This is actually a joke. We have the worst business model in the world – pay all of our artists and offer all of our shows for free/pay-what-you-can.

Founded in 1969, Free Street Theater is dedicated to creating original performance by, for, about, with, and in Chicago’s diverse communities.We believe that performance offers us a valuable opportunity to be together in live space, to ask difficult questions, to come up with complicated answers, and to respond to the issues of our time with critical generosity. We have a strong, decades-long commitment to the notion that theatre belongs to everyone in this city, and are always looking for new ways to innovate our founding mission: to use theatre to break down the artificial barriers that divide us.  Here’s how we’re doing that in 2016:


First and foremost, we make shows. A lot of shows! We develop between 6-10 original projects a year with a wide-range of participants. Some of our work is created and performed by first-time artists, some of our work is created and performed by professional artists, and most of our work is created by a combo of the two! We house three year-round ensembles and run a vibrant incubator program. We perform in parks, on streets, in gardens, in private homes, and even in theaters.


We believe that everyone has the potential to be a great theatre-maker, but not everybody has been given the opportunity to develop those skills, to assert that their story matters. An important component of our work is offering the space, time, and training that will help people all across the city develop the tools to express their artistic voice. We work with children, youth and adults.

A Commitment to Economic Access

All of our outdoor performances are offered free to the public, as are our training programs. Performances in our home space (located on the third floor of Pulaski Park) are always pay-what-you-can. We pay all of our artists for their work (because theater *is* work!) and we provide childcare and transportation stipends for those who might not be able to afford to come to rehearsal without it. We also provide free co-programming for children during the runs of our show, so that families don’t have to worry about getting a sitter.

Community Residencies

We collaborate with organizations and neighborhood groups all over the city to design short performance-based projects that directly respond to an immediate need. These projects range from one day to a few weeks (average) to a year. Examples include: developing a site specific performance piece with community members, teaching staff to use theatre to address conflict, theatre as a self-care strategy, and more.