iO Theater

Chicago's iO Theater to Close Permanently, Owner Says

The Chicago improv theater that counts Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert among its alumni initially closed four months ago amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Chicago's iO Theater will close permanently after being shuttered for several months during the coronavirus pandemic, the theater's owner said.

"I am sad to announce that the pandemic has brought iO to financial ruin," Charna Halpern said in an email to NBC Chicago. "I had hoped to wait out the pandemic, but no one knows how long it will take before [the] theater can get back to normal."

The improv theater that counts Amy Poehler and Stephen Colbert among its alumni closed four months ago, and Halpern said the theater isn't able to pay past-due county property taxes "since there is still no light at the end of the tunnel for us."

The theater has been the subject of multiple allegations of racism and homophobia, and a recent Change.org petition demanded acknowledgement by Halpern of "institutional racism perpetuated" at the theater, as well as specific actions to begin to remedy it.

In response, Halpern wrote a public apology earlier this month to BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ members of the iO community and disclosed the theater's "fragile" financial state. She told the Chicago Tribune on Thursday that iO's decision to close did not stem from recent allegations.

In her statement to NBC Chicago, Halpern said the theater's closure comes down to money.

"But the County wants their money and doesn’t seem to care about an iconic business that made Chicago Mecca for improvisation," she said. "The City mantra seemed to be “WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER” but the County mantra seems to be ‘YOURE IN THIS ALONE.' I love the Community I built-there will never be a place as special as iO."

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