Victory Gardens Revs Up for Ignition Festival

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Victory Gardens Theater’s Ignition Festival of New Plays, a strong showcase for the presentation of new work by both emerging and established playwrights, has announced the full lineup for its 2014 season, running July 24–27.

The seven plays selected for the Festival — chosen from a record 1,000 submissions from writers in Chicago and around the country — deal with such subjects as race, class, gender and gun violence. They will be presented in a series of readings to be directed by leading artists from Chicago. Following the readings, two of the plays may be selected for intensive workshops during Victory Gardens’ 2014-2015 season, and Victory Gardens may produce one of these final scripts in an upcoming season.

The Ignition Festival takes place at the Victory Gardens Biograph Theater, 2433 N. Lincoln (with all readings in its Richard Christiansen Theater studio space). Admission to all readings and events is free, though an RSVP is required. For more information, or to RSVP, visit http://www.victorygardens.org/also-playing/ignition, or call (773) 871-3000.

Here is the complete Ignition Festival lineup:

± “Where Did We Sit on the Bus?,” by Brian Quijada and “Lack on Lack,” by April Fools (Kristiana Colón & Damon Williams), to be read July 24 at 7 p.m. Performed back-to-back, this double bill of rap and spoken word pieces explore growing up in a world where things aren’t always as they seem. In Quijada’s play, a Latino boy in a 3rd grade lesson on the Civil Rights movement and Rosa Parks raises his hand to ask “Where did we sit on the bus?” and his teacher can’t answer the question. Told through rap, hip-hop, spoken word, and live looping, this autobiographical work looks at what it means to be Latino in America. Meanwhile, in their theatrical debut, brother/sister hip hop duo April Fools (Colón & Williams) fuse music, spoken word, and humor in a work in which they take a journey through Chicago to plan a surprise birthday party for their mother, along the way navigating the city’s neighborhoods, their childhood memories, and the turns of their new grown-up relationship “in this city of practical jokers.” An opening night reception will follow at 9 p.m.

± “Sender,” by Ike Holter (author of “Exit Strategy,” the recent hit play about the Chicago Public Schools”), to be read July 25 at 7 p.m.. More than a year after faking his death in a sensational fashion, a young man returns to his former apartment — alive, well, and full of a new-found ambition to fix what went wrong. But what starts as a miracle reunion turns into a catastrophic disaster as the past begins to catch up with the present, and old debts return, expecting payment in full. An artist meet-and-greet will follow at 9 p.m.

± “Slingshot,” by Kia Corthron , to be read July 26 at 3 p.m. After suffering a terrible work accident as a result of a negligent manufacturing defect, Malik must live with the inevitable consequences. In a nation where lawsuits have been equated with greed, this plays asks: How can Malik’s father, Gid, attain compensation and justice comparable to human life? Note: A panel discussion about “New Plays in Chicago,” will begin at 6 p.m. Among the questions to be asked are: In a city where audiences are hungry for new theater work, what is the current state of new play development and its future? What more should we be doing to nurture artists, audiences and the field?

± “Hillary and Clinton,” by Lucas Hnath, to be read July 26 at 7 p.m. In 2008, a woman named Hillary is trying to become the president of a country called the United States of America, but she’s not doing well in the polls and needs more money to keep the campaign going. She calls her husband for help and he offers her a deal, but it’s a deal that ends up costing a lot more than either of them had reckoned. (Note: At 9 p.m. the Festival will hold a cocktail hour at neighboring Fiesta Mexicana, 2423 N. Lincoln.)

± “For Tomorrow, Please Prepare,” by Paul Downs Colaizzo, to be read July 27 at 2 p.m. Racial tensions in the suburban south reach a boiling point when a white student at a public high school in Georgia makes an inflammatory comment during a lesson on “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” The school’s disciplinary process is threatened when hidden agendas are revealed, proving that when it comes to how we should teach our country’s racial history, the issue is anything but black and white. Note: At 5 p.m. there will be a panel discussion, “​From Script to the Stage,” that considers how plays move from first draft to opening night. Questions to be considered include: With the Ignition Festival as a catalyst for developing new work, how does a rehearsal room shift when a living playwright is in the room? What are the best practices and collaborations? How do we better support and produce new plays and playwrights?

± “Cocked,” by Sarah Gubbins, to be read July 27 at 6 p.m. In this story, Taylor and her girlfriend, Izzie, have always been staunchly opposed to gun ownership. But when Taylor’s brother shows up unannounced one afternoon, that position slowly corrodes as new discoveries surface and the lines between safety and protection are blurred. A Festival closing night celebration will be held at 8 p.m.

The Ignition Festival of New Plays was initially conceived by Sandy Shinner to support Victory Gardens’ mission of focusing on new plays and diversity. In the spring of 2010, 120 writers of color from around the United States submitted new scripts for the first phase of Ignition. In its inaugural season, the Festival developed, premiered and launched both Kristoffer Diaz’ “The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity” and Michael Golamco’s “Year Zero” onto the American theater scene, and both productions have subsequently been remounted at Second Stage in New York.

Victory Gardens produced “We Are Proud to Present a Presentation About the Herero of Namibia, Formerly Known as Southwest Africa, From the German Sudwestafrika, Between the Years 1884-1915,’ by Jackie Sibblies Drury, and “Appropriate,” b Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. Other notable Ignition plays receiving their world premieres include “Mala Hierba,” by ensemble playwright Tanya Saracho, playing at Second Stage in New York this summer, and “Samsara,” by Lauren Yee, playing at Victory Gardens in Spring 2015.

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