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Annoyance Theatre Launches Kickstarter to Fund New Building

By Josh McGhee | October 23, 2013 2:49pm
 The Annoyance Theatre and Bar launched a Kickstarter to fund its new location.
The Annoyance Theatre and Bar launched a Kickstarter to fund its new location.
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LAKEVIEW — The Annoyance Theatre, known for its long-running "Coed Prison Sluts" farce, was all set to move from Uptown to Lakeview when it ran into financial problems.

Annoyance Theatre founder Mick Napier and Executive Director Jessica Estlin went from bank to bank trying for a federal Small Business Administration loan — and then ran into another hurdle: the federal government shutdown.

"At this point, we were three months out before a banker told us, 'If the government shuts down, no one is going to approve SBA Loans," Estlin said. "It was one of the darkest days, ending one of the darkest weeks."

Meanwhile, the two felt the pressure mounting from the landlord of the new building at 851 W. Belmont Ave., where they already had signed a 10-year lease, and started reaching out to friends and family out of desperation. They still found themselves almost $50,000 shy of the $550,000 needed to make the move.

After 25 years in Chicago, in which they saw actors like Andy Richter and Jane Lynch come and go, they wondered if everything would fall through.

"We just couldn't fathom the whole deal falling apart," said Estlin. "We'd spent two years looking for a good space and this was perfect; an amazing location, easy transportation, and plenty of room for two theaters and our classrooms. We knew we had to find some alternative way to get money."

The two were encouraged to launch a Kickstarter by Second City owner Andrew Alexander, who agreed to match what they could raise, up to $50,000.

"To be honest, I cried. It was just incredible," Estlin said after hearing Alexander's pledge.

The Kickstarter allows backers to donate money to projects with the stipulation that the project reaches its entire goal. If it's not met, the donations are invalid.

"It's really nerve-wracking to be in something that's all-or-nothing," Estlin said. "We're really, really nervous and really excited."

Estlin and Napier nervously held hands tightly and tapped the big green button that officially launched the Kickstarter Wednesday at noon.

"It was like, 'Here we go,'" Estlin said.

Estlin said her nerves subsided about two minutes after the launch when they received their first backing.

The Kickstarter encourages donors to "helps us create an institutionalized factory of Subversive Edge Content!!"

As of Wednesday afternoon, the project had attracted more than 70 backers and more than $5,000. Donations are being accepted through Nov. 22. Donors can get tickets to an Annoyance show for as little as a $25 pledge, while $500 gets "your own permanent brick in the new theatre."