Chicago’s First Unified Access Auditions for Deaf and/or Disabled Performers

“Best Of” lists in 2017: – Chicago Tribune, Chicago Inclusion Project, Theatre by the Numbers

2016 Best New Theater Company- Chicago Reader (runner up)

Top Five Shows of 2015 & 2017 – Theatre by the Numbers

Top Emerging Theater – Newcity Stage 2015


Mission Statement:

headshot of redheaded woman by bricks Marisa Lerman

Marisa Lerman, Executive Director

Red Theater asks dangerous questions theatrically.

Our commitment to accessibility through every stage of the creative process lowers the barriers of access, allowing all audiences to see new and reimagined works that broaden perspectives and inspire dialogue.

Notable Chicago premieres include the Chicago Premiere of Taste by Benjamin Brand (Jeff Award for Best Actor), and the World Premiere of the deaf/hearing bilingual play R+J: The Vineyard; which was named a Top 10 show in 2015 by The Chicago Reader. Red Theater also produced the Chicago Premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s Schweyk in the Second World War and the Chicago Premiere of Red Hamlet by Aaron Sawyer.

The Chicago Tribune heralded The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity as a Top Ten production of 2017 and featured R+J: The Vineyard as a model production in their “Resolution for Theater in 2016”. Theatre by the Numbers has awarded Red productions as “Top Five” in 2015 and 2017. Our work has been featured in publications such as American Theater Magazine, the Chicago Reader, and Gallaudet University’s First Folio exhibition.

Our #FreeTheater mission

Red Theater offers targeted #FreeTheater Tickets to lower barriers for nontraditional audiences, including those facing economic barriers and first-time theatergoers. We also offer unlimited #FreeTheater Tickets as part of our #AccessInitiative on Caption Nights and Touch Tour performances. Find out more here.

young woman smiling wearing a blue shirt

Cara Beth Heath, Resident Dramaturg



Our creation story

We began in 2008 with the banishment from the University of Nebraska for performing controversial works. Our commitment to a defiant energy and diverse voices has resulted in five collectives: Lincoln, Omaha, Chicago, Tucson, and Purchase, NY.


Click here to view the full length documentary

woman smiling wearing pearls

Cheryl Farney. Director of Accessibility. Photo: Tipping Point Photography.

photo by Joe Mazza-Brave Lux

photo by Joe Mazza-Brave Lux

Why offer #FreeTheater?

Chicago has a lot of great theater, but many people are not able to see it.

We are able to provide #FreeTheater by enlisting the generosity of corporations, foundations, and donors like you!

Red Theater’s #FreeTheater and #AccessInitiatives are supported by our Comrade Patron Program. Comrade Card contributions of $10 or more each month or more enable free admission to our captioned and touch tour performances. Comrades also support new works devoted to the stories of nontraditional audiences: including d/Deaf, disabled, low-vision, economically disadvantaged, and first-time theatergoers.

Support our mission.

Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions by emailing chicago@redtheater.org


Collective History:

Red Theater Lincoln [RTL] was founded in Lincoln, Nebraska after a bar fight in the summer of 2008 (okay, a heated semantic discussion) between Theron Seckington and Aaron Sawyer about the aesthetic virtues of theatre over film (and vice-versa). The Collective’s first performance was in December 2008 at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Red Theater Omaha [RTO] was built by founders Gage Wallace and Aaron Sawyer on the enthusiasm of the RTO Artistic Director, Jeremy Short, and the experience of Lincoln founding member, Sara Tangdall. RTO’s first performance was in August, 2010. The company closed in 2017.

Red Theater Chicago [RTC] was built by founders Kim Chelf and Aaron Sawyer in the summer of 2012. RTC’s first season consisted of the Chicago premiere of Bertolt Brecht’s Schweyk in the Second World War and of Aaron Sawyer’s co-written script Red Hamlet.

Red Theater Purchase [RTP] was created by Omaha member Colin Ferguson and Kaitlyn Bestenheider in September of 2013.

Red Theater Tucson [RTT] was created by Marissa Boyle and Jackie Mendenhall in November of 2015. It closed in 2016.

02 Red Theater No Capacity Sign

From the original 2008 performance- posted with great urgency


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