Since 1969, Free Street has had a commitment to co-created performance – we make work together, as a collective and an ensemble. Most of our ensemble-created projects take over a year to make. We spend a lot of time building community among our artists, asking difficult questions, exploring a big idea, and experimenting with what we want to put on stage. We believe in ensemble-based creation because it models the world we want to live in – lots of different people, with different experiences and perspectives, working towards the common goal of creating something together.
Currently, Free Street houses three ensembles, each working on different projects.
Our Multi-Generational Ensemble is currently at work on Meet (Juan)ito Doe, a project that explores what it means to be part of Chicago’s sprawling Mexican-American community. Lead artist Ricardo Gamboa is working with an ensemble of 14 Chicago Mexican-American writers and performers to interview the city’s Mexican immigrants and diaspora, conducting community workshops to collect stories that will form the basis of this multi-media play. Stories of activists, busboys, and gang-bangers; of mariachi songs and graffiti adventures; of border-crossing and generational gaps; in Spanish, English, and, of course, Spanglish will come alive, written and performed by those who have lived these narratives. Meet Juan(ito) Doe will weave all of these threads together to provide a portrait of growing up, surviving, and thriving while being brown and down in Chicago. Slated for September 2017.
The Free Street HQ Ensemble is comprised of artists 13-19. During the school year, the ensemble chooses a topic for inquiry, research, and analysis – this year, they focused on mental health, which resulted in the multimedia performance CRAZY. Other years, they’ve focused on the 2nd Amendment (B is for BANG), marijuana trafficking (DOPE!), and the historical construction of social identities (NERDS, SLUTS, (COMMIES) and JOCKS). During the summer, the ensemble creates interactive outdoor performances and spectacles. Currently, they are working on a new piece about making change when you’re not allowed to vote.
The Young Fugitives are an ensemble of artists aged 19-24 who were all working together in a summer arts program led by Ricardo Gamboa. When they were asked to censor some of their show COLD SUMMER, they asked if they could perform their show at Free Street instead. Since then, they have continued to work at Free Street, most recently with the show TRACK 13.