PORTAGE PARK — Six Corners is ready for its close up.
On Feb. 22, the Filament Theatre Ensemble will christen its new home across the street from the Portage Theater with a performance that draws on the community around the Six Corners Shopping District, once one of the city’s most prestigious shopping destinations.
“It is really a housewarming, and thank you to the community for embracing us,” said Julie Ritchey, the ensemble’s artistic director.
The 5-year-old ensemble has been working for months to craft the script for "Crossing Six Corners: A Neighborhood Heritage Project" from nearly 20 hours of interviews with Portage Park residents and painstaking research of the neighborhood's history dating back to the 1950s.
Tickets for the performance — which will feature vignettes, monologues and songs — will be available free at the theater’s box office, 4041 N. Milwaukee Ave. starting 30 minutes before show time. Shows are set for 7:30 p.m. Feb. 22 and Feb. 23 with a 5 p.m. performance on Feb. 24.
“All of these stories have come from the neighborhood,” Ritchey said. “It would be strange to turn around and ask them to pay to see us perform them.”
The group will accept donations, and those funds will be used to help finish the theater, which is in the same building as the National Veterans Art Museum.
The pieces, which 12 actors will begin rehearsing Feb. 9, will trace Portage Park’s beginning as farmland to its role as part of the city’s bungalow belt and as a haven for immigrants struggling to make new lives for their families.
“Some of the pieces will be word for word what people told us,” Ritchey said. “They found the perfect way to tell it, and we don’t have to do anything to it.”
Other pieces will take a cultural nugget — such as the story of a family deciding to allow their farmland to be sold and annexed by the city and turned into homes — and turn it into a short, fictional scene, Ritchey said.
The performance will also trace the rise and fall and current revitalization of Six Corners, now envisioned by local leaders as an arts and entertainment district anchored by the Portage Theater.
Once complete, the Filament Theatre Ensemble’s 1,500-square-foot theater will feature a smaller studio and classroom. The lobby will include a café, which theater leaders hope turns into a neighborhood hangout.
For more information, call 773-270-1660.