BERWYN – Berwyn’s 16th Street Theater is celebrating a milestone anniversary in 2017 with a series of new plays, as well as some encore performances of some of its best shows from the past nine years.
The theater, which formed in 2007, showcases original work primarily from local playwrights, and Ann Filmer, founder and artistic director, said this year’s series features some very provocative and emotional shows.
“[Our plays] speak to things that are happening now, and they reflect the world in which we’re living in right now, or the world we want to live in,” she said. “We have a really strong audience that comes from all over, and they come because they find our stories engaging with all points of view, and because of the excellent talent on our stages.”
The theater usually does four shows each season, but because it’s the 10th anniversary, it is putting on three shows on the main stage and performing nine “pop-up” shows at different locations around the community. Each of the pop-up shows, which will be performed for one night only, are some of the most popular from the theater’s history and will feature the original cast.
Filmer said the times, dates and locations for the “pop-up” performances are still being finalized, but she hopes to perform some of the shows in area schools and churches. She said the schedule should be released in January. The pop-up series includes favorites “The Ascension of Carlotta,” written by Riverside resident Will Dunne, and “Kita y Fernanda,” written by Tanya Saracho.
“This is a great opportunity for people who don’t usually go to the theater to see a show,” Filmer said. “I make sure we’re bringing the most interesting stories to Berwyn, things our audience will respond to and appreciate and show them a side of something they haven’t seen before.”
The season will open Jan. 12 with Brookfield resident Jon Steinhagen’s “Blizzard ’67,” which is about four men’s journey during the historic 1967 Chicago storm. The show runs through Feb. 18.
“It’s a fantastic play about four men carpooling, and when one of the men announces his promotion, the other three turn on him and abandon him,” Filmer said. “The men face a choice and deal with how it affects their lives. It’s a comedy and a drama.”
The second play, which runs April 12 through May 20, is “Into the Beautiful North,” a show Filmer described as an “adventure play” that tells a beautiful story.
“It’s a comedy that is about a group of Mexican women who live in a small town and want to cross the border and bring back seven good men to protect them,” she said. “All of the Mexican men have left the town for the U.S., and they want the men to come back.”
The third and final show of the season is the one-woman play “Muthaland,” which is a memoir of Chicago resident and Indian-American Minita Gandhi’s journey to her family’s home in India. While Gandhi previously has performed at 16th Street Theater, this is the first play she’s written.
“I’m very excited to do it at 16th Street Theater. The play is very autobiographical and has a lot to do with being a first-generation Indian-American female,” Gandhi said. “After I went to India in 2009, I knew there was a story I wanted to write because there was an epic adventure that unfolded. The play is mostly a comedy; you’re going to laugh a lot and cry a little too. That’s a good night at the theater.”
In addition to its 10th anniversary, 16th Street Theater has another reason to be extremely proud. It was one of only seven theaters across the country to receive an award from American Theatre Wing, which is the same group that produces the Tony Awards.
Filmer said the award is based on the excellent quality of the theater’s plays and performances.
“I flew out to New York and was able to connect with other small theaters, where we learned from and inspired each other,” she said. “It’s exciting that our little theater in Berwyn has received such national recognition.”
The theater is very intimate with just 49 seats, so Filmer said audiences should buy tickets early because the performances often sell out quickly.
“It’s very rewarding to sit with neighbors and take in a play together. It’s like no other art form,” she said. “We can get away from our screens and connect with people with no interruptions. It’s so refreshing to come to the theater and get immersed in a story.”
For information about 16th Street Theater, go to 16thstreettheater.org.