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  WINDY CITY TIMES

Meet Juan(ito) Doe pays tribute to being "brown and down in Chi-town"
From a press release
2017-10-10

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CHICAGO, IL — From long days working on the Nabisco assembly line to long nights at el baile, from falling in love over pico de gallo and hot dogs to strange occurrences on the Ashland #9 bus, from a young boy sneaking into his mother's high heels to a young girl who feels trapped in her quinceañera dress, Meet Juan( ito ) Doe offers a powerful and sometimes surreal portrait of working-class and immigrant life on the Southside of Chicago. Created by Free Street Resident Artist Ricardo Gamboa, in collaboration with Ana Velasquez and an ensemble of "brown and down Chi-towners," Meet Juan( ito ) Doe is based on true stories of Mexican-Americans in the city collected at bar crawls, neighborhood writing events, karaoke nights, street fairs and drag loteria nights. Director Ricardo Gamboa says, "Chicago is a city where Mexicans are everywhere —we've been here, and contributed so much to this city, but you really wouldn't know it by looking at mainstream media or textbooks. Or stages."

Indeed, Meet Juan( ito ) Doe is the kind of play that is rare in Chicago theater. Not only does it tell the stories of a population routinely ignored in theatrical platforms — with rare exception, this is a city that still insists on importing Latinx stories from Texas and the coasts- but it is also a show that refuses traditional theatrical structures. Mixing performance styles borrowed from European physical theater traditions as well as the neighborhood chismosa ( gossip ), Meet Juan( ito ) Doe is performed in a storefront that was a former electronic repair shop of Jose Guerra, an immigrant from Mexico that settled in the Back of The Yards neighborhood over 50 years ago. His daughters donated the storefront to Gamboa to renovate for the Meet Juan( ito ) Doe production and to provide programming for the community.

"Free Street has been making performance by, for, about, with, and —significantly- IN Chicago's diverse communities since 1969," says Artistic Director Coya Paz. "Ana and Ricardo are from the Southside, it wouldn't have made sense to collect stories from people in their communities and then perform the actual play halfway across the city." The "storyfront" serves as both performance space and a place where local residents are invited to stop by and watch rehearsals, share their stories, or participate in free workshops. "This is more than a just a play," says Gamboa. "It's about capturing the story of a people who came to Chicago and made it home. I wanted to do something that would speak to that kind of creative place-making." Performances are Mondays and Fridays at 7:30pm from October 6th to November 10th at the Storyfront, 4346 S. Ashland Ave. Additional performances have been added as part of the Chicago International Latino Theater Festival on October 26th-28th at 7:30pm at the Storyfront.

All Free Street productions are free or Pay-What-You-Can at the door. Due to the intimate nature of the space, we highly recommend advance tickets, starting at $5 at https://fstmjd.bpt.me/

ASL interpretation is available on select dates, and co-programming for children will be provided on Fridays, October 13th and the 27th for FREE! For dates, times, and programs visit www.freestreet.org/events .

About Free Street

Founded in 1969, Free Street Theater has been committed to defying Chicago's racial and economic segregation by creating original performance by, for, and with a wide range of participants; to challenging ideas of where theater belongs and who belongs in a theater; and to using theater to ask questions, prompt dialogue, and build community.


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