Drive-In To The End of The World: Preston Choi, Marti Lyons, and Regina Victor in Conversation

Preston Choi’s Drive-In To the End of the World will have a public showing presented by Sideshow Theatre Company in residence at Victory Gardens on March 25th. Directed by Sideshow Theatre Artistic Associate and Remy Bumppo Artistic Director Marti Lyons, the play is the culmination of a Sideshow Freshness Initiative that evolved into a customized residency for Choi. Dramaturg and Artistic Director of Sideshow Regina Victor interviews them on the process thus far, and the myths from history, and about ourselves, that drive the play.

Regina Victor: A digital residency is a new experience for all playwrights right now. A truly meta part of this residency is that actors, director and dramaturg will be realizing your play, but you will be in rehearsal digitally. A main theme in Drive-in is the impact on connectivity over great distances, whether they’re mental, spiritual or physical. What do you hope to learn from digitally engaging in the physical space with your collaborators? 

Preston Choi: I think it’s an interesting test of the play, what does your script offer up without your physical presence, where does the language inherently help guide the room into how it might want to be played without you whispering into the director’s or dramaturg’s ear to steer on your behalf. Obviously there are different kinds of development where one can be in active conversation throughout the process, which have been very productive and enjoyable, but I am also interested in forcing myself to tinker with the text exclusively, almost like configuring a rube goldberg machine and setting it off, and not being able to stop it even if it goes off course, but seeing it through to the end to see just how off the rails it gets, or if it makes its way back on course, or if it goes into a unexpected but exciting direction. Being a digital presence makes that a far more achievable and practical method of testing, or rather observing, at least for how my life is functioning at the moment.

RV: Marti, can you tell us what it was like to evolve from a facilitator for the play into its director? What it was like to build this play with Preston through this digital process, inside of this non-traditional structure?  

Marti Lyons: It was super exciting to be part of a playwright-led exploration and to get to work with Regina as dramaturg, and Preston as playwright. Regina and Sideshow, y’alls way of finding out how to support the project and the process in a way that doesn’t necessarily fit a formula. So figuring out what does this play, this playwright really need, and letting that dictate the steps instead of some predictable metric. I was also super excited to be asked to direct because I think Preston’s play is amazing and I really dig Preston’s voice as a writer. So to move from one role to another I felt really informed about the initial work on the process, and also excited to be engaged in a more direct way. The digital process affords us a lot of opportunity for continued development over a longer period of time, and I really appreciate that. Certainly there are also challenges within that structure but I think it’s really helpful for long term collaborations, and that is something that is not always possible otherwise so I’m grateful for that.

RV: And Preston, how has the play grown during this residency? Or, What is a discovery about the piece that really excited you?

PC: I think the play has grown, and in a large way my understanding of it and how much I still have yet to understand with every new bit we gain, the breadth of what it’s touching on is never fully in grasp, but in a fun way. From icon/brand commercialism, late stage capitalism, social media personalities, and expanding the list of cryptids and mythologies, so much has come into the mix since it’s initial inception. The play itself feels like a tip of an iceberg above the water, and everything that informs it, all of the conversations over google meet and zoom, and verbatim notes written in notebooks, have just grown, in a way that is wholly invisible to anyone outside the process, and I hope to get more and more of it above water over time. It’s definitely gotten more grounded, to support some of the fantastical leaps, and playing more with genre, and when genre falls apart or decays into another genre.

RV: Marti, what excites you the most about the play, and Preston’s work? 

ML: I think Preston’s work has an element of danger but is also very funny, and lives in that sweet spot where comedy and horror overlap, which is in tension building into moments that are funny or gasp-worthy, or scream-worthy. That is really thrilling to be a part of, and also really joyful and invigorating to develop.

RV: So Preston, If you had advice for artistic directors trying to create Playwright centered development what would you tell them?

PC: I think there’s a balance between flexibility and rigidity, finding the blend of both that works for the playwright and the team/organization. The adaptability to adjust with whoever is being collaborated with. Having it be not so formless where things feel intangible and nothing nailed down but also not so controlled where things feel like one is being processed on a factory line. I also think reaching out to check on the play and the playwright when things are going great and when things feel like pulling teeth, that consistency of taking a moment to catch up and connect can be really reassuring, especially when it’s over an extended amount of time.

RV: From my perspective, one of the play’s engines is mythology and the ways we contextualize and create our fears. So I have to ask: what is your favorite scary legend or story, in any medium?

PC: I think one urban legend that I find fascinating, that originates from Korea, is “fan death”. If you sleep in an enclosed room, windows shut, doors closed, having an electric fan on could kill you in your sleep, suffocating you. Very human versus technology, but in such a mundane way, not falling from the ceiling and slicing your head off, or one close to your face blowing a fuse, catching fire and burning you, it’s just sitting there slowly depriving you of breath. I’m a big fan of fans, especially when trying to fall asleep, so I’m very grateful to not yet be a victim to this myth.

ML: Certainly one of my favorite scary stories is the girl with the ribbon around her neck, where when the ribbon is removed her head falls off.. Ugh such a good one.

RV: Finally Marti, why should folks come see this reading?

ML: Folks should come see this reading because Sideshow is on the cutting edge of whatever is next for this industry. I think Sideshow is a company of innovation, and vision. Preston’s work is exhilarating, playful, captivating and off-kilter, and requires heightened tone and style, and all the juicy things that as an artist you want to sink your teeth into, and as an audience member you get to lean in and enjoy. I just think Sideshow makes the kind of storefront that you can’t wait to see what y’all are gonna do next. Preston’s work certainly fits that M.O. You will be on the edge of your seat with laughter, it thrills. 

 

Sideshow Theatre Expands Company Membership, Radically Embodying Chicago’s Cultural Landscape

Sideshow Theatre Company has announced the addition of ten new company members listed below:

Ensemble Members: estrellita beatriz, Adelina Feldman-Schultz, Hanna Kime, Tina Muñoz Pandya and Shariba Rivers.

Artistic Associates: Sam Boeck, Olivia Canaday, Sydney Charles, Micah Figueroa and Mallory Raven-Ellen Backstrom.

Sideshow Theatre Company’s first recruited cohort under Victor exploded with BIPOC representation. This year’s cohort continues to demonstrate the direction the company is taking under the guidance of Artistic Director Regina Victor and Executive Director Brian Pastor.

Comments Sideshow Artistic Director Regina Victor(they/them), “One of the greatest gifts of being the Artistic Director of Sideshow Theatre Company is the ability to collaborate with the ensemble to cultivate a community that reflects our artists, and our city. This past year we have spent time identifying our values and evaluating our ethics, which lets us be specific about who we are becoming, and who we want on that journey. We are all such huge fans of these artists, fans of their intellect, talent and values. Each of these artists represents the future of Chicago theatre in their own unique way, and I cannot wait for Chicago to get to know them even better through this affiliation.”

You can support Sideshow Theatre Company’s endeavor to diversify the Chicago arts landscape by visiting their website and/or donating to their $21,000 for 2021 campaign.

Bias Alert: Regina Victor is the Editor of Rescripted.org.

Rescripted is a community-funded publication, and we are grateful for your support. If you’d like to support arts criticism like this,  subscribe to our Patreon today! 

Sideshow Theatre Company Offers Artistic Residency to Playwright Preston Choi

CHICAGO (July 22, 2021) – Sideshow Theatre Company has announced they will be offering a nine-month artistic residency to Chicago-based playwright Preston Choi. Through the residency, Sideshow will provide Choi with artistic and dramaturgical support as he develops his full-length play Drive-In to the End of the World. The residency will culminate in March 2022 with a reading of Choi’s final script. This residency strengthens the existing artistic partnership between Sideshow Theatre and Choi, who had previously been selected to participate in Sideshow’s new-play development program, “The Freshness Initiative.”

Artistic Director Regina Victor expressed their excitement for Sideshow’s continued partnership with Choi: “Preston originally joined us in collaboration for The Freshness, but as many of us have experienced, quarantine and working remotely have drastically altered the process. We have instead decided to innovate and devise a residency that would once again center this talented playwright, whom we are fortunate to host. This was a thrilling opportunity to take a step back from the capitalist mindset and center ourselves in practices of process over product and the limitless potential world-building of Black Radical Imagination.”

Continue reading “Sideshow Theatre Company Offers Artistic Residency to Playwright Preston Choi”

‘Something Clean’ Explores the Reverberations of Assault at Sideshow Theatre

Something Clean by Selina Fillinger, tells the story of a woman trying to cope after her son is convicted and sent to prison on sexual assault charges. Produced by Sideshow Theatre Company and Rivendell Theatre Company in collaboration, directed by Lauren Shouse, Something Clean asks audiences to consider the trauma and attempts toward healing for the families of rapists. Continue reading “‘Something Clean’ Explores the Reverberations of Assault at Sideshow Theatre”

Kristiana Rae Colón’s ‘Tilikum’ Reflects Humanity’s Misguided Priorities

There is a moment in the television show “Community” where a white girl says, “I can excuse racism but I draw the line at animal cruelty.” It’s one of the most succinct jabs at the tendency and ability of privileged white folks to dismiss the pain and oppression of their fellow human beings in favor of appearing “progressive” in other ways. And I couldn’t stop thinking about that quote as I was watching Kristiana Rae Colón’s “Tilikum” — the world premiere currently running  at Sideshow Theatre Company. Continue reading “Kristiana Rae Colón’s ‘Tilikum’ Reflects Humanity’s Misguided Priorities”