Before I moved to Chicago, I had no idea what storefront theatre was. I knew that the kind of theatre happening in Chicago was different than the kind of theatre happening most everywhere else, but I honestly didn't actually know exactly what it was or why it was. When I first heard the term, "storefront", I immediately pictured a space nestled in between a nail salon and a grocery store covered in posters announcing a new show. And that's pretty much what it is, when you look at it from an objective standpoint. It's a space that at one point was probably a drug store/restaurant/accounting office that has been transformed into a theater. But when you look at it from an artistic standpoint, from the point of view of a young theatre artist, it's a space where anything can happen. Brimming with possibility, there is no limit to the type of play you can produce, the kind of life and experiences you can put on a stage for the world to see. Okay, well maybe not world, these theaters only hold around 50-200 audiences members, but that's beside the point. In these tiny spaces filled with the ghost receipts of businesses that came before, walls dappled with holes from nails pulled out of previous sets, and seats worn with the butts of hundreds, something special occurs. It may not be the most fantastical theatrical experience or a performance that makes you forget what day or time it is, but people are walking off of the streets into these storefronts and are supporting small, local theatre.
In the past two weeks, I've seen three different shows at three different venues. The Nether with A Red Orchid Theatre, Gentle with Tuta Theatre, and Skin for Skin with The Agency Theatre Collective. Each vastly different from the others, and yet all still dramas, I was overjoyed to be seeing and connecting to so much theatre. I had been wanting to see a staged production of The Nether for a while, so it was wonderful to go on my own and become enraptured by the dark and twisted world of the Hideaway. I will say out of the three, their scenic and lighting designs were the most effective and interesting, in my opinion. Gentle was an adaptation of a Fyodor Dostoyevsky story, a world premiere, and I absolutely loved the performances of the two females in it. Their set was also very different, though it didn't quite connect to the world of the characters to me. Skin for Skin was also a new play that dealt with the enhanced interrogation performed on suspected terrorists after the attack on the World Trade Center. With some great performances, the subject matter was daring, but the writing wasn't as compelling as it could've been.
I spent last week compiling and writing a grant for Akvavit for the Broadway in Chicago Emerging Theatre Award, so I'm crossing my fingers that we'll get it! I also read a few plays for a co-production that we are doing with another company, and did work for some upcoming staged readings that we are producing. I'm going to transition into being a co-production manager for the spring show, Hitler on the Roof, so I'm very excited to begin pre-production work in April! That's also when auditions will be, and we finally set the dates for the performances to be in June.
I've been busy with Yoga Teacher Training, which has been great, as well as babysitting and house sitting and making new friends! The best part of it all, though, has been getting to know just exactly what kind of theater is produced in Chicago storefronts, and I have to say, I like it.