Chicago’s iO Theater Closing Permanently, Due To ‘Financial Issues’ – Chicago’s iO Theater is closing permanently, owner Charna Halpern has told the Tribune, and the theater building at 1501 N. Kingsbury St. will be put up for sale.
Chicago’s iO Theater Closing Permanently, Due To ‘Financial Issues’:
“This pandemic has made the financial struggle too difficult and I can’t even see the light at the end of the tunnel at this point,” Charna Halpern, who created the theater, wrote in an email that was posted on her Facebook page. “Over my 40 years, I have met many struggles to keep going and I did it to keep a place for my community to have stage time. But at this point in my life, I can’t continue the struggle to stay open.”
The reasons for the closing are financial, Halpern, who created the theater with Del Close, architects of a style of comedy that influenced Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, the filmmaker Adam McKay (“The Big Short”) and legions more, said.
In 2016, female students accused an artistic director at the Chicago’s iO theater’s Los Angeles outpost of harassment.
Charna Halpern and the theater most recently were charged with racism via a petition posted on change.org; the petition made a series of demands for changes in ownership and practices at the theater. Halpern said those events were not the deciding factor.
Chicago’s iO Theater Is Shutting Down Permanently, Charna Halpern Confirmed:
“The county is continuing to make us pay property tax,” Charna Halpern said in an interview over email. “The mantra from the city is ‘We are in this together’ but the county mantra is ‘You’re in this alone.’”
“It’s a sad time,” Halpern added in the email on Thursday. “I created this community.”
“Chicago has been Mecca for improvisation,” she added. “People came here from all over the world to study and pass down our tenets of agreement, no judgment, and collaboration. Del and I called iO ‘theater of the heart — a theater where people cherish each other to succeed on and off the stage.’”
“I’m 68 years old,” she said Thursday. “It’s scary for me. We’re in a pandemic right now and there’s no end in sight. Even if we were able to open at half capacity it was not going to work.”
Halpern shared she had previously had an interested buyer for the building and she first contacted that buyer before the petition, created by five performers with connections to the theater and comedy training center, was published.
“I need this to be clear,” she said. “If it were not for the pandemic I would not be closing. I would be meeting with the protestors.”
According to a 2016 interview that Charna Halpern gave to Inc., the 40,000-square-foot venue was a $7 million project—and until live performances can resume, it’s difficult to imagine anyone investing in the space. Still, it’s a theater with an established community of performers and supporters, many of whom are reckoning with what will come next now that the lights have gone dark.