CHAMPIAGN, Ill. (WCIA) — Actors and performers at SoDo Theatre say its closure is contributing to the dwindling number of performing art spaces in the city.
SoDo Theatre, at the corner of Neil and Walnut, will be shutting down this month. The venue has been home to theater groups like Class Act, Zoo Improv, Twin City Theatre Company, Prompting Theatre, and more.
The building will instead be leased to a bar and axe throwing business called Savage Axe.
The sudden change is causing performing art groups to question how to move forward and where to move next. There were already a limited number of places for them to perform and rehearse. This also comes right on the heels of the Art Theater closing last year, which is just a few blocks away and was another beloved space in the theater community.
These groups are left trying to figure out their options. Diana Pritchard with Twin City Theatre Company says, “This place has been a home to perform.” The space has allowed them to free their creativity and practice their craft. Pritchard says the actors share their “artistic effort, creative effort, creative minds, physical work” and those working behind the scenes showcase “the props, the costumes, and building the set.”
Their efforts all come together on the SoDo stage. But it’s the end of an era as the theatre prepares to close, displacing several performing arts groups. John Tilford with Twin City Theatre Company says, “I had a college professor who said you can do theater anywhere. Well, you can but we need lights, we need sets, we need audience space, we need places to put them.”
When considering other affordable venues in town, many don’t fit what they need. “There’s no stage, although there’s space for a small platform. There’s no backstage, there’s no wings, there’s no dressing rooms or way for actors to get into the playing space without going through the audience,” says Pritchard.
The closure is difficult for many to process. Performing arts mean so much to people like James Wachtel with Zoo City Improv. He says, “It’s very real. It’s deeply human. It’s only happening right now for this audience and then it’s gone.”
The same emotions run through Pritchard’s mind when she thinks about the impact of Twin City Theatre Company. She says, “Theater can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can make you think, sometimes all in the same performance.”
So what happens now? The future of their performance space remains in question. But much like improv, Wachtel says they’ll wing it and figure it out one way or another. “This is going to work out. I don’t know what we’ll do next or how that will manifest itself. But we’ll continue moving forward saying yes to the world and it’ll be alright.”
The theater groups have to be moved out by March 15th. WCIA contacted the building owner for more details about the closure and the new business but has not received a response.
Theater students of class act will have their final performances this weekend. The show is called “Polkadots: The Cool Kids Musical” It’ll be this Saturday and Sunday at 2:30 and 5:00 pm. Admission is $5.00 and the box office opens 20 minutes before each show.