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New 'Dream' iO Theater Includes Four Theaters, Three Bars and a Beer Garden

By Paul Biasco | July 24, 2014 5:35am
 The iO Theater is moving from its Wrigleyville location to a brand new 38,000-square-foot location at 1501 N. Kingsbury.
iO Theater
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LINCOLN PARK — Charna Halpern remembers begging people on Clark Street to walk into the iO Theater.

"There was a time when we had eight people in the audience and we would stand outside handing fliers out," she said while touring her new digs at 1501 N. Kingsbury St.

The new iO Theater can seat 600.

The 38,000-square-foot space is set to open next month with four theaters, a main bar area with 100 seats, a full-service kitchen and a vast beer garden.

Paul Biasco had a chance to tour the new building with iO's Charna Halpern:

The hope is that patrons can come to the new spot and spend an entire night at iO seeing a show or two, eating dinner and drinking.

The new all-in-one comedy spot will have twice the amount of classroom space for training, which Halpern calls a huge part of the business.

"I have everything. I don't think there's anything in the world that compares to this, and it's owned by a woman who owns her own theater," Halpern said.

Crews have been working on the custom buildout of the venue for nearly a year, transforming a former bakery and furniture warehouse into the new home of comedy in the Clybourn Corridor.

The new space is located across the street from Whole Foods.

Halpern closed up shop on Saturday at the old iO, formerly ImprovOlympic, location in Wrigleyville.

Two of the theaters will carry over from the Wrigleyville location, the Del Close Theater and The Harold Cabaret, but that left two stages.

The first, The Mission Theater, will be run by comics TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi, who have been performing their one-hour show at iO since 2002.

 Charna Helpern leans against the main bar in the new iO Theater.
Charna Helpern leans against the main bar in the new iO Theater.
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DNAinfo/Paul Biasco

The 200-seat cabaret theater will be TJ and Dave's seven days a week, down to the programming, which will include a flagship sketch revue, improv shows and music.

There might even be DJs and dancing at The Mission after-performances.

Jagodowski said he isn't sad about leaving the original iO location.

"It might be how excited I am about the new place," he said. "All the good stuff about that place is in our bones and that travels."

Jagodowski and Pasquesi said they had been planning to open their own theater for years and when this new opportunity came along to have their own theater, but remain in iO, they jumped on it.

"It's kind of a dream scenario for us," Jagodowski said.

The second new theater will be named after Chris Farley, who was mentored by Del Close and performed at iO.

“I had an extra theater to name and I thought I should name it after Chris," Halpern said. "He’s my boy and I miss him. I think it's important to know that is where he came from. I’ve got Del and Chris covered. That’s all I need."

The new iO will also have a dedicated event space for special events and weddings that has a private entrance to a second-floor cabaret theater.

In the past the theater had to cancel shows to make room for corporate parties, according to Halpern.

Halpern, Jagodowski and Pasquesi plan on a soft opening the first week of August, and are planning a grand opening Aug. 29-30.

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