"5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche" with Thea Lux, Caitlin Chuckta, Rachel Farmer, Megan Johns and Kate Carson-Groner.| Photo by Michael Courier.
† Through June 15
† Flat Iron Arts Building, Room 300, 1579 N. Milwaukee
† Tickets, $30 per program; $50 fetival pass
† (312) 226-9633;
Updated: June 24, 2014 7:20AM
Fourteen years ago, Collaboraction inaugurated Sketchbook, a festival of short plays that right out of the gate caught the imagination of theater artists and audiences alike. Since then it has become a valued platform for playwrights, directors and actors to toy with new ideas and innovative formats while also serving as a unique adventure for theatergoers.
“It’s a chance to go for it and spread wings, especially for emerging artists,” artistic director Anthony Moseley says. “It gives them a place to establish their voice and really take risks without feeling hampered by the financial side of things. And Sketchbook brings in a large, diverse audience willing to support this kind of mini ecosystem.”
Early in their careers, playwrights such as Brett Neveu and Ellen Fairey could be found at Sketchbook playing with the format and having a lot of fun with it. The always-innovative ensemble New Colony has staged three pieces in past years, including “5 Lesbians Eating a Quiche” which was extended into a full-length play and became a critical hit for the company (it’s currently being restaged at Chopin Theatre).
“The Sketchbook experience is very much in alignment with our mission to create theater for non-theater going audiences,” notes New Colony artistic director Andrew Hobgood. “If we are trying to teach non-theater audiences that theater is more than just sitting politely in the dark watching a play, Sketchbook is pretty much the ideal place to bring them.”
“Sketchbook: 2049” features 17 world premiere pieces ranging in length from under a minute to 20 minutes, and presented in two programs. But what, you might ask, does the “2049” signify? That would be the year 2049, which serves as a clever framing device for the plays.
In that future year, the world has been for decades readjusting itself after a seven-year revolution. In the once shuttered but now reopened Flatiron Building, workers discover in Room 300 a preserved theatrical environment: 17 scripts about how the people in 2014 lived before the revolution.
“We’re trying to look at the present within this context of a fictional future,” Moseley says. “This is a reflection of our new mission statement which has been put in place since the last Sketchbook.”
The overwhelming response to the 2013 production, “Crime Story: A Chicago Anthology,” was Moseley’s first step toward a new vision for Collaboraction to be used as an artistic tool to explore critical social issues in order to create a dialogue and incite change.
Playwright Ike Holter (“Hit the Wall”), who served as guest curator for Sketchbook, was instrumental in bringing “a new energy” to the event, Moseley says. He opened Moseley’s eyes to certain plays that he might have passed over.
“I wanted a crew of diverse voices,” Holter says. “I looked for pieces that said something big but didn’t feel preposterous or weighty. You really want the audience to feel they’ve seen a full play in the smallest amount of time.”
Among the offerings are New Colony’s “Goodbye, Night,” a piece about what happens when a medical breakthrough nullifies the need for sleep. Holter and director Dexter Bullard team up for “Dream Scenario,” in which a victim of an elaborate stalking, plans to face the tormentor. And Usman Ally’s “Based on a True Story” was inspired by a heated Facebook exchange he had with someone about the use of ethnic minorities and Native Peoples as mascots for sports teams. Brooke Allen’s “The Rise and Fall of Everything in the World” looks at the value of a universe created by two aimless clown-like beings.
Moseley adds that an adjoining theater space will be transformed into a lounge where audience members and performers can hang out together before and after shows.
“We hope people will want to come on this journey with us,” Moseley says. “We may be exploring critical social issues but we’re still the same old multi-disciplinary, goofy, provocative Collaboraction.”