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Applications for shows are now closed! If you have an act you'd like to submit for a cabaret show, please email with your act proposal and video. Spots are limited, and depend on show needs.

This festival is hosted at the Den Theatre on March 9-12, 2023. 

Application Policies for 2023: Applications are now closed.

If you previously participated in the Festival, welcome back! As we learn and develop, new policies have been instituted. These should help streamline processes for artists and admin. Please read carefully below for all changes.

Submission Information:
Your submission can be any genre (comedy, horror, romance) and any discipline (circus, dance, burlesque, interdisciplinary arts). Priority will be given to Chicago-area locals. A cast must consist of at least 50% Chicago residents to count for priority. Acts will be matched with cabarets or used as openers for shows, as best fits the needs of the Festival. We will take genre and discipline into account.

The primary space being used 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.

We also have limited use of the Heath Mainstage. This space seats 200, and features a "thrust-style" stage platform, and a wide central floor area. Yes Ma'am Circus' portable rig will be set up here, in place of the usual round tables and chairs. For a full photo gallery, click here. 

Notes on the Festival Structure and New Policies


The aim of the festival 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.

Every show will be allotted 90 minutes for showtime in the theater. This time slot includes all breaks and talk backs. Intermissions are not required, but are recommended by the festival. 

Ticket prices will be set by the festival to ensure accessibility to patrons and equitable payment to artists. Set amounts of low-income tickets will be designated for every show, along with general admission and front-row VIP tickets to generate income. If you have concerns regarding ticketing, we can meet after the selection procedure.

Load-in and Strike shifts will be set prior to tech week. Each participating artist will be asked to schedule themselves for a shift. More information on shifts and all other tech week details will follow in February.

FAQ on applications: 

  • Deadline for application

    • Applications will close on December 31 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). 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!

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