The Project(s)

Now EXTENDED through June 21 21!

American Theater Company (ATC) presents the third world premiere in its 30th Anniversary season: The Project(s), a documentary play about the history of public housing in Chicago, April 24-June 21, 2015. Conceived, co-written and directed by ATC Artistic Director PJ Paparelli and co-written by Joshua Jaeger, The Project(s) innovatively combines documentary theater with a cappella music, body percussion and stepping to create a provocative examination of the successes and failures of public housing that poses the question, "What is America's responsibility to its poor?" Single tickets for The Project(s) range from $38-$48 and are now on sale at the Buy Tickets link or call the box office at 773-409-4125.

 

From 2010 until 2014, Paparelli conducted over 100 interviews with scholars, historians, and former and current residents of Chicago's public housing, including Cabrini-Green, Robert Taylor Homes, Wentworth Gardens and Ida B. Wells Homes. The Project(s) interweaves verbatim material with a cappella music, body percussion, and stepping with choreography by Jakari Sherman, artistic director of Washington, DC-based Step Afrika!, the nation's only professional dance company devoted to stepping. Paparelli previously conceived, co-wrote, and directed the critically-acclaimed documentary play columbinus that premiered its third act at ATC, toured to ArtsEmerson in Boston in 2013, and has been produced around the country and internationally.

"The Project(s) is the story of Chicago," says Paparelli. "My hope is to shatter the misconceptions about public housing by taking a hard look at what happened from both the planning side and from the residents' point of view. I have met the most extraordinary people on this journey and am honored to share their stories of hope, resilience, and resistance, especially during this time of racial turbulence across our nation."

The Project(s) received two development opportunities at the Orchard Project, a national new play development retreat in New York; a Jentel Artist Residency in Wyoming, and a MacArthur International Connections Fund grant, through which Paparelli travelled to the United Kingdom to workshop the play at Citizens Theatre in Glasgow and the Lyric Hammersmith in London, in addition to interviewing public housing residents and city officials in Scotland. ATC also partnered with Howard University in Washington, DC, for a five-week workshop integrating stepping and body percussion.

The Project(s) is free to all former and current residents of Public Housing. If interested, please call the box office on 773.409.4125

Box Office Hours:
Monday through Friday: noon to 6pm
Saturdays: 1pm to 8pm (on performance days)
Sundays: noon to 5pm (on performance days)

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design team

PJ Paparelli (Director, Co-Playwright, Artistic Director) is in his eighth season as Artistic Director of American TheaterCompany. His ATC directing credits include The Humans, Hair, Sons of the Prophet, columbinus (Five Jeff Nominations), The Catholic Rep: Doubt & Agnes of God, The Original Grease (Jeff Award for Best Musical), Escape, The Amish Project, Distracted, Yeast Nation, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, The Black & White Rep: True West, and the regional premiere of Speech & Debate (Jeff Nomination). He made New City’s “Top 50 Most Influential Theatre Players in Chicago ‘08, ‘11, & ’13.” His ATC writing credits include columbinus and Every Year is This Year, which was co-written by Maria Irene Fornes for ATC’s The Silver Project.
From 2004-07, he was the Artistic Director of Perseverance Theatre in Juneau, Alaska. During his tenure, Perseverance expanded its staff, completed a $1.1M facility expansion/renovation and $1M Endowment campaign and sent productions Off-Broadway, to Washington DC, and around the country. His directing credits include Equus, The Who’s Tommy, Hamlet, Twelfth Night, Hair, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Voyage, and columbinus. PJ conceived and co-adapted Raven Odyssey, a theatrical journey of Alaska Native Raven stories, gathered through interviews with Elders across the state.
In 2002, PJ conceived, co-wrote, and directed columbinus, a documentary-style play about modern adolescence through the lens of the Columbine Shootings. The play had its world premiere at Round House Theatre and Perseverance Theatre, and moved off-Broadway to New York Theatre Workshop. Ten years later, PJ returned to Littleton, Colorado to re-interview survivors and write a third act, which premiered at ATC and toured to ArtsEmerson in Boston. columbinus was nominated for 2 Lucille Lortel Awards, 5 Helen Hayes Awards, and 5 Joseph Jefferson Awards and has seen over 100 productions around the world.
From 1998-2004, he served as the Associate Director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, DC, where his directing credits include Much Ado About Nothing, Hamlet, Love Letters (with Dixie Carter and Hal Holbrook), All’s Well That Ends Well (Classical Acting Conservatory), The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Merchant of Venice at the Shakespeare Free For All. He was associate director on Much Ado About Nothing starring Karen Ziemba, and The Oedipus Plays starring Avery Brooks at the Athens Festival in Greece. In 2011, he returned to direct The Two Gentlemen of Verona for the Theatre’s 25th Anniversary. His DC productions include Romeo and Juliet (The Folger), a collaboration with Terrence McNally on a new version of Corpus Christi at Source Theatre (2003 GLAAD Media Award), The Diaries (Signature Theatre) and Love’s Labour’s Lost (Washington Shakespeare). The Washington Post called PJ, “One of the most exciting talents working in Washington.”
Other directing credits include Romeo and Juliet (Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis), Twelfth Night at Shakespeare Santa Cruz (2005 Newsweek’s Top 5 summer productions), The Merchant of Venice (American Shakespeare Center), Escape (Provincetown Tennessee Williams Festival), Action (Circle Rep) and True West in Russian at the Moscow Art Theatre School. He has worked in education/administration at The Public Theater, Pittsburgh Public, and Circle Rep, and has directed and/or taught Shakespeare at The Juilliard School, the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, NC School of the Arts, U of Alaska, UNC at Chapel Hill, Catholic U, U Penn, and Johns Hopkins University. He holds a BFA in Directing from Carnegie Mellon University and graduate studies in acting at the Moscow Art Theatre School. He is a member of SDC and is represented by Creative Artists Agency in New York.

Joshua Jaeger (Co-Playwright) served as the 2012 Artistic Projects Fellow at American Theater Company. During that time, he co-produced the 10X10 and Big Shoulders festivals of new short plays, and sat on ATC's Literary Circle. He assisted in producing Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s inaugural After Party, a multi-disciplinary late-night series presented in tandem with the annual Garage Rep. Joshua has dramaturged and assistant directed for TimeLine Theatre Company, Victory Gardens, and Chicago Dramatists. Alongside his work in theatre, Joshua performs as a percussionist with the international touring artist Angel Olsen. His drumming may be heard on her current release, Burn Your Fire for No Witness.

Jakari Sherman (Choreographer) is a passionate choreographer and performer whose experience extends over 20 years. Rooted in the African American tradition of stepping, his work has sought to push the boundaries of percussive dance as a communicative medium by challenging conventional paradigms and exploring the use of technology, storytelling, and diverse musical scores. He has served as the Artistic Director of Step Afrika! since 2007 and brought new life to the folkloric tradition of stepping locally and across the globe. Under his creative guide, the company has won awards for Excellence in an Artistic Discipline, Innovation in the Arts, and Outstanding New Work. Jakari has also received Metro DC Dance Awards for Outstanding Emerging Choreographer and Excellence in Sound Design and Original Composition. For three years he served on the faculty of Chicago Human Rhythm Project’s Rhythm World, and has performed and taught all across the country and throughout the world. Jakari got his start performing and coaching for champion competitive teams, and launched his professional career as the Founding Director of the National Basketball Association’s first permanent step ensemble. He is also Founder of Ordered Steps, a Houston-based nonprofit devoted to teaching stepping as a tool of youth outreach and community development. Jakari is currently pursuing a Master of Arts in Ethnochoreology from the Irish World Academy of Music and Dance at the University of Limerick. Through his studies and research, he is undertaking groundbreaking ethnographic work related to structural analysis, teaching methodologies, and historical archiving of stepping in the United States.

William Boles (Scenic Designer) is a Chicago-based scenic designer who has designed both in the United States and internationally. Recent projects with ATC include The Amish Project, columbinus, Speech and Debate, and Sons of the Prophet. His work has been seen at Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Wolftrap Opera, Victory Gardens, A Red Orchid Theatre, Side Show Theater Company, About Face, First Floor Theater, and Opera Northwestern, amongst others. Upcoming productions include Second Nature with The Lyric and The Snow Dragon with Opera Siam in Thailand. MFA/ Northwestern University. See more of his work at williambolesdesign.com.

Jesse Klug (Lighting Designer) Previous ATC credits: Hedwig and The Angry Inch (Jeff Award), Columbinus (Jeff nomination), The Amish Project (Jeff nomination), Yeast Nation (Jeff nomination), Sons of the Prophet, Speech and Debate, Grease, Distracted, Doubt, and Oklahoma. Off-Broadway: The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity (Lortel, Hewes nominations), The Screwtape Letters (Off-Broadway and National Tour), Romulus, and The Hunchback Variations. Regional: Goodman, Chicago Shakespeare, Marriott, Steppenwolf, Milwaukee Rep, Indiana Rep, Arizona Theatre Company, Paramount, Drury Lane, Lookingglass, Victory Gardens, Geffen Playhouse, The Old Globe, Asolo, Shakespeare Theatre Company, Court Theatre, Portland Center Stage, Northlight, Writers Theatre, International: Edinburgh Fringe Festival, INFANT, Market Theatre of South Africa, Syndney Fringe Festival, as well as other on five different continents. He is a Chicago Jeff award winner and fifteen-time nominee. Jessekluglightingdesign.com

Christine Pascual (Costume Designer) is delighted to be working with ATC and PJ once again. She designed most recently for The Royale. Recently she designed the workshop productions of Feathers and Teeth, The Magic Play, and Carlyle for New Stages at the Goodman Theatre, Tamer of Horses for Teatro Vista, Ecstasy for Cole Theatre, Eat Your Heart Out for Rivendell Theatre Ensemble, Pinkolandia at 16th Street Theater, A View From the Bridge at Teatro Vista, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England at Theater Wit, Seven Guitars at Court Theatre, Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, the workshop productions of Goodman New Stages Festivals in 2013 and 2012, and The Happiest Song Plays Last, Fish Men, and El Nogalar at the Goodman Theatre as well. Other Chicago credits include Boeing Boeing at Drury Lane, Disconnect, The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity, Relatively Close, The Romance of Magno Rubio, Hambone, Blackbird and We are Proud to Present a Presentation....,at Victory Gardens Theater; Mr. Chickee's Funny Money, Bud, Not Buddy at Chicago Children’s Theatre; Trevor, Simpatico, Megacosm at A Red Orchid Theatre; Four of Us at Theatre Wit; Burn This at Shattered Globe Theatre; Wrens with Rivendell Theatre Ensemble; Madagascar at Next Theatre Company; White Tie Ball for Teatro Vista. Other theater companies she designed for include Urban Theater, Next Theatre, Shattered Globe, Remy Bumpo, Congo Square, Apple Tree, Chicago Dramatists, Defiant Theatre, Onyx Theatre. Regional credits include The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity at Second Stage Theatre, NY, Fences at Virginia Stage and Joe Turner's Come and Gone at Centerstage, Baltimore.

Michael Stanfill (Projection Designer) is a Jeff Nominated Projection Designer. Favorite Projection Designs include: Hotel Cassiopeia (Wheaton College), The Life and Times of Tulsa Lovechild (Roosevelt University), Sunset Blvd, Children of Eden (Timber Lake Playhouse), …Things I Found on Craigslist (University of Illinois Chicago), Thinner Than Water, The Royal Society of Antarctica (The Gift), Hot Georgia Sunday (Haven), Mr. Burns, Completeness (Theater Wit, Jeff Nominated), The Normal Heart (TimeLine, Jeff Nominated), The Whaleship Essex (Shattered Globe), Cats (Paramount Theater - Aurora), The Hundred Flowers Project (Silk Road Rising), Ghosts of War (Griffin), The Day John Henry Came to School (DePaul University). He holds an MFA in Lighting Design from Northwestern University and is a proud member of Local USA 829. Please visit www.michaelstanfilldesign.com

Jimmy Jagos (Properties Designer) is happy to be back with ATC. He has previously worked with ATC as properties designer on Hair and The Royale. He has also worked with Mary Arrchie on The Brig, NoraNina Productions on The Bachelorette, Chicago Tap Theater on Tight Wire, Third Eye Ensemble on The Medium and NWaC creating puppets for Alice. Big thank you to Mom, Grandma Irene and Jason Harris.

Sarah Slight (Production Dramaturg) is the Literary & Grants Manager at ATC where she has dramaturged The Big Meal by Dan LeFranc. Other dramaturgy credits include The Old Masters by Sam Marks (Steppenwolf Theatre Company, First Look); Smart Cookie by Julia Brownell (Alliance Theatre); Dog and Wolf by Catherine Fillioux (59 E 59); A Flea in Her Ear translated and adapted by David Ives, Broke-ology by Nathan Louis Jackson, Caroline in Jersey by Melinda Lopez, and Samuel J. and K. by Mat Smart (Williamstown Theatre Festival, Literary Associate); Little Eyes by Cory Hinkle (Workhaus Collective); Maria/Stuart by Jason Grote and Iris by Kevin Kautzman (Red Eye Theater Company, Literary Manager); Some Girls by Neil Labute (Walking Shadow); Beef by Larry Dial (Slant Theatre Project); and Vera Laughed by Keith Bunin (The New Harmony Project). At The Playwrights’ Center in Minneapolis, Sarah has dramaturged new plays by Lee Blessing, Victoria Stewart, Vincent Delaney and Anton Jones, among others. Sarah holds a BS in Theatre Studies from University of Evansville and an MFA in Dramaturgy and Script Development from Columbia University.

Aaron Benham (Music Director) is a local music director, arranger, and composer. Chicago credits: Melancholy Play (Piven); Always, Patsy Cline; A Cole Porter Songbook (Theo-Ubique); The Wild Party, Carrie (Bailiwick Chicago); Sweet Smell of Success (Kokandy, Jeff Nom); We Three Lizas (About Face); also work with New Colony, Porchlight, Timeline, and Writer's Theatre. Teaching artist at Roosevelt, Harper College, and Chicago Academy for the Arts; performer with Second City and the Improvised Sondheim Project. BFA, Emerson College.

Katie Klemme (Production Stage Manager) The Project(s) marks Katie's 21st production at ATC over the past seven seasons, the most recent being Let Me Down Easy and Mercy Strain earlier this season. Other highlights include columbinus (Boston and Chicago), the world premiere of Disgraced (2013 Pulitzer Prize) and the long-running The Original Grease, among many others. Other recent credits include work the long running Mr. Burns- a post electric play, Seven Homeless Mammoths Wander New England (Las Vegas & Chicago), The Santaland Diaries (2012-2014)- all at Theater Wit, Saudade: Dreams & Longing (The Music Theatre Company), The Pride (About Face Theatre). Katie is on faculty at Loyola University Chicago where she teaches stage management.

Niki Dreistadt (Assistant Stage Manager) is a company member at Vivarium Theatre Company and an Artistic Associate at Square Product Theatre. Upcoming Projects include Vivarium Theatre’s Impossible Play Festival and Prologue Theatre’s Porcelain. Favorite Stage Management credits include Polaroid Stories with First Floor Theatre, Stand Up Eight with Aerial Angels, and Bug with Devil’s Thumb Productions.

Megan Kowalsky (Assistant Stage Manager) is thrilled to be making her American Theater Company debut! She has worked with Emerald City, Light Opera Works, Lookingglass, Step Up Productions, Porchlight Music Theatre and Buzz22 Chicago. She was last seen creating chaos onstage last summer in Bailiwick Chicago's production of Carrie: The Musical. Megan is a Columbia College Chicago graduate with a B.A. in Theatre and Events Management. She would like to thank her family and friends for their constant love and support... even when she gets "hangry." Megan would also like to thank Justin Timberlake for being a beautiful, magical human being.

Grace Cannon (Assistant Director) is thrilled to be a part of this world premier at ATC. She worked as the New Play Development Apprentice at American Theater Company in 2014. Since then, she directed the staged reading of The Unlikely Ascent of Sybil Stevens by Kari Bentley-Quinn (Artemisia, Fall Festival) and two short plays by Jeff Augustin: Sidetrack and Stop & Frisk (American Theater Company, 10x10 Festival). A graduate of Vassar College with a degree in American Culture, Cannon is a great believer in the power of documentary theater. Other credits include The Laramie Project (No Fog West Theater) and Talking to Terrorists (No Fog West Theater).

Will Cotter (Assistant Projections Designer) likes to make weirdo art in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles, where he studied theater and integrated media at the California Institute of the Arts. Over the past two years, Will worked extensively with actor James Franco, playing the titular role in his multimedia narrative Paradise and co-developing Moony’s Kid at the Edgemar Center in Santa Monica. Other performance credits include Robert Brustein’s Hamlet (Hamlet) and Lars Jan’s The Institute of Memory. Will’s favorite Magic the Gathering format is cube draft, his role model is Derrick Rose, and his website is william-cotter.com but he hasn’t updated it because he gets anxiety about networking.

Kevin Dorff (Assistant Director) has worked with American Theater Company as a New Play Development Apprentice on Season 30’s The Healthcare Plays, The Humans, The Royale, and ATC’s annual 10x10 New Play Festival. He has had the opportunity to attend a workshop at Howard University and a residency through the Jentel Foundation in anticipation of this world premiere production. Kevin grew up in Des Moines, IA and received a BA in Theatre from Colorado College, where he was an actor, mostly, but since graduating last spring, he has become much more interested in directing and dramaturgy. After The Project(s), Kevin will continue working with ATC as an Artistic Fellow.

Briana Stuart (Assistant Choreographer) is a performer, choreographer and teaching artist from Detroit, Michigan who received her Bachelor’s of Fine Arts in Dance and Bachelors of Arts in Sociology from the University of Michigan. She has worked with and performed works by choreographers such as Lindsey Merchant, Melissa Beck, Germaul Barnes, Jessica Fogel, Christopher Huggins, Sarah Ewing, Shen Wei and Dianne McIntyre. Currently, she is a full-time company member with StepAfrika!, as well as a company artist with SJEwing & Dancers in Washington, DC. She has performed nationally and internationally at numerous colleges/universities, the Atlas Performing Arts Center, Sydney Harman Hall, Guantanomo Bay Naval Base as well as many others. Recently she was invited to perform her contemporary modern solo choreography in Dance Place’s 2014 New Releases Choreographers Showcase and Joy of Motions 2014 Dance Project Showcase. Briana is honored to contribute her artistry and choreography to the production of The Project(s).

Ian Olsen (Technical Director) is a freelance TD from Maine, via the Eugene O'Neill Theatre Center in Connecticut and Hartwick College in New York. Previous Chicago technical direction includes: The Walk Across America for Mother Earth (Red Tape Theatre); Hot Georgia Sunday (Haven Theatre); Great Expectations (Strawdog Theatre); Let Me Down Easy and Mercy Strain (American Theater Company) and Exit Strategy (Jackalope Theatre).

the ensemble

Linda Bright Clay (Ensemble) native Chicagoan, and member of AEA, SAG-AFTRA, has worked in the area at the Victory Gardens, Dame Lorraine, Goodman, Joe Turner's Come and Gone, and Chicago Theatre Company, Home, winning a Black Theatre Alliance award for best performance. She has also worked at the Madison Rep in Having Our Say and Permenant Collection, and in a program piece with Writers Theatre, For My Brothers... Linda's film credits include, "Seven Psychopaths", "Halfway", "Just Married", "The Night Before The Morning After", "Halfway" and "Original Gangstas". She has done TV series work, and acted in a local Emmy-nominated television special, "Martin Luther King Suite". She has many local and national TV and voice-over commercials to her credit, such as for Sears, U.S. Bank, United Healthcare, Crest, McDonald's. Lifestyle print ads include the recent Hallmark Valentine's promotional signage, Glade, Fifth Third Bank, and she was the cover model for an issue of Ebony Magazine. Linda obtained both her B.A. and M.A. in Theatre at Northern Illinois University, and co-directed the Black Theatre Workshop there for 3 years. She has directed and assisted at various theaters, educational and social service institutions in the Chicagoland area.Linda and her husband, John, have a son, Nicholas, and reside in the area. Giving thanks to God, she is honored and delighted to be a part of the World Premiere of The Project(s).

Omar Evans (Ensemble) is honored to take part in The Project(s) and to be sharing the stage with such a talented cast. He was born and raised in Philadelphia, PA. He studied acting and received his BFA from Marymount Manhattan College, and is a member of Theater for a New Generation. Omar’s theater credits include Freefall, Bombity of Errors, Pvt. Wars, Corner Wars; television credits include Law and Order: Criminal Intent, Law and Order: SVU, Third Watch; film credits include Carlito’s Way: Rise to Power, Explicit Ills, Blackout and Light and the Sufferer. Omar would like to thank his mother and father, Mel Williams, Tesser, Ryan & Rochman, Arcieri & Associates and Talentworks for their continued support.

Kenn E. Head (Ensemble) is a veteran of the Chicago theatre scene. He was last seen as Sissy NaNa in Airline Highway at Steppenwolf. He appeared in Fish Men at the Goodman as well as The Convert. He was also part of a very successful run of Invisible Man at Court Theatre where he also did Spunk.He is a familiar face on many Chicago stages. You may have seen him in Romeo and Juliet at Chicago Shakespeare Theater. Before that he was seen in The Lost Boy’s of Sudan at Victory Gardens where he has been almost a fixture for many years. Some of his most recent work that he is most proud of include a very successful run of The Overwhelming at Next Theater. He has also preformed a number of times a Steppenwolf. Other theaters familiar with his work include Congo Square where he was proud to be part of Seven Guitars where they garnered the coveted Jeff Award for Ensemble as well as Best Play. Other theaters include Yale Rep and American Theater Co. His television credits include episodes of ER and Early Edition as well as various commercials.

Joslyn Jones (Ensemble) This has been an incredible journey: Thank you, PJ, Josh and the entire team at ATC for listening to those voices and telling their stories. To the residents: without your willingness to share your lives and memories none of us would be here: THANK YOU! Credits: The Delany Sisters: The First Hundred Years (Fleetwood Jourdain Theatre; Once On This Island, (Marriott Lincolnshire); 12 Ophelias, (Trap Door); Weekend, (TimeLine Theatre) Bourbon At The Border, (Eclipse Theatre), Escape (Live Bait), Flyin’ West and RAISIN (Court Theatre), SPUNK, (Court Theatre’s: Artist in School Program), Bee-Luther-Hatchee, (The University Of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign), Fabulation: Or, the Re-Education of Undine, (Next Theatre), Relevant Hearsay (MPACCT: Theater on the Lake), Bee-Luther-Hatchee and Smokey Joe's Café, (Open Door Repertory), Meshuggah Nuns!, (Chicago Jewish Theatre), The Kurt Weil Revue: Songs of Darkness and Light ( Theo Ubique), To Kill A Mockingbird, (Metropolis Performing Arts Centre); 2002 Class of The School at Steppenwolf. Joslyn understudied: Head of Passes and Carter’s Way, (Steppenwolf), The Snow Queen, (Victory Gardens Biograph), Crumbs From The Table of Joy (The Goodman). Love always to family, friends and Devine Power. Agent: Big Mouth Talent; @JoVoJo; Joslyn@PrinceRealtyGroup.com

Stephen Conrad Moore (Ensemble) is a native of Kansas City, MO, who lives and works in New York City. Recent NY premieres include “ANTHEM: An Original Musical” at the NY International Fringe Festival, “Ni**er/Fa**ot” at the HERE Arts Center and as Ajax in “Ajax in Iraq”, with the Flux Theatre Ensemble. Other NEW YORK credits: Bone Orchard Theatre Company, The Civilians, Classical Theatre of Harlem, Columbia Stages, Company Cypher, Full Stop Collective, The Lark Theatre, Manhattan Theatre Works, The Playwright’s Theatre, Red Fern Theatre and Working Man's Clothes. REGIONAL: Arizona Theatre Company, The Ensemble Company for the Performing Arts, Hope Repertory Theatre, Kansas City Repertory Theatre, O'Neill Theatre Center, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Shakespeare Theatre in D.C., Virginia Stage Company, Yale Repertory Theatre. HONG KONG: Festival of “The Lion King”; FILM/TV: “Margaret” (dir. Kenneth Lonergan), “Wedding Daze” (dir. Michael Ian Black) and “The Painting”, “Yield” and …“Sesame Street”…! Mr. Moore is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama. stephenconradmoore.com.

Penelope Walker (Ensemble) most recently worked with Erasing The Distance Theatre Company in Will You Stand Up? She has appeared in the last 10 seasons of A Christmas Carol at Goodman Theatre. Other Goodman credits include The Story, Crowns and Wit. She has also worked at Chicago Dramatists, Northlight Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Next Theatre Company, Ma'at Production Association of Afrikan Centered Theatre, Rivendell Theatre Ensemble and Chicago Theatre Company. She created & began performing her own solo piece, How I Jack Master Funked the Sugar in My Knee Caps! all over Chicago. Ms. Walker has appeared regionally with the Alliance Theatre, Arena Stage, Hartford Stage and the Alley Theatre. Film and television credits include Severed Ties, Something Better Somewhere Else and Boss.

AnJi White (Ensemble) is truly grateful to be returning to ATC for the world premiere of The Project(s)! Recently,she was last seen in Collaboraction's remount of Forgotten Future as Felicia Tate. Some Chicago credits include Mud, River, Stone (Eclipse Theatre), ITHAKA (Infusion Theatre); RENT (ATC); Soul Samurai (Infusion Theatre). She's also had the opportunity to understudy Timeline's production of A Raisin in the Sun, Clybourne Park (Steppenwolf Theatre); and Regina Taylor's Trinity River Plays (Goodman Theatre). She continues to give much praise to God for constantly opening up doors and allowing her dreams to become a reality.

Eunice Woods (Ensemble) is thrilled to be making her American Theater Company debut in such an incredibly important play! She is thankful to the residents, historians and city workers for sharing their stories and perspectives. Eunice is a proud Acting Ensemble member of Barrel of Monkeys. Other Chicago acting credits include Dessa Rose (Bailiwick Chicago); Hey! Dancin'! Hey! Musical (The Factory Theater); The True History...of Julia Pastrana (Tympanic Theatre Company); Raskol (Vintage Theater Collective); Miami Nice (Gorilla Tango Theatre); and The Rose Parade (Body Project Ensemble & VOTC). She holds a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University.

Letter from PJ

Dear Friends,

Welcome to American Theater Company and the world premiere of The Project(s).

Shortly after I arrived at American Theater Company, the organization had a great desire to diversify. That experience led to substantial changes in the organization including a commitment to developing multicultural work about a wider definition of the American experience. Derrick Saunders, the former Artistic Director of Congo Square Theatre Company, and I had several meetings about the type of work our generation of artistic leaders should be producing. Instead of continually producing European classics or the same classic plays from the African-American cannon, Derrick spoke of the desire to nurture and develop new multicultural stories from deep within our community. These would be the plays that trickle across American colleges and high schools and inspire young multicultural artists to see themselves and their experiences on center stage. I left that meeting with a charge for ATC that led to premiering plays like Welcome to Arroyo’s by Kristoffer Diaz, Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar, and this season’s, The Royale by Marco Ramirez.

At the same time, the Chicago Community Trust approached me with the idea of developing a play on Chicago’s public housing. While fascinated, I was nervous. I thought, “Maybe I shouldn’t be the one to write this.” I wasn’t born in Chicago and this story was predominantly an African American one; perhaps it should have an African American writer. But I remembered Derrick’s words…and as I started researching this complex topic, I realized that race and class should not continue to scare us back into our separate and familiar tracks, nor should it dictate what stories we tell and who tells them. I was just afraid. And I needed to get over it.

For the last five years, my co-writer, Joshua Jaeger, and I conducted over 100 interviews with scholars, city officials, and former & current residents of public housing. Through the support of artistic residencies here and aboard, we were able to shape these interviews into what you will see when you attend the performance. My collaborator Jakari Sherman and I developed a theatrical aesthetic of sound and movement inspired by the music from these housing developments and African American dance forms like stepping. Our goal was to create an evening that tells the story of Chicago’s public housing from both outside and deep inside of these American communities.

This play defines community. Over the last five years, an army of collaborators participated in its development. Many dedicated individuals gave so much time and talent to see this play to fruition. I want to particularly thank the vision of Susanne Connors and the generosity of the Chicago Community Trust who believed in this project from the very beginning. I am grateful to our partner organizations that provided residencies and support including the Orchard Project, Jentel Artist Residency Program, Citizens Theatre Company in Scotland, the Lyric Hammersmith in London, Howard University Department of Theatre Arts, Sheridan College & the Wyoming Theater Festival, the John T. and Catherine D. MacArthur Foundation and the many individual donors in the ATC community especially Larry and Susanne Broutman and Bruce and Joyce Chelberg. All of you made this idea into a reality.

Most of all, I want to thank the residents who opened their hearts and homes to us. This piece is dedicated to them. We hope that what you see here tonight will inspire you to learn more about the history of these developments and the thousands of families who lived in them. Take a moment, strike up a conversation, and be open to change. We can learn so much from each other.

Sit back. Take a breath. Clear your mind. And let us take you on a journey deep inside of the heart of Chicago. I’m so glad you are here.

Your Artistic Director,

buzz

WBEZ Morning Shift sat down with PJ Paparelli and Joshua Jaeger, co-writers of "The Project(s)," to discuss the process of developing the show and the history of public housing in Chicago.

"It started pre-WWII. Many of the residents were working-class white Chicagoans, who had low-paying jobs. And that sort of evolved. When you look at one housing project in particular, the Trumbull Homes, when there was talk of integrating those with African-American residents, there was a riot."

"4 STARS...Unforgettable...emotionally intense and laudably complex new docudrama...performed with such a riveting level of personal intensity." - Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune

"Highly Recommended...enacted by a cast of eight that serves as one of the more phenomenal examples of 'Chicago style ensemble acting.'" - Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times

"How can one even try bringing the complicated story of public housing in America to the stage? I traveled to Chicago asking myself the first question while hoping for the best. I drove home afterward hoping this ambitious, thought-provoking show comes to Milwaukee." - Mike Fischer, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

 

American Theatre magazine sits down with Artistic Director PJ Paparelli for an exclusive preview of "The Project(s)." Read more about the history of public housing and the process of developing a documentary play.

“We have probably over 3,000 pages of transcripts from over 100 interviews,” Paparelli notes. “What was challenging was making sure we had a balance of voices. We didn’t go in thinking, ‘This is the story we’re going to tell.’ That had to emerge out of these interviews. You really have to trust the process.”