Theatre Y

Web Name: Theatre Y






Poetic and visceral theatre


We don’t know all that theater is and we don’t know all that a theater can do.
We’re always trying to discover what more our theater can be and do.


Theatre Y wants to participate in people’s lives in ways that matter, here and now.
Rather than telling stories about a community, we seek to participate in our community’s story.
Theatre Y serves to manifest imagined realities, living global citizenship to better understand our shared humanity.

Who we are:

Theatre Y is a Chicago-based “international incubator”, creating intersections between diverse artists seeking mutual growth through collaboration. Through a combination of intimate staging, experimental productions, challenging international content, a dedicated ensemble, and a member-based FREE theatre model, Theatre Y holds a unique spot in Chicago’s theater scene. Entering its 16th year of originating collaborations between Chicago and the world, Theatre Y has toured productions from New York to Transylvania, working in spaces ranging from La MaMa’s experimental theater to prisons. Committed to a continuous re-thinking of the practice of theater with people from all walks of life, we have also maintained an international art-education initiative through classes and intensive workshops, stretching, mentoring, and developing a new generation of artists.

vISION: Revitalization without Gentrification

We have a long way to go in the fight towards geographically equitable allocation of the arts economy in Chicago. To that end, we have launched a revitalization concept that centers theater live/work space as part of our new campus in North Lawndale, in partnership with community leaders, designers, urban planners, city officials, and local artists. We strive to provide a new creative space for healing, community, and artistic expression. A holistic training ground across disciplines, Theatre Y’s global conservatory intertwines lives, builds diverse communities, restores global citizenship, and empowers the marginalized.

Theatre Y is partnering with Worldview Solutions to create and document a comprehensive vision, listening and responding to the desires from inside the community itself, making new solutions and new intersections with and for BIPOC communities, and under their leadership and instruction. With a $250,000 grant awarded in 2021 from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund, this plan for urban renewal will reimagine connectivity, integrating high-end architectural, landscape, and spatial design with the same thoughtfulness previously reserved for wealthier areas of Chicago. We believe that this documentation of Theatre Y’s integration into the North Lawndale community will spark questions about how to move an organization into a deliberately neglected neighborhood in a way that promotes revitalization without gentrification, and will provide a template of the successes and challenges of restorative justice through a global conservatory.

Read the article

With support from the Neighborhood Opportunity Fund - North Lawndale will become home to Theatre Y in 2022.

The following are renderings by our Architect Trish van der Beke for our original campus vision on Pulaski.
We seek to uphold as much of the original campus concept as possible wherever we end up in North Lawndale.

Image courtesy of P.K. VanderBeke, Architect

Image courtesy of P.K. VanderBeke, Architect

Image courtesy of P.K. VanderBeke, Architect

Image courtesy of P.K. VanderBeke, Architect

Image courtesy of P.K. VanderBeke, Architect

Image courtesy of P.K. VanderBeke, Architect

Image courtesy of P.K. VanderBeke, Architect

Dear Friends,


We find ourselves at the limits of the sayable.No statement is sufficient to name our disgust with the systems of oppression that target, marginalize, and brutalize black bodies and all persons of color.No expression of solidarity, from us or any other theater company, is enough.Language can be self-protectionist and hollow, a way to excuse ourselves from the difficulty of action, a way to signal theoretical values that never make their way to implementation.We encourage all of our ensemble members, board members, and audience members to take direct action to address not just police brutality, but the whole web of injustice and discrimination that sustains a society whose original sin was the enslavement of our black brothers and sisters.We have no justice until there is justice for all.

We reject any form of capitalist society built on the inequities of slave labor, on the theft of land and freedom, that profits off of racialized imprisonment, that uses a militarized police force to uphold the privilege and accumulated wealth of whiteness while villainizing systemically impoverished communities of color.Where there is fear for one, there is no freedom for all.Political change is necessary—we must fight to overturn the insidious law of qualified immunity.But this will never be enough.

Theatre Y believes in pursuing radical, self-effacing, sacrificial love.We believe in staring down the ugliness of the truth and the ugliness in our own hearts.Although our company is on the long road of fighting for equity, diversity, and inclusion within our own ranks, this is not enough.Although we are in the midst of re-evaluating our own mission and values, this is not enough.We will continue to embrace a free theater model to eliminate economic barriers to our community, but this is not enough.We will continue providing movement therapy for trauma rehabilitation in Chicago’s prisons, but this is not enough.This whole statement is not enough.A statement is a declaration, not a dialogue, and no one needs more ineffectual declarations of good intentions.We commit ourselves to the infinite conversation of justice.We commit ourselves to holding ourselves accountable.We invite all of you to hold our feet to the fire.

With love and solidarity,

Theatre Y



Values that we’re continually grappling with and adding to, in the order we learned them in:

1. Good theater is soul food.
2. Our theater lives in the tension between flesh and poetry.

3. Humans have the memory of goldfish. The ritual of theater helps us re-remember again and again.
4. We facilitate cultural exchange toward global citizenship because

5. What matters to me and what matters to you is likely less important than what matters to us both.
6. We maintain a beginner’s mindset to protect endless discovery, rigorous growth and improvement.

7. We are inspired by the synergy of an intimate theater and promise never to take for granted the live audience in the room. We see you and address you - you are not anonymous.
8. We pledge to be continually responsive, as creators, neighbors, citizens...

9. We embrace and protect the freedom to risk.
10. Self-abnegation: We welcome discomfort in pursuit of insight, justice and pleasure.

11. Love is a verb embodied through community, from our ensemble of actors to our therapy in prisons.
12. We affirm the right to assemble - the theater as a ritual and catalyst of public dialogue - and offer our community free of charge - accessible to all.

13. Bioluminescence: When we gather together, somehow, we are more than the sum of our parts.
14. It matters where the art appears, who is present in the audience and onstage.

15. We will build a diverse community - calling ourselves and others in.
16. We pledge ourselves to healing action. “To know, and not to do, is not to know.”

17. We seek justice, freedom and reparations through urban renewal.
18. Intentional integration without gentrification: We understand the role that theaters have played in gentrifying under-resourced communities and accept responsibility for proactive innovation and sustainable new solutions to resist profit-above-all.

19. We seek to carry our creative labors to their greatest positive social impact.
20. We understand that we are participating in intergenerational labor and that this work is never-ending.

The practices that form the foundation of our work:

1) We are an international laboratory of artists from diverse cultures and backgrounds, because this exchange enriches our work.

2) Inspired by director Anne Bogart, we believe that “all great life-changing work made for the theater has historically been made by companies.” That is why Theatre Y has constituted itself as an ensemble devoted to experimentation and artistic excellence.

3) Continuous, weekly training is critical for the health and development of our ensemble.

4) We make work for our community and have pledged to remove all financial barriers that would exclude anyone.

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Temporary Mailing ADDRESS: 1500 W. Addison, Chicago, IL 60613 PHONE: 773-908-2248 EMAIL: INFO@THEATRE-Y.COM



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