Join UrbanTheater Company (UTC) as they take you back to the 80s, to the glory days of house music when Black and Latino dance crews set such legendary local juice bars like Jenal’s and Medusas on fire with their dance moves. From June 19 and until August 3, UTC will transform the Chopin Theater, 1543 W. Division St., into a nightclub as they present Back in the Day, artistic director Miranda González’s work-in-progress adaptation of José “Gringo” Echevarría’s memoir The Real Dance Fever: Book One. Co-directed by González and Raquel Torre, the final version of Back in the Day will have its world premiere as part of Destinos, the third annual Chicago International Latino Theater Festival (CLATA), in the fall. Back in the Day concludes UTC’s 13th season, titled Born and Raised, dedicated to native Chicago playwrights telling neighborhood specific stories.
This House Music dancesical follows the Northside Chicago dance crew, The All Stars, led by José “Gringo” Echevarría and their frenemies, The Culitos and Imported Taste when teenagers dominated the 1980’s afterhours scene and found family and acceptance through street dancing. Echevarria’s All Stars would take the house-dance scene by storm for over ten years; these were kids who led exciting lives as semi-celebrities while navigating the rough streets of Chicago. A self-taught dancer and choreographer, Echevarría took his talented group of young dancers to the big stage, while also traveling with the famous Argentinian pop duo Pimpinela as their choreographer.
UTC will also be hosting a basement party after the performance every other Saturday beginning on Opening Night June 22nd. DJ Pablo “Punkout” González will be the first guest DJ. González started his DJing career in 1982. He recorded DJ sets for WBMX and became an associate member of the legendary Hot Mix 5. Offered a residency on WCYC-FM by DJ Kenny Jammin’ Jason, González became widely recognized for his alternative dance mixes and for packing the Alcatrazz Dance Club on the South Side of Chicago as its resident DJ.
“We want to create a truly immersive experience and we want our audiences to literally come party with us,” said González. “The Latino/a and LGTBQ contribution to House Music and to the city’s dance scene has long been overlooked; with our production we are giving that contribution its due. I can’t wait to see how audiences interacts with this work-in-progress as we prepare for its World Premiere.”
“We want our audience to experience a story unfold through movement. We're lucky to have choreography directly from the source, from Gringo himself! I can go to his house and learn the choreography firsthand. He’s been very generous,” added co-director Torre. “This is a big ensemble. My goal is to find movement that feels authentic for the actors, using what they're bringing to the table.”
The cast for Back in the Day includes: Larry Trice (José “Gringo” Echevarría); Claudia Quesada (Charlie Ríos); Omar Vega (Frankie Díaz/DJ Personas); Steph Vondell (Gladys “Miss Chicago” Rodríguez); Amy Toruno (Beatriz “Miss B” Soto); Andre Truss (Carlos Smith); Breon Arzell (Ty Clark); Mateo Hernández (Eddie “Miss Ladeeda Tallulah Slobish” Betancourt); Nicolás del Valle (Leach Solis); Christopher Sylvie (Shane Ruiz); Micah Matarre (Alma Coutee); and Mateo Hurtado (Geraldo Alanis).
The production team includes: Ivan Vega (co-producer); Jenna Meyers (production manager); Maydi Díaz (stage manager); Harrison Ornelas (scenic design); Levi Wilkins (lighting design); Antonio Bruno (co-producer and sound design); Parker Langvardt (projection design); and Sarah Albrecht (costume design).
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.
“By investing and mentoring emerging local community artists, we are creating an experienced and diverse workforce-pool in the performing arts industry on both a local and national scale,” said UTC Executive Director Ivan Vega. “This work actualizes our mission statement and tagline ‘From the Streets to the Stage’ by fulfilling our purpose of not only archiving our history but creating a place where our apprentices receive hands on experience in production design and administration.”
Showtimes/Admission: Thursdays thru Saturdays, 8:00 pm; Sundays, 4:00 pm. Ticket prices are: $35. Admission is $15 for the previews, June 19-21.
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. For Back in the Day, the same concept will be used in Wicker Park as part of a new community partnership. Ticket prices for Teatro Thursdays (dinner + play) at Cumin Restaurant (Napalese/Indian), 1414 N. Milwaukee Ave, are $50. Ticket prices for Teatro Sunday Brunch ‘N Play at Picante Taqueria (Mexican), 2016 W. Division, are $50.
You can purchase your tickets online at http://urbantheaterchicago.org/backintheday
About the Author and the Co-Directors
Miranda Gonzalez (Co-Director-Adapter/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; Co-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).
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.