Sunday, January 13, 2019

FEST ALERT: Collaboraction's Encounter Two-Week Festival of Theater, Dance and Spoken Word Curated around the Themes of Equity and Inclusion, Running January 15-27, 2019

ChiIL Live Shows on our radar

We're long time fans of Collaboraction's social justice theatre and community inclusion projects here at ChiIL Mama and ChiIL Live Shows. My two teens have worked on productions with them in conjunction with After School Matter, and we've been impressed with Collaboraction's message and mission for years. Catch their latest efforts this January during their 14 day Encounter Festival.

Collaboraction's Encounter is a two-week festival of theater,
dance and spoken word curated around the themes of equity
and inclusion, running January 15-27, 2019.

The festival consists of six programs: three new full-length works,

two programs of mid-length pieces, and one short-works collection.

JANUARY 15-27, 2019


North side Edgewater resident Wade, sitting with his Folded Map Project twin Nanette on her porch in Chicago’s South side Englewood community. Courtesy of Tonika Lewis Johnson. Click here for these and more advance images of Collaboraction’s upcoming winter festival Encounter.

November 11, 2019 – Collaboraction, Chicago’s home for social-issue driven contemporary theater, announces the 2nd annual Encounter, a two-week winter festival of theater, dance and spoken word curated around the themes of equity and inclusion, January 15-27, 2019.

Encounter consists of six programs: three new full-length works, two programs of mid-length pieces, and one short-works collection, each devised and performed by Chicago artists working in a variety of media, all intended to incite knowledge, discussion and action.

Highlights include the world premiere adaptation Folded Map, a new live theater piece inspired by Tonika Lewis Johnson’s acclaimed Folded Map Project which connected Chicago “map twins” from Englewood and Edgewater.

Others are Dana N. Anderson’s Soul in Suburbia, about a black single mom living in Chicago’s suburbs, and a new work created by recently incarcerated Chicago-area youth via Storycatchers Theatre.

All Encounter programs will be presented at Collaboraction, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave., 3rd Floor, in Chicago’s Wicker Park neighborhood. Tickets to each performance are $10 for students, artists, educators, and seniors; $25 general public. Festival passes, which allow a holder to see each show in the festival one time, can be purchased for $60.

To purchase tickets, Encounter passes and for more information, visit, email or call
(312) 226-9633.

More about Encounter

Dana N. Anderson wrote and will perform Soul in Suburbia
as part of Encounter. Credit: Joel Maisonet

Encounter was curated through open and invited submissions from Chicago artists working in a variety of media including dance, music, spoken word and theater.

The three full-length productions selected for Encounter, all world premieres, are Nice Town, Normal People by Rhizome Theatre Company, When The Snow Melted in Chicago by Gregory Hardigan and Soul in Suburbia by Dana N. Anderson. Each production will be presented three times over the course of the festival.

The four mid-length performances, each 40 minutes or less, are Folded Map, devised from and inspired by the photographic art piece created by Tonika Lewis Johnson, A Great Day in the Neighborhood, conceived and performed by Lawndale native and performance-poet Marvin Tate with a live band, Open Questions, devised by Laura Biagi and Karly Gesine Bergmann, and Forecast by For Youth Inquiry (FYI) Performance Company at ICAH (Illinois Caucus for Adolescent Health).

Folded Map will be performed with A Great Day in the Neighborhood, and Open Questions is paired with Forecast - to create two double bills, each to be performed three times during the festival.

Of course, Collaboraction has long enjoyed a niche for presenting festivals of short works via its annual PEACEBOOK series and 15 years producing SKETCHBOOK. In keeping with that tradition, Encounter also includes one short works program with seven different pieces addressing themes of inclusion and equity created by Chicago artists like Loretta “Firekeeper” Hawkins, She Crew, Storycatchers Theatre and Syrian refugee Sami Ismat.

“Encounter picks up where our fall PEACEBOOK tour left off, giving our audience new opportunities to immerse themselves in a deep, mixed medium exploration of racism in Chicago with a unique breadth of Chicago artists,” says Artistic Director Anthony Moseley.

“We’ve seen Collaboraction’s brand of social-issue-driven work cultivate knowledge and empathy, and serve as a catalyst for dialogue, understanding and peacemaking. With Encounter, Collaboraction will continue to engage a diverse group of Chicago artists and audiences in urgent conversations about the sad impact of systemic racism.”

Following the two-week festival in Wicker Park, select pieces from Encounter will tour to Englewood, Lawndale and Hermosa - neighborhoods where Collaboraction performs regularly and continues to deepen relationships with its residents - as part of Collaboraction’s One City initiative. 

Following are dates, showtimes and more details about Collaboraction’s 2019 Encounter:


When the Snow Melted Down in Chicago
Written by Gregory Hardigan, directed by Nik Whitcomb
Saturday, January 19 at 7 p.m.
Friday, January 25 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 27 at 3 p.m.

Exploring the many identities and neighborhoods found in Chicago, this piece explores the triumphs and tribulations of Chicagoans, and the many things you find once the snow melts.

Nice Town, Normal People
by Rhizome Theatre Company
Devised by Ashlin Hatch and Kyle Berlin, Music composed by Makulumy Alexander Hills
Wednesday, January 16 at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, January 18 at 7 p.m.
Sunday, January 20 at 3 p.m. 

Nice Town, Normal People is a dynamic documentary theater piece that explores the idea of Home— what it is, what it once was, and what it might become— by inviting the voices of Chicago community members to come into conversation with voices from one small town in rural California.
Soul in Suburbia

Written by Dana N. Anderson
Thursday, January 17 at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, January 24 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 26 at 9:30 p.m. 

When unrealistic expectations and workplace microaggressions trigger her hot-headed ways, Dana, a black single mom, lands in anger management as a requirement of keeping her survival job and cushy lifestyle. Anderson, recipient of Collaboraction’s 2018 Artist Award, explores the exacerbating social aspects of being a black woman raised and living in Chicagoland.


Folded Map & A Great Day in the Neighborhood
Friday, January 18 at 9:30 p.m.
Wednesday, January 23 at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, January 26 at 7 p.m.

 Tonika Lewis Johnson, creator of Folded Map Project,
and co-founder and current Program Manager,
Resident Association of Greater Englewood (R.A.G.E.)

Folded Map
In collaboration with Tonika Lewis Johnson, Co-Directed and Devised by Brighid O'Shaughnessy and Penelope Walker, with additional devisers Terry Guest, Brit Cooper Robinson, Melissa Rohman and Fred Wellisch

Based on the acclaimed Folded Map Project by Tonika Lewis Johnson, Chicago Magazine 2017 “Chicagoan of the Year,” this production in progress explores the impact of 200 years of segregation in Chicago by highlighting Johnson’s personal journey to becoming both an artist and activist as well as the stories of her first Folded Map “twins” - residents from North Side communities like Rogers Park and their geographic counterparts in Englewood.

As luck would have it, Chicago theater artist Brighid O’Shaughnessy turned out to be one of Johnson’s North side twins, which spurred this live stage adaptation. Don’t miss this chance to see several stories of the Folded Map twins presented live, on stage, and examine as a community what can be done to bridge the divide in Chicago.

(from left) Tonika Lewis Johnson photographs Brighid O’Shaughnessy and Brighid’s son, Djouby, of Chicago’s Rogers Park neighborhood, with their Folded Map “twin” Carmen Arnold-Stratton (right) in front of Arnold-Stratton’s home in Englewood. O’Shaughnessy is now directing the live stage adaptation Folded Map as part of Collaboraction’s Encounter series. Photo courtesy of Tonika Lewis Johnson.

A Great Day in the Neighborhood
by Marvin Tate, directed by Sam Lewis

A musical journey through the all too real and fanciful mind of performance poet, lyricist, author, visual artist and educator, Lawndale’s own Marvin Tate, backed by a live band.

Open Questions & Forecast
Tuesday, January 15 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 20 at 5:30 p.m.
Friday, January 25 at 9:30 p.m.

Open Questions
Devised by Laura Biagi with shadow puppetry by Karly Gesine Bergmann

Using sound healing as its foundation, Open Questions is an interactive audience piece about the power of sound to move people, heal hurt and isolation.

Devised by For Youth Inquiry (FYI) Performance Company at ICAH

A young black woman discovers she is pregnant. Slipping into sleep that night, she enters a dream world filled with racialized myths, prophecies and monsters that confront her with the decision of whether or not to parent in this world.


Saturday, January 19 at 9:30 p.m.
Tuesday, January 22 at 7:30 p.m.
Sunday, January 27 at 5:30 p.m.

Of Quiet Birds
Written by Loretta Hawkins, directed by Dionne Hawkins 

Spoken word artist Loretta "Firekeeper" Hawkins performed
at Collaboraction's 2018 PEACEBOOK Festival

This scene is a selection from the full-length production, Of Quiet Birds. This drama explores the various kinds of conflict that arose within an African-American family living in the South at the dawn of the Civil Rights Movement. Hawkins explores the ideal of all ethnicities coming together, from all corners of the Earth, to demand human rights for all people.

Picnic Summit
Devised by Sami Ismat

Through a dark and absurd family picnic, this piece explores how the polarization of politics among the people in charge can have a devastating effect on those who rely on them. It is devised by Sami Ismat, a Syrian refugee.

Tato - First Roots in Chicago
Devised by Sophia Pietrkowski

Born and bred in Chicago, Pietrkowski explores her first roots to the city. As a third generation storyteller, she retells her grandfather's holocaust testimony and the new beginnings that brought her family to Chicago. This piece asks what does it mean to seek refuge and to feel safe in a community we relate to?

16 Shots
Written by Alanisse Pineda, a member of {she crew}, directed by Jessica London-Shields

We don't see people as they are, but as we are. 16 Shots is a meditation on Laquan McDonald, staged using an abstract greek chorus style in consideration of the daily microaggressions young people of color navigate, living within the backdrop of police violence.

Devised by B.B. Browne

Using intergenerational story circles and interviews with Chicago residents, artist B.B. Browne calls attention to the resurgence of efforts to protect Black women and girls who have gone missing from the South side of Chicago. Join this artistic response to the ongoing crisis that centers the voices of the community.

Fig Leaf
Written by Kay Thompson, directed by Dominique Chestand

Fig Leaf unwraps the layers of one's identity as a queer couple struggles to manage grief after losing a relative to Chicago gun violence.

Storycatchers Theatre

For more than 30 years, Storycatchers has helped court-involved young people write their true stories to confront and heal the effects of trauma. For Encounter, the Changing Voices ensemble made up of youth ages 17 to 24 creates a new work looking for a new direction.

About Collaboraction

Collaboraction (, Chicago’s social contemporary theater, collaborates with a diverse community of Chicagoans, artists and community activists to create original theatrical experiences that push artistic boundaries and explore critical social issues. Since the company’s founding in 1996, Collaboraction has worked with more than 3,000 artists to bring more than 60 productions and events to more than 150,000 audience members.

Collaboraction Artistic Director Anthony Moseley (left)
and Managing Director Dr. Marcus Robinson (right).

Collaboraction is led by Artistic Director Anthony Moseley, Managing Director Dr. Marcus Robinson, a company of 20 talented Chicago theater artists, and a dedicated staff and board of directors. The company’s vision is to utilize theater to cultivate dialogue and action around our most critical social issues throughout Chicago.

For the past five years, Collaboraction has partnered with the Chicago Park District through their Night Out in the Parks program, returning each year to cultivate relationships and theater in Englewood, Austin and Hermosa through the Crime Scene, PEACEBOOK and Encounter tours. Production highlights also include its series of Crime Scene productions responding to Chicago’s crime epidemic; Sarah Moeller’s Forgotten Future: The Education Project; 15 years of the SKETCHBOOK Festival; the Chicago premiere of 1001 by Jason Grote; the world premiere of Jon by George Saunders and directed by Seth Bockley; and The Intelligent Design of Jenny Chow: an instant message with excitable music by Rolin Jones.

Collaboraction also maintains an active Collaboraction For-Hire division, which creates custom special event design for private, corporate and civic clients, including the Art Institute, the City of Chicago and many more.

Collaboraction is supported by The Chicago Community Trust, The Joyce Foundation, The Field Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, DCASE and the Wicker Park & Bucktown SSA #33 Chamber of Commerce. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council, a state agency.

For more, visit, follow the company on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube or Tumblr, or call the Collaboraction box office, (312) 226-9633.

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