ABOUT THE LILLIAN MARCIE CENTER
We seek to create a space that nurtures highly original, thought-provoking, and entertaining programming with the goal of becoming the premier destination for theatre lovers globally.
LILLIAN MARCIE LEGACY CO OVERVIEW
Our mission is to restore and secure the artistic legacy of Bronzville. The Lillian Marcie Center is the physical manifestation of African American cultural aesthetic and by aesthetic we mean the collective artistic soul trust of the Black experience in the Americas. The Lillian Marcie Center is a functioning time machine that preserves the sanctity of both the past and present to propel the legacy of Black excellence into the future.
The Lillian Marcie will maintain a high caliber of production value and artistic integrity through the management of the facility itself, the hiring of an artistic director, a technical director, stage management, development director, etc. for the venues there, cutting edge technology, and relationships with cultural institutions throughout the nation.
The Lillian Marcie seeks to become the capitol of Black American performance culture. By maintaining the highest standards of artistic expression and creating and recreating cultural events in a predictable and consistent fashion, we can become the South Side version of the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, or Carnegie Hall, and provide a currently unavailable but richly deserved resource that celebrates the glorious past and promising future of the only culture which has provided a uniquely North American art form since the indigenous populations.
Modeled after the renowned Polonsky Shakespeare Center in New York, The Lillian Marcie Theatre will feature two uniquely built, beautiful performance spaces. The space will also have a rooftop area designated for a potential restaurant concept in addition to separate bar/lounge areas on the first and second floor.
Built at the turn of the twentieth century, the property is located in the heart of the historic Bronzeville neighborhood and encompasses over 11,590 SF in a 15,000 SF lot. The property features a magnificent three-story brick structure with massive steel beams clear spanning the width of the building, while supporting a mezzanine level with no vertical posts.
Lillian Marcie Legacy Company aims to transform the property into a modern 350-seat multi-level performance theatre with a solo performing stage, in addition to a 100-seat boutique theatre. The theatres will incorporate exceptional acoustics, fantastic sight lines, configurable stages, and modern lighting to provide a world-class theatre experience never before seen in the neighborhood. The building will also host a refreshment area with plenty of lounge seating and a roof-deck area with indoor and outdoor gathering spaces.
Upon completion, the property will mark a new chapter in Bronzeville’s rich cultural traditions, featuring a contemporary theatre and hospitality venue set to rival the likes of London’s West End or New York’s Broadway. Representing the pinnacle of style and substance, this project will greatly add to the growing prospects of the Bronzeville neighborhood while giving locals and tourists an exciting opportunity to enjoy some of the finest plays, musicals, and performances Chicago has to offer. In order to jumpstart operations, The Lillian Marcie Center requires an additional $5.5 million to be allocated toward buildout.
MEET THE TEAM
Lillian Marcie Legacy Company is spearheaded by Board members Harry Lennix, Keith Giles, and Mike Wordlaw. TaRon Patton will serve as the leadership for the Lillian Marcie Center as the Executive Director upon completion. The team is the culmination of decades of experience in the real estate and entertainment sector, including significant work on the rehabilitation, remodeling, and development of historic properties in the Chicagoland area. As firm believers in Bronzeville’s untapped potential, the team offers a unique creative vision and the right set of skills to lead this project towards long-term success.
Harry Lennix is a celebrated film, television, and stage actor, currently starring in NBC’s hit series The Black List. A strong advocate of the arts, Harry is also the co-founder of Legacy Productions and a staff of Chicago’s long-running Goodman Theatre Co. He is deeply connected to the theatre community and is keenly aware of the challenges theatre groups face in today’s ever-changing landscape. He will be in charge of running the theatre’s first year of operations and will be involved in curating and organizing Lillian Marcie Theatre’s programming.
Keith Giles is an award-winning real estate developer that has been active in the city of Chicago since 1987 through his firm Frankel & Giles. Keith is the man responsible for turning Chicago’s South Loop into the vibrant community it is now known for, through his firm’s development of various residential communities in the area. He is also the recipient of Chicago City’s Landmark Award for Preservation Excellence for his redevelopment work of 888 South Michigan.
Michael Wordlaw is the founder of Legacy Finish Work and has worked on various commercial and residential projects in Chicago for over 25 years. Specializing in design and finishes, he has successfully rehabilitated and remodeled over 50 churches throughout the Chicago metropolitan region. One of his major achievements include his work on the $7 million Greater Open-Door Church in the Lawndale community of Chicago, Illinois. A longtime investor and resident of the Bronzeville community for over ten years, he continues to be actively involved in community development work in the district.
TaRon Patton is the Co-Founder of The African American Museum of the Performing Arts. AAMPA, an Illinois non for profit. She served as the executive director of Congo Square Theatre (CST) for four years where she raised on 750k and increased the subscription base by 70%. TaRon has performed at many professional venues including Goodman Theatre and Steppenwolf Theatre. TaRon is also the CEO of the production company GLP PRODUCTIONS, INC.
During the 1960s in Harlem the Black Arts Movement was started by Amiri Baraka. It would last a mere 10 years, but the movement set into motion the most important black cultural endeavor since the Harlem Renaissance. Like that shining moment of creative expression, the Black Arts Movement would define Black America on its own terms. It would prove to be the aesthetic equivalent of Black Nationalism and put its proponents in a position to control the narrative of our own identities, traditions, and aspirations. It would also prove to be economically viable, ultimately resulting in Hollywood’s Blaxploitation films that saved the American film industry in the 70s. For a time, Chicago would become the epicenter of the Movement, but it also took root in Detroit, Cleveland, Baltimore, Memphis, Houston, and other cities across the country. In 1968 in Chicago, Val Gray Ward founded Kuumba Theater. A year later, Abena Joan Brown and Okoro Harold Johnson initiated ETA (Ebony Talent Agency) which would become a vibrant theater company and arts organization. In the 1980s, an offshoot of XBAG (Experimental Black Actors Group) called the Chicago Theater Company also rose to prominence on the South Side of Chicago. This company, too, was spearheaded by Okoro Harold Johnson, and provided many talented actors an opportunity to flex their artistic muscles in an otherwise limited environment for the great wealth of talented black artists. On the North Side, Jackie Taylor—an accomplished and successful actor/writer/director/ educator and producer, founded the Black Ensemble Theatre. After 40 years, BET remains a thriving institution. Further north still, Gloria Bond Clunie founded the Fleetwood Jourdain Theater in Evanston, Illinois in 1979.
What became clear is that when led by strong personalities with great willpower and endurance, these organizations attracted great support from audiences, institutions, and governmental organizations on the federal, state, and municipal levels. But in the cases where the singular personalities who led these movements retired or transitioned, the organizations faltered significantly or ceased to be altogether. Indeed, there is no consistently producing cultural facility for the performing arts on the South Side of Chicago that speaks to the societal needs of the black community. It seems to us that we have an opportunity to provide a sanctuary for gifted artists dedicated to preserving and advancing our legacy by creating a space that is efficiently realized and programmed for the celebration of the Black Experience, as represented through the living arts. Hence, the Lillian Marcie Center for the Performing Arts.
Whereas in the past individuals or entities with a narrow focus, or at best parochial agendas (such as self-contained theater companies, dance troupes, etc.) struggled to present consistent and viable programming, our method will be to provide venues to multiple companies across a wide range of disciplines. These disciplines will include theater, film, dance, oratory, jazz and classical music, opera, and performance art. The benefit is that we will be able to populate the venue with almost constant activity. To help ensure our viability, we will work in collaboration with the African American Museum of the Performing Arts.