multiple categories and has won numerous awards as a playwright. He is currently an adjunct professor at the Theatre School at DePaul University.
Halena Kays is the artistic director of The Hypocrites, where she both performs and directs. She is the co-founder and former artistic director of Barrel of Monkeys where she created and directed the majority of their public performances, including the critically acclaimed long-running show That's Weird, Grandma. She has been nominated for a Jefferson Citation for Best Supporting Actress and Best Direction and was also a recipient of the annual 3ARTS awards.
About Theater on the Lake: Constructed in 1920, the Theater on the Lake building was originally a recuperation ward for babies suffering from tuberculosis and other diseases. During World War II, the structure was then used as a USO Center. After the war, the Chicago Park District used the venue for then-popular barn dances. In 1952, it was converted into the Theater on the Lake performance venue and showcased productions staged by the Park District's many community theater organizations. In 1996, the programming evolved into its current format, and the Chicago Park District began inviting professional theater companies to remount their best works.
For more information about the Chicago Park District’s more than 8,100 acres of parkland, more than 580 parks, 26 miles of lakefront, nine museums, two world-class conservatories, 16 historic lagoons, nearly 50 nature areas, thousands of special events, sports and entertaining programs, please visit www.chicagoparkdistrict.com or contact the Chicago Park District at 312.742.PLAY or 312.747.2001 (TTY). Want to share your talent? Volunteer in the parks by calling 312.742.PLAY.