Why Free Art For All?

The famous Bread and Puppet Theater company wrote in their famous “Cheap Art Manifesto” that,

“…people have been thinking too long that art is a privilege of the museums and the rich. Art is not business! It does not belong to banks and fancy investors.  Art is food!  You can’t eat it, but it feeds you.  Art has to be cheap and available to everybody. It needs to be everywhere…”

I first read that in college and found that sentiment to be wholly inspiring and also out of touch with reality: who would actually attempt to make theater with no admission charge in Chicago?  Maybe that works for summer festivals out in Vermont, but here in the city?  All year round?  With a performance space that needs rent to be paid on time?  Who would be foolish enough to attempt it and skilled enough to keep it going?

The answer is that Oracle was foolish enough to try, and we seem to have kept it going so far, but we’re always welcoming of anyone who wants to help us keep this rare thing going and growing.


What do you do at Oracle?

Oracle B*Sides Director

Whether it’s a remount of a show that was beloved but under seen and deserves another look, or a zany idea for a late-night show that just might have legs if it had a space to find its footing in, the Oracle B*Sides are a great opportunity for Chicago artists to perform their work at Oracle’s space under the Public Access banner.

When potential B*Sides artists come knocking, Boren answers the door.  Then he cracks open some cold ones and he and the B*Side artists get to work figuring out just how Oracle can accommodate their project.  When the project gets going, Boren is the B*Side artist’s point of contact for all things Oracle, ensuring that the project is a success both for the B*Side artist and for Oracle.



Boren first got involved at Oracle acting in the first of Oracle’s long running Halloween horror show Disturbed in 2006.  The following October he once again made an appearance in Disturbed II.  Then he kept showing up uninvited to builds, strikes, and eventually company meetings that they made him an official company member in 2008.

Boren and the company began developing programming ideas that would lay the groundwork for the B*Sides program by producing guests artist’s shows around the mainstage shows during Oracle’s first Public Access season.  Beginning with the late night talk show Tonight it’s Live with Tom Bambara, as well as a production of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, and a unique performance by the Harlotry and Necromancy Appreciation Society titled FreakShow.

The program continued to develop with a primetime production of Happiness: The Pursuit and other Tragedies by the Alluvium group that got Oracle all to itself for a run in the Fall of 2012, and continuing to develop Tonight it’s Live with Tom Bambara.

As of 2013, Boren was helping take the B*Sides even further with not one, but two primetime B*Sides productions: a remount of White Elephant’s Pink Milk and a new production of Ferdinand Bruckner’s Pains of Youth by Odradek Theatre.

Boren continues to develop programming for the Oracle B*Sides, and show up uninvited to work calls.