2:46 PM EST, February 11, 2013
Seven years after launching the profitable and long-running “Bye Bye Liver: The Chicago Drinking Play,” Pub Theater has acquired its own theater space just a few blocks north of Wrigley Field at 3914 N. Clark St.
The longtime home of Live Bait Theater, and more recently The Artistic Home and Teatro Luna, the space is being rebranded The Public House Theater and is expected to open March 1, assuming the liquor license is approved in time.
“Bye Bye Liver,” a sketch comedy show about bars and boozing (with frequent breaks between scenes for audience drinking games) will remain the backbone of the company’s output. (The show has also expanded to other cities, where it currently has open runs in Boston, Philadelphia, Milwaukee, St. Louis, Minneapolis and Nashville.)
The company’s president Byron Hatfield says the new Clark Street location has been revamped; the traditional theater seats have been ripped out to transform the space into a 125-seat cabaret setting that will allow a wait staff to serve drinks throughout each performance (as is the case for the current production at Fizz Bar & Grill in Lakeview).
A populist-minded endeavor, “Bye Bye Liver” has transformed the company into something unusual in the world of both comedy and storefront theater: a sustainable, moneymaking commercial venture. The actors get paid, and the new space will have a staff of 20. With its own venue now on the landscape (combined with a focus on producing new works), The Public House will up its profile considerably.
A smaller, second theater space in the building will be used for more experimental ventures, including a play tentatively titled “Video Store Hamlet,” which will open in April. “We’re not going to be doing improv," Hatfield said. "Our thing is really well-polished, scripted and rehearsed shows.” Other shows that have been developed or produced by company include "The Nerdologues" and "(Long Pause)."
The move signals a big step for the company, which now joins the ranks of Chicago comedy houses including Second City, ComedySportz, iO Theater and The Annoyance. “We are leasing with an option to buy,” says Hatfield. “It’s a really terrifying prospect to take on this much responsibility.”
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