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Jackalope Theatre Company Finds a Home on Thorndale Avenue

By Benjamin Woodard | February 11, 2013 12:48pm

EDGEWATER — A theater company that has been rehearsing in the basement of an Edgewater home for five years finally has a place to call its own after moving into a storefront just steps from the Thorndale "L" station.

Big windows leave passersby cupping their hands against the glass and wondering what's going at 1106 W. Thorndale Ave. when Jackalope Theatre Company rehearses.

"What we really want to do is create a home in this neighborhood," said AJ Ware, the company's founder and artistic director. "We're here for the long term."

The eight-person troupe hosted a space-warming party Thursday and served homemade guacamole with a case of Uptown's Metropolitan beer and a backup 12-pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon for good measure.

Ware said the company, which was nominated for two Jeff Awards last year for Lucas Neff's "The Last Duck," won't hold performances there for now, but neighbors can expect a buzz of activity inside the storefront that will serve as rehearsal and office space.

Ware, 30, founded the company five years ago with Kaiser Ahmed, Andrew Swanson and Gus Menary and has produced more than a dozen plays.

Just getting off work, Ware and the others hustled to get the space ready for the Thursday party.

"They're on the cusp," said director Nate Silver of the group's reputation in Chicago. "They started out as just a group of people that worked really hard."

For a Chicago company like Jackalope, having the resources to open a storefront theater is "unheard of," said Silver, 25, who is directing the company's next play, "Rich and Famous," by John Guare.

But Ware said the company isn't only about producing plays. She said the group will participate in weekend festivals in the neighborhood and eventually put on theater workshops with neighborhood schools.

For now, Ware said, the group wants to get to know the neighborhood "and see what the community wants."