The Annoyance Theatre settles into its new home

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The new space includes a bar/lounge area.
  • Lyn Pusztai
  • The new space includes a bar/lounge area.
After nearly nine months in limbo the Annoyance Theatre finally opens the doors to its new home this weekend with the premiere of a new show and an open house. Their Uptown location (4830 N. Broadway) closed in August, and the search for a new space brought founder Mick Napier and executive producer Jennifer Estlin to a much larger building at 851 W. Belmont—3,000 square feet larger to be exact.

For Estlin it's the ideal location. "If someone had said, 'Where would you dream of the theater being?', I would say, 'Right here,'" she said.

Napier founded the theater in 1987, and it has since staged original comedic works of absurdity like Co-Ed Prison Sluts, The Real Live Brady Bunch, and President Bush is a Great Man. The theater served as a place for comedians such as Amy Sedaris, Jeff Garlin, Jane Lynch, and Stephen Colbert to cut their teeth. Over the years the physical location hopped around various spaces on Chicago's north side, settling into its previous location in 2006.

The Annoyance's five-year Uptown lease ended in August, and between the neighborhood's dissolved "theater district" and a need for classrooms in the same space as the theater, the decision to move was a no-brainer. Because of space restrictions at the old theater, classes were held in a separate building a few doors down, and instead of sticking around, students would just go home after class. Estlin hopes that the new space fosters a greater sense of community between the students and the theater; there's even an added stage available for student performances.

The move was possible due in part to a Kickstarter campaign that raised almost $16,000 more than its $50,000 goal. "I was blown away," Estlin said. "That first day it was people from 27 years ago jumping in and donating, it was really incredible." Those who donated $500 or more will be recognized with their own brick in a long hallway in the new space.

The bar looks out onto Belmont and Clark.
  • Lyn Pusztai
  • The bar looks out onto Belmont and Clark.

Along with two theaters—one main stage, and one stage for improv and student performances—the new space will house five classrooms, a kitchen, and a bar/lounge area. Fourteen shows, nine of which are new, will be brought to the new space, starting with the premiere of Napier's new sketch show, Invisible World, on Saturday at 8 PM.

The Annoyance is inviting the public to stop by on Sunday from 3 PM-2 AM to celebrate the move and take in the new space.

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