Studio Theater Residency Pilot

December 9, 16, 17 &18, 2023

Chicago Cultural Center, Studio Theater, 1st Floor North

FREE Admission

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The Chicago Cultural Center invites the public to attend free dramatic readings of theater scripts by companies in residence during the New Play Reading Series. All readings take place in Studio Theater, 1st Floor North.

American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation Open Captioning

All readings offer American Sign Language (ASL) interpretation. The Sunday, December 17 reading includes Open Captioning.



Saturday, December 9, 11am–1pm

New Personalidad, by Nelson A. Rodriguez with Visión Latino Theatre Company

The Alvarez family, a household of devout Jehovah's Witnesses, struggles to financially prosper, remain true to its faith, and accept the queerness of its youngest member, Vladimir. As time becomes fluid, the father, mother, and daughter slide into a past haunted by secrets (and Vladimir) with unprecedented consequences in the present. This new work explores how religious devotion can either bind people together or rip them apart.

Saturday, December 16, 1:30-4pm

Tomato Tattoo, by Rammel Chan with APIDA Arts

Leah and Gerald, two middle aged Asian American strangers, must come to terms with their past family traumas when their respective elderly parents, Natalie and Richard, meet in a coffee shop and fall in love. Tempers flare and confrontations mount when the aging couple decide to spontaneously get married during a big family dinner. Things look bad until the family learns that Leah's trans daughter Harlowe just got her heart broken for the first time. With newfound purpose, the family rallies together and goes on a wild late-night heist to a DePaul dormitory to get Harlowe's stuff back. Tomato Tattoo is a story about those who have the courage to change in spite of their family and those who need the courage to change for their family.

Sunday, December 17, 2-4:30pm

It’s Whampo, Whampo, Whampo Time; Where All Of It Is True and None Of It Is Real, by Arlene Malinowski with Bodies of Work and Chicago Dramatists

Four remaining contestants vie for the grand prize on the Reality show “WHAMPO" described as “Survivor meets Big Brother meets Fear Factor meets Project Runway meets the Hunger Games without the killing.” Hope, who was formerly of NPR, aspires to make “Transcendent TV” and interns under the tutelage of longtime director/producer Thom. Contestants each forge and break alliances with lies and subterfuge. Everyone has something to hide. No one is who they appear to be and identity, race, gender politics, class, age, sexual harassment, and disability are all unnamed cast members. “WHAMPO” is an exploration of what people are willing to lose in order to win.

Masks recommended.

Monday, December 18, 6:30-8:30pm

IS YOU IS, by L.C. Bernadine, Erik Olsen and Nik Whitcomb presented in partnership with The Stillwell Institute for Contemporary Black Art

IS YOU IS is a new musical set largely in Chicago Public Schools in the 1930s and revolving in part around the opening of The Field Museum's exhibit, The Races of Mankind, which remained on display for more than 30 years.

In this homegrown Chicago story, a young woman named Steenie Mayfield is working as a school bath attendant at the James Otis School, desperate to move up the ranks and fulfill her dream of teaching, despite the obstacles for Black teachers and the challenges of the Depression. An offer to visit the famous Field Museum and possibly model for the sculptor working on the newly opened but still expanding “Races of Mankind” exhibit seems to present an opportunity, but any thoughts Steenie had of being seen differently are crushed by a disastrous visit to the Museum.

What became of Steenie and whether or not she was one of the unidentified models for “racial types” featured in the exhibit becomes the obsession of a group of modern day students nearly 90 years later, when they are pulled into a restoration project focused on some of the statues.

Featuring a jazz-meets-musical theatre score, IS YOU IS follows two sets of characters in two different eras as they struggle to deal with what they've inherited, and to reshape the institutions that shape their lives.

Music Director for the December 18 public reading is T.J. Anderson.

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Open Daily, 10am–5pm
Exhibitions close 15 minutes before the building closes
(Closed Holidays)

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Artist and Project Information

Nelson A. Rodriguez

New Personalidad

Visión Latino Theatre Company was founded in August 2014 by Xavier Custodio, Yajaira Custodio, and Jonathan Nieves when they observed there was a need for a company in which Latine artists could celebrate their culture and share the struggles and perseverance of Latine people with audiences. Visión Latino Theatre Company has made it their mission to bring awareness to Latine people’s past, present, and future through storytelling. Since 2015, Visión Latino Theatre Company has presented 7 full productions to Chicago audiences, including two Midwest premieres and three world premieres. One of those world premiers, Sancocho. went on to have an Off-Broadway run and was awarded the HOLA Award for Excellence in Theatre.

Nelson A. Rodriguez is a playwright and actor based in Chicago. As a playwright, his credits include Snapshots (Spartan Workshop), Ropa Vieja (Broken Nose Theatre's Bechdel Fest), and New Personalidad (CLATA's Inicios: Chicago Latine Playwright Festival). As an actor, he was nominated for a Joseph Jefferson Award for his performance in Men on the Verge of a His-Panic Breakdown and was recently seen in That Must Be The Entrance To Heaven at Visión Latino Theatre Company. Other Chicago theater credits include: Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lookingglass Theatre Company, 16th Street Theatre, Oak Park Festival Theatre, Raven Theatre, and many more. His on-camera credits include the feature films En Algun Lugar (TLA Releasing) for which he received a Best Supporting Actor nomination at the International Film Festival in Nice, France, and Soul Sessions (Gravitas Ventures). In 2016, Mr. Rodriguez received Windy City Times' 30 Under 30 Award.

Tomato Tattoo creative teamTomato Tattoo

APIDA Arts is a non-profit arts organization based in Chicago, IL. APIDA Arts' mission is to amplify and unify Asian, Pacific Island, and Desi/South Asian American artists in Chicago by showcasing their work at premier cultural institutions, providing greater representation, equity, and opportunity.

Rammel Chan is a Chicago-based writer, actor and comedian. Rammel is a 23/24 New Stages Resident playwright at Goodman Theatre, co-writing a musical with Matthew C. Yee. Rammel's play “House of the Deaf” was read at Gift Theatre and his short plays have been performed by Gift Theatre and at the APIDA Festival at Goodman Theatre. His sitcom “Girl Dads” (co-written with Jim Kozyra) was a Semifinalist for the Scriptation Showcase and WeScreenplay Competition. Other writings include: “Tourists” (Asimov’s Science Fiction), “Here” (Empyrean Literary Magazine), “Birds of the North” (The Tiger Moth Review), “The Story and Sylvia” (Riksha). As a comedian Rammel is an alumni of the Second City and Stir Friday Night and Robot vs. Dinosaur. As an actor, Rammel has performed at the Goodman Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Steppenwolf Theatre Company, Lookingglass Theatre Company, Victory Gardens Theatre, Writers Theatre, Next Act Theatre, and in TV and Film.


Arlene Malinowski (Photo credit: Janna Giacoppo)

It’s Whampo, Whampo, Whampo Time

Bodies of Work is a consortium of four organizations: the Department of Disability and Human Development and the Disability Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Chicago, the Disability Culture Activism Lab in the Department of Art Therapy at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Art and Culture Project at Access Living Chicago). Bodies of Work is a network that serves as a catalyst for the development of disability art and culture that illuminates the disability experience in new and unexpected ways. Our projects integrate disability artistry, academics, and activism. BOW has produced two city-wide disability art and culture festivals, develops the work of four disabled artists per year in a customized artist residency that culminate in student and public events, and has co-produced numerous events and productions (including premieres) at cultural institutions in Chicago, including Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Victory Gardens, Steppenwolf, and the Cultural Center, among others.

Chicago Dramatists, a not-for-profit organization, is an inclusive community dedicated to nurturing dramatic writers at every stage of their evolution. They are committed to dynamic exchange and experimentation, leading to new and innovative works for the American stage. In addition to the Tutterow Fellowships, which serves historically under-represented voices, Chicago Dramatists has in the last 3 years, developed the Access Fellowship which serves to support Deaf & Disabled Artists on their creative journey. This year-long fellowship emphasizes training, practice, and mentorship.

Playwright Arlene Malinowski is an actor, writer, and teaching artist whose work over the past twenty-five years is an artistic extension of her social justice work. She self-identifies as an artist with a disability which has led her to explore questions about how we function inside and outside of our bodies. She believes that our physical selves carry us through the world, and while they are a significant part of who we are, they are not our totality. We are part of a culture that values perfection as a norm, and those who live outside of that norm are part of a larger conversation that she wants to have with audiences. The central themes that she explores in all her writing is the cross-cultural intersections between the Deaf, Disability, and Mental Health communities and our culture at large. She has created and toured work locally in Chicagoland, nationally, and internationally. She is a Resident Playwright at Chicago Dramatists.

IS YOU IS (Nik Whitcomb, Erik Olsen, L.C. Bernadine)IS YOU IS

L.C. Bernadine & Erik Olsen have been writing together for a number of years, and began working on IS YOU IS in 2018, joined by Nik Whitcomb shortly thereafter. Nik directed an early workshop of the first draft via Underscore Theater and then the trio continued developing the show together.

L.C. Bernadine (STORY/BOOK/ LYRICS) is a Chicago playwright who has worked with City Lit Theater, Bramble Theater, Underscore Theater and others. Her family members worked as principals and teachers in Chicago public schools beginning in the 1920s, and their stories were partially the inspiration for this story.

Nik Whitcomb (STORY/ BOOK ) is a lifelong theatre artist who has worked with arts institutions across the nation, including Guthrie Theater, Goodman Theatre, Northlight Theatre, and the Black Theatre Coalition. He is currently Producing Artistic Director of Oregon’s Bag&Baggage Productions.

Erik Olsen (COMPOSER) is a Seattle-based composer and pianist who has written hundreds of compositions spanning jazz, pop, rock and musical theater, and currently performs with other jazz musicians in a variety of bands.

T.J. Anderson is a Chicago-based actor, music director, and musician. Recent productions he has music directed include Kinky Boots (Highland Park Players), Little Women and [title of show] (Brown Paper Box Co), Night Tide (Towle Theater), and Shockheaded Peter (Black Button Eyes Productions). As an actor, he has recently appeared in Whisper House and Ghost Quartet (Black Button Eyes Productions), as well as Haymarket (Underscore Theater). You can catch him music directing Ragtime in Concert with Highland Park Players in Spring 2024.