It was our great pleasure here at ChiIL Live Shows, to catch all three of these heartfelt solo shows. The series covers everything from birth to death, hilarious slice of life moments, mental illness, loss, and love. There's something incredibly intimate about listening to playwrights and actors revealing glimpses of their own lives, beliefs, experiences and truths on stage to an audience, in person. These three are all brave, strong pieces with universal human truths, and deeply personal situations. All three productions are quite different in tone and content but equally full of wisdom and insight. Recommended.
Arlene Malinowski is brave and beautiful in A Little Bit Not Normal. She brilliantly breaks the stigma and silence around bipolar disorder with her one woman show. Even in 2017, so many struggle with mental illness in silence and isolation, because it's invisible, never realizing just how prevalent it is. I have many friends and even family members fighting the same demons, who can't or won't speak about the realities of this disease, and this play was a huge help to me in understanding and empathizing. A heartfelt thank you to Arlene for eloquently expressing and embodying this struggle for those who have no words, and those who love them.
Brian Quijada's Where Did We Sit on the Bus? is a hilarious and comprehensive life story from laugh out loud funny moments in the womb and during birth through his present life. This immigrant story joins a vital body of works this season, on stages throughout Chicago, that serve as a much needed antidote to the rising tide of bigotry and racism in our country. We loved hearing Brian's unique struggles as the theatre loving son of two hard working immigrant parents, struggling to give their children better lives. He has great insight into the experience of being a poor hispanic kid in a rich, predominantly Jewish school. Later he has more nuggets of wisdom on his interracial marriage, the struggles to make a living in the arts, and how our own ancestor stories get embellished and passed down for posterity.
Finally, Luis Alfaro's St. Jude, takes audiences through the loss of a parent, as Luis struggles with his father's long illness, recovery, relapse, and finally, his death. This one man show is original in that he passes out many readings to audience members before the show, and they become a chorus of voices, adding to his own. Luis has the audience singing along with religious songs, familiar to many, and joining him in fond childhood reveries and abusive revelations. This powerful tribute to family aptly examines how where we come from shapes who we become.
Individual tickets to each production are $20, or a three show package, including a ticket to each production, is $40. Both are available through the box office at 773.871.3000 or online. With every ticket purchased, Victory Gardens Theater will provide one free ticket to a Chicago Public School student. For a complete performance schedule or to purchase tickets, visit www.victorygardens.org.
"We're thrilled to welcome Luis, Arlene and Brian back to Victory Gardens for our Up Close & Personal series this spring. Each of these remarkably personal stories are written and performed with humor, poetry and courage,” comments Artistic Director Chay Yew. “Now, for six weeks only, these national and Chicago artists will share their most intimate struggles and triumphs of family, hidden disabilities and immigration through performance."
About the Up Close & Personal Series
All performances take place upstairs at Victory Gardens in the Richard Christiansen Theatre. A calendar of the performance schedule can be viewed online at www.victorygardens.org.
A Little Bit Not Normal
Written and Performed by Arlene Malinowski
Directed by Lisa Portes
3:00 pm: April 29; 13, 14, 27(ASL Interpreted)
7:30 pm: April 30; May 3, 5, 6, 10, 12, 20 (ASL Interpreted), 21
Press Opening: May 6 at 7:30 pm
With her trademark humor, Arlene confronts her own state of mind when Depression walks into her kitchen, lights a cigarette, and makes himself at home. A Little Bit Not Normal is a serious comedy about depression and naming it, claiming it, and standing to be counted. It’s the journey of a love story tested and the secrets we keep about crazy.
Written and Performed by Ensemble Playwright Luis Alfaro
3:00 pm: May 21, 28, June 4
7:30 pm: May 17, 18, 25, 27; June 1, 2, 3
Press Opening: May 18 at 7:30 pm
Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater Playwrights Ensemble member Luis Alfaro (Mojada, Oedipus el Rey) returns to Chicago to perform a new version of his emotionally charged solo work. St. Jude takes us on a personal and powerful journey with Luis as he learns of his father’s stroke and is summoned home to the California Central Valley of his childhood. As his family gathers, Alfaro conjures memories of his youth; from picking grapes, to gospel-infused big tent revivals, from family celebrations, to running away from home. In Alfaro’s words, St. Jude takes us from “who I am” to “who I was.”
Where Did We Sit on the Bus?
Written and performed by Brian Quijada
Directed by Chay Yew
10:00 am: May 3, 5, 10, 12, 19
3:00 pm: April 30; May 6, 20; June 2, 3
7:30 pm: April 27, 28 29; May 4, 11, 13, 24, 26, 28, 31, June 4
Press Opening: May 6 at 3:00 pm
The multi-2016 Jeff Award winner Where Did We Sit on the Bus? is an electric one-man show pulsing with Latin rhythms, rap, hip-hop, spoken word, and live looping. During a third grade lesson on the Civil Rights movement and Rosa Parks, a Latino boy raises his hand to ask, “Where did we sit on the bus?” and his teacher can’t answer the question. This thrilling autobiographical production examines what it means to be an artist and a son of Latino immigrants through the eyes of a teenager.
Production Sponsor: The Wallace Foundation
About Victory Gardens Theater
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Chay Yew and Managing Director Erica Daniels, Victory Gardens is dedicated to artistic excellence while creating a vital, contemporary American Theater that is accessible and relevant to all people through productions of challenging new plays and musicals. Victory Gardens Theater is committed to the development, production and support of new plays that has been the mission of the theater since its founding, set forth by Dennis Začek, Marcelle McVay, and the original founders of Victory Gardens Theater.
Victory Gardens Theater is a leader in developing and producing new theater work and cultivating an inclusive Chicago theater community. Victory Gardens’ core strengths are nurturing and producing dynamic and inspiring new plays, reflecting the diversity of our city’s and nation’s culture through engaging diverse communities, and in partnership with Chicago Public Schools, bringing art and culture to our city’s active student population.
Since its founding in 1974, the company has produced more world premieres than any other Chicago theater, a commitment recognized nationally when Victory Gardens received the 2001 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theatre. Located in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, Victory Gardens Biograph Theater includes the Začek-McVay Theater, a state-of-the-art 259-seat mainstage and the 109-seat studio theater on the second floor, named the Richard Christiansen Theater.
Victory Gardens Ensemble Playwrights include Luis Alfaro, Philip Dawkins, Marcus Gardley, Ike Holter, Samuel D. Hunter, Naomi Iizuka, Tanya Saracho and Laura Schellhardt. Each playwright has a seven-year residency at Victory Gardens Theater.
For more information about Victory Gardens, visit www.victorygardens.org. Follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/victorygardens, Twitter @VictoryGardens and Instagram at instagram.com/victorygardenstheater/
Victory Gardens Theater receives major funding from The Wallace Foundation, Alphawood Foundation, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The Shubert Foundation, The REAM Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, Allstate Insurance, Polk Bros. Foundation, Crown Family Philanthropies, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The William and Orli Staley Foundation, and The National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding is provided by: Abbot Downing & Wells Fargo, Alliance Bernstein, The Charles H. and Bertha L. Boothroyd Foundation, Exelon, The Lloyd A. Fry Foundation, John R. Halligan Charitable Fund, Illinois Arts Council, Illinois Tool Works, Italian Village Restaurants, Mayer Brown LLP, The McVay Foundation, LLP, The Prince Charitable Trusts, The Saints, Charles & M.R. Shapiro Foundation, Southwest Airlines, The Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust, Whole Foods Market, and Wrightwood Neighbors Conservation Association.