After four years of producing plays in Chicago, Step Up Productions is reforming as Step Up Chicago Playwrights. In its new form, Step Up will dedicate itself to supporting new Chicago plays through paid residencies and commissions. Through its Chi Wrights education initiative, Step Up also hopes to foster a new, more diverse generation of Chicago playwrights. Founding Director Elizabeth Antonucci will continue to work with the company in an advisory role, while Brad Akin will step into the new role of Executive Director.
Beginning March 1, Chicago playwrights will be able to apply for a Neighborhood Residency
from Step Up. Selected playwrights will be paired with one of Chicago’s neighborhoods and
provided with connections to a diversity of communities in the area. Through sharing,
participation, and observation, resident playwrights will have the opportunity to build a
relationship with some of the dynamic communities that make Chicago unique.
Executive Director Brad Akin believes that the opportunity will be incredibly useful for many
of Chicago’s playwrights. “Playwrights aren’t just talented at writing stories,” says Akin.
“They’re also talented at seeing stories in the people and places around them. This residency
will help a playwright to see their own neighborhood in a new light, or to see another
neighborhood for the first time.”
A key component in building the relationship between playwright and neighborhood is the Chi
Wrights program, Step Up’s new education initiative. Built into each Neighborhood Residency
will be play literacy classes and workshops that allow the resident playwright to share their
knowledge and experience with interested neighbors. Whether it’s an introduction to
playwriting for high school students or a master class for playwrights eager to improve their
work, the Chi Wrights program allows resident playwrights to give back to the host
neighborhood. It also allows Step Up to foster the next generation of Chicago playwrights.
“We want to develop plays, but we also want to develop connections between our theatre
community and our neighborhoods,” says Akin. “Those aren’t two separate goals: we believe
that meaningful Chicago plays will spring from meaningful relationships between playwrights
and communities.” Playwrights who have completed a Neighborhood Residency will be eligible
to apply for a Chicago Works Commission from Step Up. This commission will provide an
$8,000.00 fee and support for workshops and readings.
For Founding Director Elizabeth Antonucci, building relationships between artists and
neighbors has always been an important part of the organization’s mission. “It’s important that
the stories we tell connect to our audiences in a way that has impact,” she says. While changing
Step Up from a production model to a development model has brought a number of changes,
that focus on connection has remained constant. “It was always a challenge to find plays that
would connect to our Chicago neighbors. Now we’re building those connections into the plays