Play for Keeps
History of the Company
The Community to Be Served
Our Board of Directors
Stockyards Theatre Project, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, is devoted to "giving volume to the voices of women." Stockyards Theatre Project serves as a collaborative, ongoing theatre project whose mission is to help support and promote women as theatre and performance artists, to explore gender roles and gender issues in the theatre arts, and to explore both traditional and experimental theatre and performance art. Stockyards Theatre Project is an enthusiastic venue for many women theatre artists. It is a sad fact that according to the theatrical literature canon, principle men's roles outnumber principle women's roles by an average of 3 to 1; fewer than 10% of working directors are women, and the majority of published playwrights are men. Stage management and set/lighting design are also traditionally male careers. Stockyards Theatre Project actively works to change these statistics.
Stockyards Theatre Project is committed to:
- providing a supportive venue for the advancement of women in the theatre arts;
- providing a platform through which Chicago-based, female performance artists can submit and perform their work for a larger audience;
- providing a supportive, enthusiastic venue for the many women theatre artists (directors, designers, technicians & writers) who often find it difficult to present their talent to the public in a theatre community dominated by men;
- providing a place for talented women to work and focusing on women's issues when selecting what works to perform, whether they are feminist re-examinations of theatrical classics or the premiere of new works (such as those by women playwrights nurtured in our Play For Keeps program).
(Back to top.)
History of the Company
In 1999, Stockyards Theatre Project presented its first theatrical piece, Windy Big-Headed City at Breadline Theatre. It was followed by A Chicca Looks at 25: A Memoir for the Stage at The Playground. Both plays were written by Stockyards' Founder and first Artistic Director Jill Elaine Hughes.
In 2000, Stockyards created a festival of short plays by women playwrights entitled Femme Fatalities: Four One Act Plays by Women, mounted at The Performance Loft. That summer, Stockyards Theatre Project presented the world premiere of Don't Promise by award-winning Latina playwright Silvia Gonzalez S. The play, produced at Breadline Theatre, addressed a number of women's issues–most notably the position of women and religion in patriarchal society. "Stockyards Theatre Project's newest show, Don't Promise, is a glowing example of Stockyards' commitment to bringing more interesting productions to the city of Chicago" (ChicagoActors.com). This year also saw Stockyards producing its first annual Women's Performance Art Festival, which the Chicago Sun-Times praised as "the purist woman's performance event in Chicago."
The next year, 2001, was fruitful, yielding yet another world premiere in Damn the Torpedoes!!, an absurdist satire of capitalist media culture written by Ms. Hughes and mounted at the Heartland Studio Theatre. On May 6 at Katerina's coffeehouse, Stockyards presented a staged reading of British playwright Alex Court's Anarkali at Jallozai, a work-in-progress that focused on the plight of women under the Afghan Taliban. Later that year, Histrionics: Four Plays by Women on Psychology, Sex and General Madness was performed at the Heartland Studio Theater. This play examined the world of therapy, HMOs, mental institutions and holistic healing. Kim Wilson of the Chicago Reader wrote, "This production . . . is well-crafted and enjoyable." That fall, Stockyards also presented the second annual Women's Performance Art Festival.
In 2002, Stockyards Theatre Project began its trend of telling stories of historical women by producing The Rape of Nanking . . . According to Minnie by Margaret G. Waterstreet, presented at the Chicago Cultural Center Studio Theatre. In the Chicago Tribune, Lucia Mauro wrote, "What emerged was a great tale of courage and crushing futility." In the spring of 2002, Running From the Red Girl by Linda Eisenstein (one of our pieces from the Histrionics production in 2001) was a part of the Bailiwick's All Girl Revue 3. Following the success of the first two festivals, Stockyards continued with its third Women's Performance Art Festival. In December 2002, Lunacy opened in the Athenaeum First Floor Studio. Written by Patricia Weaver-Francisco, Lunacy tells the story of thirteen American women pilots who were initially part of the first U.S. space program. The women successfully completed the preliminary physical and psychological testing given the Mercury astronauts, but their participation in the program was abruptly cancelled and those women faded from public view.
On March 3, 2003, Stockyards Theatre Project was one of the many theater companies participating in The Lysistrata Project with their performance at Stage Left. The success of the reading led to the Pro-Peace Series, a number of staged readings focusing on pro-peace writing; a representative from Not in Our Name facilitated a discussion at the end of each reading. Katie Carey Govier and Jill Elaine Hughes also represented Stockyards at 2003's Theatre Fever at the Chicago Cultural Center. During the summer, Katie Carey Govier was named artistic director, and Francesca Peppiatt was named managing director of Stockyards. Ms. Govier arranged a collaboration with the Women's Theatre Alliance of Chicago for the Salon Series, a bi-monthly event that promotes women's leadership in the Chicago theatre community and provides a unique network for theatre artists to share in their artistic diversity. In October, Stockyards presented Breaking the Cycle: 4th Annual Women's Performance Art Festival. Stockyards then joined with Velocity, a youth-centered arts organization, for the On-Camera Audition Workshop that November.
In January 2004, collaborating with the Women's Theatre Alliance, Stockyards worked on the New Play Development Workshop run by Ms. Peppiatt, an Emmy-nominated writer. This program offers women playwrights the opportunity to develop new work in a workshop environment leading up to a public reading of that work at the Theatre Building Chicago. The Salon Series continued with staged readings of Karen Zacarias's The Sins of Sor Juana; an adaptation of stories by Dorothy Parker by Jenniffer J. Thusing, No Sense Saying Goodnight; and an evening of four short plays by female playwrights. For the first time, Stockyards was approached to produce works developed by others. The first such production was Tom Kepinski's Duet for One, a two-women show at Victory Gardens Theater, for which costar Michele DiMaso won a Jeff Citation as Best Actress–Play. Next was Anne Ludlum's Shame the Devil! An Audience with Fanny Kemble at the Majestic Midway, which Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun-Times called "a smart, vivid and often surprising one-woman show . . . a work of impressive sweep as was the life of its subject." Another world premier for Stockyards was Bald Grace, Pirate Queen, written by Marki Shalloe and starring Artistic Director Katie Carey Govier as the Irish pirate, Grace O'Malley. In a review in the Chicago Sun-Times, Christopher Piatt called the show "both vicious and visceral . . . it's surprisingly fun to watch . . . a solid ensemble . . . as warm as a hearth and as stout as a pint of Guinness, [Govier is] game for the material she's given." Stockyards was back at Links Hall again for Rebel Princesses: 5th Annual Women's Performance Art Festival.
Another banner year for Stockyards was 2005, starting in May with Busting Out: A Voluptuous Evening of Comedy, four one-acts based on the theme of crushing the Beauty Myth. An off-night show at Stage Left Theater, it ran to packed houses. Then Katie Carey Govier's "ferocious re-imagining" of Henry IV, Part I was performed at the Theatre Building. The adaptation maintained the language, themes and characters of Shakespeare's classic, changing only the gender of most characters to women. The magnificent fights were choreographed by Angela Bonacasa, SAFD, and performed to great response by an ensemble of talented actresses and two actors. This was a major advancement for the Stockyards company. This year's Women's Performance Art Festival was presented in December and called . . . Destination . . . Excavation . . . . In search of the ultimate destination, we excavate our lives to reveal our true selves. Start digging.
Stockyards Theatre Project's 2006 season began with a new version of Busting Out, again at Stage Left. It repeated the format of four one acts but took a new theme of time and age with Busting Out: Toying with the Tyranny of Time. "If the purpose of this Stockyards production is, as it claims, to 'bust out of the stereotypes,' its tuneful finale sends us home cheerful and fulfilled," wrote Mary Shen Barnidge of the Windy City Times. Francesca Peppiatt also created a new program for the company called Play for Keeps. It is an outreach program to help actresses fill the void of few strong roles for women in theater by pairing actresses with writers to work on new ideas and develop them into one-act plays. With the number of participants larger than expected and the high quality of work created, this program was more successful than we could have been imagined. Staged readings were performed at the North Lakeside Cultural Center to appreciative crowds, and most people in the audience wanted to know how they could be involved in the program. Stockyards has continued to workshop and develop the plays from Play for Keeps in the hopes of creating premier performances in the future. The 7th Annual Women's Performance Art Festival: Stay Centered, See the Humor and Carry On Regardless opened on October 20 and ran through the 22nd at Links Hall.
Play for Keeps saw a second successful season in 2007, as 10 new plays debuted in readings at the Theatre Building Chicago. The 8th Women’s Performance Art Festival: Fierce Presence doubled 2006’s attendance and saw a number of new performances at the Links Hall space.
Stockyards produced two world premiere plays in 2008. The first was Blindside by Gemma Cooper-Novack. The Chicago Reader said, “It's the same in every war: soldiers disoriented by alien cultures commit deeds unthinkable in their own, and afterward face well-meaning families unable to comprehend their experience . . . the articulate exploration of the issues doesn't seek convenient targets for blame, nor does the Stockyards Theatre Project stoop to sensationalism in its presentation. Instead, both strive to remind audiences that conflict in faraway lands is not without its repercussions right here at home.” The second premiere was Free Radicals by playwright Brenda Kilianski, in which a child of the ’60s, now in her sixties, finds herself incarcerated once again, this time by the adult daughter of one of her victims. A CenterStage reviewer said, “Stockyards Theatre Project made good use of an unconventional, intimate space. Both SavaRyan and Lieberman played their roles beautifully, creating well-rounded human beings out of what could have been one-dimensional characters . . . this play is an original.” Rounding out the year was The 9th Women’s Performance Art Festival, and a third year of Play for Keeps.
Stockyards celebrated our 10th anniversary in 2009 with an original sponsored production of My Life with Craig by The Unmentionables, which explored who might be using Craigslist and why. STP was in the fourth year of Play for Keeps in our newest venue, the Northtown branch of the Chicago Public Library, working with a number of new writers, actresses, and first-time playwrights. We also celebrated Women’s Month starting on March 7 and running throughout the entire month, reading new works created through P4K at various venues across the city.
The winning plays of the first Stockyards playwriting competition were performed as a staged reading during Women’s Month in March 2010. We were looking for original pieces about the women of the Chicago Stockyards, and writers from all over the country sent in scripts based on the concept. Play for Keeps, Stockyards' writing workshops for actresses and playwrights, also returned for another season. New and continuing works from the workshops were showcased at Chicago's Cafe Ballou on October 3-12.
Stockyards produced our first musical in 2011. It was a world-premiere musical in a dinner theatre setting called Nobody Likes Retsina. The play is an original piece written by Chicagoans about two Greek brothers during Prohibition making bootleg retsina while trying to marry off their daughters to rich husbands. The show played to packed crowds at the Parthenon Restaurant. We followed the musical up with a new creation called Conversations with Myself. This staged reading was presented in conjunction with the Summer Incubator program of The University of Chicago's Theater and Performance Studies Program (TAPS) and University Theater. The work was developed from three one-act plays that originated in Play for Keeps, and a full production is in the works.
Stockyards took part in Andersonville Arts Weekend, a neighborhood festival, in 2012, presenting Scenes from Stockyards, a selection of theater pieces and storytelling at Unity Lutheran Church, 1212 W. Balmoral Avenue, in Chicago's Andersonville. Play for Keeps found a new home this year as aspiring playwrights gathered together at Next Door, 659 West Diversey Parkway, where the readings were also held.
Stockyards appeared in the Andersonville Arts Weekend for the second year in 2013. We presented a fresh Scenes from Stockyards, a new selection of theater pieces, again at Unity Lutheran Church, 1212 W. Balmoral Avenue. The relationship with Unity Lutheran was fruitful, as the company held this year’s Play for Keeps workshop there, as well.
In 2014, Stockyards Theatre Project continues to move forward. A new season of the Play for Keeps workshop was held at the Public House Theatre beginning in April, with readings of the new works created there presented on three consecutive Monday evenings in July. On August 26, a reading of a revised Conversations with Myself, will be performed at the Greenhouse Theatre Center in their Trellis reading series. A fall season of Play for Keeps is currently being planned, as well.
(Back to top.)
The Community to Be Served
Stockyards Theatre Project serves the Chicagoland community, especially appealing to women. Our audiences are generally well-educated, young professionals involved in the arts. We hope to adapt the outreach program we created, Play For Keeps, to underprivileged schools in order to help young women discover their own voice by writing their stories and watching them performed by professionals.
(Back to top.)
Over the years, we have added numbers to our audience and diversified both our audience and our participants.
Demographics: 75% women; approx. 65% are under 35. 75% are Caucasian; 10% African American; 10% Latina and 5% other; 18% of our audience members are over 65 years old.
Participant Demographics: 85% of the participants in our events are female; 15% male. 86% are Caucasian; 4% African American; 2% Hispanic; 1% Latina; 1% Asian American and 6% other.
(Back to top.)
Our Board of Directors
Francesca Peppiatt, Producing Artistic Director
Francesca Peppiatt began with Stockyards Theatre Project as an actor in the 2001 production of Histrionics. When the founding Artistic Director, Jill Elaine Hughes, decided to step down that year, Francesca became the Managing Director of the company along with Katie Carey Govier as the Artistic Director. The two rebuilt the company financially one dollar at a time through salons and readings while continuing to create new and innovative productions, including a mostly female version of Henry IV part I. When Govier left the company to pursue other interests, Francesca continued to build Stockyards by creating a writing workshop program called Play for Keeps. This program had empowered the voices of actors and writers since 2006.
Diana Cazares is an event planner extraordinaire with more than 15 years of event planning, promotional, and sponsorship experience in the corporate and nonprofit sectors. At her current position as the Director of Event Operations at Columbia College Chicago in the Office of Institutional Advancement, Diana oversees planning and management for all of Columbia’s development-related events in Chicago and Los Angeles.
David Feiferis is a film producer and cofounder of indie-film company, NLP Films.
Douglas Tonks is a writer and book editor. He has published Teaching AIDS, a manual on how to teach HIV prevention education to high school students; TV's Most Wanted, a collection of television trivia; and All-American Trivia: Where History Happened, a book exploring important locations of American history. Douglas also serves as Publishing Manager for Polarity Ensemble Theatre.
Kelli Walker recently returned to her hometown of Chicago after adventures in Indianapolis and Washington State. She works as Director of Industry Initiatives for Columbia College Chicago and consults in development, constituent relations, and grant writing. As an actor, Kelli has appeared in The Women and A Perfect Wedding (Circle Theatre), Frozen and Love Song (Buffalo Theatre Ensemble), The Tempest (BoHo Theatre), Black Comedy (Piccolo Theatre), Stuff Happens, Miss Witherspoon, Callie’s Tally, Boston Marriage, Proof, and The Vagina Monologues (Phoenix Theatre, Indianapolis), Touch (Phoenix transfer to Victory Gardens Theatre). Kelli graduated from Butler University.
(Back to top.)
Stockyards Theatre Project
6549 N Ashland
Chicago, IL 60626