R.I.P. People’s Center Theater

R.I.P. People’s Center Theater

On Facebook, theater artist Heidi Arneson has broken the news that the “People’s Center Theater is shutting down after May 10 Candid Theater show. This spring, from now until May 10, will be your last chance to see fabulously brave theater in a classic, long-loved theater space that was begun in the early 1970’s by Foot of the Mountain Theater.”

In a subsequent comment, Arneson explained that “the Peoples Center Health Services will be using it for their space needs. Hope they keep it as a theater…but the space will no more be available for foks who make bold theater in town to rent.”

It’s hard to begrudge the People’s Center, a community health service “with a special focus on the needs of the economically disadvantaged and the socially disenfranchised,” the expanded use of their own West Bank space, but the local theater community will certainly miss the cozy, dynamic, and historic theater space.

Seating just 75-100 people, the People’s Center space is one of those theaters that feels like it’s in another dimension. You climb some stairs, go down a long hallway—it feels like you’re in the health clinic that you are, in fact, in—and finally enter a black box with a unique, open mezzanine that’s often been incorporated into the shows staged at the theater.

I especially enjoyed the space as a home for two strange, dystopian science fiction shows I saw there: Walking Shadow Theatre Company’s Robots vs. Fake Robots and Transdimensional Couriers Union. It was also an apt venue for Box Wine Theatre’s revival of Savannah Reich’s surreal Dalí’s Liquid Ladies.

Of course, in the urban indie-theater scene, change is the name of the game. The original headquarters of At the Foot of the Mountain—a fiery, pioneering feminist theater company—now seems to be part of Gardens of Salonica restaurant. Another space they used early on, the Pillsbury-Waite Cultural Arts Center, is now the site of the hospital complex at Chicago and 26th.

Jay Gabler