May 5, 2022 - Things to Do

Lincoln Park's iO is coming back

Photo of a bar with strings of lights hanging from ceiling.

The lobby of iO Theater in Lincoln Park. Photo courtesy of iO

The local improv community finally got some good news this week after a tough couple years — iO Theater is back.

Why it matters: Thousands of performers have come through the theater to take classes, hone their skills and launch comedic careers.

  • Mike Myers, Amy Poehler and Seth Meyers all performed at iO — formerly ImprovOlympic — in their early years.

Driving the news: A real estate firm bought the iO building in Lincoln Park last year.

  • After recognizing its history, the firm committed to reopening the club under new management, which includes a mix of improv vets and newcomers.

What they're saying: "iO is a Chicago institution and a vital part of the improv community," co-artistic director Katie Caussin tells Axios.

Backstory: Former owner Charna Halpern shut down the theater in 2020 in the wake of COVID closures.

Yes, but: In 2020, both iO and The Second City faced a racial reckoning for alleged discriminatory practices in hiring and creating unsafe spaces for people of color.

  • The organizations vowed to change, but ultimately both owners instead walked away.

The fix: "There is no one-and-done measure or policy that can be enacted to 'fix' issues of equity," iO's new co-artistic director Adonis Holmes tells Axios.

  • "The diversity work at iO will require fluidity; an ever-changing, collaborative apparatus that acknowledges iO's problematic past to forge an immediate future where performers and audiences feel valued and seen."

What's next: iO is expected to reopen sometime this summer.

  • "We will continue to honor the tradition of long-form improvisation that iO is known for, but we hope to develop and bring in new and exciting shows to fill our space," Caussin says.
  • Holmes adds it's the "same place, just more gay."

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