Applications to perform at the festival are due on November 30, 2021. We anticipate finalizing our lineup in January 2022.

This festival is hosted at the Den Theatre on April 21-24, 2022. 

There are two stages involved in the festival. See the details below. Because the stages have different missions, each has its own application.

Application Process:

Link for Stage 1:

Link for Stage 2:

Stage 1:
Stage 1 will house the festival’s “headliners”. For this stage, we are looking for 3 evening-length, story-based shows. These shows can be any genre (comedy, horror, romance) and be any discipline (circus, dance, burlesque, interdisciplinary arts). There does not need to be a traditional, linear plot, but they must be more cohesive than a standard cabaret-style show. Duration should be 1-2 hours total, and the venue does require an intermission. Priority will be given to Chicago-area locals. A cast must consist of at least 50% Chicago residents to count for priority.

This Stage is in the Bookspan Theatre, a flexible space seating up to 99 audience members. Proscenium style seating on risers is the default set up, but other arrangements can be made. Structural I-beams allow for 2 simultaneous solo aerialists per beam. Multiple apparatuses can be hung and pulled off to the side. From the bottom of the I-beams to the floor it is 12 ft. Between the I-beams the ceiling is 13.5 ft from the floor. For a full photo gallery, click here.

Stage 2:

Stage 2 presents an opportunity to showcase work that has a harder time finding venue space in Chicago. Solo shows, variety acts, interdisciplinary shows, long form dance pieces, and cabaret shows are all welcome. Shows should be 1-1.5 hours total with a brief intermission. Short acts (shows under 1 hour) may be paired with related acts to create a full hour’s worth of entertainment. The show does not need to be fully cast at application time; deadlines for artist information and bios will be sent out to those who are selected. Priority will be given to Chicago-area locals; casts must consist of at least 50% Chicago residents to count for priority.


The aim of the festival and Stage 2 in particular is to celebrate the vast diversity of styles of performance art in Chicago, so priority will also be given to particularly unique work. For example, if multiple burlesque shows apply, likely only one will be selected. Collaboration is encouraged.

Stage 2 is in Theatre 2B, a smaller black box seating up to 65 people. No rigging is possible from the ceiling, but a single rigging point will be available from the Yes Ma'am Circus aerial rig, which can be assembled inside the space. For a full photo gallery, click here.

FAQ on applications: 

  • Deadline for application

    • Applications will close on November 30 to give ample time for selection and act creation. This application is not “first come first serve”. Submissions will be reviewed as they come in for completeness, but will not be fully evaluated until the deadline.

  • What do the artists need to provide?

    • You are responsible for insurance, all your personal equipment (circus apparatus, special lights, costumes, etc.) and talent management, as well as show creation and rehearsals prior to tech week. This includes rehearsal space, housing, and transportation for all the artists and equipment. All companies will also be asked to assist with either load in or load out of shared equipment (risers, chairs, carrying lights, etc.). We also highly encourage you to market your own show. More tickets sold, more money for you!

  • What does the festival provide?

    • We provide the venue and all the related trappings (lights and sound, soft goods, in house bar). Every show is offered 2 runs, with 1 off night and 1 on night (Thursday & Friday, or Saturday & Sunday). The venue covers box office and front of house services, and the festival will be running a marketing campaign. The following personnel will also be provided, though you are welcome to bring your own if you already have someone you routinely work with. Light designer, Sound tech, Stage manager, Ushers 

  • How do I get paid?

    • Ticket split of door profits, distributed after festival closing to the company's main contact.​

  • What if I don’t get in?

    • We will inform you via email if you are not selected; feel free to reach out if you want more explanation of our reasoning. Know that we are limited in how many shows we can accept; nonacceptance is not indicative of our personal feelings toward any artist. If you are not accepted please consider volunteering in exchange for tickets.

  • What if I do get in?

    • You will be notified of your acceptance via the given “main contact email”. Please make sure this is an email address you check regularly to aid in the acceptance process. Deadlines for technical requests, artist info and bios, and all other details will be included in the acceptance email. 

  • How else can I participate?

  • If you’re interested in working with us for a paid position, or in being a vendor or sponsor, please email us directly at Make sure to include the service you’d like to provide and your rates. Paid positions are extremely limited at the moment, but we appreciate your interest and hope we can work with you!