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Founded in 1982 by five Northwestern University graduates - Meryl Friedman, Suzanne Plunkett, Kathee Sills, Sandy Snyder and Steve Totland - Lifeline moved into its permanent home in Rogers Park, a converted Commonwealth Edison substation, in 1985. The facility includes a 99-seat theater, rehearsal and office space, a scene shop, and costume, prop, and scenery storage.
Lifeline has received numerous awards and nominations for both adult and children's programming:
Lifeline Theatre has received 51 Joseph Jefferson Awards (Non-Equity and Equity) and dozens more Jeff nominations over the years, along with more than 20 After Dark Awards. In 2007, Lifeline was honored by the Joseph Jefferson Awards Committee with a Special Citation for its 25-year contribution to Chicago theater.
Honoring Lifeline’s children's programming, New City named Lifeline the Best Children's Theatre Company in Chicago in 2000, and Chicago Magazine named Lifeline Best Kids' Company in 2002. In 1991 Lifeline received an award from the Illinois Theatre Alliance for Outstanding Contribution to Children's Theatre, and in 2006 the City of Chicago presented Lifeline Theatre and Joyce Kilmer School with a special award honoring 15 years of educational partnership.
Ensemble member Meryl Friedman won the 1999 Distinguished Play Award in the Elementary Category from the American Alliance of Theatre and Education for her adaptation of Journey of the Sparrows, produced at Lifeline in 1996. The American Alliance for Theater and Education awarded Lifeline the 2003 Sara Spencer Artistic Achievement Award for sustained and successful achievement in the field of theater for young audiences.
Visit our Production History page for detailed listings of awards and recipients.
World Premiere Adaptations
Lifeline Theatre's history of extraordinary world premiere adaptations includes MainStage productions of Pride and Prejudice, The Overcoat, The Left Hand of Darkness, The Talisman Ring, Jane Eyre, Cat's Cradle, Around the World in 80 Days, The Killer Angels, A Room with a View, The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Mark of Zorro, Mariette in Ecstasy, Neverwhere, The Moonstone, Watership Down, and The Count of Monte Cristo.
Lifeline also produced world premiere adaptations of J. R. R. Tolkein's The Lord of the Rings trilogy (The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return of the Ring) and four installments of the Dorothy L. Sayers Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries (Whose Body?, Strong Poison, Gaudy Night, and Busman's Honeymoon).
Family MainStage productions have included A Wrinkle in Time, Lizard Music, The Snarkout Boys and the Avacado of Death, The Phantom Tollbooth, Journey of the Sparrows, The Silver Chair, Johnny Tremain, and Treasure Island.
In 1986 Lifeline inaugurated its KidSeries program. Productions have included Mr. Popper's Penguins, Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel, Bunnicula, James and the Giant Peach, The Story of Ferdinand, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, My Father's Dragon, Click Clack Moo: Cows That Type, The Stinky Cheese Man, Duck for President, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, The Velveteen Rabbit, The Last of the Dragons, and Arnie the Doughnut.
Plays commissioned by Lifeline Theatre have gone on to publication (nearly a dozen), and to over two hundred future productions, in over forty U.S. states, six Canadian provinces, as well as in England, Ireland, Australia, and Guatemala.
Click here for a complete list of past productions.
Service to the Community
Lifeline serves over 17,000 people each season running from September through August with a 3-play MainStage Season and a 3-play KidSeries season. Additionally, Lifeline hosts the Fillet of Solo Festival, Chicago's premier solo performance and storytelling festival, which attracts national talent.
Lifeline's Student Matinee program serves over 4,000 students each year through special weekday performances, post-show talk-backs and optional add-on workshops, and extensive study guides.
Lifeline's Artists-in-Residence program pairs up professional actor-teaching artists with classroom teachers in Chicago-area schools to teach drama to children in grades K-8 and provide professional development to teachers. Lifeline's residency programs not only teach acting basics, but help students in all areas of learning and social development. In 2015-16, Lifeline worked with over 900 students in 34 classrooms and seven schools.
Lifeline’s Theatre School classes and workshops bring professional artists together with children ages 4-11 to teach them skills that make the arts fulfilling and fun. Over 300 children participate annually in Lifeline's on-site programs such as Drama Camps, Stories Come Alive, and specialty workshops.
Lifeline's Arts For All and Community Days initiatives are aimed at providing financially accessible cultural experiences for everyone, particularly residents of Rogers Park, a low-income, culturally diverse neighborhood. 3,500 people take advantage of this program annually.
Since 2002, Lifeline has collaborated with a host of Rogers Park artists, businesses and community organizations to produce the annual Glenwood Avenue Arts Fest, two and a half days of art, music and family activities. Approximately 15,000 people attend this free event.
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