Study Reveals Impact of Chicago Theaters with Budgets under $1 Million

The Chicago-based Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation recently surveyed its small theater grantees to reveal the impact they make in Chicago. 41 Chicago theaters participated in the Foundation’s survey, representing a significant percentage of the city’s storefront organizations.

Approximately 267,400 audience members were served last season alone by the surveyed theaters. More than one-third of the 170+ total productions produced were world premieres.

“Storefront theaters are the lifeblood of our city’s artistic vitality, and our recent study proves just that,” said David Farren, executive director of the foundation. “Our goal—especially as we close out this Year of Chicago Theater—is to enable small theatres to continue to push boundaries so that they not only achieve their artistic visions, but also continue to economically and culturally benefit their communities.”

The Foundation supports small theater companies with multi-year general operating grants ranging from $2,500 to $13,500 annually, plus an array of additional organizational development opportunities including one-on-one feedback from staff and consultants, reimbursements for trainings tailored to grantee needs, and a cash reserve program.

The study yielded the following insights:

  • Approximately 267,400 audience members attended the theaters’ productions last season, a number equivalent to about 10% of the entire population of Chicago
  • 66% of the companies staged world premieres last season, representing 39% of the total 170+ productions produced
  • 100% of the surveyed companies indicated a commitment to addressing issues of accessibility, diversity and inclusion
  • 56% have dedicated educational initiatives, with more than 12,800 students served annually
  • One out of four charges $25 or less for one single adult admission ticket, with one out of seven offering free or pay-what-you-can tickets
  • 71% of theaters stated that contributed funds—such as foundation grants, government support and donations—make up more than half of their annual income

Gaylord and Dorothy Donnelley Foundation theatre grantees surveyed for this study:

  • A Red Orchid Theatre
  • About Face Theatre
  • Artemisia Theatre
  • Babes With Blades Theatre Company
  • Broken Nose Theatre
  • Chicago Tap Theatre
  • City Lit Theater Company
  • Congo Square Theatre
  • eta Creative Arts Foundation
  • First Floor Theater
  • First Folio Theatre
  • Free Street Theater
  • Griffin Theatre Company
  • Interrobang Theatre Project
  • Irish Theatre of Chicago
  • Lifeline Theatre
  • Lucky Plush Productions
  • Midsommer Flight
  • The Neo-Futurists
  • Pegasus Theatre Chicago
  • Piven Theatre
  • Porchlight Music Theatre
  • Pride Film and Plays
  • Raven Theatre
  • Red Tape Theatre
  • Redtwist Theatre
  • Remy Bumppo Theatre Company
  • Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
  • Rough House Theater
  • Shattered Globe Theatre
  • Silk Road Rising
  • Steep Theatre
  • Strawdog Theatre Company
  • Teatro Vista
  • The Artistic Home
  • The Gift Theatre
  • The Plagiarists
  • Theatre Y
  • Third Eye Theatre Ensemble
  • Trap Door Theatre
  • Walkabout Theater

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