PerformInk is Chicago's entertainment industry trade publication.
Photo: Emerald City’s Little Theatre | Nate Estenson
Chicago’s largest theater for young audiences has announced that, barring any last-minute major contributions, it will suspend operations. Emerald City Theatre plans to close towards the end of January, following the completion of the company’s fall and winter programs.
“The Board of Directors and Executive Management have closely monitored ECT’s financial situation over recent months,” said board member Heike Spahn. “Increased program costs and decreased revenue have made the current financial model unsustainable. While the Board is passionately committed to the mission of ECT, as a company we no longer have adequate resources to provide the exceptional quality programs that have inspired Chicago’s youth for the past 24 years.”
Founded in 1996 by Karen and Alyn Cardarelli, ECT evolved from a small storefront producer to an organization serving over 60,000 patrons annually, Since its opening, Emerald City has created over 100 productions on stages such as the Broadway Playhouse, Victory Gardens, and the Apollo.
ECT also runs what they say is the largest theater arts education program in Chicago. Yearly camps, classes, and residencies have served approximately 64,000 children to date and 200 schools annually in all 50 Chicago wards. The company’s main offices are in the Athenaeum building at Southport and Lincoln, where, across the street, they built the “Little Theatre,” the nation’s first theater for the very young. One Fund, the theater’s community engagement program, promotes increased literacy by providing over 100,000 free plays and companion books to students at low-resourced Chicago Public Schools.
“We are grateful for our extraordinary audiences, artists, educators, and community, whose generosity has allowed ECT to carry out its mission for over two decades and who continue to support that mission,” said Jacqueline Stone, Artistic Director. “Their dedicated contributions fortify our ability to offer playful, professional, and culturally relevant artistic programming. Together, we have collaborated with thousands of children and their grown-ups across Chicago to develop skills to creatively face the world.”
Emerald City’s hit holiday production of “Corduroy” will run as scheduled through January 5, 2020, at the Broadway Playhouse at Water Tower Place. The theater will also carry out its planned Winter Camp for children ages 3.5 to 15 from December 23 to January 3.
The company’s statement extended “profound thanks to [our] donors, staff, consultants, designers, actors, teaching artists, volunteers, and partners, as well as every child and grown-up who has attended a show, class, or camp.”
On a personal note, the editors of PerformInk are deeply appreciative of Emerald City’s contributions to our lives. Countless Chicago theater artisans have worked for the company over the last 24 years, including us. In addition, our three children each had their first theatrical experience with ECT — as so many others have — for which we will be eternally grateful.