Open Source Theatre Project was an idea conceived by Barry Eitel in the spring of 2009. I was just about to graduate and he had another year of college. We gathered up a few colleagues and discussed our idea: guerrilla theatre that uses public domain works as the basis for scripts, and also produces brand new work. We were interested in producing in non-traditional spaces, creating a new kind of experience for the audience.
We realized our limitations right away, the biggest being that we were very young and had a limited scope of working in the professional theatre world. We didn’t have any capital. We didn’t know the rules, so we couldn’t begin to break them.
I had produced a full length show during my freshman year at Loyola, so I had a little more experience in knowing what to expect and what the steps were. In a word, I remembered that it was hard. The infrastructure of a university theatre department doesn’t follow you around, being supportive and providing money or class credits. I directed a department studio show as my senior capstone project, with a full design team, budget, marketing strategy, and mentor panel. I was able to learn the nuts and bolts of directing actors and collaborating with designers, but things like allocating funds towards printing and pounding the pavement to market were far from my mind.
We tabled the idea of starting a collective. I began venturing out in the professional world, working non-stop as a stage manager, director, and occasionally, an actress. In December of 2009 we began discussing Open Source again. I’ve always been so drawn to this idea because I love history. What came before. It’s all essential to me. I also enjoy Barry’s writing. It’s very witty and clever, and every character has such humanity. I spent the beginning of 2010 working with seasoned and brand new companies. I began cultivating my passion for new work, holding readings of new plays in my home, constantly writing, and seeking out new plays as an audience member. Open Source Theatre gives me the chance to combine the two parts of my self: the history lover and the new work adventurer.
With The Shepherds’ Pageant, we are able to look at this historical and studied piece in a new way. The Second Shepherd’s Play is part of many a college curriculum as the representative of medieval cycle plays. It gets turned on its ear, and the result is a funny, sometimes sweet portrayal of what Christmas is really about. Working with the actors in our space has been a magical jumping off from page to stage.
Our space is my dream come true (albeit without heat, for now—that’s coming next week). A non-traditional space choc-full of its own history. The Logan Square Comfort Station, built during World War I, was one of many buildings all throughout the city, during the early 20th century. Comfort Stations provided, well, comfort to those who wanted to sit somewhere warm, use a restroom, grab a cup of coffee. Sort of a glorified proto-bus stop. They lined the city boulevards, havens to pedestrians taking in the beautiful streets. With the surge in automobiles, less and less people stopped to smell the flowers. Comfort Stations became unnecessary and archaic. In the 1950s, they ceased to operate, and our little home in Logan Square shut down. For years, it was a shuttered building, used to store lawn mowers for the city. As the years past and progress hurtled forward, it became the last Comfort Station standing in the entire city of Chicago. Several months ago, it was recently purchased by the fantastic group of individuals who make up the Logan Square Preservation Society. With their support of the arts and our group specifically, this production is possible. The Comfort Station is located right on the Square, across from the monument and the Blue Line. We’re very excited to become a fixture of this neighborhood.
Production Manager – Open Source Theatre Project
Director – The Shepherds’ Pageant
The Shepherds’ Pageant: A Christmas Play
By Barry Eitel
Preview December 9th
Performances are ONE WEEKEND ONLY! December 10th-12th
Logan Square Comfort Station 2595 N. Milwaukee