The Children's Theatre Company has received a $1 million gift, a donation its artistic director Peter Brosius called "extraordinary."

The John W. Kurtich Foundation, based in California, has been making annual gifts to CTC since 2019. But this is the biggest ― one of several major donations it is awarding arts organizations across the country before closing down.

The $1 million will boost the theater's endowment to $17.1 million after a recent anonymous $3 million gift.

Troy Underwood, president of the Kurtich Foundation, first attended a show at the theater in 2019 while visiting his daughter, Jill Underwood, CTC's associate director of development. He saw the children arrive by the busload, awe-struck by the building.

Then, from the back of the theater, he watched the children take in "Matilda the Musical."

"They were absolutely fascinated, and frankly, so was I," Underwood said Tuesday. "I was so impressed with how the children were reacting to what they were seeing, probably for the first time in their lives. And secondly, with the skill that the actors were bringing ... how they knew exactly who their audience was."

The donation comes at a key time for the organization, the country's largest theater for young people. The nonprofit recorded a $480,000 deficit for the fiscal year ending in 2023, on operating expenses totaling $13.7 million.

Along with the $3 million endowment gift, "it gets us closer to being more in line with our peers in terms of the size of our operating budget and our endowment," said Jill Underwood, who has been with CTC since 2016.

The endowment subsidizes tickets, allowing children from low-income families to attend the theater. It also helps the organization take risks, she said, commissioning new plays. (This fall, the theater company will premiere "Drawing Lessons" by playwright Michi Barall, which it co-commissioned with Ma-Yi Theater Company.)

"We are excited that this gift helps us educate, challenge and inspire our community through powerful and transformative theatrical experiences," Brosius said in a news release.

Kurtich was a member of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago faculty from 1968 to 2004, teaching filmmaking, environmental design, architecture, art history and performance. For many years, the foundation Troy Underwood, 88, and his wife founded following her cousin Kurtich's death offered scholarships to students in music, theater, architecture and visual arts.

But "now in closing it down, instead of giving smaller annual scholarships, we're giving major gifts," Underwood said.