Tuesday, February 14, 2017

New Development and Education Opportunities for Chicago Playwrights

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 themselves.”

Website: www.stepupchicagoplaywrights.com

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