After 12 seasons as one of the premier professional cultural entertainment venues in Lake County, Lake Forest’s Citadel Theatre is announcing it is making the leap to ‘Equity’ status. A major financial commitment for the non-profit enterprise, ‘going equity’ will mean the ability to attract actors and staff that are members of the Chicago area Actors Equity Association.
For Citadel patrons the transition will be relatively seamless, as Citadel has always been able to attract talented actors from outside the pool of union talent, but for the theatre this could represent a gigantic step forward in terms of artistic recognition and public exposure. As an Equity theatre, Citadel will qualify for nomination to the prestigious Joseph Jefferson Awards (Chicago’s answer to the Tony Awards®). Members of the ‘Jeff’ Committee will need to visit Citadel to judge the plays and Citadel is likely to gain additional coverage from theatre critics like the Tribune’s Chris Jones or Sun-Times’ Hedy Weiss who, in 12 years, have never been up to Lake Forest to cover the theatre - but who routinely visit Equity playhouses nearby.
‘Going Equity’ comes with a rather hefty price tag for Citadel, as union scale wages and benefits are far greater than the going rate for the talented non-union actors Citadel is accustomed to hiring. For Citadel though, the move is enabled by careful long-term planning and the success of recent fundraising events which have helped Citadel achieve the financial wherewithal to make Equity commitments. Citadel’s top brass are certain the move will not only enhance the theatre’s standing but enable it to grow artistically as well.
Artistic Director and Citadel co-founder Scott Phelps said: “We have always wanted Citadel to be an Equity theatre, to pay our actors, directors, and designers something closer to what they deserve for the hard work they put in, but it has been a matter of timing it to the reality of our financial situation. We would have been Equity out-of-the box if we could have, but now that we have a larger following, greater fiscal support, and the approval of the board to make this change, we are thrilled to be officially joining the top tier of regional professional theatres.”