American Blues Theater raises the curtain on plans for a permanent home

The theater company is finalizing the purchase of a 17,965-square-space on North Lincoln Avenue, part of the new Lincoln Avenue North Arts District.

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An artist’s rendering shows the new home of American Blues Theater on North Lincoln Avenue.

An artist’s rendering shows the new home of American Blues Theater on North Lincoln Avenue.|

Morris Architects Partners

American Blues Theater on Wednesday revealed plans for a new, permanent home on Chicago’s North Side.

The theater company is finalizing the purchase of a 17,965-square-foot space at 5627 N. Lincoln Avenue, part of the new Lincoln Avenue North Arts District. The site will become the first permanent home for the critically acclaimed theater company, which has for years leased space and/or staged productions at various Chicago venues including Victory Gardens Theater, Stage 773 and the Greenhouse Theater Center.

Funding for the $6.5 million project will come through the theater’s new “Our First Home” capital campaign, which includes $6 million for the building purchase and construction within the existing footprint, and a $500,000 building reserve fund. To date, $2.9 million has been raised from individual donors. Groundbreaking has been scheduled for this summer, with an official opening slated for November 2023 featuring a production of the company’s holiday classic, It’s a Wonderful Life: Live in Chicago!”

An artist’s rendering shows the proposed 148-seat proscenium theater inside the new site of American Blues Theater on North Lincoln Avenue.

An artist’s rendering shows the proposed 148-seat proscenium theater inside the new site of American Blues Theater on North Lincoln Avenue.|

Morris Architects Partners

The new complex, designed by John Morris of Morris Architects Planners on the site of a former Mobil gas station, Dollar General store and Walgreens, will include a box office and bar/concessions area, two theaters—a 148-seat proscenium and 40-seat flexible studio—as well as administrative offices, production spaces for scenery, props and costumes, and a small parking lot to supplement the ample street parking.

“This historic move to a permanent home is over 35 years in the making. After decades of leasing, including the beloved space on Byron Avenue, American Blues Theater will control its own artistic and financial destiny for the first time,” said Gwendolyn Whiteside, the company’s artistic director. “Our exceptional ensemble has dreamed of a dedicated home to expand our programming, education initiatives, and community partnerships. We understand all too well the limitations of being an itinerant company, and—with very few true subsidized venues in Chicago—we’re also excited to create an affordable rental space for other theater companies on their respective journeys.”

American Blues Theater, founded in 1985, boasts more than 200 Joseph Jefferson Awards/nominations and 40 Black Theater Alliance Awards.


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