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This is Not a Steppenwolf Production: and We're Damn Proud of That

THIS IS NOT A STEPPENWOLF PRODUCTION: AND WE’RE DAMN PROUD OF THAT By Artistic Apprentice Joshua Goode The show you are about to see is not a Steppenwolf production. No ensemble members will appear in tonight’s performance. None of them will direct it. None of Steppenwolf’s in-house designers worked on the set, costume or sound designs. With Garage Rep, Steppenwolf takes on a different role from that of producer and becomes what can best be described as a mentor, providing a safe space for others to develop and create. The work in front of you was produced by three of Chicago’s most exciting emerging storefront theater companies and we’re ecstatic to welcome them into our artistic home. The Chicago storefront theater scene produces vibrant new works for the American theater and cultivates the next generation of theater artists. Across the city, in church basements, school gymnasiums, warehouses and living rooms, companies are boldly challenging audiences and pushing the theatrical envelope. They use scraps of wood to build mansions and use broken CDs and a flashlight to paint the aurora borealis. They innovate. They are the theatrical equivalent to MacGyver—you should see what they do with a paperclip. Many storefront theaters, however, are itinerant. They perform in whatever venue is available for what they can afford. This nomadic existence is anything but glamorous. Storefronts continuously adapt to new spaces, hold meetings in coffee shops and use living rooms as storage lockers. Steppenwolf rose through these ranks from a church basement in Highland Park and feels a deep responsibility to support the work and talents of this effervescent community. To this end, in the mid-90s, Steppenwolf founded the Visiting Companies Initiative with two goals in mind: support the work of emerging storefront theaters and foster an environment for multigenerational dialogue. After almost a decade, this program evolved into the Garage Rep series. Now in its fourth year, Garage Rep has nurtured 12 emerging companies and countless artists through mentorship and production support. This yearly process begins in May, when Steppenwolf invites applications from storefronts across the city to participate in the upcoming Garage Rep season. Companies of varying size and aesthetic apply but are all bound by their demonstration of excellence and an ability to speak to millennial generation audiences. After an extensive interview process, three exciting companies with ambitious projects emerged for the 2012/13 season: Theatre Seven of Chicago, Buzz22 Chicago and Bailiwick Chicago. Three Shows, Same Space, Same Time The set you see in front of you was not here last night. By tomorrow afternoon, the entire stage will be cleared and a different set will be erected in time for an eight o’clock performance. This elaborate scenic transformation is even more complicated on days featuring multiple performances. In some 12-hour periods, sets changeover up to three times with no more than an hour between shows. Achieving this feat took immense planning and collaboration between these three companies, and it didn’t happen overnight. Starting in early September, the leadership for the companies of Garage Rep began meeting with each other and members of the Steppenwolf staff. Under the guidance of Associate Producer Jacob Padrón and Associate Production Manager Dixie Uffelman these three companies received mentorship in the areas of artistic producing, dramaturgy, marketing, media relations, production, strategic and financial planning and fundraising. This new ensemble nimbly collaborated to present a coherent festival. Before rehearsals began, they shared databases of actors and designers to help fill the roles of each individual show. With lighting designer Lee Keenan they found a ground plan that met the needs of three very different productions and established a blueprint for sharing limited off-stage storage space. The marketing and publicity teams strategized a marketing plan that advertised the entire repertory, not just individual productions. Despite the challenges, performing in repertory offers many gifts for artists and audiences. Garage Rep lets companies extend the length of their runs to ten weeks, allowing word of mouth to grow and stimulate new viewership. Rotating performances relieves the pressure of a standard six-show week, affording artists the time to keep day jobs. Audiences draw new meanings by experiencing a play in relation to others in a series. Most importantly, followers of one company gain exposure to different performing aesthetics and may forge unlikely connections. After Garage Rep, these companies will go back to their church basements and their living rooms. They’ll rent spaces from Theatre Wit, Stage 773 and right next door at the Royal George. Their future shows won’t be highlighted on the front page of Steppenwolf’s website; you won’t be receiving e-mails from us advertising their work but, rest assured they’ll be there. We hope that the productions you see as a part of this repertory inspire you to seek out other opportunities to engage with these companies in the future. Sign up for their mailing list. Check out their website. Take a second and talk to their representative after the show. Through Garage Rep, Steppenwolf hopes to contribute to the vibrant storefront theater ecology. We invite you to join us by continuing to support these companies beyond our red and black walls!