Mercury Theater History


The beautifully renovated Mercury Theater Chicago is an intimate jewel box of a theater in the heart of the Southport Corridor, a sophisticated neighborhood of restaurants and boutiques steps from Wrigley Field. A delightful theater destination, Mercury Theater Chicago takes care of its guests from the moment they arrive with valet service, dining at its adjoining restaurant, Grassroots.

The building that houses the Mercury opened in 1912 as a silent film nickelodeon, named The Blaine Theatre after actor and former Senator and Secretary of State James G. Blaine. The Blaine became obsolete when talking pictures became popular nationwide in 1928. The much larger Music Box Theatre was then built, which is still in operation today. For most of the 20th century The Blaine served retail purposes; a carpet cleaning facility utilized the raked seating area to lay rugs out to drain water off. Though little of the original Blaine is left, some remnants still exist including the decorative plaster busts flanking the House. The intimate theater now boasts warm exposed brick walls and seats that were recovered and refurbished from a 1933 era Boston movie house.

In 1994, Michael Cullen organized the purchase and renovation of the building, renaming it the Mercury Theater after the Orson Welles theatre troupe of 'War of The Worlds' and 'Citizen Kane' fame. The Mercury officially opened in 1996 with the production of 'Pope Joan' and from 1996 to 2009 they showcased critically acclaimed productions, including 'The Irish and How they Got That Way', 'Over The Tavern', and 'His Way: a Frank Sinatra Tribute'.

Today Mercury Theater Chicago is led by Executive Director L. Walter Stearns, a veteran theater director and former Artistic Director of Porchlight Music Theatre. It re-opened May 1, 2011 with the critically acclaimed production of 'A Twist of Water', which along with the Route 66 Theatre Company, re-affirmed the Mercury as a home for Chicago stories and artists. The Mercury is thrilled to be part of the city's vibrant theatre community, boasting multiple extended runs of critically-acclaimed productions including 'Freud's Last Session' and 'Avenue Q' and establishing a new annual holiday tradition with the heartwarming holiday musical 'The Christmas Schooner’.