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New Theater On The Lake Debuts As Rahm Cuts Ribbon

By Ted Cox | September 7, 2017 11:00am | Updated on September 7, 2017 2:26pm
 Mayor Rahm Emanuel cuts the ribbon for the gala reopening of Theater on the Lake.
Mayor Rahm Emanuel cuts the ribbon for the gala reopening of Theater on the Lake.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

LINCOLN PARK — Mayor Rahm Emanuel led the formal ribbon-cutting ceremony Thursday for the renovated Theater on the Lake.

The $7 million rehab project converts it into an enclosed, year-round, 330-seat theater, while adding a restaurant, bar and outdoor patio to the almost 100-year-old building at 2400 N. Lake Shore Drive.

"I am thrilled to see Theater on the Lake’s transformation from a summer performance space to a unique year-round venue on our lakefront,” said Emanuel, who first took an interest in renovating the theater while a congressman. “The unparalleled lakefront views make this one-of-a-kind destination for performances, celebrations and special occasions."

Emanuel called it "an incredible facility" where the natural beauty of the lakefront meets the man-made beauty of the structure and the cultural events within.

Chicago Park District Supt. Mike Kelly called it the city's "next icon along the lakefront."

Theatrical performances were included in Thursday's ceremony, and Emanuel and Kelly spent some time with troupers outside before the event began.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Park District Supt. Mike Kelly checked in with some theatrical performers before the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the renovated Theater on the Lake. [DNAinfo/Ted Cox]

The open-air structure was built in 1920 as a sanitarium, then converted to a summer theater by the Chicago Park District in 1953. It played host to an annual Theater on the Lake summer theater festival for 64 years, and the festival will return to the site next year after shifting to the Berger Park Cultural Center this summer while repairs were in progress.

"I am excited to curate the 66th season of Theater on the Lake and to be part of the first summer back in the space,” curator, writer and director Isaac Gomez said. “Theater on the Lake is one of many venues that help showcase Chicago as the best theater city in this country."

Saying he was scouting community theater groups for work "holding values that make Chicago theater Chicago theater," especially ensemble acting, Gomez added, "There's going to be some really great work in this space next summer."

Others gushed about the new restaurant and the patio and east veranda, with their views of the city skyline.

The new bar at the renovated Theater on the Lake (DNAinfo/Ted Cox)

Beginning Oct. 1, the site will be available for private rentals with sit-down dinners for as many as 500, indoor receptions for up to 900 and events for up to 1,500 with the outdoor areas.

Lakefront Hospitality Group paid for the $7 million project and will run the restaurant and events. The Chicago Park District retains ownership and a portion of the proceeds.

"With support from the mayor, the Chicago Park District is pleased to reopen Theater on the Lake, a historic gem that has brought theater to the Lincoln Park community for six decades," Kelly said. “The revitalized Theater on the Lake building will now welcome residents and visitors to enjoy activities and entertainment on the lakefront all year long."