Prop Thtr is pleased to announce its 2019-20 Season, kicking off this fall with THE STOREFRONT PROJECT, a unique collaboration with The Museum of Contemporary Art. Six Chicago-based directors (Mikael Burke & April Cleveland, Sydney Chatman, Dado, Coya Paz, Denise Yvette Serna and Lucky Stiff) will each choose a text – not written for theater – and devise a new project, tailor-made for MCA Chicago and Prop Thtr spaces. Co-curated by MCA’s associate curator of performance Tara Aisha Willis and Prop Thtr Artistic Director Olivia Lilley, the shows will be performed at both venues over two weekends.
Also this fall, Prop presents the world premiere of I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE AND I AM NOT AFRAID, a devised play about the Holocaust directed by Anna H. Gelman, with music by and music direction by Alec Pan.
The season continues next winter with the RHINOFEST 2020. Co-produced with Curious Branch Theatre, the curated experimental theatre festival is now in its 31st year.
Prop’s 2019-20 Season concludes next spring with the world premiere of DIARY OF AN EROTIC LIFE, a contemporary re-imagining of Frank Wedekins’s The Lulu Plays, devised by the ensemble, written and directed by Artistic Director Olivia Lilley and featuring Valeria Rosero as Lulu.
Also this season, Prop Thtr and National New Play Network Producer in Residence Tara Branham will launch a new initiative: the CHICAGO DIRECTORS WORKSHOP. This series of staged readings, presented December 2019 – May 2020, will give early career directors the opportunity to cultivate their unique artistic vision in addition to professional development in order to survive in the Chicago Storefront landscape and beyond. Submissions open September 1, 2019. Prop Thtr believes directors are critical to the creation of the next canon of new work and seeks to offer them the opportunity to experiment outside of the crucible of production.
Comments Prop Thtr Artistic Director Olivia Lilley, “As I learn how to navigate running a theatre with a 40-year legacy while also infusing it with fresh ideas that feel true to the spirit of the original, I find myself meditating often on the word ‘survival’. As we enter my second season as Artistic Director, that topic is not only on my tongue but Anna H. Gelman’s as she reexamines the weight of the Holocaust during these disturbing and alarming times in the United States, and also Tara Willis, MCA curator, and our six Chicago directors as we build six things out of nothing with small budgets to boldly raise the visibility of Chicago’s booming experimental theatre scene. We close the season with Valeria Rosero and I, along with our devising ensemble, dramaturgy and design team, setting fire to a classic tragedy about what happens when a woman does everything in her power to live the life she wants. The Lulu Plays, Earth’s Spirit and Pandora’s Box end with Lulu’s murder at the hands of Jack the Ripper. We are building a play that imagines a world in which a strong woman doesn’t have to die. This season is about re-envisioning a world in which we can survive.”
Prop Thtr is located at 3502 N. Elston Ave. (near Kedzie & Addison) in Chicago’s Avondale neighborhood. The Museum of Contemporary Arts is located at 220 E. Chicago Ave. in Chicago. Tickets for THE STOREFRONT PROJECT are currently available at mcachicago.org. Tickets for all other productions will go on sale at a later date.
Prop Thtr’s 2019-20 Season includes:
September 14-15, 21-22, 2019
THE STOREFRONT PROJECT
Co-Produced with The Museum of Contemporary Art
Featuring new and devised work by Chicago directors Mikael Burke & April Cleveland, Sydney Chatman, Dado, Coya Paz, Denise Yvette Serna and Lucky Stiff
What happens when you try to make a show from scratch, with no rulebook or script? What if you had to perform it in two completely different spaces, across the city, back to back?
THE STOREFRONT PROJECT asks six Chicago-based directors to each choose a text – not written for theater – and devise a new project, tailor-made for MCA Chicago and Prop Thtr – a major downtown institution and a scrappy Avondale theater. Two weekends of shows highlight the innovations that are possible when directors experiment with making theater under shifting circumstances. Each translating the same project from the MCA’s theater and public spaces to the distinct industrial theaters and alcoves of the Prop Thtr, the directors demonstrate Chicago theater’s uncanny ability to pop up anywhere. Behind-the-scenes footage of their rehearsal process at each venue will be on view during each performance to give audiences a peek into the ins-and-outs of devised theater.
This celebration of the city’s long traditions of storefront, underground and devised theater is co-curated by MCA’s associate curator of performance Tara Aisha Willis with Prop Thtr Artistic Director Olivia Lilley.
October 25 – December 6, 2019
I AM GOING TO DIE ALONE AND I AM NOT AFRAID
Devised by The Ensemble
Directed by Anna H. Gelman
Music and Music Direction by Alec Phan
Press opening: Monday, October 28, 2019 at 7:30 pm
How do you fight for the future you won’t live to see? Told through both imagined and historical stories of rebels like Francesca Mann, who shot a Nazi Officer while being taken to the gas chambers, I Am Going to Die Alone and I Am Not Afraid is a devised play about resilience and tenacity in the face of violence. Exploring ancestral trauma and remembrance as rebellion, …and I Am Not Afraid uses stories of exceptional bravery to expand the legacy of the Holocaust and examine oppression today. What lessons do we take from history, and how can we make sure Never Again means Never Again, for anyone?
December 2019 – May 2020
CHICAGO DIRECTORS WORKSHOP
Presented by Prop Thtr and National New Play Network Producer in Residence Tara Branham
This new initiative, featuring a series of staged readings, will give early career directors the opportunity to cultivate their unique artistic vision in addition to professional development in order to survive in the Chicago Storefront landscape and beyond. Prop Thtr believes directors are critical to the creation of the next canon of new work and seeks to offer them the opportunity to experiment outside of the crucible of production. Submissions open September 1, 2019 at 1 pm at the following link.
Co-Produced and Curated with Curious Theatre Branch
Curious Theater Branch and Prop Thtr collaborate – as they have for much of the past 30 RhinoFests – to curate and produce the Rhinoceros Theatre Festival, which provides production and exhibition opportunities to hundreds of artists, drawing thousands in attendance each year. The longest-running new works storefront festival in Chicago, RhinoFest features experimental work in theater and performance from Chicago companies and national artists alike.
First organized in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, the Rhino Fest is unique among national fringe festivals in that artists are never charged a fee to participate, audiences are always on a “pay what you can” basis and each year our programs are individually curated rather than selected by lottery.
This year, India Burton and Molly Andrews-Hinders of Cleveland Public Theatre will bring their devised new works, “Panther Women” and “Emergence,” as workshop productions to Rhinofest, produced by Prop Thtr.
DIARY OF AN EROTIC LIFE
Adapted from The Lulu Plays by Frank Wedekind
Devised by The Ensemble
Written and Directed by Artistic Director Olivia Lilley
Featuring Valeria Rosero as Lulu and Kate Black Spence as Caroline
Diary of an Erotic Life is the story of Lulu, a young woman from Ecuador working retail in Lincoln Park. Lulu makes a deal with Caroline, a customer and entrepreneur. As long as Lulu adheres to the career expectations of Caroline, all her financial needs will be taken care of. However, through a series of forbidden romances, Lulu challenges this new relationship becoming entrenched in a world where sex, race, class and power are intimately linked. As she navigates the posh, white world of Lincoln Park, Lulu must struggle to maintain her sense of self. This intersectional feminist re-imagining of The Lulu Plays asks the question, “How do femmes create identity, liberate themselves, and resist all forms of oppression?"
About The Artists
Anna H. Gelman (Director/Lead Deviser, I Am Going To Die Alone And I Am Not Afraid) is a director, deviser and filmmaker. As a director and assistant, she has worked with Prop Thtr, RhinoFest, Runaways Lab, Greenhouse Solo Lab, Borderlight International Theatre Festival and Fringe, and on many projects with Organic Theater Company, where she is a company member and Media Director. As a deviser and adaptor, she has created several original projects, including I Do It So It Feels Like Hell (based on the work of Sylvia Plath), MAY DAY (adapted from a story by F. Scott Fitzgerald) and Mine HaHa (based on a story by Frank Wedekind), Why Do You Always Wear Black? (based on the plays of Anton Chekhov). Recently, she directed the music video for 1:1, a new single by Chicago band Honey & The 45's. She holds certificates from The Moscow Art Theater and The Prague Film School and is a graduate of Oberlin College. By day, she is the Manager of School-Based Programs at Goodman Theatre.
Olivia Lilley (Writer/Director/Lead Deviser, Diary of an Erotic Life) is an American director, writer, and producer. Her work runs the gamut from irreverent takes on classic texts (Faust: Save me or I’ll die, Neverland) to dance theatre biographies (The Party House, In Sarah’s Shadow) to new plays that tackle contemporary intersectional issues (Mary Shelley Sees The Future, The Winter & The Whiskey, Expectations [for little mixed girls]). Olivia is the founding Artistic Director of The Runaways Lab Theatre (Voted Best New Theatre Company in The Chicago Reader’s Best Of 2014). Olivia has also produced work in Steppenwolf’s The Lookout Series. Olivia is the head of Pop Magic Productions, an Artistic Associate with Pivot Arts, and the Artistic Director of The Prop Thtr. Olivia received her BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon School of Drama. She attended Interlochen Arts Academy for Music Composition.
About The Prop Thtr
Prop Thtr strives to redefine what theatre is for the 21st century. Prop Thtr produces and incubates new work, which includes new plays, devised work, director-driven re-imaginings of classics, adaptations, and other alternative forms. Prop Thtr works with makers of all ages, races, gender identities, abilities, and backgrounds. In the spirit of Chicago storefront theatre, Prop Thtr is committed to ongoing relationships with individuals and organizations that create work in diverse and inclusive spaces. We break open how we make, what we are making, and who is making.
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