Piccolo Theatre, Inc.
The multiple-award winning Custer's Last Stand Festival of the Arts has been celebrated every year since 1972. This event, also known as Custer's Last Stand or the Custer Fair was first established by a group of local artisans and retailers. In 1985 the organization became the Evanston Festival Theatre, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation. Recently, the Evanston Festival Theatre, Inc was renamed the Piccolo Theatre, Inc.
Ten years ago it acquired, through a long-term lease with The Union Pacific Railroad, the Main Street Metra train depot in Evanston. The depot was built in 1909 and was virtually abandoned after a fire badly damaged it in the mid-1950's.
On the brink of demolition in 1999, Piccolo Theatre, Inc. spearheaded a campaign to restore the magnificent structure to its original architectural eloquence, in cooperation with the local community, Metra, The Union Pacific Railroad, the City of Evanston, the Evanston Community Foundation, and federal and state governments.
The ecological transportation-oriented development project was a large-scale restoration, completed at a cost of $4.5 million.
In order to enhance its new function as a cultural center, a 50-seat theater, studio/classroom space, and set construction area replaced the old baggage room, coal room and fire-damaged upper room. Piccolo Theatre, Inc. established the Piccolo Theatre in 1999 with an eye toward the completion of its new home in the depot.
The restoration was completed in 2004. The Piccolo Theatre, the Custer Fair and Piccolatté Café are now headquartered in the depot. The Custer Fair has grown ten-fold and now attracts approximately 70,000 people each year and features approximately 360 arts and craft exhibitors, 30 restaurants and three stages for musical and theatrical performances.
Piccolo Theatre is a professional ensemble company committed to presenting contemporary and classic comedic works including plays by such authors as Molière, Goldoni, Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard, and Dario Fo, as well as developing original plays, adaptations and devised theatre.
Their goal is to bring to these works the energy of physical theatre, connecting the text to the physical vitality of live theatre. Piccolo Theatre also aims to preserve traditional popular theatre forms and techniques, such as commedia dell'Arte, vaudeville, music hall and the circus through research, education and presentation.
The ensemble is comprised of members and artistic associates. In addition to their season performances in the theatre, they perform their outdoor theatre Festival, The Prof. Theophilis Leaming Medicine Show every year during the Custer Fair. In 2003 the international theatre community honored Piccolo Theatre when they invited it to participate in Playing French, the first ever International Contemporary French Theater Festival in Chicago.
The Piccolo Theatre Conservatory is also a training center for the professional actor that offers a number of courses including
- LeCoq inspired training,
- deep tissue massage bodywork,
- courses in commedia dell'Arte,
- stage movement,
- an actor's boot camp with a focus on endurance, and
- T'ai Chi Chuan.
The school is planning to expand to include youth oriented and adult classes in physical theatre training, masks, puppetry and mime.
Centered in the middle of the historic south Evanston Business district, the Piccolo Theatre has taken a leadership position by virtue of its promotion of the neighborhood's commercial and cultural development.
It is a great place to live, shop and experience art and theatre.