Friends of Chicago's Neighborhood Theatres

A City of Stories™

The Purpose:

Friends of Chicago's Neighborhood Theatres is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to grassroots marketing and advertising for the Chicago theater community. Our goals are: 1) To educate the public about the depth and breadth of live theater options in the Chicago area and to build audiences across the entire spectrum of productions. 2) To raise the profile of the Chicago theater community, to strengthen its role in the cultural life of the city, and to enhance its prominence on the national theatre scene. 3) To celebrate the work of Chicago artists and theaters.

The Message:

Hundreds of Theaters
Thousands of Artists
Millions of Audience Members
We Make Chicago

The 3-Step Plan:

Create the Story
We will produce at least 5 web videos each year. Each video will tell a story. The stories will be as diverse as we are-- some funny, some poignant, some dramatic. But each story will be written by a Chicago-rooted playwright, each story will feature Chicago-area actors, and each story will be set and filmed in Chicago. We will end each story with a message encouraging audiences to explore the riches of the Chicago theater scene.
Share the Story
Every 2-3 months, we will post a new web video to our YouTube and Vimeo channels. We ask Chicago artists, theaters, and audiences to spread our message by sharing these videos on their social networks. If each member of our community commits to sharing at least twice per year, the message will reach hundreds of thousands.
Add to the Story
As the story grows, so do we. All donations to our non-profit go toward the production of more web videos and more advertising. With these donations, we plan to fund the production and release of one video every 10 weeks, year-round. Longer term, we hope to raise enough money to launch a mainstream advertising campaign, with targeted media buys on-line and in television, radio, and print.


Chicago is, famously, a city of neighborhoods. Some neighborhoods have big theaters. Some neighborhoods have small theaters. But big or small, you'll find great theater all around the city. South side, north side, west side, loop, or suburbs-- if you're in the Chicago area and if you're watching live theater, then you're in a neighborhood theater of Chicago.
No. Our mission is to market and advertise Chicago theater as a whole, to build attendance and support all over the city. Our campaigns will not mention specific theaters.
No. We are FRIENDS of Chicago's Neighborhood Theatres. Some of us are artists who want to celebrate the talents of our community. Some of us are audience members who want to share our enthusiasm for the Chicago theatre scene. Some of us are business owners or civic leaders who recognize the economic benefits of a vibrant arts community. We are organized but not formalized. There are no membership fees, no hierarchies, and no meetings. Everyone is welcome to participate. Anyone can contribute to the message.

Board of Directors

Our board of directors combine a love of theater with decades of experience in marketing and advertising.

Penny Penniston has written television, radio, and print ads for national brands such as Purina, Hoover, Hardee’s, Red Lobster, Clearasil, and Metamucil. In 2002, Penny's PSA spots for the League of Chicago Theatres (starring George Wendt & Meshach Taylor) won a Summit Creative Award. In addition to her extensive advertising background, Penny is a published author and award-winning Chicago playwright.

Sabine Cummins is with Channel Factory, an innovative video, content and influencer platform, driving strategic thinking for top brands and agencies. In addition to her background in digital media and on-line marketing, Sabine is a long time fan of Chicago theater.

Laura Jones Macknin has been a project manager for upwards of 18 years, advising corporations and NPOs about marketing strategy. She does work for James Consulting Partners, Hemispheres and NRG research. She is also a Chicago actress. She has performed with Bailiwick Repertory, City Lit, Court Theatre, The European Repertory Company, The Goodman, Griffin, Idle Muse, New American Theatre, Next Theatre, Oak Park Festival, Red Theatre, Shakespeare-on-the-Green, Stage Left, Theatre Y, and Victory Gardens. She is the Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Motley Crew.

Follow the Story

Connect with us to get alerts about new video releases, to get updates on our community initiatives, and to contribute your voice to the story.