The Evanston Life section of the City of Evanston website includes an "Arts and Culture" tab with the following claim: "Evanston boasts one of the largest and most diverse arts communities in the state. Not only are the arts celebrated often, there are abundant opportunities to get involved in the arts here in Evanston."
However, in the interest of full disclosure, it's my opinion that this claim should include an asterisk:
*If, however, you seek opportunities to book, view or perform in a live theater venue with a capacity beyond 250 attendees, please take your disposable income to one of the following locations: Skokie (North Shore Center for the Performing Arts), DesPlaines (The DesPlaines Theatre), or Chicago (Come on! You can't possibly expect us to list ALL the venues there...but here's a link). Northwestern University also has space but, for some unspoken reason, we're always working on how to play nice with them. Let's just keep that on the down-low, cool? Otherwise it gets really awkward. Tx.
Don’t get me wrong: performance space abounds in Evanston (Evanston S.P.A.C.E. is my favorite), but we're more of what I'd call a boutique theatre community. We don’t have a big-time, universal spot for the wider community and beyond (although the Evanston Township High School main auditorium, which seats 1,500, is stunning). It takes a reasonable amount of effort to identify theatrical offerings around town (why don’t we have a centrally located theatre schedule somewhere…perhaps on the city website?) but hey – it’s not the end of the world. It’s like a treasure hunt, right?
Recent articles in Chicago Magazine and The Evanston Review detail the demise of historic venues throughout Chicagoland and Evanston, including the old Varsity Theater, at 1706 Sherman Ave. downtown. And so, I’ve come to accept the fact my kids will not grow up in a town boasting an Apollo-like venue – a shame, really. The talented individuals I’ve met throughout my 16 years in Evanston (not to mention the growing generation of kids who'd benefit from a place offering opportunities to channel their energies) deserve a magnificent home in which to spotlight and share their gifts. Perhaps, if I’m lucky, my kids will want to raise their kids here -- and maybe, just maybe, they'll know an Evanston that puts on a really big show.