Opening Plans for Chicago Children’s Theatre’s “Station”

Opening Plans for Chicago Children’s Theatre’s “Station”

Chicago Children’s Theatre announced grand opening plans today for its new home, the former 12th District Police Station at 100 S. Racine Avenue, now being transformed into a performing arts and community center in Chicago’s West Loop, called appropriately “The Station.”

Phase One of the project opens in February, and includes five classrooms, a dedicated, year round space for Red Kite interactive theater for students with autism, a lobby with box office and concessions, the flexible, 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre and support space.

Phase Two will be completed in 2020, and will boast an all-new addition to the building, anchored by a second, state-of-the-art, 299-seat theater for the company’s mainstage programming. In the interim, mainstage productions will continue to be presented at CCT’s current performance home, the Ruth Page Center for the Arts.

Wheeler Kearns Architects, a Chicago firm led by Larry Kearns, and associate architect Melissa Neel, with Working Group One Architects, have designed the new facility that is said to emphasize accessibility and transparency to the community. Theater planning is by Schuler Shook, and Pepper Construction is the general contractor.

“Chicago Children’s Theatre is beginning a new chapter,” said Jacqueline Russell, Co-Founder and Artistic Director, Chicago Children’s Theatre. “At last we are moving into a space of our own, where we will create a centrally located, dynamic new family destination for all of Chicago’s children and families, regardless of their circumstances or ability to pay.”

“We will have new capacity to expand our theater programs and teacher workshops, grow our Red Kite Project into a year-round program for children on the autism spectrum and add new programs for children with special needs” added Chicago Children’s Theatre Co-Founder and Board Chair Todd Leland.

A focus on education

Education will be the main focus of The Station, and a space dedicated to Red Kite programming will provide a “multi-sensory installation experience” and other offerings. “This former police station will now be used to amplify hope, explore personal identity and promote creative expression. Our intention for this space is that its educational programming be as diverse as our city and as unique as its children,” said Frank Maugeri, Community Programs Artistic Director, who will lead education and community partnership aspects of the new facility.

Chicago Children’s Theatre is partnering with other Chicago institutions to teach courses and camps for children. Evanston’s Actors Gymnasium will offer classes in aerial and circus arts. Classes will be held in storytelling, modern movement, hip hop, and vocal instruction. An announcement of the full schedule of classes will go out this November, with information on how to register for the first session, which will begin on February 6, 2017.

Innaugural Productions take the stage in the Pritzker Family Studio Theatre

In late January, Chicago Children’s Theatre will offer its first sneak-peek of The Station as a host site for the 2017 Chicago International Puppet Theater Festival. The world premiere of Manual Cinema’s THE MAGIC CITY, commissioned by Chicago Children’s Theatre, will close out the Puppet Festival while opening the 149-seat Pritzker Family Studio Theatre at The Station with a four-week residency.

Loosely based on the 1910 novel by Edith Nesbit about a girl who builds a miniature city that comes to life in her attic, Manual Cinema’s new adaptation will update the story for a contemporary audience using overhead projectors, paper shadow puppets, live actors in silhouette, miniature toy theater and live musical accompaniment.

“I’m very excited to have the opportunity to program this new type of performance venue for CCT, as it allows us to introduce our audience to whole new styles of theatre and performances,” said Jacqueline Russell. “The new space allows us to work with exciting, internationally recognized companies like Manual Cinema, who are producing inventive, intimate new works which will resonate with audiences of any age.”

Next spring in the Studio Theatre is a new staging of PINOCCHIO, presented with Chicago’s Neverbird Project. This production, which originated at Bell Elementary School in 2016, will feature young hearing and Deaf actors in a signed and voice performance of this all-new take on the classic fairy tale. Performance dates are yet to be announced.

The official grand opening for The Station is early January, 2017. Special inaugural events include a Gala event, a free community open house, free theater arts classes, and live “micro-performances.”

“Station Breaks” partnerships will light up the night

Starting in January, Chicago Children’s Theatre will showcase its commitment to partnering with neighborhood non-profits and educational institutions with its new Station Breaks outdoor event series. Select exterior windows will be transformed into a two-story, outdoor canvas of projected video shorts children helped to devise. Chicago video projection artist Liviu Pasare and Jacqueline Bovit, Arts Educator, will devise the first series this fall, guiding 1,000 Skinner West Elementary students as they work with green screen technology, miniatures, digital video and storytelling to become the authors and artists of their own visions and stories.

“This first project with Skinner West’s students will showcase our dedication to neighborhood collaboration, create the foundation for our STEAM-based programming, enhance our residency model, produce new technologies to be used in feature endeavors and continue the development of our partnerships with emerging artists, designers and the next generation of theatre makers,” said Maugeri.

About author

Jason Epperson

Jason is a producer, manager, and designer with 17 years of experience in Chicago, New York, and in the touring market. In 2015, he founded Lotus Theatricals - the publisher of Performink, and an independent commercial producing company - with Abigail Trabue.

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