At Free Street, we work hard to be funny, joyful, and welcoming. But we have to tell you something serious. Most theater in Chicago isn’t accessible to most people in Chicago. It’s expensive. It’s mostly located on the Northside. And it doesn’t reflect Chicago communities on stage or include them in the production process.
That’s why Free Street has spent the past 50 years working to make theater that challenges our city’s racial and economic segregation. We believe that theater matters, and if it matters, we should find ways to make it accessible and inviting to as many people as possible.
Free Street was the First
Free Street was founded in the wake of the 1968 riots, in the hopes that theater might invite a divided city to come together. Since then, we have consistently adapted our programming to speak to the current needs of the city: We were one of the first interracial theater companies in the city, and one of the first to commit to performing in public spaces across Chicago. For a long time, we were one of the only places a Black actor could earn an Equity card, and one of the first companies to start a youth ensemble. In the 1980’s, Free Street moved into Cabrini Green to develop a musical (Project!) with residents. In the 1990’s we became the Chicago Park District’s first Arts Partner in Residence, helping to kickstart a program that brings professional artists into neighborhoods across Chicago.
Accessible, Inclusive, Supportive
Today, we are a multiracial and multigenerational theater company with a focus on original performance that explores the issues impacting our city and a strong commitment to economic accessibility. We offer all of our shows for free/pay-what-you-can, and we try to make theater accessible for families with small children by offering free co-programming for children during rehearsals and shows. Whenever possible (and it is almost always possible!), we close caption our shows. We offer free classes, trainings, and make space available to artists developing new work.