Chicago’s storefront theaters yield significant cultural impact on the city, study reveals

A total of 41 of Chicago’s approximately 250 theaters participated in the Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation study.

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Steven Mosqueda, Brenda Arellano and Nick Hart in a scene from the Neo-Futurists’ world premiere of “Remember the Alamo.”

Steven Mosqueda, Brenda Arellano and Nick Hart in a scene from the Neo-Futurists’ world premiere of “Remember the Alamo.”

Evan Hanover

Chicago’s small, storefront theaters are making a huge impact on the city’s cultural landscape, according to a new survey released by the Chicago-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation. The foundation annually awards unrestricted grants to Chicago theater companies with budgets under $1 million.

Forty-one of Chicago’s 250 theaters participated in the survey, whose results revealed that more than 260,000 people attended productions at storefronts last season alone.

The survey noted that 100% of the surveyed companies reported a commitment to inclusiveness, diversity and accessibility “through their mission, selection of productions, community engagement initiatives, educational programs and/or day-to-day operations.”

In addition, more one-third of productions staged by the surveyed theater companies were world premieres.

Here are more highlights from the survey:  

  • 66% of the theatre companies staged world premieres last season, representing 39% of the total 170+ productions produced
  • 100% of the surveyed companies are dedicated to addressing issues of accessibility, diversity and inclusion — through their mission, selection of productions, community engagement initiatives, educational programs and/or day-to-day operations
  • 56% of the theaters have dedicated educational programs or initiatives in their communities, with more than12,800 students served annually
  • One out of four theaters surveyed charge $25 or less for one single adult admission ticket, with one out of seven offering free or pay-what-you-can tickets, confirming storefront theaters are among the most accessible and inclusive performing arts organizations in Chicago
  • 71% of theaters stated that contributed funds—such as foundation grants, government support and donations—make up more than half of their annual income
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