A Galaxy Of Our Own: Otherworld Theatre Seeks a Home Amid Lakeview's Historic Cemeteries
Outer space, we are told, is a place of impenetrable darkness, gloom alleviated by distantly-scattered oases of dazzling light. The storefront at 3914 North Clark Street that once supplied flowers for neighboring cemeteries, but since 1987 has housed Live Bait, Teatro Luna and Public House theaters, occupies a likewise shadowy border, flanked on one side by the raucous nocturnal revels of the Wrigley Field environs, and on another two, by landmark-protected burial grounds.
Fortunately, the Otherworld Theatre Company, its manifesto professing a devotion to narratives encompassing "the depths of the human imagination," is no stranger to black holes or fiery novas.
"It's just far enough from the baseball park to feel secluded, without being too far off the beaten path," exults artistic director Tiffany Keane Schaefer, speaking of the performance venue the troupe, now in its sixth year of operation, hopes to inherit.
The undeniable success of films like Hunger Games and Black Panther, along with long-running television series such as Doctor Who, Outlander and the indefatigable Star Trek/Star Wars chronicles, attests to the popularity of a literary genre at one time appealing solely to isolated introverts gazing at celestial realms from basement-apartment bunkers. Gradually, though—aided by real-life communication technology of a caliber at one time, itself, the province of science fiction—those sharing common cosmologies forged refuges providing them fellowship, whether in used-comic book shops or at huge national conferences.
The clientele anticipated by Otherworld's Science Fiction/Fantasy aesthetic already knows the way to the two-room playhouse, having converged thereat since 2013 for the Paragon Play Festival—an annual weekend-long event featuring 40 plays bearing titles like Steampunk Moonstomp and Pandaroo. The proximity of public transit presents an additional advantage to out-of-town star-troopers unfamiliar with urban coast-piloting. (Five crosstown buses and two El lines stop within six blocks of the performance venue, as well as the Music Box Theater two blocks west, host to Otherworld's Juggernaut Film festival.)
After years as a producing company traveling from one rental space to another—a nomadic migration encompassing such diverse quarters as City Lit, Mary's Attic and the Berger Park Fieldhouse—Otherworld's dream is to put down roots, the first step being the restoration of their prospective new home to its former jazz-age glory. "We want to renew some of the decorative features that have been painted over in the intervening years, while making it an inclusive space—gender-neutral restrooms, for just one example."
Though still currently itinerant, its upcoming production of Down the Rocky Road and All the Way to Bedlam opening next month at Ravenswood's Nox Arca studios, Otherworld is steadfast in their determination to (in the words of Star Trek) go where no theater company has gone before.
"Geeks and nerds need a space like this." Schaefer insists, "We are really excited to have found a location that can host so much programming without sacrificing intimacy and look forward to building a community hub dedicated to a dramatic genre that has—well, skyrocketed in recent years."
Find information on Down the Rocky Road and All the Way to Bedlam (April 5-May 13) and the Juggernaut Film Festival (runs June 2-3 at the Music Box Theatre) at otherworldtheatre.org.
Mary Shen Barnidge
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