Pictured: Chicago Home Theater Festival co-organizer Blake Russell (left)…
Roll up—on a CTA train or bus—for the debut of the Chicago Home Theater Festival, which features 12 days of theater performances at 12 secret locations across Chicago—all residences of artists and activists. Attendees register online and are texted the CTA stop at which to meet a tour guide to take them through the neighborhood and to the host's living room, kitchen or rooftop for a lineup of performances including theater, dance and comedy.
"The Chicago Home Theater Festival evolved from the International Home Theater Festival, which launched in the Bay Area four years ago and currently spans numerous countries and continents," said co-organizer Irina Zadov, who participated in Berkeley, Calif. before moving to Chicago last fall.
Zadov—who works with the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum—teamed with dancer and performance artist Blake Russell and together they reached out to friends, colleagues and the Chicago Artists Resource to select neighborhoods, hosts and performers. "Co-organizing the festival has been a performance of its own, as we curate shows, venues, and neighborhoods with an intention of creating intimate, site-specific art that builds social capital," Zadov said.
We checked in with participants at five the 12 events to find out more about the shows and where else to visit while you're in each neighborhood.
Chicago Home Theater Festival
Go: 7 p.m. daily, May 1-12; various locations
Tickets: $10. Available until 3 p.m. the day of each event at chicagohtf.org
MAY 1, LAKEVIEW
Host: Chicago Home Theater Festival co-organizer Blake Russell
Featured artists: Darling Shear (dance), Emily Anderson and Harrison George (improv), Liana Percoco (short film) and others
Blake Russell says: "Our place always has people visiting—for lessons, for conversation, for drinks, for chess. There is always something being shared here."
The neighborhood: Russell recommends Headquarters Beercade (950 W. Wolfram St.). "[It's] just around the corner from our place. The night we're hosting [Wednesday, May 1] they've got their 'Buddy System' special: beer and a shot combo. Upgrade."
MAY 5, BRONZEVILLE
Host: Sixty Inches From Center arts archiving project co-founder Tempestt Hazel
Featured artists: The Island Theater Company, a puppetry act and Scot West ("Thank U 4 a Funky Time," a performance piece set to Prince's "Purple Rain")
Scot West says: "Trapped in his ex's apartment, a man attempts to process eight years of heartbreak in only 43 minutes and 51 seconds—the amount of time that it takes to listen to Prince's 'Purple Rain.' It's totally gonna work."
The neighborhood: Hazel recommends The South Side Community Art Center (3831 S. Michigan Ave.), "the oldest African American Art Center in existence," she said.
MAY 6, KENWOOD
Host: Activist and scholar Bill Ayers
Featured artists: Laboratory Dancers, readings from the play "The Long Walk for Water," and Truth 'n' Trauma
Bill Ayers says: "Everyone [sees] something new, up-close and personal, elbow to elbow with friends and strangers. This is such a Chicago thing—theater for the people and broadening the commons."
The neighborhood: Ayers recommends stopping by Operation Push (930 E. 50th St.), Obama's house near 51st and Greenwood, Louis Farrakhan's house at 49th and Woodlawn and Valois Restaurant (1518 E. 53rd St.).
MAY 7, ALBANY PARK
Host: Regin Igloria, Moki Tantoco and Jon Ten Brink of North Branch Projects
Featured artists and activities: Comedian Erin Lane (autobiographical solo show), Laboratory Dancers, Rachel Damon and the Synapse Arts Collective (dance) and others, plus a community bookbinding project
Emily Lukasewski of Laboratory Dancers says: "I'd much rather be chilling with my friends watching a dance, gazing upon paintings and listening to weird sound bubbles than trying to yell above the din of a drunk bar crowd."
The neighborhood: Ten Brink recommends The Cambodian American Heritage Museum (2831 W. Lawrence Ave.), because "Albany Park is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the U.S. and what better place to experience culture?"
MAY 9, PILSEN
Host: Performance artist Abbey Odunlami
Featured artists: Chad Sainson (multimedia), Jessica Marks (short film) and Caila Lipovsky (solo show)
Irina Zadov says: "Abbey Odunlami is the ideal Chicago Home Theater host because his practice is intentionally relational—its impetus is to bring together strangers for intimate, creative encounters."
The neighborhood: "Check out Fiesta Tapatia [2752 W. Cermak Road]. It's a warm and inviting place with authentic food, and it's cheap," Odunlami said.