Right now, the Chicago Home Theater Festival is happening all over Chicago. It’s a festival that tries to bridge connections between artists and audience members throughout Chicago. Every night from May 5th to May 24th, people have opened up their homes to host a series of performances from diverse artists and groups from Rogers Park to South Shore and much more! Every night showcases the work of different artists and groups; each night is a unique experience. And there’s food too, often from local areas. Each performance is prefaced by a tour of the neighborhood.
I highly recommend it. I mentioned this festival last year on the blog; I attended an evening in Logan Square. This year, I’ve only been able to make it to the one in Rogers Park so far. It is well worth it, even if you can only make one night. The Rogers Park event was fantastic. We all crowded into one apartment for a night of poetry and plays. It began with a series of poems by a poet (whose name I can’t find!) that was simply exquisite. He read these thoughtful poems about race, gender, and Chicago. He talked about the issues with male socialization over emotion and the things he’s learned about our wonderful, terrible city. His final poem about how day to day racisms amount to profound collective wounds that left me with chills. He was brilliant. I’m really sad I don’t know his name. (Anyone who was there, please let me know. I want to see him perform again!)
Then First Bank + Trust No One performed a short play about young girls at a sleepover. It started as you’d expect: the girls gossiped, made prank phone calls, and ate junk food. But then the piece took a delightful turn when they started to play Truth and Dare with the audience, bringing them more directly into this intimate space. The piece beautifully showed the importance of these personal places where we are shaped as people. As some can attest, sleepovers can be terrifying experiences. But if we can safely reveal our true selves in these places, then maybe we can find belonging and community in the present and future.
The third piece was a short play written by Michael Harris. The piece beautifully tackled another dimension of the violence plaguing Chicago streets. It was about a young gay couple who are flummoxed by yet another shooting outside their door. The piece tackled the question of what bystanders should do when confronted with everyday violence. Is calling 911 enough? Should we act more or do we protect ourselves and our loved ones? What do you do when the place you live is inundated by violence? What an important piece!
The final piece written by Michael Stock was an incredible conversation between a Jewish woman activist and a black activist in 1968. The piece showed how incredibly awkward it can be to talk about privilege and race. I loved how it looked at the clumsiness and history of language. Even words like “immigrant” carry deeper, sometimes insidious meanings. Even a cup of tea can be politically charged.
There was in installation set up in the kitchen. A woman’s bare back was projected onto two wooden boards with a crack in the middle. A beautiful raw piece. I don’t recall the name of the artist.
One thing that I also loved about the evening was that the organizers were extremely thoughtful about the audience. At the beginning and the end of the night, they asked us to think about who was not here. Who was being excluded? They mentioned accessibility as an example. We were in a third floor apartment with no elevator. What an important question to raise! At the end, they asked to think of who else might not be at these events and figure how we can bring them.
What a beautiful night.
I don’t know if I’ll be able to make another evening this year. But you should definitely go. Check out the festival website here: http://www.chicagohtf.org/
That’s all for now!