CHICAGO: Sideshow Theatre Company announced last week that its board and ensemble have voted to dissolve the company, effective immediately. The storefront theatre was founded in 2007.
“Following the turnover of our artistic and administrative staff, a core governing ensemble has spent the past six months considering various structures that would allow Sideshow to continue sustainably,” Sideshow’s staff said in a statement issued on their website and social media accounts. “A storefront company closing its doors is a regrettably common occurrence in 2023, but we know that our community of artists will continue to be a part of the necessary reimagining and rebuilding of the American theatre.”
Sideshow had been in residence at Victory Gardens Theater since in 2013. In the fall of 2022, Sideshow and other resident theatre companies left Victory Gardens in response to the board’s firing of artistic director Ken-Matt Martin, whom the theatre hired in 2021. The move meant that Sideshow had to postpone and then cancel their production of Brynne Frauenhoffer’s Pro-Am, which they commissioned. The statement Sideshow posted online clarifies that the theatre paid all artists involved in Pro-Am “their full stipends as though the show had moved forward.”
Founding ensemble member Walt McGough said that the saga with Victory Gardens and the cancelation of Pro-Am “was the event that set a lot of this in motion, though there were a number of factors all at play simultaneously,” referring to the theatre’s decision to shut down.
Sideshow has announced that they will be donating their remaining funds to seven nonprofit organizations. McGough said that some staff members will remain to file the appropriate paperwork for the donations over the next month. These nonprofits include First Floor Theater in Chicago; Longacre Lea, a theatre company in Washington, D.C.; Arts of Life, an Illinois organization that works with artists with intellectual and developmental disabilities; Midwest Action Coalition, which provides funds and assistance for people seeking abortions in Illinois and the Midwest; the Chicago Women’s Health Center; Chicago’s Congo Square Theatre; and Chicspeare, a Chicago-based Shakespeare company.
Sideshow was known for producing world premieres of plays, as well as the American premieres of works by German playwrights Roland Schimmelpfennig and Marius von Mayenburg. In 2013, Sideshow established the new-play development program the Freshness Initiative, which commissioned local writers each year. Sidehow then mounted at least one play from each season’s Freshness Initiative as full productions. Sideshow was also known for the Chicago League of Lady Arm Wrestlers, or CLLAW, an annual fundraising event for both the theatre and other community organizations.
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