A city-organized focus group of theater specialists is scheduled tonight to review proposals from six groups that would like to set up shop in a planned new theater in a cluster of city-owned buildings in the 700 block of Howard Street in Evanston.
At Tuesday’s Economic Development Committee meeting, Johanna Nyden of the city’s economic development staff identified four of the groups as Strawdog Theatre Company, E.D.G.E of Orion, AstonRep Theatre Company and Theo Ubique Cabaret Theatre.
One other group, Nyden said, had requested to not be publicly named at this time because it’s in lease negotiations for its current space, and a sixth group’s application, she said, had just been located after being lost for weeks in the spam filter of a city staffer’s email account.
Mark Kozy, director of community resources for the League of Chicago Theatres and a member of the focus group, said the league has more than 250 member theater groups, but there are only about 100 theater venues in the metro Chicago area.
For the Howard Street site, Kozy said, he recommends looking at theater companies that have had a lot of stability over 10 to 20 years and that have shown financial growth and have an audience that would likely move to the new location with them.
Alderman Delores Holmes asked about the possiblity of having more than one theater group control the space, and Nyden responded that most of the groups staff is talking too are in shared spaces now and want to control their own space — although perhaps renting to other groups on occasion.
“We [the city] want to get out of the business of managing a theater space,” Nyden said, a reference to issues that have come up over the years with the existing city-owned theater spaces at the Noyes Cultural Arts Center.
Kozy added, “Theater companies come and go constantly, but spaces are forever. To make a viable, long-lasting theater space, a group has to show that they can do this, that they have the fundraising background to be able to finance it.”