Home Theatre AMERICAN THEATRE | A Warehouse Turns into a Residence in ‘Port of Entry’

AMERICAN THEATRE | A Warehouse Turns into a Residence in ‘Port of Entry’

AMERICAN THEATRE | A Warehouse Turns into a Residence in ‘Port of Entry’


Within the northwestern Chicago neighborhood of Albany Park, the opening scene of the present Port of Entry transcends time to convey the lengthy historical past of immigrants making their properties locally. Alone or in small teams, with baggage in tow, they enter an unfamiliar condominium constructing for the primary time, pausing on the brink with pensive, nervous, or hopeful seems of their eyes. These aren’t actual flats, after all, however a exceptional simulation created for a world-premiere immersive manufacturing by Albany Park Theater Venture (APTP) and Third Rail Tasks. This 1929 three-story warehouse nonetheless bears the signal “Fernstrom Fireproof Storage” on its façade, however the inside has been reworked right into a digital courtyard-style condominium complicated, a portrait of a house for brand new Chicagoans searching for a brand new life.

In Port of Entry, 26 younger performers painting immigrants from around the globe who stay in Albany Park, certainly one of Chicago’s most numerous communities. At every efficiency, the solid guides 28 viewers members by means of custom-built properties, inviting them to deal with treasured objects, play video games, and even eat and drink collectively as they share their characters’ tales.

“One of many defining parts of Albany Park for the reason that Seventies or ‘80s has been that it’s a spot the place folks from all completely different components of the world stay side-by-side in the identical constructing,” stated David Feiner, APTP co-executive director and Port of Entry co-director and producer. “[Because of] the altering programs of historical past, globalization, and the conflicts in Asia and in Latin America that displaced folks, people who by no means would have crossed paths are actually next-door neighbors.”

Feiner described Port of Entry as APTP’s most bold manufacturing thus far. Their earlier collaboration with Third Rail Tasks—a New York-based firm that produces site-specific, experiential performances—resulted in Studying Curve, an immersive manufacturing that supplied an inside take a look at the each day lives of scholars in Chicago Public Faculties. Studying Curve was named one of many Chicago Tribune’s prime 10 reveals of 2016 alongside works from the likes of the Goodman, Steppenwolf, and Victory Gardens. Port of Entry was developed from intensive interviews with native residents, with some scenes impressed by the households of ensemble members. Feiner is certainly one of a crew of 9 co-directors on the challenge, together with Roxanne Kidd, Marissa Nielsen-Pincus, Steph Paul, Maggie Popadiak, Devika Ranjan, Edward Rice, Miguel Angel Rodriguez and Jennine Willett.

Xytlaly Garcia (middle) in “Port of Entry.” (Photographs by Eric Strom and Sarah Joyce)

Once I noticed the primary preview efficiency in mid-July, I used to be struck by the intricate craftsmanship of the bodily areas. Regardless of the occasional whiff of contemporary paint and the last-minute changes in progress, the flats appear to be actual properties in Chicago—full with radiators, bricked-over fireplaces, and kitchen doorways that result in tiny stairwell porches.

Furthermore, every area seems like a singular residence inhabited by an precise household, because of the high quality work of the manufacturing crew, together with Scott Neale (scenic), Ellie Terrell (props and immersive environments), Elizabeth Mak (lighting and projections), Nicole Lang (affiliate lighting design), Izumi Inaba (costumes), and Trina McGee (director of manufacturing). Much like the event course of for the script, the designs have been impressed by visits to ensemble members’ properties.

“The majority of our analysis got here from one afternoon of strolling excursions within the children’ flats,” Neale stated. “We recognized what tradition they’re a part of; they advised their tales about how they’ve lived and the place they stay now. We took photos and movies, after which we simply had this large archive of those worlds, which is actually what this whole factor is about—their lives.”

One memorable instance is the condominium of a Mexican American household who invitations viewers members to play Lotería, a standard Mexican recreation much like bingo. The brilliant lighting, heat colours, optimistic affirmations on the partitions, and household images and books lining the cabinets create an extremely welcoming environment. This cheerful scene is finally interrupted by a telephone name that throws the household into chaos. I received’t spoil the plot, however the work of sound designer and composer Mikhail Fiksel (who received a Tony Award for Dana H. in 2022) and affiliate sound designer Noel Nichols is chillingly efficient right here.

Lucretia Ortiz (standing) and Sage Kenny (sitting) in “Port of Entry.” (Photographs by Eric Strom and Sarah Joyce)

After all, it’s the actors who convey these properties to life, and this younger solid does so with empathy and poise. At every efficiency, the viewers is split into small teams that transfer by means of the constructing collectively, visiting 4 foremost properties in addition to smaller scenes inside every of them, leading to a distinct expertise for every attendee. Actors should not solely time their performances exactly to maintain all of the transferring components in sync, however additionally they are continuously participating with viewers members, typically one-on-one, with out the consolation of a fourth wall.

Solid member Ari Salgado, who’s Mexican American, stated that engaged on Port of Entry has been “a therapeutic course of.” “An individual’s story is the story of 1,000 different folks, particularly in terms of being a minority,” stated Salgado. Being a part of a scene about fears which can be relatable for a lot of immigrants, it feels “like I’m doing one thing for my household.”

First-generation Filipino American Beatriz Gigante additionally feels a deep reference to their character, whose story is predicated on the household of one other ensemble member. “Each time that I do my scene,” Gigante stated, “it’s very arduous to not cry as a result of it jogs my memory of my dad and mom and them making an attempt to navigate their life once they first arrived right here in America.”

All 5 solid members I spoke with—Salgado, Gigante, Lesly Aguirre, Maidenwena Alba, and Sara Romero—strongly imagine that the humanities, and particularly immersive reveals like Port of Entry, have nice potential to unfold consciousness about social points. It’s clear that there’s an urge for food for such a work; the primary block of tickets, for dates by means of August 12, bought out inside days. Performances in October by means of December will go on sale at a later date, and the purpose is for the run to be open-ended, with extra performances in 2024 to be introduced.

“Artwork makes schooling accessible,” stated Salgado. “Possibly you may’t sit down and browse a e book in regards to the situation, however possibly you may sit down for 2 hours and take part in a present.”

Emily McClanathan (she/her) is a Chicago-based author whose work has appeared within the Chicago TribuneChicago ReaderPlaybillTheaterManiaTheatrely, and extra. She is a 2020 Nationwide Critics Institute Fellow.

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