NOBLE SQUARE — Last fall, a burst pipe flooded the Vittum Theater, forcing the cancellation of a sold-out show and badly damaging the historic theater.
But after months of repairs, the theater at 1012 N. Noble St. is reopening next week and neighbors are invited to an afternoon of celebration.
Founded more than 125 years ago ago in Noble Square, Northwestern Settlement offers children’s programming related to education, social services and the arts.
Vittum Theater is in a former dance hall on the third floor of Evanston Hall. The building was originally built in 1891 as Walsh’s Hall.
In mid-November, a pipe in the theater burst. Adventure Stage Chicago was forced to close its sold-out production of La Ofrenda two weeks early.
After two and a half months of renovations costing about $200,000, the stage floor, lighting system, carpet and curtains have all been replaced.
At its Feb. 15 reopening, performers will do a staged reading of Carlos Murillo’s “I Come From Arizona.”
The play tells the fictional tale of Gaby Castillo, a 14-year-old South Sider who is about to begin high school at the prestigious Northside Prep.
The “I Come From Arizona” performance and reopening celebration takes place 2:30-4 p.m. Neighbors can tour the newly refurbished Adventure Stage Chicago offices and attend a ribbon cutting ceremony.
When it was built, the hall was predominately used by trade union groups as a gathering place to discuss issues of the day, said spokeswoman Sarah Frasco.
Then, throughout the first half of the 20th century, Walsh’s Hall was used as a polling place and a spot for political rallies and stump speeches. During the ’70s, the theater was used as a disco.
In 1990, Northwestern Settlement purchased Walsh’s Hall and renovated the entire building. It was renamed Evanston Hall.
In 1998, the Settlement opened the 299-seat Vittum Theater, named for women’s rights activist Harriet E. Vittum. In 1923, Vittum had written of her plan to turn Walsh’s Hall from “one of the worst and most dangerous dance halls in Chicago to one of the most beautiful and safest.”
Under the name Vittum Theater, Northwestern Settlement began programming in 2004.
In 2007, the program was rebranded to Adventure Stage Chicago.
The program is the only professional theater in the region that creates work exclusively for middle school-aged youth and the adults in their lives, Frasco said.
“Luckily, nothing historical was damaged during the flooding,” Frasco said. “In fact, the original proscenium and wood floors all remain intact.”
Vittum was born on Valentine’s Day in 1872; the 148th anniversary of her birth will be celebrated the day before the theater’s reopening.
During Northwestern Settlement’s early years, instructors taught Eastern European families English and elocution through drama, a program developed under Vittum.
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