The path to Uptown

Every Chicago theatre company seems to have a neighborhood bar. In TimeLine’s early days, that bar was the Green Mill in Uptown. 

A young Nick Bowling during his competitive ballroom dancing days.

When I was much younger, I was a competitive ballroom dancer.  So as TimeLine was beginning, I had to introduce the other five founders to Big Band Night. We’d go almost every Thursday.  

Fresh out of The Theatre School at DePaul University, we fell in love with that former speakeasy, which exudes so much of the kind of history we were beginning to explore as a company. It brought us together as more than fellow Company Members; it helped form lifelong friends and collaborators.   

And as we were beginning to dream about TimeLine’s future, Uptown was a neighborhood we could see ourselves in … one day. 

Dancing at the Green Mill.

Imagine the delight when more than 25 years later—after nearly 80 productions, more than a decade of the Living History Education Program, and an extensive search for where to establish the first home of our own—a thrilling opportunity arose. 

We discovered that a property was available at 5035 North Broadway, just two blocks north of the beloved Green Mill. 

The space was an unoccupied warehouse with an empty lot to the south. A 100-year-old storage building, in a welcoming and diverse neighborhood with great restaurants and shops, a soon-to-be transformed CTA station and parking (!) nearby. 

We saw a community excited to embrace an arts organization looking to plant deep roots, and with the help of our architects at HGA, we began to further explore the neighborhood in even greater detail, forming a Community Engagement Team to deepen relationships. 

As we approached the design, we envisioned how we could contribute to the community—as the descendants of the great theatres and entertainment venues from the 1920s that we’d soon join in that neighborhood. 

Those grande dames—the Uptown, the Riv and the Aragon. 

The historic Uptown Theatre, Riviera Theatre, and Aragon Ballroom in Chicago.

And, of course, the Green Mill. 

TimeLine is their offspring, their grandchildren. We stand on their shoulders, in a different era and a very different world. A world that longs for more than entertainment, but also enlightenment and a place of engagement and empowerment. 

Our 21st century home will be a true center for community engagement, open throughout the day and night, welcoming neighbors, students, artists, and audience members to arrive early, stay late, and connect together. Whether it’s for a cup of coffee or a cocktail, an education program, a community event, or a play, we’re creating a gathering place for that neighborhood. And for all of Chicago. 

A place to explore history through our public exhibit galleries and to experience great art in our intimate, flexible, and fully accessible performance space. 

We’re striving to take everything you’ve come to love about TimeLine and elevate it … on stage and off.  With much nicer bathrooms. And a bar. Maybe our new theatre company bar! That’s a nice thought.  

And all of it still—at its heart—quintessential TimeLine. 

TimeLine’s Founding Company Members, circa 1997 (from left): Juliet Hart, Nick Bowling, Kevin Hagan, Pat (Tiedemann) Hofmann, Brock Goldberg and PJ Powers.

Before you know it, this dream of 6 kids from DePaul, who used to dance to jazz music down the street at the Green Mill will become a reality.  

We can’t wait to welcome you, and our ever-expanding community, into our new home, adding to Uptown’s legacy and further enriching an already rich community.  

And, together, we’ll build a place where more history will be made.

Nick Bowling was TimeLine’s founding Artistic Director and is now a Company Member and Associate Artistic Director. He still loves to dance.

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Comments (3)

  1. Lynne Copp

    It all sounds and looks wonderful! Can’t wait for the beginning of a new and exciting experience!

  2. Andy Pierce

    For a full view of the Aragon Ballroom photo, please see the following link. I shot that view at night on slide film in March 2004, while Bob Dylan was playing at the Aragon.