Athenaeum Theatre

The Athenaeum Theatre is Chicago’s oldest, continuously operating off-loop theater. It was opened in 1911 as part of the campus of St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. It has several venues, all of which are used for local arts performances, educational programs, and social service communities. The theater is a cultural resource in the city with a main stage theater seating 984 and three studio spaces for 67, 81, and 89 people. Today, Athenaeum Theatre Productions is Chicago’s premiere performance arts service organization, cultivating a diverse non-profit arts community in the city.

Athenaeum Theatre Facilities

Located in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, the Athenaeum Theatre opened in 1911 on the St. Alphonsus Catholic Church complex. It was conceived as a “neighborhood playhouse” by the original German-American parish. Today, it carries on that vision as the oldest continuously operating off-Loop theater in Chicago.

The building is home to five performance spaces as well as offices, rehearsal halls, a gymnasium, and a food pantry. It features a 985-seat opera house and three black-bock studio theaters that can accommodate between 60 and 90 patrons. There is also Curtain Call Club, which serves as a reception room for 55 people for cabaret, comedy improv, lectures, and other intimate events.

All of the building’s public spaces are available for rent. Office spaces are equipped with such resources as copiers, fax machines, conference rooms, and other meeting spaces. The non-profit also donates space to local organizations. It donates more than 6,000 square feet of third-floor space to Dance Chicago and Emergence Dance for rehearsal studios, free of charge. It also offers deeply discounted main stage rentals for several worthy charitable organizations.

Athenaeum Theatre Programs

Athenaeum Theatre Products (ATP) hosts an array of vibrant performances each week. As many as 20 non-profit arts and educational organizations call ATP their home. Haymarket Opera Company, Chicago Arts Orchestra, Teatro Vista, Chicago Improv Festival, Chicago A Capella , DANCE Chicago, Emerald City Theatre, Jump Rhythm Jazz Project, and The Saints are all among the groups that rehearse and perform here.

The theater also hosts two free neighborhood concerts with Chicago Children’s Choir. The events fill the theater’s 984 seats every year. Due to the diverse groups that perform here, the entertainment is equally varied. The venues are home to everything from plays to dance, live music, and comedy. Other community talks and film screenings are held here, as well.

Getting to the Athenaeum Theatre

The Athenaeum is located at 2936 N. Southport Ave. next door to St. Alphonsus Catholic Church. There is a parking lot behind the theater that is shared with the church. Additionally, there is plenty of free unrestricted street parking in the neighborhood in the area west of Southport.

The closest L stop is the Brown Line to Wellington Avenue. From there, walk five blocks West to Southport and turn left. There are also several CTA bus routes that stop at the theater. 

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