UrbanTheater Company (UTC) is proud to present the World Premiere of Back in the Day, a House Music dancesical written by artistic director Miranda González and inspired by José “Gringo” Echevarría’s memoir The Real Dance Fever: Book One. Originally staged as a workshop production at the Chopin Theater this past summer and featuring a mostly new ensemble and design team, González has significantly revised the play to offer a brand new, equally fully immersive experience. Back in the Day will run from October 8-November 2 at UrbanTheater at Batey Urbano, 2620 W. Division St., on the Paseo Boricua in the heart of Humboldt Park.
This world premiere is presented as part of Destinos, the third annual Chicago International Latino Theater Festival, a seven-week festival of Latino theater artists and companies from Chicago, the U.S. and Latin America in shows, panels and student performances at venues citywide. Back in the Day kicks off UTC’s 14th season.
Directed by Raquel Torre and choreographed by Breon Arzell, Back in the Day follows three Northside Chicago dance crews, The All Stars, led by José “Gringo” Echevarría and their frenemies, The Culitos and Imported Taste when African-American, Latino and LGBTQ dominated the1980’s afterhours scene in such legendary local juice bars as Jenal’s and Medusas. Back in the Day is much more than the memories of one man about an era in Chicago’s history of urban dance and music. It is a fun, poignant portrait of that period, enriched by the voices of dozens of members of those dance crews who shared their experiences and stories with the play’s cast and crew during its initial run. It is now part of the collective history of a forgotten aspec of Chicago House music.
“This generation of dance crews lasted from 1981 to 1996 and this play is its archival tribute. It was an honor to have a summer workshop production. It allowed me to figure out how to capture the time authentically. I met so many wonderful people who were a part of this period that shared their stories with me,” said González. “That oral history allowed me to shape the nuances of the era and teenage characters that created a dance movement. This is a very important part of history and credits the contribution of Queer Latinx/black youth to the Chicago House music scene.”
“For this world premiere, we're eliminating the boundaries that separate our audience from our performers. Like an arena concert, the audience will stand and dance along with us, moving around the space while immersed in the world of Janelle's. We'll all party together as the story unfolds around us,” said Torre. “The under told stories of the house music dance crews of the 80s Chicago are alive and well in the collective memory. We're not setting out to declare who created what during the house movement, our goal is rather to showcase and celebrate the people who lived and partied through it.”
The cast for Back in the Day includes: Mateo Hernández (José “Gringo” Echevarría); Gabriela Castillo (Charlie Ríos); Omar Fernández (Frankie Díaz/DJ Personas); Sofía Tew (Gladys “Miss Chicago” Rodríguez); Isaly Viana (Beatriz “Miss B” Soto); Matty Robinson (Carlos Garza); Jermaine Robinson, Jr. (Troy Clark); Adriel Irizarry (Leach Solis); Nathaniel Andrew (Shane Ruiz); Angélica Grace (Alma Coutee); Brittany Harlin (Evelyn “Evie” Martin); Christian D. Wilson (Anthony Lamboy).
The creative team includes: Iván Vega and Antonio Bruno (co-producers); Jenna Meyers (production manager); Michelle Housh (stage manager); Breon Arzell (Choreographer); Harrison Ornelas (scenic design); Liviu Pasare (projections design); Tyler King (projections design); Levi Wilkins (lighting design); Steve Labedz (sound design); Sarah Albrecht (costume design); Meagan Beattie (costume design apprentice); Mara Ishihara Zinky (props designer); Elena Magdalena (graphic designer); and Adelina Feldman-Schultz (casting director).
For Back in the Day, UTC received a grant for Capacity Building and Project Funding from the Field Foundation to help create a number of paid apprenticeship programs as part of the company’s La Tribu (The Tribe), a collective of diverse artists that will provide training, development and mentorship in the theatre arts to people of color 18 years and older within and around the Humboldt Park community looking to explore a career in design, production, acting, directing, and writing.
“Thanks to this grant, we hired four talented high school and college students as paid apprentices who worked in such diverse areas as stage management, research, social media, publicity and even acting. This was the stepping stone for a project that was designed to foster careers in theater for the young adults in our community. The program will continue to evolve during this, our 14th season,” said Ivan Vega, executive director or UTC.
This World Premiere presentation is made possible by the Field Foundation, the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Joyce Foundation and The Art Works Fund for Organizational Development.
Showtimes/Admission: Thursdays thru Saturdays, 8:00 pm; Sundays, 3:00 pm.; public matinee on Saturday, November 2, 3:00 pm. Ticket prices are: $15-$40. Admission is $15 for the previews, October 8 and 9. Industry Night, Monday, October 21 at 8 pm; admission, $20
Teatro Thursdays was created in 2014, in association with the Division Street Business Development Association (DSBDA). Two years later, Teatro Sundays was born. As part of Teatro Thursdays/Sundays, UTC partners with local restaurants in the Humboldt Park community to offer pre-show dinner or brunch packages in conjunction with the Thursday and Sundays performances. Ticket prices for Teatro Sunday Brunch ‘N Play at Nellie’s Restaurant, 2458 W. Division, are also $35.
You can purchase your tickets online at http://urbantheaterchicago.org/backinthedaywp/
About the Author and Playwright
Miranda Gonzalez (Playwright/UTC Artistic Director) was a founding ensemble member of Chicago’s Only All Latina Theater company Teatro Luna and has devised and developed plays since 2000. She is a recipient of the International Centre for Women Playwrights 50/50 Award. Previous directing and script development credits include: Ashes of Light by Marco Antonio Rodriguez, La Gringa by Carmen Rivera, Of Princes and Princessas by Paola Izquierdo at the 2010 Goodman Latino Theatre Festival 10x10 Festival, Lullaby by Diane Herrera, Crossed, GL 2010, The North/South Plays a workshop at the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs; Crime Scene Chicago with Collaboraction; and Melissa DuPrey’s Sushi-Frito at Free Street Theater.
Raquel Torre (she/hers; Director) is a creator/performer from Puerto Rico with a background in movement, clown, circus, and theatre. Since moving to Chicago in 2016, she’s collaborated with UrbanTheater Company, Opera-Matic, and Barrel of Monkeys. In 2013, she co-founded La Vuelta Ensemble (formerly Circo La Vuelta), a minority-led ensemble with a focus on high physicality and delightful absurdity. Raquel holds a BA in theatre from the Universidad de Sagrado Corazón (Puerto Rico), a certificate in Devised and Movement Theatre from Cabuia Teatro (Argentina), and an MFA in Devised Performance Practice from Columbia College Chicago (Berlin/Chicago).
José “Gringo” Echevarría comes from a family of legendary Puerto Rican artists and entrepreneurs, among them local MC, club owner and television personality Turin Acevedo and graphic designer Lorenzo Sandoz. Echevarría was one of the top leaders of the many Latino, African-American and LGBTQ dance crews that took over the floor of some of the Windy City’s most renowned juice bars and clubs during the early days of House Music. The first volume of his self-published memoir The Real Dance Fever explores what it was like for the young, mostly minority kids who chose the competitive dance world over life in gangs. Volume Two delves into Echevarria’s world after the house-dance scene briefly died out in Chicago.
About Destinos, the Chicago International Latino Theater Festival
Destinos is Chicago’s annual, citywide, live, international theater festival dedicated to showcasing the city’s acclaimed Latino theater artists and companies on the same platform as internationally known Latino theater artists from the U.S. and Latin America. Destinos is produced by the Chicago Latino Theater Alliance (CLATA) and supported by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, The Rick Bayless Family Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Field Foundation of Illinois, The Chicago Community Trust, Choose Chicago, a CityArts grant from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events, Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Humanities, Southwest Airlines, Allstate, BMO Harris, ComEd and Univision Chicago. For more information,visit CLATA.org, or follow Destinos at @latinotheater on Facebook,Twitter and Instagram.
About UrbanTheater Company
Founded in 2005, UrbanTheater Company serves as a pipeline for a diverse and culturally specific collective of chicago actors, designers, and producers who embrace the responsibility to create an environment full of honesty, integrity, representation, and acceptance in order to create innovative and accessible theater.
UrbanTheater Company engages itself in the work of community responsibility and strives to raise awareness and contribute to the important conversations concerning many of the social issues facing our diverse backgrounds. UTC’s current Board of Directors is composed of: Juan Carlos Linares (President), Jerry Conner (Vice-President), Marty McCaffrey (Treasurer), Miranda González (Secretary), Lori Berko and Ivan Vega.
For more information about UrbanTheater Company, visit http://urbantheaterchicago.org. Follow UTC on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/UrbanTheater, Twitter http://twitter.com/UrbanTheater, and on Instagram http://instagram.com/urbantheater.
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