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City Lit Theater Company Records

Identifier: spe-t00059

Scope and Contents

The City Lit Theater Company Records include scripts, programs, reviews, photographs, slides, administrative records, marketing materials, box office reports, correspondence, touring and outreach papers, Board of Directors notes and set drawings. Video recordings for some performances are also described below for researchers benefit, but have been removed to the Chicago Theater Videotape Collection.


  • Creation: 1957-2007
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1979-2007


Conditions Governing Access

Materials are open without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Please consult staff to determine ability to reuse materials from collection.

Biographical / Historical

Founded in 1979 in Chicago by Arnold Aprill, David Dillon and Lorell Wyatt, City Lit Theater Company became the first theater in the nation devoted to stage adaptations of literary material. Since that time, the theater has operated under the mission that “City Lit Theater is dedicated to the vitality and accessibility of the literary imagination…producing concert readings and full-stage productions of adaptations of literary material, scripted plays by language-oriented playwrights and original material developed especially for City Lit.”

City Lit has explored fiction, non-fiction, biography, essays and drama in performance while also presenting a wide array of voices. Among these are classic writers such as Henry James, Edith Wharton, Oliver Goldsmith, Mark Twain, Colette and P.G. Wodehouse, as well as such contemporary writers as Alice Walker, W.P. Kinsella, Douglas Post, Raymond Carver and Edward Albee.

In 1984, City Lit made a commitment to using diverse casts to present their work. The company also sought to expand its repertoire to include plays by and about underrepresented groups, such as playwright Ruth Prawer Jhabvla and a series featuring the work of black women writers, headlined by an adaptation of Toni Cade Bambara’s Medley. In 1987, City Lit presented its first gay programming, No Apologies, which pre-dated both Bailiwick Theater’s popular Pride series and subsequent transformation into an LGBT production focused theater.

Over the years, City Lit has earned accolades and awards for its body of work, including Jeff Citations, Chicago’s local theater award, for A Tale of Two Cities (1985), Diggory’s Rag (1987), The Good Times are Killing Me (1990), Jeeves and the Mating Season (2002) and Taking Steps (2003), among others.

Despite the theater’s strong success during its first decade in the 1980s, the 1990s found the theater searching for a permanent home after bouncing around to various locations in northside neighborhoods and in the Loop. The multiple moves took their toll on the theater despite seasons that included popular draws like P.G. Wodehouse adaptations featuring the characters Bertie Wooster and Jeeves played by City Lit favorites Mark Richard and Page Hearn.

As a result, in 1999, the theater took a season-long hiatus to regroup. In early 2000, City Lit reopened inside the Edgewater Presbyterian Church on W. Bryn Mawr Avenue with a performance of 20/20 Hindsight: 20 Years, 20 Stories, using a pared-down concert-reading style which they had used to great success at their founding. As of 2021, the company still performed at this location.

In 2005, Terry McCabe, former Artistic Director and founder of Stormfield Theater, became the Artistic Director at City Lit.


11 Linear Feet (in 22 boxes (including approximately 800 photographs and approximately 290 slides) plus 3 oversize folders)

Language of Materials



Chicago’s City Lit Theater has been devoted to stage adaptations of literary works. The collection includes scripts, promotional material, photographs, production and administrative records.


The collection is arranged into four series:

  • Series 1: Production History Files, 1957-2007
  • Series 2: Scripts, 1984-2007
  • Series 3: Administrative Files, 1979-2005
  • Series 4: Touring Files, 1984-2004

Researchers are encouraged to review all series for overlapping materials.

Physical Location

Materials are stored offsite and advance notice is required for use. Please request materials at least 24-hours prior to your research visit to coordinate access.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Donated in 2008 by City Lit Theater Company (Terry McCabe, Artistic Director and Brian C. Pastor, Managing Director), 1020 W. Bryn Mawr Avenue, Chicago, IL 60660

Related Materials

  • Chicago Theater Videotape Collection
  • Stormfield Theater Records

Separated Materials

Videotapes have been removed to the Chicago Theater Videotape Collection.

Guide to the City Lit Theater Company Records
Processed by Sarah Zimmerman, 2017. Updated and ingested into ArchivesSpace by Sarah Zimmerman, 2021.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding guide written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Unit at Harold Washington Library Center Repository

Harold Washington Library Center, 9th Floor
Chicago Public Library
400 S. State Street
Chicago IL 60605 United States
(312) 747-4875