Ensemble-Made Chicago

E-book – $19.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3879-7

Trade Paper – $19.95

ISBN 978-0-8101-3878-0
Publication Date
November 2018
Page Count
224 pages
Trim Size
6 x 9

Ensemble-Made Chicago

A Guide to Devised Theater
Chloe Johnston and Coya Paz Brownrigg

Featuring the work of: About Face Youth Theatre • Albany Park Theater Project • Barrel of Monkeys • Every house has a door • FEMelanin • 500 Clown • Free Street Theater • Honey Pot Performance • Lookingglass Theater • The Neo-Futurists • The Second City • Southside Ignoramus Quartet • Teatro Luna • Walkabout Theater • Young Fugitives

Ensemble-Made Chicago brings together a wide range of Chicago theater companies to share strategies for cocreating performance. Cocreated theater breaks down the traditional roles of writer, director, and performer in favor of a more egalitarian approach in which all participants contribute to the creation of original material. Each chapter offers a short history of a Chicago company, followed by detailed exercises that have been developed and used by that company to build ensemble and generate performances. Companies included range in age from two to fifty years, represent different Chicago neighborhoods, and reflect both the storefront tradition and established cultural institutions. The book pays special attention to the ways the fight for social justice has shaped the development of this aesthetic in Chicago.

Assembled from interviews and firsthand observations, Ensemble-Made Chicago is written in a lively and accessible style and will serve as an invaluable guide for students and practitioners alike, as well as an important archive of Chicago’s vibrant ensemble traditions. Readers will find new creative methods to enrich their own practice and push their work in new directions.

About the Author

CHLOE JOHNSTON is an assistant professor of theater at Lake Forest College. She performs and workshops with the Paper Machete, Write Club, Second Story, and the Neo-Futurists. 

COYA PAZ BROWNRIGG is an associate professor of theater at DePaul University. She is the artistic director of Free Street Theater and cofounder of Teatro Luna, and is a regular commentator on race, media, and pop culture for Vocalo radio.

"Ensemble Made Chicago is a lively read, with exercises that will be of great value to both emerging and long-standing companies and groups. This is a strong, well-written, and valuable book for multiple audiences that are interested in the process of theater-making as a group and theater education.” —Mark Larson, author of Making Conversation: Conversations with Colleagues for Change?

Ensemble-Made Chicago captures a broad range of ensemble performance practices in an accessible and engaging volume highlighting the work of a multicultural and multiracial array of companies, situating practical ‘how-to’ exercises within each company’s particular aesthetic and social context. It’s the perfect introduction to the diversity of devised performance!” —Dani Snyder-Young, author of Theatre Of Good Intentions: Challenges and Hopes for Theatre and Social Change

Ensemble-Made Chicago is the visionary theatrician’s cookbook. It bristles with hard-won wisdoms and ways of Chicago-based alchemists who fashion stageworks through collaboration. Chloë and Coya’s roster of performance artists reveal how they create compelling theatre that’s sometimes messy, often soul-stirring, and always rings with authenticity. This book carries a charge, and will surely spark an epiphany or two in the rookie and the vet.”  —Cheryl Lynn Bruce

". . . an important, even essential addition to the growing body of literature concerning the history, theory, and practice of devising, ensemble theatre, and collective creation in the United States. Devisers, fresh-faced and seasoned alike, as well as educators will find this work illuminating and, better yet, enormously useful . . . These two Chicagoan artist-scholars are the perfect tour guides through Chicago's devising community, from its Magnificent Mile to the residential streets and backyards of its many diverse neighborhoods." —Jake Hooker, Theatre Topics