Chicago Home Theatre Festival

Last night, I attended an event of the Chicago Home Theatre Festival. This was a new festival for me. It’s an international movement that started in Berkeley and spread across the US, Canada, and Mexico. It’s tag line is “Home is where the art is.” The idea is to move art from institutional spaces and put it back in the artists and people’s control. People open up their homes, backyards, etc to have these events. The festival is in its 2nd year in Chicago runs from May 1st to May 25th. There is a different event each night with several artists and it moves all over town. The festival is about breaking down barriers both with art/patron, neighborhood segregation, and personal/private. It’s pretty neat.

Several years ago, my boyfriend put on a circus fundraiser in our friend’s backyard for their apartment gallery. It was truly one of the craziest and best things we’ve done. So I dig this whole concept.

I decided to go to the Logon Square event, not because I live in West town, it was just the only available date for me to go. But it was a lovely night. We started at the California Blue Line stop where a tour guide (and our host) walked us to his house giving a little tour of the neighborhood. When we got to his apartment, we went into the backyard that was set up for a party, which realistically this was. Our stage was the cement area near the garage. We sat on sleeping bags on the grass. Behind us, there were hot dogs, beer, and eventually sushi and local pie.

There were eight artists/performing groups that evening, Some of them are the following: Waltzing Mechanics, Free Street Theatre, Walkabout Theatre, Dylan Brandy and Stephanie Acosta and Jessie Young. There were three other performers who are not currently listed on the website.

The Waltzing Mechanics put on “EL Stores” which was perfect considering I’m still riding a high from the Studs Terkel Festival. Basically, they interview people about their wildest El stories and then act them out. The group performed about 4 plays including acting out the play of a random audience member. The plays ranged from poignant to hilarious, like one woman’s recollections of a group of people singing Christmas Carols on a 100 degree day in July. They have a show every Saturday at 11pm at the Greenhouse Theatre. I’m going to have to check out the full show.

I was also really impressed with Free Street Theatre. It’s a theater group of young people, probably high schoolers. They performed selections from Nerds, Sluts, Commies, and Jocks. Their plays were insightful and well constructed. The kids talked about racism, political beliefs, and more. For instance, they did a piece on Mortal Kombat, a violent game from my childhood. The game has really terrible characterizations of ethnic groups, like Branca is from Brazil and he chews on people. So yeah, quite racist. The kids did their own version where they even exaggerated the racist characters even more. Then two characters fought but then decided that there was no reason to fight anymore. They learn to buck the system. It was hilarious and thoughtful. I can’t wait to see what this group does next.

It was really diverse set of performances. There was a gentleman who was a comedian cracking jokes at his expense. Another guy set up a bike on stage and did an effective job of acting like he was biking in Chicago. He’d randomly sing to himself, stop because of hazards, etc. Since I’m not a bike rider, I don’t quite have the same experiences but it was well done and well received.

Walkabout did a site specific piece that included music and the third floor apartment window. In my opinion, the piece dealt with ephemerally of life whether it was young love, life, dreams, and more. My favorite line was “The only love letters I get in the mail are bills.” Hilarious and sweetly sad. Dylan Young made use of technology in fascinating ways. The artist had six video clips going on at once or individually while the artist held up a sign with a phone number on it. People called the number, selected from a list 1-5, and the performer would sing. The piece seemed to be a reference to how people are so disconnected from one another from technology.

The final piece was a beautiful, haunting work by Stephanie Acosta with Jessie Young. A projector lit up the entire stage (garage and fence) with various scenes of green and other locations while the performers moved across the stage. It was a wonderful way to end the evening.

Stephanie Acosta with Jessie Young, Chicago Home Theatre
Stephanie Acosta with Jessie Young, Chicago Home Theatre

I look forward to next year’s festival! You can still check out three more events. The festival ends Sunday.

That’s all!




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