Working Chicago Factory Offers Space For Production of Caryl Churchill's FAR AWAY

The 45-minute play will run at 7:30 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays the last two weekends in March

By: Feb. 24, 2024
Working Chicago Factory Offers Space For Production of Caryl Churchill's FAR AWAY
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Theater makers often talk about the importance of community engagement and the potential for theater to happen "anywhere." Usually, however, it doesn't. Usually, it happens inside traditional theater spaces, supported by the usual suspects: foundations, subscribers, and ticket buyers.

It's probably safe to say that despite Chicago's long history of innovative theater, there's never been a production staged inside a working factory that specializes in "titanium rack design and fabrication for anodize, hardcoat and electropolish."

But thanks to an unusual collaboration between a theater artist, Spencer Huffman, and the owner of a Bowmanville factory, Chris Angus, local theatergoers will soon have a chance to see Huffman's independent production of Caryl Churchill's play FAR AWAY on the factory floor at Servi-Sure: a northside manufacturing operation which is a member of the International Hard Anodizing Association rather than a member of the League of Chicago Theaters.

Written in 2000, the play FAR AWAY is considered one of the most brilliant of the legendary British playwright's often dystopian works. A large part of the play is set inside a mysterious hat factory, while outside, the entire natural world is at war: birds, grass, streams, horses, even sunlight.

Huffman, a playwright and director who is an ensemble member at Bramble Theater, had wanted to produce the piece in Chicago for a number of years. He was in the process of developing plans for an independent production in a rental space when a playwright friend tossed out the idea of doing the play in an actual factory and offered to introduce him to someone she knew. Angus invited them to tour his Rascher Avenue facility, and Huffman fell in love with what he saw.

“The factory was amazing,” Huffman said, “full of gears and coils and hulking machines that looked both brand-new and ancient. There were weird metal shapes hanging from the walls and ceiling, and pipes snaking up and down throughout the space. It was like walking through a metal forest. It was a surreal set designer's dream--- and already built.”

Huffman was only halfway through his pitch when Angus, a lifelong Chicagoan and arts fan with an appreciation for unusual ventures, said yes to the idea of presenting the play at the factory for two weekends in March. Angus had spent his early career working for nonprofit organizations including Project Exploration and Leadership for Quality Education, and he understood how support from an unexpected partner could make all the difference for a community project.

“I was impressed with Spencer's vision and what he wanted to do, and I loved the idea of the factory being a part of it,” Angus said. “We've always been supportive of nearby businesses and programs, and this seemed like a new and fun way of being a good neighbor. I also thought our employees would get a kick out of it. It will be nice to have a different kind of drama in the company.”

Rehearsals are underway, with lead roles being performed by Olivia Lindsay (JOAN); Michaela Petro (HARPER); and Danny Breslin (TODD). In addition to Huffman as Director, the creative team includes Ashley Greenwood (Assistant Director); Emily Blanquera (Lighting Design); Kayla Brill (Costume Design) and Caleb Ramos (Lighting Design).

The 45-minute play will run at 7:30 pm on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays the last two weekends in March at Servi-Sure, 2020 W. Rascher Avenue, Chicago.


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