(Chicago, IL, October 22, 2020) Despite COVID-related city and campus closures, the University of Chicago’s Arts + Public Life (APL) has diligently spent months of remote planning to pilot a modified version of APL’s theatre residency program, which was slated to commence in Spring 2020. Scaled to fit the new reality of socially distanced art experiences, and in compliance with safety measures, APL is excited to announce Definition Theatre Company (DTC) as the resident theatre company for Fall 2020/Winter 2021 at APL’s Green Line Performing Arts Center. From October 27 to November 8, permitted members of Definition Theatre Company will work from the Green Line Performing Arts Center to produce Amplify, short works in development by South Side Chicagoans presented virtually. During this modified residency engagement, Green Line Performing Arts Center will remain closed, with no audiences nor visitors permitted entrance. 

Arts + Public Life’s two-term theater residency program launched in Fall 2019 with Fehinty African Theatre Ensemble, and provides access to performance and rehearsal space along with resources for developing productions and workshops for BIPOC-led theatre and production companies on the South Side, an area of Chicago underserved by city's longstanding storefront-theater movement. Definition Theatre is “dedicated to telling language-driven, relationship-oriented, socially-relevant stories about and created with underrepresented communities in Chicago.” Founded in 2012 and inspired by the ensemble model of Chicago Theater, Executive Director Neel McNeill, Artistic Director Tyrone Phillips, and Definition’s ensemble of more than twenty primarily Black and Brown artists prioritize working towards and representing a more equitable theatre industry. 

Definition’s Amplify is a series of short plays that will provide space and resources to writers in the development of new works during the pandemic to create a collaborative community for them to hear, see, and experience their work, amplified and actualized. Developed to empower and uplift underrepresented theatre creatives, Amplify is part of a larger initiative to capture new cultural expressions across the South Side of Chicago, and will be presented online late Fall 2020. After an open submission period, Definition will select up to eight short play excerpts to be filmed at the Green Line Performing Arts Center. The Definition ensemble will subsequently choose up to four finalist playwrights, whose work feels most suited for the company, to be commissioned for continued engagement leading to a full staged reading as a part of the opening of Definition’s new space in Woodlawn. 

“Definition is committed to valuing diversity of approach, style, and perspective and balancing impact with investment. We believe it is our duty to continuously develop voices for the American theatre that have been previously shut out,” said Artistic Director Tyrone Phillips.

“As our world paused due to the current pandemic, we found ourselves asking honest questions around the accessibility of culture through the arts and specifically theatre. We witnessed our entire industry search to find ways to respond to the work we do as we were not able to physically gather to share our stories. We, at Definition, have come to the conclusion that theatre has never been truly accessible, especially when it comes to representing the value of the lives and stories shared in our Black and Brown communities and have plans in store to create a new connection.” 

Arts + Public Life is thrilled to be able to support Definition Theatre’s ongoing development of “bold new voices into the American Theater cannon” on the South Side of Chicago, in Washington Park, at the Green Line Performing Arts Center. “Given the shift to more expanded and accessible platforms, we feel we have both an opportunity and responsibility to introduce our audiences to Definition's significant work and mission despite our theater doors being closed to the public,” said Tony Santiago, APL Theater and Programs Manager. 

Arts + Public Life and Definition Theatre Company are committed to cautiously and safely carrying out the vision for the collaboration, while finding innovative opportunities to support artists of color and South Side artists in unprecedented circumstances. 

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Learn more about Definition Theatre at www.definitiontheatre.org