Part II, Week 7

Next show: March 12, 8pm, at the Gray Center Lab

This week, we welcomed back an actor who had previously left the project for an employment opportunity. In January, our group was composed of five resident actors from Crossroads, four University of Chicago student participants, one student videographer, and our two co-directors. As the resident actors have left Crossroads, they’ve moved home and left the group, leaving us with three actors – perhaps four if one can commute from Southern Illinois – for the March 12 performance.

As the components of the piece come together less than two weeks before the final performance, we spent the first hour of rehearsal discussing our hopes for the performance, including how we envision the audience participating in the piece. We also brainstormed questions for the roundtable discussion before experimenting with our primary piece for the March 12 performance.


Bria Berger, student volunteer


Part II, Week 6

Next show: March 12th, 8pm, at the Gray Center Lab

This week we continued to solidify our performance for March 12. We found out that another performer cannot be part of our final performance, so we are rolling with changing expectations and a fluctuating company size in our performance structure. We have decided to continue exploring our own stories, within the frame of a controlling director on a megaphone and a competition to tell the most tear-jerking story. We will also share videos from our rehearsal process and engage the audience in a conversation about the questions and conversations we have been exploring. Next week, we will explore what stories we will share with our audience and iron out the details of the piece.

Naomi Rosen, student volunteer

Part II, Week 5

Next show: March 12th, 8pm, at the Gray Center Lab

This week in rehearsal we furthered our exploration of telling our stories. Our acting troupe has been changing in size, and we are still uncertain as to what our number will be come the night of the performance, and this is a tension we are navigating together. We engaged in conversation about the challenges of re-entering society after being incarcerated, and the entire group reflected on the reality of having a criminal record and the impact it may or may not have on one’s future. After this discussion, we began to tell each other’s stories, experimenting with controlling elements of the story, correcting and redirecting one another and exploring the use of movement and shadowing throughout the story-telling.

Ali Tarter, student volunteer

Part II, Week 4

Next show: March 12th, 8pm, at the Gray Center Lab

This rehearsal was probably one of the most interesting this quarter…and it started out with the Chipotle that I had ordered for the group this time around (we were stuck in a Cholie’s pizza hell for months). Anywho, besides the food being more interesting, we decided to incorporate a few more items in the space into the rehearsal, specifically our props locker and the sound/lighting equipment box (which is empty since those peripherals are not being manipulated at the moment).

I was paired with Roberto and the props locker. The task was for one of us to stand outside of the locker and to “direct” the other (in the locker) to exit the locker, and each time to make it increasingly difficult for the actor to exit. Other actors in the space performed similar “acting/directing/instructing” role-playing through different actions and with different objects in the space, such as the equipment box I had mentioned earlier and these long heavy wooden tables that live in the space.

After showing what each group of actors was working on, we then moved along to talk about a story that we can share that can be about anything. This time though, with this element of a “director” giving you instructions on how to perform or tell your story, sometimes adjusting elements in them without really changing the main direction of the story (at least for the most part). There is definitely this constant blend of “being an actor” and “acting” with sharing some memory or experience and having that manipulated by someone real, in front of you, who deconstructs you, your actions, and your stories with their criticism and ideal visions that are set such that you always fail and never reach them, with more than often seems intentional and cynical.

Perhaps one of the most memorable exercises of MAKING A (RE)ENTRANCE revolved around actor Phillip Seymour Hoffman. The residents were familiar with the actor and some of his works, so despite the morbidity of the situation, we re-enacted Hoffman’s last day by taking turns narrating his day. The group re-created this history of how Hoffman became a heroin addict (he liked collecting the envelopes that the heroin came in… then had too many envelopes… and only got rid of the envelopes that didn’t contain heroin). When the group attempted to end this story moments before the actual overdose, an actor insisted that it should end with Hoffman’s last breaths of life and euphoria.

Jesus Diaz, student volunteer

Part II, Week 3

Next show: March 12th, 8pm, at the Gray Center Lab

This week’s rehearsal was full of honesty. The actors shared their desires for the second performance in March, which initiated a dialogue about the value of sharing one’s true story as compared to sharing the story of a created character. Tension between the expectations of the directors, student participants, and actors was verbalized in an open conversation regarding the importance of a performance containing a unified theme.

During rehearsal, each participant shared a personal story with the group. In the process, the group members were able to not only share their stories, but experiment with sharing stories in some unconventional methods. An example of this seen in this week’s video consisted of playing with the idea of control over how a story is shared/presented.

The group also discussed the reality of shifting membership, as some of the actors will be leaving Crossroads this coming week; our group has already seen one member finish the Crossroads program. As these transitions occur, we as a group must wrestle with the unknown together.

Ali Tarter, student volunteer

Part II, Week 2

Next show: March 12th, 8pm, at the Gray Center Lab

On Tuesday the 21st, the directors and the actors took a trip to the Harris Theater to see Conversations on Grace with Anna Deavere Smith. Upon returning to rehearsal on Wednesday, the group talked about the complexity of Smith’s performance, which led to a rich discussion about the goals of theater. In particular, the actors and directors discussed their opinions of what they want the audience to experience and learn from the upcoming performance.

After the discussion, we expanded upon last week’s storytelling workshop by experimenting with jumping between the roles of character and narrator. To practice these concepts, the actors developed and performed a story based on a real event from Crossroads. The directors noticed several themes within the story that they would like to explore further. We ended rehearsal by reflecting on the roles that incarcerated people are expected to play.

Bria Berger, student volunteer

Part II, Week 1

Today was the first rehearsal after a long break for the winter holidays. After welcoming two new students to the group, we ate pizza and reflected on the December performance, including the actors’ reactions to the show and the responses from family members and Crossroads staff.

After confirming March 12th as the next performance date, we talked about how to move forward in rehearsal for the next few weeks, ultimately deciding on developing new material and refining parts of the December 12 piece.

Then we all participated in an active storytelling workshop. We told each other stories and experimented with pacing, tension, and silence. The workshop and discussion left the group re-invigorated for the second phase of MAKING A (RE)ENTRANCE.

Bria Berger, student volunteer

Part I, Week 8

Tonight’s rehearsal flew by – our actors are really stepping up and taking on their role for the performance as we work to produce a performance that will unsettle our audience.  We were joined by several new student volunteers, and their input has been invaluable as far as organizing, audio and visual recording and construction of the concept of the performance.  With the addition of new student volunteers, we have as a team wrestled with what it means to describe the re-entry into society our actors are in the process of experiencing.  All of our actors were present at this rehearsal, and we decided en masse that an additional rehearsal the day before showtime would be beneficial, so we will be doing a full run-through to flatten out the wrinkles 24 hours in advance.  We are all looking forward to the experience to be had on Wednesday at our performance.  The actors have further developed their characters, and it is really incredibly to see their growth as individuals and as a team – from sharing individual pieces they have created to ballroom dancing, the actors are really embracing their roles in this experience.

Ali Tarter, student volunteer

Part I, Week 6

This week’s rehearsal was full of unexpected twists and turns, as we had two new participants take the place of two previous participants; one had found full-time employment and the other chose not to continue the program.  Additionally, the men surprised the directors by arriving a half hour early, which led to a shortened plan and set-up time.  Dinner was provided for everyone from a local Hyde Park pizza place, and rehearsal started with discussion of the structure of December 11th’s performance.  The men have been developing characters for the past few weeks, and this week’s rehearsal included further character development, and practice of the initial performance piece.  This process of creation and re-creation was illuminating for all involved, as disagreements regarding specific pop culture genres to be incorporated were discussed and negotiated.  All aspects of the performance are intended to point back to the concept of challenging stereotypes in society, and our group is finding the collaboration process to be both enjoyable and stretching!

Ali Tarter, student volunteer