Mosque4Mosque SCOUT Presentation Sets a New Standard at Steppenwolf

Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s new play development initiative, SCOUT will present A Virtual Reading of Mosque4Mosque by Omer Abbas Salem on Sunday, March 28th at 2pm CST. This free reading is the culmination of a 30-hour workshop process directed by Arti Ishak.

Mosque4Mosque follows Ibrahim, the average 30-something Queer Arab American Muslim. Normal job, quiet life, easy men. Between dodging reminders of how unmarried he is from his relentlessly caring immigrant mother and helping raise his smart, popular, hijabi cheerleading sister, Ibrahim has always found comfort sinking into the background. But when his mother sees a glimpse of what could be his first real relationship, she feels compelled to take Ibrahim’s future into her own hands by seeking out the perfect man for him to marry. Mosque4Mosque is a comedy about a normal Muslim American family that asks us to wrestle with what we believe normal to be.

“I wrote Mosque4Mosque to reimagine my experience with family, religion, and being queer. I also wanted to create a world in which Arab artists felt proud to exist, because I can’t tell you how often I’ve felt ashamed by what passes for our representation. I can’t thank Steppenwolf enough for the support and opportunity to uplift our voices and begin correcting a wrong in American theater.” – Playwright, Omer Abbas Salem. Continue reading “Mosque4Mosque SCOUT Presentation Sets a New Standard at Steppenwolf”

The American Theatre is Not Built for Us

Theatre can be a world of contradictions. It’s a space, it’s an experience. It’s a service, it’s a product. It’s a community builder, it’s a gentrifier. It’s a means of education, a townhall, it’s just entertainment.  As a writer-director, I’m looking to connect to an audience, engage the local community, express myself and entertain — so how come I measure my success by ticket sales, sold out crowds and glowing reviews? How come my success as an artist can be measured at an end of quarter board meeting? The American Theatre exists under the umbrella of American Capitalism. Its survival has always depended on ticket sales and various forms of investment from the upper class. With the relatively recent advent of the non-profit theatre, we’ve convinced ourselves that the non-profit and the commercial worlds are separate when, ultimately, they abide by the same rules of capitalism. We’ve convinced ourselves that the non-profit is a safe space for the artistic, the creative, the developmental, but the systems in place were never built to support the artist or the financial failure that can come with further exploring the New.

The system was not built for us artists. However, this blanket statement hasn’t always been true. There have been many attempts to democratize the American Theatre, only for artists to be washed ashore by the tidal wave that is capitalism. There were the repertory companies of actors and director/managers that toured the country in the 1800s, and the revelatory Federal Theatre Project of the 1930s. Then, there was the Regional Theatre Movement that modeled itself off of European theatre models in the 60s that largely influenced our administrative models today. Aesthetically, we can trace how we got from one artistic moment to another, but what’s lost on us is the Economic History of the American Theatre and how its affected Artistic Development today.  Right now we live in a moment of the in between. We have a lot of folks, purists, waiting for everything to go back to the status quo without knowing where we came from. On the precipice of societal change, now is the time for artists to look back at history, question our models, examine the possibilities, and imagine a new future.

Continue reading “The American Theatre is Not Built for Us”

Victory Gardens’ Incoming Artistic Director Ken-Matt Martin on Leadership and The Road Ahead

Victory Gardens Theater  has found its new Artistic Director in the multi-hyphenate and accomplished producer Ken-Matt Martin (he/him/his). Chicago artists may know him best as the Associate Producer at The Goodman, where he co-created and curated the Future Labs new play development program with Jonathan Green and Quenna Barrett. Regionally, Martin’s resume is just as impressive, beginning with his co-founding of Pyramid Theatre Company in Des Moines, IA, a company inspired by the Black Arts Movement. He served as Pyramid’s Executive Director until 2018, and it is there where his aesthetic compatibility to Chicago becomes clear. At Pyramid, Martin directed Ike Holter’s Prowess, and produced Hooded: Or Being Black for Dummies, both shows that ran to great success at Chicago companies. He then put his skills to action to national acclaim as the Producing Director of Williamstown Theatre Festival where he produced the revivals of Raisin in the Sun directed by Robert O’Hara, Ghosts starring Uma Thurman, and numerous other world premieres. 

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Sideshow Theatre Company Announces 2021 New Play Digital Season, Including a House Party Series of Fresh Plays

Sideshow Theatre Company just announced its 2021 Season, featuring an all-virtual line-up of entertainment. This announcement comes only weeks after the announcement of their new company members. The season kicks-off this month with a one-night-only benefit screening of Sideshow’s 2018 hit You For Me For Youwritten by Mia Chung and directed by Ensemble Member Elly Green. This summer, Sideshow presents a reading of Preston’s Choi’s new play Drive-In at the End of the World, directed by Associate Artistic Director Justin J. Sacramone and created through “The Freshness Initiative,” Sideshow’s new play development program. Throughout the year audiences can also enjoy the Sideshow House Party Series, five virtual readings by some of the company’s favorite playwrights – each followed by an interactive celebration.

Sideshow Artistic Director Regina Victor states: “The Sideshow Ensemble is excited to have cultivated a season full of curiosity and delight to gather the community in these tough times. Looking at the plays we’ve chosen to present, each one in their own way asks the question: Who am I, and who decides that, really? Power dynamics play out across race, class and gender in unconventional ways across our season, and there’s even quite a bit of magic sprinkled in. I’m so grateful, in this moment of leadership transition and COVID-19, to be able to continue to build upon Sideshow’s legacy of presenting and developing some of Chicago’s most memorable and exciting plays. I really have the ensemble’s artistic determination, and the dedication of my Executive Director and board to thank for that.” Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Company Announces 2021 New Play Digital Season, Including a House Party Series of Fresh Plays”

Nature Reckons with Power, History, and Violence in ‘Strange Heart Beating’

Weaving together hints of noir, small town angst, and overwhelming structures of power, Cloudgate Theatre’s production of Strange Heart Beating is a powerful play with a magical feel to it. Written by Kristin Idaszak, Strange Heart Beating tells the story of two best friends. One, Leeny (Leah Raidt) is a local single mother whose daughter disappears and is murdered one summer. The other, Teeny ( Jyreika Guest) , is the sheriff of the town and one of the few Black people in town. Narrated by the town lake ( Stephanie Shum ) who is intimately familiar with the town’s histories of violence. Strange Heart Beating makes thoughtful connections between individual and systemic violence, without feeling narrow or didactic. Continue reading “Nature Reckons with Power, History, and Violence in ‘Strange Heart Beating’”

Rescripted Recognized: Year In Review 2018

This year in Chicago Theatre has been tumultuous yet full of so much growth. 2018 saw communities coming together like never before, with the Latinx Theatre CommonsCarnaval of New Latinx Works and the Alliance of Latinx Theatre Artists’ Awards.

We said goodbye to American Theatre Company, under the brief yet highly significant Will Davis’ leadership. His work pushing the boundaries of gender and casting still reverberates throughout this city. New leadership has arisen in the form of Andrew Cutler, Amanda Fink, and Eric Gerard, at Black Box Acting Company as they take over the mantle from Audrey Francis and Laura Hooper. Continue reading “Rescripted Recognized: Year In Review 2018”

Male Fragility Fuels The Explosive ‘Fun Harmless Warmachine’

This review was penned by one of our current writers in The Key: Young Critics Mentorship Program. They are able to sign up for additional shows to grow their criticism portfolio with us. Read The Key Reviews from Fall 2018 here. 

Upon reading the synopsis, many would wonder if Fun Harmless Warmachine is the play we need right now. It’s the tale of the supposed “nice guy,” a gamer working a job he hates in a world where the words of women leave him baffled and angry. With this formula in mind, it is not too hard to believe Tom gets sucked into a toxic online community, known as the Order of the Sword, which first functions as a digital place of refuge, a place to confide in like-minded gamers. This story is based on #Gamergate, a notable controversy you should look up before the show—though the program offers a list of videogame definitions to fill in some of the blanks. Continue reading “Male Fragility Fuels The Explosive ‘Fun Harmless Warmachine’”

‘Tangles and Plaques’ Demystifies Dementia

Tangles and Plaques at the Neo-Futurists, a Neo-Lab commission about the effects of dementia first seen in Fall of 2017, has returned for a three-week engagement at the Neo-Futurarium. Sourcing its name from Plaques and Tangles, deposits of protein that cause cell damage and death in the brain, Tangles and Plaques attempts to translate dementia into the language of theatre. This is inherently successful in the structure of the play. Sections of the script are repeated and intentionally disorient the audience. Neos ensemble member and creator of the piece Kirsten Riiber wrote the show based on her work in reminiscence therapy at a local retirement home. Reminiscence therapy is used to conjure the most relevant and clear memories to an aging person, those from their childhood. Therefore the meat of the show takes place in the “accumulated nostalgia-scape of seven artists on a budget.” Continue reading “‘Tangles and Plaques’ Demystifies Dementia”

Finding Refuge in Love in ‘Vietgone’

I have long held that the most powerful art is that which is deeply personal. Vietgone by Qui Nguyen, in its current production at Writer’s Theatre, is one such piece. The latest in a long line of lovely work from local director Lavina Jadwani, Vietgone is a romp of a love story, but its real power lies not solely in the budding relationship between the two leads–but in the writer’s journey of understanding his own parents.

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‘Linda’ Subverts Society’s Expectations for Women

What does getting older mean when you’re a woman? In a world trying to stay youthful, Linda Wilde wants to embrace the opposite. Linda tells a story not often heard. The lights go up and you’re already a part of the show, the breaking of the fourth wall yanks the audience into this UK drama as Wilde tries to convince her colleagues that aging is natural and therefore something to embrace, but in this day and age (pun intended) the people want to stay supple. Continue reading “‘Linda’ Subverts Society’s Expectations for Women”