Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Emerging Theater Award 2013 Acceptance Speech

Ann Filmer: On behalf of Managing Director Eddie Sugarman and North Berwyn Park District’s Joe Vallez – please stand up, Joe, people need to know who you are -- thank you for this honor.

It is so fitting to follow Michael Halberstam, my first mentor.  I began my career as Michael’s assistant at Writers’ Theatre in Glencoe where I watched him in the back of a bookstore build up his theater literally one audience member at a time.  

16th Street Theater is unique because it is a partnership between artists, a park district and a not for profit.    North Berwyn Park District’s Executive Director Joseph Vallez had a vision of “if you build it they will come.”  He built a 49 seat theater in the basement of a city building so that the park district could offer the arts in addition to sports and recreation.   In May of 2007, he built it and Ann Filmer came, and in one of those “you have a theater, I want to run a theater” moments, 16th Street was born.  

When we announced our first season of plays: Tanya Saracho’s Kita y Fernanda, Arlene Malinowski’s Aiming for Sainthood, Susan Hahn’s The Scarlet Ibis and Will Dunne’s The Ascension of Carlotta, a woman from nearby Stickney called after she saw Hedy Weiss’ announcement in the Sun Times.  She said “Don’t you want anyone to come to your theater?” I said, “Uh yes.” She went on: “The Ascension of Carlotta what is that about?  I’ve never heard of it and such a strange title.” I took a breath, decided to not get defensive, “Ma’am it’s a lovely new play and tell you what: try us out, and if you don’t like it you can have your money back.  And, ma’am, remember The Glass Menagerie was once a new play and if that isn’t a strange title I don’t know what is.”  There was a pause on the other end of the line: “Well now that’s true.”

The vision from day one was: a professional theater FOR the community telling the stories of ALL in our community. Professional meaning not only a dedication to Artistic excellence but also a commitment to compensation: artists are skilled workers and must be paid fairly for their craft. With the playwright as our central focus, 16th Street offers up stories not only reflecting those but FOR those who live in our community.  That means: diverse stories, affordable tickets.  High ticket prices tell a certain segment of the population: “This is not for you.”  We are proud to be a 49 seat equity house with a top ticket price of $18 with plays told mainly in English with big bursts of Spanish, and sprinkles of Urdu, Farsi, Arabic, American Sign language and the language of poetry.

Eddie Sugarman: I joined 16th Street in January of 2013, and was inspired to be a part of a theater engaged 360 degrees in its community. A strong and growing board of directors led by President Patrick Murphy including Marilyn Campbell and Deborah Stewart provide support, advice and invaluable fundraising. Foundations and organizations such as the Richard H. Driehaus Foundation, Alphawood, The Chicago Community Trust, Illinois Arts Council, The Saints, Arts Work Fund, Culvers, small businesses of Berwyn, our audiences and subscribers and donors - And especially the North Berwyn Park District and its staff for creating a home for theater in the first place and sustaining it. They all make 16th Street’s vision possible. In just our sixth season, we have expanded our reach by offering community-based programs and classes through North Berwyn Park District, and will partner again with Berwyn Library and Morton High School on Berwyn Reads.

Ann Filmer: This is such a huge honor for us.  Personally this is my 20th year anniversary as a member of the Chicago Theater Scene. Chicago’s world class theater scene has yet to disappoint me.  What I treasure most about it is the communal spirit which is not just lip service but a true collaboration with shared respect between large institutions and small theaters.  Chicago is theater that works.  Chicago theaters understand this: when we support each other and share resources we are ALL better for it.  This award exemplifies this spirit:  a large commercial theater Broadway in Chicago awarding a small not for profit theater located in a park district building in Berwyn not only an award but $5,000.  Thanks to the League of Chicago Theatres, the press who have hiked out to Berwyn to take notice. and the entire Chicago Theater Community.

-- Ann Filmer May 20, 2013
Transcript of her acceptance speech on behalf of 16th Street Theater winning Broadway in Chicago’s 2013 Emerging Theater Award.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Cast of "8"

Spectacular cast of "8" performs at the historic Hemingway Arts Center in Oak Park, llinois on Sunday, March 10, 2013.  What a moving performance!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Kliph Nesterhoff gives a thoroughly entertaining history of Archie Christian comics on his blog. An excerpt below:

"In Archie's Love Scene Jughead's pet Hot Dog stars in a story called God Spelled Backwards. Hot Dog fantasizes that he functions as a human, walking upright, and dressed in bell bottoms, head band, and other hippie regalia. Hot Dog pontificates...

HOT DOG: It's strange being a human being - after you enjoy all those wild things - then what??? There must be more to life than this!!!
[Hot Dog wanders into a Christian discussion group]
CHRISTIAN MAN: Welcome - there's just one thing that separates man from animal -
HOT DOG: He's speaking to me!
CHRISTIAN MAN: Animals can eat and think and communicate to a degree - just as man does - but they can't worship!
HOT DOG: Worship? What's that?
CHRISTIAN MAN: Animals just aren't capable of faith!
HOT DOG: Faith???
CHRISTIAN MAN: And without faith man becomes an animal!"

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

I was a teenage Tim Tebow by Syler Thomas

Pastor Syler Thomas will be our guest at 16th Street for post-show dialogue after Accidental Rapture this Thursday, February 9.

Enjoy his article in yesterday's Tribune: I was a teenage Tim Tebow.

It is funny and moving.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

So many Raptures... so little time!

I really enjoyed this article written by Ken Trainor in Oak Park's Wednesday Journal and wanted to share it with you: Looking for Rapture in All the Wrong Places

Post-show dialogues begin this Thursday and continue every Thursday and Friday following the performance of Eric Pfeffinger's ACCIDENTAL RAPTURE through February 18.

See you at 16th Street!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

What are you going to do to participate?

Had our first talk back tonight after The Beats. Guest poet Shannon Matesky was doin' some truth tellin'. Her spirit is awesome. Confident and full and unafraid and full of love and desire.

We talked about spoken word and poetry. And is there a difference. She said "it's poetry if it has art in it." She said she liked Amiri Baraka saying: "I'm not interested in writing sonnets or sestinas or anything. Only poems." and then he adds: "If a poem has got to be a sonnet, it's certainly let me know. (Though I doubt it.)"

We talked about audience engagement because when I saw Louder Than a Bomb we were encouraged to make noise, give props, snap, clap, say "ye-ah". The performers were doin' it. The audience was doin' it. And she said it's all about giving permission.

Actor Malcolm Callan talked about when he was going to shows as a teen and the band saying: "We are the band. And you are the band. What are you gonna do to participate?"

I guess it's all about asking the question. Giving permission. Turning up the lights maybe just a touch.

We will see what happens in the experiment that is "poetry as theater."

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

"It's not that I didn't want children....."

Rebecca Gilman's play THE CROWD YOU'RE IN WITH has got people talking! Theater is dialogue and we hope that this is a safe place to share thoughts, opinions and feelings. Of course we all will not agree with each other. But we treasure the voices of ALL in our community. Hope you enjoy this below from Rosie Newton. After seeing the play last weekend and telling me about her own choices, I asked Rosie to write her thoughts down for our blog. We would love to hear from you too. Please email me yours at

"It's not that I didn't want children. It's that I never had the urge to have them. It just wasn't there. I never thought about it. When I was in my 20's and friends were starting to get married and then to have babies, I was always a little surprised--"Really? You're having a baby?!"--I had a hard time picturing my high-school pals as parents--probably because I couldn't picture myself as a parent. I still felt like such a kid.

When I got to my early thirties, most of my friends were married and starting families. I was less surprised at each new toddler that showed up at barbecues and pool parties, but I still didn't think about my so-called biological clock. Children simply were not on my radar. Once, when a single woman I knew confided that she couldn't believe she was still unmarried and childless, I was struck at how sure she was that she would have been a wife and mother by now. I mentioned the conversation to another friend, and related my astonishment at how let-down this woman had felt--parenthood had seemed, to her, a natural course of events, and somehow it hadn't happened. My friend let me know that most people felt that way. Most people grew up wanting to get married and have a family. I was stunned.

I took up the conversation with other friends, and yes, it seemed that nearly everyone I knew had always known that they would have children--even when they were children themselves. As a child, I always saw myself as alone in adulthood--of course, I always saw myself saving a busload of orphans from plunging over a cliff, or curing cancer, or opening a speech with, "I'd like to thank the Academy...", but I never had a motherhood fantasy. My Walter Mitty daydreams didn't include a vision of myself as a mother.

Looking back--I'm glad I didn't have kids. As a young adult, I had my own issues to work out, and taking on a helpless, dependent child would quite simply have been a disaster. I am sure of that. My brothers and sisters gave me a dozen nieces and nephews, each of whom I adore and absolutely cherish. Having them in my life has been an absolute joy, and I wonder sometimes what my life would have been like with kids at the center of it, but other than that curiosity, I don't feel a void in my life. Being a mom wasn't for me, and I knew that. It was a certainty that I've held all my life, and I don't regret it. I rarely tell people, though--it makes most folks uncomfortable."
Rosie Newton is an actress and writer. You may have seen her in Teatro Vista's OUR LADY OF THE UNDERPASS at 16th Street. Interestingly enough, she played the woman who was heartbroken over the fact that she was childless.