Chicago Theatre Review
APTP’s “Home/Land” is a Gift to Chicago; Extended Dates Announced Soon!
Home/Land, devised and performed by Albany Park Theater Project
The Laura Wiley Theater at Eugene Field Park, 5100 North Ridgeway, Chicago
*Extended run, January 20 through April 28, 2012
Something amazing is happening in Albany Park.
Review by Darcy Rose Coussens
Have you ever been to Albany Park? If you haven’t, you’d better start planning your visit to the northwest side of Chicago. What makes this neighborhood special is its vast ethnic and cultural diversity, its passionate and inspiring youth, and oh, yeah– their innovative and award-winning theater: Albany Park Theater Project (APTP).
APTP is truly something special. Not only has it provided opportunities for its multiethnic youth ensemble in arts creation and performance, but it gives a voice to local residents. As the theater defines itself: “Albany Park Theater Project is an ensemble of youth artists who collectively write, choreograph, compose, and stage original performance works based on people’s real-life stories.”
For example, their current production of Home/Land is a collection of stories about families from El Salvador, Jordan, Mexico and other countries, and their struggles to make a life in America despite all kinds of obstacles immigrants face. In their intimate theater, 23 performers, 6 directors and suitcases galore open your eyes to a young girl in Jordan who sells her dolls for money to come to America; a well-qualified young woman who can’t get a job because of her lack of citizenship; a newlywed couple whose future family is broken by the husband’s deportation. A man on an ironic game show called “Who Wants to Be an American” wins an ankle monitor instead of citizenship, while an audience volunteer gets to keep privileges he takes for granted because he “looks so… American.”
Each tale in the play comes from a courageous community member and has now been shared with countless Chicagoans. Two spirited nuns fight for the right to pray with illegal aliens before their deportations; an undocumented immigrant fears a random traffic stop in Arizona; a gay hispanic teen shares why he protests immigration laws. The sources of these stories are clearly heroes for these teens, but the teen performers become heroes for us in the audience. Home/Land takes you all over the world, but it keeps bringing you back home to reveal the effects that immigration laws have on families right here in Chicago. APTP is a model of theatre at its best, giving abstract issues human faces, names and voices so that you cannot avoid the realities that many people face every day.
There is something incredibly motivating about seeing these young people educate an audience primarily composed of adults on issues of such great importance. APTP proves that youth are not to be underrated; I have the utmost respect for these remarkable ensemble members. They have a deep understanding of not only immigration issues but the meaning of community, family and hope. This is a cast of extremely mature individuals who effortlessly waltz through love, fly through fear and stand together through injustice. You will not find a more genuine group of young people; before the show they converse comfortably with the audience, creating a welcoming environment that later serves their direct offerings of such beautifully told stories. The youth of APTP are unbelievably professional and among Chicago’s most talented storytellers.
The teenage performers of Home/Land are also among its creators. APTP’s shows are devised from true stories, using music, movement, and direct storytelling to share them. Music is key to Home/Land, with actors playing all kinds of instruments in one song that will make your heart swell. One performer’s voice is haunting and beautiful as she sings in Spanish, and a cheerful bilingual song about a tree with roots on both sides of a border bookends the show, beginning and ending it on a hopeful note. The use of movement is more powerful than words as it expresses two people dreaming of marriage, a family’s bonds and its separation, and numerous stunning pictures.
To top it all off, APTP provides free college counseling to each ensemble member, from researching and visiting schools to applying and choosing courses. APTP’s students have a 72% higher high school graduation rate than the average for students in Chicago public schools, and their college graduation rate is 600% higher. I have no doubt that these young artists will continue to actively make a difference in the world through theatre, activism and the perspective they will bring with them into their adult lives. They have already affected countless audiences, and word of their work is spreading like wildfire.
If you call 800-838-3006 or go on their website, www.aptpchicago.org to order tickets right now, you will likely find that all shows are sold out. Fortunately, APTP will extend the run of Home/Land through April 28, with ticket sales opening March 5.
The creators and staff at APTP have provided an enormous gift for these young adults, who in turn offer the gift of this performance to Chicago. I encourage you to bear witness to this beautiful creation and experience some of the most important theatre being done in Chicago.