CHICAGO–The owners of the newly restored historic Thalia Hall in Pilsen hope that it will become one of Chicago’s hottest performance venues while putting the neighborhood on the live scene map.
Located on the intersection of 18th Street and Allport, the long abandoned performance space built in 1892 by Czech architect John Dusek is quickly being restored by the new owners (Craig Golden and Bruce Finkelman from The Empty Bottle) and it will “reopen in 2014 and again serve its community, hosting music, festivals, films and performance.”
Speaking to a small crowd inside the theatre during the Chicago Architectural Foundation’s Open House event, Will Duncan, one of the project organizers/ manager of the John Dusek tavern located right below the hall,and former Longman and Eagle commander said, “everyone is behind the project and we’re moving quickly to restore the venue to its original working state.”
The venue is part of the Thalia Hall complex, named for the Greek Muse of comedy, is part of a work/performing living space designed by John Dusek in 1892. The architecture of the building mimics some of the most famous buildings in the Czech Republic and the theatre itself is a smaller replica of the Plzen Theatre, from the city which the neighborhood was named after by Czech immigrants in the 19th century.
After several changes in ownership, the building fell into a state of disrepair in the 1960s, and was turned into residential units, leaving the theatre largely abandoned until 2013 when it was bought out by Golden and Finkelman.
The venue will provide a much-needed film and musical performance space in a community that until now has mostly consisted of Mexican bars and nightclubs.
Ramon Gutierrez, 34, a long time Pilsen resident and artist said that “(he’s) glad to see that the neighborhood is becoming more diverse,” Gutierrez said. “We have plenty of art galleries but a big performance space like this could be a game changer.”
One of the most recent events that was held at Talia Hall was the alternative film festival “Dinca Vision Quest” in August 2012. Although the event will take place in some another venue this year due to construction, the newly restored Thalia Hall should provide a new home for such events starting in 2014.
Back when the festival was presented last year, Andrew Rosinski the organizer of the event expressed “the excitement that a venue would give the opportunity to such an alternative art, something that most of Chicago is lacking.”
It is amazing what a new attitude and management can do. Back when Dinca Vision Quest was presented, the performance space was still in a great state of disrepair, with the paint from the walls rotting away and the neo-classic gold fixtures of the wall hanging by a thread.
Now, as Duncan speaks to the crowd, one can see a noticeable difference, especially with the new hardwood floors, the restored fixtures, and the cleaned up balcony section which almost brings the venue back to life.
The restored venue will be able to hold up to 4,000 people and is expected to start holding events in the summer of 2014 in hopes that the venue will revive the live performance scene in Pilsen.
“There is still a lot to do,” Duncan pointed out while speaking in front of a video being projected onto the wall that showed some of the progress made so far, “but we are well on our way.”