Year of Chicago Theatre

The City of Chicago and the League of Chicago Theatres have designated 2019 as the Year of Chicago Theatre. This citywide, year-long focus on theatre is the first of its kind in the U.S.

Under the leadership of Mark Kelly, Commissioner of the City of Chicago’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE), and Deb Clapp, Executive Director of the League of Chicago Theatres, the Year of Chicago Theatre (YOCT) engaged five committees with over 150 theatre professionals to shape strategies in Inclusion, Legacy, Marketing, Partnerships & Special Events.

Accomplishments of the Year of Chicago Theatre include:

Unprecedented Investment in Chicago Theatre Marketing

• Developed and launched first ever citywide brand for Chicago theatre involving input from hundreds of Chicago theatre professionals and made available broadly so the theatre landscape would benefit from YOCT visibility, such as in program ads and playbills

• Choose Chicago launched multi-channel marketing campaigns, enhanced support for the League of Chicago Theatres’ Chicago Theatre Week and largest-ever digital marketing campaign for theatre. Media promotion included international events in New York City, London, Toronto, Montreal, Paris, Munich, Mexico City, Sao Paulo, Beijing, Shanghai and Tokyo.

• DCASE led comprehensive regional advertising campaigns including rack cards, program guides, digital billboards, signage on City Information Panels, street pole banners, Big Belly bin graphics, advertising on CTA trains and buses, O’Hare, and discount ticket vendor Hot Tix presence at McCormick Place

• League of Chicago Theatres created 2 minute video showcasing the beauty and vitality of Chicago theatre, released on social media and garnering hundreds of thousands of views via subsequent social media and paid advertising campaigns

• League of Chicago Theatres launched “Promise to Play” campaign, focused on bringing new audiences into theatres

Significant Financial Resources Out to the Community

• Secured more than $1.3 million in added funder support for YOCT, most which was redistributed as commissions and grants for theatres, focusing on funding equity to Chicago’s South and West Sides

• Grants included $835,750 in financial grants to 116 theatre and dance artists and organizations – and $448,650 to support new work and performance fees to 157 theaters and theatre-makers, across CityArts, Microgrant and Individual Artist Program grants

• Dozens of new theatre commissions through goat island tribute performance series, Riverwalk programming, and Arts in the Dark Halloween parade

• Neighborhood Opportunity Fund development investments for emergent theatres such as Definition Theater Company

Special Collaborations with City Agencies

• Chicago Park District’ Night Out in the Parks presented more than 200 free performances in 125 Chicago parks with more than 40 theatre partners, bringing live theatre to all 77 community areas and all 50 wards

• Chicago Public Libraries featured Year of Chicago Theatre in citywide newsletters and theatre-themed bookmarks

• DCASE provided showcasing opportunity for Chicago Public Schools Youth TheatreFest participants and invests in preparation for TheatreFest 2020

• DCASE presented to Chicago Special Service Area managers on opportunities and education on ways local theatres drive area business activity

Intentional Focus on Advancing Diversity and Equity Considerations in Chicago Theatre

• Numerous convenings and facilitated conversations on Chicago’s vibrancy of ensembles and artists representing Chicago’s diverse communities and populations

• $50,000 in dedicated funding through YOCT Microgrants supporting projects which increase diversity and access in Chicago’s theatre sector, with a focus on Chicago’s South and West sides

• 2019 CityArts Project Grants prioritized proposals aimed at increasing the equity and diversity of Chicago’s theatres. Recipient grants included support for:

– Chicago Latino Theater Alliance’s 3rd Chicago International Theater Festival showcasing Chicago’s vibrant Latinx community

– Programs for closing the racial and gender gap in technical theatre by Goodman Theatre and Green Line Performing Arts Center

– Capacity building pilot program for a cohort of 10 ALAANA theatres launched by Arts & Business Council of Chicago

– Victory Gardens Theater’s ACCESS program to make theater more accessible for persons with disabilities.

– For a full list of grant recipients, visit

• Chicago Park District’s Theatre on the Lake Prologue featured free workshops for theatre professionals with Not In Our House, Chicago Inclusion Project and Chicago Cultural Accessibility Consortium

• Greater visibility and investment in the growth of cultural assets in neighborhoods, particularly of note on Chicago’s South and West Sides. 2019 marked the first full year of programs for University of Chicago’s Green Line Performing Arts Center, and reemergence of residency spaces such as Kennedy-College’s Performing Arts Center.

• The League of Chicago Theatres extended its Erasing Racism training series, whose goal is to build a collective vision for a more just, equitable, more open and transparent, diverse and inclusive theatre community. More than 200 Chicago theatre staff and artists have participated to date.

New Programs to Introduce Audiences to Theatre

• It’s Showtime, Chicago! created to launch Year of Chicago Theatre and Chicago Theatre Week 2019 – attended by more than 750 patrons and theatre stakeholders

• League of Chicago Theatres had presence at all major DCASE events to showcase the entire breadth of Chicago theatre, handing out 40,000 theatre guides and countless brochures and flyers for individual theatres

• YOCT theme featured across major programs such as Theatre Stage at Taste of Chicago, SummerDance kickoff and programs in collaboration with Theater on the Lake, special Hot Tix presence at major events and Millennium Park

• Millennium Park Theatre Series presented site-specific performances from 9 local theatre companies

• Millennium Park Film Series featured 14 local Chicago theatres

• Chicago Gourmet 2019 kickoff event, Lights Camera Napkin highlighted collaboration with Hamilton in honor of YOCT

• Chicago Loop Alliance featured Year of Chicago Theatre as season theme for ACTIVATE

• Choose Chicago focused on YOCT for a panel of Chicago theatre professionals at Chicago Shakespeare Theatre as one of their partner events

• Key Magazine Chicago hosted new Performing Arts Showcase introducing Chicago theatres to concierge and guest services representatives from hotels across Chicago

• Year of Chicago Theatre selected as a community theme night for Chicago Cubs Game

• Chicago Architecture Center’s Open House Chicago included YOCT as a key theme, with theatre image selected as Event Guide cover photo, featuring nearly 50 theatre spaces in neighborhoods – twice number of theatre sites ever previously included

• Arts in the Dark Parade aligned with Year of Chicago Theatre and 14 theatre organizations receiving funding to produce spectacular displays to 50,000 attendees

• Theater in Our Parks, June-November debuted new series featuring community conversations led by young creative leaders from three Chicago Park District Arts Partners in Residence

• Teen Arts Pass “TAP’d In” theatre engagement programs introduced special experiences at neighborhood theatres as free opportunities to more than 1000 teens

• Chicago Thanksgiving Parade featured Year of Chicago Theatre with on-air mentions and interviews, and YOCT inspired the parade’s organizers to select actors Chris Sullivan and Miguel Cervantes as the 2019 Grand Marshals

New Programs for Theatre Professionals – Individual and Organization Capacity Building

• New free theatre playwriting series launched at new South Side venue Green Line Performing Arts Center

• New free Chicago Park District Prologue program advanced equity, accessibility and skills development for theatre professionals

• New resource sharing events created by local theatre clusters to discuss and swap needs and assets

• New Leadership Convening series for theatre board members and executive staff to learn more about persistent needs and structure of the sector and explore paths forward

New Programs to Illuminate and Honor Theatre’s Importance to Chicago History

goat island and Setting the Stage are among major exhibitions at the Chicago Cultural Center and Expo72 to explore Chicago’s legacy in performance and the way objects and design are represented in presentation of live theatre

• WTTW Chicago Public Media television created Stage Players series of 1-minute videos showcasing actors, architects, playwrights, choreographers, ushers, stage managers, patrons and others making Chicago’s theatre scene one of the most thrilling and vibrant

• Art on theMART video projection at Merchandise Mart hosted 2019 launch event for theatre community to debut series created by Chicago theatre designer John Boesche featuring Chicago theatre productions

• Rick Bayless interviewed Millennium Park theatres in residence for social media, leveraging his platforms for local theatres to share their stories, mission and impact

Long Term Investments

• Significantly strengthened ties within and across Chicago’s theatre community through ongoing Year of Chicago Theatre committee engagement and numerous connection points throughout the year, many which will continue after 2019

• Cultural Asset Mapping launched as multi-threaded strategy – local artist Paula Aguirre commissioned to survey theatre assets on Chicago’s South and West Sides, local research partners paired with lead artists to continue into 2020, national study research institution Metris Arts Consulting launches

• DePaul University Case Study on the Year of Chicago Theatre is presented nationally and internationally starting Fall 2019

• Plan for Spring 2020 symposium to discuss wrap up of 2019, continued long-term needs for the sector and plans to go forward

• Planning in 2020 to curate and present a Chicago theatre showcase for programmers and journalists and encourage them to book Chicago productions nationally + abroad

• Planning rollout of theatre organization data capture that can be used to help gauge sector health and long-term needs of Chicago’s theatre artists and communities

Thank you to Chicago’s theatre community for we have done together to strengthen and showcase Chicago’s unparalleled theatre scene in 2019! Special thanks below to our committees and the many partners that helped make our work possible.

Year of Chicago Theatre Committees

Steering Committee

Co-Chairs: Deb Clapp, Executive Director, League of Chicago Theatres
Mark Kelly, Commissioner, Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE)

Committee Members: Karen Cardarelli, Co-Founder, Emerald City Theatre (Partnerships Co-Chair); Kalena Chevalier, Program Director of Cultural Grants, DCASE (Legacy Co-Chair); Erin Harkey, Deputy Commissioner of Programming, DCASE (Inclusion Co-Chair); Tyrone Phillips, Artistic Director, Definition Theatre Company (Inclusion Co-Chair); Myrna Salazar, Executive Director, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (Special Events Co-Chair); Sara Carranza, Executive Assistant, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance; John Rich, Dance and Theatre Coordinator, DCASE; Mariam Thiam, Program Director of Performing Arts, DCASE; Doreen Sayegh, Manager of International and Special Projects, Chicago Shakespeare Theater (Legacy Co-Chair); Jana Liles, Director of Marketing, Kansas City Repertory Theater, formerly of Victory Gardens Theater (Marketing Co-Chair); Jamey Lundblad, Chief Marketing Officer, DCASE (Marketing Co-Chair); Melanie Wang, Director of Cultural Planning, DCASE (Special Events Co-Chair); Monica Wilczak, Director of Development, DCASE (Partnerships Co-Chair)

Inclusion Committee

Co-Chairs: Tyrone Phillips, Artistic Director, Definition Theatre Company
Erin Harkey, Deputy Commissioner for Programming, DCASE

Committee Members: Mary Kate Barley-Jenkins , Adventure Stage Chicago; Quenna Barrett, Goodman Theatre; Tony Bruno, UrbanTheater Company; Michael Dalberg; Lauren Gardier, Writers Theatre; Isaac Gomez, DePaul University, The Theatre School; Evan Hatfield, Steppenwolf; Emmi Hilger, Something Marvelous; Felicia Holman, Links Hall; Emily Hooper Lansana, University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts; Nikki Patin, University of Chicago Arts and Public Life; Hillary Pearson, Harris Theater; Christine Perez, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance; Kemati Porter, ETA Creative Arts ; Julie Proudfoot, Artemisia; Jonald Reyes; Marcus Robinson, Collaboraction; Daina Sauls, League of Chicago Theatres; Mara Stern, Northlight Theatre; Regina Taylor; Jimalita Tillman, Harold Washington Cultural Center; Ellen Willett, Steep Theatre Company; Angel Ysaguirre, Court Theatre; Dominique Boyd, University of Chicago Logan Center for the Arts; Neel McNeill, Definition Theatre Company.

Legacy Committee

Co-Chairs: Doreen Sayegh, Manager of International and Special Projects, Chicago Shakespeare Theater
Kalena Chevalier, Director, Cultural Grants Program, DCASE

Committee Members: Drew Blau, Chicago Film Archive; Brandon Boler, freelance performer; George Cederquist, Steep Theatre Company; John Collins, Goodman Theatre; Heather Gilbert, Columbia College Chicago; Claudia Hommel, Cabaret Connexion; Kristin Larsen, Arts & Business Council; Mark Larson, Independent; Susan Latham, The Actors Fund; David Liesse, Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee;  Cristina Nordin, Columbia College; Breahan Pautsch, Akvavit Theatre; Kate Piatt-Eckert, Steep Theatre Company; Alan Salzenstein, DePaul University; Kevin Sparrow, Nothing Without a Company; Benjamin Thompson, American Blues Theater; Ellen Wadey, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation; Sarah Zimmerman, Chicago Public Library

Marketing Committee

Co-Chairs: Jana Liles, Director of Marketing, Kansas City Repertory Theater, formerly of Victory Gardens Theater
Jamey Lundblad, Chief Marketing Officer, DCASE

Committee Members: Nicole Brown, Envisionit; Melissa Cameron, Emerald City Theatre; Christine Carrino, DCASE; Rita Chen, Choose Chicago; Jay Corsi, Goodman Theatre; Alan Davis, Black Ensemble Theater; Anna Marie Faulkner, Lookingglass Theatre Company; Ann Filmer, 16th Street Theater; Nick Harkin, Carol Fox & Associates; Ashlee Harris, Broadway In Chicago; Hannah Kennedy, Chicago Shakespeare Theater ; Dawn Kusinski, The Second City; Jason Lesniewicz, Choose Chicago; Madeline Long, Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Laura Matalon, Hamilton; Kate McKenna, Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce; Mara Mihlfried, Northlight Theatre; Lyle Miller, Black Ensemble Theater; Laura Nair, League of Chicago Theatres; Erika Nelson, Steppenwolf Theatre Company; Austin Packard, Porchlight Music Theatre; Carey Randall, Blue Man Group; Suzanne Santos, Allied; Cathy Taylor, Cathy Taylor PR; Ivan Vega, Urban Theater Company; Stephanie Weddell, Sideshow Theatre Company

Partnership Committee

Co-Chairs: Karen Cardarelli, Co-Founder, Emerald City Theatre
Monica Wilczak, Director of Development, DCASE

Committee Members: Sandra Aponte, Chicago Community Trust; Penny Brown; Mary Kay Bonoma, Illinois Restaurant Association; Krista Bryski Richard, Chicago Park District; Diane Claussen, DePaul University, The Theatre School; Julia deBettencourt, Chicago Public Schools; Jeff DeLong, Athenaeum Theatre; Heather Dougherty, Columbia College; Laura Gale, Gift Theatre; Dillon Goodson, Lakeview Chamber of Commerce; Robin Hammond, Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce; Kendra Helton, Northern Illinois University, School of Theatre and Dance; Kristin Hettich, Alphawood Foundation; Jess Hutchinson, Independent; Kay Kron, Chicago Children’s Theatre; Tony Lawry, Theatre Above the Law; Margaret McCloskey, Remy Bumppo; Matt Merrill, Chicago Children’s Theatre; Mary Ellen Messner, Chicago Public Library; Steve Miller, Victory Gardens Theater; Kalindi Parikh, Chicago Loop Alliance; Jonathan Pitts, Chicago Improv Productions; Ryan Stanfield, Victory Gardens Theater; Ben Thiem, League of Chicago Theatres; Jeremy Wechlsler, Theater Wit; Diane Whatton, BMO Harris / Lookingglass Theatre Company Board;

Special Events Committee

Co-Chairs: Myrna Salazar, Executive Director, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance
Melanie Wang, Director of Cultural Planning, DCASE

Committee Members: Sara Carranza, Chicago Latino Theater Alliance; Clyde Compton; Writers Theatre; Kiana DiStasi, Chicago Loop Alliance; Guillermo Duarte, UIC; Tarah Ortiz Durnbaugh, Urban Gateways; Angelique Grandone, Chicago Park District; Sylvia Hevia, Teatro Vista; Ann Kreitman, (re)discover theatre; Lauren Lewandowski, After School Matters; Maureen Martino, Lakeview East Chamber; Meghan McCarthy, DCASE; Neal McCollam, Univeristy of Illinois Chicago; Maggie McNamara, Broadway In Chicago; Qiana Moore-Nightengale, Court Theatre; Hilary Odom, Lookingglass Theatre; Jen Poulin, Broken Nose Theatre; Alicia Senior-Saywell; Scott Silberstein, HMS Media; Jesse Swanson, Second City; Anna Trachtman, DirectorsLab Chicago

Grant Support for the Year of Chicago Theatre

BMO Harris Bank, Bayless Family Foundation, Broadway In Chicago, The Chicago Community Trust, Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, The Joyce Foundation, Lloyd A. Fry Foundation Endowment at Millennium Park Foundation, MacArthur Foundation, Robert R. McCormick Foundation, Millennium Park Foundation, Prince Charitable Trusts, and Richard H. Driehaus Foundation

Neighborhood Chamber and Special Service Area (SSA) Theatre Champions

Thanks to these neighborhood chambers and SSAs who helped to promote and advance the Year of Chicago Theatre:

95th Street Business Association, Andersonville Chamber of Commerce, Beverly Area Planning Association, Chicago Loop Alliance, Edgewater Chamber of Commerce, Greater Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Park Chamber of Commerce, Lincoln Square Ravenswood Chamber of Commerce, Morgan Park Beverly Hills Business Association, North Branch Works, North River Commission, Northalsted Business Alliance, Northcenter Chamber of Commerce, Old Town Merchants and Residents Association, Rogers Park Business Alliance, Roscoe Village Chamber of Commerce, Six Corners Association, South Shore Chamber of Commerce

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