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The History of Madison Street Theater

Designed by local architect Errol Kirsch in the early 1980s, the former 1920s-era tile warehouse and storefront was fully repurposed by mostly volunteer labor into an intimate, state-of-the-art performing arts space that opened in the fall of 1984. 


Today, the building is still owned by the same not-for-profit, Oak Park River Forest Civic Theater, founded in 1961. Over the past 25 years, the space has been home to such groups as The Village Players, Circle Theatre and Saltbox Theatre Company. Since 2017, due to leadership turnover and a lack of consistent fundraising, this community treasure had fallen into a state of disrepair. In June of 2019, a new Board of Directors stepped in and with the assistance of Forest Park Bank, refinanced the property and set about creating a new vision for this wonderful space.

With Ovation Academy for the Performing Arts as the resident company and anchor tenant, the building is alive again with the energy of young people and the sounds of musical theater.

2020 VISON

We hope to see independent theater groups take advantage of this wonderful venue to showcase new works and timeless classics.

Phase 1: Using funds borrowed against the equity in the building, our initial priorities were to ensure the building was a safe, healthy and welcoming environment for the youth performers and their families.

Phase 2: We will be taking on two significant but essential projects – replacing two of the four compressors before winter and creating ADA compliant restrooms

Phase 3: Invest in the Main Stage Theater and increase the production value; professional lighting, an updated sound system, and programming and consistent with other theaters in the Chicago Suburbs


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