Next Theatre, a fixture at Evanston’s Noyes Cultural Arts Center for over three decades, has cancelled the remainder of its season and is closing its doors.
Next Board President Rob Andalman said in a statement late this morning, “the theater’s audiences have shrunk dramatically in the past few years and it has not been able to build a contribution base to compensate for that. At this juncture, the board concluded that it was not responsible to continue operations.”
The shutdown was first reported by the Chicago Tribune, which reported that Next’s artistic director, Jenny Avery, this weekend emailed actors and others working on upcoming shows saying it was “impossible to continue operations” because of “an inability to maintain an adequate base of support.”
Earlier this year the City Council voted not to extend Next’s lease on the theater space at Noyes beyond this year because the group was more than two years behind on rent payments and owed the city more than $76,000.
As a condition of renewing the lease for this season, the city required the group to sign a promissory note to repay the back rent over a five-year period.
City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz this morning said the city had no prior notice of the closing and that the city’s Law Department “will be evaluating our options to recover any owed funds.”
Next, on its website, describes itself as producing “socialy provocative, artistically adventurous work.”
Its production of Luce, by JC Lee, closed Sunday and its next show, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Richard III, had been scheduled to open Jan. 3.
“We are enormously proud of the legacy that Next leaves,” Andalman said. “The theater has been an important part of the cultural landscape of both Evanston and the Chicago theater communities, a canvas for artists whose purpose was not just to entertain, but to touch audiences’ hearts and minds. Next sought to provoke feelings and conversations on some of the really hard questions – and, more often than not, it succeeded.”
Andalman said Next intends to seek out other area theaters that might be willing to honor its subscriptions for the remainder of this season.
(Updated 11:11 a.m.)