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Belmont Theater District Hopes to Attract People to 'Edgier' Lakeview Shows

By Serena Dai | February 7, 2014 7:01am
 The Belmont Theater District hopes to be a one-stop shop for people to find theater and live performance options in Lakeview.
The Belmont Theater District hopes to be a one-stop shop for people to find theater and live performance options in Lakeview.
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LAKEVIEW — Could Lakeview soon be home to an "Off Broadway" district of Chicago?

That's what a group of businesses hope will happen with a new campaign to market Lakeview's more than 20 theaters as the Belmont Theater District.

The Lakeview Chamber of Commerce, Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce and several local theaters decided that the plethora of live show options within a mile of the Belmont "L" stop was ripe for development.

With everything from burlesque and sketch comedy shows to historical theater and the Blue Man Group, the Belmont Theater District could become an Off Loop theater district similar to New York's famed Off Broadway district, said Lauren Michaud, president of the board at Stage 773.

Here, theater is edgier, more raw and more experimental — different from the big productions downtown, Michaud said. 

"It's a very different feel," she said. "It's a little more grassroots. It's more affordable."

Lakeview historically has had many theaters, including TimeLine Theatre, 615 W. Wellington Ave., and the Anthenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave.

But in the past few years, many new ones have popped up, too. The Laugh Factory, 3175 N. Broadway, and the Public House Theatre, 3914 N. Clark St., both opened in the last few years. Soon, the Annoyance Theatre will move from Uptown to a renovated building at 851 W. Belmont Ave.

The goal is to have a one-stop shop — website btdchicago.com — to tell people about all the live performances in Lakeview, said Maureen Martino, executive director of the Lakeview East Chamber of Commerce. Most residents and tourists are not aware of how much theater the neighborhood has, she said.

"You'd be surprised about how many people really don't realize it," she said. "Our goal is to educate people."

Plus, trying to spin Lakeview as a "cultural hub" could help other businesses in the neighborhood, said Heather Way Kitzes, executive director of the Lakeview Chamber of Commerce.

Already, organizers have partnered up with restaurants, hotels and bars to offer discounts to theatergoers, including deals for Chicago Theater Week, which starts Tuesday.

"We really want to create a cultural destination and generate more traffic and awareness of the area," Way Kitzes said.