This Fall, a Black Ensemble Theater Transformed

September 16, 2011  |  

(Chicago Tribune) — Jackie Taylor, the founder and artistic director of Chicago’s Black Ensemble Theater, is staring at an utterly transformative fall.  On Nov. 18, the $19 million new Black Ensemble Theater will open at the hitherto moribund 4450 North Clark St., currently a desert of barred windows and dead storefronts on Chicago’s North Side. Virtually overnight, this new facility — which features a 299-seat main stage, a 150-seat studio theater, covered parking, rehearsal studios, classrooms, music rooms, huge offices, bars, a spectacular glass lobby and even a roof garden ideal for parties — will turn a theater that has spent the last 24 years in the scruffy basement of an aging Hull House into a major Midwest arts institution.  Among nonprofit theaters in Chicago, this new 4450 North Clarkcomplex will be eclipsed (in terms of the size and quality of its building) only by Goodman Theatre, Steppenwolf Theatre Company and Chicago Shakespeare Theater. And it will, of course, be the newest of that group. The new Black Ensemble will far bigger than the physical plant of Court Theatre, Lookingglass or any of the other venerable theatrical institutions that dot this arts-loving city. Indeed, it is hard to think of a company dedicated to African-American theater anywhere in the nation with a physical facility that’s even remotely comparable.

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