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)

If you call during these hours, and do not reach us right away, we are assisting another patron. Please leave a message, and we will return your call as soon as possible!

design team

Coming Soon!

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.”