Albany Park Theater Project & Third Rail Projects to Premiere of LEARNING CURVE
"Learning Curve," a world premiere immersive performance created by Albany Park Theater Project and Third Rail Projects, will place audiences within the walls of Ellen Gates Starr High School and in the shoes of its students. With each step audiences take through Starr High School, they will experience the real-life triumphs and struggles of Chicago public school students, teachers and parents during the years that hopefully lead to a high school diploma. Produced in partnership with Goodman Theatre, preview performances for "Learning Curve" begin July 27; the press openings will be July 31 and August 1. Tickets go on sale June 15 for performances through August 28.
Created and performed by a cast of 32 youth artists, in collaboration with an expansive team composed of career artists from APTP and Third Rail Projects, "Learning Curve" is the first large-scale immersive theater production in the country featuring a youth ensemble. A maximum capacity of 40 audience members fosters an intimate experience in which performers interact directly with the audience within the heightened reality of the school. The site for the performance, Ellen Gates Starr High School, is named for the pioneering educational and political reformer who co-founded Hull House settlement house in Chicago with Jane Addams in 1889.
Two years in development, "Learning Curve" utilizes the distinctive strengths of APTP and Third Rail Projects to create a stylized theatrical experience unlike any other. For nearly two decades, APTP's youth ensemble has built a reputation for its high artistic standards, its imaginative performance style and honest storytelling, and for fearlessly tackling issues such as immigration, poverty, racism, housing, domestic violence, food policy and education. Collaboratively created by the youth ensemble and its artistic directors, APTP's performances are always inspired by real-life stories gathered through interviews conducted by company members.
Third Rail Projects is a New York City-based, dance theater company dedicated to re-envisioning ways in which audiences engage with contemporary performance. Known for their award-winning and critically acclaimed site-specific and immersive theater productions, they are the creators of the long-running hit "Then She Fell" and their newest immersive work "The Grand Paradise," both in Brooklyn - as well as highly regarded world-wide programs through their Global Performance Studio. Third Rail Projects is also set to premiere "Sweet and Lucky" with The Denver Center for the Performing Arts in May. "Learning Curve" is Third Rail Projects' first work in Chicago.
"When I first attended a performance by Third Rail Projects, it changed my perception of what is possible in theater," said David Feiner, APTP Producing Artistic Director and "Learning Curve" Co-Director. "Third Rail stands out in the experiential theater genre by taking exceptional care of audiences, privileging each visitor with a carefully curated journey into their immersive worlds. This first-of-its-kind collaboration between the personal and evocative storytelling of APTP's youth artists and the immersive performance approach honed by Third Rail Projects will open the world of Ellen Gates Starr High School to audiences in a way that is theatrically thrilling and emotionally and intellectually transformative."
"In 'Learning Curve,' audiences will explore what it means to be in a Chicago public high school today, while also having space to remember and reflect on their personal educational journeys, recognizing similarities and differences, shedding light on issues that persist and those that have evolved over time," said Jennine Willett, Third Rail Projects Co-Artistic Director and "Learning Curve" Co-Director. "We have been amazed by the fearless, insightful and thoughtful way that the APTP performers have taken to the challenge of creating an immersive work, as if they were just waiting for the opportunity to step off the stage and invite the audience to experience their world."
"The Goodman's ongoing partnership with Albany Park Theater Project has generated some of the most moving and memorable productions our audiences have experienced," said Robert Falls, Artistic Director of Goodman Theatre. "Third Rail Projects is an innovator in immersive performance; coupled with APTP's gifted young actors and authors, they are certain to create a theatrical event that is imaginative, powerful and transformative."
"Learning Curve" will be performed by 32 youth ensemble members of Albany Park Theater Project, all of whom are also co-creators of the devised work. Ensemble members ranges in age from 13 to 19, and have spent from one to five years as members of the APTP company. All cast members have a connection to Chicago's Albany Park neighborhood, one of the most ethnically diverse immigrant communities in the United States. The primarily first- and second-generation immigrant youth who compose the ensemble trace their roots to countries throughout Latin America, Southeast Asia, the Pacific Islands and the Middle East. 22 are veteran APTP ensemble members, and 10 will make their company debut with "Learning Curve"; 12 have worked on "Learning Curve" since the project's inception two years ago. The cast members are: Lizbeth Acevedo, Maidenwena Alba, Ariel Burns, Jennifer Calderon, Andrea Delgado, Carlos Desantiago, Gustavo Duran, Maria Duran, Luis Escamilla, Nichole Espinelli, Abraham Espino, Johnny Hamzo, Ashlie Hawkins, Atreyu Kaunert, Brandon Lorbes, Kiara Lyn Manriquez, Justin Martinez, Chelsee Nava, Alyanna Parajado, Betty Piña, Paola Rico, Dayana Rios, Jesi Rojo, Samantha Romero, Mariana Rosas, Christina Saliba, Brisa Saucedo, Alex Suarez, Yailin Tejada, Hector Velazquez, Maria Velazquez and Melony Vizcarra.
The directing team for "Learning Curve" includes Co-Directors David Feiner and Jennine Willett with additional direction by Stephanie Paul, Maggie Popadiak, and Rosanna Rodríguez-Sanchéz of Albany Park Theater Project and Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Edward Rice, and Carlton Cyrus Ward of Third Rail Projects. The production will feature Original Music & Sound Design by Mikhail Fiksel, Lighting Design by Lee Keenan, Costume Design by Izumi Inaba, Scenic Design by Scott C. Neale, Objects & Installation Design by Ellie Terrell. The Production Stage Manager is Monica M. Brown.
APTP presents "Learning Curve" at Ellen Gates Starr High School, 3640 West Wolfram Street, Chicago. Performances begin July 27; tickets go on sale June 15 for performances through August 28. Capacity is limited to 40 audience members per performance. For more information about other APTP projects and programs, visit aptpchicago.org or call 773.866.0875.